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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - Vol 107, Iss 3

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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
  • Evidence for the social role theory of stereotype content: Observations of groups’ roles shape stereotypes.
    In applying social role theory to account for the content of a wide range of stereotypes, this research tests the proposition that observations of groups’ roles determine stereotype content (Eagly & Wood, 2012). In a novel test of how stereotypes can develop from observations, preliminary research collected participants’ beliefs about the occupational roles (e.g., lawyer, teacher, fast food worker, chief executive officer, store clerk, manager) in which members of social groups (e.g., Black women, Hispanics, White men, the rich, senior citizens, high school dropouts) are overrepresented relative to their numbers in the general population. These beliefs about groups’ typical occupational roles proved to be generally accurate when evaluated in relation to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Then, correlational studies predicted participants’ stereotypes of social groups from the attributes ascribed to group members’ typical occupational roles (Studies 1a, 1b, and 1c), the behaviors associated with those roles (Study 2), and the occupational interest profile of the roles (Study 3). As predicted by social role theory, beliefs about the attributes of groups’ typical roles were strongly related to group stereotypes on both communion and agency/competence. In addition, an experimental study (Study 4) demonstrated that when social groups were described with changes to their typical social roles in the future, their projected stereotypes were more influenced by these future roles than by their current group stereotypes, thus supporting social role theory’s predictions about stereotype change. Discussion considers the implications of these findings for stereotype change and the relation of social role theory to other theories of stereotype content. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Selfish or selfless? On the signal value of emotion in altruistic behavior.
    Theories that reject the existence of altruism presume that emotional benefits serve as ulterior motives for doing good deeds. These theories argue that even in the absence of material and reputational benefits, individuals reap utility from the feelings associated with doing good. In response to this normative view of altruism, this article examines the descriptive question of whether laypeople penalize emotional prosocial actors. Six studies find that emotion serves as a positive signal of moral character, despite the intrapsychic benefits associated with it. This is true when emotion motivates prosocial behavior (Studies 1, 2, 3, and 5) and when emotion is a positive outcome of prosocial behavior (i.e., “warm glow”; Studies 4, 5, and 6). Emotional actors are considered to be moral because people believe emotion provides an honest and direct signal that the actor feels a genuine concern for others. Consequently, prosocial actors who are motivated by the expectation of emotional rewards are judged differently than prosocial actors who are motivated by other benefits, such as reputational or material rewards (Study 6). These results suggest that laypeople do not view altruism as incompatible with all benefits to the self. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Paying more when paying for others.
    Social behavior is heavily influenced by the perception of the behaviors of others. We considered how perceptions (and misperceptions) of kindness can increase generosity in economic transactions. We investigated how these perceptions can alter behavior in a novel real-life situation that pitted kindness against selfishness. That situation, consumer elective pricing, is defined by an economic transaction allowing people to purchase goods or services for any price (including zero). Field and lab experiments compared how people behave in 2 financially identical circumstances: pay-what-you-want (in which people are ostensibly paying for themselves) and pay-it-forward (in which people are ostensibly paying on behalf of someone else). In 4 field experiments, people paid more under pay-it-forward than pay-what-you-want (Studies 1–4). Four subsequent lab studies assessed whether the salience of others explains the increased payments (Study 5), whether ability to justify lowered payments (Study 6), and whether the manipulation was operating through changing the perceptions of others (Studies 7 and 8). When people rely on ambiguous perceptions, pay-it-forward leads to overestimating the kindness of others and a corresponding increase in personal payment. When those perceptions are replaced with explicit descriptive norms (i.e., others’ payment amounts), that effect is eliminated. Finally, subsequent studies confirmed that the effects were not driven by participant confusion (Studies 9A and 9B) and not limited by the specificity of the referent other in the pay-it-forward framing (Study 9C). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Religious magnanimity: Reminding people of their religious belief system reduces hostility after threat.
    The present research tested the hypothesis that many people’s ambient religious beliefs are non-hostile and magnanimous by assessing whether reminding people of their religious belief systems would reduce hostility after threat. Across religious affiliations, participants reported that their religious belief systems encourage magnanimous behavior. In addition, priming their religious belief systems caused them to act more magnanimously, but only when motivated to adhere to salient ideals (i.e., after threats; see Gailliot, Stillman, Schmeichel, Maner, & Plant, 2008; Jonas et al., 2008). Specifically, in Studies 1–5, we found that a general religious belief system prime (“Which religious belief system do you identify with?”) reduced the hostility of people’s thoughts, behaviors, and judgments following threat. In Studies 6 and 7, we found that the religious belief system prime only reduced hostile reactions to threat among participants who held religious beliefs that oriented them toward magnanimous ideals (Study 6) and who were dispositionally inclined to adhere to their ideals (Study 7). In Study 8, we found support for the role of magnanimous ideals by demonstrating that directly priming these ideals yielded effects similar to those produced by a religious belief system prime. These studies provide consistent evidence that, by invoking magnanimous ideals, a religious belief system prime promotes less hostile responses to threat. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The involuntary excluder effect: Those included by an excluder are seen as exclusive themselves.
    People are highly vigilant for and alarmed by social exclusion. Previous research has focused largely on the emotional and motivational consequences of being unambiguously excluded by others. The present research instead examines how people make sense of a more ambiguous dynamic, 1-person exclusion—situations in which one person (the excluder) excludes someone (the rejected) while including someone else (the included). Using different methodological paradigms, converging outcome measures, and complementary comparison standards, 5 studies present evidence of an involuntary excluder effect: Social perceivers are quick to see included persons as though they are excluders themselves. Included individuals are seen as belonging to an exclusive alliance with the excluder, as liking the excluder more than the rejected, and as likely to perpetuate future exclusion against the rejected. Behavioral evidence reinforced these findings: The included was approached with caution and suspicion. Notably, such perceptions of the included as an excluder were drawn by the rejected themselves and outside observers alike, did not reflect the attitudes and intentions of included persons or those who simulated 1-person exclusion from the vantage point of the included, applied specifically to the included (but not someone who simply witnessed the rejected’s rejection), and arose as a consequence of intentional acts of exclusion (and thus, not just because 2 individuals shared an exclusive experience). Consistencies with and contributions to literatures on balance theory, minimal groups, group entitativity, and the ostracism detection system literatures are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Addressing the empathy deficit: Beliefs about the malleability of empathy predict effortful responses when empathy is challenging.
    Empathy is often thought to occur automatically. Yet, empathy frequently breaks down when it is difficult or distressing to relate to people in need, suggesting that empathy is often not felt reflexively. Indeed, the United States as a whole is said to be displaying an empathy deficit. When and why does empathy break down, and what predicts whether people will exert effort to experience empathy in challenging contexts? Across 7 studies, we found that people who held a malleable mindset about empathy (believing empathy can be developed) expended greater empathic effort in challenging contexts than did people who held a fixed theory (believing empathy cannot be developed). Specifically, a malleable theory of empathy—whether measured or experimentally induced—promoted (a) more self-reported effort to feel empathy when it is challenging (Study 1); (b) more empathically effortful responses to a person with conflicting views on personally important sociopolitical issues (Studies 2–4); (c) more time spent listening to the emotional personal story of a racial outgroup member (Study 5); and (d) greater willingness to help cancer patients in effortful, face-to-face ways (Study 6). Study 7 revealed a possible reason for this greater empathic effort in challenging contexts: a stronger interest in improving one’s empathy. Together, these data suggest that people’s mindsets powerfully affect whether they exert effort to empathize when it is needed most, and these data may represent a point of leverage in increasing empathic behaviors on a broad scale. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The psychology of martyrdom: Making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of a cause.
    Martyrdom is defined as the psychological readiness to suffer and sacrifice one’s life for a cause. An integrative set of 8 studies investigated the concept of martyrdom by creating a new tool to quantitatively assess individuals’ propensity toward self-sacrifice. Studies 1A–1C consisted of psychometric work attesting to the scale’s unidimensionality, internal consistency, and temporal stability while examining its nomological network. Studies 2A–2B focused on the scale’s predictive validity, especially as it relates to extreme behaviors and suicidal terrorism. Studies 3–5 focused on the influence of self-sacrifice on automatic decision making, costly and altruistic behaviors, and morality judgments. Results involving more than 2,900 participants from different populations, including a terrorist sample, supported the proposed conceptualization of martyrdom and demonstrated its importance for a vast repertoire of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral phenomena. Implications and future directions for the psychology of terrorism are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • You are so me: Seeing beyond biases and achieving accuracy in romantic relationships.
    Do romantic partners see each other realistically, or do they have overly positive perceptions of each other? Research has shown that realism and positivity co-exist in romantic partners’ perceptions (Boyes & Fletcher, 2007). The current study takes a novel approach to explaining this seemingly paradoxical effect when it comes to physical attractiveness—a highly evaluative trait that is especially relevant to romantic relationships. Specifically, we argue that people are aware that others do not see their partners as positively as they do. Using both mean differences and correlational approaches, we test the hypothesis that despite their own biased and idiosyncratic perceptions, people have 2 types of partner-knowledge: insight into how their partners see themselves (i.e., identity accuracy) and insight into how others see their partners (i.e., reputation accuracy). Our results suggest that romantic partners have some awareness of each other’s identity and reputation for physical attractiveness, supporting theories that couple members’ perceptions are driven by motives to fulfill both esteem- and epistemic-related needs (i.e., to see their partners positively and realistically). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Personality and prosocial behavior: Linking basic traits and social value orientations.
    Concerning the dispositional determinants of prosocial behavior and cooperation, work based on the classic 5 personality factors, and especially Agreeableness, has turned out somewhat inconsistent. A clearer picture has emerged from consideration of the HEXACO model of personality—though supported entirely by hypothetical behavior as criterion, so far. Thus, in 2 studies and a reanalysis, we investigated “actual behavior” in the form of individually and socially consequential distribution decisions. As expected, HEXACO Honesty-Humility consistently predicted prosocial behavior, including a theory-consistent pattern on the facet level. Importantly, this pattern might explain why five-factor Agreeableness has only sometimes been found to account for prosocial behavior. Indeed, further results indicate that five-factor Agreeableness comprises some aspects that are predictive of prosocial behavior—aspects well covered by HEXACO Honesty-Humility—but also others that play no role for this criterion. As such, the links between five-factor Agreeableness and prosocial behavior are well-covered by HEXACO Honesty-Humility, but not vice versa. Taken together, these findings hint that especially HEXACO Honesty-Humility (and certain aspects of five-factor Agreeableness) account for prosocial behavior—thus explaining previous inconsistencies and providing a more nuanced understanding of the links between basic personality and prosocial or cooperative behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • On the consistency of personality types across adulthood: Latent profile analyses in two large-scale panel studies.
    Consistency and change in personality were analyzed by examining personality types across adulthood and old age using data from 2 nationally representative panel studies from Germany (N = 14,718; 16–82 years) and Australia (N = 8,315; 15–79 years). In both samples, the Big Five personality traits were measured twice across a period of 4 years. Latent profile analyses and latent profile transition analyses revealed 4 main findings: First, solutions with 3 (in the German sample) or 4 (in the Australian sample) personality types were found to be most interpretable. Second, measurement invariance tests revealed that these personality types were consistent across all age groups but differed slightly between men and women. Third, age was related to the number of individuals classified within each personality type. Namely, there were more resilients and fewer undercontrollers in older compared with younger age groups. Fourth, there was strong consistency of personality type membership across a period of 4 years in both genders and most age cohorts. Comparatively less consistency across time was found for undercontrollers and individuals in old age. Taken together, these findings show that in the 2 nations studied here, personality types were highly consistent across gender, age, and time. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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