Kevin Lewis

February 12, 2011

A Bad Taste in the Mouth: Gustatory Disgust Influences Moral Judgment

Kendall Eskine, Natalie Kacinik & Jesse Prinz
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Can sweet-tasting substances trigger kind, favorable judgments about other people? What about substances that are disgusting and bitter? Various studies have linked physical disgust to moral disgust, but despite the rich and sometimes striking findings these studies have yielded, no research has explored morality in conjunction with taste, which can vary greatly and may differentially affect cognition. The research reported here tested the effects of taste perception on moral judgments. After consuming a sweet beverage, a bitter beverage, or water, participants rated a variety of moral transgressions. Results showed that taste perception significantly affected moral judgments, such that physical disgust (induced via a bitter taste) elicited feelings of moral disgust. Further, this effect was more pronounced in participants with politically conservative views than in participants with politically liberal views. Taken together, these differential findings suggest that embodied gustatory experiences may affect moral processing more than previously thought.


Mad enough to see the other side: Anger and the search for disconfirming information

Maia Young, Larissa Tiedens, Heajung Jung & Ming-Hong Tsai
Cognition & Emotion, January 2011, Pages 10-21

The current research explored the effect of anger on hypothesis confirmation - the propensity to seek information that confirms rather than disconfirms one's opinion. We argued that the moving against action tendency associated with anger leads angry individuals to seek out more disconfirming information than sad individuals, attenuating the confirmation bias. We tested this hypothesis in two studies of experimentally primed anger and sadness on the selective exposure to hypothesis confirming and disconfirming information. In Study 1, participants in the angry condition were more likely to choose disconfirming information than those in the sad or neutral condition when given the opportunity to read more about a social debate, and reading the disconfirming information affected their subsequent attitude. Study 2 measured participants' opinions and information selection about the 2008 US Presidential Election and their desire to "move against" a person or object. Participants in the angry condition reported a greater tendency to oppose a person or object, which resulted in the attenuation of the confirmation bias.


Your Heart Makes My Heart Move: Cues of Social Connectedness Cause Shared Emotions and Physiological States Among Strangers

David Cwir et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Two experiments tested the hypothesis that cues of social connectedness could lead even new interaction partners to experience shared emotional and physiological states. In Experiment 1, a confederate prepared for a stress-inducing task. Participants who had been led to feel socially connected to the confederate reported feeling greater stress than participants who had not. In Experiment 2, a confederate ran vigorously in place. Socially-connected participants had greater cardiovascular reactivity (heart rate and blood pressure) than controls. Each study held constant exposure to the confederate. The results suggest that the sharing of psychological and physiological states does not occur only between long-standing relationship partners, but can also result from even subtle experiences of social connectedness. These findings illustrate the dynamic and fluid ways in which important aspects of self can change in response to cues of social relatedness.


Stress Strengthens Memory of First Impressions of Others' Positive Personality Traits

Johanna Lass-Hennemann et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2011, e16389

Encounters with strangers bear potential for social conflict and stress, but also allow the formation of alliances. First impressions of other people play a critical role in the formation of alliances, since they provide a learned base to infer the other's future social attitude. Stress can facilitate emotional memories but it is unknown whether stress strengthens our memory for newly acquired impressions of other people's personality traits. To answer this question, we subjected 60 students (37 females, 23 males) to an impression-formation task, viewing portraits together with brief positive vs. negative behavior descriptions, followed by a 3-min cold pressor stress test or a non-stressful control procedure. The next day, novel and old portraits were paired with single trait adjectives, the old portraits with a trait adjective matching the previous day's behavior description. After a filler task, portraits were presented again and subjects were asked to recall the trait adjective. Cued recall was higher for old (previously implied) than the novel portraits' trait adjectives, indicating validity of the applied test procedures. Overall, recall rate of implied trait adjectives did not differ between the stress and the control group. However, while the control group showed a better memory performance for others' implied negative personality traits, the stress group showed enhanced recall for others' implied positive personality traits. This result indicates that post-learning stress affects consolidation of first impressions in a valence-specific manner. We propose that the stress-induced strengthening of memory of others' positive traits forms an important cue for the formation of alliances in stressful conditions.


Pushing Mom Away: Embodied Cognition and Avoidant Attachment

Chris Fraley & Michael Marks
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming

The objective of this research was to examine embodied psychological defense - the way in which defensive processes are manifest in basic motor responses. Forty-two participants were instructed to physically push or pull a lever in response to lexical stimuli presented on a computer display. Participants who were relatively avoidant with respect to attachment were faster to push the lever away from themselves when presented with the word "mom." These results suggest that basic avoidant motives are automatically primed when attachment-related stimuli are processed, and that these tendencies manifest themselves in basic, motor-specific ways.


An effect of mood on the perception of geographical slant

Cedar Riener et al.
Cognition & Emotion, January 2011, Pages 174-182

Previous research has shown that hills appear steeper to those who are fatigued, encumbered, of low physical fitness, elderly, or in declining health (Bhalla & Proffitt, 1999; Proffitt, Bhalla, Gossweiler, & Midgett, 1995). The prevailing interpretation of this research is that observers' perceptions of the environment are influenced by their capacity to navigate that environment. The current studies extend this programme by investigating more subtle embodied effects on perception of slant; namely those of mood. In two studies, with two different mood manipulations, and two estimates of slant in each, observers in a sad mood reported hills to be steeper. These results support the role of mood and motivational factors in influencing spatial perception, adding to the previous work showing that energetic potential can influence perception.


P Is for Happiness, N Is for Sadness: Universals in Sound Iconicity to Detect Emotions in Poetry

Jan Auracher et al.
Discourse Processes, January 2011, Pages 1-25

This article demonstrates the potential of sound iconicity for automatic text analysis. This study claims that-at least in poetic language-the ratio of plosive versus nasal sounds in a text predicts its emotional tone as it is perceived by readers; that is, poems that have a relatively high frequency of plosive sounds are more likely to express a pleasant mood with high activation, whereas a relatively high frequency of nasal sounds indicates an unpleasant mood with low activation. Moreover, these findings are universal (i.e., they are independent of specific languages or language families). This article presents the results of an intercultural study testing the previous hypothesis.


Further evidence for mixed emotions

Jeff Larsen & Peter McGraw
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Emotion theorists have long debated whether valence, which ranges from pleasant to unpleasant states, is an irreducible aspect of the experience of emotion or whether positivity and negativity are separable in experience. If valence is irreducible, it follows that people cannot feel happy and sad at the same time. Conversely, if positivity and negativity are separable, people may be able to experience such mixed emotions. The authors tested several alternative interpretations for prior evidence that happiness and sadness can co-occur in bittersweet situations (i.e., those containing both pleasant and unpleasant aspects). One possibility is that subjects who reported mixed emotions merely vacillated between happiness and sadness. The authors tested this hypothesis in Studies 1-3 by asking subjects to complete online continuous measures of happiness and sadness. Subjects reported more simultaneously mixed emotions during a bittersweet film clip than during a control clip. Another possibility is that subjects in earlier studies reported mixed emotions only because they were explicitly asked whether they felt happy and sad. The authors tested this hypothesis in Studies 4-6 with open-ended measures of emotion. Subjects were more likely to report mixed emotions after the bittersweet clip than the control clip. Both patterns occurred even when subjects were told that they were not expected to report mixed emotions (Studies 2 and 5) and among subjects who did not previously believe that people could simultaneously feel happy and sad (Studies 3 and 6). These results provide further evidence that positivity and negativity are separable in experience.


Current negative mood encourages changes in end-of-life treatment decisions and is associated with false memories

Stefanie Sharman
Cognition & Emotion, January 2011, Pages 132-139

To investigate the effects of mood on people's end-of-life treatment decisions and their false memories of those decisions, participants took part in two sessions. At Time 1, participants were experimentally induced into positive or negative moods. They decided whether they would want to receive or refuse treatments in a range of hypothetical medical scenarios, such as tube feeding while in a coma. Four weeks later, at Time 2, participants were induced into the same or the opposite mood and made these decisions a second time. They also recalled their previous decisions. Participants in negative moods at Time 2 changed more of their current decisions and falsely remembered more of their previous decisions than participants in positive moods. These findings suggest that people's current moods influence whether they change their treatment decisions; current decisions in turn bias recall of past decisions.


Beyond brands: Happy adolescents see the good in people

Lan Nguyen Chaplin, Wilson Bastos & Tina Lowrey
Journal of Positive Psychology, September 2010, Pages 342-354

How does happiness affect adolescents' stereotypes of other people? Using a collage methodology with 60 adolescents aged 12-18, we find that happier adolescents hold more positive stereotypes of others compared to those who are less happy. We also find that happier adolescents are less likely to form impressions of people based on surface level cues such as the products and brands that people own. Finally, our results show that happier adolescents have a more nuanced view of others, (e.g., some cool kids wear expensive brands, but some shop at thrift stores), compared to their less happy counterparts, who tend to oversimplify their view of others (e.g., all cool kids wear expensive brands, all doctors drive a BMW).


Music to my eyes: Cross-modal interactions in the perception of emotions in musical performance

Bradley Vines et al.
Cognition, February 2011, Pages 157-170

We investigate non-verbal communication through expressive body movement and musical sound, to reveal higher cognitive processes involved in the integration of emotion from multiple sensory modalities. Participants heard, saw, or both heard and saw recordings of a Stravinsky solo clarinet piece, performed with three distinct expressive styles: restrained, standard, and exaggerated intention. Participants used a 5-point Likert scale to rate each performance on 19 different emotional qualities. The data analysis revealed that variations in expressive intention had their greatest impact when the performances could be seen; the ratings from participants who could only hear the performances were the same across the three expressive styles. Evidence was also found for an interaction effect leading to an emergent property, intensity of positive emotion, when participants both heard and saw the musical performances. An exploratory factor analysis revealed orthogonal dimensions for positive and negative emotions, which may account for the subjective experience that many listeners report of having multi-valent or complex reactions to music, such as "bittersweet."


Associations between serotonin transporter gene promoter region (5-HTTLPR) polymorphism and gaze bias for emotional information

Christopher Beevers et al.
Journal of Abnormal Psychology, February 2011, Pages 187-197

The serotonin transporter promoter region polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) is associated with neural response to negative images in brain regions involved in the experience of emotion. However, the behavioral implications of this sensitivity have been studied far less extensively. The current study used eye-tracking methodology to examine how individuals genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR, including the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs25531, allocated attention during prolonged (30-s) exposure to face stimuli depicting positive and negative emotion. Short 5-HTTLPR allele carriers and carriers of the long allele with guanine at the sixth nucleotide (S/LG) displayed a stronger gaze bias (total fixation time, number of fixations, mean fixation length) for positive than for sad, threat, or neutral stimuli. In contrast, those homozygous for the long 5-HTTLPR allele with adenine at the sixth nucleotide (LA) viewed the emotion stimuli in an unbiased fashion. Time course analyses indicated no initial 5-HTTLPR group differences; however, S/LG 5-HTTLPR allele carriers were more likely than LA 5-HTTLPR homozygotes to direct gaze toward happy than toward sad stimuli over time. This bias toward positive stimuli during the later stages of information processing likely reflects a strategic effort to downregulate heightened reactivity to negative stimuli among 5-HTTLPR S/LG allele carriers.


Emotions Matter in Crisis: The Role of Anger and Sadness in the Publics' Response to Crisis News Framing and Corporate Crisis Response

Hyo Kim & Glen Cameron
Communication Research, forthcoming

This experiment revealed that emotional news frames (anger-inducing vs. sadness-inducing) affect people's emotional response to a corporate crisis such as a cell phone battery explosion accident. The distinct emotions induced by different news frames influenced individuals' information processing (i.e., heuristic vs. systematic processing) and the evaluation of the company differently. Participants exposed to anger-inducing crisis news read the news less closely and had more negative attitudes toward the company than those exposed to sadness-inducing news. Also, emotional frames affected how individuals perceived the different types of corporate responses (relief-focused message vs. punishment-focused message; emotional appeal vs. no emotional appeal). The advantage of emotional appeals was found contingent on how the crisis was previously framed by the media. Findings demonstrate a potential for developing effective corporate response strategies in a given crisis situation, considering the type of crisis, how it has been framed by the media, the publics' emotional responses, and the use of emotional appeals.


Emotion perception explains age-related differences in the perception of social gaffes

Jamin Halberstadt et al.
Psychology and Aging, forthcoming

Young (<36 years) and older (>59) adults viewed videos in which the same individual committed a faux pas, or acted appropriately, toward his coworkers. Older participants did not discriminate appropriate and inappropriate behaviors as well as young participants. Older participants also scored lower than young participants on an extensive battery of emotion recognition tests, and emotion performance fully mediated age differences in faux pas discrimination. The results provide further evidence for the role of emotion perception in a range of important social deficits.


Remembering Relationships: Preserved Emotion-Based Learning in Alzheimer's Disease

Cathryn Evans-Roberts & Oliver Turnbull
Experimental Aging Research, January 2011, Pages 1-16

Research into Alzheimer's disease has long focused on cognitive impairments. Advocates of the person-centered approach argue that emotions and interpersonal responses may remain intact. The answer to this paradox may derive from the neuropsychology of emotion, demonstrating preserved ability on simple emotion learning tasks, though this may not capture the complex interpersonal interactions that some patients appear able to manage in everyday life. This study demonstrates, for the first time, preserved complex emotion-based learning capacity, despite profound episodic memory impairment in Alzheimer's disease. These findings offer a starting point for the development of a solid neuropsychological and neuroanatomical account for the person-centered approach.


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