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Kevin Lewis

September 08, 2020

Basal Testosterone Renders Individuals More Receptive to Minority Positions
Markus Germar & Andreas Mojzisch
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Social influence is an inevitable part of human social interaction. Although past research has demonstrated that testosterone has a key role in social interaction, no study has examined its role in social influence so far. Building on previous research showing that minority positions are perceived as risky options and that testosterone is positively associated with status seeking and risk-taking, we hypothesized that basal testosterone renders individuals more receptive to minority positions. In two studies, participants (total N = 250) read messages that were supported by either a numerical majority or minority. As hypothesized, individuals' levels of basal testosterone were positively related to susceptibility to minority influence. In contrast, susceptibility to majority influence was unaffected by basal testosterone. Given the importance of minorities for innovation and change within societies, our results suggest that individuals with high levels of testosterone may play an important role as catalysts of social change.

Anchoring on Historical Reference Points: How Round Number Prices from the Past Shape Future Negotiation Outcomes
Scott Wiltermuth, Timothy Gubler & Lamar Pierce
University of Southern California Working Paper, July 2020


People often strive to negotiate low prices for durable goods such a vehicles, homes, and appliances. In this quest they are influenced by psychologically salient reference points such as round number prices (e.g., $10,000). Although round numbers may generate very different purchasing behavior between nearly identical prices (e.g., $9,999 vs $10,000), existing theory does not capture how these price thresholds affect decision making in future negotiations. In this paper we provide a new implication of round-number prices based in the anchoring and adjustment bias - people paying a price just below a round number may sacrifice money because they receive disproportionately lower prices when subsequently reselling the good. An archival study using over 13,000 repeat residential real estate transactions and an experiment support these predictions. The anchoring effect of prior sales prices on subsequent home prices is discontinuous at $10,000 round number thresholds. Real estate buyers who previously paid an amount just under a $10,000 reference point subsequently sell their homes for $2,358 less on average than do buyers who paid at or just above this threshold. Importantly, we show that market mechanisms do not correct this bias, which causes economically significant market distortions. The significantly lower initial listing prices stemming from a prior sales price below a round number is not corrected through subsequent price negotiations and are observable through the final sales price. Finally, we show that these discontinuities are attenuated when sellers or buyers use experienced agents who might more accurately assess the home's true value.

The Location of Maximum Emotion in Deceptive and Truthful Texts
Amir Sepehri, David Markowitz & Rod Duclos
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Meta-analytic evidence suggests that verbal patterns of emotion betray deceit, but it is presently unclear whether the location of maximum emotion in lies and truths matters to reveal deception. We contribute to the deception literature by offering analyses at the sentence level to locate where emotion is most pronounced in deceptive versus truthful texts. Using two public data sets - news articles (Study 1) and hotel reviews (Study 2) - we found that maximum emotion occurs toward the beginning of deceptive texts while maximum emotion appears later for truthful texts. In addition to demonstrating the effect across diverse settings, we used two different measurements for emotion and separated the results by valence, replicating the maximum emotion effect each time. The predictive nature of maximum affect ranged from 54% to 56% across data sets, a rate consistent with most deception studies using 50-50 lie-truth base rates. Implications for future research and deception theory are discussed.

When Do Experts Listen to Other Experts? The Role of Negative Information in Expert Evaluations for Novel Projects
Jacqueline Lane et al.
Harvard Working Paper, July 2020


The evaluation of novel projects lies at the heart of scientific and technological innovation, and yet literature suggests that this process is subject to inconsistency and potential biases. This paper investigates the role of information sharing among experts as the driver of evaluation decisions. We designed and executed two field experiments in two separate grant funding opportunities at a leading research university to explore evaluators' receptivity to assessments from other evaluators. Collectively, our experiments mobilized 369 evaluators from seven universities to evaluate 97 projects resulting in 760 proposal-evaluation pairs and over $300,000 in awards. We exogenously varied two key aspects of information sharing: 1) the intellectual distance between each focal evaluator and the other evaluators and 2) the relative valence (positive and negative) of others' scores, to determine how these treatments affect the focal evaluator's propensity to change the initial score. Although the intellectual similarity treatment did not yield a measurable effect, we found causal evidence of negativity bias, where evaluators are more likely to lower their scores after seeing critical scores than raise them after seeing better scores. Qualitative coding and topic modeling of the evaluators' justifications for score changes reveal that exposures to low scores prompted greater attention to uncovering weaknesses, whereas exposures to neutral or high scores were associated with strengths, along with greater emphasis on non-evaluation criteria, such as confidence in one's judgment. Overall, information sharing among expert evaluators can lead to more conservative allocation decisions that favors protecting against failure than maximizing success.

Offloading information to an external store increases false recall
Xinyi Lu, Megan Kelly & Evan Risko
Cognition, forthcoming


Offloading to-be-remembered information is a ubiquitous memory strategy, yet in relying on external memory stores, our ability to recall from internal memory is often diminished. In the present investigation, we examine how offloading impacts true and false recall. Across three experiments, participants studied and wrote down word lists that were each strongly associated with an unstudied critical word. Recall in the Offloading condition (i.e., when they were told that they would have access to their written lists during recall) was contrasted with a No-Offloading condition (i.e., when they were told that they would not have access to their written lists during recall). We found that offloading decreased true recall of presented words while increasing false recall for unpresented critical words. Results are discussed in terms of offloading's differential effects on the formation of gist and verbatim traces during encoding.

Change Appeals: How Referencing Change Boosts Curiosity and Promotes Persuasion
Daniella Kupor, Jayson Jia & Zakary Tormala
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Does merely referencing that an object or entity has changed affect people's attitudes and intentions toward it? This research investigates the possibility that change references spark curiosity and information seeking, which can have a positive or negative effect on people's evaluations of a target stimulus, depending on the information environment. Seven experiments reveal that referencing that an object or entity has changed decreases perceptions of its longevity, but also sparks curiosity about it - a desire to learn more. This curiosity motivates people to seek information about the object or entity, which can enhance or depress their evaluations depending on whether that information search leads to favorable or unfavorable information. When further information is unavailable, change references appear to have a negative impact on people's evaluations, consistent with well-established longevity biases. This research suggests that change references have an important and generalizable impact on persuasive outcomes and pinpoints the conditions surrounding and processes driving this effect.

Statistical prediction of the future impairs episodic encoding of the present
Brynn Sherman & Nicholas Turk-Browne
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming


Memory is typically thought of as enabling reminiscence about past experiences. However, memory also informs and guides processing of future experiences. These two functions of memory are often at odds: Remembering specific experiences from the past requires storing idiosyncratic properties that define particular moments in space and time, but by definition such properties will not be shared with similar situations in the future and thus may not be applicable to future situations. We discovered that, when faced with this conflict, the brain prioritizes prediction over encoding. Behavioral tests of recognition and source recall showed that items allowing for prediction of what will appear next based on learned regularities were less likely to be encoded into memory. Brain imaging revealed that the hippocampus was responsible for this interference between statistical learning and episodic memory. The more that the hippocampus predicted the category of an upcoming item, the worse the current item was encoded. This competition may serve an adaptive purpose, focusing encoding on experiences for which we do not yet have a predictive model.

Recognizing and Trusting Persuasion Agents: Attitudes Bias Trustworthiness Judgments, but not Persuasion Detection
Tito Grillo & Cristiane Pizzutti
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


People rely on intuitive knowledge about persuasion to cope with persuasion attempts motivated by self-interest. Because this knowledge associates persuasive intent with low trustworthiness, identifying the communicator as an agent with ulterior motives tends to reduce trust in the communicator. Three studies suggest that the extent to which people call on this association to assess a persuasion agent depends on whether the agent's message challenges or reinforces their prior attitudes. Challenged attitudes motivate people to use the negative association between persuasive intent and trustworthiness, whereas reinforced attitudes lead people to neglect it. However, prior attitudes do not affect people's capacity to detect cues of ulterior motives and develop an awareness of the persuasive intent. Thus, recipients of persuasive messages that support their prior beliefs trust persuasion agents despite being aware of the agents' ulterior motives. This seems to be a byproduct of people's motivation to preserve a sense of self-integrity.


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