Going with Your Gut

Kevin Lewis

February 15, 2020

Arousal increases self-disclosure
Brent Coker & Ann McGill
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


This research tests the hypothesis that arousal increases self-disclosure. We find that affective arousal increases the amount (study 1) and the severity (study 2) of self-disclosure, and that self-disclosure is also increased by physiological arousal (study 3). We further explore the moderating effect of thought frequency on the arousal-disclosure relationship, finding that often-thought-about thoughts are more likely to be disclosed than less thought-about thoughts. This research has practical importance in terms of understanding when and why people self-disclose personal information, and enriches our understanding of the theoretical relationship between arousal and information sharing.

Organizational costs of compensating for mind-body dissonance through conspiracies and superstitions
Li Huang & Jennifer Whitson
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, January 2020, Pages 1-12


Maintaining physical expressions that contradict one’s internal states creates stress and burnout. Surprisingly, little is known about whether such incongruence affects organizationally relevant cognitive consequences. We propose that mind-body dissonance (MBD), a control-diminishing experience wherein the mind and body undergo contradictory states, increases compensatory illusory pattern perception (IPP) and jeopardizes decisions and trusting behavior. Experiments 1 and 2 found that being induced to display bodily expressions that contradict one’s emotions in a mental-physical coordination or customer service context, increased IPP in the form of conspiratorial and superstitious thinking. Experiment 3 found that MBD reduced trusting behavior through feelings of lacking control and conspiratorial thinking in serial. Finally, examining the mechanism through a moderation design, Experiment 4 found that misattributing feelings of lacking control to an external stimulus eliminated MBD’s effect on a superstition-related managerial decision. We discuss the value of this motivational approach in understanding MBD’s organizational implications.


The mere physical presence of another person reduces human autonomic responses to aversive sounds
Yanyan Qi et al.
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 22 January 2020


Social animals show reduced physiological responses to aversive events if a conspecific is physically present. Although humans are innately social, it is unclear whether the mere physical presence of another person is sufficient to reduce human autonomic responses to aversive events. In our study, participants experienced aversive and neutral sounds alone (alone treatment) or with an unknown person that was physically present without providing active support. The present person was a member of the participants' ethnical group (ingroup treatment) or a different ethnical group (outgroup treatment), inspired by studies that have found an impact of similarity on social modulation effects. We measured skin conductance responses (SCRs) and collected subjective similarity and affect ratings. The mere presence of an ingroup or outgroup person significantly reduced SCRs to the aversive sounds compared with the alone condition, in particular in participants with high situational anxiety. Moreover, the effect was stronger if participants perceived the ingroup or outgroup person as dissimilar to themselves. Our results indicate that the mere presence of another person was sufficient to diminish autonomic responses to aversive events in humans, and thus verify the translational validity of basic social modulation effects across different species.

Reducing Amygdala Activity and Phobic Fear through Cognitive Top–Down Regulation
Eva Loos et al.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, forthcoming


The amygdala is critically involved in emotional processing, including fear responses, and shows hyperactivity in anxiety disorders. Previous research in healthy participants has indicated that amygdala activity is down-regulated by cognitively demanding tasks that engage the pFC. It is unknown, however, if such an acute down-regulation of amygdala activity might correlate with reduced fear in anxious participants. In an fMRI study of 43 participants (11 men) with fear of snakes, we found reduced amygdala activity when visual stimuli were processed under high cognitive load, irrespective of whether the stimuli were of neutral or phobic content. Furthermore, dynamic causal modeling revealed that this general reduction in amygdala activity was partially mediated by a load-dependent increase in dorsolateral pFC activity. Importantly, high cognitive load also resulted in an acute decrease in perceived phobic fear while viewing the fearful stimuli. In conclusion, our data indicate that a cognitively demanding task results in a top–down regulation of amygdala activity and an acute reduction of fear in phobic participants. These findings may inspire the development of novel psychological intervention approaches aimed at reducing fear in anxiety disorders.


Predicting Real-Life Self-Control From Brain Activity Encoding the Value of Anticipated Future Outcomes
Klaus-Martin Krönke et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Deficient self-control leads to shortsighted decisions and incurs severe personal and societal costs. Although neuroimaging has advanced our understanding of neural mechanisms underlying self-control, the ecological validity of laboratory tasks used to assess self-control remains largely unknown. To increase ecological validity and to test a specific hypothesis about the mechanisms underlying real-life self-control, we combined functional MRI during value-based decision-making with smartphone-based assessment of real-life self-control in a large community sample (N = 194). Results showed that an increased propensity to make shortsighted decisions and commit self-control failures, both in the laboratory task as well as during real-life conflicts, was associated with a reduced modulation of neural value signals in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in response to anticipated long-term consequences. These results constitute the first evidence that neural mechanisms mediating anticipations of future consequences not only account for self-control in laboratory tasks but also predict real-life self-control, thereby bridging the gap between laboratory research and real-life behavior.


Breathing is coupled with voluntary action and the cortical readiness potential
Hyeong-Dong Park et al.
Nature Communications, February 2020


Voluntary action is a fundamental element of self-consciousness. The readiness potential (RP), a slow drift of neural activity preceding self-initiated movement, has been suggested to reflect neural processes underlying the preparation of voluntary action; yet more than fifty years after its introduction, interpretation of the RP remains controversial. Based on previous research showing that internal bodily signals affect sensory processing and ongoing neural activity, we here investigated the potential role of interoceptive signals in voluntary action and the RP. We report that (1) participants initiate voluntary actions more frequently during expiration, (2) this respiration-action coupling is absent during externally triggered actions, and (3) the RP amplitude is modulated depending on the respiratory phase. Our findings demonstrate that voluntary action is coupled with the respiratory system and further suggest that the RP is associated with fluctuations of ongoing neural activity that are driven by the involuntary and cyclic motor act of breathing.

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