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Kevin Lewis

February 28, 2016

Economic Insecurity Increases Physical Pain

Eileen Chou, Bidhan Parmar & Adam Galinsky

Psychological Science, forthcoming

The past decade has seen a rise in both economic insecurity and frequency of physical pain. The current research reveals a causal connection between these two growing and consequential social trends. In five studies, we found that economic insecurity produced physical pain and reduced pain tolerance. In a sixth study, with data from 33,720 geographically diverse households across the United States, economic insecurity predicted consumption of over-the-counter painkillers. The link between economic insecurity and physical pain emerged when people experienced the insecurity personally (unemployment), when they were in an insecure context (they were informed that their state had a relatively high level of unemployment), and when they contemplated past and future economic insecurity. Using both experimental-causal-chain and measurement-of-mediation approaches, we also established that the psychological experience of lacking control helped generate the causal link from economic insecurity to physical pain. Meta-analyses including all of our studies testing the link from economic insecurity to physical pain revealed that this link is reliable. Overall, the findings show that it physically hurts to be economically insecure.


Core disgust is attenuated by ingroup relations

Stephen Reicher et al.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

We present the first experimental evidence to our knowledge that ingroup relations attenuate core disgust and that this helps explain the ability of groups to coact. In study 1, 45 student participants smelled a sweaty t-shirt bearing the logo of another university, with either their student identity (ingroup condition), their specific university identity (outgroup condition), or their personal identity (interpersonal condition) made salient. Self-reported disgust was lower in the ingroup condition than in the other conditions, and disgust mediated the relationship between condition and willingness to interact with target. In study 2, 90 student participants smelled a sweaty target t-shirt bearing either the logo of their own university, another university, or no logo, with either their student identity or their specific university identity made salient. Walking time to wash hands and pumps of soap indicated that disgust was lower where the relationship between participant and target was ingroup rather than outgroup or ambivalent (no logo).


Logic Brightens My Day: Evidence for Implicit Sensitivity to Logical Validity

Dries Trippas et al.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, forthcoming

A key assumption of dual process theory is that reasoning is an explicit, effortful, deliberative process. The present study offers evidence for an implicit, possibly intuitive component of reasoning. Participants were shown sentences embedded in logically valid or invalid arguments. Participants were not asked to reason but instead rated the sentences for liking (Experiment 1) and physical brightness (Experiments 2–3). Sentences that followed logically from preceding sentences were judged to be more likable and brighter. Two other factors thought to be linked to implicit processing — sentence believability and facial expression — had similar effects on liking and brightness ratings. The authors conclude that sensitivity to logical structure was implicit, occurring potentially automatically and outside of awareness. They discuss the results within a fluency misattribution framework and make reference to the literature on discourse comprehension.


Unconscious arithmetic processing: A direct replication

Andrew Karpinski, Miriam Yale & Jessie Briggs

European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Across two experiments involving four conditions, Sklar et al. (2012) found that complex subtraction equations can be solved without awareness of the equations. These findings challenge the current position that consciousness is necessary for performing abstract, rule-following tasks. Given the important implications of their work, we directly replicate Sklar's findings using a larger sample (n = 94) from a different population. Using Continuous Flash Suppression, we investigated if people were able to solve an equation after subliminal (1300 ms) exposure to it. We found evidence for unconscious addition but not subtraction. The effect of unconscious addition was eliminated when participants reported subjective awareness of the primes. Critical review of our results and implications for further research are discussed.


Effects of disfluency in writing

Srdan Medimorec & Evan Risko

British Journal of Psychology, forthcoming

While much previous research has suggested that decreased transcription fluency has a detrimental effect on writing, there is recent evidence that decreased fluency can actually benefit cognitive processing. Across a series of experiments, we manipulated transcription fluency of ostensibly skilled typewriters by asking them to type essays in two conditions: both-handed and one-handed typewriting. We used the Coh-Metrix text analyser to investigate the effects of decreased transcription fluency on various aspects of essay writing, such as lexical sophistication, sentence complexity, and cohesion of essays (important indicators of successful writing). We demonstrate that decreased fluency can benefit certain aspects of writing and discuss potential mechanisms underlying disfluency effects in essay writing.


Silent Disco: Dancing in synchrony leads to elevated pain thresholds and social closeness

Bronwyn Tarr, Jacques Launay & R.I.M. Dunbar

Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Moving in synchrony leads to cooperative behaviour and feelings of social closeness, and dance (involving synchronisation to others and music) may cause social bonding, possibly as a consequence of released endorphins. This study uses an experimental paradigm to determine which aspects of synchrony in dance are associated with changes in pain threshold (a proxy for endorphin release) and social bonding between strangers. Those who danced in synchrony experienced elevated pain thresholds, whereas those in the partial and asynchrony conditions experienced no analgesic effects. Similarly, those in the synchrony condition reported being more socially bonded, although they did not perform more cooperatively in an economic game. This experiment suggests that dance encourages social bonding amongst co-actors by stimulating the production of endorphins, but may not make people more altruistic. We conclude that dance may have been an important human behaviour evolved to encourage social closeness between strangers.


An Attentional Bias for LEGO® People Using a Change Detection Task: Are LEGO® People Animate?

Mitchell LaPointe et al.

Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, forthcoming

Animate objects have been shown to elicit attentional priority in a change detection task. This benefit has been seen for both human and nonhuman animals compared with inanimate objects. One explanation for these results has been based on the importance animate objects have served over the course of our species’ history. In the present set of experiments, we present stimuli, which could be perceived as animate, but with which our distant ancestors would have had no experience, and natural selection could have no direct pressure on their prioritization. In the first experiment, we compared LEGO® “people” with LEGO “nonpeople” in a change detection task. In a second experiment, we attempt to control the heterogeneity of the nonanimate objects by using LEGO blocks, matched in size and colour to LEGO people. In the third experiment, we occlude the faces of the LEGO people to control for facial pattern recognition. In the final 2 experiments, we attempt to obscure high-level categorical information processing of the stimuli by inverting and blurring the scenes.


Endogenous Rhythms Influence Interpersonal Synchrony

Anna Zamm, Chelsea Wellman & Caroline Palmer

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, forthcoming

Interpersonal synchrony, the temporal coordination of actions between individuals, is fundamental to social behaviors from conversational speech to dance and music-making. Animal models indicate constraints on synchrony that arise from endogenous rhythms: Intrinsic periodic behaviors or processes that continue in the absence of change in external stimulus conditions. We report evidence for a direct causal link between endogenous rhythms and interpersonal synchrony in a music performance task, which places high demands on temporal coordination. We first establish that endogenous rhythms, measured by spontaneous rates of individual performance, are stable within individuals across stimulus materials, limb movements, and time points. We then test a causal link between endogenous rhythms and interpersonal synchrony by pairing each musician with a partner who is either matched or mismatched in spontaneous rate and by measuring their joint behavior up to 1 year later. Partners performed melodies together, using either the same or different hands. Partners who were matched for spontaneous rate showed greater interpersonal synchrony in joint performance than mismatched partners, regardless of hand used. Endogenous rhythms offer potential to predict optimal group membership in joint behaviors that require temporal coordination.


Truths About Beauty and Goodness: Disgust Affects Moral but Not Aesthetic Judgments

Nathaniel Rabb et al.

Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, forthcoming

Aesthetic judgments typically involve assessments of one’s own responses and thus are partly or largely subjective. Moral judgments may seem otherwise, but their susceptibility to influence by factors extrinsic to the object of judgment — notably, by irrelevant sensations of disgust — has led some to argue that moral and aesthetic judgments are functionally alike, a view consistent with philosophical arguments and neuropsychological evidence. We examined the behavioral consequences of this view by adapting Eskine, Kacinik, and Prinz’s (2011) procedure for studying the effect of disgust on moral judgments. In Study 1, participants drank bitter, sweet, or neutral liquids and rated liking and quality of abstract paintings. To rule out a possible asymmetry in the effect of disgust on negative rather than positive stimuli, we had participants in Study 2 drink bitter or neutral drinks and rate the ugliness and badness of aesthetic violations — Komar and Melamid’s abstract paintings using undesirable art elements. Participants also rated the moral wrongness of harm and purity violations, allowing for direct comparison of moral and aesthetic judgments. To rule out concerns that participants failed to engage with abstract artworks, Study 3 used representational paintings with disturbing subject matter. Across all studies, disgust had no effect on aesthetic judgments but reliably increased the severity of moral judgments. Thus we replicate Eskine et al. (2011) while uncovering an important functional distinction between aesthetic and moral judgments, a difference that may reflect a “disinterestedness” in aesthetic evaluations not seen in moral evaluations because of the latter’s comparatively practical and action-guiding consequences.


Counterintuitive effects of negative social feedback on attention

Brian Anderson

Cognition and Emotion, forthcoming

Which stimuli we pay attention to is strongly influenced by learning. Stimuli previously associated with reward outcomes, such as money and food, and stimuli previously associated with aversive outcomes, such as monetary loss and electric shock, automatically capture attention. Social reward (happy expressions) can bias attention towards associated stimuli, but the role of negative social feedback in biasing attentional selection remains unexplored. On the one hand, negative social feedback often serves to discourage particular behaviours. If attentional selection can be curbed much like any other behavioural preference, we might expect stimuli associated with negative social feedback to be more readily ignored. On the other hand, if negative social feedback influences attention in the same way that other aversive outcomes do, such feedback might ironically bias attention towards the stimuli it is intended to discourage selection of. In the present study, participants first completed a training phase in which colour targets were associated with negative social feedback. Then, in a subsequent test phase, these same colour stimuli served as task-irrelevant distractors during a visual search task. The results strongly support the latter interpretation in that stimuli previously associated with negative social feedback impaired search performance.


Adaptive Attention: How Preference for Animacy Impacts Change Detection

Meaghan Altman et al.

Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

The selective nature of visual attention prioritizes objects in a scene that are most perceptually salient, those relevant to personal goals, and animate objects. Here we present data from two intentional change detection studies designed to determine the extent to which animals in a scene distract from other changes. Our stimuli depicted camouflaged animals in their natural habitats. We compared participants’ responses to changing animals and inanimate objects selected from the same pictures, thus improving on other methodologies studying this effect. Experiment 1 results suggest that animals are noticed rapidly and accurately, even when they share bottom-up features with the rest of the scene. Additionally, the unchanging presence of camouflaged animals distract from detecting inanimate changes. Experiment 2 employed Signal Detection Theory (SDT) to measure the sensitivity (d’) and response bias (β) related to changing animate versus inanimate stimuli. Experiment 2 outcomes indicate that participants tend to adopt a liberal response bias and are most sensitive to animate changes. Presence of an animal in a scene also influences sensitivity (d’) when participants had to attend to and notice inanimate changes. Our findings are interpreted as additional support for the animate-monitoring hypothesis which suggests that early detection of animacy may have endowed our hunter-gather ancestors with survival advantages.


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