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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Under the illusion

 

The blind leading: Power reduces awareness of constraints

Jennifer Whitson et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research has found that power increases awareness of goal-relevant over goal-irrelevant information. However, this work has failed to distinguish between goal-facilitating and goal-inhibiting information, both of which are goal relevant. The current research investigated whether power increases the cognitive resources devoted to goal-facilitating information or reduces the cognitive resources devoted to goal-constraining information. Two experiments found that, compared to low-power individuals, high-power individuals recalled less goal-constraining information and generated fewer potential constraints that would prevent the protagonist of a story from completing his goal. However, there was no difference between the powerful and powerless in their recall or generation of goal-facilitating information. These results suggest that the powerful are more likely to act on their goals because the constraints that normally inhibit action are less psychologically present for them.

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Tall, Dark, and Stable: Embodiment Motivates Mate Selection Preferences

David Kille, Amanda Forest & Joanne Wood
Psychological Science, forthcoming

"Forty-seven romantically unattached undergraduates (25 men, 22 women; mean age = 21.08 years) were randomly assigned to either a physically unstable condition or a physically stable condition. In the physically unstable condition, participants sat at a slightly wobbly table and chair...Participants rated the likelihood that the marriages of four well-known couples (e.g., Barack and Michelle Obama: married 19 years, two children) would break up in the next 5 years...Participants indicated their preferences for various traits in a potential romantic partner...[P]articipants in the physically unstable condition perceived less stability in other people's relationships [and] reported a greater desire for stability traits in a partner."

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What's in a name? Our false uniqueness!

John Kulig
British Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current study investigated our perception of first names. In Study 1, participants estimated their own first name to be less frequent compared with estimates from yoked controls. The first name uniqueness effect was seen for both rare and common names, and male and female names. The uniqueness bias was not due to differential encoding of variegated and shortened names, such as different versions of the name Caitlyn. Study 2 established that rarer names are preferred, and, that when we contemplate a name change, we often consider rare names. Several theoretical explanations for a general name uniqueness effect are proposed.

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Predictive physiological anticipation preceding seemingly unpredictable stimuli: A meta-analysis

Julia Mossbridge, Patrizio Tressoldi & Jessica Utts
Frontiers in Perception Science, October 2012

Abstract:
This meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010 tests an unusual hypothesis: for stimuli of two or more types that are presented in an order designed to be unpredictable and that produce different post-stimulus physiological activity, the direction of pre-stimulus physiological activity reflects the direction of post-stimulus physiological activity, resulting in an unexplained anticipatory effect. The reports we examined used one of two paradigms: (1) randomly ordered presentations of arousing vs. neutral stimuli, or (2) guessing tasks with feedback (correct vs. incorrect). Dependent variables included: electrodermal activity, heart rate, blood volume, pupil dilation, electroencephalographic activity, and blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) activity. To avoid including data hand-picked from multiple different analyses, no post hoc experiments were considered. The results reveal a significant overall effect with a small effect size [fixed effect: overall ES = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.15-0.27, z = 6.9, p < 2.7 × 10-12; random effects: overall (weighted) ES = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.13-0.29, z = 5.3, p < 5.7 × 10-8]. Higher quality experiments produced a quantitatively larger effect size and a greater level of significance than lower quality studies. The number of contrary unpublished reports that would be necessary to reduce the level of significance to chance (p > 0.05) was conservatively calculated to be 87 reports. We explore alternative explanations and examine the potential linkage between this unexplained anticipatory activity and other results demonstrating meaningful pre-stimulus activity preceding behaviorally relevant events. We conclude that to further examine this currently unexplained anticipatory activity, multiple replications arising from different laboratories using the same methods are necessary. The cause of this anticipatory activity, which undoubtedly lies within the realm of natural physical processes (as opposed to supernatural or paranormal ones), remains to be determined.

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Money Isn't Everything, but It Helps If It Doesn't Look Used: How the Physical Appearance of Money Influences Spending

Fabrizio Di Muro & Theodore Noseworthy
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Despite evidence that currency denomination can influence spending, researchers have yet to examine whether the physical appearance of money can do the same. This is important because smaller denomination bills tend to suffer greater wear than larger denomination bills. Using real money in the context of real purchases, this article demonstrates that the physical appearance of money can override the influence of denomination. The reason being, people want to rid themselves of worn bills because they are disgusted by the contamination from others, whereas people put a premium on crisp currency because they take pride in owning bills that can be spent around others. This suggests that the physical appearance of money matters more than traditionally thought, and like most things in life, it too is inextricably linked to the social context. The results suggest that money may be less fungible than people think.

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The Less the Public Knows the Better? The Effects of Increased Knowledge on Celebrity Evaluations

David Sanbonmatsu et al.
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, November/December 2012, Pages 499-507

Abstract:
Celebrities are figures that people like a lot but know little about. Two experiments investigated how celebrity evaluations are affected by increased knowledge. In Experiment 1, heightened knowledge of the political orientation, faith, and social attitudes of two prominent actors led to less favorable evaluations and greater differentiation in the evaluations of the actors along political and gender lines. In Experiment 2, increasing participants' cognizance of their limited knowledge of popular entertainers led to less positive evaluations and diminished credibility of the celebrities as spokespersons. The findings suggest that increasing knowledge and meta-knowledge of celebrities may diminish their marketability.

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The powerful size others down: The link between power and estimates of others' size

Andy Yap, Malia Mason & Daniel Ames
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current research examines the extent to which visual perception is distorted by one's experience of power. Specifically, does power distort impressions of another person's physical size? Two experiments found that participants induced to feel powerful through episodic primes (Study 1) and legitimate leadership role manipulations (Study 2) systematically underestimated the size of a target, and participants induced to feel powerless systematically overestimated the size of the target. These results emerged whether the target person was in a photograph or face-to-face. These findings suggest that the experience of powerfulness and powerlessness leads people to misperceive complementary power cues in others, and in doing so, distorts what they actually see. We discuss how these findings elucidate the interplay between how psychological states influence perception, and through this, facilitate social coordination.

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The Faintest Speck of Dirt: Disgust Enhances the Detection of Impurity

Gary Sherman, Jonathan Haidt & Gerald Clore
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Purity is commonly regarded as being physically embodied in the color white, with even trivial deviations from whiteness indicating a loss of purity. In three studies, we explored the implications of this "white = pure" association for disgust, an emotion that motivates the detection and avoidance of impurities that threaten purity and cleanliness. We hypothesized that disgust tunes perception to prioritize the light end of the light-dark spectrum, which results in a relative hypersensitivity to changes in lightness in this range. In Studies 1 and 2, greater sensitivity to disgusting stimuli was associated with greater ability to make subtle gray-scale discriminations (e.g., detecting a faint gray stimulus against a white background) at the light end of the spectrum relative to ability to make subtle gray-scale discriminations at the dark end of the spectrum. In Study 3, after viewing disgusting images, disgust-sensitive individuals demonstrated a heightened ability to detect deviations from white. These findings suggest that disgust not only motivates people to avoid impurities, but actually makes them better able to see them.

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Ego depletion results in an increase in spontaneous false memories

Henry Otgaar, Hugo Alberts & Lesly Cuppens
Consciousness and Cognition, December 2012, Pages 1673-1680

Abstract:
The primary aim of the current study was to examine whether depleted cognitive resources might have ramifications for the formation of neutral and negative spontaneous false memories. To examine this, participants received neutral and negative Deese/Roediger-McDermott false memory wordlists. Also, for half of the participants, cognitive resources were depleted by use of an ego depletion manipulation (solving difficult calculations while being interfered with auditory noise). Our chief finding was that depleted cognitive resources made participants more vulnerable for the production of false memories. Our results shed light on how depleted cognitive resources affect neutral and negative correct and errant memories.

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The Effect of an Apparent Change to a Branded or Generic Medication on Drug Effectiveness and Side Effects

Kate Faasse et al.
Psychosomatic Medicine, forthcoming

Objective: Generic medications are associated with reduced perceived effectiveness, increased perceived adverse effects, and increased rates of nonadherence compared with brand-name medications. This study examined the effect of an apparent medication formulation change on subjective and objective measures of medication effectiveness and medication side effects.

Methods: Sixty-two university students participated in a study purportedly testing the effectiveness of fast-acting β-blocker medications in reducing preexamination anxiety. All tablets were placebos. In session 1, all participants received a yellow tablet ("Betaprol"). In session 2, participants were randomly allocated to receive Betaprol (no change condition) or a white tablet labeled either as "Novaprol" (branded change condition) or "Generic" (generic change condition). Blood pressure and state anxiety were measured before and after tablet ingestion. Side effects attributed to medication were assessed.

Results: The no change group showed significantly greater decreases in systolic blood pressure (mean [M] [standard deviation] = -7.72 mm Hg, standard error [SE] = 1.45) than the branded change (M = -2.75 mm Hg, SE = 1.44, p = .02) and generic change (M = -3.26 mm Hg, SE = 1.45, p = .03) groups. The no-change group showed significantly greater decreases in state anxiety (M = -1.53, SE = 0.33) than the branded change (M = -0.50, SE = 0.33, p = .03) and generic change (M = -0.52, SE = 0.33, p = .04) groups. Significantly more side effects were attributed to the medication in the generic change (M = 1.83, SE = 0.23) (but not the branded change) condition when compared with the no change condition (M = 0.87, SE = 0.31, p = .03).

Conclusions: Medication formulation change, particularly to generic medication, seems to be associated with reduced subjective and objective measures of medication effectiveness and increased side effects.

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Brands as Product Coordinators: Matching Brands Make Joint Consumption Experiences More Enjoyable

Ryan Rahinel & Joseph Redden
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
People often consume multiple products at the same time (e.g., chips and salsa). Four studies demonstrate that people enjoy such joint consumption experiences more when the products are merely labeled with the same brand (vs. different brands). Process evidence shows that this brand matching effect arises because matching brand labels cue consumers' belief that the two products were coordinated through joint testing and design to go uniquely well together. This shows that there is no universal answer to which brand a consumer likes the most; it depends on what other brands are consumed with it. More generally, the authors establish that a simple additive model of brand liking cannot fully capture consumption utility and that brands interact and influence enjoyment at the level of the brand combination.

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Predicting Fluctuations in Widespread Interest: Memory Decay and Goal-Related Memory Accessibility in Internet Search Trends

E.J. Masicampo & Nalini Ambady
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
Memory and interest respond in similar ways to people's shifting needs and motivations. We therefore tested whether memory and interest might produce similar, observable patterns in people's responses over time. Specifically, the present studies examined whether fluctuations in widespread interest (as measured by Internet search trends) resemble two well-established memory patterns: memory decay and goal-related memory accessibility. We examined national and international events (e.g., Nobel Prize selections, holidays) that produced spikes in widespread interest in certain people and foods. When the events that triggered widespread interest were incidental (e.g., the death of a celebrity), widespread interest conformed to memory decay patterns: It rose quickly, fell slowly according to a power function, and was higher after the event than before it. When the events that triggered widespread interest were goal related (e.g., political elections), widespread interest conformed to patterns of goal-related memory accessibility: It rose slowly, fell quickly according to a sigmoid function, and was lower after the event than before it. Fluctuations in widespread interest over time are thus similar to standard memory patterns observed at the individual level due perhaps to common mechanisms and functions.

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Reading and doing arithmetic nonconsciously

Asael Sklar et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
The modal view in the cognitive and neural sciences holds that consciousness is necessary for abstract, symbolic, and rule-following computations. Hence, semantic processing of multiple-word expressions, and performing of abstract mathematical computations, are widely believed to require consciousness. We report a series of experiments in which we show that multiple-word verbal expressions can be processed outside conscious awareness and that multistep, effortful arithmetic equations can be solved unconsciously. All experiments used Continuous Flash Suppression to render stimuli invisible for relatively long durations (up to 2,000 ms). Where appropriate, unawareness was verified using both objective and subjective measures. The results show that novel word combinations, in the form of expressions that contain semantic violations, become conscious before expressions that do not contain semantic violations, that the more negative a verbal expression is, the more quickly it becomes conscious, and that subliminal arithmetic equations prime their results. These findings call for a significant update of our view of conscious and unconscious processes.

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Conferring humanness: The role of anthropomorphism in hoarding

Kiara Timpano & Ashley Shaw
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Hoarding is characterized by a persistent and extreme difficulty with discarding one's possessions, often resulting in cluttered living spaces and marked distress or impairment. Despite being increasingly recognized as a substantial public health burden, much remains unknown about the etiology. One facet within the cognitive-behavioral model of hoarding that remains poorly understood is the strong emotional attachment to possessions. The tendency to anthropomorphize (i.e., see human-like qualities in non-human entities) may be one possible mechanism contributing to this emotional attachment. The current report is the first empirical study to examine the association between anthropomorphism and hoarding. Non-clinical participants (n = 72) completed a battery of self-report measures focused on hoarding symptoms, saving cognitions, anthropomorphism, and emotional attachments to personal and novel items. Anthropomorphic tendencies were significantly associated with greater saving behaviors and the acquisition of free things. Levels of anthropomorphism moderated the relationship between specific hoarding beliefs and acquiring tendencies, as well as the emotional attachment towards a novel item. Results are discussed with regard to future research directions, and implications for the cognitive-behavioral model of hoarding.

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Affective Signals of Threat Increase Perceived Proximity

Shana Cole, Emily Balcetis & David Dunning
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do stimuli appear to be closer when they are more threatening? We tested people's perceptions of distance to stimuli that they felt were threatening relative to perceptions of stimuli they felt were disgusting or neutral. Two studies demonstrated that stimuli that emitted affective signals of threat (e.g., an aggressive male student) were seen as physically closer than stimuli that emitted affective signals of disgust (e.g., a repulsive male student) or no affective signal. Even after controlling for the direct effects of physiological arousal, object familiarity, and intensity of the negative emotional reaction, we found that threatening stimuli appeared to be physically closer than did disgusting ones (Study 2). These findings highlight the links among biased perception, action regulation, and successful navigation of the environment.

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Person (mis)perception: Functionally biased sex categorization of bodies

Kerri Johnson, Masumi Iida & Louis Tassinary
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 22 December 2012, Pages 4982-4989

Abstract:
Social perception is among the most important tasks that occur in daily life, and perceivers readily appreciate the social affordances of others. Here, we demonstrate that sex categorizations are functionally biased towards a male percept. Perceivers judged body shapes that varied in waist-to-hip ratio to be men if they were not, in reality, exclusive to women, and male categorizations occurred more quickly than female categorizations (studies 1 and 4). This pattern was corroborated when participants identified the average body shapes of men and women (study 2) and when we assessed participants' cognitive representations (study 3). Moreover, these tendencies were modulated by emotion context (study 4). Thus, male categorizations occurred readily and rapidly, demonstrating a pronounced categorization bias and temporal advantage for male judgements.

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Fear of the dead, fear of death: Is it biological or psychological?

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
Mortality, Fall 2012, Pages 322-337

Abstract:
The claim that aversion to dead bodies reflects a non-conscious response to objective physiological danger is thoroughly examined. No evidence is found for the idea that corpses are especially dangerous as potential sources of contamination. While reactions to dead bodies vary greatly among humans, depending on personal and cultural factors, fear of the dead is tied to the awareness of mortality. Humans react to the presence of death by transforming the dead, physically and psychologically.

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Power and spatial relations

Mei Jiang & Tracy Henley
Journal of Cognitive Psychology, Fall 2012, Pages 829-835

Abstract:
Embodied views of language hold that perceptual and motor simulations are involved during comprehension. Study 1 investigated power-related language in a picture recognition task wherein participants judged whether the picture presented at either the upper or lower screen position matched the sentence. In Study 2, participants chose the picture that best described the sentence between two (identical) images that were aligned vertically. Results demonstrated that participants responded faster to pictures presented at the implied location and chose that picture more often. Such results suggest that spatial information implicit in power-related language is involved in linguistic comprehension.

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Preserving Integrity in the Face of Performance Threat: Self-Affirmation Enhances Neurophysiological Responsiveness to Errors

Lisa Legault, Timour Al-Khindi & Michael Inzlicht
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Self-affirmation produces large effects: Even a simple reminder of one's core values reduces defensiveness against threatening information. But how, exactly, does self-affirmation work? We explored this question by examining the impact of self-affirmation on neurophysiological responses to threatening events. We hypothesized that because self-affirmation increases openness to threat and enhances approachability of unfavorable feedback, it should augment attention and emotional receptivity to performance errors. We further hypothesized that this augmentation could be assessed directly, at the level of the brain. We measured self-affirmed and nonaffirmed participants' electrophysiological responses to making errors on a task. As we anticipated, self-affirmation elicited greater error responsiveness than did nonaffirmation, as indexed by the error-related negativity, a neural signal of error monitoring. Self-affirmed participants also performed better on the task than did nonaffirmed participants. We offer novel brain evidence that self-affirmation increases openness to threat and discuss the role of error detection in the link between self-affirmation and performance.

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Imagined Sensory Experiences Can Shape Person Perception: It's a Matter of Visual Perspective

Neil Macrae et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Psychological warmth serves as a fundamental dimension of human social cognition. From impressions of strangers to appraisals of groups, assessments of warmth (vs. coldness) comprise an elemental building block of social perception. Using embodiment as a guiding framework, research has demonstrated that perceptions of others along the warm-cold dimension can be elicited by sensory experiences (e.g., physical warmth). Here we show that effects of this kind can also be triggered by mentally simulating physical temperature, but only under certain theoretically important imagery conditions. Specifically, impressions of a target were impacted by imagined warmth or coldness (i.e., thinking about holding a cup of hot/iced coffee) only when an event was simulated from an egocentric (i.e., first-person) perspective. No such effect emerged when an allocentric (i.e., third-person) orientation was adopted. This finding underscores the functional nature of mental simulation and identifies spatial visual perspective as a critical boundary condition of embodied cognition.

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Avoiding minorities: Social invisibility

Juan Pérez & Stefano Passini
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Three experiments examined how self-consciousness has an impact on the visual exploration of a social field. The main hypothesis was that merely a photograph of people can trigger a dynamic process of social visual interaction such that minority images are avoided when people are in a state of self-reflective consciousness. In all three experiments, pairs of pictures - one with characters of social minorities and one with characters of social majorities - were shown to the participants. By means of eye-tracking technology, the results of Experiment 1 (n = 20) confirmed the hypothesis that in the reflective consciousness condition, people look more at the majority than minority characters. The results of Experiment 2 (n = 89) confirmed the hypothesis that reflective consciousness also induces avoiding reciprocal visual interaction with minorities. Finally, by manipulating the visual interaction (direct vs. non-direct) with the photos of minority and majority characters, the results of Experiment 3 (n = 56) confirmed the hypothesis that direct visual interaction with minority characters is perceived as being longer and more aversive. The overall conclusion is that self-reflective consciousness leads people to avoid visual interaction with social minorities, consigning them to social invisibility.

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The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus

Hiroshi Nittono et al.
PLoS ONE, September 2012

Abstract:
Kawaii (a Japanese word meaning "cute") things are popular because they produce positive feelings. However, their effect on behavior remains unclear. In this study, three experiments were conducted to examine the effects of viewing cute images on subsequent task performance. In the first experiment, university students performed a fine motor dexterity task before and after viewing images of baby or adult animals. Performance indexed by the number of successful trials increased after viewing cute images (puppies and kittens; M ± SE = 43.9±10.3% improvement) more than after viewing images that were less cute (dogs and cats; 11.9±5.5% improvement). In the second experiment, this finding was replicated by using a non-motor visual search task. Performance improved more after viewing cute images (15.7±2.2% improvement) than after viewing less cute images (1.4±2.1% improvement). Viewing images of pleasant foods was ineffective in improving performance (1.2±2.1%). In the third experiment, participants performed a global-local letter task after viewing images of baby animals, adult animals, and neutral objects. In general, global features were processed faster than local features. However, this global precedence effect was reduced after viewing cute images. Results show that participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images. This is interpreted as the result of a narrowed attentional focus induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing. For future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.

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Info/information theory: Speakers choose shorter words in predictive contexts

Kyle Mahowald et al.
Cognition, forthcoming

Abstract:
A major open question in natural language research is the role of communicative efficiency in the origin and on-line processing of language structures. Here, we use word pairs like chimp/chimpanzee, which differ in length but have nearly identical meanings, to investigate the communicative properties of lexical systems and the communicative pressures on language users. If language is designed to be information-theoretically optimal, then shorter words should convey less information than their longer counterparts, when controlling for meaning. Consistent with this prediction, a corpus analysis revealed that the short form of our meaning-matched pairs occurs in more predictive contexts than the longer form. Second, a behavioral study showed that language users choose the short form more often in predictive contexts, suggesting that tendencies to be information-theoretically efficient manifest in explicit behavioral choices. Our findings, which demonstrate the prominent role of communicative efficiency in the structure of the lexicon, complement and extend the results of Piantadosi, Tily, and Gibson (2011), who showed that word length is better correlated with Shannon information content than with frequency. Crucially, we show that this effect arises at least in part from active speaker choice.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM