Doing something

Kevin Lewis

December 22, 2018

A memory advantage for past-oriented over future-oriented performance feedback
Robert Nash et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, December 2018, Pages 1864-1879

People frequently receive performance feedback that describes how well they achieved in the past, and how they could improve in future. In educational contexts, future-oriented (directive) feedback is often argued to be more valuable to learners than past-oriented (evaluative) feedback; critically, prior research led us to predict that it should also be better remembered. We tested this prediction in six experiments. Subjects read written feedback containing evaluative and directive comments, which supposedly related to essays they had previously written (Experiments 1-2), or to essays another person had written (Experiments 3-6). Subjects then tried to reproduce the feedback from memory after a short delay. In all six experiments, the data strongly revealed the opposite effect to the one we predicted: despite only small differences in wording, evaluative feedback was in fact recalled consistently better than directive feedback. Furthermore, even when adult subjects did recall directive feedback, they frequently misremembered it in an evaluative style. These findings appear at odds with the position that being oriented toward the future is advantageous to memory. They also raise important questions about the possible behavioral effects and generalizability of such biases, in terms of students' academic performance.

Real-world unexpected outcomes predict city-level mood states and risk-taking behavior
Ross Otto & Johannes Eichstaedt
PLoS ONE, November 2018

Fluctuations in mood states are driven by unpredictable outcomes in daily life but also appear to drive consequential behaviors such as risk-taking. However, our understanding of the relationships between unexpected outcomes, mood, and risk-taking behavior has relied primarily upon constrained and artificial laboratory settings. Here we examine, using naturalistic datasets, how real-world unexpected outcomes predict mood state changes observable at the level of a city, in turn predicting changes in gambling behavior. By analyzing day-to-day mood language extracted from 5.2 million location-specific and public Twitter posts or 'tweets', we examine how real-world 'prediction errors' - local outcomes that deviate positively from expectations - predict day-to-day mood states observable at the level of a city. These mood states in turn predicted increased per-person lottery gambling rates, revealing how interplay between prediction errors, moods, and risky decision-making unfolds in the real world. Our results underscore how social media and naturalistic datasets can uniquely allow us to understand consequential psychological phenomena.

Psychological constraints on aggressive predation in economic contests
Carsten De Dreu et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

When humans compete, they invest energy and effort to injure others and to protect against injury and exploitation. The psychology behind exploiting others and protecting against exploitation is still poorly understood and is addressed here in an incentivized economic contest game in which individuals invested in predatory attack and prey defense. Consistent with standard economic theory on production and predation, we find that individuals compete less intensely when they attack rather than defend and that attacks disproportionally often fail. We find, furthermore, 2 psychological mechanisms that restrain attack more than defense. First, individuals with stronger concern for others' welfare (Experiment 1a) and with stronger empathy (Experiment 1b) less frequently attack and when they attack, they do so less forcefully. Second, shorter decision times (Experiment 2a and Experiment 2b), along with cognitive taxation (Experiment 2b) associate with more forceful, but not with more frequent attack. Finally, investments in defense were neither predicted by other-concern and empathy, nor by decision time and cognitive taxation. Thus, individuals with stronger prosocial preferences and more deliberated decisions spent less energy on injuring others, and less often defeated their antagonists but ended-up personally wealthier. The waste of conflict can be reduced by strengthening prosocial preferences and cognitive resources available for deliberate decision-making.

Approaching the True Self: Promotion Focus Predicts the Experience of Authenticity
Jinhyung Kim et al.
Journal of Research in Personality, February 2019, Pages 165-176

Research on subjective authenticity identifies several psychological antecedents that seem naturally tied to subjectively authentic experiences. Four studies (N = 525) tested the hypothesis that promotion focus (compared to prevention focus) represents another shared antecedent of subjective authenticity. Studies 1 and 2 examined correlations between regulatory focus and subjective authenticity in the context of goal-pursuit and interpersonal interactions. Studies 3 and 4 were within-subjects experiments designed to manipulate regulatory focus and examine the effects of promotion and prevention focus on subjective authenticity. Across all studies, we found that promotion focus (relative to prevention focus) was a robust predictor of subjective authenticity. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Restraint that Blinds: Attention Narrowing and Consumers' Response to Numerosity in Self-Control Decisions
Keith Wilcox & Sonja Prokopec
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

A significant amount of research on numerosity demonstrates that product perceptions are often influenced by the scale on which numerical attribute information is presented. However, fewer studies have examined how self-control is influenced by the numerosity of cost information (e.g., price, nutritional content) in situations that may violate a personal goal. The present research demonstrates that, in such situations, the numerosity of cost information has a stronger influence on self-control when consumers are highly focused on restraint. Because restrained consumers regulate their behavior by anticipating the negative emotions from violating their goals, they experience a narrowing of attention during self-control decisions that makes them more reliant on numerosity as a cue for judgment. The results of eight experiments demonstrate that consumers who are primed or predisposed to be high in restraint display less self-control when cost information is presented on a contracted scale with small numbers compared to an expanded scale with large numbers. When consumers are less focused on restraint, numerosity has less of an effect on self-control because unrestrained consumers do not experience an analogous narrowing of attention.

Exerting cognitive control under threat: Interactive effects of physical and emotional stress
Julie Cantelon et al.
Emotion, forthcoming

Individuals with stressful occupations, such as law enforcement and military personnel, are required to operate in high stakes environments that can be simultaneously physically and emotionally demanding. These individuals are tasked with maintaining peak performance under stressful and often unpredictable conditions, exerting high levels of cognitive control to sustain attention and suppress task-irrelevant actions. Previous research has shown that physical and emotional stressors differentially influence such cognitive control processes. For example, physical stress impairs while emotional stress facilitates the ability to inhibit a prepotent response, yet, interactions between the two remain poorly understood. Here we examined whether emotional stress induced by threat of unpredictable electric shock mitigates the effects of physical stress on response inhibition. Participants performed an auditory Go/NoGo task under safe versus threat conditions while cycling at high intensity (84% HRmax) for 50 min. In threat conditions, participants were told they would receive mild electric shocks that were unpredictable and unrelated to task performance. Self-reported anxiety increased under threat versus safe conditions, and perceived exertion increased with exercise duration. As predicted, we observed decrements in response inhibition (increased false alarms) as exertion increased under safe conditions, but improved response inhibition as exertion increased under threat conditions. These findings are consistent with previous work showing that anxiety induced by unpredictable threat promotes adaptive survival mechanisms, such as improved vigilance, threat detection, cautious behavior, and harm avoidance. Here, we suggest that emotional stress induced by unpredictable threat can also mitigate decrements in cognitive performance experienced under physically demanding conditions.

to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.