Kevin Lewis

August 02, 2010

The Accentuation Bias: Money Literally Looms Larger (and Sometimes Smaller) to the Powerless

David Dubois, Derek Rucker & Adam Galinsky
Social Psychological and Personality Science, July 2010, Pages 199-205

The present research explores how people's place in a power hierarchy alters their representations of valued objects. The authors hypothesized that powerlessness produces an accentuation bias by altering the physical representation of monetary objects in a manner consistent with the size-to-value relationship. In the first three experiments, powerless participants, induced through episodic priming or role manipulations, systematically overestimated the size of objects associated with monetary value (i.e., quarters, poker chips) compared to powerful and baseline participants. However, when value was inversely associated with size (i.e., smaller objects were more valuable), the powerless drew these valued objects smaller, not larger. In addition, the accentuation bias by the powerless was more pronounced when the monetary value associated with the object was greater, increased when the object was physically present, and was mediated by differences in subjective value. These findings suggest that powerlessness fosters compensatory processes that guide representations of valued objects.


Longer is better

Scott Eidelman, Jennifer Pattershall & Christian Crandall
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

The longer something is thought to exist, the better it is evaluated. In Study 1, participants preferred an existing university requirement over an alternative; this pattern was more pronounced when the existing requirement was said to be in place for a longer period of time. In Study 2, participants rated acupuncture more favorably as a function of how old the practice was described. Aesthetic judgments of art (Study 3) and nature (Study 4) were also positively affected by time in existence, as were gustatory evaluations of an edible consumer good (Study 5). Features of the research designs argue against mere exposure, loss aversion, and rational inference as explanations for these findings. Instead, time in existence seems to operate as a heuristic; longer means better.


Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions

Joshua Ackerman, Christopher Nocera & John Bargh
Science, 25 June 2010, Pages 1712-1715

Touch is both the first sense to develop and a critical means of information acquisition and environmental manipulation. Physical touch experiences may create an ontological scaffold for the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal conceptual and metaphorical knowledge, as well as a springboard for the application of this knowledge. In six experiments, holding heavy or light clipboards, solving rough or smooth puzzles, and touching hard or soft objects nonconsciously influenced impressions and decisions formed about unrelated people and situations. Among other effects, heavy objects made job candidates appear more important, rough objects made social interactions appear more difficult, and hard objects increased rigidity in negotiations. Basic tactile sensations are thus shown to influence higher social cognitive processing in dimension-specific and metaphor-specific ways.


The pen is mightier than the word: Object priming of evaluative standards

Abraham Rutchick, Michael Slepian & Bennett Ferris
European Journal of Social Psychology, August 2010, Pages 704-708

Because red pens are closely associated with error-marking and poor performance, the use of red pens when correcting student work can activate these concepts. People using red pens to complete a word-stem task completed more words related to errors and poor performance than did people using black pens (Study 1), suggesting relatively greater accessibility of these concepts. Moreover, people using red pens to correct essays marked more errors (Study 2) and awarded lower grades (Study 3) than people using blue pens. Thus, despite teachers' efforts to free themselves from extraneous influences when grading, the very act of picking up a red pen can bias their evaluations.


Magic at the marketplace: Choice blindness for the taste of jam and the smell of tea

Lars Hall, Petter Johansson, Betty Tärning, Sverker Sikström & Thérèse Deutgen
Cognition, forthcoming

We set up a tasting venue at a local supermarket and invited passerby shoppers to sample two different varieties of jam and tea, and to decide which alternative in each pair they preferred the most. Immediately after the participants had made their choice, we asked them to again sample the chosen alternative, and to verbally explain why they chose the way they did. At this point we secretly switched the contents of the sample containers, so that the outcome of the choice became the opposite of what the participants intended. In total, no more than a third of the manipulated trials were detected. Even for remarkably different tastes like Cinnamon-Apple and bitter Grapefruit, or the smell of Mango and Pernod was no more than half of all trials detected, thus demonstrating considerable levels of choice blindness for the taste and smell of two different consumer goods.


Differences in time perception as a function of strength of handedness

Jonathan Westfall, John Jasper & Yuliya Zelmanova
Personality and Individual Differences, October 2010, Pages 629-633

Research has established that objective measures of time rarely have a perfect correlation with subjective judgments of time. Given that proper time perception appears to depend upon access to right-hemisphere processing (e.g., Harrington, Haaland, & Knight, 1998), the present paper investigates the link between strength of handedness and subjective time judgments. In two distinctive time- associated decision-making tasks, results indicated that mixed-handers (individuals who use their non-dominant hand for at least a few activities), perceived time differently than strong-handers (individuals who use one hand predominantly). These findings signify a link between strength of handedness and different levels of interhemispheric communication, consistent with previous handedness literature, and suggest that researchers studying time perception or problems involving the perception of time should incorporate measures of handedness strength.


Stereotype threat prevents perceptual learning

Robert Rydell, Richard Shiffrin, Kathryn Boucher, Katie Van Loo & Michael Rydell
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Stereotype threat (ST) refers to a situation in which a member of a group fears that her or his performance will validate an existing negative performance stereotype, causing a decrease in performance. For example, reminding women of the stereotype "women are bad at math" causes them to perform more poorly on math questions from the SAT and GRE. Performance deficits can be of several types and be produced by several mechanisms. We show that ST prevents perceptual learning, defined in our task as an increasing rate of search for a target Chinese character in a display of such characters. Displays contained two or four characters and half of these contained a target. Search rate increased across a session of training for a control group of women, but not women under ST. Speeding of search is typically explained in terms of learned "popout" (automatic attraction of attention to a target). Did women under ST learn popout but fail to express it? Following training, the women were shown two colored squares and asked to choose the one with the greater color saturation. Superimposed on the squares were task-irrelevant Chinese characters. For women not trained under ST, the presence of a trained target on one square slowed responding, indicating that training had caused the learning of an attention response to targets. Women trained under ST showed no slowing, indicating that they had not learned such an attention response.


Assessing the merits and faults of holistic and disaggregated judgments

Hal Arkes, Claudia González-Vallejo, Aaron Bonham, Yi-Han Kung & Nathan Bailey
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, July 2010, Pages 250-270

Three studies explored both the advantages of and subjects' preferences for a disaggregated judgment procedure and a holistic one. The task in our first two studies consisted of evaluating colleges; the third study asked participants to evaluate job applicants. Holistic ratings consisted of providing an overall evaluation while considering all of the characteristics of the evaluation objects; disaggregated ratings consisted of evaluating each cue independently. Participants also made paired comparisons of the evaluation objects. We constructed preference orders for the disaggregated method by aggregating these ratings (unweighted or weighted characteristics). To compare the holistic, disaggregated, and weighted-disaggregated method we regressed the four cues on the participant's holistic rating, on the linearly aggregated disaggregated ratings, and on the average weighted disaggregated rating, using the participant's importance points for each cue as weights. Both types of combined disaggregated ratings related more closely to the cues in terms of proportion of variance accounted for in Experiments 1 and 2. In addition, the disaggregated ratings were more closely related to the paired-comparison orderings, but Experiment 2 showed that this was true for a small set (10) but not a large set (60) of evaluation objects. Experiment 3 tested the gamesmanship hypothesis: People prefer holistic ratings because it is easier to incorporate illegitimate but appealing criteria into one's judgment. The results suggested that the disaggregated procedure generally produced sharper distinctions between the most relevant and least relevant cues. Participants in all three of these studies preferred the holistic ratings despite their statistical inferiority.


Naïve Theories of Causal Force and Compression of Elapsed Time Judgments

David Faro, Ann McGill & Reid Hastie
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 2010, Pages 683-701

Recent research has shown that when people perceive a causal relation between 2 events, they "compress" the intervening elapsed time. The present work shows that a naïve mechanical-physical conception of causality, in which causal forces are believed to dissipate over time, underlies the estimates of shorter elapsed time. Being primed with alternative, nondissipative causal mechanisms and having the cognitive capacity to consider such mechanisms moderates the compression effect. The studies rule out similarity, mnemonic association, and anchoring as alternative accounts for the effect. Taken together, the findings support the hypothesis that causal cognition plays a major role in judgments of elapsed time. The implications of the compression effect on the timing of future actions, persistence, and causal learning are discussed.


Categories Create Mind-Sets: The Effect of Exposure to Broad Versus Narrow Categorizations on Subsequent, Unrelated Decisions

Gülden Ülkümen, Amitav Chakravarti & Vicki Morwitz
Journal of Marketing Research, August 2010, Pages 659-671

The authors find that exposure to different types of categories or assortments in a task creates a mind-set that changes how consumers process information in subsequent tasks. That is, these mind-sets have a spillover effect that alters consumers' decision making in a variety of subsequent and unrelated tasks, from basic cognitive behaviors (e.g., grouping) and consumer decisions (e.g., new product adoptions) to more general decision-making strategies (e.g., susceptibility to heuristics). Consumers previously exposed to broad assortments or categorizations base their decisions on fewer pieces of information, typically those made salient by the environment. In contrast, consumers previously exposed to narrow assortments or categorizations employ multiple pieces of information, both salient and nonsalient, without exerting any extra effort. Consequently, prior exposure to broad versus narrow categorizations leads to greater susceptibility to some common context effects and to heuristic decision making.


A Sinister Bias for Calling Fouls in Soccer

Alexander Kranjec, Matthew Lehet, Bianca Bromberger & Anjan Chatterjee
PLoS ONE, July 2010, e11667

Distinguishing between a fair and unfair tackle in soccer can be difficult. For referees, choosing to call a foul often requires a decision despite some level of ambiguity. We were interested in whether a well documented perceptual-motor bias associated with reading direction influenced foul judgments. Prior studies have shown that readers of left-to-right languages tend to think of prototypical events as unfolding concordantly, from left-to-right in space. It follows that events moving from right-to-left should be perceived as atypical and relatively debased. In an experiment using a go/no-go task and photographs taken from real games, participants made more foul calls for pictures depicting left-moving events compared to pictures depicting right-moving events. These data suggest that two referees watching the same play from distinct vantage points may be differentially predisposed to call a foul.


Power Differences in the Construal of a Crisis: The Immediate Aftermath of September 11, 2001

Joe Magee, Frances Milliken & Adam Lurie
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, March 2010, Pages 354-370

In this research, we examine the relationship between power and three characteristics of construal - abstraction, valence, and certainty - in individuals' verbatim reactions to the events of September 11, 2001, and during the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks. We conceptualize power as a form of social distance and find that position power (but not expert power) was positively associated with the use of language that was more abstract (vs. concrete), positive (vs. negative), and certain (vs. uncertain). These effects persist after controlling for temporal distance, geographic distance, and impression management motivation. Our results support central and corollary predictions of Construal Level Theory (Liberman, Trope, & Stephan, 2007; Trope & Liberman, 2003) in a high-consequence, real-world context, and our method provides a template for future research in this area outside of the laboratory.


Voice frequency impacts hemispheric processing of attribute frames

John Seta, Michael McCormick, Patrick Gallagher, Todd McElroy & Catherine Seta
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Attribute framing effects involve the activation of associations that promote information encoding in a way that is consistent with the descriptive valence of the frame. For example, positive frames invoke positive associations and negative frames invoke negative ones - these associations are then mapped onto evaluations. To predict the strength of attribute framing effects, we built on the idea that a speaker with a relatively low frequency voice produces enhanced right hemisphere processing whereas a speaker with a relatively high frequency voice produces enhanced left hemisphere processing. We found a strong framing effect when the holistic/contextual processing style of the right hemisphere was enhanced. In contrast, we observed a weak effect when we enhanced the inferential/analytical style of the left hemisphere. This work has theoretical implications for processes invoking associations, such as priming. It has applied implications for constructing effective persuasive messages.


Missing the trees for the forest: A construal level account of the illusion of explanatory depth

Adam Alter, Daniel Oppenheimer & Jeffrey Zemla
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

An illusion of explanatory depth (IOED) occurs when people believe they understand a concept more deeply than they actually do. To date, IOEDs have been identified only in mechanical and natural domains, occluding why they occur and suggesting that their implications are quite limited. Six studies illustrated that IOEDs occur because people adopt an inappropriately abstract construal style when they assess how well they understand concrete concepts. As this mechanism predicts, participants who naturally adopted concrete construal styles (Study 1) or were induced to adopt a concrete construal style (Studies 2-4 and 6), experienced diminished IOEDs. Two additional studies documented a novel IOED in the social psychological domain of electoral voting (Studies 5 and 6), demonstrating the generality of the construal mechanism, the authors also extended the presumed boundary conditions of the effect beyond mechanical and natural domains. These findings suggest a novel factor that might contribute to such diverse social-cognitive shortcomings as stereotyping, egocentrism, and the planning fallacy, where people adopt abstract representations of concepts that should be represented concretely.


Aging and the speed of time

William Friedman & Steve Janssen
Acta Psychologica, June 2010, Pages 130-141

Correlational and experimental methods provide evidence relevant to seven theories of humans' general impressions of the speed of time, including theories of the purported subjective acceleration of time with aging. A total of 1865 adults from two countries, ranging in age from 16 to 80, reported how fast time appears to pass over different spans of time. Other measures tapped the experience of life changes and time pressure, and experimental manipulations were used to test two models based on forward telescoping and difficulty of recall. Respondents of all ages reported that time seems to pass quickly. In contrast to widely held beliefs, age differences in reports of the subjective speed of time were very small, except for the question about how fast the last 10 years had passed. Findings support a theory based on the experience of time pressure.


First Person Experience of Body Transfer in Virtual Reality

Mel Slater, Bernhard Spanlang, Maria Sanchez-Vives & Olaf Blanke
PLoS ONE, May 2010, e10564

Background: Altering the normal association between touch and its visual correlate can result in the illusory perception of a fake limb as part of our own body. Thus, when touch is seen to be applied to a rubber hand while felt synchronously on the corresponding hidden real hand, an illusion of ownership of the rubber hand usually occurs. The illusion has also been demonstrated using visuomotor correlation between the movements of the hidden real hand and the seen fake hand. This type of paradigm has been used with respect to the whole body generating out-of-the-body and body substitution illusions. However, such studies have only ever manipulated a single factor and although they used a form of virtual reality have not exploited the power of immersive virtual reality (IVR) to produce radical transformations in body ownership.

Principal Findings: Here we show that a first person perspective of a life-sized virtual human female body that appears to substitute the male subjects' own bodies was sufficient to generate a body transfer illusion. This was demonstrated subjectively by questionnaire and physiologically through heart-rate deceleration in response to a threat to the virtual body. This finding is in contrast to earlier experimental studies that assume visuotactile synchrony to be the critical contributory factor in ownership illusions. Our finding was possible because IVR allowed us to use a novel experimental design for this type of problem with three independent binary factors: (i) perspective position (first or third), (ii) synchronous or asynchronous mirror reflections and (iii) synchrony or asynchrony between felt and seen touch.

Conclusions: The results support the notion that bottom-up perceptual mechanisms can temporarily override top down knowledge resulting in a radical illusion of transfer of body ownership. The research also illustrates immersive virtual reality as a powerful tool in the study of body representation and experience, since it supports experimental manipulations that would otherwise be infeasible, with the technology being mature enough to represent human bodies and their motion.


Attribute salience in graphical representations affects evaluation

Yan Sun, Shu Li & Nicolao Bonini
Judgment and Decision Making, June 2010, Pages 151-158

By manipulating the scale in graphs, this study demonstrated a new evaluation bias caused by attribute salience in graphical representations. That is, (de)compressing the graph axis scale changed the relative distance with respect to the options of a given attribute and thus changed the salience of the information in graphical representations. Experiment 1 showed that the differences in the graphical representations had a significant impact on the evaluation. Experiment 2 repeated the scale manipulation effect in a different scenario and extended it to a multi-options context. Experiment 3 disentangled the effect of scale distance manipulation from the other variables (e.g., scale resolution and assignment of attributes to axes) and further supported the finding of Experiment 1. These results indicated that attribute salience in graphical representations clearly affects evaluations and that graphs can be manipulated to cause very different impressions of the same data. This finding is not consistent with the axioms of normative economic theory. Experiment 3 also tested the attribute importance hypothesis, but the evidence indicated that the participants did not regard the longer axis as the more important attribute. Finally, we related our findings to the impact of visual processing on decision making and discussed them from the perspective of two-system cognitive theory.


The effect of age and sex on the perception of time in life

P.A. Hancock
American Journal of Psychology, Spring 2010, Pages 1-14

As a measure of their personal perception of time in life, 320 participants completed the Lines Test. Participants were asked to mark off on a line their perceived present life location between the endpoint anchors of birth and death. The percentage of the life span marked was compared with actuarial life expectancy to establish a quantitative degree of difference for each respondent. Results indicated a significant sex difference in which women across the age range investigated were more accurate as to their life location. Results also showed a significant age effect in which older participants consistently underestimated their life location to a much greater degree than their younger peers. A second investigation presented an amended version of the traditional Lines Test and scaled the actuarial life span to each participant's specific age. The pattern of findings was replicated by this procedure. Reasons for this overall pattern of results are discussed in terms of what is currently understood about the perception of short intervals of time and the perception of duration across the life span.


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