Findings

Provocative

Kevin Lewis

May 19, 2012

The Aftermath of Destruction: Images of Destroyed Buildings Increase Support for War, Dogmatism, and Death Thought Accessibility

Kenneth Vail et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Building on terror management theory, we hypothesized that viewing destroyed buildings would increase death thought accessibility and thereby elicit dogmatic belief and hostile worldview defenses. In Study 1, images of destroyed buildings and deadly terrorist attacks elicited greater death-thought accessibility than images of construction sites or intact buildings. Images of destruction also enhanced dogmatic belief (Study 2) and support for military action against Iran (Study 3). Study 4 found that heightened death thought accessibility, but not the accessibility of thoughts of war or national identity, statistically mediated the relationship between visible destruction and worldview defense. Further, although destruction images increased dogmatism, political orientation was not affected by the destruction manipulation nor was political orientation related to death-thought accessibility. Overall, these findings suggest that visibly destroyed infrastructure can motivate increased certainty of beliefs and support for military aggression (e.g., war and/or terrorism) against groups perceived to be threatening to one's worldview.

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Male facial width is associated with death by contact violence: Narrow-faced males are more likely to die from contact violence

Michael Stirrat, Gert Stulp & Thomas Pollet
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Male facial width-to-height ratio (bizygomatic width scaled for face height) is a testosterone-linked trait predictive of reactive aggression, exploitative behavior, cheating, deception, and dominance. We tested whether facial width was systematically related to cause of death in a forensic sample. We hypothesized that wider-faced males, being more aggressive and robust, would be less likely than narrower-faced males to die from contact violence (stabbed, strangled, or bludgeoned to death) compared with other forms of homicide. We tested this hypothesis in a forensic data sample covering 523 male and 339 female skeletons. In these data, men with narrower faces were more likely to have died as a consequence of homicides involving direct physical contact than men with wider faces. No such effect was found for women. This effect was found when considering all causes of mortality and when limiting the sample to homicides. This finding suggests that wider-faced males are less likely to die from male-male physical violence, perhaps because of their formidability. Our findings are discussed with reference to the previous literature indicating that facial width-to-height ratio is a marker for male dominance.

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The Social Dimension of Stress Reactivity: Acute Stress Increases Prosocial Behavior in Humans

Bernadette von Dawans et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Psychosocial stress precipitates a wide spectrum of diseases with major public-health significance. The fight-or-flight response is generally regarded as the prototypic human stress response, both physiologically and behaviorally. Given that having positive social interactions before being exposed to acute stress plays a preeminent role in helping individuals control their stress response, engaging in prosocial behavior in response to stress (tend-and-befriend) might also be a protective pattern. Little is known, however, about the immediate social responses following stress in humans. Here we show that participants who experienced acute social stress, induced by a standardized laboratory stressor, engaged in substantially more prosocial behavior (trust, trustworthiness, and sharing) compared with participants in a control condition, who did not experience socioevaluative threat. These effects were highly specific: Stress did not affect the readiness to exhibit antisocial behavior or to bear nonsocial risks. These results show that stress triggers social approach behavior, which operates as a potent stress-buffering strategy in humans, thereby providing evidence for the tend-and-befriend hypothesis.

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Intergroup Aggression in Chimpanzees and War in Nomadic Hunter-Gatherers: Evaluating the Chimpanzee Model

Richard Wrangham & Luke Glowacki
Human Nature, March 2012, Pages 5-29

Abstract:
Chimpanzee and hunter-gatherer intergroup aggression differ in important ways, including humans having the ability to form peaceful relationships and alliances among groups. This paper nevertheless evaluates the hypothesis that intergroup aggression evolved according to the same functional principles in the two species - selection favoring a tendency to kill members of neighboring groups when killing could be carried out safely. According to this idea chimpanzees and humans are equally risk-averse when fighting. When self-sacrificial war practices are found in humans, therefore, they result from cultural systems of reward, punishment, and coercion rather than evolved adaptations to greater risk-taking. To test this "chimpanzee model," we review intergroup fighting in chimpanzees and nomadic hunter-gatherers living with other nomadic hunter-gatherers as neighbors. Whether humans have evolved specific psychological adaptations for war is unknown, but current evidence suggests that the chimpanzee model is an appropriate starting point for analyzing the biological and cultural evolution of warfare.

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The Personal Touch: Leaders' Impressions, Costly Signaling, and Assessments of Sincerity in International Affairs

Todd Hall & Keren Yarhi-Milo
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
What counts as evidence that the other side is sincere? Within mainstream international relations literature, scholars have focused on costly signals. We argue, however, that in the real world leaders do not simply look at costly signals, but they rely to an important extent on their personal impressions of other leaders, taking these as credible indicators of sincerity. Our approach thus builds both upon the literature on interstate communication and perceptions and upon more recent research in the field of neuroscience regarding affective information. To probe the plausibility of our theory, we focus on the indicators British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain used to evaluate Germany sincerity in the late 1930s and Ronald Reagan employed to make sincerity judgments about Soviet intentions in the late 1980s. Additionally, we briefly discuss the 1961 Vienna Summit between Kennedy and Khrushchev as an illustration of how personal impressions can also result in negative assessments of sincerity. Our findings suggest that personal impressions are an important, but up until now relatively ignored, source of evidence for leaders of their counterparts' sincerity with significant implications for threat assessments and policy choices.

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Causal or spurious: Using propensity score matching to detangle the relationship between violent video games and violent behavior

Whitney Gunter & Kevin Daly
Computers in Human Behavior, July 2012, Pages 1348-1355

Abstract:
Throughout the past decade, numerous states have passed legislation to prohibit the sale of violent video games to children, usually in conjunction with an argument that exposure to violent media increases violent behavior. However, the link between video games and violence is not yet fully understood. This study uses propensity score matching as a method to more adequately address the underlying issue of causality. Using a sample of 6567 8th grade students, these analyses test whether there is a causal link between playing violent video games and violence, non-violent deviance and substance use. Results indicate a substantial decrease in the relationship between video games and these outcomes when a matched sample is used. This suggests that the strength of evidence supporting a relationship has likely been overestimated using other methodologies.

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The effects of social exclusion on confirmatory information processing

Tobias Greitemeyer, Peter Fischer & Andreas Kastenmüller
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
After making a preliminary decision, a balanced search for information that is consistent and inconsistent with one's decision is associated with effective decision making. However, whereas searching for information that is inconsistent with one's preliminary preference arouses the aversive motivational state of cognitive dissonance, evokes negative emotions, and threatens the self, preference-consistent information reduces dissonance, evokes positive emotions, and has positive implications for the self. Thus, searching for information in a balanced way requires the willingness to face the negative implications of searching for preference-inconsistent (relative to preference-consistent) information. Social exclusion has been shown to be associated with impulsive, undercontrolled behavior. Therefore, we expected socially excluded (relative to included or control) participants to be less willing to confront oneself with the unappealing qualities of preference-inconsistent information and more willing to seek for the appealing qualities of preference-consistent information. This hypothesis was supported in two studies, with the use of different manipulations of social exclusion.

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Why brands should fear fearful consumers: How attachment style predicts retaliation

Matthew Thomson, Jodie Whelan & Allison Johnson
Journal of Consumer Psychology, April 2012, Pages 289-298

Abstract:
In two surveys of adult consumers, we find that attachment styles predict consumers' reactions after brand relationships end. Specifically, ‘fearful' consumers - those high in both attachment anxiety and avoidance - are most likely to complain to third parties, to obsess about harming the brand, and to report seeking payback against brands. Two factors mediate the effect of attachment on reactions: threats to consumers' self-image and the loss of benefits from their relationship. This is consistent with the explanation we propose: specifically, fearful individuals invest in and depend more on consumption relationships and, therefore, lose more when such relationships end.

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When Destiny Hurts: Implicit Theories of Relationships Moderate Aggressive Responses to Ostracism

Zhansheng Chen et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current research investigates the role of implicit theories of relationships in modulating aggressive responses to ostracism. Three studies tested whether destiny beliefs (that potential relationships are either fundamentally compatible or not) predispose people to behave aggressively in the wake of ostracism. In Study 1, individual differences in destiny beliefs moderated the relationship between ostracism and aggressive affect. Two additional studies showed that manipulated destiny beliefs (vs. growth beliefs) caused ostracized participants to blast a provocateur with aversive noise (Study 2) and to give a destructive job candidate evaluation to a stranger (Study 3). These results highlight the significance of implicit theories in understanding risk factors for ostracism-related aggression.

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Fear is readily associated with an out-group face in a minimal group context

Carlos David Navarrete et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Research on prepared learning demonstrates that fear-conditioning biases may exist to natural hazards (e.g., snakes) compared to nonnatural hazards (e.g., electrical cords) and that fear is more readily learned toward exemplars of a racial out-group than toward exemplars of one's own race. Here we push the limits of the generalizability of the mechanisms underlying race biases in a fear-conditioning paradigm by using arbitrary group categories not distinguished by race. Groups were distinguishable solely by t-shirt color, with assignment based on performance in a perceptual task. In this "minimal group paradigm," we found that out-group exemplars were more readily associated with an aversive stimulus than exemplars of one's in-group. Our findings suggest that prepared learning in an intergroup context is not limited to contexts involving racial categories involving histories rife with cultural stereotypes and that previous findings of learning biases along racial lines may be interpreted as a by-product of a broader psychological system for prepared fear learning toward categories of agents that may have posed persistent threats over human evolutionary history.

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Conspicuous Consumption versus Charitable Behavior in Response to Social Exclusion: A Differential Needs Explanation

Jaehoon Lee & L.J. Shrum
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social exclusion has been shown to produce a number of different responses. This research examines the proposition that social exclusion may produce either self-focused or prosocial responses, depending on which needs are threatened. Different types of social exclusion threaten different needs, which in turn produce distinct outcomes (differential needs hypothesis). Social exclusion in the form of being implicitly ignored increased conspicuous consumption, whereas being explicitly rejected increased helping and donation behavior. However, when efficacy needs (power, meaningful existence) were bolstered, the effects of being ignored were eliminated, whereas when relational needs (self-esteem) were bolstered, the effects of being rejected were eliminated. The results indicate that certain types of social exclusion produce prosocial responses, whereas others produce self-focused and attention-getting responses.

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The neural mechanisms by which testosterone acts on interpersonal trust

Peter Bos et al.
NeuroImage, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recently, we demonstrated that the steroid-hormone testosterone reduces interpersonal trust in humans. The neural mechanism which underlies this effect is however unknown. It has been proposed that testosterone increases social vigilance via neuropeptide systems in the amygdala, augmenting communication between the amygdala and the brain stem. However, testosterone also affects connectivity between the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and the amygdala, which could subsequently lead to increased vigilance by reduced top-down control over the amygdala. Here, in a placebo-controlled testosterone administration study with 16 young women, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging to get more insights into neural mechanisms whereby testosterone acts on trust. Several cortical systems, among others the OFC, are involved in the evaluation of facial trustworthiness. Testosterone administration decreased functional connectivity between amygdala and the OFC during judgments of unfamiliar faces, and also increased amygdala responses specifically to the faces that were rated as untrustworthy. Finally, connectivity between the amygdala and the brain stem was not affected by testosterone administration. Although speculative, a neurobiological explanation for these findings is that in uncertain social situations, testosterone induces sustained decoupling between OFC and amygdala by a prefrontal-dopaminergic mechanism, subsequently resulting in more vigilant responses of the amygdala to signals of untrustworthiness.

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Unfakeable Facial Configurations Affect Strategic Choices in Trust Games with or without Information about Past Behavior

Constantin Rezlescu et al.
PLoS ONE, March 2012

Background: Many human interactions are built on trust, so widespread confidence in first impressions generally favors individuals with trustworthy-looking appearances. However, few studies have explicitly examined: 1) the contribution of unfakeable facial features to trust-based decisions, and 2) how these cues are integrated with information about past behavior.

Methodology/Principal Findings: Using highly controlled stimuli and an improved experimental procedure, we show that unfakeable facial features associated with the appearance of trustworthiness attract higher investments in trust games. The facial trustworthiness premium is large for decisions based solely on faces, with trustworthy identities attracting 42% more money (Study 1), and remains significant though reduced to 6% when reputational information is also available (Study 2). The face trustworthiness premium persists with real (rather than virtual) currency and when higher payoffs are at stake (Study 3).

Conclusions/Significance: Our results demonstrate that cooperation may be affected not only by controllable appearance cues (e.g., clothing, facial expressions) as shown previously, but also by features that are impossible to mimic (e.g., individual facial structure). This unfakeable face trustworthiness effect is not limited to the rare situations where people lack any information about their partners, but survives in richer environments where relevant details about partner past behavior are available.

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A Penny for Your Pain? The Financial Compensation of Social Pain after Exclusion

Gert-Jan Lelieveld et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Research has repeatedly shown that social exclusion is distressful regardless of mitigating circumstances. In three studies we show that financially compensating social exclusion reduces the unpleasant experience and affects subsequent coping. Participants played a game of Cyberball, and either received money when they were excluded or not. Results showed that financially compensating social exclusion reduced self-reported distress and neural activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), a region found active during physical and social pain. Finally, participants played a dictator game with those who included them, excluded them, or with new players. Results showed that financial compensation increased offers to sources of exclusion to the amount that was given to sources of inclusion or new players. Hence, financially compensating exclusion helps those who are hurt and those who exclude.

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Family socioeconomic status modulates the coping-related neural response of offspring

Kuniaki Yanagisawa et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Substantial research links economic adversity to poor coping in stressful or threatening environments. Neuroimaging studies suggest that activation of the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (rVLPFC) plays a key role in self-control, and it seems that individual differences in neurocognitive systems underlying self-control are determined in part by subjective childhood socioeconomic status (SES). The present study used near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to investigate whether subjective childhood SES moderates rVLPFC activity during one form of threatening environment: Social exclusion. Twenty-five undergraduates participated in a NIRS session in which they were socially included and then excluded during an online ball-tossing game. Lower subjective childhood SES was associated with higher levels of social distress and lower levels of rVLPFC activity during social exclusion. The present findings suggest that early family environments are reliably associated with deficits in offspring coping resources and processes, as well as with difficulties in regulating interpersonal circumstances.

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Differential brain responses to social exclusion by one's own versus opposite-gender peers

Danielle Bolling, Kevin Pelphrey & Brent Vander Wyk
Social Neuroscience, July/August 2012, Pages 331-346

Abstract:
Human peer relations provide tangible benefits, including food and protection, as well as emotional benefits. While social exclusion poses a threat to all of these benefits, the psychological threat is particularly susceptible to modulation by the relation of the excluders to the excluded person. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore the effects of manipulating the gender relation of participants to their excluders during an interactive ball-toss game. Ventral anterior cingulate cortex activation was higher during exclusion by same-gender peers, while right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activation negatively correlated with self-reported distress in other-gender exclusion. Results imply that exclusion by one's own gender is fundamentally different from exclusion by the opposite gender, and suggest a regulatory role for ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in response to out-group exclusion. Individual differences in implicit gender attitudes modulated neural responses to exclusion. The importance of these findings to investigations of social cognition is discussed.

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Distinct contributions of the amygdala and parahippocampal gyrus to suspicion in a repeated bargaining game

Meghana Bhatt et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Humans assess the credibility of information gained from others on a daily basis; this ongoing assessment is especially crucial for avoiding exploitation by others. We used a repeated, two-person bargaining game and a cognitive hierarchy model to test how subjects judge the information sent asymmetrically from one player to the other. The weight that they give to this information is the result of two distinct factors: their baseline suspicion given the situation and the suspicion generated by the other person's behavior. We hypothesized that human brains maintain an ongoing estimate of the credibility of the other player and sought to uncover neural correlates of this process. In the game, sellers were forced to infer the value of an object based on signals sent from a prospective buyer. We found that amygdala activity correlated with baseline suspicion, whereas activations in bilateral parahippocampus correlated with trial-by-trial uncertainty induced by the buyer's sequence of suggestions. In addition, the less credible buyers that appeared, the more sensitive parahippocampal activation was to trial-by-trial uncertainty. Although both of these neural structures have previously been implicated in trustworthiness judgments, these results suggest that they have distinct and separable roles that correspond to their theorized roles in learning and memory.

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Out of Sight but Not Out of Mind: Unseen Affective Faces Influence Evaluations and Social Impressions

Eric Anderson et al.
Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using Continuous Flash Suppression (CFS), we demonstrated in four experiments that affective information extracted from unseen faces influences both affective and personality judgments of neutral faces. In four experiments, participants judged neutral faces as more pleasant or unpleasant (Studies 1 and 2) or as more or less trustworthy, likable, and attractive (Study 3) or as more or less competent or interpersonally warm (Study 4) when paired with unseen smiling or scowling faces compared to when paired with unseen neutral faces. These findings suggest that affective influences are a normal part of everyday experience and provide evidence for the affective foundations consciousness. Affective misattribution arises even when affective changes occur after a neutral stimulus is presented, demonstrating that these affective influences cannot be explained as a simple semantic priming effect. These findings have implications for understanding the constructive nature of experience, as well as the role of affect in social impressions.

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All alone with sweaty palms - Physiological arousal and ostracism

Michelle Kelly, Skye McDonald & Jacqueline Rushby
International Journal of Psychophysiology, March 2012, Pages 309-314

Abstract:
Social exclusion, or ostracism, is universally perceived as a negative emotional experience and often leads to poor social outcomes for individuals and society. Although the experience of distress associated with being ostracized is innate, there has been very little investigation of the effects on the autonomic nervous system. This study provides objective evidence for the effects of ostracism on arousal (examined with skin conductance levels) while participants played an internet ball-tossing game (Cyberball). Forty-two healthy undergraduate students participated in both inclusion and ostracism conditions. When participants were included, there was a marked decrement in arousal over the course of the task, whereas there was no evidence of habituation when participants were ostracized. The implications of these results are discussed in terms of the potential of differential autonomic activity to predict the coping strategies that people engage in following ostracism.

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Race and reputation: Perceived racial group trustworthiness influences the neural correlates of trust decisions

Damian Stanley et al.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 5 March 2012, Pages 744-753

Abstract:
Decisions to trust people with whom we have no personal history can be based on their social reputation - a product of what we can observe about them (their appearance, social group membership, etc.) - and our own beliefs. The striatum and amygdala have been identified as regions of the brain involved in trust decisions and trustworthiness estimation, respectively. However, it is unknown whether social reputation based on group membership modulates the involvement of these regions during trust decisions. To investigate this, we examined blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) activity while participants completed a series of single-shot trust game interactions with real partners of varying races. At the time of choice, baseline BOLD responses in the striatum correlated with individuals' trust bias - that is, the overall disparity in decisions to trust Black versus White partners. BOLD signal in the striatum was higher when deciding to trust partners from the race group that the individual participant considered less trustworthy overall. In contrast, activation of the amygdala showed greater BOLD responses to Black versus White partners that scaled with the amount invested. These results suggest that the amygdala may represent emotionally relevant social group information as a subset of the general detection function it serves, whereas the striatum is involved in representing race-based reputations that shape trust decisions.


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