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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Socially grounded

 

Self-Interest Without Selfishness: The Hedonic Benefit of Imposed Self-Interest

Jonathan Berman & Deborah Small
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Despite commonsense appeal, the link between self-interest and happiness remains elusive. One reason why individuals may not feel satisfied with self-interest is that they feel uneasy about sacrificing the needs of others for their own gain. We propose that externally imposing self-interest allows individuals to enjoy self-benefiting outcomes that are untainted by self-reproach for failing to help others. Study 1 demonstrated that an imposed self-interested option (a reward) leads to greater happiness than does choosing between a self-interested option and a prosocial option (a charity donation). Study 2 demonstrated that this effect is not driven by choice in general; rather, it is the specific trade-off between benefiting the self and benefiting others that inhibits happiness gained from self-interest. We theorize that the agency inherent in choice reduces the hedonic value of self-interest. Results of Study 3 find support for this mechanism.

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Class, Chaos, and the Construction of Community

Paul Piff et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Chaotic conditions are a prevalent and threatening feature of social life. Five studies examined whether social class underlies divergent responses to perceptions of chaos in one's social environments and outcomes. The authors hypothesized that when coping with perceptions of chaos, lower class individuals tend to prioritize community, relative to upper class individuals, who instead tend to prioritize material wealth. Consistent with these predictions, when personally confronting chaos, lower class individuals were more communally oriented (Study 1), more connected with their community (Study 2), and more likely to volunteer for a community-building project (Study 3), compared to upper class individuals. In contrast, perceptions of chaos caused upper class individuals to express greater reliance on wealth (Study 4) and prefer financial gain over membership in a close-knit community (Study 5), relative to lower class individuals. These findings suggest that social class shapes how people respond to perceptions of chaos and cope with its threatening consequences.

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Generational Increases in Agentic Self-evaluations among American College Students, 1966-2009

Jean Twenge, Keith Campbell & Brittany Gentile
Self and Identity, Fall 2012, Pages 409-427

Abstract:
Compared to previous generations, more American college students now rate themselves as above average on attributes such as academic ability, drive to achieve, leadership ability, public speaking ability, self-confidence, and writing ability (based on a nationally representative sample collected 1966-2009; N = 6.5 million). These birth cohort differences are similar with controls for race and gender and occurred despite the college population becoming less selective. Trends in positive self-views are correlated with grade inflation (which increased d = 0.81), but are not explained by changes in objective performance (e.g., SAT scores have declined, d = -0.22) or effort (time spent studying is down, d = - 0.31). Broad cultural shifts emphasizing positive self-views have apparently resulted in enhanced self-evaluations on agentic domains. Self-evaluations on communal attributes, such as understanding others, cooperativeness, and spirituality, either decreased or were unchanged.

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Sexual Selection of Human Cooperative Behaviour: An Experimental Study in Rural Senegal

Arnaud Tognetti et al.
PLoS ONE, September 2012

Abstract:
Human cooperation in large groups and between non-kin individuals remains a Darwinian puzzle. Investigations into whether and how sexual selection is involved in the evolution of cooperation represent a new and important research direction. Here, 69 groups of four men or four women recruited from a rural population in Senegal played a sequential public-good game in the presence of out-group observers, either of the same sex or of the opposite sex. At the end of the game, participants could donate part of their gain to the village school in the presence of the same observers. Both contributions to the public good and donations to the school, which reflect different components of cooperativeness, were influenced by the sex of the observers. The results suggest that in this non-Western population, sexual selection acts mainly on men's cooperative behaviour with non-kin, whereas women's cooperativeness is mainly influenced by nonsexual social selection.

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The Ironic Effect of Financial Incentive on Empathic Accuracy

Christine Ma-Kellams & Jim Blascovich
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Two studies examined the effect of financial incentives on empathic accuracy and a possible underlying mechanism. In Study 1, participants either received a financial incentive based on performance on an empathic accuracy task (i.e., monetary reward for accurate inferences regarding the emotions experienced by videotaped targets) or not. Those in the incentive condition were less accurate than those not. Study 2 replicated this finding and tested a hypothesized mechanism - that money makes individuals view themselves in a less relational manner, thereby impairing empathy. Participants completed the Study 1 task in addition to the Twenty Statements Task (TST). "I am" responses on the TST were independently coded by two coders regarding the degree to which participants described themselves in a relational manner. Results indicated that relational self-construal mediated the link between money and decreased empathic accuracy.

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Interpersonal Trust: An Age-Period-Cohort Analysis Revisited

April Clark & Marie Eisenstein
Social Science Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Building on the previous work of Robert V. Robinson and Elton F. Jackson, this study addresses the extent to which interpersonal trust in America is changing due to age, period, or cohort effects (APC). The importance of APC in explaining variations in trust stems from the understanding that the specific source of change can have important - albeit different and possibly, negative - consequences on society. Moreover, three years after the previous study concluded, the country experienced the largest concerted terrorist attacks on US soil. Little is known about how the attacks affected the dynamics of interpersonal trust relative to the processes of birth, aging, and historical change - such an investigation has important implications for our understanding of the sources and consequences of interpersonal trust. Two analysis techniques for disentangling APC effects are used: constrained generalized linear models and intrinsic estimator models. The results show that while period effects are an important contributor to declining trust, the attacks exert little influence over one's decision to trust others. Also, the investigation provides further confirmation that trust in others has fallen dramatically in the U.S. with the scarcity being led by individuals coming of age in the late 1940s, after which, trust falls with each successive cohort. If this trend continues, through the process of cohort replacement, we will become a society of "distrusters."

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On the determinants of honesty perceptions in the United States

Christian Bjørnskov
Rationality and Society, August 2012, Pages 257-294

Abstract:
This paper explores the determinants of perceptions of the honesty of most people across 48 US states and three periods. The results show support for the detrimental effects of income inequality but no or little support for a set of popular alternative theories from the related literature on social trust. The decline in honesty perceptions in recent decades is found to have been a consequence of increasing social polarization and the natural decline of the most trusting age cohorts. Residual honesty has increased since the 1970s, giving rise to markedly different policy implications than those forwarded in most studies in the trust literature.

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Fairness and Cheating

Daniel Houser, Stefan Vetter & Joachim Winter
European Economic Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
We present evidence from a laboratory experiment showing that individuals who believe they were treated unfairly in an interaction with another person are more likely to cheat in a subsequent unrelated game. Specifically, subjects first participated in a dictator game. They then flipped a coin in private and reported the outcome. Subjects could increase their total payoff by cheating, i.e., lying about the outcome of the coin toss. We found that subjects were more likely to cheat in reporting the outcome of the coin flip when: 1) they received either nothing or a very small transfer from the dictator; and 2) they claimed to have been treated unfairly.

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More for the Many: The Influence of Entitativity on Charitable Giving

Robert Smith, David Faro & Katherine Burson
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Donations to large numbers of victims are typically muted relative to donations to a single identified victim. This article shows that people can donate more to large numbers of victims if these victims are perceived as entitative - comprising a single, coherent unit. For example, donations to help children in need are higher when the children comprise a family than when they have no explicit group membership. The same effect is observed on donations for endangered animals that are depicted as moving in unison. Perceived entitativity results in more extreme judgments of victims. Victims with positive traits are therefore viewed more favorably when entitative, triggering greater feelings of concern and higher donations. Entitativity has the opposite effect for victims sharing negative traits.

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Modelling Charitable Donations to an Unexpected Natural Disaster: Evidence from the U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics

Sarah Brown, Mark Harris & Karl Taylor
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, September 2012, Pages 97-110

Abstract:
Using household-level data, we explore the relationship between donations to the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster and other charitable donations. The empirical evidence suggests that donations specifically for the victims of the tsunami are positively associated with the amount previously donated to other charitable causes. This relationship exists when we decompose overall charitable donations into different types of philanthropy, with charitable contributions to caring and needy organizations having the largest positive association with donations to the victims of the tsunami. Furthermore, when we explore the impact of donations to the victims of the tsunami on future donations to charity, there is evidence of a positive relationship with the largest association with donations to caring and needy organizations. Hence, there is no evidence to suggest that unplanned spending on donations to an unforeseen natural disaster diverts future expenditure away from donations to other charitable causes.

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Fate or fight: Exploring the hedonic costs of competition

Christopher Hsee et al.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, November 2012, Pages 177-186

Abstract:
As a resource-allocation method, free competition is generally considered more efficient and fairer than binding assignment, yet individuals' hedonic experiences in these different resource-allocation conditions are largely ignored. Using a minimalistic experimental simulation procedure, we compared participants' hedonic experiences between a free-competition condition (in which participants could equally and freely compete for the superior resource) and a binding-assignment condition (in which the superior and inferior resources were unequally and irreversibly assigned to different participants). We found that individuals in the binding-assignment condition - even the disadvantaged ones - were happier than those in the free-competition condition. We attributed the effect to individuals' peace of mind, and supported the peace-of-mind notion by identifying two moderators: ease of social comparison and enjoyability of the inferior resource. In sum, this research highlighted the hedonic aspects of resource allocation methods and identified when accepting one's fate is hedonically better than fighting for the best.

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Lost Letter Measure of Variation in Altruistic Behaviour in 20 Neighbourhoods

Jo Holland, Antonio Silva & Ruth Mace
PLoS ONE, August 2012

Abstract:
Altruistic behaviour varies across human populations and this variation is likely to be partly explained by variation in the ecological context of the populations. We hypothesise that area level socio-economic characteristics will determine the levels of altruism found in individuals living in an area and we use a lost letter experiment to measure altruism across 20 neighbourhoods with a wide range of income deprivation scores in London, UK. The results show a strong negative effect of neighbourhood income deprivation on altruistic behaviour, with letters dropped in the poorest neighbourhoods having 91% lower odds of being returned than letters dropped in the wealthiest neighbourhoods. We suggest that measures of altruism are strongly context dependant.

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Volunteer Work and Hedonic, Eudemonic, and Social Well-Being

Joonmo Son & John Wilson
Sociological Forum, September 2012, Pages 658-681

Abstract:
Using two waves of panel data from the National Survey of Midlife in the United States (MIDUS), we examine the relationship between volunteer work and three dimensions of well-being: hedonic (e.g., positive mood), eudemonic (e.g., purpose in life), and social (e.g., feeling of belonging to the community). We test for the effects of volunteering measured as a binary and a continuous variable. Results show that volunteering enhances eudemonic and social well-being (but not hedonic well-being) although the number of hours contributed makes no difference. Conversely, people who have greater hedonic, eudemonic, and social well-being are more likely to volunteer and, in the case of hedonic and eudemonic well-being, volunteer more hours.

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How Exposure to Markets Can Favor Inequity-Averse Preferences

Robertas Zubrickas
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper shows how market exposure can support the evolution of non-individualistic preferences. In a group, one agent is randomly selected to divide an exogenous endowment. Endowment shares are used for either consumption or market exchange with external merchants. As a more equal endowment distribution attenuates the scope of merchants' price discrimination, we argue that inequity-averse preferences may lead to a higher utility of consumption and so survive evolutionary pressures. This effect arises from an opportunity to create and extract information rents. We offer a new explanation to the empirical finding that a society's exposure to markets has a positive effect on its members' sociality.

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Measuring the Distribution of Spitefulness

Erik Kimbrough & Philipp Reiss
PLoS ONE, August 2012

Abstract:
Spiteful, antisocial behavior may undermine the moral and institutional fabric of society, producing disorder, fear, and mistrust. Previous research demonstrates the willingness of individuals to harm others, but little is understood about how far people are willing to go in being spiteful (relative to how far they could have gone) or their consistency in spitefulness across repeated trials. Our experiment is the first to provide individuals with repeated opportunities to spitefully harm anonymous others when the decision entails zero cost to the spiter and cannot be observed as such by the object of spite. This method reveals that the majority of individuals exhibit consistent (non-)spitefulness over time and that the distribution of spitefulness is bipolar: when choosing whether to be spiteful, most individuals either avoid spite altogether or impose the maximum possible harm on their unwitting victims.

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Fairness versus favoritism in children

Alex Shaw, Peter DeScioli & Kristina Olson
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Children respond positively to individuals who favor them and also to individuals who are fair. The present studies examine the interaction between these two preferences by presenting children with two distributors who share resources with the child participant and another recipient. Children are asked whom they like better: the distributor who was unfair but favored the child participant or the distributor who was fair and showed no (or reduced) favoritism. In Study 1, we find that when fairness and favoritism are in conflict, children are split on whom they prefer. In Study 2, we find that placing children in a competitive context leads to a stronger preference for the distributor who favored the child participant. In Study 3, we examine whether children's preference for favoritism persists when both distributors gave the child the same number of rewards, but one distributor gave the child participant relatively more than the other recipient. In this situation, we find that children prefer the fair distributor. However, we again find that creating a competitive context reduces children's preference for the fair distributor. Finally we find that in a third-party context, children value fairness over generosity. Taken together, these results show how children balance competing concerns for fairness and favoritism.

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Children Develop a Veil of Fairness

A. Shaw et al.
Harvard Working Paper, July 2012

Abstract:
Previous research suggests that children develop an increasing concern with fairness over the course of development. Research with adults suggests that the concern with fairness has at least two distinct components: a desire to be fair but also a desire to signal to others that they are fair. We explore whether children's developing concern with behaving fairly towards others may in part reflect a developing concern with appearing fair to others. In Experiments 1-2, most 6- to 8-year-old children behaved fairly towards others when an experimenter was aware of their choices; fewer children opted to behave fairly, however, when they could be unfair to others yet appear fair to the experimenter. In Experiment 3, we explored the development of this concern with appearing fair by using a wider age range (6- to 11-year-olds) and a different method. In this experiment, children chose how to assign a good or bad prize to themselves and another participant by either unilaterally deciding who would get each prize or by using a fair procedure - flipping a coin in private. Older children were much more likely to flip the coin than younger children, yet were just as likely as younger children to assign themselves the good prize by reporting winning the coin flip more than chance would dictate. Overall, the results of these experiments suggest that as children grow older they become increasingly concerned with appearing fair to others, which may explain some of their increased tendency to behave fairly.

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Young Children Consider Merit when Sharing Resources with Others

Patricia Kanngiesser & Felix Warneken
PLoS ONE, August 2012

Abstract:
Merit is a key principle of fairness: rewards should be distributed according to how much someone contributed to a task. Previous research suggests that children have an early ability to take merit into account in third-party situations but that merit-based sharing in first-party contexts does not emerge until school-age. Here we provide evidence that three- and five-year-old children already use merit to share resources with others, even when sharing is costly for the child. In Study 1, a child and a puppet-partner collected coins that were later exchanged for rewards. We varied the work-contribution of both partners by manipulating how many coins each partner collected. Children kept fewer stickers in trials in which they had contributed less than in trials in which they had contributed more than the partner, showing that they took merit into account. Few children, however, gave away more than half of the stickers when the partner had worked more. Study 2 confirmed that children related their own work-contribution to their partner's, rather than simply focusing on their own contribution. Taken together, these studies show that merit-based sharing is apparent in young children; however it remains constrained by a self-serving bias.

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Children Apply Principles of Physical Ownership to Ideas

Alex Shaw, Vivian Li & Kristina Olson
Cognitive Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Adults apply ownership not only to objects but also to ideas. But do people come to apply principles of ownership to ideas because of being taught about intellectual property and copyrights? Here, we investigate whether children apply rules from physical property ownership to ideas. Studies 1a and 1b show that children (6-8 years old) determine ownership of both objects and ideas based on who first establishes possession of the object or idea. Study 2 shows that children use another principle of object ownership, control of permission - an ability to restrict others' access to the entity in question - to determine idea ownership. In Study 3, we replicate these findings with different idea types. In Study 4, we determine that children will not apply ownership to every entity, demonstrating that they do not apply ownership to a common word. Taken together, these results suggest that, like adults, children as young as 6 years old apply rules from ownership not only to objects but to ideas as well.

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Affect and fairness: Dictator games under cognitive load

Jonathan Schulz et al.
Journal of Economic Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigate the impact of affect and deliberation on other-regarding decisions. In our laboratory experiment subjects decide on a series of mini-Dictator games while under varying degrees of cognitive load. Cognitive load is intended to decrease deliberation and therefore enhance the influence of affect on behavior. In each game subjects have two options: they can decide between a fair and an unfair allocation. We find that subjects in a high-load condition are more generous - they more often choose the fair allocation than subjects in a low-load condition. The series of mini-Dictator games also allows us to investigate how subjects react to the games' varying levels of advantageous inequality. Low-load subjects react considerably more to the degree of advantageous inequality. Our results underscore the importance of affect for basic altruistic behavior and deliberation in adjusting decisions to a given situation.

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Competitive behavior: Tests of the N-effect and proximity to a standard

Donald Vandegrift & Brian Holaday
Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, August 2012, Pages 182-192

Abstract:
Previous research establishes that: (a) individuals behave more competitively when they perceive themselves to be close to a reference standard (i.e., proximity to a standard); (b) individuals behave more competitively when the number of competitors is small (i.e., the n-effect); and (c) men compete more intensely than women in tournament competitions. This article seeks to test the robustness of these results. To do this, we construct four versions of a survey instrument (i.e., a 2 × 2 design). The instrument varies the number of competitors and the individual's proximity to a standard. The instrument tests the robustness of the results by asking respondents to make decision about effort (rather than a distribution) and allows the impact of competitive decisions on other competitors to vary inversely with the number of competitors. Across the entire sample, respondents in proximity to the standard show more competitive behavior. However, this effect is due entirely to changes in the behavior of men. Finally, we find that the n-effect is not robust when competitive behavior has an impact on others.

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Binds and Bounds of Communion: Effects of Interpersonal Values on Assumed Similarity of Self and Others

Kenneth Locke et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Assumed similarity refers to ascribing similar attributes to the self and others. Because self-other similarity facilitates communion, people who value communion should be prone to assume self-other similarity; but because self-other similarity also evokes obligation, they may be prone to assume similarity only with others with whom they are or would feel comfortable being interconnected. We tested these hypotheses in 5 studies (total N = 1,709). In Study 1, students indicated their political preferences and estimated other students' preferences. In Studies 2-5, students described their personality and the personalities of the following targets: actual or imagined romantic partners in Study 2; ingroup members (students from the respondents' university) and outgroup members (students from a foreign university) in Studies 3-4; and specific liked and disliked others in Study 5. As hypothesized, people with stronger communal values were more likely to assume self-other similarity with liked others, romantic partners, and ingroup members, but not with disliked others and outgroup members. These effects replicated across different cultures (India, Korea, and the United States) and remained significant when controlling for self-esteem, national identification, and attribute desirability. Although people who valued communion tended to depict themselves and liked and ingroup others in relatively normative (typical) ways, which partially explained assumptions of similarity and indicated that those assumptions were to some extent accurate, communal values continued to predict distinctive self-other similarity or "false consensus" even after controlling for the normative prevalence of attributes.

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The other side of the coin: Oxytocin decreases the adherence to fairness norms

Sina Radke & Ellen de Bruijn
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, June 2012

Abstract:
Oxytocin (OXT) has been implicated in prosocial behaviors such as trust and generosity. Yet, these effects appear to strongly depend on characteristics of the situation and the people with whom we interact or make decisions. Norms and rules can facilitate and guide our actions, with fairness being a particularly salient and fundamental norm. The current study investigated the effects of intranasal OXT administration on fairness considerations in social decision-making in a double-blind, placebo-controlled within-subject design. After having received 24 IU of OXT or placebo (PLC), participants completed a one-shot Dictator Game (DG) and played the role of the responder in a modified version of the Ultimatum Game (UG), in which an unfair offer of eight coins for the proposer and two coins for the responder is paired with either a fair-(5:5) or no-alternative (8:2). Rejection rates were higher when a fair alternative had been available than when there was no alternative to an unfair offer. Importantly, OXT did not de-or increase rejection rates overall, but reduced the sensitivity to contextual fairness, i.e., the context of alternatives in which an offer was made. As dictators, participants allocated less coins to the recipient when given OXT than when given PLC, indicating a decline in generosity. These results suggest that OXT decreases the adherence to fairness norms in social settings where others are likely to be perceived as not belonging to one's ingroup. While our findings do not support the prosocial conception of OXT, they corroborate recent ideas that the effects of OXT are more nuanced than assumed in the past.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM