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

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - Vol 111, Iss 4

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: Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:00:30 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2016 American Psychological Association

Belief in the immutability of attitudes both increases and decreases advocacy.


People with an entity theory of attitudes (i.e., the belief that attitudes are relatively unchanging) are more certain of their attitudes than are people with an incremental theory (i.e., the belief that attitudes are relatively malleable), and people with greater attitude certainty are generally more willing to try to persuade others. Combined, these findings suggest that an entity theory should foster greater advocacy. Yet, people with entity theories may be less willing to advocate because they also perceive others’ attitudes as unchanging. Across 5 studies, we show that both of these countervailing effects occur simultaneously and cancel each other out. However, by manipulating how advocacy is framed (as standing up for one’s views or exchanging one’s views with others), whom people focus on (themselves or others), or which implicit theory applies to oneself versus others, each implicit theory can either increase or decrease willingness to advocate. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The pitfall of experimenting on the web: How unattended selective attrition leads to surprising (yet false) research conclusions.


The authors find that experimental studies using online samples (e.g., MTurk) often violate the assumption of random assignment, because participant attrition—quitting a study before completing it and getting paid—is not only prevalent, but also varies systemically across experimental conditions. Using standard social psychology paradigms (e.g., ego-depletion, construal level), they observed attrition rates ranging from 30% to 50% (Study 1). The authors show that failing to attend to attrition rates in online panels has grave consequences. By introducing experimental confounds, unattended attrition misled them to draw mind-boggling yet false conclusions: that recalling a few happy events is considerably more effortful than recalling many happy events, and that imagining applying eyeliner leads to weight loss (Study 2). In addition, attrition rate misled them to draw a logical yet false conclusion: that explaining one’s view on gun rights decreases progun sentiment (Study 3). The authors offer a partial remedy (Study 4) and call for minimizing and reporting experimental attrition in studies conducted on the Web. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Who wants to get to the top? Class and lay theories about power.


We investigated class-based differences in the propensity to seek positions of power. We first proposed that people’s lay theories suggest that acquiring power requires playing politics—manipulating one’s way through the social world, relying on a pragmatic and Machiavellian approach to impression management and social relationships to get ahead. Then, drawing on empirical work portraying individuals with relatively low social class as more strongly focused on others and less focused on themselves, we hypothesized that these individuals would show less interest in seeking positions of power than their high-class counterparts, because they feel less comfortable engaging in political behavior. We tested these ideas in 7 studies. Our findings indicated that, even though individuals with relatively low social class see political behavior as necessary and effective for acquiring positions of power, they are reluctant to do it; as a result, they have a weaker tendency to seek positions of power compared to individuals with relatively high social class. Consistent with our theorizing, we also found that individuals with relatively low social class intend to seek positions of power as much as their high-class counterparts when they can acquire it through prosocial means (Study 2), and when they reconstrue power as serving a superordinate goal of helping others (Study 4). Moreover, we checked the robustness of our findings by measuring social class in a number of ways within each study, and examined whether our results held across each measure. Together, our findings suggest that the common belief that political behavior is required for advancement may help explain why class inequalities persist and why creating class-based diversity in upper-level positions poses a serious challenge. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Intimately connected: The importance of partner responsiveness for experiencing sexual desire.


Sexual desire tends to subside gradually over time, with many couples failing to maintain desire in their long-term relationships. Three studies employed complementary methodologies to examine whether partner responsiveness, an intimacy-building behavior, could instill desire for one’s partner. In Study 1, participants were led to believe that they would interact online with their partner. In reality, they interacted with either a responsive or an unresponsive confederate. In Study 2, participants interacted face-to-face with their partner, and judges coded their displays of responsiveness and sexual desire. Study 3 used a daily experiences methodology to examine the mechanisms underlying the responsiveness–desire linkage. Overall, responsiveness was associated with increased desire, but more strongly in women. Feeling special and perceived partner mate value explained the responsiveness–desire link, suggesting that responsive partners were seen as making one feel valued as well as better potential mates for anyone and thus as more sexually desirable. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Beyond one-size-fits-all: Tailoring diversity approaches to the representation of social groups.


When and why do organizational diversity approaches that highlight the importance of social group differences (vs. equality) help stigmatized groups succeed? We theorize that social group members’ numerical representation in an organization, compared with the majority group, influences concerns about their distinctiveness, and consequently, whether diversity approaches are effective. We combine laboratory and field methods to evaluate this theory in a professional setting, in which White women are moderately represented and Black individuals are represented in very small numbers. We expect that focusing on differences (vs. equality) will lead to greater performance and persistence among White women, yet less among Black individuals. First, we demonstrate that Black individuals report greater representation-based concerns than White women (Study 1). Next, we observe that tailoring diversity approaches to these concerns yields greater performance and persistence (Studies 2 and 3). We then manipulate social groups’ perceived representation and find that highlighting differences (vs. equality) is more effective when groups’ representation is moderate, but less effective when groups’ representation is very low (Study 4). Finally, we content-code the diversity statements of 151 major U.S. law firms and find that firms that emphasize differences have lower attrition rates among White women, whereas firms that emphasize equality have lower attrition rates among racial minorities (Study 5). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

American individualism rises and falls with the economy: Cross-temporal evidence that individualism declines when the economy falters.


Past work has shown that economic growth often engenders greater individualism. Yet much of this work charts changes in wealth and individualism over long periods of time, making it unclear whether rising individualism is primarily driven by wealth or by the social and generational changes that often accompany large-scale economic transformations. This article explores whether individualism is sensitive to more transient macroeconomic fluctuations, even in the absence of transformative social changes or generational turnover. Six studies found that individualism swelled during prosperous times and fell during recessionary times. In good economic times, Americans were more likely to give newborns uncommon names (Study 1), champion autonomy in children (Study 2), aspire to look different from others (Study 3), and favor music with self-focused language (Study 4). Conversely, when the economy was floundering, Americans were more likely to socialize children to attend to the needs of others (Study 2) and favor music with other-oriented language (Study 4). Subsequent studies found that recessions engendered uncertainty (Study 5) which in turn tempered individualism and fostered interdependence (Study 6). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

A closer look at the hedonics of everyday meaning and satisfaction.


Contrasts between eudaimonic well-being and hedonic well-being often compare meaning and happiness. Less work has examined the extent to which meaning and satisfaction can be distinguished. Across 5 diary studies (N = 923) and a large cross-sectional survey (N = 1,471), we examined the affective profile of meaning and satisfaction in everyday life. Using response surface methodology, both judgments were modeled as a joint function of positive (PA) and negative (NA) affect. Affective discrepancy (preponderance of PA over NA) was more strongly associated with satisfaction than meaning. In general, meaning correlated less with affect than satisfaction, but the 2 judgments differ more in their correlation with NA than PA. This implies that people are sometimes able to derive meaning (but not necessarily satisfaction) from negative experiences. We content-coded the events reported by participants for goal directedness, social interactions, and their potential future impact. Interpersonal conflicts and impactful negative events were associated with less satisfaction and meaning at zero-order. However, after controlling for affect and satisfaction, these negative experiences were associated with greater meaning. This effect may reflect additional cognitive processes that enhance meaning but not satisfaction. In all studies, we also observed a positivity dominance effect: At subjectively equivalent levels, PA is weighted more than NA in judgments of meaning and satisfaction. There was no evidence of negativity bias. Results were replicated across different measures and cultural groups (Singapore and the United States). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Taking the long view: Implications of individual differences in temporal distancing for affect, stress reactivity, and well-being.


Recent experimental work demonstrates that temporal distancing from negative experiences reduces distress. Yet two central questions remain: (a) do people differ in the habitual tendency to temporally distance from negative experiences, and if so (b) what implications does this tendency have for well-being? Seven studies explored these questions. Study 1 describes the construction and reliability of the Temporal Distancing Questionnaire, a new measure of individual differences in the tendency to place negative experiences into a broader future time perspective. Study 2 establishes a nomological network around this construct, examining the relationship of temporal distancing to other theoretically related constructs. Study 3 tests whether people high in temporal distancing (i.e., “high temporal distancers”) experience greater concurrent well-being, including greater positive affect and life satisfaction and lesser negative affect, worry, and depressive symptoms. Study 4 examines whether temporal distancing predicts well-being measured at the daily level, and across time. Finally, Studies 5a–5c explore a key way in which temporal distancing may support psychological well-being—by facilitating more adaptive responses to negative experiences. Our results demonstrate that the tendency to temporally distance from negative experiences predicts a more positive profile of affective experiences and stress-reactivity that may support immediate and longer-term well-being. Moreover, many of these findings remained significant when controlling for general reappraisal tendencies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Moral expansiveness: Examining variability in the extension of the moral world.


The nature of our moral judgments—and the extent to which we treat others with care—depend in part on the distinctions we make between entities deemed worthy or unworthy of moral consideration—our moral boundaries. Philosophers, historians, and social scientists have noted that people’s moral boundaries have expanded over the last few centuries, but the notion of moral expansiveness has received limited empirical attention in psychology. This research explores variations in the size of individuals’ moral boundaries using the psychological construct of moral expansiveness and introduces the Moral Expansiveness Scale (MES), designed to capture this variation. Across 6 studies, we established the reliability, convergent validity, and predictive validity of the MES. Moral expansiveness was related (but not reducible) to existing moral constructs (moral foundations, moral identity, “moral” universalism values), predictors of moral standing (moral patiency and warmth), and other constructs associated with concern for others (empathy, identification with humanity, connectedness to nature, and social responsibility). Importantly, the MES uniquely predicted willingness to engage in prosocial intentions and behaviors at personal cost independently of these established constructs. Specifically, the MES uniquely predicted willingness to prioritize humanitarian and environmental concerns over personal and national self-interest, willingness to sacrifice one’s life to save others (ranging from human out-groups to animals and plants), and volunteering behavior. Results demonstrate that moral expansiveness is a distinct and important factor in understanding moral judgments and their consequences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)