Findings

Being Mental

Kevin Lewis

March 08, 2010

Attention and the Evolution of Hollywood Film

James Cutting, Jordan DeLong & Christine Nothelfer
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Reaction times exhibit a spectral patterning known as 1/f, and these patterns can be thought of as reflecting time-varying changes in attention. We investigated the shot structure of Hollywood films to determine if these same patterns are found. We parsed 150 films with release dates from 1935 to 2005 into their sequences of shots and then analyzed the pattern of shot lengths in each film. Autoregressive and power analyses showed that, across that span of 70 years, shots became increasingly more correlated in length with their neighbors and created power spectra approaching 1/f. We suggest, as have others, that 1/f patterns reflect world structure and mental process. Moreover, a 1/f temporal shot structure may help harness observers' attention to the narrative of a film.

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Why are narcissists so charming at first sight? Decoding the narcissism-popularity link at zero acquaintance

Mitja Back, Stefan Schmukle & Boris Egloff
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, January 2010, Pages 132-145

Abstract:
On the basis of a realistic behavioral approach, the authors showed that narcissists are popular at zero acquaintance and aimed to explain why this is the case. In Study 1, a group of psychology freshmen (N = 73) judged each other on the basis of brief self-introductions using a large round-robin design (2,628 dyads). Three main findings were revealed: First, narcissism leads to popularity at first sight. Second, the aspects of narcissism that are most maladaptive in the long run (exploitativeness/entitlement) proved to be most attractive at zero acquaintance. Third, an examination of observable verbal and nonverbal behaviors as well as aspects of physical appearance provided an explanation for why narcissists are more popular at first sight. Results were confirmed using judgments of uninvolved perceivers under 3 different conditions for which the amount of available information was varied systematically: (a) full information (video and sound, Study 2), (b) nonverbal information only (video only, Study 3), or (c) physical information only (still photograph of clothing, Study 4). These findings have important implications for understanding the inter- and intrapersonal dynamics of narcissism.

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Eye color Predicts Disagreeableness in North Europeans: Support in Favor of Frost (2006)

Elliroma Gardiner & Chris Jackson
Current Psychology, March 2010, Pages 1-9

Abstract:
The current study investigates whether eye color provides a marker of Agreeableness in North Europeans. Extrapolating from Frost's (2006) research uncovering an unusually diverse range of hair and eye color in northern Europe, we tested the hypothesis that light eyed individuals of North European descent would be less agreeable (a personality marker for competitiveness) when compared to their dark eyed counterparts, whereas there would be no such effect for people of European descent in general. The hypothesis was tested in Australia to provide consistent environmental conditions for both groups of people. Results support the hypothesis. Implications and conclusions are discussed.

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Cosmetic Use of Botulinum Toxin-A Affects Processing of Emotional Language

David Havas, Arthur Glenberg, Karol Gutowski, Mark Lucarelli & Richard Davidson
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Language can evoke powerful emotions and influence consequent actions in readers, but the mechanisms underlying interactions of language and emotion are largely unknown. Since Darwin, emotional expressions have been implicated in emotional cognition, experience and understanding, but the functional role of the affective periphery is difficult to test. In a first experiment, facial electromyography revealed that silent reading of emotional (angry, sad, and happy) sentences automatically elicits differential patterns of activity in facial muscles used in expression of corresponding emotions (smiling and frowning). In a second experiment, temporary paralysis of the facial muscle corrugator supercilli (responsible for producing a frown) hindered processing, relative to pre-injection baseline, for angry and sad sentences, while processing for happy sentences was unaffected. These findings suggest a bi-directional mechanism between emotion and language, offer new evidence for facial feedback theories of emotion, and report a novel effect of botulinum toxin-A on human cognition.

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Genes, Economics, and Happiness

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, James Fowler & Bruno Frey
London School of Economics Working Paper, January 2010

Abstract:
Research on happiness has produced valuable insights into the sources of subjective well-being. A major finding from this literature is that people exhibit a baseline happiness that shows persistent strength over time, and twin studies have shown that genes play a significant role in explaining the variance of baseline happiness between individuals. However, these studies have not identified which genes might be involved. This article presents evidence of a specific gene that predicts subjective well-being. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we show that individuals with a transcriptionally more efficient version of the serotonin transporter gene (5HTT) are significantly more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction. Having one or two alleles of the more efficient type raises the average likelihood of being very satisfied with one's life by 8.5% and 17.3%, respectively. This result may help to explain the stable component of happiness and suggests that genetic association studies can help us to better understand individual heterogeneity in subjective well-being.

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A Genetic Basis for Social Trust?

Patrick Sturgis, Sanna Read, Peter Hatemi, Gu Zhu, Tim Trull, Margaret Wright & Nicholas Martin
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
A propensity to believe that fellow citizens will not act against our interests in social and economic transactions has been identified as key to the effective functioning of democratic polities. Yet the causes of this type of ‘generalized' or ‘social' trust are far from clear. To date, researchers within the social and political sciences have focused almost exclusively on social-developmental and political/institutional features of individuals and societies as the primary causal influences. In this paper we investigate the intriguing possibility that social trust might have a genetic, as well as an environmental basis. We use data collected from samples of monozygotic and dizygotic twins to estimate the additive genetic, shared environmental, and non-shared environmental components of trust. Our results show that the majority of the variance in a multi-item trust scale is accounted for by an additive genetic factor. On the other hand, the environmental influences experienced in common by sibling pairs have no discernable effect; the only environmental influences appear to be those that are unique to the individual. Our findings problematise the widely held view that the development of social trust occurs through a process of familial socialization at an early stage of the life course.

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Anger as a Cue to Truthfulness

Jessica Hatz & Martin Bourgeois
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
A fairly robust finding in the deception literature is that lie-tellers show more negative emotion than truth-tellers. Ekman (1985), however, has reasoned that a specific type of negative emotion - anger - is especially difficult to feign and therefore should be more prevalent in truth-tellers who are falsely accused of a transgression than in lie-tellers who are guilty. To our knowledge, Ekman's prediction has not yet been empirically tested. By comparing the verbal and nonverbal cues associated with truths and lies across a number of lie-eliciting situations, we demonstrate that truth-tellers accused of a wrongdoing do show more anger, both verbally and nonverbally, than lie-tellers accused of the same act, but only in situations where students choose to commit a transgression (or not) and actually believe themselves to be in trouble. Results underlie the importance of taking into consideration the type of lie being told in order to accurately predict deceptive cues.

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Psychopathic and antisocial, but not emotionally intelligent

Beth Visser, Darlene Bay, Gail Lynn Cook & Jean Myburgh
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Psychopaths are characterized as skilled manipulators, yet they are also said to be deficient in recognizing others' emotions. These two depictions suggest opposing predictions for the relation of ability-based emotional intelligence (EI) to psychopathy. The current study investigated EI, psychopathy, and antisocial behavior in a sample of 429 undergraduate students from three universities. Results indicated that, as expected, EI was negatively correlated with antisocial behavior, and psychopathy was highly positively correlated with antisocial behavior. Total EI was significantly negatively correlated with all psychopathy scales for both sexes. There were no positive correlations between any EI subscales and psychopathy in either sex, suggesting that psychopathy is not related to high ability in any aspect of EI.

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Genetic Contributions to Antisocial Personality and Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review From an Evolutionary Perspective

Christopher Ferguson
Journal of Social Psychology, March-April 2010, Pages 160-180

Abstract:
Evidence from behavioral genetics supports the conclusion that a significant amount of the variance in antisocial personality and behavior (APB) is due to genetic contributions. Many scientific fields such as psychology, medicine, and criminal justice struggle to incorporate this information with preexisting paradigms that focused exclusively on external or learned etiology of antisocial behavior. The current paper presents a meta-analytic review of behavioral genetic etiological studies of APB. Results indicated that 56% of the variance in APB can be explained through genetic influences, with 11% due to shared non-genetic influences, and 31% due to unique non-genetic influences. This data is discussed in relation to evolutionary psychological theory.

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Effects of nutritional supplements on aggression, rule-breaking, and psychopathology among young adult prisoners

Ap Zaalberg, Henk Nijman, Erik Bulten, Luwe Stroosma & Cees van der Staak
Aggressive Behavior, March/April 2010, Pages 117-126

Objective: In an earlier study, improvement of dietary status with food supplements led to a reduction in antisocial behavior among prisoners. Based on these earlier findings, a study of the effects of food supplements on aggression, rule-breaking, and psychopathology was conducted among young Dutch prisoners.

Methods: Two hundred and twenty-one young adult prisoners (mean age=21.0, range 18-25 years) received nutritional supplements containing vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids or placebos, over a period of 1-3 months.

Results: As in the earlier (British) study, reported incidents were significantly reduced (P=.017, one-tailed) in the active condition (n=115), as compared with placebo (n=106). Other assessments, however, revealed no significant reductions in aggressiveness or psychiatric symptoms.

Conclusion: As the incidents reported concerned aggressive and rule-breaking behavior as observed by the prison staff, the results are considered to be promising. However, as no significant improvements were found in a number of other (self-reported) outcome measures, the results should be interpreted with caution.

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When Impulsivity Illuminates Moral Character: The Case of Rashness

Clayton Critcher & Yoel Inbar
Cornell Working Paper, January 2010

Abstract:
In forming moral judgments, people attend not merely to a person's morally-relevant actions, but accompanying behavioral cues that provide a glimpse of a person's underlying character. We focus on the rashness with which a morally praiseworthy or blameworthy decision is made. Completely pure or completely corrupt moral agents should make prosocial or antisocial decisions quickly. Those with more mixed (moral and immoral) inclinations should take longer to arrive at their decision. Consistent with these assumptions, rash misdeeds were seen as particularly reflective of bad moral character, thereby eliciting more blame (Experiments 1 and 2). Rash commendable decisions signaled purity of character, thereby eliciting more praise (Experiment 2). Experiment 3 showed that the relation between rash misdeeds and amplified blame is not scenario-specific, but characterizes real-life moral situations more broadly. Furthermore, the experiment established the unique contribution of rashness to blame while statistically controlling for emotional impulsivity, which is known to influence moral blame.

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The impact of reported direct and indirect killing on mental health symptoms in Iraq war veterans

Shira Maguen, Barbara Lucenko, Mark Reger, Gregory Gahm, Brett Litz, Karen Seal, Sara Knight & Charles Marmar
Journal of Traumatic Stress, February 2010, Pages 86-90

Abstract:
This study examined the mental health impact of reported direct and indirect killing among 2,797 U.S. soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Data were collected as part of a postdeployment screening program at a large Army medical facility. Overall, 40% of soldiers reported killing or being responsible for killing during their deployment. Even after controlling for combat exposure, killing was a significant predictor of posttraumatic disorder (PTSD) symptoms, alcohol abuse, anger, and relationship problems. Military personnel returning from modern deployments are at risk of adverse mental health conditions and related psychosocial functioning related to killing in war. Mental health assessment and treatment should address reactions to killing to optimize readjustment following deployment.

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Heritability of Individual Differences in Cortical Processing of Facial Affect

Andrey Anokhin, Simon Golosheykin & Andrew Heath
Behavior Genetics, March 2010, Pages 178-185

Abstract:
Facial expression of emotion is a key mechanism of non-verbal social communication in humans. Deficits in processing of facial emotion have been implicated in psychiatric disorders characterized by abnormal social behavior, such as autism and schizophrenia. Identification of genetically transmitted variability in the neural substrates of facial processing can elucidate the pathways mediating genetic influences on social behavior and provide useful endophenotypes for psychiatric genetic research. This study examined event-related brain potentials (ERPs) evoked by changes in facial expression in adolescent twins (age 12, 47 monozygotic and 51 dizygotic pairs). Facial images with happy, fearful, and neutral expressions were administered in a continuous mode, such that different expressions of the same face instantaneously replaced each other. This experimental design allowed us to isolate responses elicited by changes in emotional expression that were not confounded with responses elicited by image onset. Changes of emotional expression elicited a N240 wave with a right temporoparietal maximum and a P300 wave with a centropariatal midline maximum. Genetic analyses using a model fitting approach showed that a substantial proportion of the observed individual variation in these ERP responses can be attributed to genetic factors (36-64% for N250 and 42-62% for P300 components, respectively). This study provides the first evidence for heritability of neuroelectric indicators of face processing and suggests that ERP components sensitive to emotional expressions can potentially serve as endophenotypes for psychpathology characterized by abnormalities in social cognition and behavior.

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Theory of Mind in adults with right hemisphere damage: What's the story?

Ethan Weed, William McGregor, Jørgen Feldbæk Nielsen, Andreas Roepstorff & Uta Frith
Brain and Language, forthcoming

Abstract:
Why do people with right hemisphere damage (RHD) have difficulty with pragmatics and communication? One hypothesis has been that pragmatic impairment in RHD is the result of an underlying impairment in Theory of Mind (ToM): the ability to infer the mental states of others. In previous studies evaluating ToM abilities in people with RHD, researchers have used judgment tasks based on story or still cartoon stimuli. However, ToM is likely to draw on kinetic information as well, and these tasks ignore this aspect. The aim of this study was to assess ToM abilities in people with RHD using participants' evaluations of animated films with moving geometric shapes. Participants were presented with eight films of animated triangles. Four of the films represented the triangles as intentional agents with mental states, while the other four represented the triangles as simply inanimate, though moving, objects. Films were evaluated by both button-press response and by oral descriptions. Analysis of the transcriptions revealed that participants with RHD had a reduced ability to discriminate between the film categories, and a bias toward reduced mental-state ascription in the ToM condition.

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Inferring Attitudes From Mindwandering

Clayton Critcher & Thomas Gilovich
Cornell Working Paper, January 2010

Abstract:
Self-perception theory (Bem, 1972) posits that people understand their own attitudes and preferences much as they understand others', by interpreting the meaning of their behavior in light of the context in which it occurs. Four experiments tested whether people also rely on unobservable "behavior," their mindwandering, when making such inferences. We propose that people rely on the content of their mindwandering to decide whether it reflects boredom with an ongoing task or a reverie's irresistible pull. Having the mind wander to positive events, to concurrent as opposed to past activities, and to many events rather than just one, tends to be attributed to boredom and therefore leads to perceived dissatisfaction with an ongoing task. Participants appeared to rely spontaneously on the content of their wandering minds as a cue to their attitudes, but not when an alternative cause for their mindwandering was made salient.


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