Subscribe: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - Vol 98, Iss 2
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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.

Last Build Date: Mon, 29 May 2017 18:00:32 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

The ugliness-in-averageness effect: Tempering the warm glow of familiarity.


Mere exposure (i.e., stimulus repetition) and blending (i.e., stimulus averaging) are classic ways to increase social preferences, including facial attractiveness. In both effects, increases in preference involve enhanced familiarity. Prominent memory theories assume that familiarity depends on a match between the target and similar items in memory. These theories predict that when individual items are weakly learned, their blends (morphs) should be relatively familiar, and thus liked—a beauty-in-averageness effect (BiA). However, when individual items are strongly learned, they are also more distinguishable. This “differentiation” hypothesis predicts that with strongly encoded items, familiarity (and thus, preference) for the blend will be relatively lower than individual items—an ugliness-in-averageness effect (UiA). We tested this novel theoretical prediction in 5 experiments. Experiment 1 showed that with weak learning, facial morphs were more attractive than contributing individuals (BiA effect). Experiments 2A and 2B demonstrated that when participants first strongly learned a subset of individual faces (either in a face-name memory task or perceptual-tracking task), morphs of trained individuals were less attractive than the trained individuals (UiA effect). Experiment 3 showed that changes in familiarity for the trained morph (rather than interstimulus conflict) drove the UiA effect. Using a within-subjects design, Experiment 4 mapped out the transition from BiA to UiA solely as a function of memory training. Finally, computational modeling using a well-known memory framework (REM) illustrated the familiarity transition observed in Experiment 4. Overall, these results highlight how memory processes illuminate classic and modern social preference phenomena. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

How winning changes motivation in multiphase competitions.


What drives motivation in multiphase competitions? Adopting a dynamic approach, this research examines how temporary standing—being ahead of (vs. behind) one’s opponent—in a multiphase competition shapes subsequent motivation. Six competitions conducted in the lab and in the field demonstrate that the impact of being ahead on contestants’ motivation depends on when (i.e., in which phase of the competition) contestants learn they are in the lead. In the early phase, contestants are concerned about whether they can win; being ahead increases motivation by making winning seem more attainable. In the later phase, however, contestants are instead driven by how much additional effort they believe they need to invest; being ahead decreases motivation by reducing contestants’ estimate of the remaining effort needed to win. Temporary standing thus has divergent effects on motivation in multiphase competitions, driven by a shift in contestants’ main concern from the early to the later phase and thus the meaning they derive from being ahead of their opponent. By leveraging insights gained from approaching individuals’ self-regulation as a dynamic process, this research advances understanding of how motivation evolves in a unique interdependent self-regulatory context. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Consistency and inconsistency among romantic partners over time.


Theoretical perspectives on mating differentially emphasize whether (and why) romantic partner selection and maintenance processes derive from stable features of individuals (e.g., mate value, mate preferences, relationship aptitude) and their environments (e.g., social homogamy) rather than adventitious, dyad-specific, or unpredictable factors. The current article advances our understanding of this issue by assessing how people’s actual romantic partners vary on constructs commonly assessed in evolutionary psychology (Study 1), sociology (Study 2), and close relationships (Study 3). Specifically, we calculated the extent to which the past and present partners of a focal person (i.e., the person who dated all of the partners) cluster on various measures. Study 1 investigated consistency in the observable qualities of the romantic partners, revealing substantial evidence for clustering on coder-rated attributes like attractiveness and masculinity. Study 2 examined qualities self-reported by romantic partners themselves in a demographically diverse sample and found modest evidence for clustering on attributes such as IQ and educational aspirations; however, clustering in this study was largely due to demographic stratification. Study 3 explored target-specific ratings by partners about the focal person and found little evidence for clustering: The ability to elicit high romantic desirability/sexual satisfaction ratings from partners was not a stable individual difference. The variables that affect mating may differ considerably in the extent to which they serve as stable versus unpredictable factors; thus, the fields of evolutionary psychology, sociology, and close relationships may reveal distinct depictions of mating because the constructs and assessment strategies in each differ along this underappreciated dimension. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Too far to help: The effect of perceived distance on the expected impact and likelihood of charitable action.


Fact: Holding force constant, a snowball thrown from 10 feet away will hurt more than one thrown from 50 feet away; it will have more impact. We show that people expect charitable donations—much like snowballs—to have more impact on nearby (vs. faraway) targets. Therefore, because making an impact is a powerful motivator of prosocial behavior, people are more willing to take action to help nearby (vs. faraway) causes—independent of social distance. Six studies, including lab and field experiments, and secondary data from fundraising campaigns support this prediction. Specifically, Study 1 shows that people expect charitable donations to have a greater impact on nearby (vs. faraway) recipients, and that these judgments stem from metaphorical thinking. In the context of alumni giving to their alma mater, the next two studies show that donations increase as real (Study 2) or perceived (Study 3) distances decrease. Study 4 extends these findings using a more conservative manipulation of distance perception (Study 4). Finally, Study 5 demonstrates the mediating role of expected impact on the effect of perceived distance on charitable action, whereas Study 6 shows that a motivational focus on making an impact moderates this effect. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The effects of gender composition on women’s experience in math work groups.


The present studies tested a model outlining the effects of group gender composition on self- and others’ perceptions of women’s math ability in a truly interactive setting with groups composed entirely of naïve participants (N = 158 4-person groups across 3 studies). One woman in each group was designated to be the “expert” by having her complete a tutorial that gave her task-relevant knowledge for a subsequent group task. Group gender composition was hypothesized to influence perceptions of women’s math ability through intrapersonal processes (stereotype threat effects on performance) and interpersonal processes (social cohesion between the expert and other group members). Group composition affected the experts’ performance in the group math task, but importantly, it also affected their social cohesion with group members. Moreover, both of these effects—lowered performance and poorer social cohesion in male-dominated groups—made independent contributions in accounting for group gender composition effects on perceptions of women’s math ability (Studies 1 and 2). Boundary conditions were examined in a 3rd study. Women who had a history of excelling in math and had chosen a math-intensive STEM major were selected to be the designated experts. We predicted and found this would be sufficient to eliminate the effect of group gender composition on interpersonal processes, and correspondingly the effect on women’s perceived math ability. Interestingly (and consistent with past work on stereotype threat effects among highly domain-identified individuals), there were continued performance differences indicative of effects on intrapersonal processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Roads more and less traveled: Different emotional routes to creativity among Protestants and Catholics.


Western culture has 2 contradictory images of creativity: the artist as intensely emotional versus the artist as sublimator, for whom work becomes the outlet for what is repressed and denied. We show that both images are correct, but that the routes to creativity are culturally patterned, such that Catholic creatives are relatively more likely to take the emotionally intense route and Protestant creatives relatively more likely to take the sublimating route. This pattern is consistent for both the Big-C creativity of historical eminents (Studies 1 and 1b) and small-c creativity of student samples (Studies 2 and 3). The student samples also highlighted the moderating role of Protestant asceticism, as Protestants who were high in asceticism and who also repressed or minimized troublesome emotions were particularly creative. Analyses of behavioral data in previous lab experiments (Studies 2b and 3b) provided conceptual validation of the findings reported in Studies 2 and 3. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The multidimensional nature of resilience to spousal loss.


Spousal loss can be one of the most devastating events to occur across one’s life, resulting in difficulties across different spheres of adjustment; yet, past research on resilience to bereavement has primarily focused on single adjustment indicators. We applied growth mixture modeling to data from 421 participants from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia Study who experienced spousal loss during the course of the study to examine (a) the extent to which individuals appear to be resilient across 3 indicators of subjective well-being—life satisfaction, negative affect, and positive affect, and 2 indicators of health—perceptions of general health and physical functioning—and (b) factors that might promote resilience. Approximately 66%, 19% and 26% individuals showed resilient trajectories, respectively, for life satisfaction, negative affect, and positive affect, whereas 37% and 28% showed resilience, respectively, for perceptions of general health and physical functioning. When we considered all 5 indicators simultaneously, only 8% showed “multidimensional” resilience, whereas 20% showed a non-resilient trajectory across all 5 indicators. The strongest predictors of resilient trajectories were continued engagement in everyday life activities and in social relationships, followed by anticipation that people would comfort them in times of distress. Overall, our findings demonstrate that resilience in the face of spousal bereavement is less common than previously thought. More importantly, they underscore the critical importance of multidimensional approaches while operationalizing doing well in the context of serious life adversities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Developmental pathways linking childhood temperament with antisocial behavior and substance use in adolescence: Explanatory mechanisms in the peer environment.


This study investigated 3 developmental pathways involving the peer environment that may explain how certain temperamental dispositions in childhood may become manifested in later antisocial behavior and substance use. A total of 411 (52% boys) Canadian children were followed annually from ages 6 to 15 years. The study tested whether the temperamental traits approach, negative reactivity and attention (assessed at ages 6–7 years), were associated with overt antisocial behavior, covert antisocial behavior and illicit substance use (assessed at ages 14–15 years), via poor social preference among peers, inflated social self-perception and antisocial behavior of peer-group affiliates (assessed throughout ages 8–13 years). Results indicated that negative reactivity was indirectly associated with overt antisocial behavior and substance use via poor social preference. Specifically, negative reactivity in earlier childhood predicted poor social preference in later childhood and early adolescence. This poor social standing among peers, in turn, predicted more engagement in overt antisocial behavior but less substance use in later adolescence. Over and above the influence of social preference, negative reactivity predicted engagement in all 3 outcomes via children’s antisocial behavior in childhood and early adolescence. Inflated social self-perception and antisocial behavior of peer-group affiliates did not mediate the link between temperament and the outcomes under scrutiny. No sex differences in developmental pathways from temperament to the outcomes were found. To further our understanding of the developmental link between childhood temperament and later antisocial behavior and substance use, we need to recognize the role of peer environmental factors, specifically poor preference among peers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)