Social science

Kevin Lewis

October 22, 2017

A Candid Advantage? The Social Benefits of Candid Photos
Jonah Berger & Alixandra Barasch
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Photos are a ubiquitous mode of social communication. Analysis of thousands of online profiles finds that people overwhelmingly post posed photos of themselves. But might candids actually lead observers to react more favorably? Five studies test this possibility. Compared to posed photos, candids made observers feel more connected to the poster, feel more interested in getting to know or date them, and like them more. This was driven by candids making people seem more genuine, which made others react more favorably. Furthermore, consistent with the hypothesized role of genuineness, the benefits of candids were diminished when observers learned that the poster realized their photo was being taken. These finding highlight the role of authenticity in person perception and a potential disconnect between photo posters and viewers. Although posters seem to post mostly posed photos, observers may prefer candids because they provide a more authentic sense of who the poster really is.

Sharing Extraordinary Experiences Fosters Feelings of Closeness
Kate Min, Peggy Liu & Soo Kim
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Every social relationship begins somewhere. Yet, little is known about which initial encounters bring people closer. This article investigates whether feelings of closeness are shaped by the type of experience shared between two individuals. Using different procedures and stimuli, we find that one determining factor is whether unacquainted individuals initially share a relatively more ordinary or extraordinary experience: more extraordinary (vs. ordinary) experiences facilitate greater closeness between unacquainted individuals (Studies 1a-1c). We also find that this closeness-fostering effect does not occur for interactions between well-acquainted individuals (Study 2), when there is presumably little discomfort associated with the interaction. Furthermore, this effect appears to be driven by more extraordinary experiences’ capacity to absorb individuals’ attention (Study 3). Thus, we suggest that extraordinary experiences foster feelings of closeness because they direct unacquainted individuals’ attention toward the extraordinariness of the experience and away from the discomfort of initial interactions.

Gossiping About Deviance: Evidence That Deviance Spurs the Gossip That Builds Bonds
Kim Peters et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


We propose that the gossip that is triggered when people witness behaviors that deviate from social norms builds social bonds. To test this possibility, we showed dyads of unacquainted students a short video of everyday campus life that either did or did not include an incident of negative or positive deviance (dropping or cleaning up litter). Study 1 showed that participants in the deviance conditions reported having a greater understanding of campus social norms than those in the control condition; they also expressed a greater desire to gossip about the video. Study 2 found that when given the opportunity, participants did gossip about the deviance, and this gossip was associated with increased norm clarification and (indirectly) social cohesion. These findings suggest that gossip may be a mechanism through which deviance can have positive downstream social consequences.

How Do Friends and Strangers Play the Game Taboo? A Study of Accuracy, Efficiency, Motivation, and the Use of Shared Knowledge
Monique Pollmann & Emiel Krahmer
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming


According to common belief, friends communicate more accurately and efficiently than strangers, because they can use uniquely shared knowledge and common knowledge to explain things to each other, while strangers are restricted to common knowledge. To test this belief, we asked friends and strangers to play, via e-mail and face-to-face, the word-description game Taboo, in which objects need to be described without using certain “taboo” words. When descriptions were sent via e-mail, there was no difference in accuracy (number of correct answers) nor in efficiency (number of words per correct answer) between friends and strangers. When descriptions were given face-to-face, friends were more accurate than strangers, but not more efficient (number of seconds and words per correct answer). Shared knowledge did not predict accuracy or efficiency. Hence, our findings do not support the idea that friends only need a few words to understand each other.

Reduced Laughter Contagion in Boys at Risk for Psychopathy
Elizabeth O’Nions et al.
Current Biology, 9 October 2017, Pages 3049-3055


Humans are intrinsically social animals, forming enduring affiliative bonds. However, a striking minority with psychopathic traits, who present with violent and antisocial behaviors, tend to value other people only insofar as they contribute to their own advancement. Extant research has addressed the neurocognitive processes associated with aggression in such individuals, but we know remarkably little about processes underlying their atypical social affiliation. This is surprising, given the importance of affiliation and bonding in promoting social order and reducing aggression. Human laughter engages brain areas that facilitate social reciprocity and emotional resonance, consistent with its established role in promoting affiliation and social cohesion. We show that, compared with typically developing boys, those at risk for antisocial behavior in general (irrespective of their risk of psychopathy) display reduced neural response to laughter in the supplementary motor area, a premotor region thought to facilitate motor readiness to join in during social behavior. Those at highest risk for developing psychopathy additionally show reduced neural responses to laughter in the anterior insula. This region is implicated in auditory-motor processing and in linking action tendencies with emotional experience and subjective feelings. Furthermore, this same group reports reduced desire to join in with the laughter of others — a behavioral profile in part accounted for by the attenuated anterior insula response. These findings suggest that atypical processing of laughter could represent a novel mechanism that impoverishes social relationships and increases risk for psychopathy and antisocial behavior.

The soothing function of touch: Affective touch reduces feelings of social exclusion
Mariana von Mohr, Louise Kirsch & Aikaterini Fotopoulou
Scientific Reports, October 2017


The mammalian need for social proximity, attachment and belonging may have an adaptive and evolutionary value in terms of survival and reproductive success. Consequently, ostracism may induce strong negative feelings of social exclusion. Recent studies suggest that slow, affective touch, which is mediated by a separate, specific C tactile neurophysiological system than faster, neutral touch, modulates the perception of physical pain. However, it remains unknown whether slow, affective touch, can also reduce feelings of social exclusion, a form of social pain. Here, we employed a social exclusion paradigm, namely the Cyberball task (N = 84), to examine whether the administration of slow, affective touch may reduce the negative feelings of ostracism induced by the social exclusion manipulations of the Cyberball task. As predicted, the provision of slow-affective, as compared to fast-neutral, touch led to a specific decrease in feelings of social exclusion, beyond general mood effects. These findings point to the soothing function of slow, affective touch, particularly in the context of social separation or rejection, and suggest a specific relation between affective touch and social bonding.

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