Bad Influence

Kevin Lewis

November 04, 2010

The Scope-Severity Paradox: Why Doing More Harm Is Judged to Be Less Harmful

Loran Nordgren & Mary-Hunter Morris McDonnell
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Punishment should be sensitive to the severity of the crime. Yet in three studies the authors found that increasing the number of people victimized by a crime actually decreases the perceived severity of that crime and leads people to recommend less punishment for crimes that victimize more people. The authors further demonstrate the process behind the scope-severity paradox - the victim identifiability effect - and test a strategy for overcoming this bias. Although Studies 1 and 2 document this phenomenon in the lab, in Study 3 the authors used archival data to demonstrate that the scope-severity paradox is a robust, real-world effect. They collected archival data of actual jury verdicts spanning a 10-year period and found that juries required defendants to pay higher punitive damages when their negligent behavior harmed fewer people.


Perceptions of a Tattooed College Instructor

David Wiseman
Psychological Reports, June 2010, Pages 845-850

128 undergraduates' perceptions of tattoos on a model described as a college instructor were assessed. They viewed one of four photographs of a tattooed or nontattooed female model. Students rated her on nine teaching-related characteristics. Analyses indicated that the presence of tattoos was associated with some positive changes in ratings: students' motivation, being imaginative about assignments, and how likely students were to recommend her as an instructor.


College students' prejudicial biases against instructors who smoke cigarettes

Crystal Oberle, Stephanie Engeling & Senecae Ontiberos
Social Psychology of Education, December 2010, Pages 499-509

In an investigation of students' prejudicial biases against instructors who smoke, 61 female and 16 male undergraduates watched and listened to a 20-min lecture about parasomnias, completed a survey asking for instructor evaluation ratings and ratings of perceived learning, and completed a lecture-retention test with multiple-choice questions to assess actual learning. In a between-subjects design, the lecture was given by either a man or woman, who was portrayed as a smoker or nonsmoker. The instructors' sex and smoking status did not affect the students' perceived or actual learning (all p's > .05). However, a significant interaction on the instructor evaluation ratings revealed that students rated the female instructors equivalently (p = .78), but rated the smoker male instructor significantly lower than the nonsmoker male instructor (p = .01). These findings suggest that students hold prejudicial biases against male instructors who smoke, but that these biases do not affect student learning.


What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs?

Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes & Alex Stevens
British Journal of Criminology, November 2010, Pages 999-1022

The issue of decriminalizing illicit drugs is hotly debated, but is rarely subject to evidence-based analysis. This paper examines the case of Portugal, a nation that decriminalized the use and possession of all illicit drugs on 1 July 2001. Drawing upon independent evaluations and interviews conducted with 13 key stakeholders in 2007 and 2009, it critically analyses the criminal justice and health impacts against trends from neighbouring Spain and Italy. It concludes that contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding. The article discusses these developments in the context of drug law debates and criminological discussions on late modern governance.


What is the optimum parental socialisation style in Spain? A study with children and adolescents aged 10-14 years

Fernando García & Enrique Gracia
Children and Learning, September 2010, Pages 365-384

The aim of this research study was to analyse the optimum parental socialisation style in Spain as measured by the children's psychosocial adjustment. A sample of 948 children and teenagers from 10 to 14 years of age, of whom 52% were females, reported on their parents' child-rearing practices. Families were classified into one of four classic typologies (authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, or neglectful) based on children's answers to the Parental Acceptance-Rejection/Control Questionnaire (Rohner, 1990). Socialisation outcome was assessed using five self-esteem indicators of the AF5 Multidimensional Self-Concept Scale (García & Musitu, 1999), six psychological adjustment indicators of the Personality Assessment Questionnaire (Rohner, 1990), three indicators of personal competence, and three of behaviour problems (Lamborn et al., 1991). The results showed that indulgent and authoritative parenting styles were associated with better outcomes than either authoritarian or neglectful parenting. Overall, our results indicated that an indulgent style is the optimum parental style in Spain, as the test scores of children and teenagers from indulgent families were always equal to or even higher than those of children from authoritative families.


Promising to tell the truth makes 8- to 16-year-olds more honest

Angela Evans & Kang Lee
Behavioral Sciences & the Law, forthcoming

Techniques commonly used to increase truth-telling in most North American jurisdiction courts include requiring witnesses to discuss the morality of truth- and lie-telling and to promise to tell the truth prior to testifying. While promising to tell the truth successfully decreases younger children's lie-telling, the influence of discussing the morality of honesty and promising to tell the truth on adolescents' statements has remained unexamined. In Experiment 1, 108 youngsters, aged 8-16 years, were left alone in the room and asked not to peek at the answers to a test. The majority of participants peeked at the test answers and then lied about their transgression. More importantly, participants were eight times more likely to change their response from a lie to the truth after promising to tell the truth. Experiment 2 confirmed that the results of Experiment 1 were not solely due to repeated questioning or the moral discussion of truth- and lie-telling. These results suggest that, while promising to tell the truth influences the truth-telling behaviors of adolescents, a moral discussion of truth and lies does not. Legal implications are discussed.


‘No fair, copycat!': What children's response to plagiarism tells us about their understanding of ideas

Kristina Olson & Alex Shaw
Developmental Science, forthcoming

Adults believe that plagiarizing ideas is wrong, which requires an understanding that others can have ideas and that it is wrong to copy them. In order to test when this understanding emerges, we investigated when children begin to think plagiarism is wrong. In Study 1, children aged 7, 9 and 11 years old, as well as adults, disliked someone who plagiarized compared to someone who drew an original drawing or someone who drew an identical picture by chance. Study 2 investigated the same question with younger children, focusing on children aged 3-6 years old. Children aged 5-6 years old evaluated plagiarizers negatively relative to unique drawers, but 3-4-year-olds did not. Study 3 replicated the findings from Study 2 and found that children justify their negative evaluations of plagiarizers by mentioning concerns over copying. These experiments provide evidence that, by age 5 years old, children understand that others have ideas and dislike the copying of these ideas.


Contextual profiles of young adult Ecstasy users: A multisite study

Ujjwal Ramtekkar, Catherine Striley & Linda Cottler
Addictive Behaviors, forthcoming

These analyses assess contextual profiles of 612 young adult Ecstasy users, 18-30 years of age, from St. Louis (USA), Miami (USA) and Sydney (Australia). Bivariate analyses revealed different contextual factors influencing Ecstasy use. Friends were the most common sources of Ecstasy at all sites and most used with friends. St. Louis and Miami use mostly occurred in residences, whereas in Sydney use was mostly at clubs, bars or restaurants. Ecstasy consumption at public places and in cars, trains or ferries was significantly higher in Miami (89% and 77%) than in St. Louis (67% and 65%) and Sydney (67% and 61%). At all sites, simultaneous use of LSD/mushroom and nitrous oxide with Ecstasy was common; concurrent amphetamines predominated in Sydney and heroin/opiates in St. Louis Contextual factors influencing Ecstasy use among young adults vary by geographic region. Their inclusion may help tailor effective prevention programs to reduce or ameliorate Ecstasy use.


Is Ecstasy an "Empathogen"? Effects of ±3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine on Prosocial Feelings and Identification of Emotional States in Others

Gillinder Bedi, David Hyman & Harriet de Wit
Biological Psychiatry, forthcoming

Background: Users of ±3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), "ecstasy," report that the drug produces unusual psychological effects, including increased empathy and prosocial feelings. These "empathogenic" effects are cited as reasons for recreational ecstasy use and also form the basis for the proposed use of MDMA in psychotherapy. However, they have yet to be characterized in controlled studies. Here, we investigate effects of MDMA on an important social cognitive capacity, the identification of emotional expression in others, and on socially relevant mood states.

Methods: Over four sessions, healthy ecstasy-using volunteers (n = 21) received MDMA (.75, 1.5 mg/kg), methamphetamine (METH) (20 mg), and placebo under double-blind, randomized conditions. They completed self-report ratings of relevant affective states and undertook tasks in which they identified emotions from images of faces, pictures of eyes, and vocal cues.

Results: MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) significantly increased ratings of feeling "loving" and "friendly", and MDMA (.75 mg/kg) increased "loneliness". Both MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) and METH increased "playfulness"; only METH increased "sociability". MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) robustly decreased accuracy of facial fear recognition relative to placebo.

Conclusions: The drug MDMA increased "empathogenic" feelings but reduced accurate identification of threat-related facial emotional signals in others, findings consistent with increased social approach behavior rather than empathy. This effect of MDMA on social cognition has implications for both recreational and therapeutic use. In recreational users, acute drug effects might alter social risk-taking while intoxicated. Socioemotional processing alterations such as those documented here might underlie possible psychotherapeutic benefits of this drug; further investigation of such mechanisms could inform treatment design to maximize active components of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.


Letting People Off the Hook: When Do Good Deeds Excuse Transgressions?

Daniel Effron & Benoît Monin
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Three studies examined when and why an actor's prior good deeds make observers more willing to excuse-or license-his or her subsequent, morally dubious behavior. In a pilot study, actors' good deeds made participants more forgiving of the actors' subsequent transgressions. In Study 1, participants only licensed blatant transgressions that were in a different domain than actors' good deeds; blatant transgressions in the same domain appeared hypocritical and suppressed licensing (e.g., fighting adolescent drug use excused sexual harassment, but fighting sexual harassment did not). Study 2 replicated these effects and showed that good deeds made observers license ambiguous transgressions (e.g., behavior that might or might not represent sexual harassment) regardless of whether the good deeds and the transgression were in the same or in a different domain - but only same-domain good deeds did so by changing participants' construal of the transgressions. Discussion integrates two models of why licensing occurs.


The Orthogonality of Praise and Condemnation in Moral Judgment

Scott Wiltermuth, Benoît Monin & Rosalind Chow
Social Psychological and Personality Science, October 2010, Pages 302-310

The present studies examined whether the tendency to praise others for positive (i.e., moral) behaviors correlates with the tendency to condemn others for negative (i.e., immoral) behaviors. Across three studies, factor analyses revealed that these tendencies are orthogonal. The results refute the hypothesis that simply caring deeply about morality leads individuals to praise moral behaviors and condemn immoral ones. The research instead suggests that individuals who are most praising of positive behavior are not necessarily those who are most condemning of negative behavior, because orthogonal conceptions of morality influence each type of judgment. Although the tendency to condemn depends on how much one personally cares about morality (internalization), the tendency to praise seems to depend on one's public moral persona (symbolization).


The influence of alcohol expectancies and intoxication on men's aggressive unprotected sexual intentions

Kelly Cue Davis
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, October 2010, Pages 418-428

An experiment tested the pathways through which alcohol expectancies and intoxication influenced men's self-reported sexual aggression intentions during an unprotected sexual encounter. After a questionnaire session, male social drinkers (N = 124) were randomly assigned to either an alcohol condition (target peak BAC = .08%) or a control condition. Upon completion of beverage consumption, participants read a description of a sexual encounter in which the female partner refused to have unprotected sexual intercourse. Participants then rated their emotional state, their intentions to have unprotected sex with the unwilling partner, and their postincident perceptions of the encounter. Structural equation modeling indicated that intoxicated men reported feeling stronger sexual aggression congruent emotions/motivations such as arousal and anger; however, this effect was moderated by alcohol expectancies. Intoxicated participants with stronger alcohol-aggression expectancies reported greater sexual aggression congruent emotions/motivations than did intoxicated participants with weaker alcohol-aggression expectancies. For sober participants, alcohol-aggression expectancies did not influence emotions/motivations. In turn, stronger sexual assault congruent emotions/motivations predicted greater sexual aggression intentions. Men with greater sexual aggression intentions were less likely to label the situation as a sexual assault and reported less concern about their intended actions. These findings underscore the relevance of both alcohol expectancies and alcohol intoxication to sexual aggression perpetration and highlight the importance of including information about alcohol's influence on both emotional and cognitive responses in sexual aggression prevention work.


Offending, Substance Use, and Cohabitation in Young Adulthood

Robert Lonardo, Wendy Manning, Peggy Giordano & Monica Longmore
Sociological Forum, December 2010, Pages 787-803

Over half of young adults have cohabited, but relatively little is known about the role delinquency and substance use play in youths' odds of cohabiting as well as the implications of cohabitation for early adult offending and substance use. This study focuses on the reciprocal relationship between cohabitation during late adolescence and young adulthood and self-reported offending and substance use. Using longitudinal data, we find that net of traditional predictors, delinquency involvement is associated with increased odds of cohabitation and cohabiting at younger ages while substance use is not related to cohabiting during early adulthood. Further analysis indicates that cohabitation is associated with lower reports of substance use. However, cohabitation is not associated with self-reported offending. The results help unravel the connection between cohabitation experience, offending and substance use, and early adult outcomes.


To give or not to give: Parental experience and adherence to the Food and Drug Administration warning about over-the-counter cough and cold medicine usage

Talya Miron-Shatz, Greg Barron, Yaniv Hanoch, Michaela Gummerum & Glen Doniger
Judgment and Decision Making, October 2010, Pages 428-436

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned against administering over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children under 2. This study evaluated whether experienced parents show poorer adherence to the FDA warning, as safe experiences are predicted to reduce the impact of warnings, and how adherence can be improved. Participants included 218 American parents (mean age: 29.98 (SD = 6.16), 82.9% female) with children age ≤ 2 who were aware of the FDA warning. We compared adherence among experienced (N=142; with other children > age 2) and inexperienced parents (N=76; only children ≤2). We also evaluated potential moderating variables (amount of warning-related information received, prevalence of side effects, trust in the FDA, frequency of coughs and colds, trust in drug packaging) and quantified the impact of amount of information. Logistic regression assessed the ability of experience alone, and experience combined with amount of information, to predict adherence. 53.3% of inexperienced but 28.4% of experienced parents were adherent (p = 0.0003). The groups did not differ on potential moderating variables. Adherence was 39.5% among experienced parents receiving "a lot of information", but 15.4% for those receiving less (p = 0.002); amount of information did not affect adherence in inexperienced parents (p = 0.22) but uniquely predicted adherence compared to a model with experience alone (p = 0.0005). Experienced parents were also less likely to mistrust drug packaging (p = 0.03). Targeting FDA information to experienced parents, particularly via drug packaging, may improve their adherence.


Mood and Audience Effects on Video Lottery Terminal Gambling

Sandeep Mishra, Michael Morgan, Martin Lalumière & Robert Williams
Journal of Gambling Studies, September 2010, Pages 373-386

Little is known about the situational factors associated with gambling behavior. We induced 180 male participants (mean age: 21.6) into a positive, negative, or neutral mood prior to gambling on a video lottery terminal (VLT). While gambling, participants were observed by either a male peer, female peer, or no one. Induced mood had no effect on gambling behavior. Participants induced into a negative mood prior to gambling, however, reported more positive moods after gambling, whereas those with positive and neutral moods reported more negative moods after gambling. Participants observed by either a male or female peer spent less time gambling on the VLT compared to those not observed. Participants observed by a female peer lost less money relative to the other observer conditions. Degree of problem gambling in the last year had little influence on these effects. Some practical implications of these findings are discussed.


Trends in Fatalities From Distracted Driving in the United States, 1999 to 2008

Fernando Wilson & Jim Stimpson
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Objectives: We examined trends in distracted driving fatalities and their relation to cell phone use and texting volume.

Methods: The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) records data on all road fatalities that occurred on public roads in the United States from 1999 to 2008. We studied trends in distracted driving fatalities, driver and crash characteristics, and trends in cell phone use and texting volume. We used multivariate regression analysis to estimate the relation between state-level distracted driving fatalities and texting volumes.

Results: After declining from 1999 to 2005, fatalities from distracted driving increased 28% after 2005, rising from 4572 fatalities to 5870 in 2008. Crashes increasingly involved male drivers driving alone in collisions with roadside obstructions in urban areas. By use of multivariate analyses, we predicted that increasing texting volumes resulted in more than 16000 additional road fatalities from 2001 to 2007.

Conclusions: Distracted driving is a growing public safety hazard. Specifically, the dramatic rise in texting volume since 2005 appeared to be contributing to an alarming rise in distracted driving fatalities. Legislation enacting texting bans should be paired with effective enforcement to deter drivers from using cell phones while driving.


Turning 21 and the Associated Changes in Drinking and Driving After Drinking Among College Students

Kim Fromme, Reagan Wetherill & Dan Neal
Journal of American College Health, July-August 2010, Pages 21-27

Objective: The authors examined drinking and driving after drinking before and after turning 21.

Participants: Participants were drawn from first time college students who were taking part in a 4-year longitudinal study of alcohol use and behavioral risks.

Methods: Web-based longitudinal surveys collected data on drinking and driving after drinking from August 2004 through November 2007 (n = 1,817). A subset of participants (n = 224) also monitored their daily behavior during the month they turned 21 (January through May, 2007).

Results: Typical frequency and quantity of alcohol use increased from ages 18 to 21 years, whereas quantity decreased between 21 and 23 years of age. Driving after drinking showed a 72% relative increase (6% absolute increase) in the 2 weeks after turning 21.

Conclusions: Reaching the legal drinking age is associated with decreases in the amount of alcohol consumed per drinking occasion, but an increase in driving after drinking.


Examining the influence of aggressive driving behavior on driver injury severity in traffic crashes

Rajesh Paleti, Naveen Eluru & Chandra Bhat
Accident Analysis & Prevention, November 2010, Pages 1839-1854

In this paper, we capture the moderating effect of aggressive driving behavior while assessing the influence of a comprehensive set of variables on injury severity. In doing so, we are able to account for the indirect effects of variables on injury severity through their influence on aggressive driving behavior, as well as the direct effect of variables on injury severity. The methodology used in the paper to accommodate the moderating effect of aggressive driving behavior takes the form of two models - one for aggressive driving and another for injury severity. These are appropriately linked to obtain the indirect and direct effects of variables. The data for estimation is obtained from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study (NMVCCS). From an empirical standpoint, we consider a fine age categorization until 20 years of age when examining age effects on aggressive driving behavior and injury severity. There are several important results from the empirical analysis undertaken in the current paper based on post-crash data collection on aggressive behavior participation just prior to the crash and injury severity sustained in a crash. Young drivers (especially novice drivers between 16 and 17 years of age), drivers who are not wearing seat belt, under the influence of alcohol, not having a valid license, and driving a pick-up are found to be most likely to behave aggressively. Situational, vehicle, and roadway factors such as young drivers traveling with young passengers, young drivers driving an SUV or a pick-up truck, driving during the morning rush hour, and driving on roads with high speed limits are also found to trigger aggressive driving behavior. In terms of vehicle occupants, the safest situation from a driver injury standpoint is when there are two or more passengers in the vehicle, at least one of whom is above the age of 20 years. These and many other results are discussed, along with implications of the result for graduated driving licensing (GDL) programs.

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