Up Front

Research Briefs

Research Briefs features summaries of selected articles published recently in APS’s six journals. APS members receive weekly summaries of all new journal articles through the This Week in Psychological Science newsletter. 

Choice Boosts Curiosity

Patricia Romero Verdugo, Lieke L. F. van Lieshout, Floris P. de Lange, and Roshan Cools
Psychological Science 
Being able to choose appears to boost curiosity, which may have implications for learning and motivation, this research suggests. On each trial, participants saw two lottery vases containing marbles associated with different points. 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.

When Do Observers Deprioritize Due Process for the Perpetrator and Prioritize Safety for the Victim in Response to Information-Poor Allegations of Harm?

Maja Graso et al.
Psychological Science  
How do people assess allegations of harm for which there is no physical evidence, such as “my word against yours” cases, allegations involving psychological harm, and incidents that happened in the distant past? Factors might include perceptions about who fits the roles of “victim” and “perpetrator” along with political ideology. Across four experiments, Graso and colleagues found that participants playing the role of observers were more likely to prioritize the victim’s safety over the alleged perpetrator’s due process when the two parties exhibited features that aligned with stereotypes of victims and perpetrators. However, when the alleged perpetrator was a member of the same political group as the participant, the participant was more likely to prioritize justice over safety.  

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
Psychological Science
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
Psychological Science 
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
Psychological Science 
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.  

See all articles from this issue of the Observer.

The Effect of Auditory and Visual Recommendations on Choice  

Shwetha Mariadassou, Christopher J. Bechler, and Jonathan Levav
Psychological Science
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.  

Linking Sleep and Aggression: Examining the Role of Response Inhibition and Emotional Processing  

Melanie L. Bozzay and Edelyn Verona
Clinical Psychological Science   
Naturally occurring sleep loss predicts increases in aggression, at least in the laboratory, and people who sleep less might be more vulnerable to acting rashly in negative and neutral contexts, this research suggests. Participants wore Fitbit Flex devices and kept a sleep diary for 3 days. Bozzay and Verona measured event-related potentials during an emotional-linguistic task, followed by a laboratory aggression paradigm. Results linked shorter sleep duration with greater aggression and reduced motor inhibition processing when presented with negative and neutral words. However, neurocognitive indices did not explain the sleep–aggression link.   

The Central Role of Lifelong Learning and Humility in Clinical Psychology

Jason J. Washburn et al.
Clinical Psychological Science   
Washburn and colleagues encourage clinical psychologists to approach lifelong learning as a clinical, ethical, and scientific imperative in the myriad dimensions of their professional life. They suggest that experience alone is not sufficient, attitude is also important in lifelong learning, and clinical psychologists must maintain and refresh their critical-thinking skills and seek to minimize their biases, especially as they relate to lifelong learning.  

Allostatic Load in Clinical Practice  

Patricia Romero Verdugo, Lieke L. F. van Lieshout, Floris P. de Lange, and Roshan Cools  
Clinical Psychological Science   
One way to characterize an individual’s psychosocial environment involves using clinical measurements (clinimetric criteria) to determine allostatic overload (an excessive cost of chronic exposure to fluctuating or heightened physiologic responses to repeated or chronic stress). This characterization can have major implications for identifying syndromes not included in traditional diagnostic classifications and factors that may modulate the vulnerabilities induced by allostatic overload, such as healthy lifestyle behavior and euthymia (absence of mood disturbances). Fava and colleagues present a clinimetric system for the longitudinal development of allostatic load, allowing clinicians to create individually tailored interventions to prevent or decrease the negative impact of environmental factors on health. 

Empirically Supported Principles of Change in Youth Psychotherapy: Exploring Codability, Frequency of Use, and Meta-Analytic Findings 

Olivia M. Fitzpatrick et al.
Clinical Psychological Science 
This review suggests that empirically supported principles of change (ESPCs) in youth psychotherapies are reliably identifiable, and treatments containing more ESPCs may produce greater therapeutic benefit. Fitzpatrick and colleagues focused on five candidate ESPCs—calming, increasing motivation, changing unhelpful thoughts, solving problems, and practicing positive opposites. They analyzed data from 263 randomized controlled trials spanning six decades, testing treatments for anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and conduct problems. Results indicated that ESPCs could be distinguished by independent coders and that psychotherapies most often included fewer than three ESPCs. However, treatments with all five ESPCs showed effects about twice as large as treatments with fewer ESPCs.   

Estimating the Time to Do Nothing: Toward Next-Generation Models of Response Inhibition  

Patrick G. Bissett and Russell A. Poldrack
Current Directions in Psychological Science
Controlled behavior requires response inhibition—a cognitive function that involves withholding action as goals change. Response inhibition is often assessed using the stop-signal paradigm, in which participants respond to most stimuli but periodically withhold their response when a stop signal occurs. The stop-signal paradigm rests on the theoretical foundation of the independent race model, which assumes a stop racer that races independently against a go racer; which racer finishes first determines behavior. Bissett and Poldrack highlight research showing violations of this independence (between the stop and go racers) assumption and discuss promising new models of response inhibition. 

Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens  

Anastasia Kozyreva, Sam Wineburg, Stephan Lewandowsky, and Ralph Hertwig  
Current Directions in Psychological Science   
Encouraging online users to embrace critical ignoring—choosing what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities—can empower them to avoid the excesses, traps, and information disorders of today’s digital world, Kozyreva and colleagues suggest. They argue that digital information literacy must include competence in critical ignoring and review three types of cognitive strategies for developing this literacy: self-nudging, in which users ignore temptations by removing them from their digital environments; lateral reading, in which users vet information by leaving the source and verifying its credibility elsewhere online; and the do-not-feed-the-trolls heuristic, which advises users to not reward malicious actors with attention.   

Intergroup Leadership: The Challenge of Successfully Leading Fractured Groups and Societies  

Michael A. Hogg and David E. Rast III 
Current Directions in Psychological Science
According to intergroup-leadership theory, successful intergroup (between group) leaders need to construct, promote, and exemplify an intergroup relational identity that preserves subgroups’ distinctiveness and celebrates that distinctiveness and intersubgroup cooperation as fundamental aspects of subgroup and superordinate-group identity. Hogg and Rast III describe intergroup-leadership theory (which applies to groups of all sizes and complexions), summarize empirical support for its main tenets, and outline extensions and future directions. They conclude that research is starting to focus on intergroup-relational-identity messaging, which can come from leaders but also (social) media and other sources, in the wider context of political dynamics and multicultural societies.  

Media-Induced War Trauma Amid Conflicts in Ukraine  

Zhaohui Su et al.
Perspectives on Psychological Science
Advances in information and communication technologies, such as the speed, scale, and scope at which people worldwide are exposed to the near-time happenings of war, mean that an unprecedented number of people could face media-induced war trauma. Su and colleagues examine the implications of media-induced war trauma on people’s health and well-being. They discuss the media’s duties and responsibilities amid and beyond the current conflicts in Ukraine and argue that the media industry should factor audiences’ mental health into their coverage decisions. 

Contextualizing Gender Disparity in Editorship in Psychological Science  

Zhicheng Lin and Ningxi Li
Perspectives on Psychological Science
Lin and Li document and contextualize gender disparity in journal editorship by analyzing 68 top psychology journals in 10 subdisciplines. Relative to ratios of students and faculty within academia, women are underrepresented as editorial-board members (41%) and as editors-in-chief (34%). Female ratios in editorship vary across subdisciplines, genres of scholarship (higher in empirical and review journals than in method journals), continents/countries/regions (e.g., higher in North America than in Europe), and journal countries of origin (e.g., higher in U.S. journals than in European journals). Also, women are better represented as editorial-board members under female (47%) vs. male (36%) editors-in-chief, but the geographical diversity of editorial-board members and authorship decreases under female editors-in-chief.   

Reckoning With Our Crisis: An Agenda for the Field of Social and Personality Psychology  

Sarah R. Schiavone and Simine Vazire
Perspectives on Psychological Science
As a field, psychological science must reckon with the concerns brought to light during the so-called replication crisis and credibility revolution in order to take self-correction seriously and avert future crises, Schiavone and Vazire argue. Proposing an agenda for metascientific research, they review approaches to empirically evaluate and track the science (e.g., analyzing the published literature, surveying researchers). The authors also describe one such project (Surveying the Past and Present State of Published Studies in Social and Personality Psychology) underway in their research group.   

Internally Triggered Experiences of Hedonic Valence in Nonhuman Animals: Cognitive and Welfare Considerations  

Johannes B. Mahr and Bob Fischer
Perspectives on Psychological Science 
Do nonhuman animals experience pains and pleasures—whether anticipated or previously experienced—as painful and pleasurable, respectively? Reviewing evidence from comparative neuroscience about hippocampus-dependent simulation, Mahr and Fisher found that mammals appear to conserve functional and structural features of hippocampal simulation. This makes it reasonable to assume that internally triggered experiences of hedonic valence (IHVs) are also pervasive across all mammals, if not also other animals. This conclusion has important implications for health and happiness. Most prominently, IHVs act as a kind of “welfare multiplier” through which each subsequent retrieval increases the welfare impacts of any given experience of pain or pleasure.

Beyond Random Effects: When Small-Study Findings Are More Heterogeneous  

T. D. Stanley, Hristos Doucouliagos, and John P. A. Ioannidis
Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science
Evidence from meta-analyses indicates that small-sample studies typically have higher heterogeneity and higher standard errors. This correlated heterogeneity violates the random-effects (RE) model of additive and independent heterogeneity. When small studies have not only inadequate statistical power but also high heterogeneity, their scientific contribution is even more dubious. Simulations show that, in such situations, an alternative weighted average model, the unrestricted weighted least squares (UWLS), outperforms the RE model. Thus, Stanley and colleagues argue that UWLS should replace RE as the conventional meta-analysis summary of psychological research.  

Journal N-Pact Factors From 2011 to 2019: Evaluating the Quality of Social/Personality Journals With Respect to Sample Size and Statistical Power  

R. Chris Fraley et al.
Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science 
The N-pact factor, proposed initially by Fraley and Vazire, indexes the median sample size of published studies, providing an indicator of research quality. Fraley and colleagues examined the N-pact factor of social/personality-psychology journals between 2011 and 2019. Results indicated that journals that emphasized personality processes and individual differences had larger N-pact factors than journals that emphasized social-psychological processes. Although the majority of journals in 2011 published studies that were not well powered to detect an effect of ρ = .20, this situation had improved considerably by 2019, suggesting that the field of social/personality psychology has begun to use larger samples.   

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