New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Memory for Repeated Images in Rapid-Serial-Visual-Presentation Streams of Thousands of Images
Evelina Thunell and Simon J. Thorpe

Humans are able to spot repetitions in streams of thousands of images presented at a fast pace, this research suggests. Participants saw streams of images that lasted 30 to 80 s and contained hundreds or thousands of images (e.g., plush toys, a soccer field) and were asked to detect when an image was repeated by pressing a button. Afterward, they were asked to pick out the repeated image from a set of four images. The repeated image could appear between 2 and 10 times, and there could be one or two distractor images between each repetition. Participants were better at detecting the repetition the more times the images were repeated and when there was only one distractor between repetitions. They also remembered the images better the more times they were repeated and the fewer distractors there were between repetitions. Participants’ detection and memory were also better when the streams were presented more slowly. This capacity to detect and remember repetitions in rapidly presented visual streams supports the idea that humans are able to form memories for anything that repeats in the environment, which allows for fast processing of commonly occurring items. Thunell and Thorpe suggest that repetition might be important for deciding what to learn or memorize.

Stability and Change in Implicit Bias
Heidi A. Vuletich and B. Keith Payne

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Can implicit bias be changed? This research suggests that it depends on whether we look at individual bias or environmental bias, the first of which is malleable and the second stable. In a 2016 study, Lai and colleagues analyzed implicit race bias on 18 university campuses before and after an intervention designed to reduce bias and found that it was lower immediately after the intervention but returned to the initial levels a few days later. Vuletich and Payne reanalyzed Lai et al.’s data and found that individual attitudes across time varied randomly and did not return to the preexisting levels. This reanalysis indicates that the stability of bias initially obtained may reflect stable environments rather than persistent individual biases. Vuletich and Payne also found that campuses’ characteristics that reflect historical and current inequalities, such as low faculty diversity, low social mobility (percentage of students whose parents had moved up from the poorest income quintile), and display of Confederate monuments predicted high bias. The researchers suggest that rather than being a property of individuals, implicit bias might be a property of social contexts, and that changing the social context (e.g., by increasing faculty diversity or removing Confederate monuments from campuses) may more effectively reduce bias than changing individual attitudes.

Why Do We Hold Mixed Emotions About Racial Out-Groups? A Case for Affect Matching
Fiona Kate Barlow, Matthew J. Hornsey, Lydia E. Hayward, Carla A. Houkamau, Jemima Kang, Petar Milojev, and Chris G. Sibley

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To investigate how positive and negative contact with racial out-groups predicts warmth and anger toward those groups, Barlow and colleagues analyzed data from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study, a national survey that includes measures of positive and negative contact with different groups (e.g., “How often do you have positive contact with Pacific Islanders?”) and ratings of feelings of warmth and anger toward each group. Respondents were assessed every year, and the researchers analyzed data from 2011 to 2014. Data indicated that negative contact was associated with high levels of anger but not necessarily low levels of warmth, and positive contact was associated with high levels of warmth but not necessarily lower levels of anger. These results support the affect-matching hypothesis, according to which negative contact predicts anger and positive contact predicts warmth. This hypothesis suggests that positive and negative feelings about out-groups are rooted in different contact experiences and is opposed to the ideas that negative experiences outweigh positive ones and that positive and negative experiences equally influence anger and warmth. Thus, these results speak to the importance of rejecting the idea that positive and negative experiences compete with each other to influence emotions toward out-groups, the authors suggest.

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