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

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General - Vol 145, Iss 9

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: Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:00:12 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2016 American Psychological Association

The elusive nature of the blocking effect: 15 failures to replicate.


With the discovery of the blocking effect, learning theory took a huge leap forward, because blocking provided a crucial clue that surprise is what drives learning. This in turn stimulated the development of novel association-formation theories of learning. Eventually, the ability to explain blocking became nothing short of a touchstone for the validity of any theory of learning, including propositional and other nonassociative theories. The abundance of publications reporting a blocking effect and the importance attributed to it suggest that it is a robust phenomenon. Yet, in the current article we report 15 failures to observe a blocking effect despite the use of procedures that are highly similar or identical to those used in published studies. Those failures raise doubts regarding the canonical nature of the blocking effect and call for a reevaluation of the central status of blocking in theories of learning. They may also illustrate how publication bias influences our perspective toward the robustness and reliability of seemingly established effects in the psychological literature. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Understanding the effect of social context on learning: A replication of Xu and Tenenbaum (2007b).


Does the source of a piece of data—the process by which it is sampled—influence the inferences that we draw from it? Xu and Tenenbaum (2007b) reported a large effect of sampling process on learning: When a category exemplar was presented by a knowledgeable teacher, learners generalized more narrowly than when it was presented from an unknowledgeable source. In 5 experiments, 4 online and 1 in-person, we attempted to replicate this result. Aggregating across our studies, we replicated the original finding of sensitivity to the sampling process, but with a smaller effect size than the original. We discuss these findings in the context of concerns about replicability more generally, as well as the practical relevance of sampling effects in psychological experiments. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Rats value time differently on equivalent foraging and delay-discounting tasks.


All organisms have to consider consequences that vary through time. Theories explaining how animals handle intertemporal choice include delay-discounting models, in which the value of future rewards is discounted by the delay until receipt, and foraging models, which predict that decision-makers maximize rate of reward. We measured the behavior of rats on a 2-option delay-discounting task and a stay/go foraging task that were equivalent for rate of reward and physical demand. Despite the highly shared features of the tasks, rats were willing to wait much longer on the foraging task than on the delay-discounting task. Moreover, choice performance by rats was less optimal in terms of total reward received on the foraging task compared to the delay-discounting task. We applied a suite of intertemporal choice models to the data but found that we needed a novel model incorporating interactions of decision-making systems to successfully explain behavior. Our findings (a) highlight the importance of factors that historically have been seen as irrelevant and (b) indicate the inadequacy of current general theories of intertemporal choice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The effects of genuine eye contact on visuospatial and selective attention.


We investigated performance in a visuospatial discrimination task and selective attention task (Stroop task) while a live person’s direct or averted gaze was presented as a task-irrelevant contextual stimulus. Based on previous research, we expected that response times to peripherally presented targets (Experiment 1) and to the Stroop stimuli (Experiment 2) would be longer in the context of direct versus averted gaze. Contrary to our expectations, the direct gaze context resulted in faster discrimination of visual targets and faster performance in the Stroop task compared with the averted gaze context. We propose that the observed results are explained by enhanced arousal elicited by genuine eye contact. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Subliminal evaluative conditioning? Above-chance CS identification may be necessary and insufficient for attitude learning.


Previous research has claimed that evaluative conditioning (EC) effects may obtain in the absence of perceptual identification of conditioned stimuli (CSs). A recent meta-analysis suggested similar effect sizes for supra- and subliminal CSs, but this was based on a small body of evidence (k = 8 studies; Hofmann, De Houwer, Perugini, Baeyens, & Crombez, 2010). We critically discuss this prior evidence, and then report and discuss 6 experimental studies that investigate EC effects for briefly presented CSs using more stringent methods. Across these studies, we varied CS duration, the presence or absence of masking, the presence or absence of a CS identification check, CS material, and the instructions communicated to participants. EC effects for longer-duration CSs were modulated by attention to the CS–US pairing. Across studies, we were consistently unable to obtain EC for briefly presented CSs. In most studies, this pattern was observed despite above-chance perceptual identification of the CSs. A meta-analysis conducted across the 27 experimental conditions supported the null hypothesis of no EC for perceptually unidentified CSs. We conclude that EC effects for briefly presented and masked CSs are either not robust, are very small, or are limited to specific conditions that remain to be identified (or any combination of these). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

“Just out of reach: On the reliability of the action-sentence compatibility effect”: Correction to Papesh (2015).


Reports an error in "Just out of reach: On the reliability of the action-sentence compatibility effect" by Megan H. Papesh (Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2015[Dec], Vol 144[6], e116-e141). In the article, the Procedure did not directly state that response options were not visible on the computer screen during Experiments 7 and 8. The first sentence of the Procedure for Experiment 7 should read, “Participants completed a modified button-press version of the experiment described in Experiment 4; unlike Experiment 4, Experiment 7 included no visible on-screen elements apart from the to-be-judged sentences, which came from Glenberg and Kaschak (2002).” (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2015-53127-006.) The action-sentence compatibility effect (ACE; Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002), a hallmark finding in Embodied Cognition, implicates the motor system in language comprehension. In the ACE, people process sentences implying movement toward or away from themselves, responding with actions toward or away from their bodies. These processes interact, implying a linkage between linguistic and motor systems. From a theoretical perspective, the ACE has been extremely influential, being widely cited evidence in favor of embodied cognition. The present study began as an attempt to extend the ACE in a new direction, but eventually became a series of attempts to simply replicate the effect. Across 8 experiments, I tested whether the ACE extends to a novel mouse-tracking method and/or is susceptible to higher-order cognitive influences. In 3 experiments, attempts were made to “disembody” the ACE by presenting participants’ names on the computer screen (as in Markman & Brendl, 2005). In each experiment, the ACE could not be disembodied, because the ACE did not occur. In further experiments, the ACE was not observed in reading times, regardless of response mode (mouse movements vs. button-presses) or stimuli, including those from the original research. Similarly, no ACE was observed in physical movement times. Bayes Factor analyses of the current experiments, and the previous ACE literature, suggest that the evidence for the ACE is generally weak: Many studies considered as positive evidence actually support the null hypothesis, and very few published results offer strong evidence for the ACE. Implications for the embodiment hypothesis are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Becoming stranger: When future selves join the out-group.


One of the most powerful rules of interpersonal behavior is that people are kinder to members of their in-groups than to members of their out-groups. Are people also kinder to their future selves when they expect them to remain members of their current in-groups rather than become members of their current out-groups? In 2 studies, participants in an emotionally charged debate expected either to remain on the same team or to join the opposing team when they returned the following week. Those who expected to join the opposing team were less willing to sacrifice for their future selves, leaving more of an unpleasant task for their future selves to finish and treating their future selves as unkindly as they treated a stranger. These results suggest that the rules that govern interpersonal behavior may also govern intertemporal behavior, and suggest new strategies to encourage prudent decisions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Strong genetic overlap between executive functions and intelligence.


Executive functions (EFs) are cognitive processes that control, monitor, and coordinate more basic cognitive processes. EFs play instrumental roles in models of complex reasoning, learning, and decision making, and individual differences in EFs have been consistently linked with individual differences in intelligence. By middle childhood, genetic factors account for a moderate proportion of the variance in intelligence, and these effects increase in magnitude through adolescence. Genetic influences on EFs are very high, even in middle childhood, but the extent to which these genetic influences overlap with those on intelligence is unclear. We examined genetic and environmental overlap between EFs and intelligence in a racially and socioeconomically diverse sample of 811 twins ages 7 to 15 years (M = 10.91, SD = 1.74) from the Texas Twin Project. A general EF factor representing variance common to inhibition, switching, working memory, and updating domains accounted for substantial proportions of variance in intelligence, primarily via a genetic pathway. General EF continued to have a strong, genetically mediated association with intelligence even after controlling for processing speed. Residual variation in general intelligence was influenced only by shared and nonshared environmental factors, and there remained no genetic variance in general intelligence that was unique of EF. Genetic variance independent of EF did remain, however, in a more specific perceptual reasoning ability. These results provide evidence that genetic influences on general intelligence are highly overlapping with those on EF. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The nature of semantic priming by subliminal spatial words: Embodied or disembodied?


Theories of embodied semantics (ES) suggest that a critical part of understanding what a word means consists of simulating the sensorimotor experience related to the word’s referent. Some proponents of ES have suggested that sensorimotor activations are mandatory and highly automatic during semantic processing. Evidence supporting this claim comes from masked priming studies showing that unconsciously perceived spatial words (e.g., up, down) can directly modulate action performance on the basis of their meaning. However, a closer look reveals that such priming effects can be explained also in terms of symbolic (disembodied) semantic priming or nonsemantic mechanisms. In this study we sought to understand whether sensorimotor processing takes place during language understanding outside awareness. We used spatial words as a test bed and across 6 experiments we teased apart the possibility that action priming could be explained by: (a) nonsemantic mechanisms, (b) symbolic semantic priming, or (c) embodied semantic priming. The critical finding is that when symbolic and nonsemantic mechanisms were prevented, allowing only for a genuinely embodied semantic priming, no effect was found. Conversely, facilitation emerged in the same experimental paradigm when embodied priming was prevented and symbolic priming was allowed. Despite extensive testing, we found no evidence that unconsciously perceived words can activate sensorimotor processes, although these words are processed up to the semantic level. We thus conclude that sensorimotor activations might need conscious access to emerge during language understanding. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Cumulative weighing of time in intertemporal tradeoffs.


We examine preferences for sequences of delayed monetary gains. In the experimental literature, two prominent models have been advanced as psychological descriptions of preferences for sequences. In one model, the instantaneous utilities of the outcomes in a sequence are discounted as a function of their delays, and assembled into a discounted utility of the sequence. In the other model, the accumulated utility of the outcomes in a sequence is considered along with utility or disutility from improvement in outcome utilities and utility or disutility from the spreading of outcome utilities. Drawing on three threads of evidence concerning preferences for sequences of monetary gains, we propose that the accumulated utility of the outcomes in a sequence is traded off against the duration of utility accumulation. In our first experiment, aggregate choice behavior provides qualitative support for the tradeoff model. In three subsequent experiments, one of which incentivized, disaggregate choice behavior provides quantitative support for the tradeoff model in Bayesian model contests. One thread of evidence motivating the tradeoff model is that, when, in the choice between two single dated outcomes, it is conveyed that receiving less sooner means receiving nothing later, preference for receiving more later increases, but when it is conveyed that receiving more later means receiving nothing sooner, preference is left unchanged. Our results show that this asymmetric hidden-zero effect is indeed driven by those supporting the tradeoff model. The tradeoff model also accommodates all remaining evidence on preferences for sequences of monetary gains. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Separate but correlated: The latent structure of space and mathematics across development.


The relations among various spatial and mathematics skills were assessed in a cross-sectional study of 854 children from kindergarten, third, and sixth grades (i.e., 5 to 13 years of age). Children completed a battery of spatial mathematics tests and their scores were submitted to exploratory factor analyses both within and across domains. In the within domain analyses, all of the measures formed single factors at each age, suggesting consistent, unitary structures across this age range. Yet, as in previous work, the 2 domains were highly correlated, both in terms of overall composite score and pairwise comparisons of individual tasks. When both spatial and mathematics scores were submitted to the same factor analysis, the 2 domain specific factors again emerged, but there also were significant cross-domain factor loadings that varied with age. Multivariate regressions replicated the factor analysis and further revealed that mental rotation was the best predictor of mathematical performance in kindergarten, and visual-spatial working memory was the best predictor of mathematical performance in sixth grade. The mathematical tasks that predicted the most variance in spatial skill were place value (K, 3rd, 6th), word problems (3rd, 6th), calculation (K), fraction concepts (3rd), and algebra (6th). Thus, although spatial skill and mathematics each have strong internal structures, they also share significant overlap, and have particularly strong cross-domain relations for certain tasks. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Structure at every scale: A semantic network account of the similarities between unrelated concepts.


Similarity plays an important role in organizing the semantic system. However, given that similarity cannot be defined on purely logical grounds, it is important to understand how people perceive similarities between different entities. Despite this, the vast majority of studies focus on measuring similarity between very closely related items. When considering concepts that are very weakly related, little is known. In this article, we present 4 experiments showing that there are reliable and systematic patterns in how people evaluate the similarities between very dissimilar entities. We present a semantic network account of these similarities showing that a spreading activation mechanism defined over a word association network naturally makes correct predictions about weak similarities, whereas, though simpler, models based on direct neighbors between word pairs derived using the same network cannot. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)