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

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General - Vol 146, Iss 3

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, 29 Mar 2017 11:00:12 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

Know thy enemy: Education about terrorism improves social attitudes toward terrorists.


Hatred of terrorists is an obstacle to the implementation of effective counterterrorism policies—it invites indiscriminate retaliation, whereas many of the greatest successes in counterterrorism have come from understanding terrorists’ personal and political motivations. Drawing from psychological research, traditional prejudice reduction strategies are generally not well suited to the task of reducing hatred of terrorists. Instead, in 2 studies, we explored education’s potential ability to reduce extreme negative attitudes toward terrorists. Study 1 compared students in a college course on terrorism (treatment) with wait-listed students, measuring prosocial attitudes toward a hypothetical terrorist. Initially, all students reported extremely negative attitudes; however, at the end of the semester, treatment students’ attitudes were significantly improved. Study 2 replicated the effect within a sample of treatment and control classes drawn from universities across the United States. The present work was part of an ongoing research project, focusing on foreign policy and the perceived threat of terrorism; thus classes did not explicitly aim to reduce prejudice, making the effect of treatment somewhat surprising. One possibility is that learning about terrorists “crowds out” the initial pejorative associations—that is, the label terrorism may ultimately call more information to mind, diluting its initial negative associative links. Alternatively, students may learn to challenge how the label terrorist is being applied. In either case, learning about terrorism can decrease the extreme negative reactions it evokes, which is desirable if one wishes to implement effective counterterrorism policies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Statistical learning of parts and wholes: A neural network approach.


Statistical learning is often considered to be a means of discovering the units of perception, such as words and objects, and representing them as explicit “chunks.” However, entities are not undifferentiated wholes but often contain parts that contribute systematically to their meanings. Studies of incidental auditory or visual statistical learning suggest that, as participants learn about wholes they become insensitive to parts embedded within them, but this seems difficult to reconcile with a broad range of findings in which parts and wholes work together to contribute to behavior. Bayesian approaches provide a principled description of how parts and wholes can contribute simultaneously to performance, but are generally not intended to model the computations that actually give rise to this performance. In the current work, we develop an account based on learning in artificial neural networks in which the representation of parts and wholes is a matter of degree, and the extent to which they cooperate or compete arises naturally through incidental learning. We show that the approach accounts for a wide range of findings concerning the relationship between parts and wholes in auditory and visual statistical learning, including some findings previously thought to be problematic for neural network approaches. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

A linguistic signature of psychological distancing in emotion regulation.


Effective emotion regulation is critical for mental health and well-being, rendering insight into underlying mechanisms that facilitate this crucial skill invaluable. We combined principles of cognitive linguistics and basic affective science to test whether shifting components of one’s language might foster effective emotion regulation. In particular, we explored bidirectional relations between emotion regulation and linguistic signatures of psychological distancing. In Study 1, we assessed whether people spontaneously distance their language (i.e., shift their word use to be less socially and temporally proximate) when regulating emotions. Participants transcribed their thoughts while either passively viewing or actively regulating their emotional responses to negative images. Regulation increased linguistic markers of social and temporal distance, and participants who showed greater linguistic distancing were more successful regulators. Study 2 reversed this relation and investigated whether distancing one’s language spontaneously regulated one’s emotions. Participants wrote about negative images either using psychologically “close” or “distant” language in physical, social, and temporal domains. All 3 domains of linguistic distancing spontaneously reduced negative affect. Distancing language also “bled” across domains (e.g., temporal distancing spontaneously produced social distancing). This suggests that distancing one’s language in 1 domain (e.g., reducing use of present-tense verbs) produces shifts in deep representations of psychological distance that are measurable across domains (e.g., reduced use of the word “I”). Results extend understanding of language-emotion interactions and reveal novel strategies for reducing negative affect. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Are you early or late?: Temporal error monitoring.


Temporal judgments regarding a target interval typically produce a nearly normally distributed reproduction times centered on the target with substantial variance. This phenomenon indicates that the majority of our temporal judgments are deviations from the target times, which are assumed to originate from the underlying timing uncertainty. Although humans were found to adapt their decisions in response to timing uncertainty, we do not know if they can accurately judge the direction and degree of their temporal errors. In this study, we asked participants to reproduce durations as accurately as possible. After each reproduction, participants were asked to retrospectively rate their confidence in their temporal estimates and to judge if their response time was earlier or later than the target interval. The results revealed that human participants are aware of both the direction and magnitude of their timing errors, pointing at an informationally rich temporal error monitoring ability. We further show that a sequential diffusion process can account for the detection of direction of errors as well as the qualitative features of the relationship of objective temporal errors with subjective confidence ratings and associated response times. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Exploiting core knowledge for visual object recognition.


Humans recognize thousands of objects, and with relative tolerance to variable retinal inputs. The acquisition of this ability is not fully understood, and it remains an area in which artificial systems have yet to surpass people. We sought to investigate the memory process that supports object recognition. Specifically, we investigated the association of inputs that co-occur over short periods of time. We tested the hypothesis that human perception exploits expectations about object kinematics to limit the scope of association to inputs that are likely to have the same token as a source. In several experiments we exposed participants to images of objects, and we then tested recognition sensitivity. Using motion, we manipulated whether successive encounters with an image took place through kinematics that implied the same or a different token as the source of those encounters. Images were injected with noise, or shown at varying orientations, and we included 2 manipulations of motion kinematics. Across all experiments, memory performance was better for images that had been previously encountered with kinematics that implied a single token. A model-based analysis similarly showed greater memory strength when images were shown via kinematics that implied a single token. These results suggest that constraints from physics are built into the mechanisms that support memory about objects. Such constraints—often characterized as ‘Core Knowledge’—are known to support perception and cognition broadly, even in young infants. But they have never been considered as a mechanism for memory with respect to recognition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Valence in context: Asymmetric reactions to realized gains and losses.


The current research documents a novel pattern of preferences across nominally equivalent outcomes. When evaluating the outcome of completed experiences, people are sensitive to the magnitude of component (i.e., gross) gains and losses rather than responding solely to the net outcomes. However, people do not consistently favor outcomes that minimize losses (a pattern consistent with loss aversion), nor those that maximize gains (a pattern consistent with a positivity bias). Instead, preferences are context dependent. Holding net outcomes constant, people prefer positive outcomes that have lower magnitudes of component gains and losses. In contrast, people prefer negative outcomes that have higher magnitudes of component gains and losses. A shift in focus occurs such that people prioritize the contrasting attribute (e.g., negative when the net outcome is positive) in the evaluation process. The article concludes by discussing implications for a broad range of judgments and decisions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Motor experience influences object knowledge.


An object’s perceived readiness-for-action (e.g., its size, the degree of rotation from its canonical position, the user’s viewpoint) can influence semantic knowledge retrieval. Yet, the organization of object knowledge may also be affected by body-specific sensorimotor experiences. Here, we investigated whether people’s history of performing motor actions with their hands influences the knowledge they store and retrieve about graspable objects. We compared object representations between healthy right- and left-handers (Experiment 1), and between unilateral stroke patients, whose motor experience was changed by impairment of either their right or left hand (Experiment 2). Participants saw pictures of graspable everyday items with the handles oriented toward either the left or right hand, and they generated the type of grasp they would employ (i.e., clench or pinch) when using each object, responding orally. In both experiments, hand dominance and object orientation interacted to predict response times. In Experiment 1, judgments were fastest when objects were oriented toward the right hand in right-handers, but not in left-handers. In Experiment 2, judgments were fastest when objects were oriented toward the left hand in patients who had lost the use of their right hand, even though these patients were right-handed prior to brain injury. Results suggest that at least some aspects of object knowledge are determined by motor experience, and can be changed by new patterns of motor experience. People with different bodily characteristics, who interact with objects in systematically different ways, form correspondingly different neurocognitive representations of the same common objects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The role of categorization and scale endpoint comparisons in numerical information processing: A two-process model.


We propose a two-process conceptualization of numerical information processing to describe how people form impressions of a score that is described along a bounded scale. According to the model, people spontaneously categorize a score as high or low. Furthermore, they compare the numerical discrepancy between the score and the endpoint of the scale to which it is closer, if they are not confident of their categorization, and use implications of this comparison as a basis for judgment. As a result, their evaluation of the score is less extreme when the range of numbers along the scale is large (e.g., from 0 to 100) than when it is small (from 0 to 10). Six experiments support this two-process model and demonstrate its generalizability. Specifically, the magnitude of numbers composing the scale has less impact on judgments (a) when the score being evaluated is extreme, (b) when individuals are unmotivated to engage in endpoint comparison processes (i.e., they are low in need for cognition), and (c) when they are unable to do so (i.e., they are under cognitive load). Moreover, the endpoint to which individuals compare the score can depend on their regulatory focus. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Is non-conformity WEIRD? Cultural variation in adults’ beliefs about children’s competency and conformity.


Cross-cultural comparisons provide critical insight into variation in reasoning about intelligence. In two studies, the authors used a novel methodology based on multivocal ethnography to assess the role of conformity in U.S. and Ni-Vanuatu adults’ judgments of children’s intelligence and, as a comparison trait, good behavior. In Study 1, there were cultural differences in the impact of conformity on U.S. and Ni-Vanuatu adults’ judgments of children’s intelligence and good behavior. When evaluating U.S. children only, U.S. adults were less likely to endorse high conformity children as intelligent, often citing creativity as a justification for their judgments. In contrast, Ni-Vanuatu adults were more likely to endorse Ni-Vanuatu high conformity children as intelligent. Ni-Vanuatu adults were also more likely to endorse high conformity children as well-behaved than U.S. adults. In Study 2, there were no effects of socioeconomic status on U.S. adults’ evaluations of conformity. U.S. adults were less likely to endorse high conformity children as intelligent than Ni-Vanuatu adults. Taken together, the data demonstrate that beliefs about the relations between intelligence, conformity, and creativity vary within and across cultures. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Does self-enhancement facilitate task performance?


Self-enhancement is a pervasive motivation that manifests broadly to promote and protect the positivity of the self. Research suggests that self-enhancement is associated with improved task performance. Untested, however, is whether that association is causal. The present research experimentally manipulated self-enhancement to examine its causal effect on task performance. Participants in 5 experiments were randomly assigned to self-enhance or not before completing a creativity task (Experiments 1–4) or pain-inducing cold-pressor task (Experiment 5). Results indicate that self-enhancing (but not self-effacing) on a dimension relevant (but not irrelevant) to the task facilitated performance. Furthermore, the data were consistent with the possibility that the performance facilitating effect of self-enhancement was mediated through task-relevant self-efficacy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)