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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - Vol 106, Iss 4

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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
  • Free to punish: A motivated account of free will belief.
    Belief in free will is a pervasive phenomenon that has important consequences for prosocial actions and punitive judgments, but little research has investigated why free will beliefs are so widespread. Across 5 studies using experimental, survey, and archival data and multiple measures of free will belief, we tested the hypothesis that a key factor promoting belief in free will is a fundamental desire to hold others morally responsible for their wrongful behaviors. In Study 1, participants reported greater belief in free will after considering an immoral action than a morally neutral one. Study 2 provided evidence that this effect was due to heightened punitive motivations. In a field experiment (Study 3), an ostensibly real classroom cheating incident led to increased free will beliefs, again due to heightened punitive motivations. In Study 4, reading about others’ immoral behaviors reduced the perceived merit of anti-free-will research, thus demonstrating the effect with an indirect measure of free will belief. Finally, Study 5 examined this relationship outside the laboratory and found that the real-world prevalence of immoral behavior (as measured by crime and homicide rates) predicted free will belief on a country level. Taken together, these results provide a potential explanation for the strength and prevalence of belief in free will: It is functional for holding others morally responsible and facilitates justifiably punishing harmful members of society. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Future events are far away: Exploring the distance-on-distance effect.
    Four dimensions of psychological distance (temporal, social, spatial, and probabilistic) have been widely studied. This research examines the distance-on-distance effect where an event that is close or distal along one dimension of psychological distance will be judged to be close or distal along other dimensions. For example, individuals will perceive greater likelihood to win a lottery (probabilistic distance) if they sit closer to the prize (spatial distance). Drawing on 2 streams of findings in the construal level literature, I propose that this distance-on-distance effect is mediated by construal level induced by the known distance and only occurs when the psychological distance is egocentric. Five studies provide evidence supporting the basic effect, its underlying mechanism, and the boundary condition. These findings have important implications for the construal level literature, together with the research on distance perceptions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The essence of innocence: Consequences of dehumanizing Black children.
    The social category “children” defines a group of individuals who are perceived to be distinct, with essential characteristics including innocence and the need for protection (Haslam, Rothschild, & Ernst, 2000). The present research examined whether Black boys are given the protections of childhood equally to their peers. We tested 3 hypotheses: (a) that Black boys are seen as less “childlike” than their White peers, (b) that the characteristics associated with childhood will be applied less when thinking specifically about Black boys relative to White boys, and (c) that these trends would be exacerbated in contexts where Black males are dehumanized by associating them (implicitly) with apes (Goff, Eberhardt, Williams, & Jackson, 2008). We expected, derivative of these 3 principal hypotheses, that individuals would perceive Black boys as being more responsible for their actions and as being more appropriate targets for police violence. We find support for these hypotheses across 4 studies using laboratory, field, and translational (mixed laboratory/field) methods. We find converging evidence that Black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their White same-age peers. Further, our findings demonstrate that the Black/ape association predicted actual racial disparities in police violence toward children. These data represent the first attitude/behavior matching of its kind in a policing context. Taken together, this research suggests that dehumanization is a uniquely dangerous intergroup attitude, that intergroup perception of children is underexplored, and that both topics should be research priorities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The Manhattan effect: When relationship commitment fails to promote support for partners’ interests.
    Research on close relationships has frequently contrasted one’s own interests with the interests of the partner or the relationship and has tended to view the partner’s and the relationship’s interests as inherently aligned. The present article demonstrated that relationship commitment typically causes people to support their partner’s personal interests but that this effect gets weaker to the extent that those interests misalign or even threaten the relationship. Studies 1a and 1b showed that (a) despite their strong correlation, partner-oriented and relationship-oriented concerns in goal-directed behaviors are separable and (b) relationship commitment strengthens only the link between relationship-oriented motivation and the goal pursuit (not the link between partner-oriented motivation and the goal pursuit). The remaining 7 studies zero in on circumstances in which the partner’s and the relationship’s interests are in conflict, demonstrating that (c) relationship commitment reliably increases the tendency to support the partner’s personal interests when those interests do not pose a strong threat to the relationship but that (d) this effect becomes weaker—and even reverses direction—as the relationship threat posed by the partner’s interests becomes stronger. The reduction or reversal of the positive link between relationship commitment and propartner behaviors in such situations is termed the Manhattan effect. These findings suggest that the partner-versus-relationship conflicts provide fertile ground for novel theorizing and empirical investigations and that relationship commitment appears to be less of a partner-promoting construct than relationship science has suggested; instead, its role appears to be focused on promoting the interests of the relationship. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Social exclusion and stereotyping: Why and when exclusion fosters individuation of others.
    Exclusion triggers a desire to re-capture connections with others. To facilitate this goal, excluded individuals typically process social information especially carefully. One implication of this is that exclusion may foster judgments of others that are reliant on a careful consideration of their idiosyncratic behaviors rather than on more superficial features. We predicted, therefore, that excluded individuals should individuate more and stereotype less than non-excluded individuals and that such effects should be in service of identifying appropriate re-affiliation candidates. In 3 replications of Experiment 1, excluded (compared to non-excluded) individuals rendered less stereotypic judgments of occupational and racial group members described with mildly or ambiguously counter-stereotypic information. Confirming such processes aid with re-affiliation, Experiments 2 and 3 showed that these effects occurred for social targets that represented reasonable sources of re-affiliation, but not for offensive social targets (i.e., Skinheads) or non-social agents. Experiment 4 underscored that excluded participants process presented social information more carefully (individuate), showing greater differentiation in judgments of highly stereotype-consistent and stereotype-inconsistent targets. Implications for the social exclusion literature are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Seeking structure in social organization: Compensatory control and the psychological advantages of hierarchy.
    Hierarchies are a ubiquitous form of human social organization. We hypothesized that 1 reason for the prevalence of hierarchies is that they offer structure and therefore satisfy the core motivational needs for order and control relative to less structured forms of social organization. This hypothesis is rooted in compensatory control theory, which posits that (a) individuals have a basic need to perceive the world as orderly and structured, and (b) personal and external sources of control are capable of satisfying this need because both serve the comforting belief that the world operates in an orderly fashion. Our first 2 studies confirmed that hierarchies were perceived as more structured and orderly relative to egalitarian arrangements (Study 1) and that working in a hierarchical workplace promotes a feeling of self-efficacy (Study 2). We threatened participants’ sense of personal control and measured perceptions of and preferences for hierarchy in 5 subsequent experiments. Participants who lacked control perceived more hierarchy occurring in ambiguous social situations (Study 3) and preferred hierarchy more strongly in workplace contexts (Studies 4–5). We also provide evidence that hierarchies are indeed appealing because of their structure: Preference for hierarchy was higher among individuals high in Personal Need for Structure and a control threat increased preference for hierarchy even among participants low in Personal Need for Structure (Study 5). Framing a hierarchy as unstructured reversed the effect of control threat on hierarchy (Study 6). Finally, hierarchy-enhancing jobs were more appealing after control threat, even when they were low in power and status (Study 7). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A quiet ego quiets death anxiety: Humility as an existential anxiety buffer.
    Five studies tested the hypothesis that a quiet ego, as exemplified by humility, would buffer death anxiety. Humility is characterized by a willingness to accept the self and life without comforting illusions, and by low levels of self-focus. As a consequence, it was expected to render mortality thoughts less threatening and less likely to evoke potentially destructive behavior patterns. In line with this reasoning, Study 1 found that people high in humility do not engage in self-serving moral disengagement following mortality reminders, whereas people low in humility do. Study 2 showed that only people low in humility respond to death reminders with increased fear of death, and established that this effect was driven uniquely by humility and not by some other related personality trait. In Study 3, a low sense of psychological entitlement decreased cultural worldview defense in response to death thoughts, whereas a high sense of entitlement tended to increase it. Study 4 demonstrated that priming humility reduces self-reported death anxiety relative to both a baseline and a pride priming condition. Finally, in Study 5, experimentally induced feelings of humility prevented mortality reminders from leading to depleted self-control. As a whole, these findings obtained from relatively diverse Internet samples illustrate that the dark side of death anxiety is brought about by a noisy ego only and not by a quiet ego, revealing self-transcendence as a sturdier, healthier anxiety buffer than self-enhancement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Positive and negative expressions of shyness in toddlers: Are they related to anxiety in the same way?
    Shyness has generally been investigated as a negative and unpleasant emotional state, strongly related to social anxiety and loneliness. However, recent evidence has suggested that shyness may have a positive and socially adaptive form. We examined whether the positive expression of shyness differs from the negative expression of shyness during toddlerhood, and whether a negative relation to anxiety exists. Participants were 30-month-old children (N = 102; 56 girls) who were asked to mimic animal sounds with a novel person (performance) and then to watch their performance (self-watching). Their expression of pleasure (positive reactions) and distress (negative reactions), as well as their positive and negative expressions of shyness, were coded. Children’s temperamental level of shyness, sociability, and anxiety were measured with parent-reported questionnaires. Toddlers produced more positive and negative displays of shyness in the performance task than in the self-watching task. Children’s positive expression of shyness was associated with lower parent-reported anxiety and higher sociability. Negative reactions, but not negative shyness, were related to children’s higher anxiety levels and lower sociability. Multiple linear regression analyses confirmed a negative predictive role of the positive expression of shyness on anxiety. These results suggest that the positive expression of shyness can regulate early anxiety symptoms and already serves a social function in interpersonal interactions in early childhood. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Linear and nonlinear associations between general intelligence and personality in Project TALENT.
    Research on the relations of personality traits to intelligence has primarily been concerned with linear associations. Yet, there are no a priori reasons why linear relations should be expected over nonlinear ones, which represent a much larger set of all possible associations. Using 2 techniques, quadratic and generalized additive models, we tested for linear and nonlinear associations of general intelligence (g) with 10 personality scales from Project TALENT (PT), a nationally representative sample of approximately 400,000 American high school students from 1960, divided into 4 grade samples (Flanagan et al., 1962). We departed from previous studies, including one with PT (Reeve, Meyer, & Bonaccio, 2006), by modeling latent quadratic effects directly, controlling the influence of the common factor in the personality scales, and assuming a direction of effect from g to personality. On the basis of the literature, we made 17 directional hypotheses for the linear and quadratic associations. Of these, 53% were supported in all 4 male grades and 58% in all 4 female grades. Quadratic associations explained substantive variance above and beyond linear effects (mean R² between 1.8% and 3.6%) for Sociability, Maturity, Vigor, and Leadership in males and Sociability, Maturity, and Tidiness in females; linear associations were predominant for other traits. We discuss how suited current theories of the personality–intelligence interface are to explain these associations, and how research on intellectually gifted samples may provide a unique way of understanding them. We conclude that nonlinear models can provide incremental detail regarding personality and intelligence associations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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