Kevin Lewis

September 14, 2019

Autism spectrum traits predict higher social psychological skill
Anton Gollwitzer et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Social-cognitive skills can take different forms, from accurately predicting individuals’ intentions, emotions, and thoughts (person perception or folk psychology) to accurately predicting social phenomena more generally. Past research has linked autism spectrum (AS) traits to person perception deficits in the general population. We tested whether AS traits also predict poor accuracy in terms of predicting generalized social phenomena, assessed via participants’ accuracy at predicting social psychological phenomena (e.g., social loafing, social projection, group think). We found the opposite. In a sample of ∼6,500 participants in 104 countries, AS traits predicted slightly higher social psychological skill. A second study with 400 participants suggested that heightened systemizing underlies this relationship. Our results indicate that AS traits relate positively to a form of social cognitive skill — predicting social psychological phenomena — and highlight the importance of distinguishing between divergent types of social cognition.

Out of the dark, into the light: The impact of social exclusion on judgments of darkness and brightness
Michaela Pfundmair, Sarah Danböck & Maria Agthe
Acta Psychologica, forthcoming

Based on theories of grounded cognition, we assumed that the experience of social exclusion is grounded in a concept of darkness. Specifically, we hypothesized that social exclusion causes perceptual judgments of darkness and a preference for brightness as a compensatory response. To investigate these hypotheses, we conducted four studies using different manipulations and measurements. In Studies 1a and 1b, excluded participants judged a picturized room as darker and drew more attention to its brightest part than included participants. In Study 2, excluded participants judged a surface as darker and decided for brighter clothing than included participants. In Study 3, excluded participants judged their lab room as darker and expressed a higher preference for brightness than included participants. Providing consistent support for our hypotheses, these findings confirm the idea that the experience of social exclusion is grounded in multiple ways that share a common representational system.

Saving-enhanced performance: Saving items after study boosts performance in subsequent cognitively demanding tasks
Yannick Runge, Christian Frings &Tobias Tempel
Memory, forthcoming

By saving and storing information, we use digital devices as our external memory stores, being able to offload and temporarily forget saved contents. Storm and Stone [2015. Saving-enhanced memory: The benefits of saving on the learning and remembering of new information. Psychological Science, 26(2), 182–188] showed that such memory offloading can be beneficial for subsequent memory performance. Saving already encoded items enhanced recall of items encoded after saving. In the present study, we did not only replicate saving-enhanced memory but found saving-enhanced performance for unrelated cognitively demanding tasks. Participants solved more modular arithmetic problems when they were able to offload a previously studied word list, compared to trials without the possibility to offload. Thus, saving of recently encoded items entailed a general benefit on subsequent cognitive performance, beyond encoding and retrieving word lists. We assume that offloading frees participants from the need to maintain offloaded items. Gained resources can then be used for subsequent tasks with high cognitive demands. In a nutshell, memory offloading can help to reduce the amount of information that has to be processed at a given time, efficiently delegating our limited cognitive resources to the most relevant tasks at hand while currently irrelevant information are safely stored outside our own memory.

A Protracted Sensitive Period Regulates the Development of Cross-Modal Sound–Shape Associations in Humans
Suddha Sourav et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Humans preferentially match arbitrary words containing higher- and lower-frequency phonemes to angular and smooth shapes, respectively. Here, we investigated the role of visual experience in the development of audiovisual and audiohaptic sound–shape associations (SSAs) using a unique set of five groups: individuals who had suffered a transient period of congenital blindness through congenital bilateral dense cataracts before undergoing cataract-reversal surgeries (CC group), individuals with a history of developmental cataracts (DC group), individuals with congenital permanent blindness (CB group), individuals with late permanent blindness (LB group), and controls with typical sight (TS group). Whereas the TS and LB groups showed highly robust SSAs, the CB, CC, and DC groups did not—in any of the modality combinations tested. These results provide evidence for a protracted sensitive period during which aberrant vision prevents SSA acquisition. Moreover, the finding of a systematic SSA in the LB group demonstrates that representations acquired during the sensitive period are resilient to loss despite dramatically changed experience.

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