Not seeing it

Kevin Lewis

August 19, 2017

Beauty in the blink of an eye: The time course of aesthetic experiences
San Verhavert, Johan Wagemans & Dorothee Augustin
British Journal of Psychology, forthcoming

Under normal circumstances, perception runs very fast and seemingly automatic. In just a few ms, we go from sensory features to perceiving objects. This fast time course does not only apply to general perceptual aspects but also to what we call higher-level judgements. Inspired by the study on 'very first impressions' by Bar, Neta, and Linz (2006, Emotion, 6, 269) the current research examined the speed and time course of three aspects of the aesthetic experience, namely beauty, specialness, and impressiveness. Participants were presented with 54 reproductions of paintings that covered a wide variety of artistic styles and contents. Presentation times were 10, 50, 100 and 500 ms in Experiment 1 and 20, 30 and 40 ms in Experiment 2. Our results not only show that consistent aesthetic judgements can be formed based on very brief glances of information, but that this speed of aesthetic impression formation also differs between different aesthetic judgements. Apparently, impressiveness judgements require longer exposure times than impressions of beauty or specialness. The results provide important evidence for our understanding of the time course of aesthetic experiences.

Social Power Increases Interoceptive Accuracy
Mehrad Moeini-Jazani et al.
Frontiers in Psychology, August 2017

Building on recent psychological research showing that power increases self-focused attention, we propose that having power increases accuracy in perception of bodily signals, a phenomenon known as interoceptive accuracy. Consistent with our proposition, participants in a high-power experimental condition outperformed those in the control and low-power conditions in the Schandry heartbeat-detection task. We demonstrate that the effect of power on interoceptive accuracy is not explained by participants' physiological arousal, affective state, or general intention for accuracy. Rather, consistent with our reasoning that experiencing power shifts attentional resources inward, we show that the effect of power on interoceptive accuracy is dependent on individuals' chronic tendency to focus on their internal sensations. Moreover, we demonstrate that individuals' chronic sense of power also predicts interoceptive accuracy similar to, and independent of, how their situationally induced feeling of power does. We therefore provide further support on the relation between power and enhanced perception of bodily signals. Our findings offer a novel perspective - a psychophysiological account - on how power might affect judgments and behavior. We highlight and discuss some of these intriguing possibilities for future research.

Bioenergetic costs and state influence distance perception
David Francis Hunt, Heidi Hunt & Justin Park
Physiology & Behavior, forthcoming

Bioenergetic resources and states have been found to influence visual perception, with greater expected energy expenditure being associated with perceptions of greater distances and steeper slopes. Here we tested whether resting metabolic rate (RMR), which can serve as a proxy for the bioenergetic costs of completing physical activity, is positively correlated with perceived distance. We also tested whether temporarily depleting bioenergetic resources through exercise would result in greater perceived distance. Eighty-two members of the public were recruited at a beach in Weston-super-Mare, UK. Half completed moderate exercise and half acted as controls. They then estimated distance to a set point. Results showed that RMR (computed using a recognized equation) was positively correlated with distance perception, meaning that participants requiring greater energy to traverse a set distance perceived the set point as farther away. In addition, those participants who had their bioenergetic resources temporarily depleted through exercise perceived the set distance as greater, compared to controls. There was no interaction effect between RMR and exercise. To our knowledge, these results are the first to show a relationship between metabolic rate and distance perception, and they contribute to the literature on embodied perception.

How context alters value: The brain's valuation and affective regulation system link price cues to experienced taste pleasantness
Liane Schmidt et al.
Scientific Reports, August 2017

Informational cues such as the price of a wine can trigger expectations about its taste quality and thereby modulate the sensory experience on a reported and neural level. Yet it is unclear how the brain translates such expectations into sensory pleasantness. We used a whole-brain multilevel mediation approach with healthy participants who tasted identical wines cued with different prices while their brains were scanned using fMRI. We found that the brain's valuation system (BVS) in concert with the anterior prefrontal cortex played a key role in implementing the effect of price cues on taste pleasantness ratings. The sensitivity of the BVS to monetary rewards outside the taste domain moderated the strength of these effects. These findings provide novel evidence for the fundamental role that neural pathways linked to motivation and affective regulation play for the effect of informational cues on sensory experiences.

Presence of an Attachment Is Associated With Greater Sensitivity to Physical Pain Following Mild Social Exclusion
Miranda DiLorenzo et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Social exclusion has been shown to influence sensitivity to physical pain. Attachment theory suggests a primary response to rejection should be seeking out the company of a close other. Based on this prediction, we hypothesized that the presence of an attachment figure versus a stranger following rejection would permit acknowledgement of distress and thus stronger reports of physical pain. Healthy participants reported their pain sensitivity before receiving exclusion or inclusion feedback in an online chat. Participants were then randomly assigned to have access to their attachment figure or a stranger and had pain sensitivity measured again. As predicted, excluded participants who had access to their attachment figure evidenced heightened pain sensitivity (lower pain threshold and tolerance), whereas those who sat with a stranger evidenced some degree of a decrease in pain sensitivity (higher pain tolerance). These data may shed light on the impact social ties can have during painful situations.

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.