Kevin Lewis

February 22, 2020

So difficult to smile: Why unhappy people avoid enjoyable activities
Hao Shen, Aparna Labroo & Robert Wyer
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Engaging in an enjoyable activity is often effective in reducing or eliminating a negative mood. However, imagining this activity before deciding whether to perform it can decrease unhappy people's willingness to engage in it. The facial expression that accompanies a negative mood (and the muscles activated by the expression) can conflict with the expression that is elicited by imagining the performance of an enjoyable activity, evoking subjective feelings of difficulty of imagining it. Unhappy people misattribute these feelings of difficulty to the enjoyable activity itself, decreasing their desire to engage in the activity. The effects of metacognitive difficulty are eliminated when (a) unhappy people attribute difficulty to something other than the enjoyable activity and (b) focus their attention on the outcome of the activity rather than the process of engaging in it. Moreover, when an irrelevant factor activates smile-related features while performing the activity, the experience of difficulty is attenuated and its effect on aversion to the activity is not apparent. In contrast, unhappy people also find it easy to imagine an unenjoyable activity and consequently evaluate it more favorably after imagining it. Seven studies demonstrated the role of these metacognitive experiences and their implications for research on affect regulation.

Embodied Capital and Risk-Related Traits, Attitudes, Behaviors, and Outcomes: An Exploratory Examination of Attractiveness, Cognitive Ability, and Physical Ability
Nabhan Refaie & Sandeep Mishra
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


The relative state model posits two nonindependent pathways to risk. The need-based pathway suggests people take risks when nonrisky options are unlikely to meet their needs. The ability-based pathway suggests people take risks when they possess resources or abilities making them more capable of successfully "pulling off" risk-taking. Growing laboratory and field evidence supports need-based risk-taking. However, little is known about ability-based risk-taking. We examined whether three indicators of embodied capital (attractiveness, cognitive ability, and physical dexterity) were associated with risk-related personality traits, risk-attitudes, behavioral risk-taking, and outcomes associated with risk-taking. Among 328 community members recruited to maximize variance on risk-propensity, we demonstrate that embodied capital indices predict various instantiations of risk-propensity consistent with the relative state model.

From Cradle to Grave: How Childhood and Current Environments Impact Consumers' Subjective Life Expectancy and Decision Making
Chiraag Mittal, Vladas Griskevicius & Kelly Haws
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


The age to which people expect to live likely drives many important consumer decisions. Yet, we know surprisingly little about the antecedents and consequences of consumers' subjective life expectancies. In the present work, we propose that subjective life expectancy is influenced by the combination of people's childhood environment and their current environment. We find that people who grew up in poorer environments expected to have a shorter lifespan compared to people who grew up in richer environments when faced with a current stressor. We document that experiencing a stressor leads people from resource-poor childhoods to believe they will die sooner because they respond to stressors in a more pessimistic way. We further show that subjective life expectancy is an important psychological mechanism that directly contributes to multiple consumer decisions, including desire for long-term care insurance, decisions about retirement savings, and preference for long-term bonds. Overall, the present work opens future research avenues by showing how, why, and when subjective life expectancy influences consumer behavior.

Effects of Restricting Social Media Usage
Avinash Collis & Felix Eggers
MIT Working Paper, January 2020


Recent research has shown that social media services create large consumer surplus. Despite their positive impact on economic welfare, concerns are raised about the negative association between social media usage and performance or well-being. However, causal empirical evidence is still scarce. To address this research gap, we conduct a randomized controlled trial among students in which we track participants' digital activities over the course of three quarters of an academic year. In the experiment, we randomly allocate half of the sample to a treatment condition in which social media usage is restricted to a maximum of 10 minutes per day. We find that participants in the treatment group substitute social media for instant messaging and do not decrease their total time spent on digital devices. Contrary to findings from previous correlational studies, we do not find any impact of social media usage on well-being and academic success. Our results also suggest that antitrust authorities should consider instant messaging and social media services as direct competitors before approving acquisitions.

Examining How Testosterone and Cortisol Influence the Relationship Between Strain, Negative Emotions, and Antisocial Behavior: A Gendered Analysis
Eric Cooke et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming


This study provides a test of General Strain Theory by examining the relations between strain, negative emotions, and biological hormones in the prediction of antisocial behavior across gender. Findings from a diverse sample of 512 undergraduate students reveal that strain and the ratio between testosterone to cortisol reactivity are associated with higher levels of antisocial behavior in males, but not females. In contrast, the effect of depressive symptoms on antisocial behavior is stronger at higher levels of strain and ratio of testosterone to cortisol reactivity in females. Drug use and depressive symptoms were found to partly mediate the association between strain and antisocial behavior in females, but not males.


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