Positivity and Negativity

Kevin Lewis

April 14, 2024

Social Infrastructure Availability and Suicide Rates among Working-Age Adults in the United States
Xue Zhang, Danielle Rhubart & Shannon Monnat
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, April 2024

Social infrastructure (SI) may buffer against suicide risk by improving social cohesion, social support, and information and resource sharing. The authors use an ecological approach to examine the relationship between county-level SI availability and suicide rates among working-age adults (25–64 years) in the United States, a population among which suicide rates are high, rising, and geographically unequal. Mortality data are from the National Vital Statistics System for 2016 to 2019. SI data are from the National Neighborhood Data Archive for 2013 to 2015 and capture the availability of typically free SI (e.g., libraries, community centers) and commercial SI (e.g., coffee shops, diners, entertainment venues). Results from negative binomial models show that suicide rates are significantly lower in counties with more SI availability, net of county demographic, socioeconomic, and health care factors. This relationship held for both typically free and commercial SI. Policy makers should consider strengthening existing and developing new SI as part of a broader strategy to reduce suicide rates in the United States.

Key language markers of depression on social media depend on race
Sunny Rai et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2 April 2024

Depression has robust natural language correlates and can increasingly be measured in language using predictive models. However, despite evidence that language use varies as a function of individual demographic features (e.g., age, gender), previous work has not systematically examined whether and how depression’s association with language varies by race. We examine how race moderates the relationship between language features (i.e., first-person pronouns and negative emotions) from social media posts and self-reported depression, in a matched sample of Black and White English speakers in the United States. Our findings reveal moderating effects of race: While depression severity predicts I-usage in White individuals, it does not in Black individuals. White individuals use more belongingness and self-deprecation-related negative emotions. Machine learning models trained on similar amounts of data to predict depression severity performed poorly when tested on Black individuals, even when they were trained exclusively using the language of Black individuals. In contrast, analogous models tested on White individuals performed relatively well. Our study reveals surprising race-based differences in the expression of depression in natural language and highlights the need to understand these effects better, especially before language-based models for detecting psychological phenomena are integrated into clinical practice.

Going beyond the “self” in self-control: Interpersonal consequences of commitment strategies
Ariella Kristal & Julian Zlatev
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Commitment strategies are effective mechanisms individuals can use to overcome self-control problems. Across seven studies (and two supplemental studies), we explore the negative interpersonal consequences of commitment strategy choice and use. In Study 1, using an incentivized trust game, we demonstrate that individuals trust people who choose to use a commitment strategy less than those who choose to use willpower to achieve their goals. Study 2 shows this relationship holds across four domains and for integrity-based trust in particular. Study 3 provides evidence that it is the choice to use the strategy rather than strategy use itself that incurs this integrity penalty. In Studies 4–5b, we demonstrate that this effect is driven, at least in part, by the fact that people infer past performance from strategy choice. Finally, Study 6 provides evidence that people select commitment strategies more in private than in public, which is consistent with the notion that people anticipate the negative consequences of commitment strategy choice. Thus, we establish the role of willpower as a positive signal in impression formation as well as the negative interpersonal consequences of choosing to rely on external aides when faced with temptation.

Lower Childhood Socioeconomic Status Is Associated with Greater Neural Responses to Ambient Auditory Changes in Adulthood
Yu Hao & Lingyan Hu
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, forthcoming

Humans' early life experience varies by socioeconomic status, raising the question of how this difference is reflected in the adult brain. An important aspect of brain function is the ability to detect salient ambient changes while focusing on a task. Here, we ask whether subjective social status during childhood is reflected by the way young adults' brain detecting changes in irrelevant information. In two studies (total n = 58), we examine electrical brain responses in the frontocentral region to a series of auditory tones, consisting of standard stimuli (80%) and deviant stimuli (20%) interspersed randomly, while participants were engaged in various visual tasks. Both studies showed stronger automatic change detection indexed by MMN in lower socioeconomic status (SES) individuals, regardless of the unattended sound's feature, attended emotional content, or study type. Moreover, we observed a larger MMN in lower-SES participants, although they did not show differences in brain and behavior responses to the attended task. Lower-SES people also did not involuntarily orient more attention to sound changes (i.e., deviant stimuli), as indexed by the P3a. The study indicates that individuals with lower subjective social status may have an increased ability to automatically detect changes in their environment, which may suggest their adaptation to their childhood environments.

Engagement with nature and proinflammatory biology
Anthony Ong, Dakota Cintron & Gabriel Fuligni
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, July 2024, Pages 51-55

Design: Leveraging survey and biomarker data from 1,244 adults (mean age = 54.50 years, range = 34–84 years) from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS II) study, we examined associations between nature engagement, operationalized as the frequency of pleasant nature encounters, and systemic inflammation. Concentrations of interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and fibrinogen were measured from fasting blood samples. Analyses adjusted for sociodemographic, health behavior, and psychological well-being covariates.

Results: More frequent positive nature contact was independently associated with lower circulating levels of inflammation.

Consumption of psychological horror is associated with reduced stigmatization of mental illness
Donald Sacco, Megan Walters & Mitch Brown
Journal of Media Psychology, forthcoming

Pervasive reactions toward mental illness include dehumanization and stigma. Given the portrayal of such disorders as threatening in psychological horror films, consumption of this subgenre of horror could be associated with pronounced stigmatization of mental illness through dehumanization. We report results of an online survey of U.S. undergraduates (N = 202) who indicated how frequently they consumed various subgenres of horror films, in addition to their tendencies to dehumanize and stigmatize those experiencing mental illnesses. Only psychological horror consumption was associated with these ascriptions. However, and contrary to predictions, greater psychological horror consumption was associated with less stigmatization and dehumanization of mental illness. We provided updated empirical findings and theoretical conceptualizations to provide context for these unexpected findings and discuss the broader potential benefits of the horror genre in reducing stigmatization.


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