Engrossed in Social Stimulation

Kevin Lewis

November 23, 2009

Women's preferences for masculinity in male faces are predicted by pathogen disgust, but not by moral or sexual disgust

Lisa DeBruine, Benedict Jones, Joshua Tybur, Debra Lieberman & Vladas Griskevicius
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Because women's preferences for male masculinity reflect tradeoffs between the benefits of greater genetic health and the costs of lower paternal investment, variables that affect the importance of these costs and benefits also affect masculinity preferences. Concern about disease and pathogens may be one such variable. Here we show that disgust sensitivity in the pathogen domain is positively correlated with facial masculinity preferences, but disgust sensitivity in the moral and sexual domains is not. Our findings present novel evidence that systematic variation in women's preferences for masculine men reflects factors that influence how women resolve the tradeoff between the benefits and costs associated with choosing a masculine partner.


Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior

David Card & Gordon Dahl
NBER Working Paper, November 2009

Family violence is a pervasive and costly problem, yet there is no consensus on how to interpret the phenomenon of violence by one family member against another. Some analysts assume that violence has an instrumental role in intra-family incentives. Others argue that violent episodes represent a loss of control that the offender immediately regrets. In this paper we specify and test a behavioral model of the latter form. Our key hypothesis is that negative emotional cues - benchmarked relative to a rationally expected reference point - make a breakdown of control more likely. We test this hypothesis using data on police reports of family violence on Sundays during the professional football season. Controlling for location and time fixed effects, weather factors, the pre-game point spread, and the size of the local viewing audience, we find that upset losses by the home team (losses in games that the home team was predicted to win by more than 3 points) lead to an 8 percent increase in police reports of at-home male-on-female intimate partner violence. There is no corresponding effect on female-on-male violence. Consistent with the behavioral prediction that losses matter more than gains, upset victories by the home team have (at most) a small dampening effect on family violence. We also find that unexpected losses in highly salient or frustrating games have a 50% to 100% larger impact on rates of family violence. The evidence that payoff-irrelevant events affect the rate of family violence leads us to conclude that at least some fraction of family violence is better characterized as a breakdown of control than as rationally directed instrumental violence.


Looking Away From Death: Defensive Attention as a Form of Terror Management

Gilad Hirschberger, Tsachi Ein-Dor, Avi Caspi, Yossi Arzouan & Ari Zivotofsky
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Previous research has suggested that the physical aspects of human nature in general, and physical human frailties in particular become disagreeable and repugnant following death primes. The current research tested this hypothesis in two studies using an eye-tracking methodology. Participants were subliminally primed with death or with a control word and then viewed a series of arrays containing 4 pictures each, during which their eye-movements were monitored. In Study 1, the arrays included pictures of physical injury or neutral objects, and in Study 2 pictures of physical injury, threatening images, and neutral objects. The results indicated that in both studies death primes significantly decreased gaze duration towards pictures of physical injury, and did not have a significant effect on gaze duration towards neutral images. However, in Study 2 death primes increased gaze duration towards threatening images. The discussion examines the role of motivated unconscious attention in terror management processes.


Breaking the News or Fueling the Epidemic? Temporal Association between News Media Report Volume and Opioid-Related Mortality

Nabarun Dasgupta, Kenneth Mandl & John Brownstein
PLoS ONE, November 2009, e7758

Background: Historical studies of news media have suggested an association between reporting and increased drug abuse. Period effects for substance use have been documented for different classes of legal and illicit substances, with the suspicion that media publicity may have played major roles in their emergence. Previous analyses have drawn primarily from qualitative evidence; the temporal relationship between media reporting volume and adverse health consequences has not been quantified nationally. We set out to explore whether we could find a quantitative relationship between media reports about prescription opioid abuse and overdose mortality associated with these drugs. We assessed whether increases in news media reports occurred before or after increases in overdose deaths.

Methodology/Principal Findings: Our ecological study compared a monthly time series of unintentional poisoning deaths involving short-acting prescription opioid substances, from 1999 to 2005 using multiple cause-of-death data published by the National Center for Health Statistics, to monthly counts of English-language news articles mentioning generic and branded names of prescription opioids obtained from Google News Archives from 1999 to 2005. We estimated the association between media volume and mortality rates by time-lagged regression analyses. There were 24,272 articles and 30,916 deaths involving prescription opioids during the seven-year study period. Nationally, the number of articles mentioning prescription opioids increased dramatically starting in early 2001, following prominent coverage about the nonmedical use of OxyContin. We found a significant association between news reports and deaths, with media reporting preceding fatal opioid poisonings by two to six months and explaining 88% (p<0.0001, df 78) of the variation in mortality.

Conclusions/Significance: While availability, structural, and individual predispositions are key factors influencing substance use, news reporting may enhance the popularity of psychoactive substances. Albeit ecological in nature, our finding suggests the need for further evaluation of the influence of news media on health. Reporting on prescription opioids conforms to historical patterns of news reporting on other psychoactive substances.


Toward a Theory of Status Consumption in Less Industrialized Countries

Tuba Ustuner & Douglas Holt
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

"[High-cultural-capital Turks] deploy a very different status strategy than [low-cultural-capital Turks], one that emphasizes intensive knowledge and orthodox performance of what we will call the Western Lifestyle myth...The Western Lifestyle myth primarily idealizes American suburban middle-class life, while sometimes also incorporating European markers of Western Lifestyle such as skiing in the French Alps...Seventeen of twenty-one [of the sample of high-cultural-capital Turks] live in gated communities. They moved to these enclaves to fulfill their Westernized vision of 'the good life' with two children, two cars, and in most cases, a dog. They are all very clear about which gated communities offered the proper medium to pursue this dream. Among hundreds of gated communities in Ankara, only four (Angora, Beysukent, Bilkent, Mesa) meet the [high-cultural-capital Turks'] selection criteria. Three of these four suburban enclaves are appealing because they offer the closest replica of what all informants define as 'the American style of living.' In these communities, one generally finds row upon row of houses or apartment buildings that are identical in design and color, perfectly groomed lawns, and streets without a single piece of litter...According to [high-cultural-capital Turks], in early 1990s the variety of Western goods and brands available in Ankara was limited. And often the introduction of new brands or the selection of collections was constrained by local tastemakers. Turkish retailers, women's magazine editors, and celebrities defined how Turkish women were supposed to dress up, decorate their homes, and which accessories to use. Bypassing these local tastemakers' assertions, [high-cultural-capital Turks] used trips to the West to gain first-hand knowledge about different types of goods and brands, how they are to be used, and in what ensemble. By hunting for goods not available in Turkey, they claimed a stronger connection to the West. This strategy manifested itself most potently when [high-cultural-capital Turks] hit a change in life-stage that required buying new products, such as getting married or having a baby. Most of them traveled to the West to stock up on goods that were distinctly expressive of the Western Lifestyle Myth. On their honeymoon Deniz and her husband spent seven days in the United States, mostly at the malls: 'We were starting the day in the mall at 9 or 10am in the morning and were leaving at around 9 or 10pm in the evening.'...Recently, [high-cultural-capital Turks] have found that this strategy - finding what they and their peers have deemed the most 'original' Western Lifestyle goods and bringing them back to Turkey - is no longer sufficient to claim an authentic unmediated connection to Western Lifestyle. With the liberalization of both imports and Western media, the range of Western goods available in Turkey has vastly expanded, and the speed of diffusion of new styles and tastes is much more accelerated. What were once 'original' Western goods have now entered the circuit of local status consumption inhabited by [low-cultural-capital Turks], causing an inflation in standards of Western authenticity. As a result, the [high-cultural-capital Turks] have reframed how an authentic connection to the West is formed, and, likewise, have changed their consumption strategy. Simply buying Western goods is no longer enough. They now claim that authentic consumption requires understanding and enacting the tastes and consumption practices of the Western middle-class...In Turkey, elite childhood education defines the most important cultural asset to be perfect command of the English language (or, occasionally French or German), not Turkish language, literature, or history...This Western-focused education is itself a powerful form of cultural capital, and, just as important, it builds the pathways allowing [high-cultural-capital Turks] to learn Western Lifestyle. Cultural capital acquisition begins in earnest with family trips to the West, and becomes especially intensive from the college years (with the requisite stint in the West) through early adulthood (with many 'pedagogical' trips to the West). It is no coincidence that [high-cultural-capital Turks] promote in-depth knowledge of Western Lifestyle as central to their moral order."


Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior

Jennifer Harris, John Bargh & Kelly Brownell
Health Psychology, July 2009, Pages 404-413

Objective: Health advocates have focused on the prevalence of advertising for calorie-dense low-nutrient foods as a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. This research tests the hypothesis that exposure to food advertising during TV viewing may also contribute to obesity by triggering automatic snacking of available food.

Design: In Experiments 1a and 1b, elementary-school-age children watched a cartoon that contained either food advertising or advertising for other products and received a snack while watching. In Experiment 2, adults watched a TV program that included food advertising that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits, food advertising that promoted nutrition benefits, or no food advertising. The adults then tasted and evaluated a range of healthy to unhealthy snack foods in an apparently separate experiment.

Main Outcome Measures: Amount of snack foods consumed during and after advertising exposure. Results: Children consumed 45% more when exposed to food advertising. Adults consumed more of both healthy and unhealthy snack foods following exposure to snack food advertising compared to the other conditions. In both experiments, food advertising increased consumption of products not in the presented advertisements, and these effects were not related to reported hunger or other conscious influences.

Conclusion: These experiments demonstrate the power of food advertising to prime automatic eating behaviors and thus influence far more than brand preference alone.


Who interacts on the Web?: The intersection of users' personality and social media use

Teresa Correa, Amber Willard Hinsley & Homero Gil de Zúñiga
Computers in Human Behavior, forthcoming

In the increasingly user-generated Web, users' personality traits may be crucial factors leading them to engage in this participatory media. The literature suggests factors such as extraversion, emotional stability and openness to experience are related to uses of social applications on the Internet. Using a national sample of US adults, this study investigated the relationship between these three dimensions of the Big-Five model and social media use (defined as use of social networking sites and instant messages). It also examined whether gender and age played a role in that dynamic. Results revealed that while extraversion and openness to experiences were positively related to social media use, emotional stability was a negative predictor, controlling for socio-demographics and life satisfaction. These findings differed by gender and age. While extraverted men and women were both likely to be more frequent users of social media tools, only the men with greater degrees of emotional instability were more regular users. The relationship between extraversion and social media use was particularly important among the young adult cohort. Conversely, being open to new experiences emerged as an important personality predictor of social media use for the more mature segment of the sample.


Branding the Rodeo: A Case Study of Tobacco Sports Sponsorship

Pamela Ling, Lawrence Haber & Stefani Wedl
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Rodeo is one of the few sports still sponsored by the tobacco industry, particularly the US Smokeless Tobacco Company. Rodeo is popular in rural communities, where smokeless tobacco use is more prevalent. We used previously secret tobacco industry documents to examine the history and internal motivations for tobacco company rodeo sponsorship. Rodeos allow tobacco companies to reach rural audiences and young people, enhance brand image, conduct market research, and generate positive press. Relationships with athletes and fans were used to fight proposed restrictions on tobacco sports sponsorship. Rodeo sponsorship was intended to enhance tobacco sales, not the sport. Rural communities should question the tradition of tobacco sponsorship of rodeo sports and reject these predatory marketing practices.


Don't Expect Too Much! Learning From Late-Night Comedy and Knowledge Item Difficulty

Young Min Baek & Magdalena Wojcieszak
Communication Research, December 2009, Pages 783-809

The debate on late night comedy has been inconclusive, with some scholars arguing that this genre increases political knowledge, and others seeing late night comedy as harmful to effective citizenry. We add to the debate and to the research on media effects more generally, by proposing a model that measures political knowledge. The model utilizes item response theory (IRT) to account for individual characteristics, knowledge item difficulty, and response format that influences the likelihood of providing a correct response. Drawing on the 2004 National Annenberg Election Study, we employ this model to test knowledge gain from late night comedy. Using a meta-analysis across 35 political knowledge items, we show that late night comedy increases knowledge, but primarily on easy political items that have fewer correct response options, and mainly among the inattentive citizens. We discuss theoretical implications and provide practical suggestions for scholarship on media effects.


Investigating the force multiplier effect of citizen event reporting by social simulation

Mark Kramer, Roger Costello & John Griffith
Mind & Society, December 2009, Pages 209-221

Citizen event reporting (CER) attempts to leverage the eyes and ears of a large population of "citizen sensors" to increase the amount of information available to decision makers. When deployed in an environment that includes hostile elements, foes can exploit the system to exert indirect control over the response infrastructure. We use an agent-based model to relate the utility of responses to population composition, citizen behavior, and decision strategy, and measure the result in terms of a force multiplier. We show that CER can lead to positive force multipliers even with a majority of hostile elements in the population. When reporter identity is known, a reputation system that keeps track of trustworthy reporters can further increase the force multipliers.


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