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Preview: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General - Vol 138, Iss 4

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General - Vol 146, Iss 7

The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General publishes articles describing empirical work that bridges the traditional interests of two or more communities of psychology.

Last Build Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2017 16:00:10 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

The Whorfian time warp: Representing duration through the language hourglass.


How do humans construct their mental representations of the passage of time? The universalist account claims that abstract concepts like time are universal across humans. In contrast, the linguistic relativity hypothesis holds that speakers of different languages represent duration differently. The precise impact of language on duration representation is, however, unknown. Here, we show that language can have a powerful role in transforming humans’ psychophysical experience of time. Contrary to the universalist account, we found language-specific interference in a duration reproduction task, where stimulus duration conflicted with its physical growth. When reproducing duration, Swedish speakers were misled by stimulus length, and Spanish speakers were misled by stimulus size/quantity. These patterns conform to preferred expressions of duration magnitude in these languages (Swedish: long/short time; Spanish: much/small time). Critically, Spanish-Swedish bilinguals performing the task in both languages showed different interference depending on language context. Such shifting behavior within the same individual reveals hitherto undocumented levels of flexibility in time representation. Finally, contrary to the linguistic relativity hypothesis, language interference was confined to difficult discriminations (i.e., when stimuli varied only subtly in duration and growth), and was eliminated when linguistic cues were removed from the task. These results reveal the malleable nature of human time representation as part of a highly adaptive information processing system. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Hand position alters vision by modulating the time course of spatial frequency use.


The nervous system gives preferential treatment to objects near the hands that are candidates for action. It is not yet understood how this process is achieved. Here we show evidence for the mechanism that underlies this process having used an experimental technique that maps the use of spatial frequencies (SFs) during object recognition across time. We used this technique to replicate and characterize with greater precision the coarse-to-fine SF sampling observed in previous studies. Then we show that the visual processing of real-world objects near an observer’s hands is biased toward the use of low-SF information, around 288 ms. Conversely, high-SF information presented around 113 ms impaired object recognition when objects were presented near the hands. Notably, both of these effects happened relatively late during object recognition and suggest that the modulation of SF use by hand position is at least partly attentional in nature. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Dissociating affective and semantic valence.


We examined the possible dissociation between two modes of valence: affective valence (valence of e emotional response) and semantic valence (stored knowledge about valence of an object or event). In Experiment 1, 50 participants viewed affective pictures that were repeatedly presented while their facial electromyography (EMG) activation and heart rate response were continuously recorded. Half of the participants provided self-report ratings about the valence of their feelings and half about the valence of the stimulus. Next, all participants performed an affective Simon task. In Experiment 2, 30 new participants performed the affective Simon task with the repeated exposure embedded within the task. The results showed that measures related to affective valence (feelings-focused self-reports, heart rate, and facial EMG activations) attenuated with repeated exposure to pleasant and unpleasant pictures, whereas measures related to semantic valence (knowledge-focused self-reports and congruency effect of affective Simon task) did not. These findings strongly suggest that affective and semantic valence represent two distinct psychological constructs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Word and face processing engage overlapping distributed networks: Evidence from RSVP and EEG investigations.


Words and faces have vastly different visual properties, but increasing evidence suggests that word and face processing engage overlapping distributed networks. For instance, fMRI studies have shown overlapping activity for face and word processing in the fusiform gyrus despite well-characterized lateralization of these objects to the left and right hemispheres, respectively. To investigate whether face and word perception influences perception of the other stimulus class and elucidate the mechanisms underlying such interactions, we presented images using rapid serial visual presentations. Across 3 experiments, participants discriminated 2 face, word, and glasses targets (T1 and T2) embedded in a stream of images. As expected, T2 discrimination was impaired when it followed T1 by 200 to 300 ms relative to longer intertarget lags, the so-called attentional blink. Interestingly, T2 discrimination accuracy was significantly reduced at short intertarget lags when a face was followed by a word (face–word) compared with glasses–word and word–word combinations, indicating that face processing interfered with word perception. The reverse effect was not observed; that is, word–face performance was no different than the other object combinations. EEG results indicated the left N170 to T1 was correlated with the word decrement for face–word trials, but not for other object combinations. Taken together, the results suggest face processing interferes with word processing, providing evidence for overlapping neural mechanisms of these 2 object types. Furthermore, asymmetrical face–word interference points to greater overlap of face and word representations in the left than the right hemisphere. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Social rejection magnifies impulsive behavior among individuals with greater negative urgency: An experimental test of urgency theory.


Impulsivity is a multifaceted trait with substantial implications for human well-being. One facet of impulsivity is negative urgency, the tendency to act impulsively in response to negative affect. Correlational evidence suggests that negative affect magnifies impulsive behavior among individuals with greater negative urgency, yet causal evidence for this core pillar of urgency theory is lacking. To fill this gap in the literature, participants (N = 363) were randomly assigned to experience social rejection (a situation shown to induce negative affect) or acceptance. Participants then reported their subjective negative affect, completed a behavioral measure of impulsivity, and reported their negative urgency. Among individuals with relatively high and average negative urgency, social rejection increased their impulsive behavior through greater experiences of negative affect. These indirect effects were not observed among individuals relatively low in negative urgency. These findings suggest that negative urgency exists at the nexus of urgent dispositions and situations that elicit negative affect, which offers novel support for urgency theory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The rational status of quantum cognition.


Classic probability theory (CPT) is generally considered the rational way to make inferences, but there have been some empirical findings showing a divergence between reasoning and the principles of classical probability theory (CPT), inviting the conclusion that humans are irrational. Perhaps the most famous of these findings is the conjunction fallacy (CF). Recently, the CF has been shown consistent with the principles of an alternative probabilistic framework, quantum probability theory (QPT). Does this imply that QPT is irrational or does QPT provide an alternative interpretation of rationality? Our presentation consists of 3 parts. First, we examine the putative rational status of QPT using the same argument as used to establish the rationality of CPT, the Dutch Book (DB) argument, according to which reasoners should not commit to bets guaranteeing a loss. We prove the rational status of QPT by formulating it as a particular case of an extended form of CPT, with separate probability spaces produced by changing context. Second, we empirically examine the key requirement for whether a CF can be rational or not; the results show that participants indeed behave rationally, at least relative to the representations they employ. Finally, we consider whether the conditions for the CF to be rational are applicable in the outside (nonmental) world. Our discussion provides a general and alternative perspective for rational probabilistic inference, based on the idea that contextuality requires either reasoning in separate CPT probability spaces or reasoning with QPT principles. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Examining depletion theories under conditions of within-task transfer.


In everyday life, mental fatigue can be detrimental across many domains including driving, learning, and working. Given the importance of understanding and accounting for the deleterious effects of mental fatigue on behavior, a growing body of literature has studied the role of motivational and executive control processes in mental fatigue. In typical laboratory paradigms, participants complete a task that places demand on these self-control processes and are later given a subsequent task. Generally speaking, decrements to subsequent task performance are taken as evidence that the initial task created mental fatigue through the continued engagement of motivational and executive functions. Several models have been developed to account for negative transfer resulting from this “ego depletion.” In the current study, we provide a brief literature review, specify current theoretical approaches to ego-depletion, and report an empirical test of current models of depletion. Across 4 experiments we found minimal evidence for executive control depletion along with strong evidence for motivation mediated ego depletion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Functional consequences of compositional spatial representations elicited during conceptual control of visual spatial attention.


Reference frames are ubiquitous in spatial cognition, and they have been especially important in the visual attention literature. Researchers typically invoke these constructs to explain how the same physical location can be defined in different ways depending on changes in the reference point. However, when researchers invoke reference frames for this purpose, they also tend to invoke a construct—the Cartesian coordinate system—that has a specific compositional structure. This conclusion may not be warranted though because reference frames can be used to define a location without being compositional in nature. The present study used an attention cuing paradigm to examine the potential consequences of encoding spatial locations within compositional (coordinate) spatial representations. Experiment 1 used 75% valid, compositional cues that conveyed separate information about the likely direction and distance of the target. The main results were consistent with the notion that a Cartesian coordinate reference system was used to interpret these cues which in turn elicited a compositional gradient that reflected the combined activation arising from the separate spatial dimensions. Experiment 2 ruled out an alternative account and Experiment’s 3 and 4 examined the dynamic nature of these gradients over time. These findings were interpreted within a theory of conceptual control that distinguished between conceptual and perceptual representations of space. Conceptual representations are compositional and can be used to guide attention from one object to another. But conceptual representations depend on noncompositional, perceptual representations to bind the activations arising from their separate spatial dimensions, much like nonspatial feature dimensions do. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Lying because we care: Compassion increases prosocial lying.


Prosocial lies, or lies intended to benefit others, are ubiquitous behaviors that have important social and economic consequences. Though emotions play a central role in many forms of prosocial behavior, no work has investigated how emotions influence behavior when one has the opportunity to tell a prosocial lie—a situation that presents a conflict between two prosocial ethics: lying to prevent harm to another, and honesty, which might also provide benefits to the target of the lie. Here, we examine whether the emotion of compassion influences prosocial lying, and find that compassion causally increases and positively predicts prosocial lying. In Studies 1 and 2, participants evaluated a poorly written essay and provided feedback to the essay writer. Experimentally induced compassion felt toward the essay writer (Study 1) and individual differences in trait compassion (Study 2) were positively associated with inflated feedback to the essay writer. In both of these studies, the relationship between compassion and prosocial lying was partially mediated by an enhanced importance placed on preventing emotional harm. In Study 3, we found moderation such that experimentally induced compassion increased lies that resulted in financial gains for a charity, but not lies that produced financial gains for the self. This research illuminates the emotional underpinnings of the common yet morally complex behavior of prosocial lying, and builds on work highlighting the potentially harmful effects of compassion—an emotion typically seen as socially beneficial. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Affect contagion between mothers and infants: Examining valence and touch.


Mothers and their babies represent one of the closest dyadic units and thus provide a powerful paradigm to examine how affective states are shared, and result in, synchronized physiologic responses between two people. We recruited mothers and their 12- to 14-month-old infants (Ndyads = 98) to complete a lab study in which mothers were initially separated from their infants and assigned to either a low-arousal positive/relaxation condition, intended to elicit parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) reactivity, or a high-arousal negative/stress task, intended to elicit sympathetic nervous system (SNS) reactivity. Upon reunion, infants were placed either on their mothers’ laps (touch condition) or in a high chair next to the mother (no-touch condition). We then examined if the babies SNS and/or PNS responses changed from their baseline levels and how the dyads’ physiological responses—both PNS and SNS responses—synchronized over time as a function of mothers’ affect manipulation and touch condition. Three noteworthy findings were observed. First, infants of mothers assigned to the relaxation task showed greater PNS increases and PNS covariation. Second, infants of mothers assigned to the stress task showed stronger SNS covariation with their mothers over time. Finally, infants who sat on their mothers’ laps (i.e., touch condition) showed stronger SNS covariation than those in the no-touch condition. Taken together, these results suggest that mothers’ affective states—low-arousal positive states as well as high-arousal negative states—can be “caught” by their infants, and that touch can play a critical role in stress contagion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Argumentation and the diffusion of counter-intuitive beliefs.


Research in cultural evolution has focused on the spread of intuitive or minimally counterintuitive beliefs. However, some very counterintuitive beliefs can also spread successfully, at least in some communities—scientific theories being the most prominent example. We suggest that argumentation could be an important factor in the spread of some very counterintuitive beliefs. A first experiment demonstrates that argumentation enables the spread of the counterintuitive answer to a reasoning problem in large discussion groups, whereas this spread is limited or absent when participants can show their answers to each other but cannot discuss. A series of experiments using the technique of repeated transmission show that, in the case of the counterintuitive belief studied: (a) arguments can help spread this belief without loss; (b) conformist bias does not help spread this belief; and (c) authority or prestige bias play a minimal role in helping spread this belief. Thus, argumentation seems to be necessary and sufficient for the spread of some counterintuitive beliefs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)