New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

People Make the Same Bayesian Judgment They Criticize in Others
Jack Cao, Max Kleiman-Weiner, and Mahzarin R. Banaji

Open Data and Open Materials badgesIf you learn that both a man and a woman performed surgery, which person would you say is more likely to be a doctor? To answer this question, you could make an egalitarian judgment (i.e., both are equally likely to be a doctor) or you could make a Bayesian judgment that considers statistical distributions (i.e., if there are more male doctors than female doctors, the man is more likely to be a doctor than the woman). In a series of experiments, the researchers examined how participants answered this type of question and how they perceived others’ judgments. Generally, participants viewed others who took a Bayesian approach as unfair and unintelligent and chose to share less money with them when given the opportunity. However, participants themselves used a Bayesian approach when making probability judgments, concluding that the man was more likely than the woman to be a doctor. Intriguingly, participants did not criticize others’ Bayesian judgments about certain male-dominated professions, such as firefighter, butcher, or construction worker. Together, the findings suggest that participants make probabilistic judgments that account for base rates, even though they criticize others for the same behavior.

Sudden Events Change Old Visual Objects Into New Ones: A Possible Role for Phasic Activation of Locus Coeruleus
Lisa N. Jefferies and Vincent Di Lollo

Individuals can perceive an old visual object (i.e., an object that has been on view for some time) as new (i.e., a sudden appearance) if a transient event occurs, causing a new processing of the old object. Assuming that this rejuvenation effect enhances processing of the location of the object, the researchers presented a square that remained on view throughout the experiment (the old object) and asked subjects to rapidly identify whether an asterisk was presented inside or outside of it. If participants saw a brightening of the screen or heard a sound (the transient event) before the asterisk appeared, they responded more quickly when the asterisk appeared inside the square than when it appeared outside the square. This indicates that the transient event caused a rejuvenation of the square and enhanced processing at its location. The researchers suggest that the effect probably depends on a reset of the brain network responsible for perceiving objects, given that the effect was not observed in participants with high scores on an autism spectrum scale (who usually show an atypical functioning of this network). Thus, understanding the rejuvenation effect involved in how humans perceive new objects might contribute to identifying the brain dynamics responsible for enhanced visual processing at different locations.

Pupillary Contagion in Autism
Martyna A. Galazka, Jakob Åsberg Johnels, Nicole R. Zürcher, Loyse Hippolyte, Eric Lemonnier, Eva Billstedt, Christopher Gillberg, and Nouchine Hadjikhani

When you interact with another person, the size of your pupils changes in response to the other individual’s pupil size. This reflects a “contagious” arousal and affect between you and the other person. But do individuals with autism show this pupillary contagion? Individuals with and without autism viewed photographs of women’s sad and happy faces while an eye tracker measured changes in their pupil sizes and fixation durations. Both groups of individuals showed similar changes in pupil size. Interestingly, individuals with autism fixated on the area around the eyes in the photographs for less time than individuals without autism, and longer fixation times corresponded with less pupillary contagion. Thus, even though they spent less time looking at the eyes, individuals with autism showed pupillary contagion. Taken together, these results support the overarousal hypothesis of autism, which suggests that individuals with autism reduce eye fixation as a way to decrease the arousal that processing social and affective stimuli might cause.

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