We're cool

Kevin Lewis

August 28, 2016

Trust Your Gut or Think Carefully? Examining Whether an Intuitive, Versus a Systematic, Mode of Thought Produces Greater Empathic Accuracy

Christine Ma-Kellams & Jennifer Lerner

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Cultivating successful personal and professional relationships requires the ability to accurately infer the feelings of others - that is, to be empathically accurate. Some are better at this than others, a difference which may be explained in part by mode of thought. Specifically, empathically accurate people may tend to rely more on intuitive rather than systematic thought when perceiving others. Or it may be the reverse: systematic thought may increase empathic accuracy. To determine which view is supported by the evidence, we conducted 4 studies examining relations between mode of thought (intuitive vs. systematic) and empathic accuracy. Study 1 revealed a lay belief that empathic accuracy arises from intuitive modes of thought. Studies 2 through 4, each using executive-level professionals as participants, demonstrated that, contrary to lay beliefs, people who tend to rely on intuitive thinking also tend to exhibit lower empathic accuracy. This pattern held when participants inferred others' emotional states based on (a) in-person face-to-face interactions with partners (Study 2) as well as on (b) pictures with limited facial cues (Study 3). Study 4 confirmed that the relationship is causal: experimentally inducing systematic (as opposed to intuitive) thought led to improved empathic accuracy. In sum, evidence regarding personal and social processes in these 4 samples of working professionals converges on the conclusion that, contrary to lay beliefs, empathic accuracy arises more from systematic thought than from gut intuition.


Talking Less during Social Interactions Predicts Enjoyment: A Mobile Sensing Pilot Study

Gillian Sandstrom et al.

PLoS ONE, July 2016

Can we predict which conversations are enjoyable without hearing the words that are spoken? A total of 36 participants used a mobile app, My Social Ties, which collected data about 473 conversations that the participants engaged in as they went about their daily lives. We tested whether conversational properties (conversation length, rate of turn taking, proportion of speaking time) and acoustical properties (volume, pitch) could predict enjoyment of a conversation. Surprisingly, people enjoyed their conversations more when they spoke a smaller proportion of the time. This pilot study demonstrates how conversational properties of social interactions can predict psychologically meaningful outcomes, such as how much a person enjoys the conversation. It also illustrates how mobile phones can provide a window into everyday social experiences and well-being.


Psychological Distance Moderates the Amplification of Shared Experience

Erica Boothby et al.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Sharing an experience with another person can amplify that experience. Here, we propose for the first time that amplification is moderated by the psychological distance between co-experiencers. We predicted that experiences would be amplified for co-experiencers who are psychologically proximate but not for co-experiencers who are psychologically distant. In two studies we manipulated both (a) whether or not a pleasant experience was shared and (b) the psychological distance between co-experiencers, via social distance (Study 1) and spatial distance (Study 2). In Study 1, co-experiencers either were unacquainted (i.e., strangers, socially distant) or became acquainted in the laboratory (i.e., socially proximate). In Study 2, co-experiencers were either in different rooms (i.e., spatially distant) or in the same room (i.e., spatially proximate). In both studies, the pleasant experience was amplified when shared compared with when not shared, but only when co-experiencers were psychologically proximate (vs. distant) to one another.


New Students' Peer Integration and Exposure to Deviant Peers: Spurious Effects of School Moves?

Sonja Siennick, Alex Widdowson & Daniel Ragan

Journal of Early Adolescence, forthcoming

School moves during adolescence predict lower peer integration and higher exposure to delinquent peers. Yet mobility and peer problems have several common correlates, so differences in movers' and non-movers' social adjustment may be due to selection rather than causal effects of school moves. Drawing on survey and social network data from a sample of seventh and eighth graders, this study compared the structure and behavioral content of new students' friendship networks with those of not only non-movers but also students about to move schools; the latter should resemble new students in both observed and unobserved ways. The results suggest that the association between school moves and friends' delinquency is due to selection, but the association between school moves and peer integration may not be entirely due to selection.


Impressions Based on a Portrait Predict, 1-Month Later, Impressions Following a Live Interaction

Gul Gunaydin, Emre Selcuk & Vivian Zayas

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

When it comes to person perception, does one "judge a book by its cover?" Perceivers made judgments of liking, and of personality, based on a photograph of an unknown other, and at least 1 month later, made judgments following a face-to-face interaction with the same person. Photograph-based liking judgments predicted interaction-based liking judgments, and, to a lesser extent, photograph-based personality judgments predicted interaction-based personality judgments (except for extraversion). Consistency in liking judgments (1) partly reflected behavioral confirmation (i.e., perceivers with favorable photograph-based judgments behaved more warmly toward the target during the live interaction, which elicited greater target warmth); (2) explained, at least in part, consistency in personality judgments (reflecting a halo effect); and (3) remained robust even after controlling for perceiver effects, target effects, and perceived attractiveness. These findings support the view that even after having "read a book," one still, to some extent, judges it by its "cover."


Persistent Social Networks: Civil War Veterans who Fought Together Co-Locate in Later Life

Dora Costa et al.

NBER Working Paper, July 2016

At the end of the U.S Civil War, veterans had to choose whether to return to their prewar communities or move to new areas. The late 19th Century was a time of sharp urban growth as workers sought out the economic opportunities offered by cities. By estimating discrete choice migration models, we quantify the tradeoffs that veterans faced. Veterans were less likely to move far from their origin and avoided urban immigrant areas and high mortality risk areas. They also avoided areas that opposed the Civil War. Veterans were more likely to move to a neighborhood or a county where men from their same war company lived. This co-location evidence highlights the existence of persistent social networks. Such social networks had long-term consequences: veterans living close to war time friends enjoyed a longer life.


Do Your School Mates Influence How Long You Game? Evidence from the U.S.

Aliaksandr Amialchuk & Ales Kotalik

PLoS ONE, August 2016

The goal of this paper is to estimate peer influence in video gaming time among adolescents. Using a nationally representative sample of the U.S. school-aged adolescents in 2009-2010, we estimate a structural model that accounts for the potential biases in the estimate of the peer effect. Our peer group is exogenously assigned and includes one year older adolescents in the same school grade as the respondent. The peer measure is based on peers' own reports of video gaming time. We find that an additional one hour of playing video games per week by older grade-mates results in .47 hours increase in video gaming time by male responders. We do not find significant peer effect among female responders. Effective policies aimed at influencing the time that adolescents spend video gaming should take these findings into account.


Oxytocin, but not vasopressin, impairs social cognitive ability among individuals with higher levels of social anxiety: A randomized controlled trial

Benjamin Tabak et al.

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, August 2016, Pages 1272-1279

Individuals with social anxiety are characterized by a high degree of social sensitivity, which can coincide with impairments in social cognitive functioning (e.g. theory of mind). Oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) have been shown to improve social cognition, and OT has been theorized as a potential therapeutic agent for individuals with social anxiety disorder. However, no study has investigated whether these neuropeptides improve social cognitive ability among socially anxious individuals. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, between-subjects design we investigated whether social anxiety moderated the effects of OT or AVP (vs placebo) on social working memory (i.e. working memory that involves manipulating social information) and non-social working memory. OT vs placebo impaired social working memory accuracy in participants with higher levels of social anxiety. No differences were found for non-social working memory or for AVP vs placebo. Results suggest that OT administration in individuals with higher levels of social anxiety may impair social cognitive functioning.


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