New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Dissecting the Neural Focus of Attention Reveals Distinct Processes for Spatial Attention and Object-Based Storage in Visual Working Memory
Nicole Hakim, Kirsten C. S. Adam, Eren Gunseli, Edward Awh, and Edward K. Vogel

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Performance in complex visual tasks requires focus of attention, which can be divided into two distinct neural processes, one related to spatial attention and another related to object-based storage, this research suggests. To characterize the neural mechanisms that support focus of attention, Hakim and colleagues collected electroencephalographic (EEG) data while participants were shown similar visual arrays and asked to either remember the color of specific items in the array (a working memory task that requires on-line storage of the objects) or indicate the orientation of a line that briefly appeared at the attended locations in the array (an attention task that requires only representation of spatial locations). EEG data indicated that participants engaged different neural mechanisms depending on the task they performed. During the working memory task, the researchers identified contralateral delay activity — negative activity in the brain hemisphere contralateral to the positions of the to-be-remembered objects. However, during the attention task, they detected only alpha activity containing precise spatial information of the attended areas. These results suggest that focus of attention is maintained by a collaboration between two complementary but distinct processes: a map of prioritized spatial locations and on-line representations of objects. Identifying these two processes may have implications for cognitive and neural models of focus of attention.

Collective Emotions and Social Resilience in the Digital Traces After a Terrorist Attack
David Garcia and Bernard Rimé

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Social media can give important cues about how people react to collective traumatic events, such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Garcia and Rimé analyzed tweets originating from France after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. During 1 month after the attacks, they collected tweets with specific hashtags referring to the attacks and used them to identify a set of 62,114 user accounts. They then analyzed the content of these users’ tweets from April 2015 to June 2016 to identify different word usage before and after the attacks. The researchers measured the frequency of use of (a) positive-affect and negative-affect terms; (b) expressions of sadness, anxiety, and anger; (c) expressions of French shared values (liberté, égalité, fraternité); and (d) terms related to prosocial behavior (e.g., caring, solidarity). Overall, they found that the increase in negative-affect terms and in expressions of anxiety and sadness immediately after the attacks lasted for over a week. The use of terms related to prosocial behavior and French shared values increased the day after the attacks and remained high in the months after the attacks. This pattern found in social media supports the idea that after a disaster, members of the concerned community talk profusely about it, which can lead to a collective emotion that may ultimately foster prosocial behavior, including solidarity.

Group-Based Relative Deprivation Explains Endorsement of Extremism Among Western-Born Muslims
Milan Obaidi, Robin Bergh, Nazar Akrami, and Gulnaz Anjum

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Despite many politicians framing foreign Muslims as threats, many of the Muslim terrorist attacks in the West have been orchestrated by Muslims who were born and raised in the West. To explore the reasons why Western-born Muslims may be more susceptible to extremism than Muslim immigrants, Obaidi and colleagues conducted six experiments, in which they tested more than 1200 Western-born and foreign-born Muslims living in 20 different Western countries. Participants completed measures of group-based deprivation (e.g., agreement with “Muslims will always be at the bottom and non-Muslim Westerners at the top of the social ladder”), group identification (e.g., agreement with “I strongly identify with other Muslims”), perceived injustice toward Muslims, anger about how Muslims are treated in the West, and violent intentions (e.g., agreement with “I am ready to use violence against other people in order to achieve something I consider very important”). Western-born participants, compared with immigrant participants, showed higher Muslim identification, perceived injustice, anger, and violent intentions, indicating that they were more susceptible to extremism and group deprivation (i.e., perceiving that members of their group have less than what they should). In another experiment, the authors found that these effects did not extend to a non-Western, non-Muslim group with high rates of immigration and Western births, and thus seem to be unique to Muslim groups. These results do not lead to the conclusion that Western-born Muslims are more violent than other people in Western countries but emphasize how perceived group-based deprivation can foster anger and extremism.  

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