When anger or happiness flashes on a face in the crowd, do we misperceive that emotion as belonging to someone else? Two studies found that misperception of apparent emotional expressions – “illusory conjunctions” – depended on the gender of the target: male faces tended to “grab” anger from neighboring faces, and female faces tended to grab happiness. Importantly, the evidence did not suggest that this effect was due to the general tendency to misperceive male or female faces as angry or happy, but instead indicated a more subtle interaction of expectations and early visual processes. This suggests a novel aspect of affordance-management in human perception, whereby cues to threat, when they appear, are attributed to those with the greatest capability of doing harm, whereas cues to friendship are attributed to those with the greatest likelihood of providing affiliation opportunities.
affordance management; face perception; anger; happiness; emotional expressions; threat; gender differences
The failure to consider the future consequences of one’s behavior is a major risk factor for aggression. Aggressive people tend to act first, and think later. Some people focus on the —here and now rather than on the future, a tendency measured by the Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC) scale (Strathman, Gleicher, Boninger, & Edwards, 1994). Alcohol intoxication is a neuro-biological variable that produces similar effects. Participants in the present experiment completed the CFC scale and then consumed either an alcohol or a placebo beverage. Next, they competed against a same-sex ostensible partner on an interpersonally adversarial competitive task in which the winner could administer electric shocks to the loser (the aggression measure). As expected, aggression was highest in intoxicated persons with low CFC scores. Being unconcerned about the future consequences of one’s actions, in conjunction with acute alcohol intoxication, combine in a pernicious manner to increase aggression.
Consideration of Future Consequences; alcohol; aggression
Despite a decline in explicit prejudice, adults and children from majority groups (e.g., White Americans) often express bias implicitly, as assessed by the Implicit Association Test. In contrast, minority-group (e.g., Black American) adults on average show no bias on the IAT. In the present research, representing the first empirical investigation of whether Black children’s IAT responses parallel those of Black adults, we examined implicit bias in 7–11-year-old White and Black American children. Replicating previous findings with adults, whereas White children showed a robust ingroup bias, Black children showed no bias. Additionally, we investigated the role of valuing status in the development of implicit bias. For Black children, explicit preference for high status predicted implicit outgroup bias: Black children who explicitly expressed high preference for rich (vs. poor) people showed an implicit preference for Whites comparable in magnitude to White children’s ingroup bias. Implications for research on intergroup bias are discussed.
Intergroup bias; Implicit Association Test; Development; Social status
This paper examines the emergence of behavioral synchrony among strangers in the context of self-disclosure, and their path in predicting interaction quality. Specifically, we hypothesize that behavioral synchrony mediates the direct effect of self-disclosure on the development of embodied rapport. Same-sex stranger pairs (n=94) were randomly assigned to a videorecorded self-disclosure or control condition, and afterward each member rated their social interaction. Following the procedure used by Bernieri, Reznick, & Rosenthal (1988), two trained judges independently watched each video record and rated each pair interaction on behavioral synchrony. Bootstrapping analyses provide support for the hypothesized mediating effect of behavioral synchrony, which emerged as independent of the effects of self-other overlap and positive affect. The authors discuss implications of behavioral synchrony for relationship formation processes and the inevitable entwinement of behavior and judgments in light of embodied cognition.
Synchrony; Self-disclosure; Rapport; Embodiment; Relationship formation
The accessibility of stored knowledge has been found to decline over time after activation without further stimulation. A special case is goal pursuit; goal-related knowledge remains accessible until goal completion, and then its accessibility declines rapidly. We hypothesized that after goal completion the decline in accessibility of goal-related knowledge would be especially rapid for strong promotion-focused individuals because their motivation to eagerly advance beyond the status quo would make accessibility of this knowledge an irrelevant detriment. We hypothesized an opposite effect for strongly prevention-predominant individuals because their motivation to vigilantly maintain a satisfactory state would make accessibility of this knowledge continually relevant. The results of two studies supported both these predicted moderators of accessibility change. Indeed, we found that for strongly prevention-predominant participants, knowledge accessibility actually increased over time after goal completion. We discuss how even basic cognitive mechanisms, like changes in accessibility, can be affected by general motivational concerns.
knowledge accessibility; accessibility decay; forgetting; procedural motive; motivational orientation; regulatory focus; goal completion
Two studies show that different culturally based concepts of interpersonal power have distinct implications for information processing. People with a vertical individualist (VI) cultural orientation view power in personalized terms (power is for gaining status over and recognition by others), whereas people with a horizontal collectivist (HC) cultural orientation view power in socialized terms (power is for benefitting and helping others). The distinct goals associated with these power concepts are served by different mindsets, such as stereotyping others versus learning the individuating needs of others. Therefore, for high-VI individuals, making personalized power salient increases stereotyping in processing product information. That is, they recognize better information that is congruent with their prior product expectations, relative to their recognition of incongruent information. In contrast, for high-HC people, making socialized power salient increases individuating processes, characterized by better memory for incongruent information.
Power; Cultural Values; Mindsets; Information-Processing
Past research suggests that focusing on what has not yet been accomplished (goal focus) signals a lack of progress towards one’s high commitment goals and inspires greater motivation than does focusing on what has already been accomplished (accomplishment focus). The present investigation extends this research to a longitudinal, important domain by exploring the consequences of focusing on one’s goals versus accomplishments when pursuing a weight loss goal. Participants were tracked over the course of a 12-week weight loss program that utilized weekly group discussions and a companion website to direct participants’ focus toward their end weight loss goal or toward what they had already achieved. Goal-focused participants reported higher levels of commitment to their goal and, ultimately, lost more weight than did accomplishment-focused and no focus control participants. Accomplishment-focused participants did not differ from controls on any measure.
Three studies examined the implicit evaluative associations activated by racially-ambiguous Black-White faces. In the context of both Black and White faces, Study 1 revealed a graded pattern of bias against racially-ambiguous faces that was weaker than the bias to Black faces but stronger than that to White faces. Study 2 showed that significant bias was present when racially-ambiguous faces appeared in the context of only White faces, but not in the context of only Black faces. Study 3 demonstrated that context produces perceptual contrast effects on racial-prototypicality judgments. Racially-ambiguous faces were perceived as more prototypically Black in a White-only than mixed-race context, and less prototypically Black in a Black-only context. Conversely, they were seen as more prototypically White in a Black-only than mixed context, and less prototypically White in a White-only context. The studies suggest that both race-related featural properties within a face (i.e., racial ambiguity) and external contextual factors affect automatic evaluative associations.
It seems obvious that what you see influences what you feel, but what if the opposite were also true? What if how you feel can shape your visual experience? In this experiment, we demonstrate that the affective state of a perceiver influences the contents of visual awareness. Participants received positive, negative, and neutral affect inductions and then completed a series of binocular rivalry trials in which a face (smiling, scowling or neutral) was presented to one eye and a house to the other. The percepts “competed” for dominance in visual consciousness. We found, as predicted, that all faces (smiling, scowling, and neutral) were dominant for longer when perceivers experienced unpleasant affect compared to when they were in a neutral state (a social vigilance effect), although scowling faces increased their dominance when perceivers felt unpleasant (a relative negative congruence effect). Relatively speaking, smiling faces increased their dominance more when perceivers were experiencing pleasant affect (a positive congruence effect). These findings illustrate that the affective state of a perceiver serves as a context that influences the contents of consciousness.
Affect; Perception; Binocular Rivalry
This research examines how processing fluency influences people's perceptions of whether a trend will continue into the future. Specifically, three studies hypothesized that people who read descriptions of increasing or decreasing trends in easy-to-read font would be more likely to predict that the trend would continue into the future, compared to people exposed to difficult-to-read font. Studies 1 and 2 establish this effect for an increasing trend, whereas Study 3 replicates the findings with a decreasing trend. Taken together, these results suggest processing fluency as a factor that affects assessment of future potential.
The visual perception of geographical slant is influenced by physiological resources, such as physical fitness, age, and being physically refreshed. In two studies we tested whether a psychosocial resource, social support, can also affect the visual perception of slants. Participants accompanied by a friend estimated a hill to be less steep when compared to participants who were alone (Study 1). Similarly, participants who thought of a supportive friend during an imagery task saw a hill as less steep than participants who either thought of a neutral person or a disliked person (Study 2). In both studies, the effects of social relationships on visual perception appear to be mediated by relationship quality (i.e., relationship duration, interpersonal closeness, warmth). Artifacts such as mood, social desirability, and social facilitation did not account for these effects. This research demonstrates that an interpersonal phenomenon, social support, can influence visual perception.
Social support; psychosocial resources; closeness; relationship; slant perception; vision; space perception
Research shows that participants shoot armed Blacks more frequently and quickly than armed Whites, but make don’t-shoot responses more frequently and quickly for unarmed Whites than unarmed Blacks. We argue that this bias reflects the perception of threat – specifically, threat associated with Black males. Other danger cues (not just race) may create a similar predisposition to shoot, and if these cues promote shooting when the target is White, they should attenuate racial bias. We embedded targets in threatening andsafe backgrounds. Racial bias was evident in safe contexts but disappeared when context signaled danger, and this reduction was largely due to an increased tendency to shoot White targets.
racial bias; context; threat perception
Individuals display high levels of trust and express feelings of safety when interacting with social ingroup members. Here, we investigated whether cues related to ingroup membership would change perceptions of the safety of alcohol. Participants were exposed to images of beer in either a standard can or a can featuring the colors of their university (i.e., ‘fan cans’). We hypothesized that exposure to fan cans would change perceptions of the risks of beer drinking. Results showed that participants exposed to fan cans rated beer consumption as less dangerous (Experiment 1), were more likely to automatically activate safety-related mental content after unconscious perception of beer cues (Experiment 2), and viewed their ingroup’s party practices as less dangerous (Experiment 3). These results provide evidence that ingroup-associated colors can serve as a safety cue for alcohol, which may in theory perpetuate alcohol-related risk-taking, already a cause for concern on college and university campuses.
alcohol; automaticity; group processes; ingroup; priming
This study examined the extent to which perceptions of partner suffering mediate the association between attachment insecurity (anxiety and avoidance) and personal distress among spouses of older adults with osteoarthritis. Fifty-three spouses watched two videos of targets (their partner and an opposite sex stranger) perform a pain-eliciting household task, and spouses were asked to rate their own distress and perceptions of the targets’ pain. Spouses also completed self-report measures of trait attachment. Results revealed that attachment anxiety was associated with greater personal distress in reaction to the partner’s suffering, and heightened perceptions of partner pain mediated this association. Avoidant attachment was associated with less distress in reaction to the partner’s suffering, but not with less perceived pain. The results of this study identify an important mechanism linking attachment insecurity and heightened distress responses when observing the suffering of a significant other.
attachment; caregiving; emotion; older adults; osteoarthritis
Most American children expect to attend college but because they do not necessarily spend much time on schoolwork, they may fail to reach their imagined “college-bound” future self. The proposed identity-based motivation model helps explain why this gap occurs: Imagined “college-bound” identities cue school-focused behavior if they are salient and feel relevant to current choice options, not otherwise. Two studies with predominantly low-income and African American middle school students support this prediction. Almost all of the students expect to attend college, but only half describe education-dependent (e.g., law, medicine) adult identities. Having education-dependent rather than education-independent adult identities (e.g., sports, entertainment) predicts better grades over time, controlling for prior grade point average (Study 1). To demonstrate causality, salience of education-dependent versus education-independent adult identities was experimentally manipulated. Children who considered education-dependent adult identities (vs. education-independent ones) were eight times more likely to complete a take-home extra credit assignment (Study 2).
A growing body of research has demonstrated the importance of intergroup contact in reducing fear, threat and anxiety in intergroup domains. Here we focus on the regulatory benefits of intergroup contact. We hypothesized that past intergroup contact would facilitate recovery from a stressful intergroup evaluation. White and Black participants completed a stressful evaluative task in the presence of two White or two Black interviewers while autonomic nervous system and hormonal responses were assessed. When examining how participants recovered after the stressful task, intergroup contact predicted faster physiological recovery for both autonomic and neuroendocrine reactivity. The importance of recovery from stress for physiological resilience in diverse contexts is discussed.
intergroup contact; recovery; stress; intergroup interaction; intergroup anxiety
A number of studies have found a disjunction between women’s attention to, and memory for, handsome men. Although women pay initial attention to handsome men, they do not remember those men later. The present study examines how ovulation might differentially affect these attentional and memory processes. We found that women near ovulation increased their visual attention to attractive men. However, this increased visual attention did not translate into better memory. Discussion focuses on possible explanations, in the context of an emerging body of findings on disjunctions between attention to, and memory for, other people.
Attention; Memory; Ovulation; Fertility; Menstrual cycle; Evolutionary psychology
The vast majority of work in construal level theory focuses prospectively on the future. Through a series of studies controlling for knowledge about an event, we look retrospectively at the past and demonstrate that construal mindsets can materially influence how a past event is reconstructed in memory. Specifically, an event recalled in a more concrete mindset feels subjectively closer than when recalled in an abstract mindset (Studies 1–3). We present evidence suggesting this is because a concrete mindset actually makes people feel as though they know more, even if they were initially exposed to the same set of information—perceived information accessibility mediates the effect of construal level on temporal distance (Study 2). The effect of construal level on memory reconstruction extends to judgments of blame, where judgments of greater temporal distance drive a greater propensity to blame parties for negative events and temporal distance mediates these judgments (Study 3). Together, these studies are the first to demonstrate that the mindset employed when recalling an event shapes its remembrance.
Memory; Time perception; Construal level
Psychological causes of social distance were examined from the perspective of Construal Level Theory (CLT; Liberman, Trope, & Stephan, 2007), which predicts that temporal distance from and abstract construal of a social target would create perception of social distance. Our studies demonstrate that expectations for temporally remote (versus proximal) social interaction produce greater social distance from a target person, measured as reduced familiarity (Study 1) and as reduced similarity to the self (Study 2). We also show that a more abstract, higher level construal of a social target results in less familiarity (Study 3) and in less allocation of resources (Study 4). The research sheds light on how social closeness can be promoted or hindered by previously unaddressed psychological factors.
Social distance; Temporal perspective; Level of construal
It was predicted that because of their abstract nature, values will have greater impact on how individuals plan their distant future than their near future. Experiments 1 and 2 found that values better predict behavioral intentions for distant future situations than near future situations. Experiment 3 found that whereas high-level values predict behavioral intentions for more distant future situations, low-level feasibility considerations predict behavioral intentions for more proximate situation. Finally, Experiment 4 found that the temporal changes in the relationship between values and behavioral intentions depended on how the behavior was construed. Higher correspondence is found when behaviors are construed on a higher level and when behavior is planned for the more distant future than when the same behavior is construed on a lower level or is planned for the more proximal future. The implications of these findings for self-consistency and value conflicts are discussed.
Construal; Values; Construal level theory; Time perspective; Behavioral intentions
Can psychological distance affect how much perceivers form spontaneous trait inferences (STI) from others’ behaviors? On the basis of construal level theory (CLT) which posits that distant (vs. near) entities are represented more in terms of their abstract, global, and decontextualized features, we predicted that perceived distance would increase the tendency for perceivers to draw spontaneous trait inferences from behavioral information about actors. In two experiments, participants learned about people who were perceived as being distant or proximal to the self, and STI formation was subsequently assessed. We found that perceivers were more likely to form STIs about distant vs. near actors from the same behavioral information. These findings generalized across two distance dimensions: space and time. In addition, we found that priming individuals to adopt a high-level (vs. low-level) construal mindset also resulted in increased STI (Experiment 3). In sum, psychological distance facilitates STI formation, and this occurs via high-level construal of actors and their behaviors.
Person perception; Social cognition; Trait inference; Construal; Psychological distance
Previous research suggests that affirming one’s important values is a powerful way of protecting one’s general self integrity, allowing non-defensive processing of self-relevant information. In a series of four studies linking self-affirmation with construal level, we find that in addition to any self buffering effect, thinking about one’s values and why they are important more generally shifts cognitive processing towards superordinate and structured thinking. Self-affirmation leads participants to perceive a greater degree of structure within their selves (Study 1), to increasingly identify actions in terms of their endstates (Study 2), to more strongly distinguish between primary and secondary object features (Study 3) and to perform better on tasks requiring abstract, structured thinking than those requiring detail-oriented, concrete thinking. Together, these findings suggest that thinking about important values helps individuals to structure information and focus on the big picture.
Self-affirmation; Construal level; Abstraction; Procedural priming; Self-structure
The paper examines potential origins of automatic (i.e., unconscious) attitudes toward one’s marital partner. It tests the hypothesis that early experiences in conflict-of-interest situations predict one’s later automatic inclination to approach (or avoid) the partner. A longitudinal study linked daily experiences in conflict-of-interest situations in the initial months of new marriages to automatic evaluations of the partner assessed four years later using the Implicit Associations Test. The results revealed that partners who were initially (1) treated less responsively and (2) evidenced more self-protective and less connectedness-promoting “if-then” contingencies in their thoughts and behavior later evidenced less positive automatic partner attitudes. However, these factors did not predict changes in love, satisfaction, or explicit beliefs about the partner. The findings hint at the existence of a “smart” relationship unconscious that captures behavioral realities conscious reflection can miss.
Most people avoid the “big, drunk guy” in bars because they don’t want to get assaulted. Is this stereotype supported by empirical evidence? Unfortunately, no scientific work has investigated this topic. Based on the recalibrational theory of anger and embodied cognition theory, we predicted that heavier men would behave the most aggressively when intoxicated. In two independent experiments (Ns= 553 and 327, respectively), participants consumed either alcohol or placebo beverages and then completed an aggression task in which they could administer painful electric shocks to a fictitious opponent. Both experiments showed that weight interacted with alcohol and gender to predict the highest amount of aggression among intoxicated heavy men. The results suggest that an embodied cognition approach is useful in understanding intoxicated aggression. Apparently there is a kernel of truth in the stereotype of the “big, drunk, aggressive guy.”
Previous research has characterized insight as the product of internal processes, and has thus investigated the cognitive and motivational processes that immediately precede it. In this research, however, we investigate whether insight can be catalyzed by a cultural artifact, an external object imbued with learned meaning. Specifically, we exposed participants to an illuminating lightbulb – an iconic image of insight – prior to or during insight problem-solving. Across four studies, exposing participants to an illuminating lightbulb primed concepts associated with achieving an insight, and enhanced insight problem-solving in three different domains (spatial, verbal, and mathematical), but did not enhance general (non-insight) problem-solving.
insight; creativity; priming