Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

  • Identity-specific motivation: How distinct identities direct self-regulation across distinct situations. 20171130
    Research on self-regulation has traditionally emphasized that people’s thoughts and actions are guided by either (a) domain-general motivations that emerge from a cumulative history of life experiences, or (b) situation-specific motivations that emerge in immediate response to the incentives present in a particular context. However, more recent studies have illustrated the importance of understanding the interplay between such domain-general and situation-specific motivations across the types of contexts people regularly encounter. The present research, therefore, expands existing perspectives on self-regulation by investigating how people’s identities—the internalized roles, relationships, and social group memberships that define who they are—systemically guide when and how different domain-general motivations are activated within specific types of situations. Using the motivational framework described by regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1997), Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that people indeed have distinct, identity-specific motivations that uniquely influence their current self-regulation when such identities are active. Studies 3–5 then begin to explore how identity-specific motivations are situated within people’s larger self-concept. Studies 3a and 3b demonstrate that the less compatible people’s specific identities, the more distinct are the motivations connected to those identities. Studies 4–5 then provide some initial, suggestive evidence that identity-specific motivations are not a separate, superordinate feature of people’s identities that then alter how they pursue any subordinate, identity-relevant traits, but instead that such motivations emerge from the cumulative motivational significance of the subordinate traits to which the identities themselves become attached. Implications for understanding the role of the self-concept in self-regulation are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Home alone: Why people believe others’ social lives are richer than their own. 20171130
    Although decades of research show that people tend to see themselves in the best possible light, we present evidence that people have a surprisingly grim outlook on their social lives. In 11 studies (N = 3,293; including 3 preregistered), we find that most people think that others lead richer and more active social lives than they do themselves. We show that this bias holds across multiple populations (college students, MTurk respondents, shoppers at a local mall, and participants from a large, income-stratified online panel), correlates strongly with well-being, and is particularly acute for social activities (e.g., the number of parties one attends or proximity to the “inner circle” of one’s social sphere). We argue that this pessimistic bias stems from the fact that trendsetters and socialites come most easily to mind as a standard of comparison and show that reducing the availability of extremely social people eliminates this bias. We conclude by discussing implications for research on social comparison and self-enhancement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Forgetting to remember our experiences: People overestimate how much they will retrospect about personal events. 20170605
    People value experiences in part because of the memories they create. Yet, we find that people systematically overestimate how much they will retrospect about their experiences. This overestimation results from people focusing on their desire to retrospect about experiences, while failing to consider the experience’s limited enduring accessibility in memory. Consistent with this view, we find that desirability is a stronger predictor of forecasted retrospection than it is of reported retrospection, resulting in greater overestimation when the desirability of retrospection is higher. Importantly, the desire to retrospect does not change over time. Instead, past experiences become less top-of-mind over time and, as a result, people simply forget to remember. In line with this account, our results show that obtaining physical reminders of an experience reduces the overestimation of retrospection by increasing how much people retrospect, bringing their realized retrospection more in line with their forecasts (and aspirations). We further observe that the extent to which reported retrospection falls short of forecasted retrospection reliably predicts declining satisfaction with an experience over time. Despite this potential negative consequence of retrospection falling short of expectations, we suggest that the initial overestimation itself may in fact be adaptive. This possibility and other potential implications of this work are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Race and recession: Effects of economic scarcity on racial discrimination. 20170914
    When the economy declines, existing racial disparities typically expand, suggesting that economic scarcity may promote racial discrimination. To understand this pattern, we examined the effect of perceived scarcity on resource allocations to Black and White American recipients, and tested whether this effect depends on a decision maker’s motivation to respond without prejudice. We proposed that scarcity would lead to increased discrimination among those with relatively low internal motivation but not those high in internal motivation. Indeed, we found that when resources were framed as scarce (vs. abundant or a control condition), low-motivation participants allocated less to Black than White recipients, whereas high-motivation participants allocated more to Black than White recipients (Studies 1 and 2). This pattern was strongest when decisions could be made deliberatively (Study 3), and anti-Black allocation bias emerged even in a non-zero-sum context (Studies 4 and 5), suggesting a strategic bias directed against Black recipients rather than in favor of White recipients. These findings indicate that the psychological perception of scarcity can produce racial bias in the distribution of economic resources, depending on the motivations of the decision maker—an effect that may contribute to the increase in racial disparities observed during economic stress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Functional intimacy: Needing—But not wanting—The touch of a stranger. 20170619
    Intimacy is often motivated by love, but sometimes it is merely functional. For example, disrobing and being touched at an airport security check serves the goal of catching a flight, not building a relationship. We propose that this functional intimacy induces discomfort, making people prefer greater social distance from their interaction partner. Supporting this prediction, participants who considered (Experiments 1 and 2) or experienced (Experiment 3) more physically intimate medical procedures preferred a health provider who is less social. Increased psychological intimacy also led people to prefer social distance from cleaning and health providers (Experiments 4–5), a preference revealed by nonverbal behavior (e.g., turning away and looking away, Experiments 6–7). These patterns of distancing are unique to functional (vs. romantic) intimacy (Experiment 7). Although creating social distance may be an effective strategy for coping with functional intimacy, it may have costs for service providers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Don’t sleep on it: Less sleep reduces risk for depressive symptoms in cognitively vulnerable undergraduates. 20160922
    The current research tested a new theory of depression that integrates work on sleep and cognition. In general, good sleep is essential for physical and mental health. However, we theorize that sleep can actually increase risk for depressive symptoms in cognitively vulnerable individuals. This is because the negative cognitions generated by these individuals are strengthened and consolidated each night during sleep. Three studies were conducted to test this theory. Studies 1 (n = 134) and 2 (n = 47) used prospective designs and showed that undergraduates with high, but not low, levels of cognitive vulnerability were most likely to exhibit increases in depressive symptoms when sleeping well as operationalized by self-reported quality and objectively measured duration (via actigraphy). Study 3 (n = 40) used an experimental design and provides the first causal evidence that it may be possible to prevent future depressive symptoms in cognitively at-risk undergraduates by restricting their sleep during times of high perceived stress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The effect of mood on judgments of subjective well-being: Nine tests of the judgment model. 20161212
    Life satisfaction judgments are thought to represent an overall evaluation of the quality of a person’s life as a whole. Thus, they should reflect relatively important and stable characteristics of that person’s life. Previous highly cited research has suggested that transient factors, such as the mood that a person experiences at the time that well-being judgments are made, can influence these judgments. However, most existing studies used small sample sizes, and few replications have been attempted. Nine direct and conceptual replications of past studies testing the effects of mood on life satisfaction judgments were conducted using sample sizes that were considerably larger than previous studies (Ns = 202, 200, 269, 118, 320, 401, 285, 129, 122). Most of the 9 studies resulted in nonsignificant effects on life satisfaction and happiness judgments, and those that were significant were substantially smaller than effects found in previous research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Some evidence for the usefulness of an optimal foraging theory perspective on goal conflict and goal facilitation. 20170831
    Based on optimal foraging theory, we propose a metric that allows evaluating the goodness of goal systems, that is, systems comprising multiple goals with facilitative and conflicting interrelations. This optimal foraging theory takes into account expectancy and value, as well as opportunity costs, of foraging. Applying this approach to goal systems provides a single index of goodness of a goal system for goal striving. Three quasi-experimental studies (N = 277, N = 145, and N = 210) provide evidence for the usefulness of this approach for goal systems comprising between 3 to 10 goals. Results indicate that persons with a more optimized goal-system are more conscientious and open to new experience, are more likely to represent their goals in terms of means (i.e., adopt a process focus), and are more satisfied and engaged with their goals. Persons with a suboptimal goal system tend to switch their goals more often and thereby optimize their goal system. We discuss limitations as well as possible future directions of this approach. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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