New Research From Psychological Science

Asymmetry in Resting Intracortical Activity as a Buffer to Social Threat
Katrina Koslov, Wendy Barry Mendes, Petra E. Pajtas, and Diego A. Pizzagalli

People respond to social rejection differently. To investigate whether differences in resting cortical brain activity could be responsible for different responses to social rejection, 84 women were asked to write a brief speech then read it in front of two other people. The individuals watching the speech would either frown and act like they hated the speech (threat condition) or provide positive feedback and encouragement (evaluation condition). Using EEG measurements, the researchers found that greater prefrontal intracortical activity on the left side relative to the right side acted as a buffer against cardiovascular responses to social rejection. Additionally, individuals who had more right-side activity had more intense physiological responses to social rejection, suggesting that high right-side activity may be a risk factor for certain stress-related conditions.

Effect of Age on Time-dependent Cognitive Change
Timothy A. Salthouse

Interpretation of cognitive change in longitudinal studies is complicated because different influences on change cannot be easily distinguished. To better understand how age can affect certain components of cognitive change (i.e., time-dependent change and time-independent change), 1,500 adults were given multiple tests with test-retest intervals ranging from 1 to 8 years. Overall change was negatively related to age for all of the cognitive variables. However, there was no effect of age on the time-dependent component, which implies that the relationship between the magnitude of cognitive change and age was influenced by factors that were operating at or near the initial test occasion.

A Dissociation Between Judged Causality and Imagined Locations in Simple Dynamic Scenes
Florent Levillain and Luca L. Bonatti

People can accurately anticipate the future positions of a visible moving object, but when the object is not visible, people must make predictions based on mental representations of the movement. In a study to investigate whether individuals would incorporate various types of information (like position and causality) in a single mental model, volunteers predicted the position of a ball that traveled behind a wall and estimated how much the movement was caused by another object in the scenario (e.g., a ball launcher). The volunteers made significant errors in predicting the position of the ball, and surprisingly, individuals who inaccurately judged the cause of the ball’s movement had better position predictions than individuals who made accurate judgments. Based on these results, the authors conclude that people likely do not merge information together in a unified mental model when they make predictions about objects they cannot see.

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