New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Topological Relations Between Objects Are Categorically Coded

Andrew Lovett and Steven L. Franconeri

How do people compare images? The authors hypothesized that people use categorical relations between objects rather than metric changes of objects when comparing images. The researchers examined three topographical categories (overlapping, touching, and containing) in four studies in which participants were shown pairs of filled or unfilled circles that were briefly masked before reappearing. Participants were instructed to indicate whether the circles had changed or stayed the same. On half the trials, the circles stayed the same; on a quarter of the trials, the circles changed in a way that was purely metric; and on a quarter of the trials, the circles changed in a way that was categorical (e.g., the circles changed from overlapping to merely touching one another). The researchers found that participants were more accurate at detecting changes that crossed categorical boundaries. The authors suggest that this experiment can serve as a template for future investigations of the categories people perceive when observing between-object relations.

Thinking More or Feeling Less? Explaining the Foreign-Language Effect on Moral Judgment

Sayuri Hayakawa, David Tannenbaum, Albert Costa, Joanna D. Corey, and Boaz Keysar

Recent studies have shown that responses to moral dilemmas depend on whether the decision is made in a native or foreign language, creating a moral foreign-language effect (MFLE). The effects of foreign language on moral decision making may be explained by the blunted-deontology account (i.e., foreign language stunts emotional processing) and the heightened-utilitarianism account (i.e., foreign language encourages deliberative thinking). The present study used six experiments to investigate the effect of foreign languages on moral dilemmas. Participants read scenarios designed to separately measure deontological and utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas. For each scenario, participants indicated either the appropriateness of an action or whether they would perform the action themselves. Participants completed the task in either their native language or a foreign language (English, German, or Spanish). Researchers found that use of a foreign language blunted deontological responding but did not heighten utilitarian responses. Foreign language seems to blunt emotional responses rather than encourage deliberative thinking.

More Is Meaningful: The Magnitude Effect in Intertemporal Choice Depends on Self-Control

Ian C. Ballard, Bokyung Kim, Anthony Liatsis, Gökhan Aydogan, Jonathan D. Cohen, and Samuel M. McClure

The magnitude effect is a phenomenon in which larger rewards or outcomes are discounted over time at a lower rate than are smaller rewards. The researchers suggest that such a lower rate of discounting for larger rewards is driven in part by differential exertion of self-control. Specifically, they hypothesize that people exert more self-control in high-reward situations than in low-reward situations. The researchers examined the influence of self-control on the magnitude effect in three studies in which participants chose between receiving smaller rewards after a short delay or larger rewards after a longer delay. Participants chose between two low-magnitude rewards or two high-magnitude rewards. In a first study, the researchers found that frontal-executive-control areas of the brain were more engaged when making difficult decisions — an effect that was enhanced for high-magnitude reward decisions. A second study showed that hunger — a factor thought to reduce self-control — reduced the magnitude effect. Finally, a third study showed that a self-control-boosting exercise also reduced the magnitude effect. The influence of self-control on the magnitude effect provides support for an underlying role in this phenomenon.

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