New Research in Psychological Science

Temporal Construal Effects Are Independent of Episodic Future Thought
R. Shayna Rosenbaum et al.

Humans tend to construe events in the distant future in abstract terms and events in the near future in concrete terms. Rosenbaum and colleagues hypothesized that temporal construal may rely on the capacity to orient toward and/or imagine context-rich future events. They tested participants with impaired episodic future thinking resulting from lesions to the hippocampus or ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Temporal construal persisted in most patients, even those with impaired episodic future thinking, but was absent in some vmPFC cases, possibly in relation to difficulties forming and maintaining future intentions. These results suggest that future-oriented temporal construal effects depend on the integrity of vmPFC in some cases but do not require preserved episodic future thinking. 

A Self-Controlled Mind Is Reflected by Stable Mental Processing
Tobias Kleinert et al.  

People high in self-control—the ability to inhibit inappropriate impulses—have more stable (i.e., fewer but longer lasting) mental processes with fewer interrupting thoughts and impulses, this research indicates. Kleinert and colleagues examined the stream of mental processing in participants by using resting electroencephalography microstate analysis, a method that assesses the sequential activation of neural networks. They found that participants with higher temporal stability of resting networks not only reported higher self-control but also showed a higher neural index of inhibitory control and took fewer risks in their actual behavior. These findings might support understanding and treating disorders associated with low self-control. 

The Effect of Auditory and Visual Recommendations on Choice
Shwetha Mariadassou, Christopher J. Bechler, and Jonathan Levav

People are more likely to adhere to recommendations they hear than recommendations they read, this research suggests. In five online experiments, Mariadassou and colleagues tested the effect of recommendation modality (auditory vs. visual) on recommendation adherence (i.e., choice). Human and automated voices were equally effective in making auditory recommendations. What drove the effect of auditory recommendations? The relative need for closure—manifested in a sense of urgency—that is evoked by the ephemerality of auditory messages. Thus, differences in the physical properties of auditory and visual modalities might influence behavior and cognition. 

Severe Developmental Dyscalculia Is Characterized by Core Deficits in Both Symbolic and Nonsymbolic Number Sense
Gisella Decarli et al.

Dyscalculia, a cause of math struggles, appears to stem from a number sense deficit (difficulty processing the meaning of number symbols and perceiving numerosity), not from general cognitive weakness (e.g., poor working memory), this research suggests. Decarli and colleagues tested all three potential causes and found that children with dyscalculia performed worse than children with average math skills when choosing the larger among two Arabic digits as well as when matching two consecutive sets of dots. These findings highlight basic numerical abilities that could be targeted for early identification of at-risk children. 

Today’s Older Adults Are Cognitively Fitter Than Older Adults Were 20 Years Ago, but When and How They Decline Is No Different Than in the Past
Denis Gerstorf et al.

Today’s older adults, on average, are likely to reach functional impairment thresholds and be diagnosed with dementia at later ages than their same-aged peers in the past, Gerstorf and colleagues infer. Why? Not because age has been kinder to them but because their declines started from higher levels. The researchers analyzed perceptual-motor speed data from older adults recruited in 1990 and 2010. At age 78, the cohort recruited in 2010 outperformed the cohort recruited in 1990. However, the declines during aging were similar for both cohorts, indicating the same rate and onset of decline.   

Physical Effort Exertion for Peer Feedback Reveals Evolving Social Motivations From Adolescence to Young Adulthood
Alexandra M. Rodman et al.

The transition into adulthood is accompanied by a self-protective focus, whereas adolescents are motivated to consume highly informative feedback, even if negative, these findings suggest. Participants between 12 and 23 years old rated how much they liked their peers, predicted how peers rated them, and exerted physical effort to view each peer’s rating. To assess physical effort and thus motivation for feedback (relative to money in a control condition), Rodman and colleagues measured grip force, speed, and opt-out behavior. Relative to adolescents, adults were more motivated by money than feedback. Adults also exerted less force and acted less quickly to get feedback when they expected rejection, but adolescents exerted greater force and speed when expecting to be either strongly liked or disliked.   

Choice Boosts Curiosity
Patricia Romero Verdugo, Lieke L. F. van Lieshout, Floris P. de Lange, and Roshan Cools

Being able to choose appears to boost curiosity, which may have implications for learning and motivation, this research suggests. Participants saw two lottery vases,  containing marbles associated with different points, on each trial; on some trials, they chose which lottery to play (i.e., from which one they would get a marble to determine their reward), whereas on other trials, the lottery was selected for them. They then indicated their curiosity about each lottery’s outcome via self-report ratings and willingness-to-wait decisions. Results indicated that participants were more curious and more willing to wait to hear the outcome of lotteries they had chosen than of lotteries that had been selected for them.   

Anticipatory Threat Mitigates the Breakdown of Group Cooperation
Maria Lojowska, Jörg Gross, and Carsten K. W. De Dreu

Exposure to an external threat might foster cooperation among small groups, these findings suggest. Lojowska and colleagues examined how threat exposure and concomitant physiological responses influence this cooperation. Participants in groups of three were exposed to threat of electric shocks while deciding how much to contribute to the public good. The threat of shock induced a state of physiological freezing (i.e., reduced heart rate and increased skin conductance) and, compared with no-threat conditions, reduced free riding (i.e., taking advantage of resources they did not contribute to) and led to more sustained cooperation. Prosocial individuals were particularly likely to demonstrate cooperative behavior under threat.   

Parents of Children With High Weight Are Viewed as Responsible for Child Weight and Thus Stigmatized
Devanshi Patel, Jaimie Arona Krems, Madison E. Stout, Jennifer Byrd-Craven, and Misty A. W. Hawkins

People appear to genuinely stigmatize the parents of children with high weight, this research suggests. In three experiments with U.S. online community participants, Patel and colleagues found that social perceivers attribute children’s weights to parents and thus stigmatize parents whose children have high weight regardless of the parents’ and children’s gender.  Describing the child’s obesity as owing to thyroid issues or as that of a 30-year-old adult attenuated the stigmatization of the parents. These findings may have real-world implications (e.g., for family separation, health care). 

Estranged and Unhappy? Examining the Dynamics of Personal and Relationship Well-Being Surrounding Infidelity
Olga Stavrova, Tila Pronk, and Jaap Denissen

Relationship functioning starts to decline before infidelity happens, this research suggests. Stavrova and colleagues analyzed data from German couples, including about 1,000 infidelity events, and found that a gradual decrease in relationship functioning and both partners’ well-being usually preceded the infidelity. They also found that, in most cases, well-being did not recover in the years following the infidelity. The exceptions were women who had been unfaithful and individuals with lower initial relationship commitment, who returned to the pre-infidelity level of well-being or even exceeded it.   

From the Viscera to First Impressions: Phase-Dependent Cardio-Visual Signals Bias the Perceived Trustworthiness of Faces
Ruben T. Azevedo, Mariana von Mohr, and Manos Tsakiris

Signals from the heart can bias people’s first impressions of others, this research suggests. Across three studies, participants judged the perceived trustworthiness of faces flashing in a pattern coinciding with the systole or diastole of heartbeats—either their own or someone else’s.  They perceived as more trustworthy the faces that were presented out of synchrony with their cardiac systole (between heartbeats), compared to faces that were presented in synchrony (at the moment of a heartbeat) or synchronized with others’ heartbeats. The effect did not occur for faces presented in synchrony with participants’ diastole, suggesting that the systolic phase is necessary for such an effect.   

Seeing Soft Materials Draped Over Objects: A Case Study of Intuitive Physics in Perception, Attention, and Memory
Kimberly W. Wong, Wenyan Bi, Amir A. Soltani, Ilker Yildirim, and Brian J. Scholl  

Vision appears to use intuitive physics to infer the underlying structure of objects, this research suggests. Wong et al. tested whether when humans see objects covered by soft materials (e.g., a chair with a blanket over it), they take into account subtle physical interactions between cloth, gravity, and object to spontaneously extract the covered objects’ structure. Participants were better at detecting image changes involving the underlying object structure than changes involving only superficial cloth folds—even when the latter were more extreme. When asked to find matching objects, participants performed worse when both objects (vs. only one) appeared on regions of the image that reflected the object’s underlying structure (equating visual properties).   

Changes in Response Criterion and Lapse Rate as General Mechanisms of Vigilance Decrement: Commentary on McCarley and Yamani (2021)
Rafael Román-Caballero, Elisa Martín-Arévalo, and Juan Lupiáñez

McCarley and Yamani (2021) tested different explanations for decrements in task performance across time (i.e., vigilance decrement) and proposed that they might result from missing signals caused by sensitivity losses, changes in response criterion, and mental lapses. Román-Caballero and colleagues reanalyzed the data from a different vigilance task and found that robust changes in response criterion and lapse rate, not sensitivity, appeared to explain vigilance decrement. Their interpretation is that the need to keep the standard in memory in McCarley and Yamani’s task could produce a decrease in sensitivity and be related to reduced fidelity of the memory representation rather than to a decrement in perceptual abilities across time on task. 

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