Kevin Lewis

November 11, 2017

The woman who wasn't there: Converging evidence that subliminal social comparison affects self-evaluation
Armand Chatard et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2017, Pages 1-13


Although social comparison is often considered as an automatic process, the evidence in support of this idea is weak and inconclusive. In this paper, we reexamined the question of automaticity in social comparison by testing the hypothesis that subliminal social comparison affects explicit self-evaluations. In two high-powered experiments, young women were subliminally exposed (or not) to a high standard of comparison (media images of ultra-thin women). Next, they made explicit self-evaluations of their body appearance anxiety. Using both between-participants (Experiment 1) and within-participant (Experiment 2) designs, we found converging evidence that subliminal exposure to the thin ideal increases body appearance anxiety in women. Using Bayes factors as measures of evidence, the present experiments provided substantial (Experiment 1) and very strong (Experiment 2) evidence that social comparison takes place outside awareness and affects explicit self-evaluations. The present experiments can be easily replicated using a standardized procedure (replication script) that is publicly available on the Open Science Framework. We discuss how these findings contribute to reestablish confidence in the modern view of social comparison as an automatic process.

Going against the Flow: The Effects of Dynamic Sensorimotor Experiences on Consumer Choice
Mina Kwon & Rashmi Adaval
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Sensorimotor experiences of going against the flow can affect the choices consumers make. Eight experiments show that consumers who experience the sensation of going against the flow pick alternatives that are normatively not preferred (experiments 1a and 1b). These effects are evident only when the sensations are dynamic and self-experienced (experiments 2a and 2b), subjective feelings are elicited (experiments 4a and 4b) and no other objective, external norm information is supplied (experiment 5). Experiences of going against the flow typically involve both movement and direction and are represented in memory schematically. Re-experiencing these sensations leads to the activation of this schematic representation and elicits a feeling-based behavioral disposition to do something different, or to go against one’s initial inclination (experiment 3), leading participants to pick an option that is normatively not preferred.

Voice-only communication enhances empathic accuracy
Michael Kraus
American Psychologist, July 2017, Pages 644-654


This research tests the prediction that voice-only communication increases empathic accuracy over communication across senses. We theorized that people often intentionally communicate their feelings and internal states through the voice, and as such, voice-only communication allows perceivers to focus their attention on the channel of communication most active and accurate in conveying emotions to others. We used 5 experiments to test this hypothesis (N = 1,772), finding that voice-only communication elicits higher rates of empathic accuracy relative to vision-only and multisense communication both while engaging in interactions and perceiving emotions in recorded interactions of strangers. Experiments 4 and 5 reveal that voice-only communication is particularly likely to enhance empathic accuracy through increasing focused attention on the linguistic and paralinguistic vocal cues that accompany speech. Overall, the studies question the primary role of the face in communication of emotion, and offer new insights for improving emotion recognition accuracy in social interactions.

Noncontact measurement of emotional and physiological changes in heart rate from a webcam
Christopher Madan, Tyler Harrison & Kyle Mathewson
Psychophysiology, forthcoming


Heart rate, measured in beats per minute, can be used as an index of an individual's physiological state. Each time the heart beats, blood is expelled and travels through the body. This blood flow can be detected in the face using a standard webcam that is able to pick up subtle changes in color that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Due to the light absorption spectrum of blood, we are able to detect differences in the amount of light absorbed by the blood traveling just below the skin (i.e., photoplethysmography). By modulating emotional and physiological stress — that is, viewing arousing images and sitting versus standing, respectively — to elicit changes in heart rate, we explored the feasibility of using a webcam as a psychophysiological measurement of autonomic activity. We found a high level of agreement between established physiological measures, electrocardiogram, and blood pulse oximetry, and heart rate estimates obtained from the webcam. We thus suggest webcams can be used as a noninvasive and readily available method for measuring psychophysiological changes, easily integrated into existing stimulus presentation software and hardware setups.

Vegetarian or meat? Food choice modeling of main dishes occurs outside of awareness
Chelsea Christie & Frances Chen
Appetite, February 2018, Pages 50-54


It is well established that the amount eaten by other people affects how much we eat, but unanswered questions exist regarding how much the food choices of other people affect the types of food that we choose. Past research on food choice modeling has primarily been conducted in controlled laboratory situations and has focused on snack foods. The current research examines the extent to which food choice modeling of a main dish occurs in a real-life context and whether people are aware of being influenced by others. The lunch orders of café patrons were surreptitiously tracked and participants were recruited after they paid for their lunch. Participants were asked what they ordered, whether they were influenced by the prior order, and what their relationship was to the person ahead of them in line. We analyzed the data of participants who were not acquainted with the person ahead of them (N = 174). As hypothesized, participants’ main-dish lunch orders matched the choice of the person ordering ahead of them in line at rates significantly higher than chance. A significant modeling effect was observed even among participants who reported that their order was not influenced by the prior order. This research provided evidence of main-dish choice modeling occurring in real-life eating situations and outside of conscious awareness - demonstrating a powerful social influence on eating behaviours.

Perceiving Sophisticated Minds Influences Perceptual Individuation
Steven Almaraz, Kurt Hugenberg & Steven Young
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


In six studies, we investigated how ascribing humanlike versus animallike minds to targets influences how easily targets are individuated. Across the studies, participants learned to discriminate among a variety of “aliens” (actually Greebles). Our initial study showed that participants’ ability to learn to individuate targets was related to beliefs that targets had sophisticated minds. Investigating the directionality of this relationship, we found that learning to better recognize the targets did not affect perceptions of mind (Study 2). However, when targets were described as having sophisticated humanlike (relative to simplistic animallike) mental faculties, perceivers indicated more motivation to individuate (Study 3) and were more successful individuating them (Studies 4 and 5). Finally, we showed that increased self-similarity mediated the relationship between targets’ mental sophistication and perceivers’ motivation to individuate (Study 6). These findings indicate ascribing sophisticated mental faculties to others has implications for how we individuate them.

Is There a Chastity Belt on Perception?
Jessica Witt, Nathan Tenhundfeld & Michael Tymoski
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Can one’s ability to perform an action, such as hitting a softball, influence one’s perception? According to the action-specific account, perception of spatial layout is influenced by the perceiver’s abilities to perform an intended action. Alternative accounts posit that purported effects are instead due to nonperceptual processes, such as response bias. Despite much confirmatory research on both sides of the debate, researchers who promote a response-bias account have never used the Pong task, which has yielded one of the most robust action-specific effects. Conversely, researchers who promote a perceptual account have rarely used the opposition’s preferred test for response bias, namely, the postexperiment survey. The current experiments rectified this. We found that even for people naive to the experiment’s hypothesis, the ability to block a moving ball affected the ball’s perceived speed. Moreover, when participants were explicitly told the hypothesis and instructed to resist the influence of their ability to block the ball, their ability still affected their perception of the ball’s speed.


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