Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

  • Neural activity in the reward-related brain regions predicts implicit self-esteem: A novel validity test of psychological measures using neuroimaging. 20180219
    Self-esteem, arguably the most important attitudes an individual possesses, has been a premier research topic in psychology for more than a century. Following a surge of interest in implicit attitude measures in the 90s, researchers have tried to assess self-esteem implicitly to circumvent the influence of biases inherent in explicit measures. However, the validity of implicit self-esteem measures remains elusive. Critical tests are often inconclusive, as the validity of such measures is examined in the backdrop of imperfect behavioral measures. To overcome this serious limitation, we tested the neural validity of the most widely used implicit self-esteem measure, the implicit association test (IAT). Given the conceptualization of self-esteem as attitude toward the self, and neuroscience findings that the reward-related brain regions represent an individual’s attitude or preference for an object when viewing its image, individual differences in implicit self-esteem should be associated with neural signals in the reward-related regions during passive-viewing of self-face (the most obvious representation of the self). Using multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) on functional MRI (fMRI) data, we demonstrate that the neural signals in the reward-related regions were robustly associated with implicit (but not explicit) self-esteem, thus providing unique evidence for the neural validity of the self-esteem IAT. In addition, both implicit and explicit self-esteem were related, although differently, to neural signals in regions involved in self-processing. Our finding highlights the utility of neuroscience methods in addressing fundamental psychological questions and providing unique insights into important psychological constructs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Appraisal-driven facial actions as building blocks for emotion inference. 20180219
    Although research on facial emotion recognition abounds, there has been little attention on the nature of the underlying mechanisms. In this article, using a “reverse engineering” approach, we suggest that emotion inference from facial expression mirrors the expression process. As a strong case can be made for an appraisal theory account of emotional expression, which holds that appraisal results directly determine the nature of facial muscle actions, we claim that observers first detect specific appraisals from different facial muscle actions and then use implicit inference rules to categorize and name specific emotions. We report three experiments in which, guided by theoretical predictions and past empirical evidence, we systematically manipulated specific facial action units individually and in different configurations via synthesized avatar expressions. Large, diverse groups of participants judged the resulting videos for the underlying appraisals and/or the ensuing emotions. The results confirm that participants can infer targeted appraisals and emotions from synthesized facial actions based on appraisal predictions. We also report evidence that the ability to correctly interpret the synthesized stimuli is highly correlated with emotion recognition ability as part of emotional competence. We conclude by highlighting the importance of adopting a theory-based experimental approach in future research, focusing on the dynamic unfolding of facial expressions of emotion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Facial expression predictions as drivers of social perception. 20180125
    Emerging perspectives in neuroscience indicate that the brain functions predictively, constantly anticipating sensory input based on past experience. According to these perspectives, prediction signals impact perception, guiding and constraining experience. In a series of six behavioral experiments, we show that predictions about facial expressions drive social perception, deeply influencing how others are evaluated: individuals are judged as more likable and trustworthy when their facial expressions are anticipated, even in the absence of any conscious changes in felt affect. Moreover, the effect of predictions on social judgments extends to both real-world situations where such judgments have particularly high consequence (i.e., evaluating presidential candidates for an upcoming election), as well as to more basic perceptual processes that may underlie judgment (i.e., facilitated visual processing of expected expressions). The implications of these findings, including relevance for cross-cultural interactions, social stereotypes and mental illness, are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The ebbs and flows of attachment: Within-person variation in attachment undermine secure individuals’ relationship wellbeing across time. 20171130
    Although attachment security is relatively stable over time, individuals do experience significant within-person variation in their attachment security across time. No research to date, however, has assessed the relational consequences of within-person variation (fluctuations) in attachment security toward a specific attachment figure. Study 1 (N = 409) first examined whether attachment security was associated with individuals’ expectations that their current intimate relationship would be stable and consistent over time (vs. inconsistent and unstable). Studies 2 and 3 extended this by examining the prevalence and consequences of actual within-person variation (fluctuations) in relationship-specific attachment security toward an intimate partner in 2 multiwave longitudinal studies that assessed individuals (Study 2, N = 324) and couples (Study 3, N = 171 dyads). The results indicate that secure individuals (those low in attachment anxiety or attachment avoidance) expect their current relationship to remain relatively stable and consistent over time (Study 1). However, Studies 2 and 3 demonstrated that most individuals do experience fluctuations in their relationship-specific attachment security. Moreover, greater fluctuations predict declines in relationship satisfaction (Studies 2 and 3) and increases in relationship distress (Study 3) over time, but primarily for secure individuals (those low in baseline attachment anxiety or attachment avoidance). This set of findings highlight the importance of examining within-person fluctuations in attachment security, which are associated with declines in trajectories of relationship wellbeing, particularly for secure individuals who anticipate greater stability in their relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Perceived entitlement causes discrimination against attractive job candidates in the domain of relatively less desirable jobs. 20171023
    People generally hold positive stereotypes of physically attractive people and because of those stereotypes often treat them more favorably. However, we propose that some beliefs about attractive people, specifically, the perception that attractive individuals have a greater sense of entitlement than less attractive individuals, can result in negative treatment of attractive people. We examine this in the context of job selection and propose that for relatively less desirable jobs, attractive candidates will be discriminated against. We argue that the ascribed sense of entitlement to good outcomes leads to perceptions that attractive individuals are more likely to be dissatisfied working in relatively less desirable jobs. When selecting candidates for relatively less desirable jobs, decision makers try to ascertain whether a candidate would be satisfied in those jobs, and the stereotype of attractive individuals feeling entitled to good outcomes makes decision makers judge attractive candidates as more likely to be dissatisfied in relatively less (but not more) desirable jobs. Consequently, attractive candidates are discriminated against in the selection for relatively less desirable jobs. Four experiments found support for this theory. Our results suggest that different discriminatory processes operate when decision makers select among candidates for relatively less desirable jobs and that attractive people might be systematically discriminated against in a segment of the workforce. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Middle ground approach to paradox: Within- and between-culture examination of the creative benefits of paradoxical frames. 20170814
    Thriving in increasingly complex and ambiguous environments requires creativity and the capability to reconcile conflicting demands. Recent evidence with Western samples has suggested that paradoxical frames, or mental templates that encourage individuals to recognize and embrace contradictions, could produce creative benefits. We extended the timely, but understudied, topic by studying the nuances of for whom and why creative advantages of paradoxical frames emerge. We suggest that people endorsing a middle ground approach are less likely to scrutinize conflict and reconcile with integrative solutions, thus receiving less creative benefits of paradoxical frames. Five studies that examined individual and cultural differences in middle ground endorsement support our theory. Study 1 found that paradoxical frames increased creativity, but failed to replicate that experienced conflict mediated the relationship in a Taiwanese sample. In both within- and between-culture analysis, we showed that the creative advantages of thinking paradoxically and experiencing conflict emerged among individuals who endorse lower (vs. higher) levels of middle ground (Study 2) and among Israelis whose culture predominantly endorses middle ground strategy less, but not among Singaporeans whose culture predominantly endorses middle ground more (Study 3). Study 4 further demonstrated the causal role of middle ground in the paradox—conflict—creativity link. To answer “why,” Study 5 situationally induced integrative complex thinking that sets distinctions and forms syntheses among contradictory elements, and found that low endorsers of middle ground performed more creatively when they engaged integrative complex thinking to cope with paradoxes. This program of studies offers important insights on harnessing paradoxical experiences to catalyze creativity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Personality and behavior prediction and consistency across cultures: A multimethod study of Blacks and Whites in South Africa. 20170116
    The cross-cultural universality of behavior’s consistency and predictability from personality, assumed in trait models though challenged in cultural psychological models, has usually been operationalized in terms of beliefs and perceptions, and assessed using single-instance self-reports. In a multimethod study of actual behavior across a range of situations, we examined predictability and consistency in participants from the more collectivistic Black ethnic group and the more individualistic White group in South Africa. Participants completed personality questionnaires before the behavior measurements. In Study 1, 107 Black and 241 White students kept diaries for 21 days, recording their behaviors and the situations in which they had occurred. In Study 2, 57 Black and 52 White students were video-recorded in 12 situations in laboratory settings, and external observers scored their behaviors. Across both studies, behavior was predicted by personality on average equally well in the 2 groups, and equally well when using trait-adjective- and behavior-based personality measures. The few cultural differences in situational variability were not in line with individualism–collectivism; however, subjective perceptions of variability, operationalized as dialectical beliefs, were more in line with individualism–collectivism: Blacks viewed their behavior as more variable than Whites. We propose drawing a distinction between subjective beliefs and objective behavior in the study of personality and culture. Larger cultural differences can be expected in beliefs and perceptions than in the links between personality and actual behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The description of situations: Towards replicable domains of psychological situation characteristics. 20180219
    Using the most comprehensive lexical approach with English adjectives to date, Parrigon et al. (2017) found 7 major dimensions of psychological situation characteristics (CAPTION: Complexity, Adversity, Positive Valence, Typicality, Importance, humOr, Negative Valence). Researchers using or studying situations may be interested in how well these dimensions empirically overlap with dimensions from other taxonomies, such as the DIAMONDS (Duty, Intellect, Adversity, Mating, pOsitivity, Negativity, Deception, Sociality). This comment highlights empirical and theoretical convergences between CAPTION and DIAMONDS scales, yielding evidence for 5 replicable dimensions. In general, average convergent correlations were substantial (.47–.69), much larger than discriminant ones (.18–.30), and as high as or higher than those typically found for Big Five scales. We highlight the opportunity to integrate different situation characteristics taxonomies and conclude with the plea for large-scale, cross-cultural research that can further expand our knowledge on the structures of situation characteristics. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

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