A Healthy Dose of Reality

Kevin Lewis

March 19, 2010

Interaction of natural survival instincts and internalized social norms exploring the Titanic and Lusitania disasters

Bruno Frey, David Savage & Benno Torgler
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

To understand human behavior, it is important to know under what conditions people deviate from selfish rationality. This study explores the interaction of natural survival instincts and internalized social norms using data on the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania. We show that time pressure appears to be crucial when explaining behavior under extreme conditions of life and death. Even though the two vessels and the composition of their passengers were quite similar, the behavior of the individuals on board was dramatically different. On the Lusitania, selfish behavior dominated (which corresponds to the classical homo economicus); on the Titanic, social norms and social status (class) dominated, which contradicts standard economics. This difference could be attributed to the fact that the Lusitania sank in 18 min, creating a situation in which the short-run flight impulse dominated behavior. On the slowly sinking Titanic (2 h, 40 min), there was time for socially determined behavioral patterns to reemerge. Maritime disasters are traditionally not analyzed in a comparative manner with advanced statistical (econometric) techniques using individual data of the passengers and crew. Knowing human behavior under extreme conditions provides insight into how widely human behavior can vary, depending on differing external conditions.


Contagion or Restitution? When Bad Apples Can Motivate Ethical Behavior

Francesca Gino, Jun Gu & Chen-Bo Zhong
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2009, Pages 1299-1302

When there is a "bad apple" in the group, are we more likely to follow the example or compensate for their sins? Three experiments showed that whether a group member's unethical actions lead to contagion or restitution depends on the presence of out-group observers. In Experiment 1, participants were more likely to compensate for the transgression of an in-group member than an out-group member when there were out-group observers. Experiment 2 varied the presence of out-group observers and showed that such compensatory behaviors occur only in the presence of out-group members. We suggest that the presence of out-group observers trigger a self categorization process that induces guilt in individuals for their group members' transgressions. Indeed, associated guilt mediated the relationship between in-group member's unethical behavior and participants' compensatory behavior (Experiment 3). These results suggest that norms implied by others' behavior and group categorization are important determinants of ethical behavior.


Lusting While Loathing: Parallel Counterdriving of Wanting and Liking

Ab Litt, Uzma Khan & Baba Shiv
Psychological Science, January 2010, Pages 118-125

We show how being "jilted" - that is, being thwarted from obtaining a desired outcome - can concurrently increase desire to obtain the outcome, but reduce its actual attractiveness. Thus, people can come to both want something more and like it less. Two experiments illustrate such disjunctions following jilting experiences. In Experiment 1, participants who failed to win a prize were willing to pay more for it than those who won it, but were also more likely to trade it away when they ultimately obtained it. In Experiment 2, failure to obtain an expected reward led to increased choice, but also negatively biased evaluation, of an item that was merely similar to that reward. Such disjunctions were exhibited particularly by individuals low in intensity of felt affect, a finding supporting an emotional basis for relative harmonization of wanting and liking. These results demonstrate how dissociable psychological subsystems for wanting and liking can be driven in opposing directions.


The finer points of lying online: E-mail versus pen and paper

Charles Naquin, Terri Kurtzberg & Liuba Belkin
Journal of Applied Psychology, March 2010, Pages 387-394

The authors present 3 experimental studies that build on moral disengagement theory by exploring lying in online environments. Findings indicate that, when e-mail is compared with pen and paper communication media (both of which are equal in terms of media richness, as both are text only), people are more willing to lie when communicating via e-mail than via pen and paper and feel more justified in doing so. The findings were consistent whether the task assured participants that their lie either would or would not be discovered by their counterparts. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.


In Touch With Your Feelings: Power Increases Reliance on Bodily Information

Ana Guinote
Social Cognition, February 2010, Pages 110-121

Bodily feelings guide behavior. The present research examines how power affects reliance on nourishment-associated feelings. In Study 1 participants were primed with power or powerlessness and took part in a taste study. Hunger predicted the amount of food eaten by powerful but not by powerless participants. In Study 2 participants were assigned to a powerful or a powerless role and ate appetizing (chocolates) or non-appetizing (radishes) food. Powerful participants ate more appetizing food and less non-appetizing food, when compared to powerless participants. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that power increases reliance on experiential information.


Compensatory Ethics

Chen-Bo Zhong, Gillian Ku, Robert Lount & Keith Murnighan
Journal of Business Ethics, March 2010, Pages 323-339

Several theories, both ancient and recent, suggest that having the time to contemplate a decision should increase moral awareness and the likelihood of ethical choices. Our findings indicated just the opposite: greater time for deliberation led to less ethical decisions. Post-hoc analyses and a followup experiment suggested that decision makers act as if their previous choices have created or lost moral credentials: after an ethical first choice, people acted significantly less ethically in their subsequent choice but after an unethical first choice, people acted significantly more ethically in their subsequent choice. These findings provide the basis for a model of compensatory ethics.


Going for broke: Mortality salience increases risky decision making on the Iowa gambling task

Joshua Hart, James Schwabach & Sheldon Solomon
British Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Research on gambling, and risk taking in general, has focused primarily on approach-related motivations. The current study examined the avoidance of existential anxiety as a possible source of risky decision making and behaviour. The authors hypothesized that participants reminded of their own mortality would consequently make riskier decisions (and therefore perform more poorly) on the Iowa gambling task. Results confirmed this prediction. Implications of the finding that existential concerns undermine efficient decision making are considered.


On Unconscious Morality: The Effects of Unconscious Thinking on Moral Decision Making

Jaap Ham & Kees van den Bos
Social Cognition, February 2010, Pages 74-83

In this article, we argue that when making moral decisions, unconscious thought can lead to more utilitarian moral decisions (approving of harmful actions that maximize good consequences), compared to conscious thought and immediate decision making. Therefore, we presented participants with a complex version of the well-known footbridge dilemma. In immediate decision conditions, participants made decisions what to do in this dilemma immediately. In conscious thought conditions, participants consciously thought about what to do for 3 minutes and then made their decisions. In unconscious thought conditions, participants were distracted for 3 minutes, and next made their decisions. As expected, participants who thought unconsciously about the dilemma were more willing to make utilitarian decisions than participants who thought consciously or who made an immediate decision. The current findings provide a new perspective on the social psychology of moral decision making and further insight into unconscious thinking.


Friend or Foe? Cooperation and Learning in High-Stakes Games

Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Joel Waldfogel & Matthew White
Review of Economics and Statistics, February 2010, Pages 179-187

Why do people frequently cooperate in defiance of their immediate incentives? One explanation is that individuals are conditionally cooperative. As an explanation of behavior in one-shot settings, such preferences require individuals to be able to discern their opponents' preferences. Using data from a television game show, we provide evidence about how individuals implement conditionally cooperative preferences. We show that contestants forgo large sums of money to be cooperative; they cooperate at heightened levels when their opponents are predictably cooperative; and they fare worse when their observable characteristics predict less cooperation because opponents avoid cooperating with them.


When perception is more than reality: The effects of perceived versus actual resource depletion on self-regulatory behavior

Joshua Clarkson, Edward Hirt, Lile Jia & Marla Alexander
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, January 2010, Pages 29-46

Considerable research demonstrates that the depletion of self-regulatory resources impairs performance on subsequent tasks that demand these resources. The current research sought to assess the impact of perceived resource depletion on subsequent task performance at both high and low levels of actual depletion. The authors manipulated perceived resource depletion by having participants 1st complete a depleting or nondepleting task before being presented with feedback that did or did not provide a situational attribution for their internal state. Participants then persisted at a problem-solving task (Experiments 1-2), completed an attention-regulation task (Experiment 3), or responded to a persuasive message (Experiment 4). The findings consistently demonstrated that individuals who perceived themselves as less (vs. more) depleted, whether high or low in actual depletion, were more successful at subsequent self-regulation. Thus, perceived regulatory depletion can impact subsequent task performance-and this impact can be independent of one's actual state of depletion.


The Role of Self-regulation in Derogating Attractive Alternatives

Simone Ritter, Johan Karremans & Hein van Schie
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

The present research addresses the question of how romantically involved individuals are able to shield their ongoing romantic relationship from the temptation of attractive alternative partners. Specifically, two studies examined, and supported, the prediction that self-regulation promotes romantically involved individuals' tendency to derogate attractive others as potential partners. Heterosexual participants responded to pictures of attractive and unattractive opposite-sex others by indicating their interest in these others as potential partners. In both studies the possibility for self-regulation exertion was manipulated (by means of self-regulation depletion in Study 1, and time pressure in Study 2). When self-regulatory resources were relatively high, romantically involved participants exhibited less interest in attractive opposite-sex others than non-involved participants. However, when self-regulatory resources were low, interest in attractive opposite-sex others did not differ between romantically involved and non-involved participants.


I forgive myself, now I can study: How self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination

Michael Wohl, Timothy Pychyl & Shannon Bennett
Personality and Individual Differences, May 2010, Pages 803-808

In the present study, we examined the association between forgiving the self for a specific instance of procrastination and procrastination on that same task in the future. A sample of 119 first-year University students (49 male, 70 female) completed measures of procrastination and self-forgiveness immediately before each of two midterm examinations in their introductory psychology course. Results revealed that among students who reported high levels of self-forgiveness for procrastinating on studying for the first examination, procrastination on preparing for the subsequent examination was reduced. This relationship was mediated by negative affect, such that increased self-forgiveness reduced procrastination by decreasing negative affect. Results are discussed in relation to the impact of procrastination on self-directed negative affect.


Child's play: Facilitating the originality of creative output by a priming manipulation

Darya Zabelina & Michael Robinson
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, February 2010, Pages 57-65

When children play, they often do so in very original ways. However, with the responsibilities of adulthood, this playful curiosity is sometimes lost and conventional responses often result. In the present study, 76 undergraduates were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 conditions before creative performance was assessed in a version of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT; E. P. Torrance, 1974). In a control condition, participants wrote about what they would do if school was cancelled for the day. In an experimental condition, the instructions were identical except that participants were to imagine themselves as 7-year-olds in this situation. Individuals imagining themselves as children subsequently produced more original responses on the TTCT. Further results showed that the manipulation was particularly effective among more introverted individuals, who are typically less spontaneous and more inhibited in their daily lives. The results thus establish that there is a benefit in thinking like a child to subsequent creative originality, particularly among introverted individuals. The discussion links the findings to mindset factors, play and spontaneity, and relevant personality processes.


Ironic effects and final target fixation in a penalty shooting task

Olaf Binsch, Raôul Oudejans, Frank Bakker & Geert Savelsbergh
Human Movement Science, forthcoming

The aim of the present study was to find out whether ironic effects in a far aiming task were accompanied by shorter final fixations on the target. Generally, it is well known that a sufficiently long final fixation on the target is of crucial importance for accurate performance in far aiming. Recently, it has been shown that ironic effects in golf putts and penalty kicks (in which one does the opposite of what was intended, e.g., shoot close to the keeper while attempting to avoid this) were preceded by longer fixations on the to-be-avoided area, which may have resulted in shorter final fixations on the target area. Therefore, in the current study we examined football players taking penalties in a simulated penalty environment with and without instructions to avoid the goalkeeper. The findings revealed that ironic effects were indeed accompanied by significantly shorter final fixations on the target area, i.e., the open goal space. It is concluded that in far aiming tasks, ironic effects are accompanied by insufficiently long final fixations on the target.


Juries, Gender, and Assault Weapons

Glenn Meyer, Alicia Baños, Tiffany Gerondale, Christine Kiriazes, Claire Lakin & Amanda Rinker
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, April 2009, Pages 945-972

Firearms appearance can have psychological import in legal proceedings by keying aggressive ideations, impacting sentencing and gender-based attributions. We presented mock jurors with a homeowner's defensive gun use. Reasonable arguments were for shooting or not in the scenario by the defendant. The firearm varied in type. Assault rifle use led to harsher legal outcomes than did other firearms. A female defendant was at more risk than a male. In the last experiment, a police shooting scenario was tested. In that case, the male officer was at more risk than the female officer when wielding the assault rifle. Weapons and gender interactions were, for the most part, congruent with social cognitive theories of attribution and weapons priming of aggressive ideation.


You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First (Implicit) Impression: The Role of Elaboration in the Formation and Revision of Implicit Impressions

Natalie Wyer
Social Cognition, February 2010, Pages 1-19

Conditions under which implicit and explicit impressions of an individual may change in response to new information were investigated in two experiments. Participants formed an impression of a target person based on his membership in a social group and, in some conditions, detailed behavioral evidence. Later, half of the participants were given reason to believe that the initial information they had been given was wrong, and that the target actually belonged to a different social group. Implicit and explicit measures of participants' impressions of the target were then collected. Results indicated that, while explicit impressions were effectively corrected in light of new information, implicit impressions continued to reflect initial beliefs (Experiments 1 and 2). However, when given the opportunity to re-examine the original behavioral information, implicit measures also reflected a change in participants' impressions (Experiment 2). The role of elaboration in determining implicit and explicit impression change is discussed.

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