New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Folk Explanations of Behavior: A Specialized Use of a Domain-General Mechanism

Robert P. Spunt and Ralph Adolphs

Do people use similar or different cognitive processes when making sense of social and nonsocial events? Participants’ brain activity was measured while they completed a task in which they answered attributional and factual yes/no questions about the content of social images (emotional expressions and intentional hand actions) and nonsocial images (weather- and season-related). The researchers used this task to examine brain activity specific to attributional processing and found that attributions in both the social and nonsocial domains activated a common set of brain regions. One brain area — the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) — showed greater activation in response to social attributions than to nonsocial attributions. These findings suggest that social attributions may rely on processes centralized in the DMPFC that are used to make attributions about nonsocial events.

Cumulative Exposure to Prior Collective Trauma and Acute Stress Responses to the Boston Marathon Bombings

Dana Rose Garfin, E. Alison Holman, and Roxane Cohen Silver

How does exposure to a past community-wide trauma influence people’s reaction to a subsequent trauma? The researchers measured Boston and New York City residents’ levels of stress and indirect and direct exposure to the Boston Marathon bombings and to three previous community-wide traumas: the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Superstorm Sandy, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Increased direct, indirect, and media-based exposure to past community traumas — but not location (i.e., Boston vs. New York) — was associated with acute stress responses in relation to the Boston Marathon bombings. These findings indicate that the accumulation of past trauma may sensitize individuals to subsequent trauma exposure.

Dual-Hormone Changes Are Related to Bargaining Performance

Pranjal H. Mehta, Shira Mor, Andy J. Yap, and Smrithi Prasad

Although research has suggested that testosterone influences bargaining behavior, results have been mixed; some studies have shown that testosterone is associated with behavior that maximizes monetary rewards, and others have shown that it is associated with behavior that maximizes social rewards. In two studies, participants’ cortisol and testosterone levels were assessed before and after they engaged in a face-to-face negotiation task or a computer-based negotiation task. The results of both studies suggested that rising testosterone — when paired with dropping levels of cortisol — was linked with behaviors that maximized monetary rewards. Increases in both testosterone and cortisol were associated with behaviors that reflected social concerns — such as maintaining rapport. These results indicate that the impact of testosterone on bargaining behaviors may depend on fluctuations in cortisol.

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