Findings

Behavior-Shaping Milieus

Kevin Lewis

November 11, 2009

Mating Competitors Increase Religious Beliefs

Yexin Jessica Li, Adam Cohen, Jason Weeden & Douglas Kenrick
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
It has been presumed that religiosity has an influence on mating behavior, but here we experimentally investigate the possibility that mating behavior might also influence religiosity. In Experiment 1, people reported higher religiosity after looking at mating pools consisting of attractive people of their own sex compared to attractive opposite sex targets. Experiment 2 replicated the effect with an added control group, and suggested that both men and women become more religious when seeing same sex competitors. We discuss several possible explanations for these effects. Most broadly, the findings contribute to an emerging literature on how cultural phenomena such as religiosity respond to ecological cues in potentially functional ways.

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A Silver Lining of Standing in Line: Queuing Increases Value of Products

Minjung Koo & Ayelet Fishbach
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article examines a silver lining of standing in line: Consumers infer that products are more valuable when others are behind them. Specifically, we find that the value of a product increases as more people line up behind a person (study 1) or when others are present (vs. absent) behind a person in line (study 2). Value increases further by directing consumers' attention to the presence of others behind them - that is, when they look backward versus forward (study 3) and when the queue structure emphasizes the last person to join versus the person being served (study 4). This effect of the people behind is associated with increased expenditure by queuing consumers (study 5).

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Conservatism in laboratory microsocieties: Unpredictable payoffs accentuate group-specific traditions

Christine Caldwell & Ailsa Millen
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Theoretical work predicts that individuals should strategically increase their reliance on social learning when individual learning would be costly or risky, or when the payoffs for individually learned behaviors are uncertain. Using a method known to elicit cumulative cultural evolution in the laboratory, we investigated the degree of within-group similarity, and between-group variation, in design choices made by participants under conditions of varying uncertainty about the likely effectiveness of those designs. Participants were required to build a tower from spaghetti and modeling clay, their goal being to build the tower as high as possible. In one condition, towers were measured immediately on completion and, therefore, participants were able to judge the success of their design during building. In the other condition, participants' towers were measured 5 min after completion, following a deliberate attempt to test the tower's stability, making it harder for participants to judge whether an innovative solution was liable to result in a good score on the final measurement. Cultural peculiarity (i.e., the extent to which a design could be identified as belonging to a particular chain) was stronger in the delayed measure condition, indicating that participants were placing greater reliance on social learning. Furthermore, in this condition, there was only very weak evidence of successive improvement in performance over learner generations, whereas in the immediate measure condition there was a clear effect of steadily increasing scores on the goal measurement. Increasing the risk associated with learning for oneself may favor the development of arbitrary traditions.

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Parental Guidance: A Content Analysis of MPAA Motion Picture Rating Justifications 1993-2005

Richard Potts & Angela Belden
Current Psychology, December 2009, Pages 266-283

Abstract:
Advisory ratings and content descriptions are assigned to motion pictures by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and represent the primary social policy in the United States for advising parents about movie content, with a goal of limiting minor children's exposure to material deemed inappropriate for their age. To examine possible historical trends in MPAA ratings information, the present study analyzed the content of PG, PG-13, and R movie rating justification phrases (e.g., "Rated PG-13 for violence and language") applied to movies released in the years 1993-2005. A random sample of 1820 movie titles was selected, and all words in the rating justification phrases were coded as primary content terms or modifier terms. Results indicated that content terms for language, violence, and sexuality appeared frequently at all rating levels. Historical trends were found for terms indicating stronger depictions of violence and language and more mature thematic material in PG movie phrases, and more adult language, substance use, and sexual content in PG-13 movie phrases, across the sampled years, a pattern termed "ratings creep." Policy changes and psychological processes affecting MPAA raters and the ratings process are discussed as plausible causes of ratings creep, as are implications of these ratings changes for media consumers and society at large.

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Changes in Skin Tanning Attitudes: Fashion Articles and Advertisements in the Early 20th Century

Jo Martin, Jessica Ghaferi, Deborah Cummins, Adam Mamelak, Chrys Schmults, Mona Parikh, Lark-Aeryn Speyer, Alice Chuang, Hazel Richardson, David Stein & Nanette Liégeois
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Abstract:
Historical reviews suggest that tanning first became fashionable in the 1920s or 1930s. To quantitatively and qualitatively examine changes in tanning attitudes portrayed in the popular women's press during the early 20th century, we reviewed summer issues of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar for the years 1920, 1927, 1928, and 1929. We examined these issues for articles and advertisements promoting skin tanning or skin bleaching and protection. We found that articles and advertisements promoting the fashionable aspects of tanned skin were more numerous in 1928 and 1929 than in 1927 and 1920, whereas those promoting pale skin (by bleaching or protection) were less numerous. These findings demonstrate a clear shift in attitudes toward tanned skin during this period.

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Social Incentives in the Workplace

Oriana Bandiera, Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul Review of
Economic Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
We present evidence on social incentives in the workplace, namely on whether workers' behavior is affected by the presence of those they are socially tied to, even in settings where there are no externalities among workers due to either the production technology or the compensation scheme in place. To do so we combine data on individual worker productivity from a firm's personnel records with information on each worker's social network of friends in the firm. We find that compared to when she has no social ties with her co-workers, a given worker's productivity is significantly higher when she works alongside friends who are more able than her, and significantly lower when she works with friends who are less able than her. As workers are paid piece rates based on individual productivity, social incentives can be quantified in monetary terms and are such that - (i) workers who are more able than their friends are willing to exert less effort and forgo 10% of their earnings; (ii) workers who have at least one friend who is more able than themselves are willing to increase their effort and hence productivity by 10%. The distribution of worker ability is such that the net effect of social incentives on the firm's aggregate performance is positive. The results suggest that firms can exploit social incentives as an alternative to monetary incentives to motivate workers.

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The Relationship Between Language and the Environment: Information Theory Shows Why We Have Only Three Lightness Terms

Roland Baddeley & David Attewell
Psychological Science, September 2009, Pages 1100-1107

Abstract:
The surface reflectance of objects is highly variable, ranging between 4% for, say, charcoal and 90% for fresh snow. When stimuli are presented simultaneously, people can discriminate hundreds of levels of visual intensity. Despite this, human languages possess a maximum of just three basic terms for describing lightness. In English, these are white (or light), black (or dark), and gray. Why should this be? Using information theory, combined with estimates of the distribution of reflectances in the natural world and the reliability of lightness recall over time, we show that three lightness terms is the optimal number for describing surface reflectance properties in a modern urban or indoor environment. We also show that only two lightness terms would be required in a forest or rural environment.

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Rhinestone aesthetics and religious essence: Looking Jewish in Paris

Kimberly Arkin
American Ethnologist, November 2009, Pages 722-734

Abstract:
I explore the paradoxical construction of race through fashion among the Parisian children and grandchildren of upwardly mobile immigrant North African Jews. Faced with the conflation of North Africanity and inassimilable difference, Sephardi youth escaped some forms of French racism by enacting others. By essentializing and individualizing Jewishness through conspicuous consumption, they made Frenchness possible for "Arab Jews" in ways foreclosed to Arab Muslims. But these same practices also helped fashion and biologize their exclusion from the French nation. Rather than encourage the deconstruction of "modern" identity narratives, Sephardi youth liminality thus encouraged the reessentialization of class, ethnicity, religion, and nation.

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Free time as a necessary condition of free life

Jeff Noonan
Contemporary Political Theory, November 2009, Pages 377-393

Abstract:
Human life is finite. Given that lifetime is necessarily limited, the experience of time in any given society is a central ethical problem. If all or most of human lifetime is consumed by routine tasks (or resting for the resumption of routine) then human beings are dominated by the socially determined experience of time. This article first examines time as the fundamental existential framework of human life. It then goes on to explore the determination of time today by the ruling value system that underlies advanced capitalist society. It concludes that the equation 'time is money' rules the contemporary experience of time, and goes on to argue that this experience deprives those who live under this ruling value system of a central requirement of free human life: the experience of time as an open matrix of possibilities for action (or free time).

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Well-being and Affluence in the Presence of a Veblen Good

Curtis Eaton & Mukesh Eswaran
Economic Journal, July 2009, Pages 1088-1104

Abstract:
The happiness literature has established that, in the developed countries, increasing affluence has not increased well-being in recent decades. We seek an explanation for this in terms of conspicuous consumption, a phenomenon originally identified by Veblen. We develop some simple general equilibrium models that incorporate a Veblen good, among others. In all of our models, as productivity increases, the Veblen good eventually dominates the economy in the sense that, by reducing leisure, more than all the added productivity is dissipated in the production of this good. Also, in the presence of a Veblen good, productivity increases destroy social capital.

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Geographies of Trust

Wendy Rahn, Kwang Suk Yoon, Michael Garet, Steven Lipson & Katherine Loflin
American Behavioral Scientist, August 2009, Pages 1646-1663

Abstract:
Generalized social trust is an important component of social capital and has been linked to a variety of individual- and community-level outcomes, including low crime rates, effective government, and healthy and happy citizens. Drawing on a multicommunity survey conducted in several American towns and cities in 2002, the authors examine the individual and contextual origins of general social trust using the techniques of Hierarchical Linear Modeling. Based on prevailing theoretical understandings of social trust, the authors posit a comprehensive model to account for the contextual variation that remains after controlling for individual-level variables. Two community-level variables, voter turnout and commute times, emerge as important contextual predictors of social trust. The authors explore community attachment as a potential mediator of these effects, finding that it partially mediates the impact of commuting but not voter turnout, results consistent with their distinction between "experiential" and "cultural" theories of social trust formation.

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The NYC Condom: Use and Acceptability of New York City's Branded Condom

Ryan Burke, Juliet Wilson, Kyle Bernstein, Nicholas Grosskopf, Christopher Murrill, Blayne Cutler, Monica Sweeney & Elizabeth Begier
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Abstract:
We assessed awareness and experience with the NYC Condom via surveys at 7 public events targeting priority condom distribution populations during 2007. Most respondents (76%) were aware of NYC Condoms. Of those that had obtained them, 69% had used them. Most (80%) wanted alternative condoms offered for free: 22% wanted ultra-thin, 18% extra-strength, and 14% larger-size. Six months after the NYC Condom launch, we found high levels of awareness and use. Because many wanted alternative condoms, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began distributing the 3 most-requested alternatives.


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