Subscribe: Psychological Bulletin - Vol 134, Iss 3
Preview: Psychological Bulletin - Vol 134, Iss 3

Psychological Bulletin - Vol 142, Iss 12

Psychological Bulletin publishes evaluative and integrative research reviews and interpretations of issues in scientific psychology. Primary research is reported only for illustrative purposes. Integrative reviews or research syntheses focus on empirical

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Copyright: Copyright 2016 American Psychological Association

Dispositional negativity: An integrative psychological and neurobiological perspective.


Dispositional negativity—the propensity to experience and express more frequent, intense, or enduring negative affect—is a fundamental dimension of childhood temperament and adult personality. Elevated levels of dispositional negativity can have profound consequences for health, wealth, and happiness, drawing the attention of clinicians, researchers, and policymakers. Here, we highlight recent advances in our understanding of the psychological and neurobiological processes linking stable individual differences in dispositional negativity to momentary emotional states. Self-report data suggest that 3 key pathways—increased stressor reactivity, tonic increases in negative affect, and increased stressor exposure—explain most of the heightened negative affect that characterizes individuals with a more negative disposition. Of these 3 pathways, tonically elevated, indiscriminate negative affect appears to be most central to daily life and most relevant to the development of psychopathology. New behavioral and biological data provide insights into the neural systems underlying these 3 pathways and motivate the hypothesis that seemingly “tonic” increases in negative affect may actually reflect increased reactivity to stressors that are remote, uncertain, or diffuse. Research focused on humans, monkeys, and rodents suggests that this indiscriminate negative affect reflects trait-like variation in the activity and connectivity of several key brain regions, including the central extended amygdala and parts of the prefrontal cortex. Collectively, these observations provide an integrative psychobiological framework for understanding the dynamic cascade of processes that bind emotional traits to emotional states and, ultimately, to emotional disorders and other kinds of adverse outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Emotion and false memory: The context–content paradox.


False memories are influenced by a variety of factors, but emotion is a variable of special significance, for theoretical and practical reasons. Interestingly, emotion’s effects on false memory depend on whether it is embedded in the content of to-be-remembered events or in our moods, where mood is an aspect of the context in which events are encoded. We sketch the theoretical basis for this content-context dissociation and then review accumulated evidence that content and context effects are indeed different. Paradoxically, we find that in experiments on spontaneous and implanted false memories, negatively valenced content foments distortion, but negatively valenced moods protect against it. In addition, correlational data show that enduring negative natural moods (e.g., depression) foment false memory. Current opponent-process models of false memory, such as fuzzy-trace theory, are able to explain the content-context dissociation: Variations in emotional content primarily affect memory for the gist of events, whereas variations in emotional context primarily affect memory for events’ exact verbatim form. Important questions remain about how these effects are modulated by variations in memory tests and in arousal. Promising methods of tackling those questions are outlined, especially designs that separate the gist and verbatim influences of emotion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Half a century of research on Garner interference and the separability–integrality distinction.


Research in the allied domains of selective attention and perceptual independence has made great advances over the past 5 decades ensuing from the foundational ideas and research conceived by Wendell R. Garner. In particular, Garner’s speeded classification paradigm has received considerable attention in psychology. The paradigm is widely used to inform research and theory in various domains of cognitive science. It was Garner who provided the consensual definition of the separable-integral partition of stimulus dimensions, delineating a set of converging operations sustaining the distinction. This distinction is a pillar of today’s cognitive science. We review the key ideas, definitions, and findings along 2 paths of the evolution of Garnerian research: selective attention, with a focus on Garner interference and its relation to the Stroop effect, and divided attention, with focus on perceptual independence gauged by multivariate models of perception. The review tracks developments in a roughly chronological order. Our review is also integrative as we follow the evolution of a set of nascent ideas into the vast multifaceted enterprise that they comprise today. Finally, the review is also critical as we highlight problems, inconsistencies, and deviations from original intent in the various studies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Smith and Lilienfeld’s meta-analysis of the response modulation hypothesis: Important theoretical and quantitative clarifications.


In the first meta-analytic review of the response modulation hypothesis (RMH), an attention-based model for understanding the etiology of psychopathy, Smith and Lilienfeld (2015) report that the average effect size for response modulation deficits in psychopathic individuals fell in the small to medium range (r = .20; p < .001, d = .41). Moreover, support for the RMH extended to both psychopathy dimensions, applied across diverse assessments and settings, and spanned child, adult, female, and male samples. The analysis also revealed good empirical support for a central tenet of the RMH, namely that response modulation deficits are not limited to the processing of threat or other emotion stimuli. Unfortunately, the Smith and Lilienfeld meta-analysis contains several theoretical and quantitative problems, including failing to distinguish adequately between the tasks used to evaluate RMH predictions and the theory itself, confusion regarding the evolution of the RMH and its impact on effect sizes, misinterpretations of RMH predictions and evidence regarding dominant response sets, passive avoidance, and primary task performance, and biased statements promoting the low fear model over the RMH. In this response, we endeavor to reduce misunderstanding by addressing the most salient issues, with the hope that increasing clarity will sharpen the focus of future research and result in more valid assessments of the RMH. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The perils of unitary models of the etiology of mental disorders—The response modulation hypothesis of psychopathy as a case example: Rejoinder to Newman and Baskin-Sommers (2016).


We respond to Newman and Baskin-Sommers’s (2016) criticisms of our meta-analytic and narrative synthesis of the response modulation hypothesis (RMH) of psychopathy (Smith & Lilienfeld, 2015). We concur with Newman and Baskin-Sommers that our results offer modest support for the RMH and that several of our arguments apply with equal force to rival etiological models of psychopathy. Nevertheless, we contend that Newman and Baskin-Sommers’ criticisms of our findings and conclusions are unconvincing, and that the research support for the RMH is considerably more mixed than implied by Newman and Baskin-Sommers. We address a number of conceptual and methodological concerns regarding the RMH literature, especially (a) the ambiguous operationalization of a dominant response set, (b) selective and inconsistent interpretation of findings, (c) the failure of successive modifications in the RMH to bolster the model’s predictive power, (d) the hazards of ex juvantibus logic (reasoning backward from what works), (e) reliance on a positive test strategy in theory testing, and (f) the questionable assumption that psychopathy is a monolithic entity, rendering it unlikely that the RMH provides a comprehensive causal account of psychopathy. We conclude with a discussion of broader lessons for the psychopathy field imparted by the RMH debate, with particular emphasis on the problematic track record of models of specific etiology in the field of psychopathology at large. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)