Kevin Lewis

July 01, 2010

Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain: Behavioral and Neural Evidence

Nathan DeWall et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Pain, whether caused by physical injury or social rejection, is an inevitable part of life. These two types of pain-physical and social-may rely on some of the same behavioral and neural mechanisms that register pain-related affect. To the extent that these pain processes overlap, acetaminophen, a physical pain suppressant that acts through central (rather than peripheral) neural mechanisms, may also reduce behavioral and neural responses to social rejection. In two experiments, participants took acetaminophen or placebo daily for 3 weeks. Doses of acetaminophen reduced reports of social pain on a daily basis (Experiment 1). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure participants' brain activity (Experiment 2), and found that acetaminophen reduced neural responses to social rejection in brain regions previously associated with distress caused by social pain and the affective component of physical pain (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula). Thus, acetaminophen reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with the pain of social rejection, demonstrating substantial overlap between social and physical pain.


Segregation in Social Networks based on Acquaintanceship and Trust

Thomas DiPrete, Andrew Gelman, Tyler McCormick, Julien Teitler & Tian Zheng
American Journal of Sociology, forthcoming

Using recently collected data from the 2006 General Social Survey, we compare levels of segregation by race and along other dimensions of potential social cleavage in the contemporary United States. Americans are not as isolated as the most extreme recent estimates suggest. However, hopes that "bridging" social capital is more common in broader acquaintanceship networks than in core networks are not supported by the GSS data. Instead, the entire acquaintanceship network is perceived by Americans to be about as segregated as the much smaller network of close ties. People do not always know the religiosity, political ideology, family behaviors, or socioeconomic status of their acquaintances, but perceived social divisions on these dimensions are high and in some cases rival the extent of racial segregation in acquaintanceship networks. The major challenge to social integration today comes less from the risk of social isolation than from the tendency of many Americans to isolate themselves from others who differ on race, political ideology, level of religiosity, and other salient aspects of social identity.


The jury and abjury of my peers: The self in face and dignity cultures

Young-Hoon Kim, Dov Cohen & Wing-Tung Au
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, June 2010, Pages 904-916

The self is defined and judged differently by people from face and dignity cultures (in this case, Hong Kong and the United States, respectively). Across 3 experiments, people from a face culture absorbed the judgments of other people into their private self-definitions. Particularly important for people from a face culture are public representations - knowledge that is shared and known to be shared about someone. In contrast, people from a dignity culture try to preserve the sovereign self by not letting others define them. In the 3 experiments, dignity culture participants showed a studied indifference to the judgments of their peers, ignoring peers' assessments - whether those assessments were public or private, were positive or negative, or were made by qualified peers or unqualified peers. Ways that the self is "knotted" up with social judgments and cultural imperatives are discussed.


Cooking with humor: In-group humor as social organization

Owen Lynch
Humor - International Journal of Humor Research, May 2010, Pages 127-159

This manuscript provides an understanding of the complex process through which the social organization is (re)produced and transformed through its member's everyday humor. This study is based on a yearlong ethnography of a hotel kitchen that focuses on the in-group humor of chefs as they work. It reveals the chefs' humor as a communicative process that establishes the group's boundaries, the identity of the group members, and the processes through which the group makes sense of and performs its labor. Humor's role within this organizational group is demonstrated through situated episodes that not only (re)produce the status quo, but also provides a strategy for employees to subvert or challenge authoritative power and constraining organizing practices.


Social Influences on Health: Is Serotonin a Critical Mediator?

Baldwin Way & Shelley Taylor
Psychosomatic Medicine, February/March 2010, Pages 107-112

The influence of social relationships on health has been well documented for many years, yet identifying the physiological mechanisms responsible for these effects has proved more challenging. This review assesses the potential role of the serotonin system in affecting sensitivity to the health-related effects of the social environment. Building on recent studies of genetic variation in the serotonin system, particularly focusing on a polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in the serotonin transporter gene, we provide evidence that activity within the serotonin system is critically involved in setting sensitivity to social experiences. Furthermore, we highlight the effects of the 5-HTTLPR on sensitivity to both positive and negative social experiences. In a positive environment, individuals with the short allele, and particularly the short/short genotype, function better psychologically than those with the long/long genotype. Conversely, when exposed to adverse environments or in the absence of social support, individuals with the short allele are at high risk for a variety of negative health outcomes. This serotoninergic involvement in social sensitivity seems to occur in concert with other neurochemical systems, such as the opioid system, which will also be discussed. Although this differential sensitivity to social experiences is initially determined in the brain, it has physiological effects on downstream pathways that more directly affect disease mechanisms, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is a particular focus of this review. The serotonin system, as indexed by the 5-HTTLPR, is an important link between the social environment and health.


Similarities and Differences When Building Trust: The Role of Cultures

Fabian Bornhorst, Andrea Ichino, Oliver Kirchkamp, Karl Schlag & Eyal Winter
IMF Working Paper, February 2010

We run an experiment in which students of different European nationalities are matched in groups of five and repeatedly choose with whom within their group they want to play a trust game. Participants observe of each other age, gender, nationality and number of siblings. The region of origin, "North" or "South" is a major determinant of success in the experiment. Participants tend to trust those they trusted before and who trusted them. We do not find evidence of regional discrimination per se. It is only the underlying and significant differences in behavior that translate through repeated interactions into differences in payoffs between the two regions.


The Downside of Social Closure: Brokerage, Parental Influence, and Delinquency Among African American Boys

William Mangino
Sociology of Education, April 2009, Pages 147-172

Building on the literature that stresses the social capital advantages of open and diffuse social networks, this article shows that African American boys who are a social bridge across two or more large but cohesive peer groups are less delinquent than are their counterparts who are members of a single peer group. Statistical interaction terms reveal that this decrease in delinquency can be attributed to the increased influence of parents among social bridges. The article concludes that the network form of the adolescent society, independent of its composition, conditions the parent-child relationship.


Come together: Two studies concerning the impact of group relations on personal space

David Novelli, John Drury & Steve Reicher
British Journal of Social Psychology, June 2010, Pages 223-236

This paper describes two experiments investigating the impact of group relations on personal space. In Study 1, participants (N=39) in minimal groups were told that they would be interacting with another person. In line with expectations, personal space (as measured by the distance between chairs) was significantly less in the intragroup context than in the intergroup and interpersonal contexts. This finding was replicated in Study 2 (N=80) using an improved experimental design. These results are discussed in terms of developing a self-categorization account of personal space and crowding.


Honor among thieves: Cooperation as a strategic response to functional unpleasantness

William Heller & Katri Sieberg
European Journal of Political Economy, September 2010, Pages 351-362

The assumption of self-interested behavior makes it difficult to explain cooperation among strangers. Economics experiments and game-theoretic analyses suggest that cooperation can arise from a willingness to punish noncooperative behavior, even at personal cost. Such behavior is often based on the notion that people who punish noncooperators value cooperation in itself. We show, by contrast, that people who like to cheat but also punish other cheaters - people who are Unpleasant, but who also have a strategic desire to avoid being punished themselves - can form the basis for widespread, even complete cooperation in society. Ultimately, such Unpleasant but strategic types can create conditions where all cooperate even though everyone would prefer to cheat.


What Triggers Social Responses to Flattering Computers? Experimental Tests of Anthropomorphism and Mindlessness Explanations

Eun-Ju Lee
Communication Research, April 2010, Pages 191-214

The present research evaluated two explanations for the computers are social actors (CASA) paradigm: anthropomorphism and mindlessness. Using flattery effects as an example of social responses, two experiments examined how human likeness of the interface, individuals' rationality, and cognitive busyness moderate the extent to which people apply social attributes to computers. In Experiment 1, anthropomorphic cartoon characters elicited more positive overall evaluations of the computer, but they significantly reduced low rationals' self-confidence, suggesting social facilitation effects. Moreover, low rationals were less likely to accept the computer's suggestions when flattered, whereas high rationals showed no corresponding tendency. In Experiment 2, although participants attributed greater social attractiveness to the flattering than generic-comment computer, they became more suspicious about the validity of its claims and more likely to dismiss its answer. Such negative effects, however, disappeared when they simultaneously engaged in a secondary task. Theoretical implications for CASA are discussed.

Community Structure in Time-Dependent, Multiscale, and Multiplex Networks

Peter Mucha, Thomas Richardson, Kevin Macon, Mason Porter & Jukka-Pekka Onnela
Science, 14 May 2010, Pages 876-878

Network science is an interdisciplinary endeavor, with methods and applications drawn from across the natural, social, and information sciences. A prominent problem in network science is the algorithmic detection of tightly connected groups of nodes known as communities. We developed a generalized framework of network quality functions that allowed us to study the community structure of arbitrary multislice networks, which are combinations of individual networks coupled through links that connect each node in one network slice to itself in other slices. This framework allows studies of community structure in a general setting encompassing networks that evolve over time, have multiple types of links (multiplexity), and have multiple scales.


Overimitation in Kalahari Bushman Children and the Origins of Human Cultural Cognition

Mark Nielsen & Keyan Tomaselli
Psychological Science, May 2010, Pages 729-736

Children are surrounded by objects that they must learn to use. One of the most efficient ways children do this is by imitation. Recent work has shown that, in contrast to nonhuman primates, human children focus more on reproducing the specific actions used than on achieving actual outcomes when learning by imitating. From 18 months of age, children will routinely copy even arbitrary and unnecessary actions. This puzzling behavior is called overimitation. By documenting similarities exhibited by children from a large, industrialized city and children from remote Bushman communities in southern Africa, we provide here the first indication that overimitation may be a universal human trait. We also show that overimitation is unaffected by the age of the child, differences in the testing environment, or familiarity with the demonstrating adult. Furthermore, we argue that, although seemingly maladaptive, overimitation reflects an evolutionary adaptation that is fundamental to the development and transmission of human culture.


The benefits of empathy: When empathy may sustain cooperation in social dilemmas

Ann Rumble, Paul Van Lange & Craig Parks
European Journal of Social Psychology, August 2010, Pages 856-866

Cooperation in social dilemmas is often challenged by negative noise, or unintended errors, such that the actual behavior is less cooperative than intended - for example, arriving later than intended for a meeting due to an unusual traffic jam. The present research was inspired by the notion that doing a little more for one's interaction partner, which may be motivated by empathetic feelings, can effectively reduce the detrimental effects of negative noise, or unintended incidents of noncooperation. Consistent with hypotheses, negative noise exhibited detrimental effects on cooperation, but such effects were absent when empathy-motivated cooperation was present. We conclude that empathy has broad benefits for social interaction, in that it can be an effective tool for coping with misinterpreted behaviors, thereby maintaining or enhancing cooperation.

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