All your senses

Kevin Lewis

February 02, 2019

Served straight up: Effects of verticality cues on taste evaluations and luxury perceptions
Thomas van Rompay et al.
Appetite, April 2019, Pages 72-78


Based on the embodied cognition framework and research addressing transfer effects between visual perception and taste, the point of departure for this study is the widespread association between vertical orientation and connotations related to luxury and (economic) power. Specifically, this study tests whether vertical orientation not only affects impressions of product luxury, but also influences actual taste evaluations, including perceptions of taste strength (intensity) and taste liking. Results confirm these predictions by showing that participants in a Dutch coffee house gave higher ratings on these constructs when they were exposed to an ad display depicting vertically-oriented rather than horizontally-oriented visual cues during a coffee sample test. Findings furthermore stress the influence of design cues as opposed to more traditional product claims. Implications for marketing and design practice are discussed.

Male-Specific Conditioned Pain Hypersensitivity in Mice and Humans
Loren Martin et al.
Current Biology, 21 January 2019, Pages 192-201


Pain memories are hypothesized to be critically involved in the transition of pain from an acute to a chronic state. To help elucidate the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of pain memory, we developed novel paradigms to study context-dependent pain hypersensitivity in mouse and human subjects, respectively. We find that both mice and people become hypersensitive to acute, thermal nociception when tested in an environment previously associated with an aversive tonic pain experience. This sensitization persisted for at least 24 hr and was only present in males of both species. In mice, context-dependent pain hypersensitivity was abolished by castrating male mice, pharmacological blockade of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or intracerebral or intrathecal injections of zeta inhibitory peptide (ZIP) known to block atypical protein kinase C (including the protein kinase Mζ isoform). In humans, men, but not women, self-reported higher levels of stress when tested in a room previously associated with tonic pain. These models provide a new, completely translatable means for studying the relationship between memory, pain, and stress.

Facial expressions of authenticity: Emotion variability increases judgments of trustworthiness and leadership
Michael Slepian & Evan Carr
Cognition, February 2019, Pages 82-98


People automatically generate first impressions from others' faces, even with limited time and information. Most research on social face evaluation focuses on static morphological features that are embedded "in the face" (e.g., overall average of facial features, masculinity/femininity, cues related to positivity/negativity, etc.). Here, we offer the first investigation of how variability in facial emotion affects social evaluations. Participants evaluated targets that, over time, displayed either high-variability or low-variability distributions of positive (happy) and/or negative (angry/fearful/sad) facial expressions, despite the overall averages of those facial features always being the same across conditions. We found that high-variability led to consistently positive perceptions of authenticity, and thereby, judgments of perceived happiness, trustworthiness, leadership, and team-member desirability. We found these effects were based specifically in variability in emotional displays (not intensity of emotion), and specifically increased the positivity of social judgments (not their extremity). Overall, people do not merely average or summarize over facial expressions to arrive at a judgment, but instead also draw inferences from the variability of those expressions.

When the Muses Strike: Creative Ideas of Physicists and Writers Routinely Occur During Mind Wandering
Shelly Gable, Elizabeth Hopper & Jonathan Schooler
Psychological Science, forthcoming


How often are creative ideas generated during episodes of mind wandering, and do they differ from those generated while on task? In two studies (N = 98, N = 87), professional writers and physicists reported on their most creative idea of the day, what they were thinking about and doing when it occurred, whether the idea felt like an "aha" moment, and the quality of the idea. Participants reported that one fifth of their most significant ideas of the day were formed during spontaneous task-independent mind wandering - operationalized here as (a) engaging in an activity other than working and (b) thinking about something unrelated to the generated idea. There were no differences between ratings of the creativity or importance of ideas that occurred during mind wandering and those that occurred on task. However, ideas that occurred during mind wandering were more likely to be associated with overcoming an impasse on a problem and to be experienced as "aha" moments, compared with ideas generated while on task.

The impact of color palettes on the prices of paintings
Elena Stepanova
Empirical Economics, February 2019, Pages 755-773


We emphasize that color composition is an important characteristic of a painting. It impacts the auction price of a painting, but it has never been considered in previous studies on art markets. By using Picasso's paintings and paintings of Color Field Abstract Expressionists sold in Chrisite's and Sotheby's auctions in New York between 1998 and 2016, we demonstrate the method to analyze color compositions: How to extract color palettes from a painting image and how to measure color characteristics. We propose two measures: (1) the surface occupied by specific colors, (2) color diversity of a painting composition. Controlling for all conventional painting and sale characteristics, our empirical results find significant evidence of contrastive paintings, i.e., paintings with high diversity of colors, carrying a premium than equivalent artworks which are performed in monochromatic style. In the case of Picasso's paintings, our econometric analysis shows that some colors are associated with high prices.

Whole-Night Continuous Rocking Entrains Spontaneous Neural Oscillations with Benefits for Sleep and Memory
Aurore Perrault et al.
Current Biology, forthcoming


Sensory processing continues during sleep and can influence brain oscillations. We previously showed that a gentle rocking stimulation (0.25 Hz), during an afternoon nap, facilitates wake-sleep transition and boosts endogenous brain oscillations (i.e., EEG spindles and slow oscillations [SOs]). Here, we tested the hypothesis that the rhythmic rocking stimulation synchronizes sleep oscillations, a neurophysiological mechanism referred to as "neural entrainment." We analyzed EEG brain responses related to the stimulation recorded from 18 participants while they had a full night of sleep on a rocking bed. Moreover, because sleep oscillations are considered of critical relevance for memory processes, we also investigated whether rocking influences overnight declarative memory consolidation. We first show that, compared to a stationary night, continuous rocking shortened the latency to non-REM (NREM) sleep and strengthened sleep maintenance, as indexed by increased NREM stage 3 (N3) duration and fewer arousals. These beneficial effects were paralleled by an increase in SOs and in slow and fast spindles during N3, without affecting the physiological SO-spindle phase coupling. We then confirm that, during the rocking night, overnight memory consolidation was enhanced and also correlated with the increase in fast spindles, whose co-occurrence with the SO up-state is considered to foster cortical synaptic plasticity. Finally, supporting the hypothesis that a rhythmic stimulation entrains sleep oscillations, we report a temporal clustering of spindles and SOs relative to the rocking cycle. Altogether, these findings demonstrate that a continuous rocking stimulation strengthens deep sleep via the neural entrainment of intrinsic sleep oscillations.

Left cheek poses garner more likes: The effect of pose orientation on Instagram engagement
Annukka Lindell
Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, forthcoming


In social media's attention economy "likes" are currency; photos showing faces attract more "likes." Previous research has established a left cheek bias in photos uploaded to social media, but whether left cheek poses induce more engagement than right cheek poses remains to be determined. The present study thus examined whether pose orientation influences the number of "likes" and comments garnered by photos uploaded to Instagram. The top 20 single-user Instagram accounts were identified, and the most recent 10 left and 10 right cheek images were selected, resulting in a total of 400 images. The number of "likes" and comments were tallied for each image, netting over 1 billion "likes" and 14 million comments for analysis. Results confirmed that pose orientation influences audience engagement: left cheek poses garner >10% more "likes" than right cheek poses. Gender did not influence "likes". Comments were not affected by either pose orientation or gender, likely reflecting the different levels of effort and motivations involved in "liking" vs. commenting on an image. These data indicate that a seemingly inconsequential turn of the head profoundly impacts audience engagement: left cheek poses gained >330,000 more "likes", offering clear implications for marketers and others in the social media economy.

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