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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - Vol 107, Iss 1

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology publishes original papers in all areas of personality and social psychology. It emphasizes empirical reports but may include specialized theoretical, methodological, and review papers.
Copyright 2014 American Psychological Association
  • An eye for the I: Preferential attention to the eyes of ingroup members.
    Human faces, and more specifically the eyes, play a crucial role in social and nonverbal communication because they signal valuable information about others. It is therefore surprising that few studies have investigated the impact of intergroup contexts and motivations on attention to the eyes of ingroup and outgroup members. Four experiments investigated differences in eye gaze to racial and novel ingroups using eye tracker technology. Whereas Studies 1 and 3 demonstrated that White participants attended more to the eyes of White compared to Black targets, Study 2 showed a similar pattern of attention to the eyes of novel ingroup and outgroup faces. Studies 3 and 4 also provided new evidence that eye gaze is flexible and can be meaningfully influenced by current motivations. Specifically, instructions to individuate specific social categories increased attention to the eyes of target group members. Furthermore, the latter experiments demonstrated that preferential attention to the eyes of ingroup members predicted important intergroup biases such as recognition of ingroup over outgroup faces (i.e., the own-race bias; Study 3) and willingness to interact with outgroup members (Study 4). The implication of these findings for general theorizing on face perception, individuation processes, and intergroup relations are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • How malleable is categorization by race? Evidence for competitive category use in social categorization.
    We contrast 3 theoretical viewpoints concerning the factors affecting social categorization by race: (a) the classical theory of social categorization highlighting the role of a priori accessibility and situational factors, (b) the classical theory augmented by a principle of competitive category use, and (c) competition between race (but not gender) and coalition with race (but not gender) encoded only as a proxy to coalition. Study 1 documents a confound that renders important portions of previous research difficult to interpret. In Studies 2 and 3, race categorization was stronger than categorization by more weakly accessible categories when situational support in terms of topic relevance was comparable across categories. A situational focus on race further increased race categorization. Race categorization was reduced in the presence of strongly cued cross-cutting coalitions. Race categorization also was depressed when situational factors promoted comparative processing of cross-cutting categories while cues to potential coalitional divisions were held constant (Study 4). Accessibility, topic relevance, and cuing cross-cutting coalitions had the same effects on gender categorization as found for race categorization (Study 5). Taken together, the results suggest that classical theories of social categorization have to be augmented by a principle of competitive category use that is not limited to a competition between race and coalition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Using abstract language signals power.
    Power can be gained through appearances: People who exhibit behavioral signals of power are often treated in a way that allows them to actually achieve such power (Ridgeway, Berger, & Smith, 1985; Smith & Galinsky, 2010). In the current article, we examine power signals within interpersonal communication, exploring whether use of concrete versus abstract language is seen as a signal of power. Because power activates abstraction (e.g., Smith & Trope, 2006), perceivers may expect higher power individuals to speak more abstractly and therefore will infer that speakers who use more abstract language have a higher degree of power. Across a variety of contexts and conversational subjects in 7 experiments, participants perceived respondents as more powerful when they used more abstract language (vs. more concrete language). Abstract language use appears to affect perceived power because it seems to reflect both a willingness to judge and a general style of abstract thinking. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • You can’t always give what you want: The challenge of providing social support to low self-esteem individuals.
    It can be challenging for support providers to facilitate effective social support interactions even when they have the best intentions. In the current article, we examine some reasons for this difficulty, with a focus on support recipients’ self-esteem as a crucial variable. We predicted that recipients’ receptiveness to support would be influenced by both support strategy and recipient self-esteem and that receptiveness in turn would impact providers’ perceived caregiving efficacy and relationship quality. Study 1 (hypothetical scenarios), Study 2 (confederate interaction), and Study 3 (reports of recently received support) showed that individuals with low self-esteem (LSEs) are less receptive than are individuals with high self-esteem (HSEs) to support that positively reframes their experience but are equally receptive to support that validates their negative feelings. In Study 4, providers demonstrated some knowledge that positive reframing would be less helpful to LSEs than to HSEs but indicated equal intention to give such support. Study 5 showed that, in a real interaction, friends were indeed equally likely to offer positive reframing to both LSEs and HSEs but were less likely to offer validation to LSEs. LSEs were less accepting of such support, and in turn providers felt worse about the interaction, about themselves, and about their friendship more broadly. Study 6 confirmed that recipients’ receptivity to support directly influenced providers’ experience of a support interaction as well as their self- and relationship evaluations. The findings illustrate how well-meaning support attempts that do not match recipients’ particular preferences may be detrimental to both members of the dyad. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A little similarity goes a long way: The effects of peripheral but self-revealing similarities on improving and sustaining interracial relationships.
    Integrating theory on close relationships and intergroup relations, we construct a manipulation of similarity that we demonstrate can improve interracial interactions across different settings. We find that manipulating perceptions of similarity on self-revealing attributes that are peripheral to the interaction improves interactions in cross-race dyads and racially diverse task groups. In a getting-acquainted context, we demonstrate that the belief that one’s different-race partner is similar to oneself on self-revealing, peripheral attributes leads to less anticipatory anxiety than the belief that one’s partner is similar on peripheral, nonself-revealing attributes. In another dyadic context, we explore the range of benefits that perceptions of peripheral, self-revealing similarity can bring to different-race interaction partners and find (a) less anxiety during interaction, (b) greater interest in sustained contact with one’s partner, and (c) stronger accuracy in perceptions of one’s partners’ relationship intentions. By contrast, participants in same-race interactions were largely unaffected by these manipulations of perceived similarity. Our final experiment shows that among small task groups composed of racially diverse individuals, those whose members perceive peripheral, self-revealing similarity perform superior to those who perceive dissimilarity. Implications for using this approach to improve interracial interactions across different goal-driven contexts are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Social class and academic achievement in college: The interplay of rejection sensitivity and entity beliefs.
    Undergraduates, especially those from lower income backgrounds, may perceive their social class background as different or disadvantaged relative to that of peers and worry about negative social treatment. We hypothesized that concerns about discrimination based on one’s social class (i.e., class-based rejection sensitivity or RS-class) would be damaging to undergraduates’ achievement outcomes particularly among entity theorists, who perceive their personal characteristics as fixed. We reasoned that a perceived capacity for personal growth and change, characteristic of incremental theorists, would make the pursuit of a college degree and upward mobility seem more worthwhile and attainable. We found evidence across 3 studies that dispositionally held and experimentally primed entity (vs. incremental) beliefs predicted college academic performance as a function of RS-class. Studies 1a and 1b documented that high levels of both entity beliefs and RS-class predicted lower self-reported and official grades, respectively, among undergraduates from socioeconomically diverse backgrounds. In Study 2, high entity beliefs and RS-class at matriculation predicted decreased year-end official grades among lower class Latino students. Study 3 established the causal relationship of entity (vs. incremental) beliefs on academic test performance as a function of RS-class. We observed worse test performance with higher RS-class levels following an entity (vs. incremental) prime, an effect driven by lower income students. Findings from a 4th study suggest that entity theorists with RS-class concerns tend to believe less in upward mobility and, following academic setbacks, are prone to personal attributions of failure, as well as hopelessness. Implications for education and intervention are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Trust at zero acquaintance: More a matter of respect than expectation of reward.
    Trust is essential for a secure and flourishing social life, but many economic and philosophical approaches argue that rational people should never extend it, in particular to strangers they will never encounter again. Emerging data on the trust game, a laboratory economic exchange, suggests that people trust strangers excessively (i.e., far more than their tolerance for risk and cynical views of their peers should allow). What produces this puzzling “excess” of trust? We argue that people trust due to a norm mandating that they show respect for the other person’s character, presuming the other person has sufficient integrity and goodwill even if they do not believe it privately. Six studies provided converging evidence that decisions to trust follow the logic of norms. Trusting others is what people think they should do, and the emotions associated with fulfilling a social duty or responsibility (e.g., guilt, anxiety) account for at least a significant proportion of the excessive trust observed. Regarding the specific norm in play, trust rates collapse when respect for the other person’s character is eliminated as an issue. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Making sense of misfortune: Deservingness, self-esteem, and patterns of self-defeat.
    Drawing on theorizing and research suggesting that people are motivated to view their world as an orderly and predictable place in which people get what they deserve, the authors proposed that (a) random and uncontrollable bad outcomes will lower self-esteem and (b) this, in turn, will lead to the adoption of self-defeating beliefs and behaviors. Four experiments demonstrated that participants who experienced or recalled bad (vs. good) breaks devalued their self-esteem (Studies 1a and 1b), and that decrements in self-esteem (whether arrived at through misfortune or failure experience) increase beliefs about deserving bad outcomes (Studies 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b). Five studies (Studies 3–7) extended these findings by showing that this, in turn, can engender a wide array of self-defeating beliefs and behaviors, including claimed self-handicapping ahead of an ability test (Study 3), the preference for others to view the self less favorably (Studies 4–5), chronic self-handicapping and thoughts of physical self-harm (Study 6), and choosing to receive negative feedback during an ability test (Study 7). The current findings highlight the important role that concerns about deservingness play in the link between lower self-esteem and patterns of self-defeating beliefs and behaviors. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Honey, I got fired! A longitudinal dyadic analysis of the effect of unemployment on life satisfaction in couples.
    Previous research on unemployment and life satisfaction has focused on the effects of unemployment on individuals but neglected the effects on their partners. In the present study, we used dyadic multilevel models to analyze longitudinal data from 2,973 couples selected from a German representative panel study to examine the effects of unemployment on life satisfaction in couples over several years. We found that unemployment decreases life satisfaction in both members of the couple, but the effect is more pronounced for those who become unemployed (actors) than for the other couple members (partners). In both couple members, the reaction is attenuated if they share the same labor status after the job loss: Actors experienced a greater drop in life satisfaction if their partners were employed than if they were unemployed at the time of the job loss, and partners reacted negatively to the job loss only if they were employed or inactive in the workforce, but not if they were unemployed themselves. With respect to couple-level moderator variables, we found that both actors and partners reacted more negatively to unemployment if they had children. The reaction was also more negative in male actors than in female actors, but there was no difference between male and female partners. In sum, these findings indicate that changes in life satisfaction can be caused by major life events experienced by significant others. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Trio of terror (pregnancy, menstruation, and breastfeeding): An existential function of literal self-objectification among women.
    Research and theorizing suggest that objectification entails perceiving a person not as a human being but, quite literally, as an object. However, the motive to regard the self as an object is not well understood. The current research tested the hypothesis that literal self-objectification can serve a terror management function. From this perspective, the female body poses a unique existential threat on account of its role in reproduction, and regarding the self as an object is posited to shield women from this threat because objects, in contrast to humans, are not mortal. Across 5 studies, 3 operationalizations of literal self-objectification were employed (a denial of essentially human traits to the self, overlap in the explicit assignment of traits to the self and objects, and implicit associations between self and objects using an implicit association test) in response to 3 aspects of women’s bodies involved in reproduction (pregnancy, menstruation, and breastfeeding). In each study, priming mortality led women (but not men, included in Studies 1, 3, 4, and 5) to literally self-objectify in conditions where women’s reproductive features were salient. In addition, literal self-objectification was found to mediate subsequent responsiveness to death-related stimuli (Study 4). Together, these findings are the first to demonstrate a direct link between mortality salience, women’s role in reproduction, and their self-objectification, supporting an existential function of self-objectification in women. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Human attribute concepts: Relative ubiquity across twelve mutually isolated languages.
    It has been unclear which human-attribute concepts are most universal across languages. To identify common-denominator concepts, we used dictionaries for 12 mutually isolated languages—Maasai, Supyire Senoufo, Khoekhoe, Afar, Mara Chin, Hmong, Wik-Mungkan, Enga, Fijian, Inuktitut, Hopi, and Kuna—representing diverse cultural characteristics and language families, from multiple continents. A composite list of every person-descriptive term in each lexicon was closely examined to determine the content (in terms of English translation) most ubiquitous across languages. Study 1 identified 28 single-word concepts used to describe persons in all 12 languages, as well as 41 additional terms found in 11 of 12. Results indicated that attribute concepts related to morality and competence appear to be as cross-culturally ubiquitous as basic-emotion concepts. Formulations of universal-attribute concepts from Osgood and Wierzbicka were well-supported. Study 2 compared lexically based personality models on the relative ubiquity of key associated terms, finding that 1- and 2-dimensional models draw on markedly more ubiquitous terms than do 5- or 6-factor models. We suggest that ubiquitous attributes reflect common cultural as well as common biological processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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