All about You

Kevin Lewis

August 15, 2021

Self-esteem as a hierometer: Sociometric status is a more potent and proximate predictor of self-esteem than socioeconomic status
Nikhila Mahadevan, Aiden Gregg & Constantine Sedikides
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming


The link between status and self-esteem remains theoretically and empirically controversial. To help clarify it, we proposed an integrated account of status and self-esteem, and tested several hypotheses derived from it. We distinguished between two types of status: socioeconomic status (SES; education, income, occupation) and sociometric status (SMS; respect, admiration, importance). We then examined how they related to one another and to self-esteem across five studies (N = 2,018). As hypothesized, in Studies 1–2 (cross-sectional), SES and SMS correlated positively with one another, and both correlated positively with self-esteem, yet SMS predicted self-esteem more strongly than SES did. Moreover, SMS mediated the link between SES and self-esteem, and this statistical model fit the data better than an alternative model where SMS and SES reversed roles. Studies 3–5 demonstrated causal links experimentally. In Study 3, manipulating SES to be higher (vs. lower) led to higher (vs. lower) SMS and state self-esteem, with SMS again statistically mediating the impact of SES on state self-esteem. In Study 4, manipulating SMS to be higher (vs. lower) led to higher (vs. lower) state self-esteem. Finally, in Study 5, manipulating SMS showed that it causally mediated the link between SES and state self-esteem. Our findings persisted across multiple measurement formats and after controlling for the Big Five personality traits. They point to SMS being a more powerful and proximate predictor of self-esteem than SES, thereby illuminating the link between status and self-esteem, and adding to a growing literature on the psychology of status.

What is your status portfolio? Higher status variance across groups increases interpersonal helping but decreases intrapersonal well-being
Catarina Fernandes et al.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, July 2021, Pages 56-75


Individuals belong to multiple groups across various domains of life, which in aggregate constitute a portfolio of potentially distinct levels of experienced status. We propose a two-factor model for assessing the effects of an individual’s status portfolio, based on status average (mean status level across groups) and status variance (degree to which status varies across those groups). Five studies using samples in general-life and work-specific contexts reveal the importance of both status average and status variance, the latter of which has been largely unexplored by status researchers to date. Individuals experiencing higher status variance show greater perspective taking, which in turn increases interpersonal helping. However, higher status variance also increases anxiety, decreasing intrapersonal well-being. Our results provide evidence of the additional explanatory power of accounting for status variance alongside status average, and highlight the importance of considering individuals’ aggregate experience of status across the multiple groups to which they belong.

Laughter influences social bonding but not prosocial generosity to friends and strangers
R.I.M. Dunbar et al.
PLoS ONE, August 2021


Humans deploy a number of specific behaviours for forming social bonds, one of which is laughter. However, two questions have not yet been investigated with respect to laughter: (1) Does laughter increase the sense of bonding to those with whom we laugh? and (2) Does laughter facilitate prosocial generosity? Using changes in pain threshold as a proxy for endorphin upregulation in the brain and a standard economic game (the Dictator Game) as an assay of prosociality, we show that laughter does trigger the endorphin system and, through that, seems to enhance social bonding, but it does not reliably influence donations to others. This suggests that social bonding and prosociality may operate via different mechanisms, or on different time scales, and relate to different functional objectives.

Social Bonding in Initial Acquaintance: Effects of Modality and Modality Order
Susan Sprecher
Social Psychology Quarterly, forthcoming


In this experimental study, unacquainted dyads engaged in a get-acquainted task using two modes of communication across two segments of interaction. The dyads either first disclosed in text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC) and then disclosed face-to-face (FtF) or the reverse. The participants completed reaction measures after each segment of interaction. After the first segment, dyads who communicated FtF reported more positive outcomes (e.g., liking, closeness) than dyads who engaged in CMC. Furthermore, dyads who began in CMC and then transitioned to FtF increased in their positive reactions, whereas dyads who began in FtF and transitioned to CMC either experienced no change (in liking, closeness, and perceived similarity) or experienced a decrease (in fun/enjoyment and perceived responsiveness). Implications of the results are discussed both for the classic social psychology question of how people become acquainted and for current interest in how mixed-mode interactions generate social bonds that can help meet belonging needs.

Be here now: Perceptions of uncertainty enhance savoring
Andrew Gregory et al.
Emotion, forthcoming


Savoring -- an emotion-regulation strategy that involves deliberately upregulating positive affect -- has many benefits, but what enhances savoring in the present moment? Drawing from life-history theory, affective and developmental science, and social-psychological frameworks, we examined the idea that perceptions of uncertainty -- perceiving the world as random and unpredictable -- enhance subsequent savoring. In a large experience-sampling study (Study 1, N = 6,680), we found that individuals who perceived more uncertainty showed increases in subsequent savoring in their daily lives. In a preregistered experiment (Study 2, N = 397), individuals who watched a film that induced uncertainty (vs. order or a control condition) subsequently reported higher savoring intentions. Finally, in a field experiment on a busy urban street (Study 3, N = 201), we found that passersby who received fliers that induced uncertainty (vs. order) subsequently engaged in more savoring behavior by stopping to smell a bouquet of roses. These findings from three studies with diverse samples and methodologies underscore an upside to the specter of uncertainty: it can cause people to savor the positives of the present.

Aging Impairs Inhibitory Control Over Incidental Cues: A Construal-Level Perspective
Liat Hadar, Yaacov Trope & Boaz Ben-David
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Age-related changes in decision making have been attributed to deterioration of cognitive skills, such as learning and memory. On the basis of past research showing age-related decreases in the ability to inhibit irrelevant information, we hypothesize that these changes occur, in part, because of older adults’ tendency to give more weight to low-level, subordinate, and goal-irrelevant information than younger adults do. Consistent with this hypothesis, our findings demonstrated that young adults are willing to pay more for a product with superior end attributes than a product with superior means attributes (Study 1, N = 200) and are more satisfied after an experience with superior end than means attributes (Study 2, N = 399). Young adults are also more satisfied with a goal-relevant than with a goal-irrelevant product (Study 3, N = 201; Study 4, N = 200, preregistered). Importantly, these effects were attenuated with age. Implications for research on construal level and aging, as well as implications for policymakers, are discussed.

Affect labelling increases the intensity of positive emotions
Valeriia Vlasenko, Emma Rogers & Christian Waugh
Cognition and Emotion, forthcoming


Although affect labelling has been widely reported to decrease negative emotions, it is less clear whether affect labelling also decreases positive emotions. In four studies, we explored how affect labelling (choosing the emotion that best corresponds with the image), content labelling (choosing the word that best corresponds with the content of the image), and simply viewing images influence positive and negative emotions. Labelling positive emotions led participants to report higher positive emotional intensity than did content labelling or just viewing the image (Study 1, N = 49), and this effect persisted regardless of whether they labelled emotions during or after the image (Study 2, N = 116), rated the intensity or positivity of their emotions (Study 3, N = 120), or rated their emotions after a delay or no delay (Study 4, N = 120). Surprisingly, we did not replicate the previous findings on affect labelling and negative emotion, instead showing that content labelling of negative emotional images tended to be the most consistent predictor of decreased negative emotions. Our results challenge the formulation that affect labelling leads to the automatic downregulation of emotions and instead suggest that it might be an effective mechanism in the upregulation of positive emotions.


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