Sense of Reality

Kevin Lewis

March 19, 2022

Supernatural Sociology: Americans' Beliefs by Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Education
Tony Silva & Ashley Woody
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, March 2022

The authors analyze the 2020-2021 Chapman University Survey of American Fears (n = 1,035), the most recent nationally representative survey to examine fears of and beliefs about supernatural and paranormal phenomena, including ghosts, hauntings, zombies, psychics, telekinesis, Bigfoot or Sasquatch, Atlantis, and extraterrestrial visitation. This research examines how supernatural beliefs vary by race/ethnicity, gender, and education after adjustment for other demographic characteristics and religiosity. There were five gender differences, such that women were more likely than men to believe in or fear all nonmaterial or spiritual supernatural phenomena, as well as Atlantis. People with a bachelor's degree or higher were less likely to believe in extraterrestrial visitation, hauntings, Bigfoot or Sasquatch, and Atlantis. There were also six beliefs and fears for which racial/ethnic differences emerged. The results highlight how gender, education, and race/ethnicity are strongly related to complex belief systems, including supernatural phenomena. 

AI-synthesized faces are indistinguishable from real faces and more trustworthy
Sophie Nightingale & Hany Farid
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 22 February 2022

Artificial intelligence (AI)-synthesized text, audio, image, and video are being weaponized for the purposes of nonconsensual intimate imagery, financial fraud, and disinformation campaigns. Our evaluation of the photorealism of AI-synthesized faces indicates that synthesis engines have passed through the uncanny valley and are capable of creating faces that are indistinguishable -- and more trustworthy -- than real faces. 

Culture-free perceptual invariant for trustworthiness
Ce Mo et al.
PLoS ONE, February 2022

Humans beings decide to trust others selectively, often based on the appearance of a face. But how do observers deal with the wide variety of facial morphologies and, in particular, those outside their own familiar cultural group? Using reverse correlation, a data-driven approach to explore how individuals create internal representations without external biases, we studied the generation of trustworthy faces by French and Chinese participants (N = 160) within and outside their own cultural group. Participants selected the most trustworthy or attractive (control condition) face from two identical European or Asian descent faces that had been modified by different noise masks. A conjunction analysis to reveal facial features common to both cultures showed that Chinese and French participants unconsciously increased the contrast of the "pupil-iris area" to make the face appear more trustworthy. No significant effects common to both groups were found for the attraction condition suggesting that attraction judgements are dependent on cultural processes. These results suggest the presence of universal cross-cultural mechanisms for the construction of implicit first impressions of trust, and highlight the importance of the eyes area in this process.

Safe and Sound: The Effects of Experimentally Priming the Sense of Attachment Security on Pure-Tone Audiometric Thresholds Among Young and Older Adults 
Shir Nagar et al.
Psychological Science, March 2022, Pages 424-432

Attachment security has consistently been found to correlate with relaxed exploration, openness, and mindful attention to incoming information. The present studies explored whether contextually infusing a sense of attachment security (security priming) can improve hearing in young and older adults. In Study 1, participants (29 young, 30 older) performed a standardized pure-tone audiometric-thresholds test twice. In the security-priming condition, a picture of a participant's security-enhancing figure was presented throughout the task. In the control condition, a picture of an unknown person (matched in sex, age, and facial expression) was used as a neutral prime. Study 2 (14 young, 14 older) was almost identical, except that it was preregistered and the neutral prime was a circle. In both studies, participants performed better (had lower hearing thresholds) in the security-priming condition. The current study is the first to show that attachment security improves sensory perception, and these results have meaningful implications for theory and clinical hearing tests. 

"I" am more concrete than "we": Linguistic abstraction and first-person pronoun usage
Yidan Yin, Cheryl Wakslak & Priyanka Joshi
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

There has been much discussion around when people use "I" versus "we" pronouns, and abstract versus concrete communications, as well as how each of these can shape communication effectiveness. In the current research we bring together these separate research streams. Drawing on research arguing that abstract and concrete language are linked with communicative scope, we argue for an association between linguistic abstractness and personal pronoun usage. Across three archival data sets and two experiments, we find support for this association: Speakers who use more concrete language also use more first person singular (vs. plural) pronouns. In two follow-up studies we further find that this association can impact message effectiveness, such that using more first person singular than plural pronouns is increasingly ineffective when using abstract rather than concrete language, and using more concrete language is increasingly effective when using first-person singular rather than plural pronouns. By illustrating the link between linguistic abstraction and pronoun use, we offer insights into previously documented phenomena and suggest a key way of enhancing communication effectiveness.


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