What to do

Kevin Lewis

September 08, 2018

Dear Abby: Should I Give Advice or Receive it?
Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, Ayelet Fishbach & Angela Duckworth
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Typically, individuals struggling with goal achievement seek advice. However, in the present investigation (N = 2,274), struggling individuals were more motivated by giving advice than receiving it. In a randomized-controlled, double-blind, field experiment, middle school students who gave motivational advice to younger students spent more time on homework over the following month than students who received motivational advice from expert teachers (Experiment 1). This phenomenon replicated across self-regulatory domains: strugglers who gave advice, compared to those who received expert advice, were more motivated to save money, control their tempers, lose weight, and seek employment (Experiments 2-3). Nevertheless, across domains, people erroneously predicted the opposite, expecting themselves and others to be less motivated by giving advice than receiving it (Experiments 2-3). Why are people blind to the motivational power of giving? Giving advice motivated givers by raising their confidence — a reality that predictors fail to anticipate (Experiment 4).

Gratitude facilitates healthy eating behavior in adolescents and young adults
Megan Fritz et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


Gratitude has been associated with better physical health. Yet, surprisingly little research has experimentally investigated the capacity of gratitude to motivate individuals to eat more healthfully. In Study 1, among undergraduate students (N = 327) attempting to achieve a healthy eating goal, state gratitude following a writing activity significantly predicted healthier eating behavior 1 week later. In Study 2, across a 4-week intervention, 9th and 10th grade students (N = 1017) from four high schools were randomly assigned to either write weekly gratitude letters or to list their daily activities each week (control). Teens who expressed gratitude reported healthier eating behavior over time, relative to controls, and this effect was partially mediated by reductions in average negative affect across the intervention period. Thus, our findings suggest that gratitude-based interventions may facilitate improvements in healthy eating behavior in adolescents and young adults.

Everyone Else Is Doing It: The Association Between Social Identity and Susceptibility to Peer Influence in NCAA Athletes
Scott Graupensperger, Alex Benson & Blair Evans
Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, June 2018, Pages 117-127


The authors examined athletes’ conformity to teammates’ risky behaviors through a performance-based manipulation paradigm. They hypothesized that athletes who strongly identified with their team would be at increased risk of conforming to teammates’ behaviors. Athletes (N = 379) from 23 intact National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams completed surveys (e.g., social identity) and reported the extent to which they would engage in risky behavior scenarios (e.g., drinking and driving). Then, researchers displayed ostensible responses that were manipulated to appear as though teammates reported high engagement in the risky behaviors. Finally, athletes again responded to the hypothetical scenarios and a conformity index was created. Results indicated that social identity, at both individual and group levels, positively predicted conformity — indicating that athletes with stronger social identities are more susceptible to peer influence. Although these findings highlight a pernicious aspect of social identity, they also provide insight into how group-level processes could be leveraged to prevent risky behaviors in student-athletes.

Rank and Performance in Dynamic Tournaments: Evidence From the PGA Tour
Daniel Hickman, Craig Kerr & Neil Metz
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming


Using data from the final round of golf tournaments, we analyze the effect of player rank on performance. The identification of varying levels of pressure is possible due to the detailed nature of the data set, which allows us to determine the rank of each player just prior to teeing off on each hole. We find that players in the lead tend to underperform, especially near the very end of the tournament and when the lead is closely contested. We also create a measure to rank individual golfers based on how their performance is affected by high-pressure situations.

Out of proportion? The role of leftovers in eating-related affect and behavior
Aradhna Krishna & Linda Hagen
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


It is well known that growing portion sizes increase consumption, but grossly enlarged portions also cause consumers to face more and more food leftovers. Despite the relevance of food leftovers, downstream effects of having more food leftovers on consumers' affect and behavior are unknown. In five studies, the authors test the idea that consumers may judge their actual consumption by looking at their leftovers. As such, larger leftovers may reduce perceived consumption and also impact other eating-related behaviors. Using both real and imagined food consumption and leftovers, the authors find that, holding the absolute amount of food consumption equal, larger (vs. smaller) food leftovers lead to reduced perceived consumption. This difference in perceived consumption has consequences for people's motivation to compensate for their eating. Larger (vs. smaller) food leftovers cause them to eat more in a subsequent unrelated food consumption task, and also to exercise less in an explicit calorie compensation task. The psychological drivers of this phenomenon are twofold: larger leftovers reduce perceived consumption, which leads people to feel better about themselves; and feeling better about themselves, in turn, reduces people's motivation to compensate. This research reveals a previously unknown negative consequence of grossly enlarged portion sizes and informs research on perceived consumption.

Got chocolate? Bilateral prefrontal cortex stimulation augments chocolate consumption
Chan To et al.
Appetite, December 2018, Pages 28-35

Background: Understanding the mechanisms behind exerting self-control may reveal why health behaviors are resistant to change. Activity in the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG) plays a role in self-control processes and may be modulated using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

Methods: Twenty-three healthy females (ages 18–35) completed two tDCS sessions (2.0 mA vs. sham; order counterbalanced) in a within-subject, double-blind, randomized design with a 4-week washout. Participants were self-reported “chocolate cravers” and restrained eaters. Self-report assessments on disinhibited eating were completed at intake. Delay discounting and inhibitory control were assessed at the remaining visits. During stimulation, participants completed an inhibitory control training task (chocolate go/no-go task) and were randomized to the chocolate no-go condition (inhibit all responses to chocolate cues) or the control condition (inhibit responses to chocolate cues on half the trials). Following stimulation, participants completed a 15-min chocolate “taste test” with chocolate rating forms. Afterwards, staff measured the remaining chocolate to determine total consumption.

Results: Contrary to our hypotheses, active tDCS significantly increased chocolate consumption vs. sham (mean = 43.2 vs. 32.2, p=0.005) in both task conditions, but had no effect on chocolate ratings (ps > 0.05). Higher delay discounting and self-reported disinhibited eating predicted greater consumption (ps < 0.05).

The Ending Effect in Investment Decisions: The Motivational Need for an Emotionally Rewarding Ending
Cai Xing et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


The present study examined the power of endings on risky decision making. With four experiments, the changes in the individuals’ risk-taking tendencies were examined as the end of an investment decision task approached; the role of motivational shift toward emotional satisfaction in the ending effect was also explored. As predicted, participants who knew they were working on the last round of an investment task were more risk seeking than those who did not know (i.e., ending effect, Experiment 1). Experiments 2 through 4 examined the motivational mechanism of the ending effect. The results supported the notion that the motivation to pursue an emotionally rewarding ending leads to the ending effect. The present research complements existing motivational accounts of risk taking and suggests a new research direction of integrating factors associated with time perception of an approaching ending into existing models of risky decision making.


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