On Social Beings

Kevin Lewis

January 07, 2010

With or without you? Measuring the quality of relational life throughout the world

Luca Stanca
Journal of Socio-Economics, October 2009, Pages 834-842

This paper proposes a new method for the measurement of the quality of relational life. Building on the recent literature on the determinants of subjective well-being, we use implicit valuations estimated from microeconometric life satisfaction equations to weigh scores on several dimensions of relational life. We apply the proposed method to a large sample of individuals from 94 countries, in order to construct composite indicators that focus on three dimensions of interpersonal relations: friends, family, and society. We use these indicators to compare the quality of relational life across countries worldwide and to explore its determinants at individual and country level. Overall, the results indicate that, at individual level, better economic conditions are associated with higher quality of interpersonal relationships.


It's All in the Timing: Interpersonal Synchrony Increases Affiliation

Michael Hove & Jane Risen
Social Cognition, December 2009, Pages 949-960

The tendency to mimic and synchronize with others is well established. Although mimicry has been shown to lead to affiliation between co-actors, the effect of interpersonal synchrony on affiliation remains an open question. The authors investigated the relationship by having participants match finger movements with a visual moving metronome. In Experiment 1, affiliation ratings were examined based on the extent to which participants tapped in synchrony with the experimenter. In Experiment 2, synchrony was manipulated. Affiliation ratings were compared for an experimenter who either (a) tapped to a metronome that was synchronous to the participant's metronome, (b) tapped to a metronome that was asynchronous, or (c) did not tap. As hypothesized, in both studies, the degree of synchrony predicted subsequent affiliation ratings. Experiment 3 found that the affiliative effects were unique to interpersonal synchrony.


Escaping Embarrassment: Face-work in the Rap Cipher

Jooyoung Lee
Social Psychology Quarterly, December 2009, Pages 306-324

How do individuals escape embarrassing moments in interaction? Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork, in-depth interviews, and video recordings of weekly street corner ciphers (impromptu rap sessions), this paper expands Goffman's theory of defensive and protective face-work. The findings reveal formulaic and indirect dimensions of face-work. First, this paper shows how individuals use prescripted techniques and other canned resources to overcome embarrassing gaffes in interaction. Specifically, rappers use "writtens" (prewritten rhymes) when they are close to "falling off," a local term for messing up and stopping abruptly during a "freestyle" (improvised) rap performance. Second, this paper describes how shared pressures to sustain an interaction can lead to collateral face-saving. In the cipher, surrounding peers "jump in" and begin rapping when somebody else falls off. Although this protects the person who is falling off from embarrassment, it is often done to "keep the flow going" in the cipher. At the end, this paper also outlines situations in which individuals withhold face protection from others. These findings point to other social situations in which individuals escape embarrassment with canned resources and through collateral face-saving.


The time use of teenagers

Vanessa Wight, Joseph Price, Suzanne Bianchi & Bijou Hunt
Social Science Research, December 2009, Pages 792-809

This paper uses American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data to describe the time use of teenagers ages 15-17, with a focus on activities that may affect teenagers' well-being such as sleep, eating, schoolwork, and selected leisure activities. We find that teenagers with an employed mother spend less time on homework and computers, are less likely to eat with parents, but spend more time in supervised activities. Teenagers with a single mother spend more time in paid work, are less likely to eat dinner with their parent, and spend more time in unsupervised activities, but they also get more sleep. Adolescents with more educated mothers spend more time studying and on the computer, less time watching television, and are more likely to eat dinner with parents. Family income correlates positively with teenagers' paid work, homework, computer use, and the likelihood of eating with parents, but is negatively associated with sleep. Family size is positively related to time spent in caregiving activities, sleep, and eating with parents, but is associated with less computer use.


The mobile phone, perpetual contact and time pressure

Michael Bittman, Judith Brown & Judy Wajcman
Work, Employment & Society, December 2009, Pages 673-691

Mobile phone services are now universally diffused, creating the possibility of perpetual contact, regardless of time and location. Many think the impossibility of being ‘out of touch' leads to increased time pressure. In addition to claims that the mobile phone has led to harried leisure, others have argued that perpetual contact extends work into the home or intensifies work in other ways. In this article, these issues are explored using survey data employing some novel methodologies - combining a questionnaire with logs of phone traffic recovered from respondents' handsets and a purpose-designed time-diary of technology use. Overall, results show that mobile phone use is not associated with more harried leisure. Fears of work intruding into home life appear to be exaggerated. However, there is some evidence that frequent use of mobiles during working hours is associated with work intensification, at least among men.


Logging on, Bouncing Back: An Experimental Investigation of Online Communication Following Social Exclusion

Elisheva Gross
Developmental Psychology, November 2009, Pages 1787-1793

A majority of U.S. adolescents at least occasionally communicate on the Internet with unknown peers. This study tested the hypothesis that online communication with an unknown peer facilitates recovery from the acute aversive effects of social exclusion and examined whether this benefit may be greater for adolescents compared with young adults. A total of 72 young adults (mean age = 18.4 years) and 51 adolescents (mean age = 12.5 years) were randomly assigned to undergo a standardized laboratory induction of social inclusion or exclusion, followed by 12 min of either communication with an unfamiliar other-sex peer or solitary computer game play. Compared with solitary game play, instant messaging with an unfamiliar peer facilitated greater replenishment of self-esteem and perceived relational value among previously excluded adolescents and young adults. Online communication also resulted in greater reduction of negative affect among adolescents but not among young adults.


Is the generic pronoun he still comprehended as excluding women?

Megan Miller & Lori James
American Journal of Psychology, Winter 2009, Pages 483-496

We investigated whether the use of he as a generic masculine (GM) pronoun affects comprehension. Participants read sentences containing GM or sex-specific pronouns and indicated whether each sentence could refer to a female. GM sentences were less accurately interpreted than sex-specific sentences, indicating that the sex-specific function of masculine pronouns dominates in comprehension. We also varied sentence antecedents, and participants made fewer errors on sentences with predominantly female than predominantly male or neutral antecedents. In another experiment, we tested male and female participants under conditions of time pressure. Participants of both sexes evidenced the error pattern of Experiment 1. Findings support the hypothesis that GM pronouns reduce the likelihood of thoughts of females in what are intended to be non-sex-specific instances.


The Spatial Concentration of Southern Whites and Argument-Based Lethal Violence

Matthew Lee & Edward Shihadeh
Social Forces, March 2009, Pages 1671-1694

This analysis examines how the spatial concentration of Southern whites is associated with white argument-based lethal violence. Using a well-known measure of spatial segregation (V, the adjusted P* index) among Southern-born whites in U.S. counties in 2000, the results reveal that the spatial concentration of Southern-born whites is only moderately correlated with their overall representation within counties. This confirms that the quantity of Southerners in an area is not the same thing as their spatial distribution within that same area. Multivariate negative binomial regression models confirm that white argument homicide rates are higher where white Southerners are more spatially concentrated, a link that is confined to Southern counties. The findings illustrate the important role spatial arrangements may play in producing expressive violence among white Southerners.


Bracing for the worst, but behaving the best: Social anxiety, hostility, and behavioral aggression

Nathan DeWall, Julia Buckner, Nathaniel Lambert, Alex Cohen & Frank Fincham
Journal of Anxiety Disorders, forthcoming

Social anxiety is marked by viewing social interactions as competitive, hypervigilance to signs of social threat, and avoidance of interactions that may result in social rejection. Therefore, social anxiety should relate to: (1) greater hostile feelings toward others, (2) heightened perceptions of hostility in others, and (3) relatively low levels of violence and aggression. To date, however, little is known about these relationships. In four independent nonclinical samples (total N = 2,643), we examined relationships between social anxiety, hostility, and aggression using a range of measures that included both self-report and behavioral assessments. In Study 1, social anxiety correlated positively with feeling hostile toward others. In Study 2, social anxiety correlated positively with hostile perceptions of others. In Study 3, social anxiety was related to less positive attitudes toward behaving violently toward one's relationship partner. In Study 4, social anxiety was related to less aggressive behavior, as indicated by less intense and prolonged noise blasts delivered to a fictitious opponent. Taken together, these four studies paint a picture of socially anxious people as bracing for the worst by feeling and perceiving hostility in the social environment, but behaving the best by refraining from aggression and violence.


Self-Esteem and Communal Responsiveness Toward a Flawed Partner: The Fair-Weather Care of Low-Self-Esteem Individuals

Edward Lemay & Margaret Clark
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, June 2009, Pages 698-712

Three studies provide evidence that people with low self-esteem, but not those with high self-esteem, distance themselves from a flawed partner in situations in which the flaws seem likely to reflect negatively on them. Participants with low (but not high) self-esteem reduced their motivation to care for the partner's needs when they felt they might share a partner's salient flaws (Study 1), when they were primed to focus on similarities between themselves and a socially devalued partner (Study 2), and when they learned that their partner was socially incompetent (Study 3). In Study 3, individuals with low (but not high) self-esteem provided less emotional support and experienced more public image threat when they learned that partners were socially incompetent. In addition, all three studies provided evidence that participants' distancing reduced their confidence in the partner's motivation to care for them, suggesting that distancing involves a cost to the self.


Suppressing Secrecy Through Metacognitive Ease: Cognitive Fluency Encourages Self-Disclosure

Adam Alter & Daniel Oppenheimer
Psychological Science, November 2009, Pages 1414-1420

Understanding when people reveal unfavorable information about themselves is both practically and theoretically important. Existing research suggests that people tend not to adopt stable disclosure strategies, and consequently disclose too much information in some situations (e.g., embarrassing personal information on Facebook) and too little in other situations (e.g., risky sexual behavior to a physician during diagnosis of a possible sexually transmitted disease). We sought to identify a domain-general cue that predicts self-disclosure patterns. We found that metacognitive ease, or fluency, promoted greater disclosure, both in tightly controlled lab studies (Studies 1a, 1b, and 3) and in an ecologically valid on-line field study (Study 4). Disfluency tended to prime thoughts and emotions associated with risk, which might be one reason why people who experience disfluency are less comfortable with self-disclosure (Studies 2 and 3). We conclude by discussing the implications of these results for theory and clinical practice.


Impact of Human Activity Patterns on the Dynamics of Information Diffusion

José Luis Iribarren & Esteban Moro
Physical Review Letters, 17 July 2009

We study the impact of human activity patterns on information diffusion. To this end we ran a viral email experiment involving 31,183 individuals in which we were able to track a specific piece of information through the social network. We found that, contrary to traditional models, information travels at an unexpectedly slow pace. By using a branching model which accurately describes the experiment, we show that the large heterogeneity found in the response time is responsible for the slow dynamics of information at the collective level. Given the generality of our result, we discuss the important implications of this finding while modeling human dynamical collective phenomena.


On Universality in Human Correspondence Activity

Dean Malmgren, Daniel Stouffer, Andriana Campanharo & Luís Nunes Amaral
Science, 25 September 2009, Pages 1696-1700

The identification and modeling of patterns of human activity have important ramifications for applications ranging from predicting disease spread to optimizing resource allocation. Because of its relevance and availability, written correspondence provides a powerful proxy for studying human activity. One school of thought is that human correspondence is driven by responses to received correspondence, a view that requires a distinct response mechanism to explain e-mail and letter correspondence observations. We demonstrate that, like e-mail correspondence, the letter correspondence patterns of 16 writers, performers, politicians, and scientists are well described by the circadian cycle, task repetition, and changing communication needs. We confirm the universality of these mechanisms by rescaling letter and e-mail correspondence statistics to reveal their underlying similarity.


How broadband changes online and offline behaviors

Jed Kolko
Information Economics and Policy, forthcoming

Using longitudinal panel data on Internet subscriptions and online and offline activities, I assess how broadband adoption affects behavior. Consistent with previous research, this study finds that broadband adopters increase their overall Internet usage. However, broadband adoption is associated with an increase in relatively few specific applications, like downloading music and online purchasing. Among "socially desirable" activities that governments seek to increase by encouraging broadband adoption, only researching health information rises among broadband adopters. Usage of job and career websites and usage of government sites does not rise as people move from dial-up to broadband. Among offline activities, broadband adoption lowers time spent playing video games but has no statistically significant effect on other activities like reading magazines and watching TV. OLS with person-level fixed effects and the difference-in-differences matching estimator yield similar findings. The results are somewhat sensitive to the time period studied, which could indicate that adopters at different stages of the technology's diffusion respond differently to broadband adoption; it could also reflect the rapid changes in online activities and broadband technology.

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