Note to Self

Kevin Lewis

February 21, 2021

Training for Wisdom: The Distanced-Self-Reflection Diary Method
Igor Grossmann et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


How can people wisely navigate social conflict? Two preregistered longitudinal experiments (Study 1: Canadian adults; Study 2: American and Canadian adults; total N = 555) tested whether encouraging distanced (i.e., third-person) self-reflection would help promote wisdom. Both experiments measured wise reasoning (i.e., intellectual humility, open-mindedness about how situations could unfold, consideration of and attempts to integrate diverse viewpoints) about challenging interpersonal events. In a month-long experiment (Study 1), participants used either a third- or first-person perspective in diary reflections on each day’s most significant experience. Compared with preintervention assessments, assessments made after the intervention revealed that participants reflecting in the third person showed a significant increase in wise reasoning about interpersonal challenges. These effects were statistically accounted for by shifts in diary-based reflections toward a broader self-focus. A week-long experiment (Study 2) replicated the third-person self-reflection effect on wise reasoning (vs. first-person and no-pronoun control conditions). These findings suggest an efficient and evidence-based method for fostering wise reasoning.

Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News
Kate Barasz & Serena Hagerty
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming 


Nine studies investigate when and why people may paradoxically prefer bad news -- e.g., hoping for an objectively worse injury or a higher-risk diagnosis over explicitly better alternatives. Using a combination of field surveys and randomized experiments, the research demonstrates that people may hope for relatively worse (versus better) news in an effort to preemptively avoid subjectively difficult decisions (Studies 1-2). This is because when worse news avoids a choice (Study 3A) -- e.g., by “forcing one’s hand” or creating one dominant option that circumvents a fraught decision (Study 3B) -- it can relieve the decision-maker’s experience of personal responsibility (Study 3C). However, because not all decisions warrant avoidance, not all decisions will elicit a preference for worse news; fewer people hope for worse news when facing subjectively easier (versus harder) choices (Studies 4A-B). Finally, this preference for worse news is not without consequence and may create perverse incentives for decision-makers, such as the tendency to forgo opportunities for improvement (Studies 5A-B). The work contributes to the literature on decision avoidance and elucidates another strategy people use to circumvent difficult decisions: a propensity to hope for the worst.

Ritualistic Consumption Decreases Loneliness by Increasing Meaning
Xuehua Wang, Yixia Sun & Thomas Kramer
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming


Despite the prevalence of both chronic and transient loneliness and the detrimental consequences associated with them, as a negatively-valenced response to social exclusion, loneliness has received surprisingly little attention in the marketing literature. Based on research showing that lonely people often lack meaning in their life, we propose that ritualistic behavior that involves consumer products may reduce loneliness by increasing meaning in life. Specifically, a series of studies finds that engaging in even minimal, unfamiliar rituals reduces loneliness among lonely consumers. Support for the important role of meaningfulness comes from results showing that the effect of rituals on loneliness is mediated by meaning in life via perceived product meaningfulness, and that ritualistic behavior no longer impacts loneliness when the experience of meaningfulness can be derived incidentally.


Outside the Eye of the Storm: Can Moderate Hurricane Exposure Improve Social, Psychological, and Attachment Functioning?
Anthony Mancini, Maren Westphal & Paul Griffin
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


High-intensity disaster can harm psychological functioning. Could moderate-intensity disaster improve psychological and attachment functioning through its effects on social functioning? We used a prospective quasi-experimental cohort design to investigate this possibility among college students. Hurricane cohort participants (N = 209) completed assessments before, 2 weeks, and 6 weeks after Hurricane Sandy. Two matched comparison cohorts (Ns > 140) were assessed 4 months and 1 year later. The hurricane cohort, in contrast to matched comparison cohorts, reported increased social support, reduced global distress, reduced negative emotion, and reduced attachment avoidance at the end of the semester. Increased social support mediated the relationship between hurricane cohort and reduced global distress, negative emotion, attachment avoidance, and attachment anxiety, and increased positive emotion and self-esteem at 6 weeks poststorm. The results suggest moderate disaster exposure can benefit short-term social, psychological, and attachment functioning, underscoring the critical role of the social context in stress adaptation.


The good old days and the bad old days: Evidence for a valence-based dissociation between personal and public memory
Sushmita Shrikanth & Karl Szpunar
Memory, forthcoming


How does memory for the public past differ from memory for the personal past? Across five experiments (N = 457), we found that memories of the personal past were characterised by a positivity bias, whereas memories of the public past were characterised by a negativity bias. This valence-based dissociation emerged regardless of how far back participants recounted the personal and public past, whether or not participants were asked to think about significant events, how much time participants were given to retrieve relevant personal and public memories, and also generalised across various demographic categories, including gender, age, and political affiliation. Along with recent work demonstrating a similar dissociation in the context of future thinking, our findings suggest that personal and public event cognition fundamentally differ in terms of access to emotionally salient events. Direct comparisons between personal and public event memory should represent a fruitful avenue for research on event cognition.


An experimental approach to communal coping
Melissa Zajdel & Vicki Helgeson
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming


Communal coping has been linked to better psychological and physical health across a variety of stressful contexts. However, there has been no experimental work causally linking communal coping to relationship and health outcomes. In addition, research has emphasized the collaboration over the shared appraisal component of communal coping. The present study sought to isolate the role of appraisal by manipulating whether dyads viewed a stressor as shared or individual. Friend dyads (n = 64 dyads; 128 participants) were randomly assigned to view a stressor as either a shared or an individual problem, but both groups were allowed to work together. Across self-report and observational measures dyads reported more collaboration and support, better relationship outcomes, and more positive mood after the stressor in the shared than the individual appraisal group. This is the first laboratory evidence to establish causal links of communal coping — specifically shared appraisal — to positive relationship and health outcomes.


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