Findings

Cognition

Kevin Lewis

September 16, 2010

Political Partisan Prejudice: Selective Distortion and Weighting of Evaluative Categories in College Admissions Applications

Geoffrey Munro, Terell Lasane & Scott Leary
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, September 2010, Pages 2434-2462

Abstract:
Two methods by which people make prejudicial yet justifiable judgments were assessed in a simulated college admissions paradigm in which participants evaluated 2 applications. In the preference condition, the stronger applicant was described as a member of a different political party than the participant. In the control condition, no political party was indicated. Supporting a political partisan prejudice effect, among strong partisans, the stronger applicant was favored in the control condition, but the weaker applicant was favored in the preference condition. No effect was found for weak partisans. Additionally, participants supported their biases by altering the importance of (Study 1) and distorting the strength of (Study 2) different types of application information.

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Can fabricated evidence induce false eyewitness testimony?

Kimberley Wade, Sarah Green & Robert Nash
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
False information can influence people's beliefs and memories. But can fabricated evidence induce individuals to accuse another person of doing something they never did? We examined whether exposure to a fabricated video could produce false eyewitness testimony. Subjects completed a gambling task alongside a confederate subject, and later we falsely told subjects that their partner had cheated on the task. Some subjects viewed a digitally manipulated video of their partner cheating; some were told that video evidence of the cheating exists; and others were not told anything about video evidence. Subjects were asked to sign a statement confirming that they witnessed the incident and that their corroboration could be used in disciplinary action against the accused. See-video subjects were three times more likely to sign the statement than Told-video and Control subjects. Fabricated evidence may, indeed, produce false eyewitness testimony; we discuss probable cognitive mechanisms.

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Improved Probabilistic Inference as a General Learning Mechanism with Action Video Games

Shawn Green, Alexandre Pouget & Daphne Bavelier
Current Biology, 14 September 2010, Pages 1573-1579

Abstract:
Action video game play benefits performance in an array of sensory, perceptual, and attentional tasks that go well beyond the specifics of game play. That a training regimen may induce improvements in so many different skills is notable because the majority of studies on training-induced learning report improvements on the trained task but limited transfer to other, even closely related, tasks. Here we ask whether improved probabilistic inference may explain such broad transfer. By using a visual perceptual decision making task, the present study shows for the first time that action video game experience does indeed improve probabilistic inference. A neural model of this task establishes how changing a single parameter, namely the strength of the connections between the neural layer providing the momentary evidence and the layer integrating the evidence over time, captures improvements in action-gamers behavior. These results were established in a visual, but also in a novel auditory, task, indicating generalization across modalities. Thus, improved probabilistic inference provides a general mechanism for why action video game playing enhances performance in a wide variety of tasks. In addition, this mechanism may serve as a signature of training regimens that are likely to produce transfer of learning.

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Not Pollyannas: Higher Generalized Trust Predicts Lie Detection Ability

Nancy Carter & Mark Weber
Social Psychological and Personality Science, July 2010, Pages 274-279

Abstract:
This research used a job interview context to investigate the relationship between peoples' degrees of generalized trust-their default assessments of the likely trustworthiness of others - and their ability to detect lies. Participants watched videos of eight simulated job interviews: Half of the interviewees were completely truthful; half told a variety of lies to make themselves more attractive job candidates. Contrary to lay wisdom, high trusters were significantly better than low trusters were at detecting lies. This finding extends a growing body of theoretical and empirical work suggesting that high trusters are far from foolish Pollyannas and that low trusters' defensiveness incurs significant costs.

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The humanity of what we eat: Conceptions of human uniqueness among vegetarians and omnivores

Michal Bilewicz, Roland Imhoff & Marek Drogosz
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Studies on dehumanization demonstrated that denying certain human characteristics might serve as a strategy for moral disengagement. Meat consumption - especially in the times of cruel animal farming-is related to the exclusion of animals from the human scope of justice. In the present research, it was hypothesized that the conception of human uniqueness (denying animals certain psychological characteristics) might be a strategy of meat-eaters' moral disengagement. Three studies compared the extent to which vegetarians and omnivores attribute psychological characteristics to humans versus animals. In Study 1, vegetarian participants ascribed more secondary (uniquely human) emotions to animals than did the omnivores; however, there were no differences in primary (animalistic) emotions. Study 2 showed that omnivores distinguish human characteristics from animalistic ones more sharply than vegetarians do, while both groups do not differ in distinguishing human characteristics from mechanistic ones. Study 3 confirmed the results by showing that omnivores ascribed less secondary emotions to traditionally edible animals than to the non-edible species, while vegetarians did not differentiate these animals. These results support the claim that the lay conceptions of ‘human uniqueness' are strategies of moral disengagement.

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"There Is No Such Thing as an Accident," Especially When People Are Drunk

Laurent Bègue, Brad Bushman, Peter Giancola, Baptiste Subra & Evelyn Rosset
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
The intentionality bias is the tendency for people to view the behavior of others as intentional. This study tests the hypothesis that alcohol magnifies the intentionality bias by disrupting effortful cognitive abilities. Using a 2 × 2 balanced placebo design in a natural field experiment disguised as a food-tasting session, participants received either a high dose of alcohol (target BAC = .10%) or no alcohol, with half of each group believing they had or had not consumed alcohol. Participants then read a series of sentences describing simple actions (e.g., "She cut him off in traffic") and indicated whether the actions were done intentionally or accidentally. As expected, intoxicated people interpreted more acts as intentional than did sober people. This finding helps explain why alcohol increases aggression. For example, intoxicated people may interpret a harmless bump in a crowded bar as a provocation.

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Biased Evaluation of Abstracts Depending on Topic and Conclusion: Further Evidence of a Confirmation Bias Within Scientific Psychology

Andreas Hergovich, Reinhard Schott & Christoph Burger
Current Psychology, September 2010, Pages 188-209

Abstract:
The present paper investigated whether academic psychologists show a tendency to rate the quality and appropriateness of scientific studies more favorably when results and conclusions are consistent with their own prior beliefs (i.e., confirmation bias). In an online experiment, 711 psychologists completed a questionnaire (e.g., about their belief in astrology) and evaluated research that was presented in form of a short abstract in which 40 different behaviors (e.g., alcohol consumption, willingness to share money) have been tried to be predicted. The research to be evaluated varied on three dimensions which were all manipulated between subjects: (1) the predictors of the 40 behaviors (either Big Five or astrological factors), (2) the methodological quality of the study (low, medium, high), and (3) the results and subsequent conclusion of the study (confirmation or disconfirmation of the hypotheses). Factor-analyzed scores of participants' ratings on 8 scales, resulting in 2 factors termed quality and appropriateness, served as dependent measures. The main result of the study is a two-way interaction: Psychologists tended to evaluate results qualitatively higher when they conformed to their own prior expectations, as in this case, when astrological hypotheses were disconfirmed.

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Focus induced tunnel vision in managerial judgment and decision making: The peril and the antidote

Steven Posavac, Frank Kardes & Joško Brakus
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Abstract:
Managers often must assess singular strategic options. Four studies of such assessments demonstrate a tunnel vision effect: Focal managerial options often are favored in an evidentially unjustifiable manner. Study 1 concerns new product development, and demonstrates that a prototype that has become focal tends to be judged overly favorably, and is chosen for launch with unwarranted enthusiasm. Study 2 shows that this tunnel vision effect generalizes to judgments and decisions about general strategy. Study 3 focuses on the information search patterns underlying the effect, and Study 4 replicates the tunnel vision effect among experienced executives, and demonstrates the utility of a debiasing procedure. Data in all of the studies implicate selective processing as the driver of the tunnel vision effect, and further understanding of how selective processing affects choice. Several alternative operationalizations of the empirically tested debiasing procedure are discussed.

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Strangers on a Plane: Context-dependent Willingness to Divulge Sensitive Information

Leslie John, Alessandro Acquisti & George Loewenstein
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
New marketing paradigms that exploit the capabilities for data collection, aggregation, and dissemination introduced by the internet provide benefits to consumers, but also pose real or perceived privacy hazards. In four experiments, we seek to understand consumer decisions to reveal or withhold information, and the relationship between such decisions and objective hazards posed by information revelation. Our central thesis, and a central finding of all four experiments, is that disclosure of private information is responsive to environmental cues that bear little connection, or are even inversely related, to objective hazards. We address underlying processes and rule out alternative explanations by eliciting subjective judgments of the sensitivity of inquiries (experiment 3), and by showing that the effect of cues diminishes if privacy concern is activated at the outset of the experiment (experiment 4). This research highlights consumer vulnerabilities in navigating increasingly complex privacy issues introduced by new information technologies.

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Observation Inflation: Your Actions Become Mine

Isabel Lindner, Gerald Echterhoff, Patrick Davidson & Matthias Brand
Psychological Science, September 2010, Pages 1291-1299

Abstract:
Imagining performing an action can induce false memories of having actually performed it-this is referred to as the imagination-inflation effect. Drawing on research suggesting that action observation-like imagination-involves action simulation, and thus creates matching motor representations in observers, we examined whether false memories of self-performance can also result from merely observing another person's actions. In three experiments, participants observed actions, some of which they had not performed earlier, and took a source-memory test. Action observation robustly produced false memories of self-performance relative to control conditions. The demonstration of this effect, which we refer to as observation inflation, reveals a previously unknown source of false memories that is ubiquitous in everyday life. The effect persisted despite warnings or instructions to focus on self-performance cues given immediately before the test, and despite elimination of sensory overlap between performance and observation. The findings are not easily reconciled with a source-monitoring account but appear to fit an account invoking interpersonal motor simulation.

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The illusion of courage in self-predictions: Mispredicting one's own behavior in embarrassing situations

Leaf Van Boven, George Loewenstein, Edward Welch & David Dunning
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Abstract:
People exhibit an "illusion of courage" when predicting their own behavior in embarrassing situations. In three experiments, participants overestimated their own willingness to engage in embarrassing public performances in exchange for money when those performances were psychologically distant: Hypothetical or in the relatively distant future. This illusion of courage occurs partly because of cold/hot empathy gaps. That is, people in a relatively "cold" unemotional state underestimate the influence on their own preferences and behaviors of being in a relative "hot" emotional state such as social anxiety evoked by an embarrassing situation. Consistent with this cold/hot empathy gap explanation, putting people "in touch" with negative emotional states by arousing fear (Experiments 1 and 2) and anger (Experiment 2) decreased people's willingness to engage in psychologically distant embarrassing public performances. Conversely, putting people "out of touch" with social anxiety through aerobic exercise, which reduces state anxiety and increases confidence, increased people's willingness to engage in psychologically distance embarrassing public performances (Experiment 3). Implications for self-predictions, self-evaluation, and affective forecasting are discussed.

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Fondness makes the distance grow shorter: Desired locations seem closer because they seem more vivid

Adam Alter & Emily Balcetis
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do appealing locations seem nearer than unappealing locations merely because they are more desirable? We examine the possibility that people represent desirable locations as nearer than equidistant undesirable locations. In three studies, participants represented a variety of locations on a university campus (Study 1) and in the greater New York City area (Studies 2 and 3) as nearer the more positive they felt about those locations. The relationship between positivity and closeness was mediated by the tendency for participants to construe particularly vivid representations of the locations when they evaluated them more positively (Studies 2 and 3). We discuss the theoretical implications of these results for mental construal, motivated perception, and metacognition.

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Testing Implicit Assumptions and Explicit Recommendations: The Effects of Probability Information on Risk Perception

Fraukje Mevissen, Ree Meertens, Robert Ruiter & Herman Schaalma
Journal of Health Communication, September 2010, Pages 578-589

Abstract:
When people underestimate a risk, often probability information is communicated because of the implicit assumption that it will raise people's risk estimates as a result of these objective facts. Also, scientific literature suggested that stressing the cumulative aspects of a risk might lead to higher susceptibility perceptions than only emphasizing the single incident probability. Empirical evidence that supports the effectiveness of these strategies, however, is lacking. In two studies, we examined whether cumulative and single incident probability information on sexually transmitted infections leads to higher perceived susceptibility for Chlamydia and HIV. Contrary to assumptions and recommendations, results showed that both types of probability information may result in people feeling less susceptible toward Chlamydia and having less intention to reduce the risk. For HIV, no effects were found. These results contradict implicit assumptions and explicit recommendations concerning the effects of probability information on risk perceptions.

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Remembering to Forget: The Amnesic Effect of Daydreaming

Peter Delaney, Lili Sahakyan, Colleen Kelley & Carissa Zimmerman
Psychological Science, July 2010, Pages 1036-1042

Abstract:
Daydreaming mentally transports people to another place or time. Many daydreams are similar in content to the thoughts that people generate when they intentionally try to forget. Thus, thoughts like those generated during daydreaming can cause forgetting of previously encoded events. We conducted two experiments to test the hypothesis that daydreams that are more different from the current moment (e.g., in distance, time, or circumstance) will result in more forgetting than daydreams that are less different from the current moment, because they result in a greater contextual shift. Daydreaming was simulated in the laboratory via instructions to engage in a diversionary thought. Participants learned a list of words, were asked to think about autobiographical memories, and then learned a second list of words. They tended to forget more words from the first list when they thought about their parents' home than when they thought about their current home (Experiment 1). They also tended to forget more when they thought about an international vacation than when they thought about a domestic vacation (Experiment 2). These results support a context-change account of the amnesic effects of daydreaming.

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When viewing variations in paintings by Mondrian, aesthetic preferences correlate with pupil size

Morgan Johnson, Jeffrey Muday & James Schirillo
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, August 2010, Pages 161-167

Abstract:
Observers consciously prefer Mondrian's paintings in their original orientation compared with a rotated position-the "oblique effect" (Latto, Brain, & Kelly, 2000). However, this finding's premise, that all vertical-horizontal orientations of the thick black lines in Mondrian's oeuvre are preferred, overlooks the fact that the overall balance of these images is also altered when they are reoriented. Thus, balance may regulate the oblique effect, which might influence conscious aesthetic preferences. To address this issue, we explore Hess's (1965, 1972) claim that observers will unconsciously increase their pupil diameter to pleasing images and constrict it to unpleasant images. We overcame Hess's methodological limitation of not keeping his images' luminances and contrast constant across conditions by presenting eight Mondrian paintings (1921-1944) to 30 observers on a CRT for 20 s each in either their original or seven rotated positions. Simultaneously, we measured their pupil size while asking them to report how (dis)pleasing they found each image. We found both evidence for the oblique effect (where image rotation hampers preference) and a correlation between this consciously reported aesthetic preference and unconsciously derived pupil size.

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Photograph-induced memory errors: When photographs make people claim they have done things they have not

Linda Henkel
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Photographs can serve as valuable memory aids but can also contribute to memory inaccuracies. The present studies examine whether photographs can make people claim they performed an action that they did not in fact perform. Participants performed and imagined performing various actions (e.g. break the pencil, open the envelope) and later viewed photographs of actions in their completed states or read the names of the actions without an accompanying photograph. Results showed that participants were more likely to falsely claim to have performed actions that they did not actually perform after having seen a photograph of the completed action. When items were not imagined at all, such photograph-induced memory errors increased with the number of presentations of the photographs. Actions falsely claimed as performed were rated with high confidence. These findings suggest that photographs can mislead people as to what they did or did not do.

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The Effect of Content Desirability on Subjective Video Quality Ratings

Philip Kortum & Marc Sullivan
Human Factors, February 2010, Pages 105-118

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the desirability of content on viewers' ratings of subjective video quality.

Background: Most subjective video quality studies use short-duration clips that are specially designed to exercise the encoding algorithms and do not consider the desirability of the content as a variable.

Method: In four studies, we employed a total of 100 participants and 180 movie clips encoded at nine levels from 550 kbps up to DVD quality. Participants viewed clips that were 2 min in length and then were asked about video quality of the clips and desirability of the movie content.

Results: The results of these studies show that there is a strong correlation between the desirability of movie content and subjective ratings of video quality. This strong relationship holds across a wide range of encoding levels and movie content when that content is viewed under longer, more naturalistic viewing conditions.

Conclusion: The effects of content should be considered when evaluating the subjective quality of encoded video content, as these effects can be as large as those seen between low- and high-quality encodings.

Application: Researchers and practitioners trying to determine acceptable levels of video quality for actual consumption by consumers may find that the results and methods described here allow for a more accurate assessment of levels of video quality that are acceptable in a fielded service.

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The Influence of Mood on Attribution

Yana Avramova, Diederik Stapel & Davy Lerouge
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
Four studies show that mood systematically affects attributions of observed behavior by altering relative attention to actor and context. When the actor is more salient, sad people are more inclined to perceive an actor in stable trait terms and favor dispositional over situational explanations, whereas the opposite is true for happy people (Studies 1-3). However, when the context is made more salient, this pattern reverses, such that those in a negative mood make more situational attributions than those in a positive mood (Study 4). Taken together, these findings provide strong support for our hypothesis that mood and salience interact to affect attributions.

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Unattended musical beats enhance visual processing

Nicolas Escoffier, Darren Yeo Jian Sheng & Annett Schirmer
Acta Psychologica, September 2010, Pages 12-16

Abstract:
The present study investigated whether and how a musical rhythm entrains a listener's visual attention. To this end, participants were presented with pictures of faces and houses and indicated whether picture orientation was upright or inverted. Participants performed this task in silence or with a musical rhythm playing in the background. In the latter condition, pictures could occur off-beat or on a rhythmically implied, silent beat. Pictures presented without the musical rhythm and off-beat were responded to more slowly than pictures presented on-beat. This effect was comparable for faces and houses. Together these results indicate that musical rhythm both synchronizes and facilitates concurrent stimulus processing.

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Treat and trick: A new way to increase false memory

Bi Zhu, Chuansheng Chen, Elizabeth Loftus, Chongde Lin & Qi Dong
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper reports a new experimental manipulation that increased false memories 1 month after the manipulation. Mirroring the standard three-stage misinformation paradigm (original event, misinformation, and test), subjects in the experimental group were first given a colour-slide presentation of two stories (events), then given an accurate account (instead of misinformation) of the events in narrations, and finally tested for their memory of the original events. One month later, they underwent the standard misinformation paradigm with two new events. The comparison group was given the standard misinformation tasks at both time points. Results showed that the experimental group produced more false memories in the subsequent misinformation paradigm than did the comparison group. We focus on trust and credibility as possible mechanisms underlying this effect.


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