Findings

Brain Teasers

Kevin Lewis

October 14, 2009

Crushing Virtual Cigarettes Reduces Tobacco Addiction and Treatment Discontinuation

Benoit Girard, Vincent Turcotte, Stéphane Bouchard & Bruno Girard
CyberPsychology & Behavior, October 2009, Pages 477-483

Abstract:
Pilot studies revealed promising results regarding crushing virtual cigarettes to reduce tobacco addiction. In this study, 91 regular smokers were randomly assigned to two treatment conditions that differ only by the action performed in the virtual environment: crushing virtual cigarettes or grasping virtual balls. All participants also received minimal psychosocial support from nurses during each of 12 visits to the clinic. An affordable virtual reality system was used (eMagin HMD) with a virtual environment created by modifying a 3D game. Results revealed that crushing virtual cigarettes during 4 weekly sessions led to a statistically significant reduction in nicotine addiction (assessed with the Fagerström test), abstinence rate (confirmed with exhaled carbon monoxide), and drop-out rate from the 12-week psychosocial minimal-support treatment program. Increased retention in the program is discussed as a potential explanation for treatment success, and hypotheses are raised about self-efficacy, motivation, and learning.

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A Picture's Worth: Partner Photographs Reduce Experimentally Induced Pain

Sarah Master, Naomi Eisenberger, Shelley Taylor, Bruce Naliboff, David Shirinyan & Matthew Lieberman
Psychological Science, forthcoming

"These findings confirm the notion that simply viewing a loved one's picture can have pain-attenuating effects, and they fit with social psychological research showing that being primed with a social construct is enough to activate associated mental representations and to bias behavior...The findings suggest that bringing loved ones' photographs to painful procedures may be beneficial, particularly if those individuals cannot be there. In fact, because loved ones vary in their ability to provide support, photographs may, in some cases, be more effective than in-person support."

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Why Love Has Wings and Sex Has Not: How Reminders of Love and Sex Influence Creative and Analytic Thinking

Jens Förster, Kai Epstude & Amina Özelsel
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, November 2009, Pages 1479-1491

Abstract:
This article examines cognitive links between romantic love and creativity and between sexual desire and analytic thought based on construal level theory. It suggests that when in love, people typically focus on a long-term perspective, which should enhance holistic thinking and thereby creative thought, whereas when experiencing sexual encounters, they focus on the present and on concrete details enhancing analytic thinking. Because people automatically activate these processing styles when in love or when they experience sex, subtle or even unconscious reminders of love versus sex should suffice to change processing modes. Two studies explicitly or subtly reminded participants of situations of love or sex and found support for this hypothesis.

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Finding meaning in art: Preferred levels of ambiguity in art appreciation

Martina Jakesch & Helmut Leder
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, November 2009, Pages 2105-2112

Abstract:
Uncertainty is typically not desirable in everyday experiences, but uncertainty in the form of ambiguity may be a defining feature of aesthetic experiences of modern art. In this study, we examined different hypotheses concerning the quantity and quality of information appreciated in art. Artworks were shown together with auditorily presented statements. We tested whether the amount of information, the amount of matching information, or the proportion of matching to nonmatching statements apparent in a picture (levels of ambiguity) affect liking and interestingness. Only the levels of ambiguity predicted differences in the two dependent variables. These findings reveal that ambiguity is an important determinant of aesthetic appreciation and that a certain level of ambiguity is appreciable.

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The Comfort Food Fallacy: Avoiding Old Favorites in Times of Change

Stacy Wood
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Consumers hold a common intuition about their preferences for familiar things (e.g., "comfort food") in times of upheaval. This lay theory holds that familiar goods are attractive as a respite from dynamic environments and reflects a naive prediction that familiar favorites ameliorate the cognitive or emotional load associated with change. Conversely, the research in this article finds that consumers are more rather than less likely to choose novel options during times of upheaval and suggests that this paradox may occur because of the discrepancy between consumers' strategic lay theories and more automatic mind‐set influences. Five studies demonstrate (1) that the comfort food fallacy effect occurs for both food and nonfood choices (despite consumer predictions to the contrary), (2) that increasing consumers' perception of life change decreases choice of familiar favorites, and (3) that the effect disappears with high involvement. Understanding this paradox of comfort consumption may help both consumers and marketers promote positive change and innovation adoption.

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The Unconscious Eye Opener: Pupil Dilation Reveals Strategic Recruitment of Resources Upon Presentation of Subliminal Reward Cues

Erik Bijleveld, Ruud Custers & Henk Aarts
Psychological Science, forthcoming

"Pupil-dilation data indicated that valuable (compared with nonvaluable) rewards led to recruitment of more resources, but only when obtaining the reward required considerable mental effort. This pattern was identical for supraliminal and subliminal reward cues. This indicates that awareness of a reward is not a necessary condition for strategic resource recruitment to take place...More generally, whereas analyses of costs (required effort) and benefits (value of rewards) are usually thought to require consciousness, our findings suggest that such strategic processes can occur outside of awareness — and these processes show in the eyes."

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The Flat-Rate Pricing Paradox: Conflicting Effects of "All-You-Can-Eat" Buffet Pricing

David Just & Brian Wansink
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Does the fixed price a person pays for an unlimited service, such as an all-you-can-eat buffet, influence how much is consumed and the perceived quality of the experience? We show that when a person's choice is conditioned on them selecting a fixed price plan, their desire to get a "good deal," can lead them to eat more and possibly enjoy it less. A study is reported in which decreasing the fixed price of a zero marginal cost good also decreased its consumption. Specifically, when the price of an all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant was discounted by 50%, customers who were randomly given the discount ate fewer pieces of pizza (2.95 vs. 4.09) than those who had not been given the discount. Price level should have no impact on how much of an unlimited resource is consumed or on one's perceived quality of the pizza. Thus we provide evidence of the sunk cost fallacy in a food consumption context.

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Expectations influence sensory experience in a wine tasting

Michael Siegrist & Marie-Eve Cousin
Appetite, June 2009, Pages 762-765

Abstract:
Information about a product may shape consumers' taste experience. In a wine tasting experiment, participants received (positive or negative) information about the wine prior to or after the tasting. When the information was given prior to the tasting, negative information about the wine resulted in lower ratings compared to the group that received positive information. No such effect was observed when participants received the information after the tasting but before they evaluated the wine. Results suggest that the information about the wine affected the experience itself and not only participants' overall assessment of the wine after the tasting.

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Preferences for Ancient and Modern Art Museums: Visitor Experiences and Personality Characteristics

Stefano Mastandrea, Gabriella Bartoli & Giuseppe Bove
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, August 2009, Pages 164-173

Abstract:
This research has two main purposes. The first is to replicate and possibly to extend the results obtained in a previous study, where the authors found that visitors to the ancient art museum conducted their visit with the primary aim of acquiring understanding and knowledge, while modern art museum visitors conducted their visit with an approach that was primarily emotional and pleasure-seeking. The second purpose relates to studies showing that people who prefer abstract art present higher levels on personality traits like "Openness to Experience" and "Sensation Seeking," compared to people who prefer realistic art. This study investigates these two personality traits for people who favor visiting museums of ancient rather than modern art. Results confirmed previous findings that emotional aspects related to the visit were relevant for modern art museum visitors, while a more cognitive approach based on learning characterized ancient art museum visitors. Concerning personality traits, no difference was found between the two museum groups on the "Openness to Experience" dimension; differences were found on the "Sensation Seeking" trait; modern art museum visitors attained higher scores as compared to ancient art museum visitors.

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Very brief exposure: The effects of unreportable stimuli on fearful behavior

Paul Siegel & Joel Weinberger
Consciousness and Cognition, forthcoming

Abstract:
A series of experiments tested the hypothesis that very brief exposure to feared stimuli can have positive effects on avoidance of the corresponding feared object. Participants identified themselves as fearful of spiders through a widely used questionnaire. A preliminary experiment showed that they were unable to identify the stimuli used in the main experiments. Experiment 2 (N = 65) compared the effects of exposure to masked feared stimuli at short and long stimulus onset asynchronies (SOA). Participants were individually administered one of three continuous series of backwards masked or non-masked stimuli: unreportable images of spiders (25-ms SOA), clearly visible images of spiders (500-ms SOA), or unreportable images of trees (25-ms SOA). Immediately thereafter, they engaged in a Behavioral Avoidance Test (BAT) with a live, caged tarantula. Exposure to unreportable images of spiders resulted in greater approach towards the tarantula than unreportable neutral images. A post-hoc comparison with clearly visible exposure to these same images approached significance. These effects were maintained at a 1-week follow-up (N = 57). In Experiment 3 (N = 30), participants engaged in the BAT 1 week prior to the exposure manipulation in order to provide a baseline measurement of their avoidant behavior, and again immediately after the exposure manipulation. Exposure to unreportable images of spiders reduced avoidance of the tarantula. Similar exposure to trees did not. Implications for the non-conscious basis of fear are discussed.

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Unseen facial and bodily expressions trigger fast emotional reactions

Marco Tamietto, Lorys Castelli, Sergio Vighetti, Paola Perozzo, Giuliano Geminiani, Lawrence Weiskrantz & Beatrice de Gelder
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
The spontaneous tendency to synchronize our facial expressions with those of others is often termed emotional contagion. It is unclear, however, whether emotional contagion depends on visual awareness of the eliciting stimulus and which processes underlie the unfolding of expressive reactions in the observer. It has been suggested either that emotional contagion is driven by motor imitation (i.e., mimicry), or that it is one observable aspect of the emotional state arising when we see the corresponding emotion in others. Emotional contagion reactions to different classes of consciously seen and "unseen" stimuli were compared by presenting pictures of facial or bodily expressions either to the intact or blind visual field of two patients with unilateral destruction of the visual cortex and ensuing phenomenal blindness. Facial reactions were recorded using electromyography, and arousal responses were measured with pupil dilatation. Passive exposure to unseen expressions evoked faster facial reactions and higher arousal compared with seen stimuli, therefore indicating that emotional contagion occurs also when the triggering stimulus cannot be consciously perceived because of cortical blindness. Furthermore, stimuli that are very different in their visual characteristics, such as facial and bodily gestures, induced highly similar expressive responses. This shows that the patients did not simply imitate the motor pattern observed in the stimuli, but resonated to their affective meaning. Emotional contagion thus represents an instance of truly affective reactions that may be mediated by visual pathways of old evolutionary origin bypassing cortical vision while still providing a cornerstone for emotion communication and affect sharing.

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Connections From Kafka: Exposure to Meaning Threats Improves Implicit Learning of an Artificial Grammar

Travis Proulx & Steven Heine
Psychological Science, September 2009, Pages 1125-1131

Abstract:
In the current studies, we tested the prediction that learning of novel patterns of association would be enhanced in response to unrelated meaning threats. This prediction derives from the meaning-maintenance model, which hypothesizes that meaning-maintenance efforts may recruit patterns of association unrelated to the original meaning threat. Compared with participants in control conditions, participants exposed to either of two unrelated meaning threats (i.e., reading an absurd short story by Franz Kafka or arguing against one's own self-unity) demonstrated both a heightened motivation to perceive the presence of patterns within letter strings and enhanced learning of a novel pattern actually embedded within letter strings (artificial-grammar learning task). These results suggest that the cognitive mechanisms responsible for implicitly learning patterns are enhanced by the presence of a meaning threat.

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Choosing Your Future: Temporal Distance and the Balance between Self‐Control and Indulgence

Juliano Laran
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article investigates how temporal distance influences consumers' self‐control. We demonstrate that self‐control is dependent on the content of currently active information in decisions for the future. When indulgence information is currently active, decisions for the future tend to be oriented toward self‐control. When self‐control information is currently active, decisions for the future tend to be oriented toward indulgence. In four experiments investigating two self‐control domains (healthy eating and saving money), we find evidence for an information activation/inhibition account of the influence of temporal distance on self‐control decisions.


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