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    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.

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    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 facebook.com/SPSP.org

     

    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.

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    Please email press@spsp.org 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). http://psp.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/06/20/0146167214538672.abstract

    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). http://psp.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/06/10/0146167214537834.abstract

    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 facebook.com/SPSP.org

     

    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.

     

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    Hepper, E. G., Hart, C. M., and Sedikides, C. (2014). Moving Narcissus: Can Narcissists Be Empathic?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(9). http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167214535812

     

    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 facebook.com/SPSP.org

     

    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.

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    Please email press@spsp.org 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). http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167214534993

    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 facebook.com/SPSP.org.

     

    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.

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    Please email press@spsp.org 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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167214524992

    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 facebook.com/SPSP.org

     

    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: press@spsp.org


     

    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

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/69/Couple_01.JPGIt'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

     

    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.

     

    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.



     

    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.


     

    Babies Named for Fathers But Not Mothers Reflect U.S. Cultural IdeologiesOpen in a New Window

    From Cal Ripkin, Jr., to MLK to Robert Downey, Jr., finding men named after their fathers is easy. Children named after men in the family – with so-called patronyms – are common around the world. But what about matronymns – names for a mother or grandmother? New research shows that matronymns are rare and that family naming trends follow a regional pattern in the United States: People in states with a relatively high emphasis on honor are more likely to use patronyms, especially in the face of a terrorist threat.

    "Studying naming trends can be a subtle means of peering into a society’s beliefs and values without ever having to ask people to report directly about their beliefs and values,” says Ryan Brown of the University of Oklahoma. Read the full press release about this new work published today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin


     

    Why We Can't Accurately Judge Our Friends' BehaviorOpen in a New Window

    JLS Media; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.enThere is no such thing as objectivity when it comes to your friends: According to a new study, people evaluate their friends' behavior more positively than do strangers, regardless of actual performance on a series of tasks. Researchers say that we should then think twice before allowing people who know each other to be in positions to judge each other – from job interviews to legal settings.

    "In judging people we already know, we are more or less unable to ignore our previously established images of those people,” says Daniel Leising of Technische Universität Dresden. The new study, published Wednesday in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, examines how real people evaluate the behavior of themselves, their friends, and strangers. Psychologists know that people hold a number of biases when evaluating others, but most studies to date on this issue have used written descriptions of the behavior of hypothetical persons. "This is one of the few studies that investigated judgments of people's actual behavior,” Leising says. Read the full press release


     

    From the Bystander Effect to Political Ideologies: Excellence in Personality & Social PsychologyOpen in a New Window

    When you pass by a stranger in need of help, do you stop to lend a hand? Maybe not... A landmark 1973 study found that seminary students in a hurry were less likely to help someone in distress, even when they were on their way to deliver a talk on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A co-author of that study and several other distinguished researchers are the recipients of the SPSP 2013 annual awards. The contributions of these scientists to personality and social psychology include furthering our understanding of how personality shapes health and well-being across adulthood, why it's so hard to evaluate ourselves, and the virtues that divide political ideologies. Read the full press release.

     

    Why Parenting Can Never Have a Rule BookOpen in a New Window

    credit: Michaelee; wikipediaAny parent will tell you that there is no simple recipe for raising a child. Being a parent means getting hefty doses of advice – often unsolicited – from others. But such advice often fails to consider a critical factor: the child. A new review of dozens of studies involving more than 14,600 pairs of twins shows that children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented.

    "There is a lot of pressure on parents these days to produce children that excel in everything, socially and academically,” says Reut Avinun of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Since children are not born tabula rasa, I felt it was important to explore their side of the story, to show how they can affect their environment, and specifically parental behavior.” Most studies of parenting look at only the reverse, how parents affect their children's experiences. Read the full press release about this new research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

     

    Considering abandoning a goal comes at a costOpen in a New Window

    Most of us reach a critical juncture when we consider giving up on a tough personal goal — whether weight loss or kicking a tough habit. Three longitudinal field studies found that experiencing that point — when we feel set back in our goal pursuit and are not sure whether to continue — has strong psychological and physiological effects. In one study of runners in a Swiss marathon, those considering no longer running the marathon showed a stronger secretion of the stress hormone cortisol and a lower performance in the race 2 weeks later. The paper, "The Struggle of Giving Up Personal Goals: Affective, Physiological, and Cognitive Consequences of an Action Crisis" by Veronika Brandstätter et al., was published online today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

    For more new research in our journals — including about how hostile sexism affects relationships and society's role in creative genius — read the full August 2013 tipsheet

     

    Video Games Boost Visual Attention But Reduce Impulse ControlOpen in a New Window

    A person playing a first-person shooter video game like Halo or Unreal Tournament must make decisions quickly. That fast-paced decision-making, it turns out, boosts the player's visual skills but comes at a cost, according to new research: reducing the person's ability to inhibit impulsive behavior. This reduction in what is called "proactive executive control" appears to be yet another way that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior.

    "We believe that any game that requires the same type of rapid responding as in most first-person shooters may produce similar effects on proactive executive control, regardless of violent content,” says Craig Anderson, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University. "However, this is quite speculative,” he warns. But what is not so speculative is the growing body of research that links violent video games – and to a certain extent, total screen time – to attention-related problems and, ultimately, to aggression. Read the full press release.

     

    From Secrets in Emails to Confronting Bias: Personality and Social Psychology at the APA ConventionOpen in a New Window

    From how secret-keeping influences our personal emails to personality traits that increase the risk of obesity to the benefits of confronting bias – SPSP members are presenting new research in personality and social psychology at the APA Convention in Honolulu, July 31 – August 4, 2013. Read our full tipsheet.

     

    Jealousy Can Drive Us to View Ourselves More Like Our RivalsOpen in a New Window

    If you see your partner flirt with someone else, you may feel hurt, angry, and jealous. The last thing you might expect is to start thinking of yourself more like your rival. New research suggests just that: that jealousy can prompt people to change how they view themselves relative to competitors for their partners' attention.

    Previous research has shown that individuals often will change their self-views to be more similar to someone to whom they want to get closer, such as a romantic partner. "However, a rival isn't someone that individuals should like, let alone want to affiliate with,” Erica Slotter of Villanova University. "This work was really novel in that we were looking at whether individuals would be willing to shift their self-views to be more similar to a romantic rival.” Read the full press release.

     

    Divorce Early in Childhood Affects Parental Relationships in AdulthoodOpen in a New Window

    credit: wavebreakmedia via ShuttershockDivorce has a bigger impact on child-parent relationships if it occurs in the first few years of the child's life, according to new research. Those who experience parental divorce early in their childhood tend to have more insecure relationships with their parents as adults than those who experience divorce later, researchers say.

    "By studying variation in parental divorce, we are hoping to learn more about how early experiences predict the quality of people's close relationships later in life,” says R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. ...

    In two studies published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Fraley and graduate student Marie Heffernan examined the timing and effects of divorce on both parental and romantic relationships, as well as differences in how divorce affects relationships with mothers versus fathers. Read the full press release.

    And read about more new research in our journals – including about motivations for gambling and impulsive shoppers – in this month's tipsheet

     

    Link between war support and PTSDOpen in a New Window

    Lipton sale; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/Soldiers returning home from combat may be at a heightened risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder if public support for a war effort is low, according to recent research. Social validation or invalidation shapes the level of distress soldiers feel from the act of killing, the researchers say. The study involved two experiments that asked participants to exterminate woodlice in a modified coffee grinder – in one, having an actor show either interest or disgust for the act and in another, asking participants to record who agreed to the extermination and who refused. In both cases, the conditions that socially invalidated the killing of the bugs led to more distress and guilt among the participants. Ironically, the researchers report in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the very anti-war protests meant to show support for troops but disdain for combat may increase the likelihood that returning soldiers experience mental distress.

    Read about this new research and more from our journals in this month's tipsheet for journalists.

     

    When Women Sell Themselves Short on Team ProjectsOpen in a New Window

    Matthew (Wikimedia Foundation); http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.enWorking on a team is always a challenge, but a new study highlights a particular challenge to women: how much they credit themselves in a joint success. Women will devalue their contributions when working with men but not with other women, according to the new research. The study suggests yet another reason why women still tend to be under-represented at the highest echelons of many organizations.

    Michelle Haynes of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, had examined how other people evaluate men and women working together. She decided to build on that work to look at how women view themselves on teams after herself reading glowing group feedback for a conference submission she co-authored. "As I was reading this extraordinary review, I thought: 'Wow! Those other co-contributors must have really written something amazing for us to have gotten this kind of feedback.' And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I do this too,” she says. She did not recognize her own positive contribution to the team endeavor. Read the full press release.

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