Journal of Personality and Social Psychology


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  • Consequences, norms, and generalized inaction in moral dilemmas: The CNI model of moral decision-making. 20170817
    Research on moral dilemma judgments has been fundamentally shaped by the distinction between utilitarianism and deontology. According to the principle of utilitarianism, the moral status of behavioral options depends on their consequences; the principle of deontology states that the moral status of behavioral options depends on their consistency with moral norms. To identify the processes underlying utilitarian and deontological judgments, researchers have investigated responses to moral dilemmas that pit one principle against the other (e.g., trolley problem). However, the conceptual meaning of responses in this paradigm is ambiguous, because the central aspects of utilitarianism and deontology—consequences and norms—are not manipulated. We illustrate how this shortcoming undermines theoretical interpretations of empirical findings and describe an alternative approach that resolves the ambiguities of the traditional paradigm. Expanding on this approach, we present a multinomial model that allows researchers to quantify sensitivity to consequences (C), sensitivity to moral norms (N), and general preference for inaction versus action irrespective of consequences and norms (I) in responses to moral dilemmas. We present 8 studies that used this model to investigate the effects of gender, cognitive load, question framing, and psychopathy on moral dilemma judgments. The findings obtained with the proposed CNI model offer more nuanced insights into the determinants of moral dilemma judgments, calling for a reassessment of dominant theoretical assumptions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • What’s wrong with using steroids? Exploring whether and why people oppose the use of performance enhancing drugs. 20170508
    The use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) elicits widespread normative opposition, yet little research has investigated what underlies these judgments. We examine this question comprehensively, across 13 studies. We first test the hypothesis that opposition to PED use cannot be fully accounted for by considerations of fairness. We then test the influence of 10 other potential drivers of opposition in an exploratory manner. We find that health risks for the user and rules and laws prohibiting use of anabolic steroids reliably affect normative judgments. Next, we test whether these patterns generalize to a different PED—cognitive-enhancement drugs. Finally, we sketch a framework for understanding these results, borrowing from Social Domain Theory (e.g., Turiel, 1983). We argue that PED use exemplifies a class of violations with properties of moral, conventional, and prudential offenses. This research sheds light on a widespread, but understudied, normative judgment, and illustrates the utility of exploratory methods. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The Goldilocks contract: The synergistic benefits of combining structure and autonomy for persistence, creativity, and cooperation. 20170427
    Contracts are commonly used to regulate a wide range of interactions and relationships. Yet relying on contracts as a mechanism of control often comes at a cost to motivation. Integrating theoretical perspectives from psychology, economics, and organizational theory, we explore this control-motivation dilemma inherent in contracts and present the Contract-Autonomy-Motivation-Performance-Structure (CAMPS) model, which highlights the synergistic benefits of combining structure and autonomy. The model proposes that subtle reductions in the specificity of a contract’s language can boost autonomy, which increases intrinsic motivation and improves a range of desirable behaviors. Nine field and laboratory experiments found that less specific contracts increased task persistence, creativity, and cooperation, both immediately and longitudinally, because they boosted autonomy and intrinsic motivation. These positive effects, however, only occurred when contracts provided sufficient structure. Furthermore, the effects were limited to control-oriented clauses (i.e., legal clauses), and did not extend to coordination-oriented clauses (i.e., technical clauses). That is, there were synergistic benefits when a contract served as a scaffold that combined structure with general clauses. Overall, the current model and experiments identify a low-cost solution to the common problem of regulating social relationships: finding the right amount of contract specificity promotes desirable outcomes, including behaviors that are notoriously difficult to contract. The CAMPS model and the current set of empirical findings explain why, when, and how contracts can be used as an effective motivational tool. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Freedom of racist speech: Ego and expressive threats. 20170417
    Do claims of “free speech” provide cover for prejudice? We investigate whether this defense of racist or hate speech serves as a justification for prejudice. In a series of 8 studies (N = 1,624), we found that explicit racial prejudice is a reliable predictor of the “free speech defense” of racist expression. Participants endorsed free speech values for singing racists songs or posting racist comments on social media; people high in prejudice endorsed free speech more than people low in prejudice (meta-analytic r = .43). This endorsement was not principled—high levels of prejudice did not predict endorsement of free speech values when identical speech was directed at coworkers or the police. Participants low in explicit racial prejudice actively avoided endorsing free speech values in racialized conditions compared to nonracial conditions, but participants high in racial prejudice increased their endorsement of free speech values in racialized conditions. Three experiments failed to find evidence that defense of racist speech by the highly prejudiced was based in self-relevant or self-protective motives. Two experiments found evidence that the free speech argument protected participants’ own freedom to express their attitudes; the defense of other’s racist speech seems motivated more by threats to autonomy than threats to self-regard. These studies serve as an elaboration of the Justification-Suppression Model (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003) of prejudice expression. The justification of racist speech by endorsing fundamental political values can serve to buffer racial and hate speech from normative disapproval. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • It doesn’t hurt to ask: Question-asking increases liking. 20170427
    Conversation is a fundamental human experience that is necessary to pursue intrapersonal and interpersonal goals across myriad contexts, relationships, and modes of communication. In the current research, we isolate the role of an understudied conversational behavior: question-asking. Across 3 studies of live dyadic conversations, we identify a robust and consistent relationship between question-asking and liking: people who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by their conversation partners. When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care. We measure responsiveness with an attitudinal measure from previous research as well as a novel behavioral measure: the number of follow-up questions one asks. In both cases, responsiveness explains the effect of question-asking on liking. In addition to analyzing live get-to-know-you conversations online, we also studied face-to-face speed-dating conversations. We trained a natural language processing algorithm as a “follow-up question detector” that we applied to our speed-dating data (and can be applied to any text data to more deeply understand question-asking dynamics). The follow-up question rate established by the algorithm showed that speed daters who ask more follow-up questions during their dates are more likely to elicit agreement for second dates from their partners, a behavioral indicator of liking. We also find that, despite the persistent and beneficial effects of asking questions, people do not anticipate that question-asking increases interpersonal liking. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • A mixed-methods study of personality conceptions in the Levant: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. 20170608
    Personality taxonomies are investigated using either etic-style studies that test whether Western-developed models fit in a new culture, or emic-style studies that derive personality dimensions from a local culture, using a psycholexical approach. Recent studies have incorporated strengths from both approaches. We combine the 2 approaches in the first study of personality descriptors in spoken Arabic. In Study 1, we collected 17,283 responses from a sample of adults in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the West Bank (N = 545). Qualitative analysis revealed 9 personality dimensions: Soft-Heartedness, Positive Social Relatedness, Integrity, Humility versus Dominance, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Emotional Stability, Intellect, and Openness. In Study 2, we converted the qualitative model into an indigenous personality inventory and obtained self-ratings of a sample of adults in the same region (N = 395). We also simultaneously obtained self-ratings on an adapted etic inventory that measures the lexical Big Five (N = 325). Psychometric and conceptual considerations yielded a robust 7-factor indigenous model: Agreeableness/Soft Heartedness, Honesty/Integrity, Unconventionality, Emotional Stability, Conscientiousness, Extraversion/Positive Social Relatedness, and Intellect. Initial validation evidence shows that 5 of the 7 factors overlapped with the Big Five, whereas Honesty/Integrity and Unconventionality did not overlap. Also, scores on the indigenous tools were better predicted by relevant demographic variables than scores on the etic tool. Our study demonstrated the viability of combining etic and emic approaches as key to the understanding of personality in its cultural context. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Writer–reader contagion of inspiration and related states: Conditional process analyses within a cross-classified writer × reader framework. 20160428
    A longstanding tradition in the humanities holds that a writer’s inspiration is infectious, but this thesis has not been tested. We hypothesized that (a) inspiration is infectious, such that inspired writers are more inspiring to the average reader; (b) contagion is mediated by the insightfulness of the text; and (c) contagion is moderated by readers’ openness to experience, such that open readers are more prone to contagion. To test these hypotheses, a sample of 195 student writers, each of whom wrote 1 poem, was crossed with a sample of 220 student readers, who read all poems. Data were available for 36,020 cells of the resulting Writer × Reader matrix. Our analytic approach integrated cross-classified multilevel modeling with conditional process analysis. As hypothesized, writers who were more inspired elicited higher levels of inspiration in the average reader. Inspiration contagion was mediated by the insightfulness and pleasantness of the text and was partially suppressed by originality. Inspiration contagion was moderated by reader openness. Moderated mediation analyses indicated that open readers were prone to contagion because they were tolerant of the originality and sublimity of inspired writing. Additional analyses differentiated contagion of inspiration from contagion of its covariates (awe, positive affect), documented effects of writer inspiration on reader enthrallment (awe, chills), and showed that writer effort is a poor predictor of reader states. The infectiousness of inspiration—through poetry, if not also through scripture and academic writing—suggests that a given instance of inspiration may have far-reaching cultural implications, including dissemination of innovations and ideologies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Much ado about grit: A meta-analytic synthesis of the grit literature. 20160616
    Grit has been presented as a higher order personality trait that is highly predictive of both success and performance and distinct from other traits such as conscientiousness. This paper provides a meta-analytic review of the grit literature with a particular focus on the structure of grit and the relation between grit and performance, retention, conscientiousness, cognitive ability, and demographic variables. Our results based on 584 effect sizes from 88 independent samples representing 66,807 individuals indicate that the higher order structure of grit is not confirmed, that grit is only moderately correlated with performance and retention, and that grit is very strongly correlated with conscientiousness. We also find that the perseverance of effort facet has significantly stronger criterion validities than the consistency of interest facet and that perseverance of effort explains variance in academic performance even after controlling for conscientiousness. In aggregate our results suggest that interventions designed to enhance grit may only have weak effects on performance and success, that the construct validity of grit is in question, and that the primary utility of the grit construct may lie in the perseverance facet. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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