Stereotyping and the real world: a round table discussion

Jacob Young, Sophie Cerkvenik and Yi-Pei Lo

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Power Moves- Kiara, Dylan, Aleks, Emily

Group: Dylan, Kiara, Aleks, and Emily

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Happy Hour

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Group Loafin’ – Liam, Chase, Caroline, Meagan

Aggarwal, P., & O’Brien, C. L. (2008). Social loafing on group projects: Structural antecedents and effect on student satisfaction. Journal of Marketing Education.

Woodman, T., Roberts, R., Hardy, L., Callow, N., & Rogers, C. H. (2011). There is an “I” in TEAM: Narcissism and social loafing. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport82(2), 285-290.

Høigaard, R., Säfvenbom, R., & Tønnessen, F. E. (2006). The relationship between group cohesion, group norms, and perceived social loafing in soccer teams. Small Group Research37(3), 217-232.

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Rejection Remedies – Grace Farnkoff, Robin Spofford, Maddie Taylor, Ari Thomas

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Buying Happiness – by Chandler Blake, Lucas Bolender, Michaela Garrett, and Michaela Athanasopoulos

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Money, Pain, and Happiness

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Why You Should Pay Us for This Project (Natalie, Olivia, and Nick)

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Low Man on the Totem Pole? Think Again

UntiWhen professors return tests, do you find yourself peeking at your neighbor’s grade? Or do you look to see how much your teammate is squatting? We do these things all the time in order to evaluate ourselves based on how we compare to others. In seeing how others perform, we can learn about our own performance. While you know how well you did, that information means more if you know how it holds up against others.

Self comparisons are a part of everyday life. As Fester (1954) proposes in his self comparison theory, they can help us learn about our own abilities and characteristics. What we learn about ourselves depends on the person or group that we make our comparison to. Comparing ourselves to someone similar to us tells us where we stand in terms of an ability or trait, comparing ourselves to someone much better than us can help us learn how to improve, and comparing ourselves to someone worse than us makes us feel good about ourselves. Whereas in some situations you choose who to compare yourself to, research has shown that comparisons are spontaneous and cannot be avoided (Blanton & Stapel, 2008).

One of the consequences of self comparison is that we tend to value local comparisons involving a smaller group over data from a larger sample. This can be a problem because it can lead us to perceive ourselves as better or worse than we truly are. For example, high-performing students at inferior schools rate themselves more favorably than low-performing students at superior schools. This general finding of giving more importance to your ability within a small group and neglecting how you do in a large group is known as the frog-pond effect. Another example of this idea is thinking that you aren’t smart because you have an SAT score of 1800, which is the lowest in your class, when in fact, compared to the entire population, you are well above average.

The current experiment (Alicke, Sell, & Bloom, 2010) was conducted to further the knowledge on the frog-pond effect as it pertains to local versus general comparisons. The study was conducted with groups of ten participants who were then randomly assigned to one of two subgroups of five members each. The participants completed a lie detection test in which they watched videos of people giving statements and had to judge whether the person was telling the truth or lying. They received bogus feedback about their performance on the task which divided them into one of four conditions. In the first and second conditions, participants were told that they ranked 5th and 6th, respectively, out of the group of ten. In the third condition, participants were told that they ranked 5th out of the group of ten, but last in their subgroup of 5. In the fourth condition, participants were told that they ranked 6th out of the group of ten, but first in their subgroup of 5. Participants then evaluated their performance and lie detection ability as a measure of their self-evaluations.

The results indicated that there was no difference in the self-evaluations of participants who were only told that they ranked 5th or 6th out of the group of ten (see Figure 1). Participants who were told that they ranked 6th out of the group of ten but best in their subgroup evaluated themselves significantly more favorably than participants who were told that they ranked 5th out of the group of ten but worst in their subgroup. Participants who were told that they ranked 6th out of the group of ten but best in their subgroup evaluated themselves significantly more favorably than participants who were only told that they ranked 6th out of the group of ten. Participants who were told that they ranked 5th out of the group of ten but worst in their subgroup evaluated themselves significantly less favorably than participants who were only told that they ranked 5th out of the group of ten.

Figure 1. Participants’ mean self-evaluations as a function of feedback.

These results suggest that people think more highly of themselves when they are first in an inferior group as opposed to last in a superior group, even if their overall rank is lower when the two groups are combined. It also suggests that people tend to use local comparisons for self-evaluations rather than larger data sources, which would actually be more helpful in evaluating themselves. In this way, simply categorizing people into groups can change the way that they evaluate themselves based on the performance of individuals within their group.

Although this experiment presents many interesting findings, it is not clear whether they will hold for people who are ranked farther from the middle of the large group. For example, would this same pattern occur if a person was last in a smaller, superior group but significantly above average in the large group? Because the experiment only examined people in the middle of the large group and either first or last within the subgroups, we do not know how far this phenomenon can be extended and at what point reality will override the local group dominance.

So the next time you are in a highly competitive group and you are not near the top, try to look at the bigger picture and evaluate yourself compared to the larger data source, rather than your smaller group.


Alicke, M.D., Zell, E.,  & Bloom, D.L. (2010). Mere categorization and the frog-pond effect. Psychological Science, 21, 174-177. doi: 10.1177/0956797609357718

Blanton, H., & Stapel, A. (2008). Unconscious and spontaneous and . . . complex: The three selves model of social comparison assimilation and contrast. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 1018–1032. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.1018

Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117–140. doi: 10.1177/001872675400700202

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Good news or bad news first?

The study conducted by Legg and Sweeny assessed a common social situation where an individual is deciding the order for the good news and bad news. It is clear that people would feel anxiety and discomfort when receiving bad news, thus the news-recipients may choose to receive the bad news first so that the following good news will make them feel better after all. However, giving bad news to someone is stressful for the news-giver so news-givers would postpone the bad news and give the good news first because it is easier for them to do so. The conflicting choices of order between news-giver and news-receiver is probably caused by news-givers’ egocentric bias: they are more concerned about reducing their own mental discomfort than the news-recipients’ anxiety. This study raised two hypothesis based on two methods: prime of perspective taking and prime of emotion-protection goals to reduce such egocentric bias, so that the news-givers’ choice of order may match with the news-recipients’. Researchers further hypothesized that the order of receiving news may have consequences on people’s motivation to change negative behavior.

The researcher replicated a previous study in the first experiment. The result reiterated the conflicting choices of news order between news-giver and news-recipient. In the following experiment, the researcher tried to eliminate the egocentric biases of news-givers. All participants were assigned to news-giver condition and were given good and bad news for the news-recipient on them. Participants were told that they would report those results to the news-recipient, who was actually a confederate. Participants were instructed with three different manipulations: the control condition, where participants could give the results as they wanted to; the perspective-taking condition where participants were specifically told to think of the recipient’s’ feelings; and the emotion-protection condition, where participants were instructed that they need to minimize the recipient’s potential bad feelings.

One salient change the researchers made on this experiment is that they set up the face-to-face situation using a confederate rather than just asking the news-givers to provide their choices. This change intensified the mental discomfort and stress and avoided somewhat vague outcome for the experiment. They successfully presented the study in a way more similar to daily life situation and possibly make the results more significant. The result shows that the control participants chose the easy way out and give the good news first, which match the normal trend in daily life, while participants in the perspective-taking and emotion-protection conditions gave bad news first.

One explanation for this outcome is that news-givers always have accurate insight into the best way to receive good and bad news, but this insight is hampered by a more salient concern about their own discomfort. The two primes act as a simple reminder to news-givers to remember how it feels to be the recipient of bad news. They reduced the egocentric bias of news-givers by actively making them form more construals about the situation especially those based on the recipients’ point of view. The news-givers are thus,  placed on a more objective standpoint while choosing the order to report the news.


It should be concerned that the two primes verbally told to the participants might caused certain threat to the construct validity. They might have chosen to report the bad-news first as it was probably what the researcher wanted them to do. Another probable concern is that the researcher did not consider the situation when the bad news and good news needed to be presented in a certain order to make sense. This particular order of presentation is not due to news giver’s or recipient’s discomfort, but an underlying logic of presentation news. This might reduce the concurrent validity of the study as the absolute independency of good and bad news is considerably rare in real life.

The third experiment further explored the consequences of reporting order on people’s motivation to correct negative behavior. Results showed that participants tend to show good mood and less motivation after receiving the bad news first and good news at last while it shows the opposite for those received the good news first. One confound involved in this experiment is worry, which is a byproduct of receiving the bad news. People might have chosen to behave positively because they were worried about the bad news rather than the bad news itself. Receiving the bad news before good news would considerably reduce people’s worry, thus reducing people’s motivation to correct the negative behavior. It is possible that the the order of news presentation and motivation are two independent factors. There is situation where bad news leads to pessimism and thus reduce people’s motivation to continue on an impossible task. Too much complication involved in perception of bad news made the bad news not necessarily lead to worry and motivation.



Legg, A., & Sweeny, K. (2013). Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News First? The Nature and Consequences of News Order Preferences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1-10. doi: 10.1177/0146167213509113

Original article can be found here.

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Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down

Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 9.41.39 PM

    Have you ever wanted to persuade someone, but were unsure how to go about doing so? Would you portray yourself as calm and collected, neutral, disgusted, or afraid? Interestingly enough, the study by Calanchini, Moons, and Mackie (2016), determined that an angry expression can increase the chance of people considering the rationality behind your argument. Having an angry expression can prompt people to paying more careful attention to your argument because of their mental switch from superficial to deeper, analytic processing. But what prompts people to utilize their deeper, more effortful processing? One hypothesis is that the experience of negative emotion such as anger indicates that something is wrong and processing resources must be engaged to deal with the situation. Whereas, the experience of positive emotion indicates that conditions are well and effortful processing is not needed. Therefore, a negative emotion expression accompanying a persuasive appeal might induce the participant to carry out more careful processing. On the other hand, a positive emotion expression accompanying a persuasive appeal might signal that all is well and reduce effortful processing of the argument. The transition from superficial to effortful processing was determined by presenting the participant with two arguments, a compelling one and a weak, specious one. If the participant was able to tell the strong argument from the weak one, this indicated that controlled, rational thought had taken over.

        The effect of angry expressions on the persuasiveness of strong or weak appeals was assessed in the first study. The participants, more than one thousand undergraduates from the University of California, Davis (UCD), read a strong and weak appeal accompanied by the picture of the writer expressing one of four emotions: anger, disgust, fear, and sadness. After reading the proposal, the participants responded to a questionnaire that gauged their agreement with the proposal. A seven point scale was used to see the agreement with the proposal (1= not at all, 7=very strongly). It was concluded that participants who saw angry expressions of people were more persuaded by the strong proposals than the weak proposals. The  of the strong proposal from the weak one showed that the angry emotion activated more rational processing, leading the participant to closely determine which appeal was stronger.

       The second experiment also investigated how angry emotions influence the processing of persuasive proposals. In the study, more than two-thousand participants from the University of California, Davis read a strong or weak proposal supporting the implementation of comprehensive exams for college seniors at the University of Miami. Each proposal was accompanied by a picture of the persuader expressing either anger, fear, or a neutral expression. After reading the proposal, the participants answered a questionnaire which was based on a seven point semantic scale (1=strongly disagree, 7=strongly agree). The results concluded that strong appeals resulted in more favorable ratings than did weak appeals. It was determined that participants reported more favorable attitudes towards strong than weak appeals accompanied by angry expressions. Because the participants were able distinguish between the strong and weak appeals, it was concluded that rational thought was induced by the angry expressions– an indicator of analytic processing.

       Why does an angry expression prompt people to paying closer scrutiny to an argument? The psychological process behind this is believed to be the deactivation of heuristics. Heuristics are quick decision strategies that require little cognitive effort. People frequently engage in this non-analytic processing, wherein they prioritize some information over other information. For example, a professor might be more persuasive than a layperson, even if both make identical arguments. Thus, heuristic-driven attitude change can occur without acknowledging the actual appeal itself. Typically, this results in people not distinguishing between truly strong, compelling arguments and weak arguments. On the other hand, analytic processing is characterized by effortful, deliberate, and systematic evaluation of information. This study assessed if an angry expression induced analytic processing. So the next time you want to persuade an audience, consider an outright expression (or feigning) of your anger; negative affect may signal that something is wrong in the environment and, consequently, force people to think rationally.





Calanchini, J., Moons, W. G., & Mackie, D. M. (2016). Angry expressions induce extensive   processing of persuasive appeals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 64, 88-98.

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“I Cheated, but Only a Little”: Partial Confessions to Unethical Behavior

In this post we will be examining a study that looks into the idea of confessions. Most often thought of as a binary thing: you confess or you don’t. This study attempts to debunk the conventional wisdom and explore the observed phenomenon of the partial confession. The study “I Cheated, but Only a Little”, by Eyal Peer, Alessandro Acquisti,  and Shaul Shalvi explores the psychological motivations and affective consequences of confession, and more specifically, partial confession. Partial confession is defined by the researchers as the assuming of responsibility for only part of the transgressions one has committed. A full confession, conversely, is the assumption of responsibility for all of one’s offenses. The overarching goal of the studies detailed in the article is the determination of the “prevalence, antecedents, and consequences of partial confessions both in simulated and real-life settings” (203). The authors cite many possible reasons for partial confessions, most notably they include minimization of consequence and relief of guilt. Before the study they hypothesize that partial confessions can lead to good or bad outcomes for the transgressor either relieving their guilt or furthering it for not “coming clean” (203).

The design of the experiment was particularly interesting as it demonstrated a clever example of a way psychologists quantify something in a controlled setting that the lay-person may think is unobservable. Study 1 investigated the relationship between the degree of one’s cheating and the subsequent likelihood of partial or full confession. In this, and subsequent, studies participants completed a short “forecasting skills survey” prior to predicting the outcome (heads or tails) of ten coin flips, carried out on a coin toss website. Payment was assigned based on a self-reported number of correct predictions out of 10, allowing participants to cheat (i.e. overreport this number). Afterward, participants were given an opportunity to confess to cheating and asked how many correct predictions they had actually made, while being reassured that they would still be paid according to their first report.

The extent to which participants could have cheated was measured using a ‘cheating ratio’, defined by the number of over-reports made divided by the number of over-reports possible (e.g. 6 correct predictions + 2 over-reports comprises a cheating ratio of 2/4 or 0.50). Confessions were computed using a ‘confession ratio’, or “the extent to which participants confessed out of the maximum extent that was available for them to do so.” A participant that cheated by six coin flips and confessed to cheating by just three would produce a confession ratio of 0.50 (204-205).

The results confirmed that confessions exist on a spectrum. Among cheaters 19% confessed to some degree and 40% of those confessed only partially. They also found a positive relationship between cheat ratio and confession ratio: larger lies were associated with larger confessions. This was an interesting result as I would have expected that those who lied the most in step one would be more comfortable lying again and under-confessing. Study 1 established grounds for partial confessions and established a link between size of the lie and size of the confession.

Study 1 established that partial confessions happen and are prevalent, but reading this article I wanted an answer to the question “should I only partially confess?”. Study 3 attempts to answer this by looking at negative feelings after confessing to cheating in the same game described in Study 1. The authors found that partial confessors actually felt the worst out of the three groups. Partial confessors reported more negative feelings than non-confessors and full confessors. This indicates that the attempted compromise between relieving guilt and getting away with it failed as the results indicate by lying again and only partially confessing the participants were worse off for dealing with the shame of confessing while also failing to relieve their guilt (208). 

Overall we found this paper very interesting because we walk away from it with tangible advice that is counter intuitive. If you want to relieve your guilt, you best fully confess. If you want to cover your tracks, you’re advised to keep your mouth shut. The authors find compelling evidence that trying to strike a balance will leave you with the worst of both worlds.

The full article can be found at this link

-Dan Meyer and Robbi Melvin

Pe’er, E., Acquisti, A., & Shalvi, S. (2014). ‘I Cheated, But Only a Little’ – Partial Confessions to Unethical Behavior. SSRN Electronic Journal SSRN Journal, 106(2), 202-217. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
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Quick Thinkers Are Smooth Talkers: Mental Speed Facilitates Charisma

Hello faithful readers and devoted fans of our psychological expertise. We give you our latest tasty morsel of social psychology news, we know you’ve all been waiting for it. Get it while it’s hot:

Everyone knows that one person who is an extremely smooth talker. The guy or gal who — let’s face it — is the quickest to make the joke at social gatherings, or is unimaginably instinctual in their responses. Hell, sometimes I think they’ve planned their responses ahead of time, like they have some sort of inhuman superpower. The common perception is that these people are smart, which allows them to have such dominating responses over a multitude of social situations.

All envy aside, the results of one recent study set out to find a connection between quick wit and general intelligence, and the results may just blow your mind. In 2015, Hippel, Ronay, Baker, Kjelsaas, and Murphy conducted two psychological experiments to test the relationship between emotional intelligence and general intelligence. In Study 1, a group of 199 individuals (105 women, 94 men) were put through a series of tests to measure their intelligence, mental speed, friend-reported social skills/charisma, and personality. Study 2 was very similar: 218 participants (114 women, 104 men) conducted the same tests as those in Study 1, but additional more detailed information was collected regarding their mental speed and social skills as well as a series of tests that targeted “individual differences”, including self-confidence and self-efficacy, narcissism and a few others.  

As it turns out, mental quickness correlated positively with emotional intelligence. What this says is that those who possess the ability to answer questions relatively quickly are likely to be those who always seem to have quick, almost instantaneous responses that paradoxically seem to be well thought-out. However, the second conclusion the studies drew is a bit more intriguing — the data indicated charismatic tendencies were independent of general IQ. This means that people’s true intelligence, meaning their capabilities and accurate potential, cannot simply be drawn from a normal face-to-face interaction.

The well-known correlation between emotional intelligence and general intelligence is a myth. So what? The quick-witted guy at the party should get slightly less credit for being intelligent? Well, interestingly enough personal interactions, especially first impressions, have a seemingly large impact on people’s lives. Take interviews as an example: most institutions or companies use someone’s confidence, responses, and overall demeanor to judge their potential future success. And interviews may become less common as the results of this study become more well-known, placing more emphasis on other measures of intelligence like grade point average or IQ.

While this study provides a wonderfully intriguing and elegantly simplistic evaluation of the connection between charisma and various states of mental processing in individuals, it is not without its flaws, nor should it escape critique. First and foremost, we cannot get too carried away yet. Just because someone has a fast mental processing rate does mean that they are charismatic. This is a case of correlation, not causation. So sorry to break it to all you quick-witted nerds out there, but your abilities to charm may depend on more than just the speed at which you can “name a precious gem.” Before we can jump to conclusions, more research is required to pinpoint how exactly mental speed facilitates charisma. This is a much more complex question that likely requires delving into the biological side of psychology, something these researchers may not be prepared for. Might this research end here? Might the world be content believing that their quiz-bowl skills give them a leg-up in the dating world? Time will tell.

Additionally, it is always important to evaluate the methods of a study. Of particular interest to me is that the paper does not include a scale for the friend-evaluations. A scale of 1 to 3 versus 1 to 10, 1 to 100, (you get the picture) has potentially meaningful differences. For example, if a friend reported someone as a 3 on the 1 to 3 scale, does that translate to a 10 on the 1 to 10 scale, or perhaps a 7 instead? It is easy to see that a correlation between mental speed and charisma on such a scale is subject to error due to a lack of variation in the charisma ratings.

Finally, the context of this study is incredibly important when attempting to blanket these results across all humans. This study took place at a college in Queensland, hardly the epitome of diverse. Could this connection dissolve at different ages, in different cultures? The western world and eastern worlds are often at odds on standards of social interactions and guiding principles; is it so crazy to think that these results may be more localized within the greater social world?

I think it’s time I step back from this pessimism…er…realism before I ruin everyone’s fun. The take home message is that in social interactions, whats more attractive than having the best answer is having the fastest good answer. So get out there people, answer quickly but mindfully and you may just yet gain some charisma and subsequently, some friends, I’m sure you could use some, after all, you are reading a blog written by two college students for an assignment. Until next week…

von Hippel, W., Ronay, R., Baker, E., Kjelsaas, K., & Murphy, S. C. (2015). Quick Thinkers Are Smooth Talkers: Mental Speed Facilitates Charisma. Psychological Science.

The full article can be found at:


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Put a Ring On It: Promiscuity In Same-Sex Relationships?


If you have a Facebook account, you may have noticed a sudden explosion of rainbow-tinted profile pictures on June 26 of 2015. As a reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage, a large population of American citizens celebrated. Yet an opposition to same-sex marriage continues to persist. Surprisingly, this vocal opposition can be heard most from those who most strongly support the institution of marriage.

Why would the greatest proponents of marriage itself oppose the equality of marriage? Is it religious reasons, a belief in the sanctity of marriage, or simply personal beliefs? David Pinsof and Martie Haselton, both of the University of California Los Angeles, conducted a 2015 study on this opposition, noting an explanation through differences in short-term mating orientation (STMO) and mental associations – both implicit and explicit – between homosexuality and sexual promiscuity.

Pinsof and Haselton hypothesized an apparent connection between STMO and one’s social conservatism or liberalism. They argued that social conservatives perceive a higher threat from sexual promiscuity because they are inclined towards early marriage and child rearing, which hinders women’s occupational attainment and makes them more economically dependent on their husbands. These women then face increased costs of abandonment, while their husbands – having more children than a social liberal who delayed family formation – face increased costs of adultery. In turn, social conservatives tend to perceive sexual promiscuity more negatively, whereas social liberals’ delay in family formation provides them the opportunity to have multiple sexual partners. They then tend to conceptualize promiscuity in a much more positive light.

Using random assignment to one of two conditions – gay men or lesbians, with subsets of promiscuous or monogamous conditions – Pinsof and Haselton measured implicit associations between sexual orientation and promiscuity. Participants took an Implicit Association Test (IAT) pairing “straight” with “monogamous” and “gay” with “promiscuous,” then switching them in the second trial so as to pair “straight” with “promiscuous” and “gay” with “monogamous.” The idea was to categorize images and terms into one of the two sets of paired words, and the delay in doing so between different trials would indicate an implicit bias of association between those words. For example, if the participants were much faster to categorize words while “straight” was paired with “monogamous” and “gay” was paired with “promiscuous,” it would illustrate bias that the term “gay” is implicitly associated with promiscuity.

Their results supported exactly this: a faster association was found for “gay” and “promiscuous” than was for “gay and “monogamous.” Additionally, this association was markedly higher in the lesbian women condition than in the gay men condition. Pinsof and Haselton hypothesized that this difference could be accounted for by the portrayal of lesbian sexuality in various media sources, but admit that their attempt to control for plausible confounds was far from exhaustive, as the origin of implicit biases such as those measured by their implicit association test are multifaceted in nature. Their results, therefore, could also be in part caused by moral outrage, perceived threats to community values, and fears of unwanted sexual interest, just to name a few. Such portrayals and stereotypes may account for the conservative opposition to same-sex marriage. That is, since those with low STMO are more threatened by promiscuity and perceive gay men and lesbians as sexually promiscuous, they are likely to oppose same-sex marriage.

Though support for same-sex marriage has skyrocketed over the past decade – culminating in the aforementioned 2015 Supreme Court ruling – opponents of the institution still account for a fair percentage of the American population. However, based on the findings of Pinsof and Haselton, this opposition may have less to do with actual beliefs, and more to do with self-interest. By understanding the difference in beliefs of social conservatives and liberals, we have the opportunity to move forward as a country – not only in the acceptance of same-sex marriage, but in numerous other issues, as well.

Pinsof, D. & Haselton, M. (2016). The Political Divide Over Same-Sex Marriage: Mating Strategies in Conflict?. Psychological Science.

Their full article can be found at:


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Review of “Physical aggression facilitates social information processing”

Chandler Blake and Lucas Bolender

Henry Markovits paper “Physical aggression facilitates social information processing” discusses the findings of an experiment the author conducted about information processing. The study put participants in a computer simulated situation where they had left their phone on a park bench and found a stranger picking it up when they returned for it. The stranger would either clench their fists or put their hands behind their back when they saw the participant coming to get their phone back. The stranger would either hit the participant, run away with the phone, or give the phone back in a friendly manner. It was the participant’s job to guess which of these actions was coming, from the original hand position of the stranger.

The researcher found that participants were more likely to correctly guess the action of the stranger, in subsequent trials, if the stranger hit the participant compared to running away or giving the phone back. He also found that the participants were better able to predict subsequent trials of running away compared to giving the phone back. From this Markovits concluded that people are more likely to process cues of physical aggression more efficiently.

The physiological process is that fear leads to faster learning. The author discusses how fear being processed efficiently makes sense for survival. It is not necessary to process cues of kindness in order to stay alive, however, if you cannot detect aggression it could very well lead to your death in the wild.

The first criticism that came to mind when reading the first version of this study is that clenched fists are much more naturally related to aggression than hands behind the back are to any of the alternatives. Placing ones hands behind their back during a social interaction could mean a variety of different things. Whereas clenched fists are closely related to and commonly perceived as being angry. The authors of the study acknowledge and attempt to combat this potential effect in a following study. This time they swap the cues with their respective actions. In this study the original cues and inverted cues were detected accurately 52.6% and 50% respectively. From this they claim, “These results certainly suggest that the use of clenched fists does not appear to have a specific effect on cue learning for physical aggression.” However, what it does seem to suggest is that the effect they claimed to have found has disappeared. If someone was to guess completely randomly at these videos we would expect to see them get about 50% of them correct. This evidence seems to point at an aggressive behavior being detected more readily when paired with an appropriate act of body language–no real surprise there.

Second, they acknowledge the fact that aggression is more unusual in daily life so it may be more shocking or memorable when compared to its alternative. To attempt to combat this they employ a third study design where the alternative is dancing, which is supposedly as unusual and shocking as aggression. In this case they find that aggression was accurately detected 52.4% of the time whereas dancing was only accurately detected 29.8% of the time. Therefore aggression cues must be more easily processed. However, outside theater & dance I have never seen a confrontation between two individuals end in dancing, therefore participants in the study may have simply guessed that the scene would end in aggression more often than dancing because it is more realistic. This would lead them to have an inflated measure of accurately interpreted aggression cues.

Markovits, H. (2013). Physical aggression facilitates social information processing. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(6), 1023-1026.

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I Think I Am Doing Great but I Feel Pretty Bad About It: Affective Versus Cognitive Verbs and Self Reports


Subtle changes in language can have an affect on how we respond to various questions and stimuli, having consequences on how we view ourselves. In the present study, researchers wanted to examine the effects of cognitive (think) and affective (feel) verbs when reporting on thoughts about one’s self. They organized four experiments to test their hypothesis that responding to the “think” stimulus would yield a more negative self-evaluation than the “feel” stimulus.

The first two experiments looked at the effects of responding to the different verbs in open-ended responses, and to study the possible lasting effects on self-esteem using the Rosenberg (1965) self-esteem scale. The results from the experiments showed that the responses to “feel” stimuli were significantly more negative than “think” stimuli, which related to more negative self-esteem results after responding to “feel” stimuli.

In subsequent experiments, the researchers tested if manipulating the verb within the Rosenberg scale would have a similar effect on self-esteem. To do this, they changed the Rosenberg scale to incorporate either “feel” in 6 out of the 10 items or “think” in the 6 items, expecting lower self-esteem scores in the “feel” version of the test. Analysis of the results revealed that the verb effect was not significant, but separating the results by gender showed that females scored significantly lower than males in the “feel” version and higher in the “think” version.

To further investigate the verb effects in relation to gender differences, the researchers manipulated the Rosenberg scale so that every item contained either “think” or “feel” and also included an emotionality measure. This would show whether the gender difference was driven by heightened emotionality of female participants responding to the “feel” stimulus. The results showed that females scored significantly lower in the “feel” version than in the “think” version, but there was not a significant difference between the two versions for males. Furthermore, female participants’ scores on emotional orientation were higher when responding to “feel” prompts than when responding to “think” prompts, and analysis of emotionality showed that higher levels of emotionality correlated with lower levels of self-esteem.

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The results from these experiments show that self-reflection does in fact rely on lexical influences as shown by the significantly more negative self-descriptions when presented with the “feel” versus the “think” manipulations. These experiments also proved that the subtle difference between cognitive and affective verbs can have a lasting impact on self-esteem. Further experimentation led to the finding that self-esteem scores vary depending on the use of an affective or cognitive verb for females but not for males. This effect might be explained by the higher level of emotionality tied to “feel” verbs for female participants which leads to lower self-esteem.

The study suggested three possible mechanisms to explain the different responses to the cognitive verb and the affective verb.  One possibility is that these verbs activate different frames which make the self-relevant information retrieval processes distinct from one another. Another possibility is that the “feel” prompt is more likely to engage deeper self-processing by making people more aware of the reality as opposed to the ideal self status, which elicits a more negative response. The discrepancy between responses might also be explained by the varying confidence levels, where “think” has a higher level of confidence than “feel.” The journal article did not offer an explanation to the gender differences in self-esteem rating when prompted with “think” versus “feel” verbs. However, because women scored higher on emotional orientation when primed with “feel” prompts, this suggests that female affective processing is greater than in males.

In general, this study successfully tested how cognitive and affective verbs play a role in self-reflection and self-esteem. Because the experiment incorporated large number of participants from different backgrounds, the experiment has high external validity and would be able to be generalized to a larger population. However, it would be interesting to replicate this study within various cultures with other languages to see if the findings are still valid. In terms of internal validity, the Rosenberg scale only tests for explicit self-esteem; therefore, further research could include testing for implicit self-esteem. Furthermore, the study used multiple platforms to collect data, allowing for variance in their responses which could skew the data.

Holtgraves, T. (2015). I Think I Am Doing Great but I Feel Pretty Bad About It: Affective Versus Cognitive Verbs and Self-Reports. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(5), 677-686.

Article Link:

by Arianne Thomas and Yi-Pei Lo

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Framing Effects in Online Dating: Nice Guys Have a Leg Up

In modern society, online dating is becoming more prevalent, which creates an interesting dating dynamic because prospects can be compared side to side- you can literally swipe past someone who you view is flawed. However our choice to swipe past is not limited to their physical and emotional characteristics but also the order in which potential dates are presented. This is because framing, the order in which things are presented, influences our construals of the world.

Earlier this year Stephanie S. Spielmann and  Geoff MacDonald conducted a study that examined the role of contrast and framing effects on evaluations of dating targets. They conducted two separate experiments. In study one, 94 heterosexual females viewed a series of four online dating profiles made by the experimenters. The dating profiles were comprised of four photographs, two of which were found to be ‘unattractive’ and two that were ‘highly attractive’ by pilot testing. These pictures were matched with descriptions found to convey either responsiveness such as: “When I’m dating someone, I really care about putting in the effort and making it work” or a description that was found to impart unresponsiveness, for instance: “I get bored talking about feelings and stuff and I’m not really into talking about people’s problems.”

The experimenters hypothesized that the order in which the dating profiles were presented would have an effect on the interest of a prospective date. Each possible combination of attractiveness and responsiveness was used, and the order of these combinations were directly manipulated by the experimenters. There were two orders in which the created profiles were presented: a responsive first condition which went Responsive/Attractive, Responsive/ Unattractive, Unresponsive/Attractive, Unresponsive/Unattractive, and an unresponsive first condition with the order being: Unresponsive/Attractive, Unresponsive/Unattractive, Responsive/Attractive, Responsive/Unattractive.

The experiment had participants rate each profile on perceived responsiveness, attractiveness and the level of romantic interest they personally felt toward the target profile. The results found that responsive targets were rated as more attractive following unresponsive targets, responsive targets were rated as even more responsive when following an unresponsive target, and that romantic interest increased for responsive profiles in the unresponsive first condition. These results support the hypothesis that the order in which dating profiles are presented in has an effect on dating decisions and romantic interest.

Study 1 confirmed the hypothesis and also had another surprising result. Target profiles with a high responsiveness rate were deemed as more attractive following an unresponsive target, and so the experimenters conducted a second study to confirm this result. In order to systematically test this, Study 2 involved both men and women. Study 2 also limited the number of conditions, having only unattractiveness paired with high responsiveness. Study 2 confirmed that responsiveness had a greater effect on perceived romantic interest than attractiveness if it was shown after an unresponsive profile. This can be seen in figure 1.
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One critique of these studies is that participants were forced to choose between two options, however, these two options were not the same for every participant. Furthermore it is possible that participants were more willing to rate an unattractive yet responsive target as more romantically appealing in order to avoid judgment from experimenters. It is also likely that participants were engaging system two because they were under observation, which is something that might not occur outside of a laboratory setting. The experiment also fails to emulate the real world of online dating because it only offered four options for each participant. In reality, online daters are presented with an almost limitless number of options which could have an enormous effect on perceptions.


Spielmann, S. S., & Macdonald, G. (2016). Nice guys finish first when presented second: Responsive daters are evaluated more positively following exposure to unresponsive daters. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 64, 99-105.

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The role of cognitive resources in determining our moral intuitions: Are we all liberals at heart? –by Meagan Watson and Caroline Minott–


According to Wright and Baril (2011), conservatives and liberals disagree on a variety of issues because they have different construals (understandings/interpretations) of morality. The researchers used the moral foundation theory as a way to understand this phenomenon. According to the moral foundation theory, people tend to gravitate towards either individualizing or binding moral foundations. Those with individualizing foundations tend to see morality through the constructs of fairness/reciprocity (i.e human concern with fairness, reciprocity, and justice) and harm/care (i.e human concern with caring, nurturing, and protecting vulnerable individuals from harm). Alternatively, those with binding foundations tend to see morality through the constructs of ingroup/loyalty (i.e patriotism and self-sacrifice), authority/respect (i.e obedience and respect for authority), and purity/sanctity.

Previous research has found that liberalism tends to correlate with individualizing foundations, while conservatism tends to correlate with binding foundations. Wright and Baril (2011) wanted to explore this phenomenon further, by seeing whether these differences in moral foundations predicted individual responses in the same way – despite possible parental, cultural, or temperamental influences. Some researchers suspect that the differences in liberal and conservative moral foundations are a byproduct of Enlightenment philosophers “narrowing” the focus of morality down to harm and fairness. In this view, liberals still have binding foundation intuitions but actively override them. The current study asks the question: are the differences between liberals’ and conservatives’ moral foundations due to an unconscious cognitive overriding of binding foundation intuitions, or are they due to an enhancement of them? Since both of these conditions takes effort, the researchers used self-regulation depletion/cognitive load tasks to get at participants’ automatic moral responses.

The study consisted of 206 undergraduate students from the College of Charleston. All the participants were required to complete an online version of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of two subscales, one asking for more relevance and the other asking about moral agreement. From this the participants were assigned to one of three MFQ conditions: control, self-regulation depletion, or cognitive load. In the control condition, the researchers simply asked participants to write about an imaginary visit to the zoo. The self-regulation depletion condition were give the same instructions as the control, but were given additional instructions to not think about white bears. If at any point they thought of white bears, they were instructed to suppress those thoughts and continue writing. Those in the cognitive load condition were asked to fill out the MFQ while concurrently counting the number of high pitched tones playing on an online metronome.

The experimenter’s hypothesis was correct – as they found that the foundation responses were in fact predicted by political orientation. Specifically, the more liberal a participant was, the lower they scored  in binding foundations. This difference, however, disappeared in the two experimental conditions. After putting harm/fairness into one “individualizing” foundation scale, and authority/ingroup/purity into one “binding” foundation scale, they found no significant difference between liberals and conservatives. When cognitive resources were compromised, participants only responded strongly to the individualizing foundations (harm/fairness), with both liberals and conservatives deprioritizing the binding foundations (authority/in-group/purity). In other words, automatic moral reactions of conservatives turned out to be more like those of liberals. These findings suggest that harm and fairness could be core components of morality – for both liberals and conservatives. While many believed in an innate five-foundation moral code, in which liberals would narrow their foundations down to two, we may actually begin life with a two-foundation moral foundation. From here, conservatives emerge by way of expanding upon these two-foundations (adding authority/ingroup/purity).

While this study seems to have high internal validity, we have a criticism of the external validity. With a participant pool of undergraduate students from a West Virginian college, these results cannot be generalized cross-nationally and cross-age. It would be interesting to see whether these results replicate for individuals who are older and have identified with conservative/liberal ideology for several decades. It is possible that older conservatives, when cognitive resources are compromised, do not show that same deprioritization of binding foundations. Perhaps, with older conservatives, binding foundations will have become a part of their automatic processes. This poses a new research question: is there an age when one’s individualizing and/or binding foundations become an automatic part of the way one processes the world, or will one always show a two-foundation moral baseline?

Wright, J. C., & Baril, G. (2011). The role of cognitive resources in determining our moral intuitions: Are we all liberals at heart?. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(5), 1007-1012.


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Trust Discrepancies: Women Trust more than Men after Trust Violations

In the study conducted, 470 Amazon MTurk workers (47% female) read a scenario in which, because of budget cuts, their company signed a contract to buy refurbished computers instead of brand-new computers. The participants were randomly assigned to a “trust violation experimental condition” or a “control no violation condition.” In the trust violation condition, the participants were told that the first shipment of computers appeared to be in good working order and were asked to report their trust in the supplier, based on a 7-point scale. Then, the participants were told that the first shipment of computers had technical problems, and when brought to a repair shop, the owner mentioned that the same group of computers had already been repaired for the same issues. After bringing this issue up with the supplier, the supplier apologized for the failures and there were no device failures in the next shipment of computers. Following the contractual violation, apology, and the good quality of the 2nd shipment, participants were asked to report their trust of the supplier going forward. In the control condition, the same procedure was followed except the computers successfully functioned after both shipments.

The study “expected women’s trust to be greater than men’s following a trust violation, but not when a counterpart consistently behaved in a trustworthy manner.” The results of the experiment were consistent with this hypothesis, as males and females did not differ in the amount of trust they originally had in the supplier. However, after the first batch of non-functioning computers were delivered–the display of untrustworthy behavior of the supplier, women maintained a significantly higher level of trust in the supplier than men. Since the control condition found no significant discrepancy between the two genders in regards to trust levels, the experiment demonstrates that gender disparities in trust emerge after trust violations happen.

It is clear that the experiment findings show that women have an easier time relative to men rebuilding faith after a violation of trust, but why does this occur? The psychological reasoning for these results depends of the idea of socialization. This means that by living in our society men and women both come to realize norms, attitudes, and behaviors. These differ by gender and therefore men and women have learned to act differently in certain situations. When both genders enter a situation in which an outside party has acted in an unethical manner and violated their trust, the difference in the way women are socially “supposed” to react and the way men are socially “supposed” to react is the cause for the variation in their actual feelings and actions. Women feel more societal pressures to be compassionate, warm, and understanding. Also, they have been found to have, on average, self-construals that value relationships more than men do. These factors lead them to regain trust after a trust violation relatively easily. Men on the other hand did not regain as much trust in the supplier as the women did. They are socialized in an opposite manner and this causes them to be less forgiving after betrayal. Men feel societal pressures to act unemotionally, businesslike, and rigid. The gender discrepancy in the restoration of trust following an unethical action reflects the differences in the way men and women are taught to behave through life experience.

The findings in this study seem quite valid. Although at the end of the study, the experimenters states that the sample sizes of 155 participants and the control of 315 individuals were unequal on account of a “study administration error.” However, the experimenters analyzed a randomly chosen subsample of 163 individuals within the control condition, to make sure that the unequal sample sizes did not affect the results. The new results mirrored the results that used a proportionally large sample size. The fact that the authors found their error and verified the results increases their credibility in our eyes. Another aspect of this experiment that leads us to find it so compelling is that it has strong external validity, as the participants were placed in a possible real-life situation. Since this experiment is so realistic, the results are more easily understood, generalizable across other situations, and tangibly connected to the psychological processes. Furthermore, this study contains 3 separate experiments that all resulted in the same phenomenon occurring. In each of the experiments, women were found to rebuild trust to a higher degree in relation to men after violations of trust. Due to the ability to attain the same results by running different experiments, our confidence in the findings and in the internal validity was bolstered. In general, we both “trust” this study.

Olivia Corkery and Chase Brown


Article link:


APA Citation: 

Haselhuhn, M., Kennedy, J., Kray, L., Van Zant, A., Schweitzer, M. (2015). Gender differences in trust dynamics: Women trust more than men following a trust violation. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56, 104-109. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2014.09.007.

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Social Rejection and Aggression

By: Emily Taylor and Maddie Taylor

How can you reject someone without fear of retaliation? We’ve all been there. Maybe an individual lacks the skills necessary for a job, or maybe the two of you just do not click. The only solution to these problems: reject them. However, social rejection can lead to aggression towards the rejecter. If you are faced with this task and want to avoid an aggressive retaliation, pay close attention to the information that follows.

Prior research has contributed multiple explanations for an aggressive reaction. Research on the link between honor and aggression has suggested that aggression may be a method of regaining lost honor or proving one’s worth, needs which both stem from a feeling of disrespect. That is, the aggression may not be a result of the rejection, but rather a response to what the rejection is communicating to the individual about themselves. Furthermore, connectedness is a major motivation of human behavior and previous research has suggested that being respected is an important step in fulfilling one’s need to belong. Social rejection causes one to feel disrespected or disliked and therefore threatens connectedness.

In their 2013 study, Amber DeBono and Mark Muraven investigated how one’s perception of rejection affects their reactions. Specifically, they hypothesized that feeling disrespected after social rejection, rather than a feeling disliked, would lead to more aggressive behaviors. DeBono and Muraven conducted four experiments to determine the extent to which aggression is caused by an individual’s perception of being disliked or disrespected.

In experiment one participants were told to play an online game called “cyberball” with two other participants (who, in reality, were online simulations). Half of the participants were randomly assigned to the exclusion condition and were rarely passed the ball. The other half of participants were randomly assigned to the inclusion condition and were passed the ball as often as the other “participants” were. Following the game participants were told to allocate a certain amount of hot sauce into the food of the other two “participants,” in order to test their aggression. It was found that excluded participants allocated more hot sauce to the other cyberball players than the included participants did. This finding suggested that participants who felt rejected engaged in more aggressive behavior.

The results of experiment one provided useful information concerning aggressive retaliation to rejection, however, the perception of rejection was not manipulated by the experimenters. To allow for more precise findings, further experiments were conducted. In experiment three, participants were told that they would be working with another individual. Each participant completed a personality questionnaire and was told their questionnaire would be scored by the other individual. Each participant then received written feedback that constituted like, dislike, respect, or disrespect from the other individual. In reality, there was no other individual and all feedback was pre-written and identical within each condition. After participants had read the feedback, they were asked to determine how much of the next 40 minutes the “other individual” would spend doing either an art task or a mathematical task. A Work Preference Inventory had also been given to the participant stating that the “other individual” hated math but loved art. Results showed that the disrespected group was significantly more likely to assign math work than participants in the other conditions. This finding, along with the findings of the other two experiments, demonstrated that disrespect is more influential in predicting aggression than dislike.

One could argue that the results of these experiments are only valid to the extent that dislike and disrespect were accurately separated. However, the use of multiple manipulation methods and rejection measures assured that the two scenarios were correctly separated. It would also be advisable to use a larger sample size in further experimentation. Nonetheless, the consistency in replication across all four experiments of this study is supportive of the hypothesis that disrespect in social rejection does, in fact, lead to more aggressive retaliation than dislike.

All four experiments conducted in DeBono and Muraven’s study suggest that an aggressive reaction following rejection is most likely when rejection is paired with a perception of disrespect. If rejection can be made about dislike, rather than disrespect, the chance of an aggressive retaliation will be reduced. In conclusion, if looking to evade an aggressive response to rejection, it is critical to avoid conveying disrespect to whomever you are rejecting.

DeBono, A., & Muraven, M. (2014). Rejection perceptions: Feeling disrespected leads to greater aggression than feeling disliked. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 55, 43-52.


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Think of Your Significant Other and You on Valentine’s Day. By Elizabeth Swain and Sydney O’Neil

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Gift-giving is a long standing tradition for givers and recipients to foster the relationship they have together and increase social connectedness.  Psychologists have pondered which gift-giving behavior is more effective in increasing closeness in a relationship: gifts that reflect the giver (giver-centric gifts) or gifts that reflect the recipient (recipient-centric gifts).  One may assume that recipient-centric gifts are the most efficient in enhancing a social relationship as gifts are intended for the recipient, but this intuitive response may be misleading.  If the gift does not accurately reflect the recipient, this is not true.  Giver-centric gifts may be more effective in increasing social closeness as self-disclosure feels rewarding for the giver and will then promote happiness for both the giver and receiver and thus enhance overall closeness.  Aknin and Human hypothesized that participants, both givers and receivers, would report a preference for recipient-centric gifts, but also hypothesized that giver-centric gifts would actually produce greater social closeness than recipient-centric gifts on the premise that giver-centric gifts.


To examine the relationship between gift giving and relationships, a study of 303 participants, 51% of which identified as female, and 49% who identified as males, were randomly assigned to one of two online questionnaires. These questionnaires asked the participants if they could recall the last time they gave a gift that either revealed their true self, a giver-centric gift, or revealed their knowledge of the participant, a recipient-centric gift. The participants were asked, specifically, to describe in great detail the gift that either somehow portrayed their true character or passions. They were also asked to describe, in detail, the last gift they received. In order to make a proper assessment of the consequences of giver and recipient centric gifts, participants were instructed to recall their feelings of closeness before and after the gift was given. In order to properly measure the participant’s feelings of closeness, the researchers had the participants use the Inclusion of Other in Self Scare, also known as the IOS scale. By using this scale the participants were asked to move circles closer together or farther apart in order to portray their feelings of closeness. The results showed that the last gift participants gave revealed their knowledge of the recipient and the last gift they received indicated the giver’s knowledge of themselves. In addition to these results, the researchers also examined the results of whether people felt greater gains in closeness after giving a giver-centric gift or giving a recipient-centric gift. The results stated that givers offering giver-centric gifts felt significantly more closeness.


Indeed, Aknin and Human were correct in their hypothesis.  Giver-centric gifts are efficient as fostering social relationships.  This relates back to early views on gift-giving, that  gift-giving is a form of self-expression that is meant for bonding.  Giver-centric gifts serve as an act of self disclosure, communicating something about the giver, and self-disclosure tends to enhance liking for both the discloser and the one being disclosed to.  In regard to this study, giver-centric gifts express something about the giver and in turn increases liking between giver and recipient and thus social closeness.  Recipient-centric gifts promote the most social closeness, but is often executed inadequately and decreases potential for enhancing social closeness.  So while the common thought is that gifts should be presented with the recipient in mind, giver-centric gifts can actually be just as, if not more, effective in promoting closeness in a social relationship.  


A possible flaw in this study, and something to consider while reading these results, is that all relationships differ and each person’s perception of their relationship, before and after a gift is given, is subjective. In addition, all humans are evidently different. It is possible that the majority of the people surveyed are materialistic. Materialistic people would respond differently when receiving a gift because they are more likely to value objects over emotions. Another critique to consider when reading this study is that the participants are not asked to recall a specific holiday. Specific holidays, like Valentine’s Day, for example, can heighten the stakes and expectations of a gift which could lead to possible enhanced disappointment or enhanced happiness. Therefore altering their answers.


Overall it is clear that next Valentine’s Day, whether you keep the recipient or yourself in mind you can’t go wrong in enhancing the closeness in your relationship!


L.B. Aknin and L.J. Human, “Give a piece of you: Gifts that reflect givers promote closeness,” J. Exp. Soc. Psychol., vol. 60, pp 8-16, Sept. 2015.

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Cultural Differences in the Endowment Effect by Grace Farnkoff and Robin Spofford

Article can be found here:

In the study “For Whom Is Parting With Possessions More Painful? Cultural Differences in the Endowment Effect,” psychologists Maddux, Yang, Falk, Adam, Adair, Endo, Carmon, and Heine examine the consequences of the association between a possession and the self. Previous studies have suggested that this association is created by simply possessing an object, and it increases the object’s perceived value because we have an automatic tendency to enhance the self. This tendency is known as the endowment effect, which is the “tendency for owners (potential sellers) to value objects more than potential buyers” value the same object. The researchers predicted that, as a result those designated as sellers would place a higher value on given object than the values given by participants designated as buyers (Maddux et al. 1910). Additionally through their research, the authors of this study examined the difference in valuation of objects between participants from Western and Eastern cultures. By comparing results across different cultures, researchers are able to account for differences in cultural valuation of objects. When researchers only focus on a single culture, they risk introducing a cultural bias into their findings.

Gilovich, Keltner, Chen, and Nisbett describe in Social Psychology how Westerners, who generally have individualistic self-construals, are more likely to exhibit self-enhancing behavior than Easterners, who have interdependent self-construals (32). Thus, as Maddux et al. predict, the difference in these self-construals would lead to a larger endowment effect in Westerners compared to Easterners, who are more likely to exhibit self-criticism behaviors. To test these predictions, the researchers conducted a series of experiments to measure if the endowment effect applied in various situations, and if there were differences between the effects in Western and Eastern participants. The participants were primarily college students from Western countries such as the United States and Canada, and East Asian countries. In the first test, Maddux et al. randomly assigned participants to be “buyers” or “sellers (owners)”. The sellers were told that they now owned a mug with their school’s logo on it, and prices were listed from $0.00 $10.00 in $0.50 increments. They were to select for each price whether they would sell the mug for the given price to the buyer, or if they would prefer to not sell the mug and keep it. Similarly, the buyers had to indicate whether they would buy the mug from the experimenter or not buy the mug at each price. So the valuation of the mug was considered to be the lowest price that the sellers would sell the mug for and the highest price that the buyers would pay for the mug. This version of the experiment indicated that the owner’s average selling price was significantly higher than the buyer’s average purchase price, thus showing evidence of the endowment effect.

The endowment effect was present for both the Eastern and Western cultures participants, but it was stronger in the Western participants. This was also reflected in the results for the second study where priming of an independent or interdependent construal led to a larger or smaller endowment effect, respectively, despite the cultural identity of the participant. Finally, in the third study, the participant’s association with an object was isolated, which resulted in a larger cultural influence on the endowment effect. This showed how participants tended to value an object more when there was an obvious association between themselves and an object. Thus, the researchers found evidence of a connection between a possession and the self, which appeared to be stronger in Western cultures than Eastern cultures.

After reviewing the researchers methods and conclusions, we feel that the experiment performed by Maddux et al. was successful in manipulating how cultural differences influence  the endowment effect. The study isolates different cultural groups in a way that eliminates the influence of confounding variables and allows them to generalize their findings. They recreated the cultural effects by priming participants with either independent or interdependent thinking, which demonstrated how these ways of thinking lead to the endowment effect. However, the only population they tested in this study was university students, so these findings should only be generalized to individuals who fall under this category. We think it would be interesting for future studies to examine how social class and age influence the endowment effect to see if there are other aspects besides culture that shape how an individual feels about a possession in relation to the self.


Gilovich, T., Keltner, D. Chen, S., & Nisbett, R. E. (2012). Social Psychology (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Norton.

Maddux, W. W., Yang, H., Falk, C., Adam, H., Adair, W., Endo, Y.,  Heine, S. J. (2010). For Whom Is Parting With Possessions More Painful? Cultural Differences in the Endowment Effect. Psychological Science, 21(12), 1910–1917. Retrieved from

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When Everyone’s Really Good: The Impact of Having Too-Much Talent on Different Sports Teams

“The Too-Much Talent-Talent Effect: Team Interdependence Determines When More Talent Is Too Much Or Not Enough” experiment explores how different levels of individual talent on a team can either hinder or enhance a team’s performance. The experiment compares levels of individual talent of athletes on two types of sports teams: interdependent teams, such as basketball, and independent teams, such as baseball. The five researchers conducting the experiment (Roderick I. Swaab, Michael Schaerer, Eric M. Anicich, Richard Ronay, and Adam D. Galinsky) define an interdependent team as one on which players rely on coordination with each other to create plays and defend as a unit. An independent team, however, is one where players have more freedom to perform individually without their individual actions having too great of an impact on the team’s overall performance. The purpose of this experiment is to answer the following hypothesis: teams with too much talent/dominant individuals produces success up to a point, until too much talent leads to diminishing returns.

In order to answer the problem/question proposed by the hypothesis, the researchers conducted four experiments that measured how too much talent might affect a team in different scenarios. The experimenters first needed to confirm that people believed what the hypothesis was trying to disprove: that teams will perform at their best when they have as much talent on their roster as possible. Through a form of surveys, the researchers were able to confirm this belief and move forward with the experiment.

The next three parts of this experiment examine how too much talent affects interdependent and independent teams differently. Research conducted on both soccer and basketball teams (interdependent sports) confirmed that too-much talent only provides success for a team up to a certain point before that success begins to diminish. These findings were projected on curvilinear graphs so that readers would have a visual image. When the researchers studied the effects of too-much talent on independent teams they discovered that a curvilinear line did not exist; team success increased with more talent. After conducting their experiments, the researchers were thus able to confirm that too-much talent can negatively affect interdependent teams, however, does not seem to have any negative effect on the success of independent teams.

With regards to the psychological world, this study was conducted in order to show how interdependent teams will be affected by too-much talent; the findings of this study will hopefully be useful for coaches who want to breed successful teams. The study explains that when there are too many individuals with impressive amounts of talent on an interdependent team, the individuals will begin competing with each other to better themselves rather than striving for team success. This psychological phenomenon is known as status competition. The desire for an individual to be the dominant athlete on the team undermines their desire to help the team, especially if that “help” prohibits them from being thought of as the best and most dominant player. This status competition can also lead talented athletes to undermine their teammates’ performances so that they “look” better on the field/court.

While one might be skeptical that there is an accurate way to measure talent, the methodology that the researchers used was very thought out. They used a different method for every sport, sometimes calculating talent through mathematical equations while other times using statistical data from past seasons. There is often no consensus over which athletes are the best in their individual sports, but it was apparent that the researchers were being very meticulous in trying to determine the best way to score talent.

Thinking about all the great athletes on interdependent teams (the Lionel Messi’s and the Stephen Curry’s), one might think, “If only every player on the team was as good as them!” But if the history of sports and this experiment have showed one thing: the team with the most talent does not always win. It almost always comes down to effort. If nothing else, this is what makes sports interesting!

Swaab, R. I., Schaerer, M., Anicich, E. M., Ronay, R., & Galinsky, A. D. (2014). The Too-Much-Talent Effect: Team Interdependence Determines When More Talent Is Too Much or Not Enough. Psychological Science, 25(8), 1581-1591. Retrieved March 8, 2016

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Social Learning: Learning Through Imitation

No one learns in a vacuum. People are incredibly social creatures, and the way we learn is very often a direct result of those around us. We learn to speak from hearing our parents, we learn how to interact from everything around us, and we often learn by imitating others. That is true whether it is just direct imitation or even just using the same ideas in a different way. The amazing truth, however, is that we don’t just do this as adults and adolescents. We imitate and discover socially from a very young age.

In 2010, Rebecca Williamson and other researchers dove into the topic of social learning, exploring imitation patterns in 36 month year old children. Eighty of these children were brought into the lab and were split into three groups. One group watched as adults sorted objects by various qualities, whether it was by color, shape, or the sound it made when shook. The “presort” control group simply saw the end result of the sorting, not the process. The “baseline” control group did not provide the children with any sort of prompt, and so the children did not see the objects sorted whatsoever.

The researchers expected that the children would imitate the sorting method of the adult, and they were correct. The children who had seen the presorting had a notably easier time sorting and sorted in a more uniform way. This shows  that the children’s learning was based on their environment and teachers instead of on internal factors. When given the opportunity they would learn by imitation instead of trial and error.

The slightly more surprising result was that the children did not just show these distinctions in familiar situations. Those who were taught by the adults were significantly better at sorting when given the same objects, but also were notably better when the objects were different. They not only imitated directly, but were able to imitate the pattern that the adult used.

This suggests that imitation is in fact a rudimentary form of social pattern building, and further confirms the vital nature that pattern recognition plays in spatial learning. In fact, the researchers mention this form of learning as being very useful in everyday situations. They use the example of judging ripeness of strawberries by color, and being able to use this pattern to extrapolate to judging the ripeness of other fruits in other seasons. The establishment of social imitation and patterns is vital to the survival of a species and to the development of a child, and plays an important role in our understanding of the social nature of human learning as a whole.

Williamson, R. A.; Jaswal, V. K.; Meltzoff, A. N. Learning the rules: Observation and                           imitation of a sorting strategy by 36-month-old children. Developmental                                 Psychology, Vol 46(1), Jan 2010, 57-65.

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The Secret to Personal Growth and Improved Social Functioning

If I were to offer you an opportunity to make you feel better about yourself, improve your general overall health, and enhance your social relationships with others, would you take it?

You probably should. Or at least consider it, since the manner to achieve these goals certainly isn’t out of reach. What is this secret formula you ask? The response is simple.


According to a multitude of recent social psychological studies, feeling positive creates a great number of personal and social advantages. The frequent experience of positive affect is associated with multiple indicators of good health and well being, as well as having been linked with enhanced creativity and a more open-minded outlook. This evidence suggests that happy, optimistic people feel better about themselves, thus stimulating performance within the cognitive and social domains. The power of happiness not only creates a sense of inner self-contentment, but also creates improved problem solving abilities that spills over into social relationships. Group collaboration is markedly improved based on the positive affect of the participants, with participants more willing to work together and provide a deeper level of creativity and ingenuity in their responses.

Social Psychologists Donna Webster Nelson and Erin K. Sim expanded upon these findings in a recent study to consider the extent that mood plays on traditional and social problem solving. They discovered that participants primed to feel a positive, affective state generated better solutions to fictitious social problems than participants primed to experience a neutral or negative affect.

In their experiment, fifty-four female and twenty male students from a mid-sized southeastern university were randomly assigned a positive or neutral affect condition. In each case, they read a series of 25 statements developed by Seibert and Ellis (1991) as a means of inducing the relevant affective state. For instance, positive statements could include phrases such as “being in college makes my dreams more possible,” whereas a statement designed to induce a neutral affect could read “it snows in Idaho.” After reading these statements, participants were then given the task of responding to four hypothetical social scenarios. Each vignette began with the protagonist facing an undesirable social situation and ended with the desired outcome. It was the job of the participants to provide a middle section of the story that would lead to the desired ending. Rated by independent observers on a 5-point Likert-type scale from 1 (not at all effective) to 5 (extremely effective), Nelson and Kim discovered that participants primed to feel a positive affect provided more effective and creative solutions to these social problems than those primed to experience a neutral affect.

While this study utilized a relatively homogenous sample group, that being students from the same school thereby leading to reliable inferences of similar age demographics and perhaps socioeconomic backgrounds, it does allow for the generalization that positive emotions yield more creative solutions.

This suggests that drawing upon positive emotions at appropriate times when facing unfamiliar or otherwise stressful social experiences is likely to help individuals function more effectively across a variety of situations. It is likely that individuals living in modern society will inevitably encounter challenging social situations that cannot be remedied by a simple solution. The extent to which individuals can produce creative responses to social problems has far-reaching implications, and by capitalizing on the rewards of positive affect, it could have a positive effect on social and business relationships. Thinking of these results in the context of a working environment, happy workers with an enhanced capacity for creativity and idea production could lead to productivity growth within a given company.

So maybe now wouldn’t be such a bad idea to suggest that company ice cream outing to your boss. After all, happy employees are more creative and better collaborators. And hey, it might just get you a free DQ Blizzard on the company credit card. Win-win on both accounts.

Nelson, Donna Webster, & Sim, Erin K. (2014). Positive Affect facilitates socialproblem                           solving. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 44, 635-642.

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Why? Because everyone else is…

Surely there are times when we look back on a situation and think, “Why the heck did I do that?” Further, we may even look back at whole periods of our lives (like that brief middle school phase where frosted tips seemed like a cool idea) and have no idea why we thought, or behaved, in such ways. The crazy thing is, in the moment, that was exactly the person we believed we were, or at least thought we were.

A 2012 study by Kerry Kawakami, Curtis E. Phills, Daniel Simard, Jeannette Pontiero, Amy Brnjas, Beenish Khan, Jennifer Mills, Anthony G. Greenwald, and John F. Dovidio explains just what causes us to think, and act, in certain ways in some situations and in completely different ways in others. They explain that the self-concept is one of the main organizing constructs in our behavior. Additionally, because belonging to a social group and feeling interconnected is so critical to our survival, social cues may play a bigger role in our self-concept than we may think. They hypothesized that the way we categorize the people we interact with influences how we categorize our self (aka how we form our self-concept).  The group did four separate studies where studies 1 and 2 focused on associations between stereotypes, study 3 examined self-perceptions, and study 4 explored self-categorizations.

Studies 1 and 2 first primed participants with images of different kinds of stereotypes, specifically, jocks and hippies (1) and fit and overweight (2). After the participants were primed they were asked to respond whether traits of said stereotypes applied to them. Done on a computer, the idea was that the faster the response to applying the trait to themselves the more they associated that trait with themselves. The results to both experiments were nearly identical. Participants had a faster response rate to traits of the stereotype they were primed with (i.e. if you were shown images of the hippies you associated yourself more with hippie traits).

Study 3 expanded on the first two by looking at the effect of social category activations on self-perceptions, rather than just assimilating the self to stereotype characteristics. Here, participants had a picture of their body taken and unbeknownst to them it was altered in several different ways to make them either look thinner or fatter. At a later date the participants were primed with an overweight association task. They were than showed all the images of themselves and asked to pick which one was the actual picture. Not surprisingly, when primed for overweight association, the participants where far more likely to select a picture of themselves that had been modified to show them as heavier than they actually are (note: the same applied when primed for a thinner association).

Study 4 primed for the total self-construal of being either independent or interdependent and subsequent association with either Blacks or Asians to test the influence activated social category has on self-conception. They found that when primed for the specific social construal, that is, independent or interdependent, the participants subsequently associated themselves more with the social category they were primed for, namely, black or Asian. This was to show that not only did we categorize ourselves as having certain traits in different situations, but that we also identified ourselves with different people too.

Fundamental to psychology, is the notion of the major human motive connectedness, that is, we long to have and maintain relationships with those around us. As a result, and as these four studies depicted, our ability to conceive the self is an automatic and non-conscious process. Moreover, this process of self-conceptualization occurs in everyday society because it is a standard social categorization process. essentially, our environment is one giant priming source where we are constantly being primed with countless traits, beliefs, and ultimately, behaviors.

So don’t worry! Science is here to explain why you just absolutely needed wear 50 animal shaped rubber bands on your wrist for three straight months….because, obviously, everyone else was doing it, and as we all know, no one wanted to be the kid without the elastic blue elephant on their wrist.


Kawakami, Kerry; Phills, Curtis E.; Greenwald, Anthony G.; Simard, Daniel; Pontiero, Jeannette; Brnjas, Amy; Khan, Beenish; Mills, Jennifer; Dovidio, John F. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 102(3), Mar 2012, 562-575.

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The Power of Posture

With the uprising surge of job competitiveness in America, people have been going to great lengths to get even the slightest advantage they might need in order to prove themselves as more qualified than somebody else. What’s one of the most grueling parts of applying to a job? The interview. Unless you’re extremely confident and comfortable with your ability to speak intelligently on the fly, the interview can be a short but anxiety-provoking period where you must do everything in your power to make the best impression of yourself possible. People dread situations in which their credibility and capabilities are being monitored and judged, but as stressful as it is, the interview is a crucial part of the job-finding process. Job applicants have difficulty preparing for interviews because they don’t know what questions to expect, and are simply uncertain about how they’ll appear to their interviewer.

There may however, be a simple resolution. Did it ever occur to you that something as simple as your body positioning could have a direct impact on your performance? Before a stressful social evaluation, such as an interview, people often hunch over, slouch in their seats and perform other contractual nonverbal postures that amplify one’s sense of powerlessness. However, recent research has been conducted on the effects of performing “power poses,” simply stretching and expanding one’s body to take up more space, in improving performance within a variety of situations. It is for this reason that social psychologists Amy Cuddy, Dana Carney and Andy Yap explored the effects of engaging in power poses versus low-power contractual poses, on the performance of participants in a mock interview setting.

The researchers hypothesized that engaging in powerful postures before a mock interview would lead to better performance, and that the improved performance would be mediated by an increase in nonverbal presence in the interview. In order to test this hypothesis, the researchers recruited sixty-six college students, each of whom were randomly assigned to engage in one of two standing poses prior to a mock interview. Half of the participants stood in a power pose: hands on their hips, elbows pointing out with feet spread out at least a foot apart, while the other half stood in a low-power pose: hands and arms wrapped around the torso and fee squeezed together. Participants were asked to imagine that they were about to interview for their dream job, and prepared a 5-minute speech that detailed their strengths and qualifications for the job. Participants maintained these poses for 5-6 minutes while preparing for the interview, which was videotaped and later coded for overall performance and hireability. After each interview, participants also reported how dominate, in control, powerful, and leader-like they felt on a scale of 1 to 5.

The experimenters found that individuals who performed power poses prior to their interview experienced a significant impact on their presence while delivering a speech to interviewers, which then positively influenced judges’ evaluations and hiring decisions. Participants who power posed were found to be more composed, enthusiastic and confident during the interview, which led to higher overall performance scores.

These findings are quite substantial considering the fact that performances were enhanced from a simple, 5-minute pre-interview posture exercise. Whether or not a participant enacted a high or low power pose before the interview did not affect participants’ posture during the interview, and perceivers were blind to which participants performed a high power or low power pose. These results indicate that in any interview or public speaking situation, everyone has the opportunity to improve his or her performance by capitalizing on a nearly effortless exercise that subconsciously transitions one’s mind into a more powerful and assertive position. Perhaps you are thinking that the “transition” is too miniscule to make a difference. But Olympic Gold medals are won by inches and milliseconds, not by yards and minutes. So, next time you’re nervous for an interview, power posing could mean the difference between getting the job and not.


Cuddy, A. J. C., Wilmuth, C. A., Yap, A. J., & Carney, D. R. (2015).Preparatory Power Posing Affects Nonverbal Presence and Job Interview Performance. Journal of Applied       Psychology.

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Is a successful woman doomed in romantic relationships?

Have you ever felt threatened by your romantic partner’s successes? If you have, chances are you’re a man.

Traditional gender roles may play a bigger role in the demise of relationships than people want to believe. With more women rising to positions of power and becoming breadwinners, it is crucial to reevaluate gender stereotypes. It is generally more acceptable for a woman to have a successful male partner than a man to have a successful female partner. Men take pride in providing for their families. When a woman takes over that role, a man’s self-esteem can suffer.

Kate Ratliff and Shigehiro Oishi recently published a study in which they observed gender differences in implicit self-esteem when a partner succeeds and when a partner fails. A man’s implicit self-esteem is lower when their partner succeeds, but a woman’s implicit self-esteem does not change. It is important to note that although explicit self-esteem was also measured by self-reporting, it did not vary in the same way as implicit self-esteem. Male explicit self-esteem was similar across all groups. Men do not want to admit that female success makes them feel worse about themselves. To avoid getting socially desirable answers, it is important to measure implicit, or subconscious, self-esteem.

In the first of five related experiments, heterosexual couples from the University of Virginia were given a test described as a “test of problem solving and social intelligence.” They were then told their partner scored either in the top 12 percent of students or the bottom 12 percent of students. Their own results were not given to them. They were given a questionnaire about matters of self-worth to measure explicit self-esteem. Their partner’s score on the test did not affect explicit self-esteem. A computer test designed to measure participants’ response times in associating positive and negative words with themselves was used to measure implicit self-esteem. Men who were told their partner scored in the top 12 percent had much lower implicit self-esteem ratings than men who were told their partner scored in the bottom 12 percent.

To test whether or not these findings could be generalized to people outside of the United States, two experiments were conducted at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, a country which is known for a small gender gap. The second and third studies showed similar results as the first study: Dutch men subconsciously showed lower self-esteem when told of their girlfriends’ successes, even though they said the news had no effect on their self-esteem.

The last two studies were performed online to gather a larger demographic in terms of age and relationship status. The fourth experiment investigated whether the type of success influenced self-esteem. The subjects were either asked to think about a time when their partner had either an intellectual success or a social success. Men showed lower implicit self-esteem regardless of the type of success. The fifth experiment was designed for participants to directly compare themselves to their partners.  Participants were asked to think of an instance of when they failed at something while their partner succeeded and vice versa. Men who were asked to think of a time when they failed at something while their partner succeeded showed lower implicit self-esteem.

Even if they’re not in direct competition with their female partner, men seem to interpret her success in a way that implies she is more successful than him. A reason for this could be that men are more competitive than women. Therefore, any time someone does well, men tend to think they are worse than that successful person, even if their success is not directly linked to their own failure.

An additional portion of all of the experiments asked the participants to comment on the future of their romantic relationship. Women were more optimistic about the longevity of their relationship if their partner succeeded, but men were less optimistic if their partner succeeded.

Society is generally more accepting of women in positions of power. Evidence for this is shown in male explicit self-esteem: they stated their self-esteem was not affected by their partner’s success because they know that is the socially acceptable answer. However, men still subconsciously feel threatened by a woman’s success. As gender roles continue to become more blended, perhaps men will learn to embrace female success and not let it deflate their self-esteem.


Ratliff, K. A. & Oishi S. (2013). Gender differences in implicit self-esteem following a romantic partner’s success or failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 105(4), 688-702.

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How Social Cues Can Shape Public Opinion: Peace and Knowledge of Diplomacy

Evaluating a war tends to be done in a retrospective manner. The Iraqi War, in the current day, tends to be evaluated as a complete and total mistake. However, in the days leading up to military action in Iraq, a majority of the people of the United States supported the initiative. Hoffman, Agnew, VanderDrift, and Kulzick examined this issue, trying to determine what, if any, social cues could have led to public support for this imminent disaster.

Studies of the past suggest that the American public is not afraid of suffering causalities in war, so long as victory is the likely outcome. That would then suggest that the reason behind many Americans supporting the war in Iraq was that they believed that victory would be swift and decisive. Polls indicate that 60% of all Americans believed that such was the case.

Hoffman et al. believe that support being driven by probability of victory is a flawed method of thinking. They hypothesize that instead public support for war is based on their knowledge of alternative solutions to armed conflict, such as diplomacy or sanctions. They base their hypothesis around the idea that the public tends to believe that war is an option of last resort, which according to a recent poll, is a belief that over 70% of the nation holds. If such is the case, they hypothesize, times of ardent war support must be times when the American public does not believe or know that alternative courses of action exist.

To examine this claim, Hoffman et al. set up an experiment to test their hypothesis. In this experiment, they asked participants about whether they would support the United States using military force to respond to a hypothetical crisis in the Middle East, and if so, how many causalities were acceptable for the cause. In the control condition, they made no mention about the prospect of diplomatic negotiations. The first experimental condition posed the same hypothetical scenario, on top of mentioning that diplomatic negotiations could also be used successfully. In the second experimental condition, participants were asked the same question about their thoughts on the use of military force, while also being told that diplomatic negotiations did not have a high chance of success.

The results were similar to the hypothesis. They found that when participants were told that the use of diplomatic negotiations would be successful, they reported a lower number of casualties would be acceptable for them to support the war. However, the results also showed that the level of support when not being informed of diplomatic alternatives was very similar to the level of support when being told that diplomatic alternatives would not be successful. These results held true regardless of the hypothetical scenario presented to the participant: whether weapons of mass destruction were a part of the equation or not, whether al-Queda was a part of the equation or not, or whether the details of the operation itself were largely unknown or known.

The question becomes, what do these results mean? Hoffman et al. made a strong case for why the war in Iraq received a large amount of public support: Americans did not know that there were diplomatic alternatives, and assumed that war was the last and only option. In terms of the future of foreign policy, these results suggest that the media could play a large role due to their ability to expose these social cues. If CNN were to run a story on how to diplomatically resolve a specific conflict (say, the situation in Iran) without the use of military force, the results of this experiment suggest that public support for a war could be altered dramatically.

As we move toward the future, and presidents become less and less autonomous with the decision of war making, we must realize the breakthrough this study could be for the prospects of world peace. In the United States, it is difficult to go to war without the public’s backing, and if the public is made aware of the possibilities of diplomatic alternatives, they are less likely to support war. Could peace be this simple? It may be as simple as a reminder that negotiations are more effective than bullets and guns.



Hoffman, A. M., Agnew, C. R., VanderDrift, L. E., & Kulzick, R. (2015). Norms, diplomatic alternatives, and the social psychology of war support. Journal Of Conflict Resolution, 59(1), 3-28. doi:10.1177/0022002713498706



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Red is the New Black


Every woman needs a little black dress. It is a fashion “rule”- that every woman has an LBD in her closet. But if women really want to be seen as attractive, that LBD may not be working for them – they may be wearing the wrong color dress. The rule should really be that every woman needs a little RED dress. This LRD may increase your attractiveness and your chances of finding a significant other.

In Social Psychology we look at interpersonal relationships and why people are attracted to others. But this is not something people typically think about as they go about their everyday lives. We don’t look at people and analyze why we are attracted to them; we don’t say “I like this person because I see them all the time and I am attracted to them because they have a very symmetrical and average face”. Physical attraction occurs on a much more subconscious level and many researchers believe it is due to evolutionary psychology. Factors such as proximity, symmetry, and averageness, increase our levels of attraction. These factors are associated with ‘good genes’ that we recognize and quickly assimilate into our thinking – which we can pass down these genes to our offspring. And there are even more hidden factors and stimuli that can also increase someone’s attractiveness.

One such powerful, yet subtle, environmental stimulus that affects attractiveness is color, specifically the color red (hence the switch to a little red dress). Recent work has shown that men perceive the color red as more sexually appealing, which in turn lead them to ‘see’ and rate females as more attractive if they are wearing this color. People are more attracted to the color red because it is connected to lust, romantic love, and female fertility. This is directly connected to the idea of evolutionary psychology; men are attracted to fertility and it is linked to reproductive success.

One social psychologist, Steven Young, wanted to further explore the effect of the color red on male perceptions of attractiveness. In a recent study he looked at how attractiveness is moderated by the influence of red on men’s perception. He also looked at exposure time to see if it effected perception.

In the experiment, heterosexual male participants viewed pictures of 40 female faces, all varying in attractiveness, but presented on both red and gray backgrounds. Each of the a faces – from what was considered as attractive to unattractive – were then viewed for two exposure periods: a short exposure time and a prolonged exposure time. Immediately after each face was shown the men were asked to rate how attractive the face was on a scale ranging from extremely unattractive to extremely attractive. Therefore, participants saw each face four times, once on each colored background and with two different time exposures. This allowed for the researcher to see if color and time exposure had an affect on men’s perceptions of attractiveness.

The results of this study showed conclusively that showing faces on a red background automatically enhanced men’s perceptions only for faces that were already seen as attractive. The color red significantly enhanced men’s perceptions of females’ attractiveness vs those same females when pictured with the gray background. Those less attractive females were not seen as more attractive regardless of the red vs grey background. Their results also found that we process the integration of faces and color early on. This implies that there is some importance to being able to recognize interactions of color and faces for quick processing.

However, there were limitations to this study due to sample size and variables. It only used a relatively small sample, so this study did not necessarily have high reliability. Another issue with it was that it only compared faces on two colors, red and gray. Lastly, the exposure time was an exploratory variable. A second experiment addressed these methodological limitations, and they increased the sample size , held the exposure time constant and added an additional control color (blue – a color that is well liked by men). The results obtained from the second experiment only reinforced the results from the first experiment. Red, when compared to blue and gray, increased attraction only toward attractive women. But when participants looked at an unattractive face, neither red nor blue, altered men’s ratings of attractiveness.

If we look at this learning from an evolutionary perspective, the studies imply that the color red is important in human mating. However it is only a signal for sexual receptivity when men are looking for a desirable mate. So if the objective of the night is about finding a mate, then maybe a red dress should be worn. However, don’t go throwing out your little black dress anytime soon.

Young, S. G. (2015). The effect of red on male perceptions of female attractiveness:              Moderation by baseline attractiveness of female faces. European Journal of Social Psychology, doi:10.1002/ejsp.2098

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The Value of Accuracy

Growing up, my race has played an incredibly large role in the way that I identify as an individual and how I define myself to others. But that hasn’t always been an easy thing for me to do.  As a biracial man there are a great deal of issues that arise in the construction of your identity as you go through life. Especially when surrounded by individuals who seem to experience the construction of their identity in a very different way in association with their race. Growing up as the son of two immigrants, a Cuban mother and Guyanese father, the development of my identity has been interesting and conflicting at times. Though I do identify primarily as Cuban and then Guyanese, mainly because I grew up spending most of my time with my mothers family on vacations and the like, I’ve known that I don’t embody what would be considered the stereotypic embodiment of a Cuban descendent.  I look very much like my father with light skin and curly hair. And as a result often at times, I am mistaken for being solely African-American, and even if people are cognizant of my Latino heritage, often call Dominican. And not that there is anything wrong with being Dominican, it’s just not who I am. So for this posting I looked at many articles regarding race and the impact that differing social contexts and experiences have on individuals who are bi- or multi-racial. And among them I found a study investigating the effect that the misattribution of categorized races to an individual who is biracial has on their behavior by Dr. Jessica Remedios from Tufts University and Dr. Alison Chasteen from Toronto University conducted in 2013.  They conducted this study o investigate the possibility that bi- and multi-racial individuals look to those around them to verify and support the racial identities that they have given themselves

In this study they took multiple students, both multiracial and monoracial, from undergraduate institutions and studied their responses to theoretical individuals who perceived their racial background as accurate (consistent with) or confusing (unsure of) the participants personal identifications. Depending on the condition they were assigned, Remedios and Chasteen predicted that individuals who were in the confusing condition would have a lesser interest in conversing and interacting with the theoretical partner as much as they would want to interact with individuals that correctly identify their self-perception of their race. And that’s what they found, individuals who were bi- or multi-racial were interested more in interacting with the partner who was accurate regarding their self-perception of race. They also found that individuals in the accurate condition were genuinely surprised that the individual was able to accurately identify them. They attributed this to the fact that accurate events were less common and more novel than confusion or misattribution of their race.  In addition, they believe that people are more receptive to partners if they were accurate because their self-perceptions were reinforced and supported by other people.

This article was quite interesting and taught me some things about myself that I hadn’t been completely aware of about myself and the interactions I have with people regarding my race.  I do find myself interacting most with those people that affirm and reinforce who I am, though I should have no qualms of where I belong.  But these social interactions that we have and feelings we experience are often automatic and on the edge of our periphery.  And without having read this article I would not have realize this.  For anyone interested in the effects that social interactions have on race and the potential implications in regards tot he bods we share with those around us, I highly recommend reading this article.

Remedios, J.D., & Chasteen, A.L. (2013). Finally, someone who “gets” me! Multiracial people value others’ accuracy about their race. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 19, 453-460. doi:10.1037/a0032249.

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Strength in Numbers: How to Overcome Stereotype Threat

Over the last couple of decades one of the most studied topics in social psychology has been stereotype threat. Stereotype threat occurs when worry about conforming to a negative stereotype leads to underperformance on a test or other task by a member of the stigmatized group. For example, we sometimes hear that men are better than women in math. A woman who knows about this stereotype may try to fight it by attempting to perform really well on a math exam, but the anxiety and distraction caused by the stereotype may actually lead her to get a lower score on the exam than she would otherwise. Thus, women’s performance in math may not be due to lower ability compared to men but to negative stereotypes.

While the influence stereotype effect has on individual performance has been studied extensively, there is not too much known about how stereotype effect affects the performance of groups. In order to find out more about the influence it has in a group dynamic, Nicholas P. Aramovich designed an experimental study to see how groups compared to individuals when presented with stereotype threat.

The experiment consisted of 171 female undergraduate students who either participated as individuals or in groups of three. Each individual or group was then randomly assigned to a stereotype threat condition (threat vs. no threat) at a laboratory session that was conducted by a male researcher. The participants were asked to complete a letters to number problem, where 10 letters (A-J) are randomly assigned without replacement to the digits 0-9. The task is to determine which letter is assigned to each number in as few trials as possible. The manipulation used to study stereotype effect was information given to the participants prior to the start of the task. Although all participants were played a recording that went over instructions and what to expect from the experiment, those in the “threat” condition were also informed by the head researcher that he was interested in how women would perform on this problem relative to men. Participants in the “threat” condition were also asked to identify their gender on the problem worksheets.

The results of the experiment yield some interesting information. While the stereotype threat negatively affected the performance of individuals, it is clear that groups in the “threat” condition were able to overcome stereotype threat and perform just as well as groups in the control (no threat) condition . In addition to being compared to average individuals, the groups were also compared against the “best individuals” (as identified by the researchers). While the best individuals performed equally as well as groups did in the control condition, the best individuals performed worse in the “threat” condition than the groups did.

These findings are important because people face stereotype threats regularly in the real world and knowing how to lessen their influences could lead to increases in efficiency. We have known for quite some time that stereotype threat leads to negative performance. Now, we understand that the best way to avoid these failures in performance is to work with others who are facing similar threats. When working in groups, people can attain goals that they would not be able to reach if they were working by themselves.


Aramovich, N. (2014). The effect of stereotype threat on group versus individual performance. Small Group Research, 45(2), 176-197.

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“Go to your room!” The relationship between ostracism and obedience

“Go to your room!” Sound familiar? How about this one: “Take a time out!” Whether or not you can identify with these specific phrases, we as individuals in modern day society are no strangers to the use of social exclusion or ostracism as a means to promote obedience. This tactic of social control is commonly applied in multiple societal spheres and social contexts. In the home, sending a child to their room is a commonly used punishment for defiance. In a school setting, children might be put in “time out” for disobeying the teacher. Ostracism is even at the core of our penal system, demonstrated by the use of solitary confinement. The widespread reliance on ostracism as a tactic to manipulate social control raises the question as to whether ostracism and social exclusion is actually an effective means by which to promote obedience.

Extensive psychological research has been conducted on the topic of ostracism itself, and recent work suggests that brief periods of ostracism increase social susceptibility by promoting conformity and compliance among ostracized individuals. However, social psychologists Paolo Riva, Kipling D. Williams, Alex M. Torstrick, and Lorenzo Montali more closely examined the relationship between ostracism and direct obedience in a recently published paper. They found that ostracized individuals were more likely to obey the experimenter’s explicit direction to take creative pictures on a college campus, despite having to face outside temperatures of below 30°F to obtain photos that raters (who were blind to the experimental conditions) considered to be more creative. This work is a reflection of the idea that the human desire for belonging and inclusion is so powerful that ostracized individuals become more likely to obey a direct command to do something effortful, even in unfavorable or uncomfortable conditions.

In their study, Riva, Williams, Torstrick, and Montali used the Cyberball paradigm to manipulate ostracism. Participants were first approached by the experimenter in a “professional manor” in an attempt to establish an authoritative relationship. Participants were then randomly assigned to either the exclusion, inclusion, or control condition. Participants in the inclusion and exclusion conditions played a 2 minute long game of cyberball where the included participants received the ball about a third of the time and the excluded participants received the ball only twice. The control condition did not engage in the game. Following the game, participants self-reported their social distress and feelings of exclusion, where results confirmed that those in the exclusion group felt significantly more distressed and excluded than those in the inclusion group. Participants were then ordered by the experimenter to go outside and take 39 “unique and creative” photos. Although all participants shot the correct number of photos, those in the exclusion group were rated significantly higher on the basis of creativity, suggesting a higher level of obedience.

The implications of this study are certainly limited by the operational definition of obedience, which was the creativity of the photos. Admittedly, the researchers had hoped that there would be differences in the number of photos taken. Rather, the inclusion and control group participants “overtly” obeyed the command to shoot all 39 pictures, but “covertly” disobeyed the creativity requirement. It is unclear whether this truly constitutes obedience, as creativity is an extremely subjective measure, especially given that all participants showed some level of baseline obedience by taking the correct number of photos. Additionally, participants in this study were students completing the experiment as part of a class requirement. This underlying motive could very well have influenced the obedience of the students, and perhaps more conclusive results could be drawn from a different sample population.

Acknowledging that there are limits to this study, this research still has powerful implications and raises further questions about relationship between ostracism and obedience. There does seem to be scientific bases for the effectiveness of ostracism as a tool to promote obedience. Accordingly, if used appropriately, ostracism could be a powerful means to promote positive behavior. However, the implications become more serious when this power is used to manipulate and promote obedience in a way that is negative or harmful to the individual and those around them. For example, what are the consequences of social exclusion in a school based setting among peers used to promote negative forms of obedience, such as bullying or hazing? Or, on a larger scale, what are the implications of this phenomenon in the context of terrorism? If being ostracized for two minutes can result in such drastic differences in obedience, as was demonstrated in the context of this study, how powerful could longer periods of ostracism be in manipulating obedience? Ethical considerations make these questions difficult to answer through experimental research, yet examining social and political history alone, it appears as though some of these questions have already been answered.


Riva, P., Williams, K. D., Torstrick, A. M., & Montali, L. (2014). Orders to shoot (a               camera): Effects of ostracism on obedience. The Journal Of Social Psychology, 154(3), 208-216. doi:10.1080/00224545.2014.883354

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Evaluations of In-group Disloyalty

Throughout our lives it is all but inevitable that we will become part of several groups. These groups that we belong to, called “in-groups” can be anything from an athletic team, families, physical traits like eye color, or student. The groups that you are in are often considered part of your identity and how you navigate them is part of how you express that identity. Different in-groups require different commitments and have their own sets of rules. Many groups will police these rules and, depending on the type of group it is, will have some form of consequence for breaking those rules.

In his study Hank Rothgerber examined how the different ruling characteristics of an in-group influence how the members view a disloyalty or betrayal. Specifically, Rothgerber focused on three traits that would make the groups the most vulnerable to disloyalty and its consequences: group size, moral commitment, and sacrifice. Groups that are smaller in size, are motivated by a moral concern, or require a lot of effort or sacrifice to maintain membership are determined to be the most impacted by disloyalty.

To test this and to examine how strongly the groups would react to a betrayal, Rothgerber chose to do two studies with vegans, vegetarians for health reasons, and vegetarians for ethical reasons. It was predicted that the vegans would judge disloyal members most severely, due to the small size of the in-group, ethical concerns (many vegans choose to limit their diets to only non-animal products because they view animals as having similar emotional capacity as humans), and the large sacrifice that the members make in limiting their diet to such a large extent. Vegetarians for ethical reasons was predicted to be the second most severe in its judgment because the disloyalty undermines their message and gives a sense of inconsistency.

Over the course of the study, the participants were asked to rate how bad it would be if a member of one of the in-groups were to eat meat. This was asked in a survey asking about eating habits and motives amongst other questions so that the participant was not solely focused on that question. As Rothgeber expected, the vegans did rate the disloyalty the most harshly, especially when another vegan committed the disloyalty. The study also included another variable: if the violator was in public or private. This gives us information of the reasoning behind the harsh views of the disloyalty. Often times the violation was rated more severely when the violation was done in public. This could be because this disloyalty affects the image and message that the group is trying to send.

These results indicate that the more vulnerable a group is to the consequences of disloyalty, the smaller, more motivated by ethics, and the more sacrifice that is required, the more severely the in-group members will rate a disloyalty, especially when the disloyalty was in public. This indicates that they in-groups are more concerned with the message that the betrayal is portraying rather than the actual act.

For small groups, a member violate the group’s rules would be much more likely to defect and leave the group which would disproportionately impact the group. If too many people defect the group could cense to exist so any member who is disloyal is a threat to the group. Additionally, the loss of members means the loss of support in the group. Because people tend to want to feel like they are in solidarity and not alone, this could pose a significant problem for small groups. In-groups that are motivated by morals are vulnerable because an act that goes against the group by a group member creates a discontinuity in the message that the group is trying to send. This means that a group member isn’t “practicing what they preach” and that does not encourage others to put any stock in the group’s message. Similar to the issue that the small in-groups face, the problem that a in-group requiring more sacrifice faces is that when one individual in the group partakes in a disloyal act, other members are more likely to also take part in that action which is a threat to maintaining members and recruiting new members.


Rothgerber, H. (2014). Evaluation of ingroup disloyalty within a multigroup context. Social Psychology, 45(5), 382-390. doi:10.1027/1864-9335/a000196

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Honey, Why Are You Crying?




If you are like most people, you probably have cried more than once.

Can you remember the situation that made you to cry?

Did you cry because you were scolded by your parents or because a person meaningful in your life has passed away? If neither was the cause of your tears, could you have cried because you were so happy for your sibling who got married?

Although it might not sound that important, the type of situation a person cries in matters to other people. We either cry in pleasant situation like siblings getting married or in unpleasant situation like losing someone.

Why is this important to other people? Because from observing the situation someone cries in, we often make an inference about that person’s personality! For example we tend to think of a person crying in pleasant situation as being too emotional because we find the situation inappropriate for crying. We also think of a person who doesn’t cry in an unpleasant situation as being too cold-hearted because the situation seems necessary for crying.

To find out more about people’s judgment on crying individual in social situations, three researchers from Tilburg University, Michelle C. P. Hendriks, Marcel A. Croon, and AD J. J. M. Vingerhoets conducted an experiment. These researchers were particularly interested in knowing how people would think of a crying person in pleasant situation and in negative situation. In their experiment, Hendriks, Croon, and Vingerhotes provided participants with a hypothetical scenario about a person who is crying in a pleasant situation or in an unpleasant situation. After reading the scenario, participants answered how they thought of the crying person, what they would do for the crying person, and how they felt in presence of the crying person.

The result of this study found that in general, people would give more emotional support to a crying person than to a non-crying person in both types of situation. However, although people would give more support to a crying person, people would associate more negative characteristics like stupid and squeamish with a crying person than with a non-crying person especially in pleasant situations. These two results seem to contrast each other because we would expect a person to help another person who he or she likes. And since we like someone with positive characteristics than negative characteristics, it would make more sense if people associate positive characteristics to a crying person when they decided to provide emotional support.

It turned out that emotional support was given not to help the crying person but to ease the awkward feeling people feel in presence of a crying person. So just be mindful that when someone is comforting you while you are crying, that person wants you to stop crying because he or she feels awkward.

Although receiving support from other people when crying certainly makes us feel better, this might hurt the impression other people have on us. So if there is a person you want to make a good impression on, try not to cry in front of that person!


Hendriks, M. P., Croon, M. A., & Vingerhoets, A. M. (2008). Social reactions to adult crying: The help-soliciting function of tears. The Journal Of Social Psychology148(1), 22-41. doi:10.3200/SOCP.148.1.22-42

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