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    Division 8 Sponsored APA Programs 2014Open in a New Window

    The Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association will be held in Washington, DC August 7- August 10, 2014. The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (Division 8 of APA) is sponsoring a wide range of symposia, invited addresses, poster sessions, awards, and a social hour.

    The SPSP Program can be searched using APA's convention program site, and can also be downloaded as a PDF file here.


    David Hamilton and John G. Holmes Added to the Heritage Fund Wall of FameOpen in a New Window

    The Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology is pleased to announce that David Hamilton and John G. Holmes have been added to the Heritage Fund Wall of Fame. Professors Hamilton and Holmes have made innumerable important contributions to our discipline, which are described at We are grateful for their contributions to the field, and to their colleagues and students, whose generous donations made this installation possible.

    The Heritage Fund Initiative was instituted to honor the legacy of our field's most important scholars, by providing a link between generations in personality and social psychology. Ten scholars have been honored to date and we expect the list to grow. Funds raised to honor the members of the Heritage Wall of Fame are used to endow a program of dissertation research grants. (The  first cycle of grant funding is currently underway.) Information is available at

    Additional donations to the Heritage program can be made through the SPSP secure donation portal, Please indicate in the comment box that your donation is meant for the Foundation Heritage program, and note which scholar (if any) your donation is intended to honor.

    If you have a scholar you believe would be appropriate to honor on the Heritage Wall of Fame, please contact the President of the Foundation, Harry Reis (


    SAGE Young Scholars Recipients Engaging in ResearchOpen in a New Window

     By Jennifer Santisi

    Five recipients of the SAGE Young Scholars Award, which is supported by a generous donation from SAGE Publications, are putting their $5,000 grants to use in the field of personality and social psychology.

    With the assistance from the award, Kristina Olson (University of Washington) has been able to pursue a new project in her lab that explores gender identity and gender cognition in transgender children. Kristina explains that this research is extremely valuable, as it’s the first study of its kind and almost nothing is known about children who identify as transgender early in life. Starting the project has been very costly as, despite their increasing numbers, relatively few children are openly living as transgender. Kristina explains that the award has given her the ability “to travel around the country to reach these participants and their families.” Kristina is hoping that once her team publishes their initial findings they will be able to secure federal funding. “This funding has also allowed me to attend conferences to present the early work on this project,” Kristina says. 

    Tessa West (New York University) is currently working on two projects that the award has given her the opportunity to begin. One project is exploring the dyadic process through which stress is communicated during interactions in which groups of women work together, using a psychophysiological approach. The second project is looking at how negative emotions serve as a roadblock to communication between doctors and patients, particularly in racially discordant interactions (e.g., Black patient, White physician). “Both [projects] are about how negative emotion are experienced and realized by one's partner in dyadic encounters, and shape both partners' behavioral outcomes,” Tessa explains. Both projects are still in the midst of collecting data.

    The Young Scholars Award has assisted Paul Eastwick (University of Texas at Austin) and his colleague Paige Harden in gaining access to difficult-to-find archival data that is crucial to their research. Their project examines the extent to which people’s ex-romantic partners are similar to each other. “Specifically, we will be examining the extent to which people’s exes exhibit consistency on qualities like physical attractiveness, intelligence, having a desirable personality, etc. We will also be able to assess to what extent any consistency on these qualities across one’s ex-partners derives from demographic factors (e.g., the school one attends) vs. factors related to personal choice,” Paul explains. Their current study uses the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which is a representative sample of adolescents. Paul and his colleague expect to have a manuscript completed by the end of the summer.

    Starting Fall 2014, Edward Lemay (University of Maryland, College Park) will begin recruiting participants for a study on the interpersonal consequences of specific interaction goals. Edward plans to recruit both members of dating couples for this study. A randomly selected member of each couple will be assigned to levels of a goal manipulation. The goal manipulation will involve instructing participants to adopt particular goals during a discussion with their partner (or no instructions in the control condition). Following the discussion, both members will complete questionnaires regarding their reactions to the discussion. In addition, the interactions will be video recorded. “This will allow us to examine whether adopting a goal causes changes in observed behavior, which then predict changes in both partners’ responses to the interaction,” Edward says. The project has received IRB approval, and Edward will start data collection this Fall.

    Jochen Gebauer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin )and his colleagues are currently working on research that seeks to establish and extend their “socio-cultural motives perspective” (SMP) on self and personality. The SMP provides theory-driven explanations for cross-cultural variations in self-concept and personality effects on important life outcomes. Jochen explains that “the SMP may help to answer questions such as, why is it that people with a highly communal self-concept seek to volunteer more in socio-cultural contexts where volunteerism is common, compared to socio-cultural contexts where volunteerism is uncommon? Or why is it that people high in Openness for Experience go to church less in rather religious South Germany, whereas open people go to church more in rather atheist East Germany?” Most of the data for the research has been collected, and Jochen and his colleagues hope to have a manuscript completed by the end of the summer.


    The SAGE Young Scholars Award recognize outstanding young researchers in personality and social psychology. The awardees receive a one-time award of $5,000 to be used at their discretion for research, study, or conference travel-related purposes. Five awards are presented each year to young scholars representative of the broad spectrum of personality and social psychology research areas. The call for nominations for the 2015 Sage Young Scholar Awards will be issued in the summer of 2014.  For more information, visit 


    Do women perceive other women in red as more sexually receptive?Open in a New Window

    Previous research has shown that men perceive the color red on a woman to be a signal of sexual receptivity. Women are more likely to wear a red shirt when they are expecting to meet an attractive man, relative to an unattractive man or a woman. But do women view other women in red as being more sexually receptive? And would that result in a woman guarding her mate against a woman in red? A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin sought to answer these questions.

    Perceptions of Sexual Receptivity

    Nonverbal communication via body language, facial expressions and clothing conveys information to others, occasionally with unintended social consequences. Researchers from the University of Rochester, Trnava University, and the Slovak Academy of Sciences collaborated to study what information the color red conveys to women.

    Three experiments were involved in the study. The first experiment asked individuals to compare a digital image of a woman wearing red versus a woman wearing white. Participants were asked questions about the woman's sexual receptivity, such as "This person is interested in sex," which required moving a bar along a sliding scale from "No, not at all" to "Yes, definitely." Participants rated the woman in red as more sexually receptive than the woman in white. Sixty-nine percent of participants reported they were in a committed relationship, and the results of the experiment showed that participant's relationship status did not have a significant effect on their perceptions of women in white versus red.

    The picture (on the right) was used for the color manipulation in Experiments 1 and 2 (the face of the female target was intact in the experiment but is blurred here to protect privacy). The dress color was red or white.
    Credit: Adam Pazda


    Derogation and Mate-Guarding

    The researchers tested whether participants would derogate a woman in red and the likelihood of guarding their mate from a woman in red in subsequent experiments. "Derogation [involves] speaking poorly of another person to make them seem inferior, undesirable, or unlikeable, while making oneself seem superior and more likable by contrast," lead researcher Adam Pazda explains. "Mate-guarding is the act of protecting one's own romantic partner from romantic or sexual encounters with others." The researchers specifically tested whether women would derogate on the topics of fidelity ("I would guess that this women cheats on men"), and financial resources ("I would guess that this woman has no money").

    Credit: Adam Pazda

    The third and final experiment altered the conditions slightly. Instead of comparing white and red, the researchers chose to compare green and red in an effort to eliminate the possible bias of associating white and purity. "Using green allowed us to equate both hues on lightness and chroma, which allowed for a more rigorous, controlled test of the red effect," Pazda said. The participants were located in an Eastern European country, rather than the U.S. as in the two prior experiments. To determine intent to mate-guard, participants were asked: "How likely would you be to introduce this person to your boyfriend?" and "How likely would you be to let your boyfriend spend time alone with this person?"

    The picture (on the left) was used for the color manipulation in Experiment 3 (the face of the female target was intact in the experiment but is blurred here to protect privacy). The shirt color was red or green.


    Results from the last two experiments confirmed that women found another woman in red to be more sexually receptive, versus white or green. In terms of derogation, participants who viewed a woman in red were more likely to derogate the woman's sexual fidelity, but not financial resources. Participants did not show any difference between sexual fidelity derogation and financial resource derogation in relation to a woman in white. Women were more likely to guard their partner from a woman dressed in red if they are in a committed relationship, relative to a woman in green.


    Pazda, A.D., Prokop, P., and Elliot, A.J. (2014). Red and Romantic Rivalry: Viewing Another Woman in Red Increases Perceptions of Sexual Receptivity, Derogation and Intentions to Mate-Guard. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(10).

    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), published monthly, is an official journal of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). SPSP promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. The Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. Follow us on Twitter, @SPSPnews and find us at


    Are Conservatives More Obedient and Agreeable than their Liberal Counterparts?Open in a New Window

     Over the last few years, we've seen increasing dissent among liberals and conservatives on important issues such as gun control, health care and same-sex marriage. Both sides often have a difficult time reconciling their own views with their opposition, and many times it appears that liberals are unable to band together under a unifying platform. Why do conservatives appear to have an affinity for obeying leadership? And why do conservatives perceive greater consensus among politically like-minded others? Two studies publishing in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shed light on these questions. 

    Loyalty to leadership

    Historically, conservatives are viewed as being more obedient and more respectful of leadership. Whereas, liberals tend to be associated with protests and blatant acts of rebellion. Previous research has seemed to suggest that the act of obedience is divisive, and that this cultural war among liberals and conservatives may stem from the fact that obedience elicits different emotional responses. Researchers at the University of Winnipeg delved further into this perception of obedience to authority with three studies, and found that liberals and conservatives are more similar than they may appear.

    Lead researcher Jeremy Frimer explains that "beneath the surface of some of these ideological debates is a fundamental need to belong to a group that has a strong leader. Both sides feel the need. And both sides believe that people should do as their leader tells them to do. The difference between the groups is not whether they value obedience to authority. Rather, the difference is about which authority they think is worthy of obedience." 

    In surveying participants, the researchers found that the act of obedience itself elicits similar moral sentiments from both conservatives and liberals; the differences sparked only when participants perceived the authorities to advance a political agenda. Testing the participants perceptions proved trickier than expected, because the researchers found that the concepts of authority and obedience automatically elicit thoughts of a conservative authority. This finding may explain why obedience to authority appears to be a concept conservatives favor over liberals. 

    Once researchers were able to move beyond the cognitive baggage of the term 'authority' in the first two studies, the third and final study illustrates that liberals and conservatives do value obedience equally. Authorities with a conservative agenda, such as religious leaders and commanding military officers, elicit a positive moral response from participants who are politically conservative. Authorities with liberal agendas, such as environmentalists and civil rights activists, elicited positive moral sentiment from liberal participants. Neutral leaders, like office managers and janitors, were equally positive for both liberals and conservatives. Obedience itself is not ideologically divisive, but rather depends on how similar the authority is in their viewpoints and opinions, and conservatives will call for rebellion when the authorities are from the 'other team.' 

    Agreement and consensus

    Researchers at New York University and the University of Toronto explored the concept that conservatives desire to share reality more strongly than liberals. The perception of in-group consensus can help mobilize group members toward collective efforts and a stronger intention to vote in a particular election.

    “Individuals can attain a sense of shared reality through perceiving that other people hold similar beliefs as they personally do,” lead researcher Chadly Stern explains. “For example, we found that conservatives, more than liberals, perceived that politically like-minded others made similar judgments concerning whether a target person was born in November or December, simply based on seeing a picture of the person. Even though this judgment was devoid of political meaning, conservatives’ perceptions of similarity were associated with the feeling that they “shared reality” with other conservatives.”

    The findings suggest that perceiving consensus on non-political judgments, like guessing someone’s birth month, has implications for outcomes that are politically meaningful. Liberals appear to be more motivated to perceive their beliefs as relatively unique, which can undermine the development of a cohesive movement. A stronger desire for shared reality among conservatives may be why the Tea Party gained more momentum than the Occupy Wall Street movement.


    Please email if you would like a copy of the original study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

    Frimer, J.A., Gaucher, D., Schaefer, N.K. (2014). Political Conservatives' Affinity for Obedience to Authority is Loyal, Not Blind. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(9).

    Stern, C., West, T.V., Jost, J.T., Rule, N.O. (2014). "Ditto Heads": Do Conservatives Perceive Greater Consensus Within their Ranks than Liberals? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(9).

    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), published monthly, is an official journal of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). SPSP promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. The Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. Follow us on Twitter, @SPSPnews and find us at


    Can Narcissists Be Moved to Show Empathy?Open in a New Window

    Researchers at the University of Surrey and the University of Southampton have investigated whether narcissists can elicit empathy for another person's suffering. It has been well documented that narcissists lack empathy, but why is that the case, and do they have the capacity to change that behavior? The research is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


    Characterizing narcissism


    When we think of narcissism most of us can all think of a colleague, friend, or former significant other that would fit the description; "A bit full of themselves, self-centered, and don't seem too concerned about the effects they have on other people," says lead researcher, Erica Hepper. This lack of empathy has a detrimental effect on interpersonal relationships, social bonding and prosocial behavior.


    For the purposes of this research, the researchers focused on individuals who exhibit subclinical narcissism, rather than a clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Dr. Hepper explains that this distinction was made because "people high in subclinical narcissism are psychologically healthy and well-adjusted, often even very successful, whereas people with NPD are inflexible and volatile, and don't manage day-to-day life well." Subclinical narcissism is also more common, and the number of people exhibiting narcissistic traits in our society continues to increase. The participants were broken down into two categories, 'low narcissists' and 'high narcissists,' which identifies participants as being less narcissistic or more narcissistic than the average person.


    Results of the research


    The researchers examined whether narcissists are capable of empathizing with another person in distress by having participants read a vignette describing a recent relationship break-up. Regardless of how mild or severe the scenario was, high-narcissists did not show empathy for the subject. The results pinpoint the role of narcissism as driven by its maladaptive components such as entitlement, exploitativeness and exhibitionism. Furthermore, narcissists lacked empathy even when the scenario was relatively severe (i.e., the subject was overwhelmed with depression).


    The researchers then tested whether narcissists are capable of showing empathy when they are instructed to take the perspective of the target person. Female participants were shown a 10-minute documentary describing a woman's experience with domestic violence. Participants were prompted to "imagine how she feels" while watching the video. Low-narcissists were unaffected by the cognitive-perspective taking, implying they were already taking the woman's perspective. High-narcissists reported significantly higher empathy for the woman in the video when they had been instructed to take her perspective, versus not being prompted with that suggestion. 


    Lastly, the researchers tested whether narcissists can be moved, not just emotionally, but also physiologically. Previous studies have shown that increases in heart rate reliably indicate empathetic response to another's emotions or suffering. High-narcissists had a significantly lower heart rate when exposed to a target character's distress, illustrating that their lack of empathy is also physiological. However, perspective-taking led high-narcissists to respond to another's distress with the same level of autonomic arousal as low-narcissists.


    The findings suggest that narcissists do have the capacity to empathize with other people's needs given the right conditions. "If we encourage narcissists to consider the situation from their teammate or friend's point of view, they are likely to respond in a much more considerate or sympathetic way," Dr. Hepper says. This is an encouraging result and suggests that relatively anti-social members of society can be empathetic, which would improve their long-term relationships. 


    Dr. Hepper is extending this research to on-line social interactions and ongoing relationships, in an effort to observe whether narcissists can respond in an empathetic way when speaking with someone who is distressed, or with existing friends and romantic partners.





    Hepper, E. G., Hart, C. M., and Sedikides, C. (2014). Moving Narcissus: Can Narcissists Be Empathic?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(9).


    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), published monthly, is an official journal of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). SPSP promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. The Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. Follow us on Twitter, @SPSPnews and find us at


    Aggressive Behavior Observed After Alcohol-Related PrimingOpen in a New Window

    May 22, 2014-- Researchers from California State University, Long Beach, the University of Kent and the University of Missouri collaborated on a study to test whether briefly exposing participants to alcohol-related terms increases aggressive behavior. It has been well documented by previous research that the consumption of alcohol is directly linked to an increase in aggression and other behavioral extremes. But can simply seeing alcohol-related words have a similar effect on aggressive behavior?

    Designing the experiment

    The study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, involves two experiments. The first experiment tested whether priming participants with alcohol-related terms would enhance their aggressive responding following an ambiguous provocation, but not following obvious provocation or no provocation at all. Participants were instructed to write a brief essay on a controversial topic, which they were told would be evaluated by another (actually non-existent) participant. After completing the essay, one group was primed with alcohol-related terms, such as whiskey, beer, and vodka, for less than one-tenth of a second. Another group of participants were exposed to non-alcohol related terms, such as coffee, milk and water. Following exposure to the sets of words, participants were provided with the evaluation of their essay. Those in the unambiguous provocation group received an evaluation stating, "This is one of the worst essays I have ever read." The evaluation given to participants in the ambiguous provocation condition said, "I don't even know where to begin." A third, control group of participants did not receive an evaluation.

    Participants' aggression was measured by asking them to recommend the length of time the evaluator of their essay should have to submerge his or her hand into a bucket of ice-cold water, something the participants themselves had just experienced. Lead researcher Bill Pedersen explains that the so-called cold pressor task "is often used in research on pain tolerance, which involves people submerging their hand in a bucket of ice-cold water for a number of seconds. If you've ever gone searching in the cooler for a drink once the ice has started to melt you've probably experienced this feeling; it can really hurt if you leave your hand in for more than a few seconds…Because participants know how painful this is, we can say that their recommendation represents their level of aggression toward the other person."

    Effects of priming

    Results of the study confirmed the researchers' predictions. When the essay feedback was clearly hostile, participants responded with relatively high levels of aggression regardless of the terms they had been primed with. However, when the feedback was ambiguous, alcohol-primed participants were much more aggressive than nonalcohol-primed participants. The result suggests that simply being exposed to alcohol-related words makes aggressive thoughts more accessible, thereby coloring interpretation of an ambiguous event and prompting an aggressive response.

    In a follow-up experiment, the researchers found that the effect of alcohol-word priming on aggressive behavior is relatively short-lived—the effect begins to diminish within 7 minutes, and is gone by 15-minutes following alcohol-word exposure—and that alcohol-word priming changes the perception of another person's actions, making them seem more hostile. Together, the findings of the two experiments indicate that alcohol cue priming affects behavior primarily by increasing the accessibility of alcohol-related thoughts stored in long-term memory.

    Alcohol and aggression are often linked, either through personal experiences or simply through cultural beliefs. The current findings indicate that, because of this link, simply being exposed to alcohol-related words is sufficient to bring about a change in aggressive behavior, particularly when another person's intentions are unclear. This finding is important, in part, because such effects typically are attributed only to alcohol's pharmacological effects on brain function. As this work demonstrates, an increased aggressive response can occur without the consumption of alcohol or even the conscious knowledge that an alcohol-related stimulus has been encountered.

    Pedersen's lab is currently looking at how priming different aspects of religion may impact aggressive behavior.


    Please email if you would like a copy of the original study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

    Pedersen, W. C., Vasquez, E. A., Bartholow, B. D., Grosvenor, M., & Truong, A. (2014). Are You Insulting Me? Exposure to Alcohol Primes Increases Aggression Following Ambiguous Provocation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(8).

    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), published monthly, is an official journal of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). SPSP promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. The Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. Follow us on Twitter, @SPSPnews and find us at


    How Asian American ‘Tiger Mothers’ Motivate Their ChildrenOpen in a New Window

    May 16, 2014-- An article titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” published in The Wall Street Journal in 2011, has continued to provoke a cultural debate among parents after self-proclaimed ‘tiger mother’ Amy Chua asserted that Asian American parenting methods produce more successful children. Researchers at Stanford University delved deeper into Chua’s ‘tiger mother’ approach, and their research sheds light on key fundamental differences in parenting methods between Asian Americans and European Americans.

    To reveal the cultural differences in parenting, the researchers compare how Asian American and European American high school students describe their relationship with their mothers, and how pressure by their mothers influences their relationship. They also examine whether mothers help to motivate their children during a challenging academic task. The study is published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB).

    Lead researcher Alyssa Fu explains that their study focuses on maternal relationships because in Asian American families “mothers tend to be more directly involved in their children’s academic achievement.” According to Fu, “Asian American parents encourage their children to see themselves as part of an enduring relationship with them.” In other words, Asian American children are encouraged to be interdependent.

    European American children, on the other hand, are encouraged to be independent. Parents encourage their children to see themselves as separate individuals from them and to explore their unique thoughts and experiences. This key difference between Asian American and European American parenting models has a direct effect on the ability of mothers to motivate their child in an academic setting.

    Fu and Markus designed four studies to investigate these differences. In the first study, students answered open ended questions about their mothers. Asian American children were more likely to mention their mother’s relationship with them (e.g. she pushes me to succeed), while European American children were more likely to describe their mothers as a separate person from them; they focused on her attributes and her appearance (e.g., she has blue eyes and likes to read). Both groups of children were likely to describe their mothers positively, and as a source of support.

    In the second study, students were asked to rate how connected they felt with their mothers, and how much they experienced pressure from their mothers. As predicted, Asian American students experience greater interdependence with their mothers. They also experience greater pressure by their mothers, but did not report feeling any less supported by their mothers because of that pressure. That is, Asian American children can still feel supported by their mothers regardless of increased pressure placed on them.

    European American children report that they experience pressure from their mothers as negative, and the more pressure they feel the less they feel supported by their mothers. European American children are also more likely to feel their mothers don’t understand them. As a reaction to that perceived pressure, European American children are then more likely to assert their independence.

    In the third and fourth studies, students were presented with a challenging academic task designed to induce a failure experience. When thinking about their mothers, Asian American children were more motivated to complete the task after experiencing failure than European American children. European American children were more motivated when prompted to think about themselves.

    Notably, Asian American children were not only motivated by thinking about their mothers, but they can also be motivated when they remember a time when their mothers put pressure on them—when she nagged them. Specifically, when Asian Americans were reminded of their mother’s interdependence with them, they were more motivated by her pressure than if they were not reminded of her interdependence with them. In other words, when Asian Americans feel connected with their mothers, they are able to use her pressure to be more motivated.

    Together the four studies underscore fundamental differences in parenting methods across cultures. ‘Tiger mothers’ are motivating for Asian American children because interdependence allows their children to draw on their connectedness with their mother to maintain their motivation on a difficult task. European American children, on the other hand, see themselves as independent from their mothers, and are not motivated by their mother’s pressure. In European American contexts, overcoming failure is a personal project not a group project.

    These results have implications beyond the home as well, and may extend to dynamics between students and teachers. “For example, just as Asian Americans are tuned into their mothers’ expectations, they are also tuned into hierarchy, and pay more attention to the authority of a teacher than European American students,” Fu explained.

    Chua’s original article sparked a culture clash about ‘tiger mothers.’ This study illustrates that both sides in the debate deserve points. European American mothers are correct in their assumption that too much maternal involvement can quash motivation, because they instill in their children a strong feeling of independence. In contrast Asian American ‘tiger mothers’ who are able to leverage the interdependence they have with their children are equally right that their material pressure is beneficial, in fact, essential for their child’s motivation.


    Please email if you would like a copy of the original study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

    Fu, A. S., & Markus, H. R. (2014). My Mother and Me: Why Tiger Mothers Motivate Asian Americans But Not European Americans. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(6), 739-749.

    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), published monthly, is an official journal of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). SPSP promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. The Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. Follow us on Twitter, @SPSPnews and find us at


    When the Harm Done Can Never Be Balanced: Vicarious Revenge and the Death of Osama bin LadenOpen in a New Window

    April 29, 2014 – Friday will mark the third anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s assassination, a day when U.S. President Barack Obama famously stated “Justice has been done.” But has it? A new study from a team of social psychology researchers led by Mario Gollwitzer of Philipps University of Marburg, has questioned whether this instance of vicarious revenge led to feelings of satisfaction and reestablished justice within the American public, including whether bin Laden’s assassination ignited craving for more revenge.

    Justice achieved

    Vicarious revenge, where the need for justice is felt not by the victims, but by people in the same group, has been shown to feel similar to personal revenge. Gollwitzer and his team developed two studies designed to test the notion “that Americans’ vengeful desires in the aftermath of 9/11 predicted a sense of justice achieved after bin Laden’s death…”

    The data suggest that those Americans who believed that bin Laden’s assassination sent a message to the perpetrators (“Don’t mess with us”) were also the ones who thought that his death balanced the scales of justice.

    The second important finding from the study is that bin Laden’s death did not fully quench Americans’ desire for revenge. Respondents who showed a stronger sense of “justice achieved” also showed a stronger desire to take further revenge against those who were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Although justice might be achieved, the avengers might not feel psychological closure. Reestablishing justice, successfully asserting one’s message, does not necessarily close the chapter in the case of revenge.

    The “how” matters

    The third important finding presented shows that Americans were more satisfied with fact that bin Laden was killed intentionally than the possibility of bin Laden being killed accidentally (e.g., in an airplane crash). Compared to self-reported responses from Pakistanis or Germans, Americans felt much more satisfaction towards the death of bin Laden as it actually happened than towards any other circumstance of his death.

    Gollwitzer and his team believe that this difference in “intent” reflects the fact that Americans were the victims of 9/11, whereas Germans, for example, merely observed these events, but were not directly involved in them.


    The study " Vicarious Revenge and the Death of Osama bin Laden,” by Mario Gollwitzer, Linda J. Skitka, Daniel Wisneski,Arne Sjöström, Peter Liberman, Syed Javed Nazir, and Brad J. Bushman was published online and in print in the May 2014 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP).

    SPSP promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. With more than 6,000 members, the Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world.

    To request this full paper or to unsubscribe from the SPSP press list, please email:


    When, Why, and How: The Questions Psychologists Should Be Asking About Parents’ HappinessOpen in a New Window

    The question of whether or not parents are happy has become a hot topic among popular media, serious academics, and the general public alike. People are seemingly starving for information about whether raising children is really as stressful — or as blissful — as it sometimes seems. Perhaps it’s because 85% of adults become parents by the time they reach age 45 that so many people are interested in the answer. But the question people should be asking is not if parents are happy or unhappy but rather when—and why—that is the case, as Katherine Nelson of the University of California, Riverside explains on the SPSP blog.

    And read more about Nelson's research, as well as about work by Kostadin Kushlev of the University of British Columbia, that shows how money makes parenting less meaningful, in this full press release.


    For Understanding Family Structure to Trauma: New Technology is Yielding Bigger DataOpen in a New Window

    Audience at SPSP 2014 Big Data SymposiumSocial media can do more than just entertain us and keep us connected. It also can help scientists better understand human behavior and social dynamics. The volume of data created through new technology and social media such as Facebook and Twitter is lending insight into everything from mapping modern family dynamics to predicting postpartum depression.

    "By analyzing different types of social media, search terms, or even blogs, we are able to capture people's thinking, communication patterns, health, beliefs, prejudices, group behaviors – essentially everything that has ever been studied in social and personality psychology,” says James Pennebaker, president of SPSP, which kicked off its annual meeting with a symposium on big data. . "We can examine thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people at once or track them over time.” Read the full press release and our blog coverage of the session from Austin.


    Even Fact Will Not Change First ImpressionsOpen in a New Window

    Knowledge is power, yet new research suggests that a person’s appearance alone can trump knowledge. First impressions are so powerful that they can override what we are told about people. A new study found that even when told whether a person was gay or straight, participants generally identified the person's sexual orientation based on how they looked – even if it contradicted the facts presented to them.

    "We judge books by their covers, and we can't help but do it,” says Nicholas Rule of the University of Toronto. "With effort, we can overcome this to some extent, but we are continually tasked with needing to correct ourselves.” The less time we have to make our judgments, the more likely we are to go with our gut, even over fact, he says.

    A series of recent studies, presented today at the SPSP conference in Austin, shows that appearance shapes everything from whether we ultimately end up liking someone to our assessment of their sexual orientation or trustworthiness. Read the full press release.


    Matchmaking, Double Dates and More for Valentine’s DayOpen in a New Window's Valentine’s Day: Try matching up two friends for a date or, better yet, match them and then go with them on a double date. New research being presented in Austin at the SPSP annual conference is shedding light on the social world in which our relationships flourish, as well as the many ways perceptions influence our relationships. Read highlights of these studies on our new blog.

    And check out the full press releases: 
    Keep Romance Alive with Double Dates: And Other Ways Perceptions Influence Relationships
    Matchmaking This Valentine's Day: How It Can Bring You the Most Happiness


    SPSP 2014 App and ProgramOpen in a New Window

    The SPSP 2014 conference starts Thursday, Feb. 13, in Austin. The conference App is now available. Download it now. With the App, you can schedule your days at the meeting, browse for session details, network with other attendees, and get updates in real-time.

    Or, download the full program online.

    And follow the meeting on our new blog and on Twitter: @SPSPnews #SPSP2014 #SPSPblog


    Would You Lie for Me?Open in a New Window

    Photo by incurable hippe: it would be tough to get convince someone to lie for you or to vandalize public property? Think again. Recent research, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Vanessa Bohns of the University of Waterloo and colleagues, suggests that it's easier than we think to get people to act unethically. As Bohns writes in the New York Times, "we often fail to recognize the power of social pressure when we are the ones doing the pressuring." Read more on the new SPSP blog and the full New York Times column.


    Finding Meaning and Ambiance, Superbowl Psychology, and MoreOpen in a New Window

    Features of our home spaces — whether the kitchen, bedroom, or office — affect our levels of comfort, as well as our actions and the emotions and thoughts we experience. At the SPSP conference in Austin next week, Sam Gosling will present new research on the many ways our spaces influence us and vice versa. Read more about his work and others on our new blog Character and Context.

    Character and Context features perspectives on personality and social psychology in the journals and the news. Check out the blog during SPSP 2014 in Austin for coverage of the conference. Follow us on Twitter at #SPSPblog @SPSPnews. And check out other new posts on everything from Superbowl psychology to the many ways our brains process distance


    Graduate Student Events and Awards at SPSP 2014Open in a New Window

    From a pre-conference offering tips for job success to an evening social at Recess/New York, NY, there are many events for graduate students at the SPSP annual conference in Austin in two weeks. 

    Also, the Graduate Student Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of the Outstanding Research Awards: Andrew Luttrell, Ohio State University; Caitlin W. Duffy, Northwestern; Leor Hackel, NYU; Sarah Stanton, University of Western Ontario; and Shana Cole, NYU. The winners will be honored during the symposium "'...but I need more publications!': Balancing Work/Life, Ethics, and Productivity Pressures as a Grad Student" on Friday morning, Feb. 14, in Austin.


    Verbal Tics, Doctor's Office Guilt, Psychology Leading the WayOpen in a New Window

    SPSP"Politeness is another word for deception," said James Pennebaker of the University of Texas, Austin, and SPSP President, in a recent Wall Street Journal column on what verbal tics and tee-ups say about people's personalities. He also appeared on NPR's On Point to discuss this research on common phrases that creep into our conversations, including "I just want you to know that...", "I can't tell you how much I love you...", and others that he dubs as "deliciously deceptive." 

    Also in the news this week was Christine Harris of the University of California, San Diego, whose work found that people often feel guilt or shame after talking with a doctor. And psychology is leading the way for reforms — from open science to bigger data — that will benefit all scientific disciplines, as described in this piece by Chris Chambers


    What Comforts Targets of Prejudice the MostOpen in a New Window

    Photo by Warren K. LefflerRare in history are moments like the 1960s civil rights movement, in which members of a majority group vocally support minority groups in their fight against prejudice. New research not only confirms the power of speaking up for those facing prejudice but also underlines the importance of exactly what is communicated. Looking at YouTube video messages, researchers found that homosexual youth found the most comfort in messages that both supported them and advocated social change.

    The new work takes a closer look at the "It Gets Better” YouTube campaign. "Like many people, I was fascinated and inspired when I saw the grassroots online movement that started in late 2010 of people posting video messages to teenagers who faced prejudice and harassment based on their actual or presumed sexual orientation,” says Aneeta Rattan of London Business School. "I was not just moved as an individual, but as a researcher because this behavior – publicly addressing prejudice toward another group and communicating support for members of that group – is so rare that there is not a clear body of psychological science on it.”

    Read the full press release about this new work by Rattan and Nalini Ambady, published today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


    Press: Featured Talks for SPSP 2014 in AustinOpen in a New Window

     Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0Science stories are bigger in Texas...Get your next big story at the SPSP annual meeting in Austin, TX, Feb. 13-15, 2014.

    The SPSP conference will feature 80 symposia and more than 2,000 posters on new research in a range of topics – the link between parenting and happiness, social impacts on health, the environment's effects on creativity, and factors in the academic gender gap.

    Press registration is open. Join 3,500 social scientists in sunny Austin!

    Read the latest Media Advisory for more on featured talks.


    New Editor for Personality and Social Psychology ReviewOpen in a New Window

    Personality and Social Psychology Review — the premier outlet for theoretical and review papers in the field — has a new editor: Monica Biernat of the University of Kansas. Beginning January 1, 2014, Monica will lead the journal with her superb team of Associate Editors M. Lynne Cooper, Bertram Gawronski, and Mark Schaller. 

    Thank you to the outgoing editorial team, composed of Mark Leary (Editor), Tom Gilovich (Associate Editor) Bernadette Park (Associate Editor), and Deborah Prentice (Associate Editor), for their exemplary work over the last four years. Read the full announcement


    When It Was OK to Laugh About Hurricane SandyOpen in a New Window

    NASA GSFCHow long after a tragedy is it OK to joke about it? New research suggests that there's a comedic sweet spot – when enough time has passed that people no longer feel immediately threatened but not so much time that the event is out of our thoughts. Researchers found a rise and eventual peak in humorous responses to Hurricane Sandy between 1 month and 2 months after the storm, with such humor decreasing between 2 months and 3 months after the fact. The research gives unique insight into what makes things funny and how humor can help with coping. The paper, "The Rise and Fall of Humor: Psychological Distance Modulates Humorous Responses to Tragedy" by Peter McGraw, Lawrence E. Williams, and Caleb Warren, was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, online December 11, 2013.

    Read the full December 2013 tipsheet, for more new research, including about how it's easier than we think to convince others to act unethically.


    New Web Editor To Spearhead Improved SPSP Web PresenceOpen in a New Window

    David NussbaumBig changes to the SPSP website are coming your way – more blogs, feature stories, and opportunities to share research among personality and social psychologists, as well as with the public. The Society is happy to announce the appointment of a new Web Editor, David Nussbaum, to spearhead this effort.

    As SPSP has grown over the last several years, so too has our web presence. But while we launched a new, more dynamic web design in 2011, rapid developments in technologies and social media have again demanded more changes. Read more


    Thanksgiving Lessons from Personality and Social PsychologistsOpen in a New Window

    Chef Sean Christopher; this Thanksgiving, personality and social psychologists have a few lessons to share: 

    1) Thinking before eating may actually make us eat more - featuring work by Jessie De Witt Huberts and others in Personality and Social Psychology Review

    2) Being grateful is good for your health - featuring David DeSteno, Naomi Eisenberger, and Sara Algoe

    3) Paying it forward is good for consumers and businesses - featuring Minah Jung, Leif Nelson, and Ayelet and Uri Gneezy

    Happy Thanksgiving! 


    Thinking about death affects our views on celebrity endorsementOpen in a New Window

    Ads created with and without celebrity endorsement; from McCabe et al. (2013), PSPBWho would get you to buy more of a particular brand of water – Jennifer Aniston or a medical doctor? In a new set of studies that look at the effectiveness of medical versus celebrity endorsements, researchers found that a doctor's product endorsement is more effective than a celebrity's when we are directly thinking about our own mortality. Part of a growing body of research on terror-management theory – how thinking about death affects our behavior – the researchers tested different scenarios involving celebrity endorsement. In one study, people only distantly thinking about their mortality were less likely to engage in risky drinking behavior when a PSA was endorsed by Sandra Bullock, if they read articles first about her career successes versus failures.

    The paper, "Hails from the crypt: A terror management health model investigation of the effectiveness of health-oriented vs. celebrity-oriented endorsements,” Simon McCabe et al., was published online in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on Nov. 7, 2013. Read more about more new research in this month's tipsheet.

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