Social Thought

Kevin Lewis

November 20, 2021

Insufficiently complimentary?: Underestimating the positive impact of compliments creates a barrier to expressing them
Xuan Zhao & Nicholas Epley
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, August 2021, Pages 239-256 

Compliments increase the well-being of both expressers and recipients, yet in a series of surveys people report giving fewer compliments than they should give, or would like to give. Nine experiments suggest that a reluctance to express genuine compliments partly stems from underestimating the positive impact that compliments will have on recipients. Participants wrote genuine compliments and then predicted how happy and awkward those compliments would make recipients feel. Expressers consistently underestimated how positive recipients would feel but overestimated how awkward recipients would feel (Experiments 1-3, S4). These miscalibrated expectations are driven partly by perspective gaps in which expressers underestimate how competent - and to a lesser extent how warm - their compliments will be perceived by recipients (Experiments 1-3). Because people's interest in expressing compliments is partly driven by their expectations of the recipient's reaction, undervaluing compliments creates a barrier to expressing them (Supplemental Experiments S2, S3, S4). As a result, directing people to focus on the warmth conveyed by their compliments (Experiment 4) increased interest in expressing them. We believe these findings may reflect a more general tendency for people to underestimate the positive impact of prosocial actions on others, leading people to be less prosocial than would be optimal for both their own and others' well-being. 

The thought gap after conversation: Underestimating the frequency of others' thoughts about us
Gus Cooney, Erica Boothby & Mariana Lee
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming 

After conversations, people continue to think about their conversation partners. They remember their stories, revisit their advice, and replay their criticisms. But do people realize that their conversation partners are doing the same? In eight studies, we explored the possibility that people would systematically underestimate how much their conversation partners think about them following interactions. We found evidence for this thought gap in a variety of contexts, including field conversations in a dining hall (Study 1), "getting acquainted" conversations in the lab (Study 2), intimate conversations among friends (Study 3), and arguments between romantic partners (Study 4). Several additional studies investigated a possible explanation for the thought gap: the asymmetric availability of one's own thoughts compared with others' thoughts. Accordingly, the thought gap increased when conversations became more salient (Study 4) and as people's thoughts had more time to accumulate after a conversation (Study 6); conversely, the thought gap decreased when people were prompted to reflect on their conversation partners' thoughts (Study 5). Consistent with our proposed mechanism, we also found that the thought gap was moderated by trait rumination, or the extent to which people's thoughts come easily and repetitively to mind (Study 7). In a final study, we explored the consequences of the thought gap by comparing the effects of thought frequency to thought valence on the likelihood of reconciliation after an argument (Study 8). Collectively, these studies demonstrate that people remain on their conversation partners' minds more than they know. 

Zoom disrupts the rhythm of conversation
Julie Boland et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Small, variable transmission delays over Zoom disrupt the typical rhythm of conversation, leading to delays in turn initiation. This study compared local and remote (Zoom) turn transition times using both a tightly controlled yes/no Question and Answer (Q&A) paradigm (Corps et al., 2018) and unscripted conversation. In the Q&A paradigm (Experiment 1), participants responded yes/no as quickly as possible to prerecorded questions. Half of the questions were played over Zoom and half were played locally from their own computer. Local responses had an average latency of 297 ms, whereas remote responses averaged 976 ms. These large increases in transition times over Zoom are far greater than the estimated 30-70 ms of audio transmission delay, suggesting disruption of automated mechanisms that normally guide the timing of turn initiation in conversation. In face-to-face conversations (Experiment 2), turn transition times averaged 135 ms, but transition times for the same dyads over Zoom averaged 487 ms. We consider the possibility that electronic transmission delays disrupt neural oscillators that normally synchronize on syllable rate, at around, 150-300 ms per cycle (Wilson & Wilson, 2005), and enable interlocutors to effortlessly and precisely time the initiation of their turns. 

Sex differences in friendship preferences
Keelah Williams et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Friendships can help us solve a number of challenges, increasing our welfare and fitness. Across evolutionary time, some of the many challenges that friendships helped to solve may have differed between men and women. By considering the specific and potentially distinct recurrent problems men's and women's friendships helped them solve, we can derive predictions about the qualities that would have made men's and women's same-sex friends ideal partners. This logic leads to several predictions about the specific friend preferences that may be differentially prized by men and women. Across three studies (N = 745) with U.S. participants - assessing ideal hypothetical friends, actual friends, and using a paradigm adapted from behavioral economics - we find that men, compared to women, more highly value same-sex friends who are physically formidable, possess high status, possess wealth, and afford access to potential mates. In contrast, women, compared to men, more highly value friends who provide emotional support, intimacy, and useful social information. Findings suggest that the specific friendship qualities men and women preferred differed by sex in ways consistent with a functional account of friendship. 

Is chatting with a sophisticated chatbot as good as chatting online or FTF with a stranger?
Michelle Drouin et al.
Computers in Human Behavior, forthcoming

Emotionally-responsive chatbots are marketed as agents with which one can form emotional connections. They can also become weak ties in the outer layers of one's acquaintance network and available for social support. In this experiment, which was designed to study the acquaintance process, we randomly assigned 417 participants into three conditions: face-to-face (FTF) chat with a human, online chat with a human, and online chat with a commercially-available, emotionally-responsive chatbot, Replika. After a 20-min getting-acquainted chat, participants reported their affective state and relational evaluations of the chat. Additionally, all chats were recorded and text analyzed using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) program. In all conditions, participants reported moderate levels of positive emotions and low levels of negative emotions. Those who chatted FTF with a human reported significantly more negative emotions than those who chatted with a bot. However, those who chatted with a human also reported more homophily with and liking of their chat partner and that their partner was more responsive. Meanwhile, participants had fewest conversational concerns with the chatbot. These findings have implications for future computer-mediated interaction studies: conversations with chatbots appear to have different affordances and effects on chatter enjoyment and conversational concerns in getting-acquainted contexts. These results may help designers improve reception and marketability for chatbots in consumer markets.


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