New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Infections and Elections: Did an Ebola Outbreak Influence the 2014 U.S. Federal Elections (and if so, How)?

Alec T. Beall, Marlise K. Hofer, and Mark Schaller

Did the Ebola outbreak influence the 2014 U.S. federal elections? In the second of three studies, the researchers analyzed state-specific preferences for Republican and Democratic candidates before and after the Ebola outbreak for 32 U.S. Senate elections held in 2014. They also examined the degree to which voters in each state typically favor Republican or Democratic candidates and the internet search volume for information related to Ebola. The researchers found that voter preferences shifted toward Republican candidates after the Ebola outbreak and that this shift primarily occurred in states that had a history of favoring Republican candidates. These findings suggest that disease outbreak may shift people in favor of more conservative candidates and make them more likely to conform to popular voting opinion.

Secure Infant-Mother Attachment Buffers the Effect of Early-Life Stress on Age of Menarche

Sooyeon Sung, Jeffry A. Simpson, Vladas Griskevicius, Sally I-Chun Kuo, Gabriel L. Schlomer, and Jay Belsky

Research has indicated that exposure to stressful environments is related to earlier menarche, but many of these studies have operationalized stress in a broad manner, making it difficult to determine whether specific types of stress are more or less important to this phenomenon. The researchers examined environmental harshness (measured by examining each family’s economic resources), environmental unpredictability (measured by examining household moves, parental unemployment, and paternal transitions), and infant attachment at 15 months of age. Participants were recruited as part of the United States-based Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Environmental harshness — but not environmental unpredictability — predicted earlier age of menarche only in participants who were insecurely attached at 15 months of age, a finding that demonstrates the way early relationships and environment jointly impact developmental maturation.

Top-Down Processes Override Bottom-Up Interference in the Flanker Task

Rotem Avital-Cohen and Yehoshua Tsal

In a flanker task, people determine the identity of a target letter that is flanked by distractors that are congruent with the target, incongruent with the target, or neutral. People generally show distractor interference on this task (i.e., longer response times when the flankers are incongruent than when they are neutral or congruent). It is thought that distractors are not processed in a top-down manner and that this interference is a product of bottom-up processing. Participants completed a modified flanker task in which the target letter was an S or an O and was flanked by letters, digits, or ambiguous characters that could be read as letters or digits. The flankers produced interference only when people expected them to be letters — but not digits — suggesting that people did apply top-down processing to the distractors.



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