New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Iconic Gestures Facilitate Discourse Comprehension in Individuals With Superior Immediate Memory for Body Configurations

Ying Choon Wu and Seana Coulson

Iconic gestures are those that depict an aspect of the object or action to which they are referring. The researchers hypothesized that sensitivity to the meaning of these types of gestures is linked to differences in kinesthetic working memory (KWM). The researchers assessed participants’ KWM span and had them watch short video clips in which a person’s gestures were congruent or incongruent with the accompanying audio track. After each video clip, participants saw an image and were told to indicate whether the image was related or unrelated to what had just occurred in the video. In support of their hypothesis, the researchers found a relationship between KWM and the congruency of speech and gestures; specifically, those low in KWM were inhibited by incongruent videos, whereas those high in KWM were facilitated by congruent ones.

Birth Weight and Social Trust in Adulthood: Evidence for Early Calibration of Social Cognition

Michael Bang Petersen and Lene Aarøe

Theories of development suggest that the prenatal environment can serve as an indicator of the conditions a fetus is likely to encounter after birth. These conditions can help forecast the likely physical and behavioral characteristics a child might display in order to be best adapted to the expected environment. In two studies, the authors examined data on birthweight and social trust at age 15 collected from the Danish government registries, the Danish Longitudinal Survey of Children, and the European Social Survey. Birthweight was related to social trust at age 15, and higher birthweight predicted higher levels of trust in adulthood. An analysis of additional factors (e.g., motivation to delay gratification and sexual maturity) indicated that birthweight leads to calibrations in life-history strategy that account for social trust at age 15.

Implicit Social Biases in People With Autism

Elina Birmingham, Damian Stanley, Remya Nair, and Ralph Adolphs

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have problems processing faces, interpreting social cues, and attending to social stimuli. The researchers hypothesized that people with ASD would, because of their impaired social processing, also show attenuated implicit social biases. High-functioning adults with ASD and adults without ASD completed a series of implicit-association tests assessing implicit biases related to race and gender (social biases) and nature and shoes (nonsocial biases). Participants also completed assessments of explicit bias relating to race, gender roles, race occupations, and shoe type. The researchers found a reduced — but intact — implicit-association effect in people with ASD and did not find a specific attenuation in social biases.


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