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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - Vol 106, Iss 5

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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
  • Toward a greater understanding of the emotional dynamics of the mortality salience manipulation: Revisiting the “affect-free” claim of terror management research.
    The experimental manipulation of mortality salience (MS) represents one of the most widely used methodological procedures in social psychology, having been employed by terror management researchers in hundreds of studies over the last 20 years. One of the more provocative conclusions regarding this task is that it does not produce any reliable changes in self-reported affect, a view that we refer to as the affect-free claim. After reviewing 336 published studies that used the standard version of the MS task, we suggest that the evidence on which this claim is based may be less definitive than is commonly supposed. Moreover, we propose that the MS manipulation can, in fact, produce significant and meaningful changes in affect once one employs the appropriate measures and experimental design. In support of this position, we report 4 experiments, each of which demonstrates reliable activation of negative affect, especially with respect to fear-/terror-related sentiments. We discuss the implications of our findings for terror management theory as well as for research and theory on the measurement of mood and emotion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The college journey and academic engagement: How metaphor use enhances identity-based motivation.
    People commonly talk about goals metaphorically as destinations on physical paths extending into the future or as contained in future periods. Does metaphor use have consequences for people’s motivation to engage in goal-directed action? Three experiments examine the effect of metaphor use on students’ engagement with their academic possible identity: their image of themselves as academically successful graduates. Students primed to frame their academic possible identity using the goal-as-journey metaphor reported stronger academic intention, and displayed increased effort on academic tasks, compared to students primed with a nonacademic possible identity, a different metaphoric framing (goal-as-contained-entity), and past academic achievements (Studies 1–2). This motivating effect persisted up to a week later as reflected in final exam performance (Study 3). Four experiments examine the cognitive processes underlying this effect. Conceptual metaphor theory posits that an accessible metaphor transfers knowledge between dissimilar concepts. As predicted in this paradigm, a journey-metaphoric framing of a possible academic identity transferred confidence in the procedure, or action sequence, required to attain that possible identity, which in turn led participants to perceive that possible identity as more connected to their current identity (Study 4). Drawing on identity-based motivation theory, we hypothesized that strengthened current/possible identity connection would mediate the journey framing’s motivating effect. This mediational process predicted students’ academic engagement (Study 5) and an online sample’s engagement with possible identities in other domains (Study 6). Also as predicted, journey framing increased academic engagement particularly among students reporting a weak connection to their academic possible identity (Study 7). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Approach aversion: Negative hedonic reactions toward approaching stimuli.
    We live in a dynamic world, surrounded by moving stimuli—moving people, moving objects, and moving events. The current research proposes and finds an approach aversion effect—individuals feel less positively (or more negatively) about a stimulus if they perceive it to be approaching rather than receding or static. The effect appears general, occurring whether the stimulus is initially negative or nonnegative and whether it moves in space (toward or away from “here”), in time (toward or away from “now”), or in probability (toward or away from “sure”). This research complements extensive existing research on perceived static distance of stimuli (near vs. far) by exploring perceived dynamic movement of stimuli (approaching vs. receding), showing that the effect of movement is distinct from the effect of distance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Contemplating the ultimate sacrifice: Identity fusion channels pro-group affect, cognition, and moral decision making.
    Although most people acknowledge the moral virtue in sacrificing oneself to save others, few actually endorse self-sacrifice. Seven experiments explored the cognitive and emotional mechanisms that underlie such endorsements. Participants responded to 1 of 2 moral dilemmas in which they could save 5 members of their country only by sacrificing themselves. Over 90% of participants acknowledged that the moral course of action was to sacrifice oneself to save others (Experiment 1), yet only those who were strongly fused with the group preferentially endorsed self-sacrifice (Experiments 2–7). The presence of a concern with saving group members rather than the absence of a concern with self-preservation motivated strongly fused participants to endorse sacrificing themselves for the group (Experiment 3). Analyses of think aloud protocols suggested that saving others was motivated by emotional engagement with the group among strongly fused participants but by utilitarian concerns among weakly fused participants (Experiment 4). Hurrying participants’ responses increased self-sacrifice among strongly fused participants but decreased self-sacrifice among weakly fused participants (Experiment 5). Priming the personal self increased endorsement of self-sacrifice among strongly fused participants but further reduced endorsement of self-sacrifice among weakly fused participants (Experiment 6). Strongly fused participants ignored utilitarian considerations, but weakly fused persons endorsed self-sacrifice more when it would save more people (Experiment 7). Apparently, the emotional engagement with the group experienced by strongly fused persons overrides the desire for self-preservation and compels them to translate their moral beliefs into self-sacrificial behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Relational mate value: Consensus and uniqueness in romantic evaluations.
    Classic evolutionary and social exchange perspectives suggest that some people have more mate value than others because they possess desirable traits (e.g., attractiveness, status) that are intrinsic to the individual. This article broadens mate value in 2 ways to incorporate relational perspectives. First, close relationships research suggests an alternative measure of mate value: whether someone can provide a high quality relationship. Second, person perception research suggests that both trait-based and relationship quality measures of mate value should contain a mixture of target variance (i.e., consensus about targets, the classic conceptualization) and relationship variance (i.e., unique ratings of targets). In Study 1, participants described their personal conceptions of mate value and revealed themes consistent with classic and relational approaches. Study 2 used a social relations model blocked design to assess target and relationship variances in participants’ romantic evaluations of opposite-sex classmates at the beginning and end of the semester. In Study 3, a one-with-many design documented target and relationship variances among long-term opposite-sex acquaintances. Results generally revealed more relationship variance than target variance; participants’ romantic evaluations were more likely to be unique to a particular person rather than consensual. Furthermore, the relative dominance of relationship to target variance was stronger for relational measures of mate value (i.e., relationship quality projections) than classic trait-based measures (i.e., attractiveness, resources). Finally, consensus decreased as participants got to know one another better, and long-term acquaintances in Study 3 revealed enormous amounts of relationship variance. Implications for the evolutionary, close relationships, and person-perception literatures are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Responses to social exclusion in cultural context: Evidence from farming and herding communities.
    In a series of studies, we investigated the role of economic structures (farming vs. herding) and source of ostracism (close other vs. stranger) in social exclusion experiences. We first confirmed that herders rely on strangers to a greater extent than do farmers for economic success (validation study). Next, we verified that farmers and herders understand the concept of ostracism, and its emotional consequences, in similar ways (Study 1). The studies that followed provided converging evidence that cultural group membership shapes sensitivity and responses to social exclusion. Using different methodologies, in Studies 2 and 3, we showed that, whereas the psychological consequences of ostracism by close others are similar for farmers and herders, herders are more strongly affected by ostracism from strangers. The last two studies demonstrated that herders recommend more affiliative responses to ostracism by strangers than do farmers both to those involved in the ostracism event (Study 4) and to naïve individuals (Study 5). Moreover, Study 5 revealed that the amount of time spent with strangers mediated cultural group differences in the extent to which affiliative and aggressive actions are recommended following social exclusion by strangers. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the economic systems on which communities are based shape how their members interact with others and that this, in turn, can shape individuals’ responses to social exclusion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The devil is in the details: Abstract versus concrete construals of multiculturalism differentially impact intergroup relations.
    Three experiments integrated several theories in psychology and sociology to identify the conditions under which multiculturalism has positive versus negative effects on majority group members’ attitudes and behavioral intentions toward ethnic minorities. On the basis of social cognitive construal theories, we predicted and found that construing multiculturalism in abstract terms by highlighting its broad goals reduced White Americans’ prejudice toward ethnic minorities relative to a control condition, whereas construing multiculturalism in concrete terms by highlighting specific ways in which its goals can be achieved increased White Americans’ prejudice relative to the same control (Experiments 1 and 2). Using social identity threat research, we found that construing multiculturalism in abstract terms decreased the extent to which diversity was seen as threatening national identity, whereas construing it in concrete terms increased the extent to which diversity was seen as threatening national identity; threat in turn fueled prejudice (Experiments 2 and 3). Perceivers’ political orientation moderated the effects of multiculturalism construals on prejudicial attitudes and social distancing behavioral intentions (Experiment 3). Symbolic threat to national identity but not realistic threat to national resources mediated these effects. Collectively, these experiments demonstrate when multiculturalism leads to positive versus negative intergroup outcomes, why, and how political orientation shapes prejudice and behavioral intentions toward ethnic minorities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Moral actor, selfish agent.
    People are motivated to behave selfishly while appearing moral. This tension gives rise to 2 divergently motivated selves. The actor—the watched self—tends to be moral; the agent—the self as executor—tends to be selfish. Three studies present direct evidence of the actor’s and agent’s distinct motives. To recruit the self-as-actor, we asked people to rate the importance of various goals. To recruit the self-as-agent, we asked people to describe their goals verbally. In Study 1, actors claimed their goals were equally about helping the self and others (viz., moral); agents claimed their goals were primarily about helping the self (viz., selfish). This disparity was evident in both individualist and collectivist cultures, attesting to the universality of the selfish agent. Study 2 compared actors’ and agents’ motives to those of people role-playing highly prosocial or selfish exemplars. In content (Study 2a) and in the impressions they made on an outside observer (Study 2b), actors’ motives were similar to those of the prosocial role-players, whereas agents’ motives were similar to those of the selfish role-players. Study 3 accounted for the difference between the actor and agent: Participants claimed that their agent’s motives were the more realistic and that their actor’s motives were the more idealistic. The selfish agent/moral actor duality may account for why implicit and explicit measures of the same construct diverge, and why feeling watched brings out the better angels of human nature. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • To have or to learn? The effects of materialism on British and Chinese children’s learning.
    This article presents a systematic attempt to examine the associations of materialism with learning in 9- to 11-year-old children in 2 countries of similar economic development but different cultural heritage. Using cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental methods, we test a theoretically driven model of associations among materialism, learning motivations, and learning outcomes. Convergent findings suggest that a materialist orientation in elementary school children lowers intrinsic learning motivations, fosters extrinsic learning motivations, and leads to poorer learning outcomes. Materialism was linked directly to lower exam performance, and this link was mediated by lower mastery and heightened performance goals, with patterns not differing between British and Hong Kong Chinese children (Study 1). A follow-up showed that initial materialism predicted worse exam grades 1 year later, suggesting a detrimental long-term effect on Chinese children’s school performance (Study 2). We then tested relationships between materialism and learning experimentally, by priming a momentary (state) orientation toward materialism. Writing about material possessions and money affected Chinese children’s learning motivations, so that they endorsed lower mastery and higher performance goals (Study 3). A video-diary materialism prime had significant effects on actual learning behaviors, leading British children to (a) choose a performance-oriented learning task over a mastery-oriented task and (b) give up on the task more quickly (Study 4). This research has important implications for personality psychology, educational policy, and future research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • When sex goes wrong: A behavioral systems perspective on individual differences in sexual attitudes, motives, feelings, and behaviors.
    In the research program summarized here, we adopted a behavioral systems approach to explain individual differences in human sexual behavior. In the 1st stage, we developed the Sexual System Functioning Scale (SSFS)—a self-report instrument for assessing hyperactivation and deactivation of the sexual system. Sexual hyperactivation involves intense but anxious expressions of sexual desire, whereas sexual deactivation includes inhibition of sexual inclinations. In subsequent stages, we administered the SFSS to 18 samples to determine its structural, convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity as well as its nomological network. We found that SSFS deactivation and hyperactivation scores are meaningfully associated with existing measures of sexual attitudes, motives, feelings, and behaviors and with measures of personal and interpersonal well-being. Moreover, the scores predict cognitive, affective, physiological, and behavioral responses to sexual stimuli. Implications of our findings for understanding the potential of sex for both joy and distress are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Influences of gender identity on children’s maltreatment of gender-nonconforming peers: A person × target analysis of aggression.
    We investigated whether gender identity influences preadolescents’ tendency to single out gender-atypical peers for abuse. Data were gathered from 195 boys and girls (M age = 10.1 years) in the fall and spring of a school year. Children self-reported multiple dimensions of gender identity (intergroup bias, felt pressure for gender differentiation, felt gender typicality, gender contentedness); peers assessed each other’s social behavior (gender nonconformity, aggression toward each classmate). Using multilevel modeling, we examined how children’s attacks on gender-nonconforming peers (relative to their attacks on other peers) changed over the school year depending on their gender identity. There was modest support for the hypothesis that overconfident, arrogant gender identity promotes abuse of gender-atypical peers but considerable support for the hypothesis that insecure, self-questioning gender identity fosters this tendency. Implications for issues central to contemporary personality theory (e.g., Person × Situation interaction) are discussed. New and somewhat surprising information about the cognitive and behavioral characteristics of gender-nonconforming preadolescents is provided. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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