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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

  • The tipping point of perceived change: Asymmetric thresholds in diagnosing improvement versus decline.
    Change often emerges from a series of small doses. For example, a person may conclude that a happy relationship has eroded not from 1 obvious fight but from smaller unhappy signs that at some point “add up.” Everyday fluctuations therefore create ambiguity about when they reflect substantive shifts versus mere noise. Ten studies reveal an asymmetry in this first point when people conclude “official” change: people demand less evidence to diagnose lasting decline than lasting improvement, despite similar evidential quality. This effect was pervasive and replicated across many domains and parameters. For example, a handful of poor grades, bad games, and gained pounds led participants to diagnose intellect, athleticism, and health as “officially” changed; yet corresponding positive signs were dismissed as fickle flukes (Studies 1a, 1b, and 1c). This further manifested in real-time reactions: participants interpreted the same graphs of change in the economy and public health as more meaningful if framed as depicting decline versus improvement (Study 2), and were more likely to gamble actual money on continued bad versus good luck (Study 3). Why? Effects held across self/other change, added/subtracted change, and intended/unintended change (Studies 4a, 4b, and 4c), suggesting a generalized negativity bias. Teasing this apart, we highlight a novel “entropy” component beyond standard accounts like risk aversion: good things seem more truly capable of losing their positive qualities than bad things seem capable of gaining them, rendering signs of decline to appear more immediately diagnostic (Studies 5 and 6). An asymmetric tipping point raises theoretical and practical implications for how people might inequitably react to smaller signs of change. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The ability to choose can increase satiation.
    The ability to choose should let people create more enjoyable experiences. However, in a set of 5 studies, people who chose repeatedly during ongoing consumption exhibited a greater drop in enjoyment compared with those who received a series of random selections from the same set of liked stimuli. Process evidence indicated that choosing increased satiation because it triggered overall reflections on the repetitive nature of the ongoing consumption experience. Moderating evidence also supported our theoretical account as differences in satiation disappeared when nonchoosers were explicitly cued to think about repetition in the general sense, or when choosers made all of their choices before the onset of repeated consumption. Additional measures and analyses further established that choice set size, the difficulty of choosing, and other alternative accounts could not fully explain the pattern of effects. The paper closes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for understanding the causes of satiation, the consequences of choosing, and improving individuals’ experiences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Sexual aggression when power is new: Effects of acute high power on chronically low-power individuals.
    Previous theorists have characterized sexually aggressive behavior as an expression of power, yet evidence that power causes sexual aggression is mixed. We hypothesize that power can indeed create opportunities for sexual aggression—but that it is those who chronically experience low power who will choose to exploit such opportunities. Here, low-power men placed in a high-power role showed the most hostility in response to a denied opportunity with an attractive woman (Studies 1 and 2). Chronically low-power men and women given acute power were the most likely to say they would inappropriately pursue an unrequited workplace attraction (Studies 3 and 4). Finally, having power over an attractive woman increased harassment behavior among men with chronic low, but not high, power (Study 5). People who see themselves as chronically denied power appear to have a stronger desire to feel powerful and are more likely to use sexual aggression toward that end. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Preemptive strikes: Fear, hope, and defensive aggression.
    Preemptive strikes are costly and harmful. Existing models of defensive aggression focus narrowly on the role fear plays in motivating preemptive strikes. Theoretically integrating the literatures on conflict, decision making, and emotion, the current research investigated how specific emotions associated with certainty or uncertainty, including fear, anger, disgust, hope, and happiness, influence preemptive strikes. Study 1 demonstrated that hope negatively predicts defensive exits from relationships in choice dilemmas. Studies 2 and 3 experimentally manipulated risk of being attacked in an incentivized, interactive decision making task—the Preemptive Strike Game. Risk of being attacked fueled preemptive strikes; reduced feelings of hope partially mediated this effect in Study 3. Studies 4 and 5 investigated preemptive strikes under uncertainty (rather than risk). In Study 4, reasoning about the factors that make one trustful of others curbed preemptive strikes; cogitating about the factors that underlie discrete emotions, however, did not influence defensive aggression. Study 5 demonstrated that the valence and uncertainty appraisals of incidental emotions interact in shaping preemptive strikes. Specifically, recalling an autobiographical emotional experience that produced hope significantly decreased attack rates relative to fear, happiness, and a control condition. Fear, anger, disgust, and happiness were either unrelated to preemptive strikes or showed inconsistent relationships with preemptive strikes across the 5 studies. These findings shed light on how emotions shape defensive aggression, advance knowledge on strategic choice under risk and uncertainty, and demonstrate hope’s positive effects on social interactions and relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • How implicit theories of sexuality shape sexual and relationship well-being.
    How do people believe they can best maintain sexual satisfaction in their romantic relationships? In the current research, we draw upon the literature on implicit theories of relationships to develop and validate a scale examining 2 types of lay beliefs about how sexual satisfaction can be maintained over time. Individuals high in sexual growth beliefs think that sexual satisfaction is attained from hard work and effort, whereas individuals high in sexual destiny beliefs think that sexual satisfaction is attained through finding a compatible sexual partner. Across 6 studies (2 cross-sectional online studies, a 21-day daily experience study, 2 dyadic studies, and an experimental manipulation; N = 1,896), we find evidence that those higher in sexual growth beliefs experience higher relationship and sexual satisfaction, and have partners who are more satisfied. Conversely, the effects of sexual destiny beliefs on satisfaction are contingent upon signs of partner compatibility: When individuals high in sexual destiny beliefs experience greater sexual disagreements in their relationship, they experience lower relationship quality. These results are independent of general relationship implicit beliefs, providing evidence for the uniqueness of these 2 constructs and the importance of examining implicit beliefs in the domain of sexuality. Overall, these results provide novel evidence that individuals’ lay beliefs about maintaining sexual satisfaction are important for understanding the quality of their sex lives and relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry.
    Narcissism is known to be related to romantic success in short-term contexts (dating, early stage relationships) but also to problems in long-term committed relationships. We propose that these diverging romantic outcomes of narcissism can be explained by differential associations with agentic versus antagonistic dimensions of grandiose narcissism: Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry. Both dimensions serve the central narcissistic goal of gaining and maintaining a grandiose self-view, but do so by different processes: Admiration is characterized by the tendency to promote the positivity of one’s self-view by seeking social admiration (assertive self-enhancement). Rivalry is characterized by the tendency to protect oneself from a negative self-view by derogating others (antagonistic self-protection). Across 7 studies (total N = 3,560) using diverse measures and methodological approaches (self-, peer, and partner reports, as well as interpersonal perception measures in video-based studies, face-to-face laboratory encounters, and online surveys), we show that the short-term romantic appeal associated with narcissism is primarily attributable to the dimension of Admiration, whereas the long-term romantic problems associated with narcissism are primarily attributable to the dimension of Rivalry. These results highlight the utility of a 2-dimensional reconceptualization of grandiose narcissism for explaining its heterogeneous romantic outcomes. The findings further underscore the idea that different facets of personality traits might impact different aspects of romantic relationship quality, depending on the stage of the relationship. Such a more nuanced view increases the predictive validity of personality traits in social relationship research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Transitions in romantic relationships and development of self-esteem.
    Research suggests that self-esteem increases during late adolescence and young adulthood, but that there is large interindividual variability in this development. However, little is known about the factors accounting for these findings. Using propensity score matching, we tested whether important transitions in the domain of romantic relationships (i.e., beginning a relationship, marrying, and breaking up) explain why individuals differ in the particular self-esteem trajectory they follow. Data came from a longitudinal German study with a large sample of 3 nationally representative cohorts of late adolescents and young adults (total N = 9,069). The analyses were based on 4 assessments across a 3-year period. Using matched samples, the results showed that beginning a relationship increased self-esteem and that the increase persisted when the relationship held at least for 1 year. Experiencing a relationship break-up decreased self-esteem, but the effect disappeared after 1 year, even if the participant stayed single. Marrying did not influence self-esteem. Additionally, we tested for selection effects of self-esteem on the later occurrence of relationship transitions. High self-esteem predicted the beginning of a relationship and low self-esteem predicted relationship break-up. All findings held across gender, age, and migration background. Furthermore, relationship quality mediated the effect of self-esteem on relationship break-up and the effect of beginning a longer versus a short relationship on self-esteem. The findings have significant implications because they show that self-esteem influences whether important transitions occur in the relationship domain and that, in turn, experiencing these transitions influences the further development of self-esteem. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Similarity in relationships as niche construction: Choice, stability, and influence within dyads in a free choice environment.
    A series of field studies focused on the role of similarity as niche construction in friendships. Using a free-range dyad harvest method, we collected 11 independent samples with 1,523 interacting pairs, and compared dyad members’ personality traits, attitudes, values, recreational activities, and alcohol and drug use. Within-dyad similarity was statistically significant on 86% of variables measured. To determine whether similarity was primarily attributable to niche construction (i.e., selection) or social influence, we tested whether similarity increased as closeness, intimacy, discussion, length of relationship, and importance of the attitude increased. There were no effects on similarity of closeness, relationship length, or discussion of the attitude. There were quite modest effects of intimacy, and a reliable effect of the shared importance of the attitude. Because relationship length, intimacy, closeness, and discussion can all serve as markers of opportunity for, or potency of social influence, these data are consistent with the “niche construction” account of similarity. In 2 follow-up controlled longitudinal field studies, participants interacted with people they did not know from their large lecture classes, and at a later time completed a survey of attitudes, values, and personality traits. Interacting pairs were not more similar than chance, but for the 23% of dyads that interacted beyond the first meeting, there was significant similarity within dyad members. These 2 lines of inquiry converge to suggest that similarity is mainly due to niche construction, and is most important in the early stages of a relationship; its importance to further relationship development wanes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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