Findings

The Right Crowd

Kevin Lewis

June 02, 2020

Frustration-affirmation? Thwarted goals motivate compliance with social norms for violence and nonviolence
Pontus Leander et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

When thwarted goals increase endorsement of violence, it may not always reflect antisocial tendencies or some breakdown of self-regulation per se; such responses can also reflect an active process of self-regulation, whose purpose is to comply with the norms of one's social environment. In the present experiments (total N = 2,145), the causal link between thwarted goals and endorsement of violent means (guns and war) was found to be contingent on perceptions that violence is normatively valued. Experiments 1-3 establish that thwarted goals increase endorsement of violence primarily among U.S. adults of a lower educational background and/or men who endorse a masculine honor culture. Experiment 4 manipulates the perceived normative consensus of college educated Americans, and demonstrates that thwarted goals increase college educated Americans' endorsement of whatever norm is salient: prowar or antiwar. Generalizing the model beyond violent means, Experiment 5 demonstrates that goal-thwarted Europeans report increased willingness to volunteer for refugee support activities if they perceive strong social norms to volunteer. Altogether, these findings support a frustration-affirmation model rather than frustration-aggression, whereby thwarted goals increase compliance with perceived norms for behavior, which can increase endorsement of violent means such as guns and war, but also nonviolent charitable actions.


Perceiving a Lack of Social Justice: Lower Class Individuals Apply Higher Moral Standards to Others
Xue Wang et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Four studies (N = 1,151) examined whether people with lower subjective social classes would be more likely to apply higher moral standards to others than to themselves. With participants from mainland China, Hong Kong, and the United States, we found that people of lower measured or manipulated subjective social classes accepted others' hypothetical transgressions less than their own transgressions (Studies 1 and 4), and they claimed others should allocate more money to their partners in a dictator game than they themselves did (Studies 2 and 3). This effect was mediated by perceived injustice (Study 3) and eliminated when the perceived social justice was boosted (Study 4). Higher class individuals did not show such discrepant self-other moral standards. A mini meta-analysis validates the reliability of the findings that only lower class individuals demonstrate double moral standards. Therefore, lower class individuals may increase moral requirements on others as a reaction to their perceived unjust disadvantages.


Preferences for power
Elena Pikulina & Chloe Tergiman
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:

Power - the ability to determine the outcomes of others - usually comes with various benefits: higher compensation, public recognition, etc. We develop a new game, the Power Game, to demonstrate that a substantial fraction of individuals enjoy the intrinsic value of power: they accept lower payoffs in exchange for power over others, without any benefits to themselves. These preferences exist independently of other components of decision rights, cannot be explained by social preferences and are not driven by mistakes, confusion or signaling intentions. We further show that valuation of power (i) is higher when individuals directly determine outcomes of others; (ii) depends on how much discretion one has over those outcomes; and (iii) is tied to relationships between individuals. We establish that ignoring preferences for power may have large welfare implications and, consequently, should be included in the study of political systems and labor contracts.


The origins of criminal law
Daniel Sznycer & Carlton Patrick
Nature Human Behaviour, May 2020, Pages 506-516

Abstract:

Laws against wrongdoing may originate in justice intuitions that are part of universal human nature, according to the adaptationist theory of the origins of criminal law. This theory proposes that laws can be traced to neurocognitive mechanisms and ancestral selection pressures. According to this theory, laypeople can intuitively recreate the laws of familiar and unfamiliar cultures, even when they lack the relevant explicit knowledge. Here, to evaluate this prediction, we conduct experiments with Chinese and Sumerian laws that are millennia old; stimuli that preserve in fossil-like form the legal thinking of ancient lawmakers. We show that laypeople's justice intuitions closely match the logic and content of those archaic laws. We also show covariation across different types of justice intuitions: interpersonal devaluation of offenders, judgements of moral wrongness, mock-legislated punishments and perpetrator shame - suggesting that multiple justice intuitions may be regulated by a common social-evaluative psychology. Although alternative explanations of these findings are possible, we argue that they are consistent with the assumption that the origin of criminal law is a cognitively sophisticated human nature.


Victims, Vignettes, and Videos: Meta-Analytic and Experimental Evidence That Emotional Impact Enhances the Derogation of Innocent Victims
Rael Dawtry et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Review, forthcoming

Abstract:

Research during the 1960s found that observers could be moved enough by an innocent victim's suffering to derogate their character. However, recent research has produced inconsistent evidence for this effect. We conducted the first meta-analysis (k = 55) of the experimental literature on the victim derogation effect to test the hypothesis that it varies as a function of the emotional impactfulness of the context for observers. We found that studies which employed more impactful contexts (e.g., that were real and vivid) reported larger derogation effects. Emotional impact was, however, confounded by year of appearance, such that older studies reported larger effects and were more impactful. To disentangle the role of emotional impact, in two primary experiments we found that more impactful contexts increased the derogation of an innocent victim. Overall, the findings advance our theoretical understanding of the contexts in which observers are more likely to derogate an innocent victim.


Demeaning: Dehumanizing others by minimizing the importance of their psychological needs
Juliana Schroeder & Nicholas Epley
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

We document a tendency to demean others' needs: believing that psychological needs - those requiring mental capacity, and hence more uniquely human (e.g., need for meaning and autonomy) - are relatively less important to others compared with physical needs - those shared with other biological agents, and hence more animalistic (e.g., need for food and sleep). Because valuing psychological needs requires a sophisticated humanlike mind, agents presumed to have relatively weaker mental capacities should also be presumed to value psychological needs less compared with biological needs. Supporting this, our studies found that people demeaned the needs of nonhuman animals (e.g., chimpanzees) and historically dehumanized groups (e.g., drug addicts) more than the needs of close friends or oneself (Studies 1 and 3). Because mental capacities are more readily recognized through introspection than by external observation, people also demean peers' needs more than their own, inferring that one's own behavior is guided more strongly by psychological needs than identical behavior in others (Study 4). Two additional experiments suggest that demeaning could be a systematic error (Studies 5 and 6), as charity donors and students underestimated the importance of homeless people's psychological (vs. physical) needs compared with self-reports and choices from homeless people. Underestimating the importance of others' psychological needs could impair the ability to help others. These experiments indicate that demeaning is a unique facet of dehumanization reflecting a reliable, consequential, and potentially mistaken understanding of others' minds.


Beliefs about human nature as good versus evil influence intergroup attitudes and values
Idhamsyah Eka Putra, Maggie Campbell-Obaid & Christiany Suwartono
Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

In 4 studies (Ns = 392, 199, 138, and 308), we address whether priming people with the idea that human nature is good (vs. evil or neither good nor evil) can lead them to see outgroups more positively. The first 3 experiments showed that priming a positive spin on human nature influenced people to see others more positively and to endorse more prosocial values. Across all 4 studies, results demonstrated that the more participants believed that human nature is good, the more they viewed a specific outgroup's nature as good, and the more they saw all people as sharing a common human identity. These studies support the idea that a positive view of human nature can aid in rehumanizing outgroup members as well as supporting general altruism (i.e. prosocial values) and cultural diversity.


The Relationship Between System Justification and Perspective-Taking and Empathy
Zheng Li & John Edwards
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:

Four studies tested the hypotheses that system-justifying beliefs will be negatively associated with perspective-taking (PT) and empathic concern (EC) and this negative relationship will be exacerbated when system-justifying people encounter information that challenges system-justifying stereotypes. System justification and PT and EC were negatively associated at the dispositional level (Study 1). Experimentally increased PT decreased system justification through increased EC (Study 2) whereas experimentally increased system justification decreased PT and EC (Study 3). Moderation analyses indicated that when exposed to status-quo-inconsistent information (e.g., a Black vs. White person and/or a woman vs. man of high socioeconomic status), system-endorsing people were less likely to engage in PT (Study 4). There was no effect of system justification on actual helping behavior.


Blame It on the Self-Driving Car: How Autonomous Vehicles Can Alter Consumer Morality
Tripat Gill
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are expected to soon replace human drivers and promise substantial benefits to society. Yet, consumers remain skeptical about handing over control to an AV. Partly due to the uncertainty about the appropriate moral norms for such vehicles (e.g., should AVs protect the passenger or the pedestrian if harm is unavoidable?). Building on recent work on AV morality, the current research examined how people resolve the dilemma between protecting self versus a pedestrian, and what they expect an AV to do in a similar situation. Five studies revealed that participants considered harm to a pedestrian more permissible with an AV as compared to self as the decision agent in a regular car. This shift in moral judgments was driven by the attribution of responsibility to the AV and was observed for both severe and moderate harm, and when harm was real or imagined. However, the effect was attenuated when five pedestrians or a child could be harmed. These findings suggest that AVs can change prevailing moral norms and promote an increased self-interest among consumers. This has relevance for the design and policy issues related to AVs. It also highlights the moral implications of autonomous agents replacing human decision-makers.


Moral cleansing as hypocrisy: When private acts of charity make you feel better than you deserve
Kieran O'Connor, Daniel Effron & Brian Lucas
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

What counts as hypocrisy? Current theorizing emphasizes that people see hypocrisy when an individual sends them "false signals" about his or her morality (Jordan, Sommers, Bloom, & Rand, 2017); indeed, the canonical hypocrite acts more virtuously in public than in private. An alternative theory posits that people see hypocrisy when an individual enjoys "undeserved moral benefits," such as feeling more virtuous than his or her behavior merits, even when the individual has not sent false signals to others (Effron, O'Connor, Leroy, & Lucas, 2018). This theory predicts that acting less virtuously in public than in private can seem hypocritical by indicating that individuals have used good deeds to feel less guilty about their public sins than they should. Seven experiments (N = 3,468 representing 64 nationalities) supported this prediction. Participants read about a worker in a "sin industry" who secretly performed good deeds. When the individual's public work (e.g., selling tobacco) was inconsistent with, versus unrelated to, the good deeds (e.g., anonymous donations to an antismoking cause vs. an antiobesity cause), participants perceived him as more hypocritical, which in turn predicted less praise for his good deeds. Participants also inferred that the individual was using the inconsistent good deeds to cleanse his conscience for his public work, and such moral cleansing appeared hypocritical when it successfully alleviated his guilt. These results broaden and deepen understanding about how lay people conceptualize hypocrisy. Hypocrisy does not require appearing more virtuous than you are; it suffices to feel more virtuous than you deserve.


Indignation for moral violations suppresses the tongue motor cortex: Preliminary TMS evidence
Carmelo Vicario et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:

We commonly label moral violations in terms of 'disgust', yet it remains unclear whether metaphorical expressions linking disgust and morality are genuinely shared at the cognitive/neural level. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), we provide new insights into this debate by measuring motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) from the tongue generated by TMS over the tongue primary motor area (tM1) in a small group of healthy participants presented with vignettes of moral transgressions and non-moral vignettes. We tested whether moral indignation, felt while evaluating moral vignettes, affected tM1 excitability. Vignettes exerted a variable influence on MEPs with no net effect of the moral category. However, in accordance with our recent study documenting reduced tM1 excitability during exposure to pictures of disgusting foods or facial expressions of distaste, we found that vignettes of highly disapproved moral violations reduced tM1 excitability. Moreover, tM1 excitability and moral indignation were linearly correlated: the higher the moral indignation, the lower the tM1 excitability. Respective changes in MEPs were not observed in a non-oral control muscle, suggesting a selective decrease of tM1 excitability. These preliminary findings provide neurophysiological evidence supporting the hypothesis that morality might have originated from the more primitive experience of oral distaste.


A Little Piece of Me: When Mortality Reminders Lead to Giving to Others
Lea Dunn, Katherine White & Darren Dahl
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:

Past research demonstrates that reminders of one's own mortality can lead to materialistic and self-serving consumer behaviors. In contrast, across five studies, we explore a condition under which mortality salience leads to increased tendency to give away one's possessions - when the donation act is high in transcendence potential. We propose and find that consumers are more likely to donate their possessions to charity under mortality salience (vs. comparison conditions) when the product is considered highly (vs. not highly) connected to the self. Moreover, we demonstrate that this tendency manifests only when transcendence is attainable through donation. In support of the proposition of transcendence as the underlying mechanism, the observed effects are attenuated under conditions where: 1) transcendence has already been satiated via alternative means, or 2) the donated possession will not transcend the self (i.e., its physical integrity is lost by being broken down and recycled). The theoretical and practical implications of the work are discussed.


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