All in Your Head

Kevin Lewis

June 04, 2023

Evaluation of the “Rethink Stress” Mindset Intervention: A Metacognitive Approach to Changing Mindsets
Alia Crum et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming 


Experimental research has demonstrated that a stress-is-enhancing mindset can be induced and can improve outcomes by presenting information on the enhancing nature of stress. However, experimental evidence, media portrayals, and personal experience about the debilitating nature of stress may challenge this mindset. Thus, the traditional approach of focusing on the more “desired” mindset without arming participants against encounters with the less desired mindsets may not be sustainable in the face of conflicting information. How might this limitation be resolved? Here, we present three randomized-controlled interventions that test the efficacy of a “metacognitive approach.” In this approach, participants are given more balanced information about the nature of stress along with metacognitive information on the power of their mindsets aimed at empowering them to choose a more adaptive mindset even in the face of conflicting information. In Experiment 1, employees of a large finance company randomized to the metacognitive mindset intervention reported greater increases in stress-is-enhancing mindsets and greater improvements in self-reported measures of physical health symptoms and interpersonal-skill work performance 4 weeks later compared to a waitlist control. Experiment 2, adapted to be distributed electronically via multimedia modules, replicates the effects on stress mindset and symptoms. Experiment 3 compares the metacognitive stress mindset intervention with a more traditional stress mindset manipulation. The metacognitive approach led to greater initial increases in a stress-is-enhancing mindset relative to the traditional intervention, and these increases were sustained after exposure to contradictory information. Taken together, these results provide support for a metacognitive approach to mindset change.

Can inflammation predict social media use? Linking a biological marker of systemic inflammation with social media use among college students and middle-aged adults 
David Lee et al.
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, August 2023, Pages 1-10 


Drawing on recent evidence that inflammation may promote social affiliative motivation, the present research proposes a novel perspective that inflammation may be associated with more social media use. In a cross-sectional analysis of a nationally representative sample, Study 1 (N = 863) found a positive association between C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker of systemic inflammation, and the amount of social media use by middle-aged adults. Study 2 (N = 228) showed that among college students CRP was prospectively associated with more social media use 6 weeks later. Providing stronger evidence of the directionality of this effect, Study 3 (N = 171) showed that in college students CRP predicted increased social media use in the subsequent week even after controlling for current week’s use. Additionally, in exploratory analyses of CRP and different types of social media use in the same week, CRP was only associated with using social media for social interaction and not for other purposes (e.g., entertainment). The present research sheds light on the social effects of inflammation and highlights potential benefits of using social media as a context for studying the impact of inflammation on social motivation and behavior.

Music preferences as an instrument of emotional self-regulation along the business cycle
Juan de Lucio & Marco Palomeque
Journal of Cultural Economics, June 2023, Pages 181–204 


This paper studies the influence of macroeconomic conditions on subjective well-being and music preferences. The macroeconomic cycle exerts an effect on happiness and well-being that consumers counterbalance by modifying music consumption. We use machine learning techniques to make a weekly classification of the top 100 songs of Billboard Hot 100 into positive and negative lyrics over the period 1958–2019. When unemployment is high, society generally prefers more positive songs. Other macroeconomic indicators such as high inflation, high interest rates or low stock market prices also affect musical preferences. These results provide initial evidence regarding the use of cultural consumption to offset business cycle oscillations.

Pursuing safety in social connection regulates the risk-regulation, social-safety, and behavioral-immune systems
Sandra Murray et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming 


A new goal-systems model is proposed to help explain when individuals will protect themselves against the risks inherent to social connection. This model assumes that people satisfy the goal to feel included in safe social connections -- connections where they are valued and protected rather than at risk of being harmed -- by devaluing rejecting friends, trusting in expectancy–consistent relationships, and avoiding infectious strangers. In the hypothesized goal system, frustrating the fundamental goal to feel safe in social connection sensitizes regulatory systems that afford safety from the risk of being interpersonally rejected (i.e., the risk-regulation system), existentially uncertain (i.e., the social-safety system), or physically infected (i.e., the behavioral-immune system). Conversely, fulfilling the fundamental goal to feel safe in social connection desensitizes these self-protective systems. A 3-week experimental daily diary study (N = 555) tested the model hypotheses. We intervened to fulfill the goal to feel safe in social connection by repeatedly conditioning experimental participants to associate their romantic partners with highly positive, approachable words and images. We then tracked how vigilantly experimental versus control participants protected themselves when they encountered social rejection, unexpected behavior, or contagious illness in everyday life. Multilevel analyses revealed that the intervention lessoned self-protective defenses against each of these risks for participants who ordinarily felt most vulnerable to them. The findings provide the first evidence that the fundamental goal to feel safe in social connection can co-opt the risk-regulation, social-safety, and behavioral-immune systems as independent means for its pursuit.

Generalization of Costly Pain-Related Avoidance Based on Real-Life Categorical Knowledge
Eveliina Glogan, Peixin Liu & Ann Meulders
Psychological Science, forthcoming 


Avoiding activities posing bodily threat is adaptive. However, spreading of avoidance to safe activities may cause functional disability in people with chronic pain. We investigated whether costly pain-related avoidance would generalize from one activity to another on the basis of real-life categorical knowledge in 40 pain-free people (30 female; mean age = 25 years; university students and public of Maastricht, The Netherlands). In a computer task, participants moved a joystick to complete activities from two categories (gardening and cleaning). During activities from the avoidance category, pain could be avoided at the cost of task efficiency by deviating from a short, pain-associated joystick movement. Activities from the safe category were never painful. Subsequently, we tested generalization of avoidance to novel pain-free activities from both categories. Participants generalized avoidance to novel activities from the avoidance category despite the novel activities not being paired with pain and despite avoidance costs, suggesting that costly (pain-related) avoidance generalizes from one activity to another on the basis of category knowledge and can thus be wide reaching, creating detrimental consequences.

Social media’s influence on momentary emotion based on people’s initial mood: An experimental design
Alison Tuck, Kelley Long & Renee Thompson
Cognition and Emotion, forthcoming 


Can you think of a meme that made you laugh or a political post that made you angry? These examples illustrate how social media use (SMU) impacts how people feel. Similarly, how people feel when they initiate SMU may impact the emotional effects of SMU. Someone feeling happy may feel more positively during SMU, whereas someone feeling sad may feel more negatively. Using an experimental design, we examined whether following SMU, those in a happy mood would experience increases in positive affect (PA) and those in a sad mood would experience increases in negative affect (NA). A large sample of college students (N = 703) were randomly assigned to a happy, sad, or neutral mood induction before SMU. PA and NA were assessed at baseline, post-mood induction, and after SMU. Contrary to hypotheses, after SMU, people in happy moods experienced decreases in PA, and those in sad moods experienced decreases in NA, reflecting SMU having a dampening effect on emotions. PA and NA were significantly lower after SMU compared to baseline and did not vary by condition. How young adults feel when they log onto SMU matters in understanding how SMU impacts PA and NA, but on average, emotional experiences are dampened.


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