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Journal of Experimental Psychology: General - Vol 146, Iss 4

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: General The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General publishes articles describing empirical work that bridges the traditional interests of two or more communities of psychology.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Facial gender interferes with decisions about facial expressions of anger and happiness.
    The confounded signal hypothesis maintains that facial expressions of anger and happiness, in order to more efficiently communicate threat or nurturance, evolved forms that take advantage of older gender recognition systems, which were already attuned to similar affordances. Two unexplored consequences of this hypothesis are (1) facial gender should automatically interfere with discriminations of anger and happiness, and (2) controlled attentional processes (like working memory) may be able to override the interference of these particular expressions on gender discrimination. These issues were explored by administering a Garner interference task along with a working memory task as an index of controlled attention. Results show that those with good attentional control were able to eliminate interference of expression on gender decisions but not the interference of gender on expression decisions. Trials in which the stimulus attributes were systematically correlated also revealed strategic facilitation for participants high in attentional control. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The malleability of emotional perception: Short-term plasticity in retinotopic neurons accompanies the formation of perceptual biases to threat.
    Emotional experience changes visual perception, leading to the prioritization of sensory information associated with threats and opportunities. These emotional biases have been extensively studied by basic and clinical scientists, but their underlying mechanism is not known. The present study combined measures of brain-electric activity and autonomic physiology to establish how threat biases emerge in human observers. Participants viewed stimuli designed to differentially challenge known properties of different neuronal populations along the visual pathway: location, eye, and orientation specificity. Biases were induced using aversive conditioning with only 1 combination of eye, orientation, and location predicting a noxious loud noise and replicated in a separate group of participants. Selective heart rate–orienting responses for the conditioned threat stimulus indicated bias formation. Retinotopic visual brain responses were persistently and selectively enhanced after massive aversive learning for only the threat stimulus and dissipated after extinction training. These changes were location-, eye-, and orientation-specific, supporting the hypothesis that short-term plasticity in primary visual neurons mediates the formation of perceptual biases to threat. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Do unto others: How cognitive fusion shapes the transmission of moral behavior.
    Moral transmission is the concept that moral behaviors can be contagious, spreading from person to person like a pathogen of social influence. We investigated how cognitive fusion—a transdiagnostic vulnerability to diverse mental health problems—influences moral transmission across 3 studies (N = 891) using real behavioral outcomes, including economic game decisions and donations to charity. The findings suggest that cognitively fused individuals are more susceptible to moral transmission because (a) they are more likely to pay forward or pay back moral behavior, and (b) they are more likely to engage in compensatory moral behavior. In fact, (c) our analyses revealed a more direct association between these 2 psychological processes, supporting our argument that moral transmission can integrate a variety of seemingly discrete social phenomena. As predicted, participants with more depression and anxiety symptoms revealed patterns of behavior similar to those high in cognitive fusion. Implications for research in both social and clinical psychology are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Fairness overrides group bias in children’s second-party punishment.
    Adults and children show ingroup favoritism in their 3rd-party punishment of cooperative norm violations, suggesting that group loyalty importantly shapes enforcement of cooperation. Ingroup favoritism additionally influences punishment of unfairness in the 2-party ultimatum game, in which people are directly affected by unfair behavior. However, the directionality of this relationship is unclear: In some cases, people are more forgiving of ingroup unfairness, whereas in others they are less forgiving. Here we aim to disambiguate this relationship by studying its origins in development, asking whether ingroup favoritism influences children’s offers to others and whether it affects their responses to being treated unfairly. Six- to 10-year-olds played a group-based ultimatum game after being assigned to minimal groups and made proposals to—and responded to offers from—members of their in- and outgroups. We tested children’s real bargaining behavior in the absence of deception. Results showed that, regardless of group membership, children’s primary concern lay with fairness: Participants regularly offered equal splits and were more likely to reject unfair offers than fair offers. Consistent with past work, older children made more generous proposals than did younger children. Although our group manipulation successfully induced ingroup bias in participants, neither children’s proposals nor responses were influenced by group membership. This suggests that second-party punishment of fairness norm violations is unbiased early in development and points to the potentially important role of experience with different groups in shaping later emerging bias in norm enforcement. We discuss implications for theories regarding when and to what extent group bias influences cooperation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Revisiting the “enigma” of musicians with dyslexia: Auditory sequencing and speech abilities.
    Previous research has suggested a link between musical training and auditory processing skills. Musicians have shown enhanced perception of auditory features critical to both music and speech, suggesting that this link extends beyond basic auditory processing. It remains unclear to what extent musicians who also have dyslexia show these specialized abilities, considering often-observed persistent deficits that coincide with reading impairments. The present study evaluated auditory sequencing and speech discrimination in 52 adults comprised of musicians with dyslexia, nonmusicians with dyslexia, and typical musicians. An auditory sequencing task measuring perceptual acuity for tone sequences of increasing length was administered. Furthermore, subjects were asked to discriminate synthesized syllable continua varying in acoustic components of speech necessary for intraphonemic discrimination, which included spectral (formant frequency) and temporal (voice onset time [VOT] and amplitude envelope) features. Results indicate that musicians with dyslexia did not significantly differ from typical musicians and performed better than nonmusicians with dyslexia for auditory sequencing as well as discrimination of spectral and VOT cues within syllable continua. However, typical musicians demonstrated superior performance relative to both groups with dyslexia for discrimination of syllables varying in amplitude information. These findings suggest a distinct profile of speech processing abilities in musicians with dyslexia, with specific weaknesses in discerning amplitude cues within speech. Because these difficulties seem to remain persistent in adults with dyslexia despite musical training, this study only partly supports the potential for musical training to enhance the auditory processing skills known to be crucial for literacy in individuals with dyslexia. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The “common good” phenomenon: Why similarities are positive and differences are negative.
    Positive attributes are more prevalent than negative attributes in the social environment. From this basic assumption, 2 implications that have been overlooked thus far: Positive compared with negative attributes are more likely to be shared by individuals, and people’s shared attributes (similarities) are more positive than their unshared attributes (differences). Consequently, similarity-based comparisons should lead to more positive evaluations than difference-based comparisons. We formalized our probabilistic reasoning in a model and tested its predictions in a simulation and 8 experiments (N = 1,181). When participants generated traits about 2 target persons, positive compared with negative traits were more likely to be shared by the targets (Experiment 1a) and by other participants’ targets (Experiment 1b). Conversely, searching for targets’ shared traits resulted in more positive traits than searching for unshared traits (Experiments 2, 4a, and 4b). In addition, positive traits were more accessible than negative traits among shared traits but not among unshared traits (Experiment 3). Finally, shared traits were only more positive when positive traits were indeed prevalent (Experiments 5 and 6). The current framework has a number of implications for comparison processes and provides a new interpretation of well-known evaluative asymmetries such as intergroup bias and self-superiority effects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Measuring and filtering reactive inhibition is essential for assessing serial decision making and learning.
    Learning complex structures from stimuli requires extended exposure and often repeated observation of the same stimuli. Learning induces stimulus-dependent changes in specific performance measures. The same performance measures, however, can also be affected by processes that arise because of extended training (e.g., fatigue) but are otherwise independent from learning. Thus, a thorough assessment of the properties of learning can only be achieved by identifying and accounting for the effects of such processes. Reactive inhibition is a process that modulates behavioral performance measures on a wide range of time scales and often has opposite effects than learning. Here we develop a tool to disentangle the effects of reactive inhibition from learning in the context of an implicit learning task, the alternating serial reaction time (ASRT) task. Our method highlights that the magnitude of the effect of reactive inhibition on measured performance is larger than that of the acquisition of statistical structure from stimuli. We show that the effect of reactive inhibition can be identified not only in population measures but also at the level of performance of individuals, revealing varying degrees of contribution of reactive inhibition. Finally, we demonstrate that a higher proportion of behavioral variance can be explained by learning once the effects of reactive inhibition are eliminated. These results demonstrate that reactive inhibition has a fundamental effect on the behavioral performance that can be identified in individual participants and can be separated from other cognitive processes like learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Role of accentuation in the selection/rejection task framing effect.
    Procedure invariance is a basic assumption of rational theories of choice, however, it has been shown to be violated: Different response modes, or task frames, sometimes reveal opposite preferences. The current study focused on selection and rejection task frames, involving a unique type of problem with enriched and impoverished options, which has previously led to conflicting findings and theoretical explanations: the compatibility hypothesis (Shafir, 1993) and the accentuation hypothesis (Wedell, 1997). We examined the role of task frame by distinguishing these 2 hypotheses and evaluating the information-processing basis of the choices. Experiments conducted online (Experiments 1 and 3) and in-lab (Experiment 4 with eye-tracking technique) revealed a difference between the 2 task frames in the choice data (i.e., the task-framing effect) as a function of the relative attractiveness of the options. Also, this task-framing effect was not influenced by imposed time constraints (Experiments 5 and 6) and was similarly evident with a more direct measure for the option attractiveness (obtained in Experiment 7). Experiment 2, conducted in a lab setting with verbal-protocol requirements, yielded no task-framing effect, suggesting that a requirement to verbalize reasons for choice minimizes accentuation. With this exception, the choice data are in agreement with the accentuation hypothesis, and the combined findings in choice, decision time, task confusion, and eye-tracking data provide evidence of a basis in cognitive effort rather than motivation, as Wedell proposed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Pupil dilation patterns spontaneously synchronize across individuals during shared attention.
    Human social behavior relies on the coupling of minds. Here we show that patterns of pupil dilations reveal mental coupling between speakers and listeners. Speakers were videotaped and eye-tracked as they discussed positive and negative autobiographical memories. An independent group of listeners were then eye-tracked while they watched these videos. As pupillary dilations reflect the dynamics of conscious attention, we computed the morphological similarity of speaker-listener pupillary time-series data as a metric of shared attention. The emotional salience of each narrative was also assessed, dynamically, by independent raters. Collective pupillary synchrony between speakers and listeners was greatest during the emotional peaks of a narrative, and decreased as narratives became less engaging. Individual differences in speaker expressivity and listener empathy revealed greatest synchrony in high expressive-high empathic dyads. Together, these findings suggest that pupillary synchrony is an implicit corollary of shared attention that can be used to track mental coupling in real time. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Adding up to good Bayesian reasoning: Problem format manipulations and individual skill differences.
    Bayesian reasoning is ubiquitous in everyday life. However, how people perform in formal Bayesian reasoning tasks depends on both how the task is presented and individual differences in general ability. Different theoretical views predict that these individual difference factors should either interact with, or be independent of, presentation formats. This research first established changes in reasoning performance across different presentation formats (information presented either in natural frequencies or in percentages and either with pictorial aids or with no pictures). Concurrently, participants were assessed for their general level of numerical literacy and level of spatial ability. Multiple analyses indicate that the contributions of numerical literacy and spatial ability to Bayesian reasoning success were largely independent of the presentation of the tasks (numerical format and picture presence). These findings are shown in a subsequent experiment to hold, broadly, across 4 different assessments of numerical literacy and 4 different assessments of spatial ability. This result is most consistent with an ecological rationality view of statistical reasoning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Embodiment as procedures: Physical cleansing changes goal priming effects.
    Physical cleansing reduces the influence of numerous psychological experiences, such as guilt from immoral behavior, dissonance from free choice, and good/bad luck from winning/losing. How do these domain-general effects occur? We propose an integrative account of cleansing as an embodied procedure of psychological separation. By separating physical traces from a physical target object (e.g., detaching dirt from hands), cleansing serves as the embodied grounding for the separation of psychological traces from a psychological target object (e.g., dissociating prior experience from the present self). This account predicts that cleansing reduces the accessibility of psychological traces and their consequences for judgments and behaviors. Testing these in the context of goal priming, we find that wiping one’s hands (vs. not) decreases the mental accessibility (Experiment 1), behavioral expression (Experiment 2), and judged importance (Experiments 3–4) of previously primed goals (e.g., achievement, saving, fitness). But if a goal is primed after cleansing, its importance gets amplified instead (Experiment 3). Based on the logic of moderation-of-process, an alternative manipulation that psychologically separates a primed goal from the present self produces the same effects, but critically, the effects vanish once people wipe their hands clean (Experiment 4), consistent with the notion that cleansing functions as an embodied procedure of psychological separation. These findings have implications for the flexibility of goal pursuit. More broadly, our procedural perspective generates novel predictions about the scope and mechanisms of cleansing effects and may help integrate embodied and related phenomena. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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