New Research in Psychological Science

Regional Measures of Sexual-Orientation Bias Predict Where Same-Gender Couples Live
Jason S. Snyder and P. J. Henry

Fewer same-gender couples reside in regions that harbor strong antigay biases, this study suggests, indicating that regional sexual-orientation biases might be associated with real-world discrimination. Snyder and Henry used publicly available data on 2,939 U.S. counties and found that measures associated with systemic anti-lesbian, gay, and bisexual (anti-LGB) bias, such as negligent medical treatment, were also associated with regional implicit and explicit anti-LGB bias (i.e., implicit and explicit attitudes gathered from the Project Implicit). Also, fewer same-gender couples reside in counties with more explicit and implicit anti-LGB bias. These findings emphasize the importance of considering how contexts shape systemic inequality as well as how systemic bias can have far-reaching consequences for the targeted groups.   

Generalization of Costly Pain-Related Avoidance Based on Real-Life Categorical Knowledge
Eveliina Glogan, Peixin Liu, and Ann Meulders

Avoiding activities posing bodily threat is an adaptive behavior. But when avoidance becomes excessive and spreads to pain-free activities, it can cause functional disability. Glogan and colleagues found that costly pain-related avoidance can generalize from one activity to another in pain-free people on the basis of their categorical knowledge. Participants moved a joystick to complete activities in two categories (gardening and cleaning). In one of the categories, they could avoid electrocutaneous pain at the cost of task efficiency by deviating from a short joystick movement, whereas activities in the safe category were never painful. When presented with novel pain-free activities in the avoidance category at the cost of task efficiency, participants still deviated from the short joystick movement. This behavior did not happen for novel pain-free activities in the safe category, thus indicating that participants generalized avoidance only to novel activities from the avoidance category.    

Harm Hypervigilance in Public Reactions to Scientific Evidence
Cory J. Clark, Maja Graso, Ilana Redstone, and Philip E. Tetlock

People overestimate others’ harmful reactions to scientific findings, a tendency that can influence calls to suppress science, this study suggests. Participants read short discussions of six scientific findings with potentially controversial implications. One group reported what they thought should be done in response to the findings (e.g., nothing, conduct more research, license harmful actions, provide help to relevant people), and another group estimated the percentage of people who would support each reaction. Results indicated that participants overestimated harmful reactions to scientific findings and underestimated helpful reactions. Moreover, these tendencies were associated with greater support for scientific censorship.   

Adaptive Encoding Speed in Working Memory
Joost de Jong, Hedderik van Rijn, and Elkan G. Akyürek

Young adults can, at least implicitly, tune the pace at which they encode information, this research suggests. In a series of experiments, de Jong and colleagues found that participants encoded more information per second when they implicitly expected that they would have little time to do so (i.e., encoded at a faster rate when they adapted to previous stimuli duration presented quickly). Interestingly, participants were unable to use explicit cues to speed up encoding (e.g., “FAST” appearing on a screen), even though these cues were objectively more informative than statistical information inferred from previous stimuli duration.   

Visual Perception Is Highly Flexible and Context Dependent in Young Infants: A Case of Top-Down-Modulated Motion Perception
Naiqi G. Xiao and Lauren L. Emberson

Perception relies heavily on learned knowledge, but can infants show this type of top-down modulation of perception? Xiao and Emberson tested 6- to 8-month-old infants and found that they could use learned cues to influence their perception of motion. Specifically, by measuring the infants’ eye movements, the researchers found that a field of moving dots would appear to infants to move left or right when infants heard melodies associated with these directions. These findings suggest that the active integration of learned knowledge into perception is already sophisticated in infancy and might play a significant role in driving cognitive development. 

Thinking Beyond COVID-19: How Has the Pandemic Impacted Future Time Horizons?
Samuel Fynes-Clinton and Donna Rose Addis

Fynes-Clinton and Addis examined how depression severity and pandemic-related factors (regional severity, threat, social isolation) reduced future time extension (i.e., the perception of how much time we have left) for older and younger adults. They tested adults (18–43 years and 55–80 years) from 13 industrialized nations. Results indicated that in both age groups, depression was linked to the perception of having less time left. Also, depression was more severe in younger adults and was heightened by the severity of the pandemic situation, personal threat of COVID-19, and loneliness. These findings highlight the resilience that comes with older age and the need to support younger adults beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Costs of Paying Overt and Covert Attention Assessed With Pupillometry
Damian Koevoet, Christoph Strauch, Marnix Naber, and Stefan Van der Stigchel 

People can shift their visual attention with or without an accompanying eye saccade, or rapid eye movement (i.e., overtly or covertly, respectively). Koevoet and colleagues used pupil size as an index of cognitive cost and showed that shifting attention overtly appears to be more costly than shifting attention covertly. Moreover, their results suggested that complex oblique saccades are more costly than simple horizontal or vertical saccades. These findings indicate that different types of attentional shifts may have unequal costs and might explain why people perform oblique saccades only rarely compared to cardinal (horizontal and vertical) eye movements. 

Time and Punishment: Time Delays Exacerbate the Severity of Third-Party Punishment
Timothy G. Kundro, Samir Nurmohamed, Hemant Kakkar, and Salvatore J. Affinito

Transgressors who are punished after a time delay experience more severe punishment, this research suggests. Across eight studies, including two archival data sets of 160,772 punishment decisions, Kundro and colleagues found that as time delays lengthen, third parties (i.e., judges, but not victims) punish transgressors more severely because of a tendency to interpret the delay as unfair, even when transgressors are not responsible for it. Importantly, these effects also occurred for the judges and committees responsible for administering punishment in the two archival studies.   

Adding Up Peer Beliefs: Experimental and Field Evidence on the Effect of Peer Influence on Math Performance
Sherry Jueyu Wu and Xiqian Cai

Peers’ gendered beliefs about intellectual abilities can impact academic performance, specifically by hurting girls’ performance in math, this research suggests. In middle-school classes where more classmates reported believing that boys are innately better than girls at learning math, Wu and Cai found that girls in fact did perform worse and boys better in math. This peer exposure also increased students’ likelihood of believing the gender–math stereotype, increased the perceived difficulty of math, and reduced aspirations among girls. Wu and Cai obtained similar effects with college students and showed that the effect was both immediate and long-term.   

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Repeatedly Encountered Descriptions of Wrongdoing Seem More True but Less Unethical: Evidence in a Naturalistic Setting 
Raunak M. Pillai, Lisa K. Fazio, and Daniel A. Effron

The more times we hear about a wrongdoing, the more we may believe it—but the less we may care, this research suggests. To mimic the experience of repeated exposure to viral news stories, Pillai and colleagues text-messaged participants news headlines describing corporate wrongdoings (e.g., a cosmetics company harming animals) at different rates of repetition for 15 days. On the 16th day, participants rated these wrongdoings as less unethical but more true than new wrongdoings. These findings indicate that repetition can have a lasting effect on moral judgments in naturalistic settings and that increasing the number of repetitions generally makes moral judgments more lenient.   

See related news release.

Fade In, Fade Out: Do Shifts in Visual Perspective Predict the Consistency of Real-World Memories?
Victoria Wardell et al.

Memories are malleable, and greater shifts in visual perspective while recalling appear to predict lower memory consistency, this research suggests. Wardell and colleagues examined how the visual perspective adopted when recalling the past—“own eyes” versus “observer” perspective—relates to the stability of autobiographical memories. Participants freely recalled and rated the phenomenology of everyday events at two time points (10 weeks apart). Results indicated that greater shifts in visual perspective over time predicted lower memory consistency, particularly for emotional details. These findings elucidate new metrics that may be useful in interpreting eyewitness testimony or experiences relayed in clinical contexts. 

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