Sixth sense

Kevin Lewis

March 22, 2015

The Cold Heart: Reminders of Money Cause Feelings of Physical Coldness

Leonie Reutner, Jochim Hansen & Rainer Greifeneder
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Mere reminders of money have been shown to cause socially “cold” behavior. Recent research suggests that the metaphor of “social coldness” is bodily grounded and thus linked to actual sensations of physical coldness. We therefore hypothesized that reminding individuals of money causes them to feel physically colder. This hypothesis was put to test in two studies, drawing on predictions from psychophysiological thermal perception. In Study 1, individuals who had been reminded of money perceived the air in the room as colder compared to a control group (an assimilation effect). Contrarily, in Study 2, they perceived water (a medium that was only momentarily experienced) as warmer compared to individuals not reminded of money (a contrast effect). Together these findings demonstrate that reminders of money cause sensations of actual physical coldness and add to the literature of both the psychological effects of money and human thermal perception.


Beating Their Chests: University Students With ADHD Demonstrate Greater Attentional Abilities on an Inattentional Blindness Paradigm

Ephraim Grossman et al.
Neuropsychology, forthcoming

Objective: Adults diagnosed with attentional deficit disorder (ADHD) are easily distracted in many tasks. Yet ADHD performance on inattentional blindness (IB) tasks has not been examined. Such investigation may aid in discriminating between 3 ADHD models: the neurological model, the perceptual load theory, and the “hunter versus farmer” hypothesis.

Method: Distractibility was assessed in ADHD and non-ADHD college students using the MOXO task that involves detection of a single attended stimulus that repeatedly appears in the same place and in the well-known IB “gorilla” video which involves tracking of a stimulus moving at a fast pace in a dynamic, complex manner.

Results: ADHD college students showed increased distractibility in the MOXO task. By contrast, they performed better than controls in the attended channel of the IB task, while they were also better at noticing the unattended stimuli and thus exhibiting little-to-no inattentional blindness.

Conclusions: As no attentional tradeoffs were evident in the IB task, it appears that the results are most consistent with the “hunter versus farmer” hypothesis, which postulates that ADHD individuals have an alternative cognitive style which is less equipped to deal with detection of repeated stimuli while comprising advantages in the tracking of stimuli moving in a fast dynamic manner.


The Sound of Intellect: Speech Reveals a Thoughtful Mind, Increasing a Job Candidate’s Appeal

Juliana Schroeder & Nicholas Epley
Psychological Science, forthcoming

A person’s mental capacities, such as intellect, cannot be observed directly and so are instead inferred from indirect cues. We predicted that a person’s intellect would be conveyed most strongly through a cue closely tied to actual thinking: his or her voice. Hypothetical employers (Experiments 1-3b) and professional recruiters (Experiment 4) watched, listened, or read job candidates’ pitches about why they should be hired. Evaluators rated the candidates as more competent, thoughtful, and intelligent when they heard the pitch than when they read it and, as a result, liked the candidate more and were more interested in hiring the candidate. Adding voice to written pitches, by having trained actors (Experiment 3a) or untrained adults (Experiment 3b) read them, replicated these results. Adding visual cues through video did not influence evaluations beyond the candidate's voice. When conveying one’s intellect, it is important for one's voice, quite literally, to be heard.


Science fiction reduces the eeriness of android robots: A field experiment

Martina Mara & Markus Appel
Computers in Human Behavior, July 2015, Pages 156–162

As suggested by the uncanny valley hypothesis, robots that resemble humans likely elicit feelings of eeriness. Based on the psychological model of meaning maintenance, we expected that the uncanny valley experience could be mitigated through a fictional story, due to the meaning-generating function of narratives. A field experiment was conducted, in which 75 participants interacted with the humanlike robot Telenoid. Prior to the interaction, they either read a short story, a non-narrative leaflet about the robot, or they received no preliminary information. Eeriness ratings were significantly lower in the science fiction condition than in both other conditions. This effect was mediated by higher perceived human-likeness of the robot. Our findings suggest that science fiction may provide meaning for otherwise unsettling future technologies.


Your kid could not have done that: Even untutored observers can discern intentionality and structure in abstract expressionist art

Leslie Snapper et al.
Cognition, April 2015, Pages 154–165

Can people with no special knowledge about art detect the skill, intentionality, and expressed meanings in non-representational art? Hawley-Dolan and Winner (2011) showed participants without training in art images of abstract expressionist paintings paired with superficially similar works by children or animals and asked them which they preferred and which was a better work of art. Participants selected the works by artists in response to both questions at a rate above chance. In Study 1, we used the same image pairs but asked a more direct question: which painting is by the artist rather than the child or animal? Individuals with no familiarity with abstract expressionism correctly identified the artists’ works at a rate significantly above chance. In Study 2 participants saw each image singly and were asked whether it was by an artist or a child or animal. Participants unfamiliar with abstract expressionism again correctly identified the source of the works at a rate above chance. Study 3 demonstrated that this discrimination is made on the basis of perceived intentionality and perceived structure. People see more than they think they do in abstract art. These findings tell us something about the nature of non-figurative art. They also tell us something about the human tendency to ferret out intentionality.


The Apple of the mind's eye: Everyday attention, metamemory, and reconstructive memory for the Apple logo

Adam Blake, Meenely Nazarian & Alan Castel
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, forthcoming

People are regularly bombarded with logos in an attempt to improve brand recognition, and logos are often designed with the central purpose of memorability. The ubiquitous Apple logo is a simple design and is often referred to as one of the most recognizable logos in the world. The present study examined recall and recognition for this simple and pervasive logo and to what degree metamemory (confidence judgements) match memory performance. Participants showed surprisingly poor memory for the details of the logo as measured through recall (drawings) and forced-choice recognition. Only 1 participant out of 85 correctly recalled the Apple logo, and fewer than half of all participants correctly identified the logo. Importantly, participants indicated higher levels of confidence for both recall and recognition, and this overconfidence was reduced if participants made the judgements after, rather than before, drawing the logo. The general findings did not differ between Apple and PC users. The results provide novel support for theories of attentional saturation, inattentional amnesia, and reconstructive memory; additionally they show how an availability heuristic can lead to overconfidence in memory for logos.


The Sweet Taste of Gratitude: Feeling Grateful Increases Choice and Consumption of Sweets

Ann Schlosser
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Gratitude is a positive emotion experienced when a positive outcome is attributed to others. Though often regarded as a virtuous emotion, I argue that gratitude may have sweet side effects. Specifically, because gratitude involves acknowledging benefits received from the kind (or metaphorically sweet) actions of another, individuals may infer that they must be deserving of sweetness. As a result, they prefer foods with congruent — or sweet rather than nonsweet — tastes. If gratitude causes individuals to prefer sweets because they infer that they must be deserving of sweetness,, then the effect should be strongest among those most likely to infer from a sweet act that they deserve sweetness, such as those who are psychologically connected to others (i.e., primed with interdependence or shared attributes). The results of six studies support these predictions. In particular, individuals selected more sweets and fewer non-sweet foods when primed to feel grateful than proud, a positive emotion experienced by attributing a positive outcome to the self. Furthermore, moderation and mediation support the cognition of deserving sweetness as the underlying mechanism.


I think therefore I am: Rest-related prefrontal cortex neural activity is involved in generating the sense of self

M. Gruberger et al.
Consciousness and Cognition, May 2015, Pages 414–421

The sense of self has always been a major focus in the psychophysical debate. It has been argued that this complex ongoing internal sense cannot be explained by any physical measure and therefore substantiates a mind-body differentiation. Recently, however, neuro-imaging studies have associated self-referential spontaneous thought, a core-element of the ongoing sense of self, with synchronous neural activations during rest in the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), as well as the medial and lateral parietal cortices. By applying deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over human PFC before rest, we disrupted activity in this neural circuitry thereby inducing reports of lowered self-awareness and strong feelings of dissociation. This effect was not found with standard or sham TMS, or when stimulation was followed by a task instead of rest. These findings demonstrate for the first time a critical, causal role of intact rest-related PFC activity patterns in enabling integrated, enduring, self-referential mental processing.


The Long and Winding Road to Uncertainty: The Link between Spatial Distance and Feelings of Uncertainty

Tina Glaser, Joshua Lewandowski & Jessica Düsing
PLoS ONE, March 2015

Construal Level Theory (CLT) defines psychological distance as any object, event, or person that cannot be experienced by the self in the here and now. The goal of the present research was to demonstrate that feelings of uncertainty are closely linked to the concept of psychological distance. Two experiments tested the assumption that spatial distance and uncertainty are bidirectionally related. In the first experiment, we show that perceived spatial distance leads to a feeling of uncertainty. The second experiment revealed that a feeling of uncertainty leads to a perception of greater distance. By demonstrating that distance is closely tied to uncertainty, the present research extends previous research on both distance and uncertainty by incorporating previously unexplained findings within CLT. Implications of these findings such as the role of uncertainty within CLT are discussed.


Breakdown of the brain’s functional network modularity with awareness

Douglass Godwin, Robert Barry & René Marois
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Neurobiological theories of awareness propose divergent accounts of the spatial extent of brain changes that support conscious perception. Whereas focal theories posit mostly local regional changes, global theories propose that awareness emerges from the propagation of neural signals across a broad extent of sensory and association cortex. Here we tested the scalar extent of brain changes associated with awareness using graph theoretical analysis applied to functional connectivity data acquired at ultra-high field while subjects performed a simple masked target detection task. We found that awareness of a visual target is associated with a degradation of the modularity of the brain’s functional networks brought about by an increase in intermodular functional connectivity. These results provide compelling evidence that awareness is associated with truly global changes in the brain’s functional connectivity.


Decreased interoceptive accuracy following social exclusion

Caroline Durlik & Manos Tsakiris
International Journal of Psychophysiology, forthcoming

The need for social affiliation is one of the most important and fundamental human needs. Unsurprisingly, humans display strong negative reactions to social exclusion. In the present study, we investigated the effect of social exclusion on interoceptive accuracy – accuracy in detecting signals arising inside the body – measured with a heartbeat perception task. We manipulated exclusion using Cyberball, a widely used paradigm of a virtual ball-tossing game, with half of the participants being included during the game and the other half of participants being ostracized during the game. Our results indicated that heartbeat perception accuracy decreased in the excluded, but not in the included participants. We discuss these results in the context of the social and physical pain overlap, as well as in relation to internally versus externally oriented attention.


Red, Purple and Pink: The Colors of Diffusion on Pinterest

Saeideh Bakhshi
PLoS ONE, February 2015

Many lab studies have shown that colors can evoke powerful emotions and impact human behavior. Might these phenomena drive how we act online? A key research challenge for image-sharing communities is uncovering the mechanisms by which content spreads through the community. In this paper, we investigate whether there is link between color and diffusion. Drawing on a corpus of one million images crawled from Pinterest, we find that color significantly impacts the diffusion of images and adoption of content on image sharing communities such as Pinterest, even after partially controlling for network structure and activity. Specifically, Red, Purple and pink seem to promote diffusion, while Green, Blue, Black and Yellow suppress it. To our knowledge, our study is the first to investigate how colors relate to online user behavior. In addition to contributing to the research conversation surrounding diffusion, these findings suggest future work using sophisticated computer vision techniques. We conclude with a discussion on the theoretical, practical and design implications suggested by this work — e.g. design of engaging image filters.


The Uncanny Valley: The Effects of Rotoscope Animation on Motivational Processing of Depression Drug Messages

Russell Clayton & Glenn Leshner
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Winter 2015, Pages 57-75

The purpose of this study was to investigate how rotoscope animation affects cognitive and emotional processing of depression drug ads. A 2 (animation) × 2 (position of tone) × 4 (message) experiment was conducted. Participants (N = 100) viewed 4, 90-s messages. STRTs (secondary task reaction times) and self-report of emotional responses were collected. Participants also completed an audio recognition task following each message. Among the key findings from this study were that participants in the animated condition showed signs of cognitive withdrawal and descent into a defensive cascade reflective of increasingly fast STRTs and poor encoding of drug side effects.


Epigenetic modification of the oxytocin receptor gene influences the perception of anger and fear in the human brain

Meghan Puglia et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 March 2015, Pages 3308–3313

In humans, the neuropeptide oxytocin plays a critical role in social and emotional behavior. The actions of this molecule are dependent on a protein that acts as its receptor, which is encoded by the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). DNA methylation of OXTR, an epigenetic modification, directly influences gene transcription and is variable in humans. However, the impact of this variability on specific social behaviors is unknown. We hypothesized that variability in OXTR methylation impacts social perceptual processes often linked with oxytocin, such as perception of facial emotions. Using an imaging epigenetic approach, we established a relationship between OXTR methylation and neural activity in response to emotional face processing. Specifically, high levels of OXTR methylation were associated with greater amounts of activity in regions associated with face and emotion processing including amygdala, fusiform, and insula. Importantly, we found that these higher levels of OXTR methylation were also associated with decreased functional coupling of amygdala with regions involved in affect appraisal and emotion regulation. These data indicate that the human endogenous oxytocin system is involved in attenuation of the fear response, corroborating research implicating intranasal oxytocin in the same processes. Our findings highlight the importance of including epigenetic mechanisms in the description of the endogenous oxytocin system and further support a central role for oxytocin in social cognition. This approach linking epigenetic variability with neural endophenotypes may broadly explain individual differences in phenotype including susceptibility or resilience to disease.


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