What You See Is What You Get

Kevin Lewis

January 17, 2010

A Good Lamp is the Best Police: Darkness Increases Dishonesty and Self-Interested Behavior

Chen-Bo Zhong, Vanessa Bohns & Francesca Gino
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Darkness can conceal identity and encourage moral transgressions; it may also induce a psychological feeling of illusory anonymity that disinhibits dishonest and self-interested behavior regardless of actual anonymity. Three experiments provided empirical evidence for this prediction. In Experiment 1, participants in a slightly dim room cheated more and thus earned more underserved money than those in a well-lit room. In Experiment 2, participants wearing sunglasses behaved more selfishly than those wearing clear glasses. Finally, in Experiment 3, an illusory sense of anonymity mediated the relationship between darkness and self-interested behaviors. Across all three experiments, darkness had no bearing on actual anonymity, yet it still increased morally questionable behaviors. We suggest that the experience of darkness, even one as subtle as wearing a pair of sunglasses, may induce a sense of anonymity that is disproportionate from actual anonymity in a given situation.


Ambient Belonging: How Stereotypical Cues Impact Gender Participation in Computer Science

Sapna Cheryan, Victoria Plaut, Paul Davies & Claude Steele
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, December 2009, Pages 1045-1060

People can make decisions to join a group based solely on exposure to that group's physical environment. Four studies demonstrate that the gender difference in interest in computer science is influenced by exposure to environments associated with computer scientists. In Study 1, simply changing the objects in a computer science classroom from those considered stereotypical of computer science (e.g., Star Trek poster, video games) to objects not considered stereotypical of computer science (e.g., nature poster, phone books) was sufficient to boost female undergraduates' interest in computer science to the level of their male peers. Further investigation revealed that the stereotypical broadcast a masculine stereotype that discouraged women's sense of ambient belonging and subsequent interest in the environment (Studies 2, 3, and 4) but had no similar effect on men (Studies 3, 4). This masculine stereotype prevented women's interest from developing even in environments entirely populated by other women (Study 2). Objects can thus come to broadcast stereotypes of a group, which in turn can deter people who do not identify with these stereotypes from joining that group.


Ambient Lighting Modifies the Flavor of Wine

Daniel Oberfeld, Heiko Hecht, Ulrich Allendorf & Florian Wickelmaier
Journal of Sensory Studies, December 2009, Pages 797-832

It is well known that the color of a beverage can influence its flavor. We conducted three experiments to investigate the effect of the ambient room color on flavor, while leaving the color of the beverage unaltered. We chose white wine as the beverage and used several methods to fully explore the potential role of ambient light. First, a group of wine buyers made judgments on flavor and global liking while tasting a Riesling on site at a local winery. Ambient color influenced the subjective value of the wine. Wine tasted better in blue or red environments as compared with green and white. A second group was tested in the laboratory. Ambient color modified the taste, but not the odor of the wine. The influence of ambient color on flavor was confirmed in a third experiment using the method of paired comparisons.


On Southbound Ease and Northbound Fees: Literal Consequences of the Metaphoric Link Between Vertical Position and Cardinal Direction

Leif Nelson & Joseph Simmons
Journal of Marketing Research, December 2009, Pages 715-724

Consumers are influenced by the metaphoric relationship between cardinal direction and vertical position (i.e., "north is up"). People believe that it will take longer to travel north than south (Study 1), that it will cost more to ship to a northern than to a southern location (Studies 2 and 6), and that a moving company will charge more (Studies 3a and 3b) for northward than for southward movement. Furthermore, people have greater intention to visit stores advertised to be south (versus north) of a reference point (Study 4), especially when ease of travel is important (Study 5).


Quantity and Proximity: The Terror-Managing Function of Abstract Figures

Lennart Renkema, Diederik Stapel & Nico Van Yperen
Social Cognition, December 2009, Pages 929-938

Terror Management Theory (TMT) has proven valuable for interpreting and clarifying responses to (mortality) threats. One of the key findings in TMT research is that people tend to cling more to groups, in particular their ingroup, when mortality is salient. In the present studies, we extend this insight by demonstrating that - when people are confronted with their own mortality - figures that resemble large and cohesive groups increase feelings of safety, even when these figures are "meaningless" and abstract. In Study 1, we show that when mortality is salient, people indicate that they feel safer in a (fictitious) large group and close to others, than in a smaller and/or less cohesive group. In Study 2, we add to this by showing that figures consisting of more squares close together make people feel more safe than other figures, when mortality is salient.


Exposure Therapy with and without Virtual Reality to Treat PTSD while in the Combat Theater: A Parallel Case Series

Robert McLay, Colleen McBrien, Mark Wiederhold & Brenda Wiederhold
CyberPsychology & Behavior, forthcoming

Exposure therapy (ET) has been observed to be an effective modality for the treatment of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recently, efforts have been made to use virtual reality (VR) to enhance outcome with modes of ET. How such therapy applies to service members who are facing the reality of a combat deployment has been unknown. This case series documents the first use of VR-based therapy to the treatment of PTSD in a combat theater. Results of therapy are reported from a mental health clinic in Camp Fallujah, Iraq. Combat PTSD constituted a relatively small percentage of overall mental health patients seen. Those who did present with PTSD were offered VR-based ET or traditional ET. Patients who received either treatment modality showed significant gains, and no service member in treatment had to be medically evacuated because of ongoing PTSD symptoms. This demonstrates that ET, with or without the use of VR, can be an effective means of helping service members with mental health issues while they serve in theater.


To Reveal or To Cloak? Effects of Identity Salience on Stereotype Threat Responses in Avatar-Represented Group Contexts

Jong-Eun Roselyn Lee
International Journal of Internet Science, 2009

With rapid advances in digital technologies, the popularity of avatars - digital representations of people in computer-mediated environments - is growing. Avatars allow people to visually represent their offline social identity, or selectively render certain layer(s) of their social identity less identifiable or unidentifiable in online environments. The present research investigated how African Americans, whose racial identity often suffers negative stereotyping, responded to stereotype threat when they performed a stereotype-relevant task with 2 ostensible coactors in an avatar-represented group setting. A 2 x 2 between-participants design manipulated salience of racial identity (salient vs. nonsalient) and performance context (competition vs. cooperation), and assessed the extent to which participants persisted on an extremely challenging stereotype-relevant task (unsolvable anagram). The results showed that in the context of competition, participants in the race-nonsalient avatar group persisted significantly longer on the unsolvable anagram than did those in the race-salient avatar group; however, in the context of cooperation, no significant difference was found between the 2 avatar groups. The findings indicate that the effects of identity salience as varied by different types of avatars (identity-revealing vs. identity-cloaking) on identity-associated threat may be moderated by the contexts of performance in which the target individuals are situated.


Basic Hue-Meaning Associations

Arlen Moller, Andrew Elliot & Markus Maier
Emotion, December 2009, Pages 898-902

Color may not only be pleasing to the eye, but may also carry important associations relevant for psychological functioning. Two experiments were conducted to test for basic hue-meaning associations, controlling for lightness and chroma. Specifically, we used a reaction time paradigm to test for links between red and green, and words that varied in achievement content (failure and success) or valence more generally. Results revealed that red was positively associated with failure and general negative words, and was negatively associated with success and general positive words, whereas green was positively associated with success words only. These findings directly document that hue carries psychologically relevant meaning. Implications both within and beyond the achievement domain are discussed.


The cost of being watched: Stroop interference increases under concomitant eye contact

Laurence Conty, David Gimmig, Clément Belletier, Nathalie George & Pascal Huguet
Cognition, forthcoming

Current models in social neuroscience advance that eye contact may automatically recruit cognitive resources. Here, we directly tested this hypothesis by evaluating the distracting strength of eye contact on concurrent visual processing in the well-known Stroop's paradigm. As expected, participants showed stronger Stroop interference under concomitant eye contact as compared to closed eyes. Two control experiments allowed ruling out low-level account of this effect as well as non-specific effect of the presence of open eyes. This suggests that refraining from processing eye contact is actually as difficult as refraining from word reading in the Stroop task. Crucially, the eye contact effect was obtained while gaze was not under the direct focus of attention and the participants were faced with another powerful distracter (the incongruent word) in the task at hand. Thus, there is a cost of being watched even in circumstances where the processing of direct gaze is strongly disfavored. The present results emphasize the crucial status of eye contact in human cognition.


Violent Content Enhances Video Game Performance

Wolfgang Bösche
Journal of Media Psychology, Winter 2009, Pages 145-150

This study assesses the impact of violent video game content on players' game performance. According to the desensitization hypothesis (Carnagey, Anderson, & Bushman, 2007), violent content may elicit negative affective responses and inhibitions, which in turn should interfere with performance. On the other hand, the players might understand virtual violent acts as a digital form of rough-and-tumble play, associated with positive emotions and mobilization, which in turn should raise performance. To test these competing hypotheses on game performance, N= 50 males with no prior violent gaming experience were exposed to three different versions of a custom-made video game in which the actions to be performed were identical, though they were audio-visually presented to appear either nonviolent, moderately, or extremely violent. The results show no indication of an initial inhibition of aggressive behavior, that is, performance is elevated and remains so if the action is presented audio-visually as being violent. This supports the notion that being involved in violent video game activity is perceived as an essentially harmless acting-out of playful fighting behavior.


Context specificity of implicit preferences: The case of human preference for red

Markus Maier, Petra Barchfeld, Andrew Elliot & Reinhard Pekrun
Emotion, October 2009, Pages 734-738

Three experiments were conducted on color preference using a spontaneous selection paradigm with infant participants. Experiment 1 demonstrated that participants prefer red over green in a friendly laboratory environment. Experiment 2 demonstrated that participants' preference for red varies with the context in which the color is presented: Red is preferred in a hospitable context (following a happy face), but not in a hostile context (following an angry face). The opposite pattern was found for the control color green. Experiment 3 used the same context manipulation, but a second control color, gray, was added to clearly examine whether context affects preference for red only. As predicted, given a second alternative choice, context-dependent preference for red, but not green or gray, was found. These results represent the first evidence of context moderation in the color preference literature.

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