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Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Racial Progress as Threat to the Status Hierarchy: Implications for Perceptions of Anti-White Bias

Clara L. Wilkins and Cheryl R. Kaiser

Researchers have found that perceptions of racial progress have been mirrored by an increase in perceptions of discrimination against Whites. In the first of three studies, White participants were assessed for system-legitimacy beliefs (SLBs; i.e., perceptions that the current status hierarchy is fair) and for perceptions of racial progress and anti-White bias. The researchers found that perceptions of racial progress were related to perceptions of anti-White bias for participants who endorsed SLBs but were unrelated for participants who rejected SLBs. A follow-up study found that self-affirmation eliminated this relationship in participants endorsing SLBs, providing a possible strategy to help high-status groups perceive social progress in a nonthreatening way.

Deferred Feedback Sharply Dissociates Implicit and Explicit Category Learning

J. David Smith, Joseph Boomer, Alexandria Zakrzewski, Jessica Roeder, Barbara A. Church, and F. Gregory Ashby

Humans have a wide range of categorization abilities. Are these abilities supported by a single or multiple category-learning systems? Participants performed matched category tasks that had a rule-based or an information-integration solution. Feedback on participants’ task performance was provided after each trial (immediate condition) or at the end of each block of trials (deferred condition). Deferred reinforcement compromised information-integration learning but not rule-based learning, a finding that suggests the presence of multiple category-learning systems.

Reward-Based Transfer From Bottom-Up to Top-Down Search Tasks

Jeongmi Lee and Sarah Shomstein          

Past research has shown that reward can affect attention in bottom-up and top-down tasks, but it is still not known whether the influence of rewards can transfer across tasks. In the first of several experiments, participants completed a pop-out search task (bottom-up task) with a biased reward schedule before completing a conjunction search task (top-down task) with no biased reward schedule. Participants responded faster to targets in the conjunction-search task that had been highly rewarded in the pop-out search task, demonstrating reward-based transfer across tasks that engage different modes of attention.

Toddlers Infer Higher-Order Relational Principles in Causal Learning

Caren M. Walker and Alison Gopnik

Researchers know that young children can infer the causal properties of individual objects, although it’s still not well known at what age they can infer higher-order relational properties. In the first of several studies, 21- to 24-month-old children were shown a toy that played music when two blocks of the same shape were placed on top of it. The researchers demonstrated how the toy worked before showing the children a novel block and asking them to pick the correct partner to make the toy work. Children picked the correct block more than would be expected by chance, demonstrating that toddlers can infer higher-order relational causal principles and use them to guide their actions.