Social Signs

Kevin Lewis

December 03, 2022

Enhanced Mood After a Getting-Acquainted Interaction with a Stranger: Do Shy People Benefit Too?
Susan Sprecher et al.
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming 


People report positive moods and enhanced well-being when they socialize with friends and other close ties. However, because most people routinely have more encounters with acquaintances and strangers (social connections known as weak ties) than with close friends or kin (strong ties), we deemed it important to examine whether interaction with weak ties also enhances happiness and well-being. This investigation, which analyzed data from two laboratory procedures, examined whether participants' positive affect (PA) increased and negative affect (NA) decreased, from before to after a getting-acquainted interaction with a stranger. We also considered whether any benefits of the interaction were moderated by the participants' level of shyness. Participants (N = 270; 135 dyads) from a U.S. university completed mood indices before and after a getting-acquainted task. Their PA significantly increased and their NA significantly decreased from before to after the interaction. Shy participants experienced greater NA both before and after the getting-acquainted interaction (relative to less shy participants), but the shyness level of our participants did not moderate the pattern of change in their PA and NA. Shy participants experienced increases in PA and decreases in NA that were similar to those of less shy participants. We discuss implications of the results regarding the important role of weak social connections for increasing one's daily mood, including for those who are shy.

Seeing you reminds me of things that never happened: Attachment anxiety predicts false memories when people can see the communicator
Nathan Hudson & William Chopik
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Previous research suggests that attachment avoidance is robustly linked to memory errors of omission - such as forgetting information or events that have occurred. Moreover, these avoidance-related errors of omission are the strongest for relational stimuli (e.g., avoidant people have trouble remembering relationship-related words, but not neutral ones). Conversely, an emerging body of studies has linked attachment anxiety to memory errors of commission - such as falsely remembering events that never actually happened. The present article describes three studies (Ns = 204, 651, 547) that replicate the correlation between attachment anxiety and false memories. Moreover, the present studies experimentally explored the boundary conditions under which anxiety might predict false memories. Results indicated that attachment anxiety predicts false memories only when participants could see a video of another person conveying information-but not when reading a text transcript of the same information or when listening to the audio only. This is consistent with prior studies which suggest that highly attachment-anxious individuals are hypervigilant to others' emotional expressions and may use them to make incorrect inferences (which potentially become falsely encoded into memory).

Genetic algorithms reveal profound individual differences in emotion recognition
Nicola Binetti et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 8 November 2022 


Emotional communication relies on a mutual understanding, between expresser and viewer, of facial configurations that broadcast specific emotions. However, we do not know whether people share a common understanding of how emotional states map onto facial expressions. This is because expressions exist in a high-dimensional space too large to explore in conventional experimental paradigms. Here, we address this by adapting genetic algorithms and combining them with photorealistic three-dimensional avatars to efficiently explore the high-dimensional expression space. A total of 336 people used these tools to generate facial expressions that represent happiness, fear, sadness, and anger. We found substantial variability in the expressions generated via our procedure, suggesting that different people associate different facial expressions to the same emotional state. We then examined whether variability in the facial expressions created could account for differences in performance on standard emotion recognition tasks by asking people to categorize different test expressions. We found that emotion categorization performance was explained by the extent to which test expressions matched the expressions generated by each individual. Our findings reveal the breadth of variability in people's representations of facial emotions, even among typical adult populations. This has profound implications for the interpretation of responses to emotional stimuli, which may reflect individual differences in the emotional category people attribute to a particular facial expression, rather than differences in the brain mechanisms that produce emotional responses.

From the Viscera to First Impressions: Phase-Dependent Cardio-Visual Signals Bias the Perceived Trustworthiness of Faces
Ruben Azevedo, Mariana von Mohr & Manos Tsakiris
Psychological Science, forthcoming


When we see new people, we rapidly form first impressions. Whereas past research has focused on the role of morphological or emotional cues, we asked whether transient visceral states bias the impressions we form. Across three studies (N = 94 university students), we investigated how fluctuations of bodily states, driven by the interoceptive impact of cardiac signals, influence the perceived trustworthiness of faces. Participants less often chose faces presented in synchrony with their own cardiac systole as more trustworthy than faces presented out of synchrony. Participants also explicitly judged faces presented in synchrony with their cardiac systole as less trustworthy. Finally, the presentation of faces in synchrony with participants' cardiac diastole did not modulate participants' perceptions of the faces' trustworthiness, suggesting that the systolic phase is necessary for such interoceptive effects. These findings highlight the role of phasic interoceptive information in the processing of social information and provide a mechanistic account of the role of visceroception for social perception.

Social Goals in Girls Transitioning to Adolescence: Associations with Psychopathology and Brain Network Connectivity
Andrea Pelletier-Baldelli et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming 


The motivation to socially connect with peers increases during adolescence in parallel with changes in neurodevelopment. These changes in social motivation create opportunities for experiences that can impact risk for psychopathology, but the specific motivational presentations that confer greater psychopathology risk are not fully understood. To address this issue, we used a latent profile analysis to identify the multidimensional presentations of self-reported social goals in a sample of 220 girls (9-15 years old, M = 11.81, SD = 1.81) that was enriched for internalizing symptoms, and tested the association between social goal profiles and psychopathology. Associations between social goals and brain network also were examined in a subsample of 138 youth. Pre-registered analyses revealed four unique profiles of social goal presentations in these girls. Greater psychopathology was associated with heightened social goals such that higher clinical symptoms were related to a greater desire to attain social competence, avoid negative feedback, and gain positive feedback from peers. The profiles endorsing these excessive social goals were characterized by denser connections among social-affective and cognitive control brain regions. These findings thus provide preliminary support for adolescent-onset changes in motivating factors supporting social engagement that may contribute to risk for psychopathology in vulnerable girls.


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