Made you do it

Kevin Lewis

November 03, 2018

The Illusion of Multitasking and Its Positive Effect on Performance
Shalena Srna, Rom Schrift & Gal Zauberman
Psychological Science, forthcoming


With technological advancements, the desire, ability, and often necessity to multitask are pervasive. Although multitasking refers to the simultaneous execution of multiple tasks, most activities that require active attention cannot actually be done simultaneously. Therefore, whether a certain activity is considered multitasking is often a matter of perception. This article demonstrates the malleability of what people perceive as multitasking, showing that the same activity may or may not be construed as multitasking. Importantly, although engaging in multiple tasks may diminish performance, we found that, holding the activity constant, the mere perception of multitasking in fact improves performance. Across 32 studies (30 of which had performance-based incentives) containing a total of 8,242 participants, we found that individuals who perceived an activity as multitasking were more engaged and consequently outperformed those who perceived that same activity as single tasking.

Countering Youth's Negative Stereotypes of Teens Fosters Constructive Behavior
Yang Qu, Eva Pomerantz & Guohong Wu
Child Development, forthcoming


Adolescence can be a time of unconstructive behavior for many youth. This research examined if an intervention countering youth's stereotypes of teens as irresponsible fosters their constructive behavior. In two experimental intervention studies (Ns = 124 and 319) with seventh graders, stereotypes of teens as irresponsible were described as inaccurate portrayals; youth then provided their own observations of teens acting responsibly. Youth in this counterstereotyping intervention (vs. the control) held higher intentions for academic engagement and performed better on an academic task (i.e., a word‐search puzzle). Over the 3 days following the intervention, their academic engagement was higher. Youth's risk taking was also reduced. Redirecting youth to see teens as responsible has the potential to provide a foundation for flourishing.

Nostalgia Increases Financial Risk Taking
Xi Zou et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


We examined, in five studies, the relation between nostalgia and financial risk taking. We hypothesized that nostalgia increases risk taking by fostering perceptions of social support. In Study 1, we established the basic effect of nostalgia and increased risk taking. In Study 2, we used a measurement-of-mediation approach to specify the underlying mechanism. Perceived support from family members, rather than from significant others or friends, mediated the relation between nostalgia and risk taking. In Studies 3 to 4, we further specified the mediating mechanism (i.e., family social support) and established direction of causality by using an experimental-causal-chain approach. Finally, in Study 5, we provided direct experimental evidence of the full mediation model. Taken together, nostalgia galvanizes perceived family support, which propels individuals toward financial risk.

Confession and self-control: A prelude to repentance or relapse?
Michael Lowe & Kelly Haws
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Confessions are commonplace. Even when embarrassing or otherwise damaging, we seem intrinsically motivated to open up to others and confess mistakes we have made. Although there may be many reasons one might choose to disclose one’s “sins,” very little is known about what confession actually does, particularly concerning its effect on future behavior. This work examines confession in the context of one’s personal self-control failures in consumption, asking the central question: does confession lead to repentance (i.e., enhanced subsequent self-control) or relapse (reduced subsequent self-control)? We predict and demonstrate that the effect of confession on ensuing behavior depends largely on the amount of guilt a confessor feels regarding their behavior prior to confession. Across five studies, we find that confessing (versus not confessing) high-guilt transgressions boosts subsequent self-control, whereas confessing relatively low-guilt indiscretions promotes further relapse. Further, initial evidence suggests that changes in self-discrepancy following a confession drive subsequent changes in self-control behaviors. A single paper meta-analysis demonstrates the robustness of our key effects and provides further support for the role of self-discrepancy in the underlying process.

A Family Focused Intervention Influences Hippocampal‐Prefrontal Connectivity Through Gains in Self‐Regulation
Jamie Hanson et al.
Child Development, forthcoming


The stressors associated with poverty increase the risks for externalizing psychopathology; however, specific patterns of neurobiology and higher self‐regulation may buffer against these effects. This study leveraged a randomized control trial, aimed at increasing self‐regulation at ~11 years of age. As adults, these same individuals completed functional MRI scanning (Mage = 24.88 years; intervention n = 44; control n = 49). Functional connectivity between the hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex was examined in relation to the intervention, gains in self‐regulation, and present‐day externalizing symptoms. Increased connectivity between these brain areas was noted in the intervention group compared to controls. Furthermore, individual gains in self‐regulation, instilled by the intervention, statistically explained this brain difference. These results begin to connect neurobiological and psychosocial markers of risk and resiliency.

Familiar faces, familiar spaces: Social similarity and co-presence in non-relational behavioral convergence
Rachel Behler et al.
Network Science, September 2018, Pages 396-429


Social influence is frequently measured through an ego's direct ties. Although influence may also stem from an ego's indirect ties, reference group, and casual contacts, it is difficult to capture their impact using existing network methods. We identify and trace the influence stemming from an ego's “familiar others,” consisting of those socially similar individuals with whom the ego comes in contact at school, but does not necessarily share a relationship. To evaluate the role of familiar others, we investigate unhealthy weight behaviors in adolescence using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Our results demonstrate that familiar others' unhealthy weight-related behaviors are strong predictors of the ego's own weight behaviors, net of immediate alters' behaviors, and individual-level characteristics. Further, we find that this relationship is stronger and more robust than that between egos and their direct ties. These results suggest that familiar others constitute a key source of social influence that is distinct from the influence of network alters.

Smartphones are more reinforcing than food for students
SaraO'Donnell & Leonard Epstein
Addictive Behaviors, forthcoming


College students engage in high-frequency smartphone use, despite potential negative consequences. One way to conceptualize this behavior is to consider it a highly reinforcing activity. Comparing motivation for smartphones to a powerful primary reinforcer, such as food, can establish their relative reinforcing value. This study investigated whether smartphones were more reinforcing than food, as well as the relationships between smartphone reinforcement, texting use, and smartphone motives. Participants were 76 college students (50% female, Mage = 18.9, SD = 0.99) who had no access to food for three hours and to their smartphones for two hours. After this modest deprivation period, participants worked for time to use their smartphones and 100-cal portions of their favorite snack food concurrently, with the work to obtain portions of both commodities increasing. The amount of smartphone use earned during the task was manipulated across groups (20, 30, 60, 120 s) to establish what amount of smartphone use was needed to motivate responding. Additionally, reinforcing efficacy of smartphones and food using a hypothetical purchase task and motivations for smartphone use was collected. Smartphones were more reinforcing than food using either measurement methodology (p's < 0.001). Smartphone reinforcement predicted number of text messages, controlling for age, sex, and family income. Positive smartphone use motives were associated with reinforcing efficacy of smartphones. These data show that smartphones are potent reinforcers, and are more reinforcing than food given modest food deprivation. These methods provide one important reason why people may use smartphones.

Consequence-Based Approach-Avoidance Training: A New and Improved Method for Changing Behavior
Pieter Van Dessel, Sean Hughes & Jan De Houwer
Psychological Science, forthcoming


The repeated performance of approach or avoidance actions in response to specific stimuli (e.g., alcoholic drinks) is often considered a most promising type of cognitive-bias modification that can reduce unwanted behavior (e.g., alcohol consumption). Unfortunately, approach-avoidance training sometimes fails to produce desired outcomes (e.g., in the context of unhealthy eating). We introduce a novel training task in which approach-avoidance actions are followed by affective consequences. Four experiments (total N = 1,547) found stronger changes in voluntary approach-avoidance behavior, implicit and explicit evaluations, and consumer choices for consequence-based approach-avoidance training in the food domain. Moreover, this novel type of training reduced self-reported unhealthy eating behavior after a 24-hr delay and unhealthy snacking in a taste test. Our results contrast with dominant (association-formation) accounts of the effects of approach-avoidance training and support an inferential explanation. They further suggest that consequence-based approach-avoidance training, and inference training more generally, holds promise for the treatment of clinical behavior.

Life history variation and the preparedness paradox
Daniel Kruger et al.
Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, forthcoming


Life history theory (LHT) is a powerful explanatory framework illustrating how ancestral and developmental environments shape allocations of effort to fitness-promoting domains in nested sets of trade-offs. LHT has previously informed basic research on evolved human psychology and behavior, and it also has great potential for application to practical challenges and social concerns. LHT may help explain why there is typically a modest or null relationship between concern for environmental emergencies and the extent of preparation for needs during such an emergency. Experiences of more chaotic and hostile environments are associated with relatively faster life histories, and thus, people with faster life histories may have a greater fear of environmental disasters and emergencies. However, those with relatively slower life histories would actually be more prepared for the contingencies of these emergencies because they exhibit greater future orientation and a higher degree of planning. Data from a demographically and geographically representative health survey in the midwestern United States provided support for this hypothesis. Two indicators of environmental stability, a central influence on life history variation, predicted lower concern for emergencies but higher preparation for emergencies. Analyses accounted for sociodemographic characteristics associated with life history variation. General tendencies for future planning partially mediated some of these relationships.

When the going gets tough, who gets going? An examination of the relationship between narcissism, effort, and performance
Ross Roberts et al.
Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, forthcoming


Individuals high in narcissism excel when opportunities for personal glory are evident, and disappoint when no such opportunity exists. However, the mechanisms underlying these performance effects are unknown. Across two studies, we provide the first evidence that changes in effort explain narcissists’ performances. In Study 1 (n = 120), participants performed a dart-throwing task under high and low self-enhancement opportunity and self-rated their effort. In Study 2, we used an endurance task, again performed under low and high self-enhancement opportunity, but supplanted self-report measures of effort with psychophysiological measures. In both studies, narcissism had a significant positive indirect effect on performance via effort when self-enhancement was high but a negative indirect effect on performance when self-enhancement was low. Moreover, in Study 2 (n = 63), we tested an efficiency-based explanation of effort to examine whether individuals high in narcissism performed better under pressure because they “try harder” or because they “try smarter.” Results supported the “try harder” explanation. These data demonstrate that individuals high in narcissism excel when opportunity for success exists, thanks to their greater investment in the task.

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