New Research in Psychological Science

Do Positive Psychological Factors Equally Predict Resistance to Upper Respiratory Infections in African and European Americans?
Cameron R. Wiley, Kennedy M. Blevins, Sheldon Cohen, and Sarah D. Pressman

This research indicates that the health benefits of positive psychological constructs (e.g., positive emotional style, calm, self-esteem, self-acceptance) may depend on factors such as race. Wiley and colleagues explored whether positive self-evaluations were equally protective against upper respiratory infection for 271 African American adults and 700 European American adults. The researchers assessed participants for psychological functioning and physical health. Participants were then quarantined and exposed experimentally to a respiratory virus, while being monitored for infection and symptoms. Results indicated significant interactions between race and multiple positive psychological factors. For example, factors such as positive emotional style, which were helpful to European Americans, were unhelpful or even harmful to African Americans.   

The Moral Significance of Aesthetics in Nature Imagery  
Eunsoo Kim, Julia Lee Cunningham, and Anocha Aribarg  

Kim and colleagues trained a neural network to identify image-specific attributes that improve the perceived aesthetics of nature images (i.e., the physical beauty of nature). Using National Geographic’s Instagram data, the network identified those attributes as higher saturation levels, higher image clarity, lower contrast or variation in brightness, and the focal object’s centeredness. Image aesthetics, in turn, predicted engagement with the Instagram posts. In another study, they found the cause of the aesthetics effect, on both engagement and moral concern, was the self-transcendent emotions (awe and inspiration) and purity associated with an image. Moreover, these effects appeared to be stronger for individuals who placed higher importance on beauty. These results highlight the potential of nature’s beauty to invigorate global conservation efforts.  

Auxiliary Scene-Context Information Provided by Anchor Objects Guides Attention and Locomotion in Natural Search Behavior  
Jason Helbing, Dejan Draschkow, and Melissa L.-H. Võ

Helbing and colleagues examined how objects different from what a human is searching for (e.g., a stove when the target is a teakettle) can guide attention and locomotion. In an immersive virtual reality task, participants searched for objects in naturalistic scenes. The researchers manipulated the presence and arrangement of large, static objects that anchored predictions about targets (e.g., the sink provides a prediction for the location of the soap). Results indicated that these objects facilitated attention allocation and object recognition and minimized costly body movements. These findings suggest that humans incorporate objects auxiliary to a target into the representations guiding attention and locomotion. 

The Golden Age Is Behind Us: How the Status Quo Impacts the Evaluation of Technology
Adam H. Smiley and Matthew Fisher

Independent of the actual risks posed by technology, people have more positive attitudes toward technologies invented before their earliest memories, this research suggests. Smiley and Fisher manipulated the reported age of an unfamiliar technology and found that people evaluated it more favorably when it was described as originating before their birth. Moreover, participants’ age at the time of invention predicted their attitudes toward real-world technologies, and their differing preferences for states of the world remaining consistent (i.e., status quo bias) moderated their evaluations of technology. These results help shed light on why cycles of concern over new technologies continually repeat.  

Do Open-Science Badges Increase Trust in Scientists Among Undergraduates, Scientists, and the Public?  
Jürgen Schneider, Tom Rosman, Augustin Kelava, and Samuel Merk

Schneider and colleagues investigated whether badges for open-science practices affect the trust that student teachers, social scientists, and the public place in scientists and topic-specific epistemic beliefs (i.e., beliefs about the development and justification of knowledge). Each participant was randomly assigned to two of three conditions: badges awarded, badges not awarded, and no badges (control). Bayesian analyses indicated that badges increased trust among students and scientists, but not for the public sample. Badges also reduced students’ and scientists’ views of scientific knowledge as subjective. These results support the importance of badges and indicate that they may help to promote an idea of science that is not just an “opinion.”

No Evidence That Siblings’ Gender Affects Personality Across Nine Countries  
Thomas Dudek, Anne Ardila Brenøe, Jan Feld, and Julia M. Rohrer 

Does growing up with a sister rather than a brother affect personality? Dudek and colleagues provide a comprehensive analysis of how siblings’ genders affect adult personalities, using data from 85,887 people in 12 large representative surveys covering nine countries (United States, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Mexico, China, and Indonesia). They investigated the personality traits of risk tolerance, trust, patience, locus of control, and the Big Five (i.e., openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism). The results suggested that the next younger or older siblings’ gender had no effect on personality.  

The Games We Play: Prosocial Choices Under Time Pressure Reflect Context-Sensitive Information Priorities
Yi Yang Teoh and Cendri A. Hutcherson

Context-sensitive information search, rather than automatic responses, underlies how time pressure affects prosociality and makes people act both selfishly and selflessly, Teoh and Hutcherson propose. They found that different prosocial contexts (i.e., pure altruism, cooperation) drive people to prioritize information differently in a manner that constrains their subsequent choices, particularly under time pressure. By emphasizing the role of dynamic context-sensitive information search rather than people’s fundamental social dispositions, these findings help to explain existing inconsistencies in the field of prosocial decision-making.

Internal Social Attention: Gaze Cues Stored in Working Memory Trigger Involuntary Attentional Orienting
Haoyue Ji, Tian Yuan, Yiwen Yu, Li Wang, and Yi Jiang 
Social cues internally maintained in working memory (WM) can guide the focus of attention, this research indicates. Ji and colleagues found that after memorizing a face whose gaze was averted, participants more quickly identified the location of targets (visual patches) on the same side as the gaze than of targets on the opposite side. This effect cannot be explained by the perceptual-attentional process, because identical gaze cues that participants did not memorize and nonsocial cues (i.e., arrows) did not trigger their attentional allocation. These findings support the conceptualization of WM as internally directed attention and highlight the uniqueness of social attention.

Following Other People’s Footsteps: A Contextual-Attraction Effect Induced by Biological Motion 
Yuhui Cheng, Wenjie Liu, Xiangyong Yuan, and Yi Jiang 
Perceived social bonds may implicitly influence visual perception, Cheng and colleagues show. In six experiments, the researchers presented points of light depicting walkers, one of them in the center of the frame and the others in the surrounding area, and asked participants to assess the walking direction of the central walker. They found that participants tended to perceptually align the direction the central walker was moving with those of the surrounding walkers. This contextual-attraction effect occurred even when the surrounding walkers differed from the central walker in gender and walking speed, but it disappeared when they were asynchronously presented or replaced by inanimate motion. These findings suggest that the human perceptual system is associated with higher-level social cognition.  

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