New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

I Think, Therefore Eyeblink: The Importance of Contingency Awareness in Conditioning

Gabrielle Weidemann, Michelle Satkunarajah, and Peter F. Lovibond

Associative learning in humans is thought to be able to occur both unconsciously and consciously; however, studies of this dual-system for learning have produced conflicting results. Participants performed a conditioning task in which one of several stimuli was paired with a puff of air. Researchers manipulated how much information they gave participants about the pairing, giving them no information, some information, or detailed information. Participants given detailed information learned the association straight away, whereas those given some information slowly learned the association over the course of the trials. Participants given no information showed no evidence of learning the association. These findings cast doubt on the dual-systems theory and suggest a necessary role for awareness in this type of learning.

For 5-Month-Old Infants, Melodies Are Social

Samuel A. Mehr, Lee Ann Song, and Elizabeth S. Spelke

Does music convey social meaning to infants? Infants listened to a melody sung in person by their parents, sung in person and on video by a novel adult, or played by a toy in their home. Infants listened to the melody regularly for 1 to 2 weeks and then watched a video of two novel people — one who sang the familiar melody and one who sang an unfamiliar melody. Infants who had originally heard the melody sung by their parents looked longer at the person who sang the familiar melody than at the person who sang the novel melody. No preference was seen in children who had originally heard the melody from a novel adult or from a toy. A test of long-term retention of the melody indicated that children — regardless of how they learned the melody — remembered it for more than 8 months. This indicates that melodies learned in person from familiar social partners may carry special social meaning to infants.

Self-Affirmation Activates the Ventral Striatum: A Possible Reward-Related Mechanism for Self-Affirmation

Janine M. Dutcher, J. David Creswell, Laura E. Pacilio, Peter R. Harris, William M. P. Klein, John M. Levine, Julienne E. Bower, Keely A. Muscatell, and Naomi I. Eisenberger

Self-affirmation has been shown to have a variety of positive effects, from improving academic outcomes to reducing stress; however, its underlying neural mechanisms are not fully understood. Participants were assigned to a self-affirmation condition, in which they made decisions about important personal values (e.g., art, religion, science), or to a nonaffirmation condition, in which they made decisions about attributes people prefer in a toaster (e.g., color, size). An analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data collected during the task indicated that there was greater activation of the ventral striatum — an area of the brain involved in reward processing — in the self-affirmation condition than in the nonaffirmation condition. This suggests that the benefits of self-affirmation may result from activation of reward regions of the brain.

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