Archive for January 2009
Someone who has momentarily lost confidence in her intelligence is more likely to purchase a pen than a candy bar, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. The pen helps restore her belief in herself as an intelligent person.
Authors Leilei Gao (Chinese University of Hong Kong), S. Christian Wheeler, and Baba Shiv (both Stanford University) look at how subtle manipulations such as having someone write with his or her non-dominant hand can measurably reduce a person’s self-confidence. The authors call this the “shaken self,” and believe it persists until the person is able to do, acquire, or think about something that restores the self-confidence.
“We show that threats to an important self-view can momentarily shake one’s confidence in that particular self-view, resulting in the choice of products that help restore confidence in that self-view,” write the authors.
In one of the studies, the researchers asked participants to write about health-conscious behaviors with their dominant or non-dominant hands. Then some of the participants wrote essays about the most important value in their lives (an activity designed to restore confidence). All participants assessed their moods and self-esteem levels and then chose between a healthy snack (an apple) and an unhealthy snack (candy bar). Participants whose confidence was shaken (by not using their dominant hand) who didn’t get to self-affirm with the essay were more likely to choose the healthy snack—to restore their health-conscious confidence.
The authors focused their research on the “shaken confidence” phenomenon in people who were generally self-confident rather than people who chronically lack self-confidence.
“Specifically, we show that the effects of lowered self-view confidence on consumer choice can be eliminated by both direct self-view bolstering strategies (for example, purchasing products to restore the specific shaken self-dimension) as well as indirect strategies (for example, affirming an unrelated self-value),” write the authors.
Journal of Consumer Research, June 2009 print edition: 081204152434010 DOI: 10.1086/596028
The “Shaken Self”: Product Choices as a Means of Restoring Self‐View Confidence.
Leilei Gao, S. Christian Wheeler, Baba Shiv
The present research shows that when a confidently held self‐view (e.g., “I am an exciting person”) is temporarily cast in doubt, individuals are motivated to choose products that bolster their original self‐view (e.g., choosing brands with exciting brand personalities). The findings across three studies suggest that subtle manipulations can temporarily “shake” one’s self‐view confidence, resulting in an increased propensity of choosing self‐view‐bolstering products in a subsequent choice task. The consequences of the “shaken self” for product choices are examined in different self‐domains. The findings also suggest that the effects of the shaken self are attenuated when individuals have the opportunity to restore their self‐view confidence prior to the final choice task.
People who feel socially rejected are more likely to see others’ actions as hostile and are more likely to behave in hurtful ways toward people they have never even met, according to a new study.
The findings may help explain why social exclusion is often linked to aggression – which sometimes boils over dramatically, as in the case of school shootings, for example.
“Prior case studies show the majority of school shooters have experienced chronic peer rejection,” said the study’s lead author, C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D., from the University of Kentucky. “And while not everyone who feels rejected reacts violently, we found they tend to act out aggressively in other ways. We wanted to help explain psychologically why this happens.” A full report of the study appears in the January issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.
DeWall conducted four separate experiments with 190 participants, all college students.
In one experiment, 30 participants completed a personality test and were given bogus feedback about the results. A third of the participants, the excluded group, were told their personalities would mean they would probably end up alone later in life. The rest of the participants, the control group, were either told they would have many lasting and meaningful relationships or were given no feedback at all.
All participants were then instructed to read a personal essay supposedly written by another participant, whom they did not know. The essay was about an event in which the author’s actions could be perceived as either assertive or hostile and the participants rated their impression of the author’s actions. They were also told that the author was up for a research assistant position and were asked whether they thought the author would be a good candidate, based on what they had read.
Participants who were told they were going to have a lonely life perceived the author’s actions as significantly more hostile and gave a much more negative evaluation than those in the control groups. The authors also note that the participants’ moods did not seem to differ among the different groups, which led them to conclude that the participants’ emotional response to their personality results did not play a role in how they performed in the experiments.
In another experiment, 32 students underwent the same bogus personality evaluation and rated the same essay from the previous experiment. Again, some were told they would lead a lonely life while others were assigned to the control groups. This time, participants were led to believe they were playing a reaction-time computer game with another person in the lab whom they could not see and had never met. During the game, the loser of each trial was forced to listen to a blast of white noise through headphones. The participants could set the noise’s intensity level and duration.
Those who were told they were going to have a lonely life blasted a higher level of the painful noise than those in the control groups. “Across all experiments, the participants who experienced some form of social rejection acted in similar ways,” said DeWall. “This suggests these people feel betrayed by others. In turn, they see otherwise neutral actions as hostile and behave badly towards others.”
Prior research has examined whether emotions play a role in this type of aggression, but this study’s researchers say their findings do not support this idea. “Excluded people see the world through blood-colored glasses and it is our hope that this research can lead to a better understanding of why rejection causes aggression and what we can do to prevent such unwanted and harmful behavior,” said DeWall.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 96(1), Jan 2009, 45-59.
It’s the thought that counts: The role of hostile cognition in shaping aggressive responses to social exclusion.
DeWall, C. Nathan; Twenge, Jean M.; Gitter, Seth A.; Baumeister, Roy F.
Prior research has confirmed a casual path between social rejection and aggression, but there has been no clear explanation of why social rejection causes aggression. A series of experiments tested the hypothesis that social exclusion increases the inclination to perceive neutral information as hostile, which has implications for aggression. Compared to accepted and control participants, socially excluded participants were more likely to rate aggressive and ambiguous words as similar (Experiment 1a), to complete word fragments with aggressive words (Experiment 1b), and to rate the ambiguous actions of another person as hostile (Experiments 2-4). This hostile cognitive bias among excluded people was related to their aggressive treatment of others who were not involved in the exclusion experience (Experiments 2 and 3) and others with whom participants had no previous contact (Experiment 4). These findings provide a first step in resolving the mystery of why social exclusion produces aggression. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved)
It’s a new year and many of us have started thinking about various resolutions: updating that resume, cleaning out the attic, starting that exercise routine. But the sad reality is that most of us will not follow through on these commitments, not because we’re insincere, but because tomorrow is always a better time to get going.
Procrastination is a curse, and a costly one. Putting things off leads not only to lost productivity but also to all sorts of hand wringing and regrets and damaged self-esteem. For all these reasons, psychologists would love to figure out what’s going on in the mind that makes it so hard to actually do what we set out to do. Are we programmed for postponement and delay?
Led by Sean McCrea of the University of Konstanz in Germany, an international team of psychologists wanted to see if there might be a link between how we think of a task and our tendency to postpone it. In other words, are we more likely to see some tasks as psychologically “distant”– and thus making us save them for later rather than tackling them now?
The psychologists handed out questionnaires to a group of students and asked them to respond by e-mail within three weeks. All the questions had to do with rather mundane tasks like opening a bank account and keeping a diary, but different students were given different instructions for answering the questions. Some thought and wrote about what each activity implied about personal traits: what kind of person has a bank account, for example. Others wrote simply about the nuts and bolts of doing each activity: speaking to a bank officer, filling out forms, making an initial deposit, and so forth. The idea was to get some students thinking abstractly and others concretely. Then the psychologists waited. And in some cases, waited and waited. They recorded all the response times to see if there was a difference between the two groups, and indeed there was a significant difference.
The findings, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, were very clear. Even though all of the students were being paid upon completion, those who thought about the questions abstractly were much more likely to procrastinate–and in fact some never got around to the assignment at all. By contrast, those who were focused on the how, when and where of doing the task e-mailed their responses much sooner, suggesting that they hopped right on the assignment rather than delaying it.
The authors note that “merely thinking about the task in more concrete, specific terms makes it feel like it should be completed sooner and thus reducing procrastination.” They conclude that these results have important implications for teachers and managers who may want their students and employees starting on projects sooner. In addition, these findings are also relevant for those of us resolving to have better time management skills in the New Year!
Psychological Science, Volume 19 Issue 12, Pages 1308 – 1314
Published Online: 15 Dec 2008 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02240.x
Construal Level and Procrastination
Sean M. McCrea, Nira Liberman, Yaacov Trope, and Steven J. Sherman
ABSTRACT—According to construal-level theory, events that are distant in time tend to be represented more abstractly than are events that are close in time. This mental association between level of abstractness and temporal distance is proposed to be a bidirectional relationship, such that level of representation of an event should also have effects on the time when the activity is performed. In the present studies, participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire via e-mail within 3 weeks. The questionnaire was designed to induce either an abstract or a concrete construal. Using a variety of manipulations of construal level, the studies supported the predictions of construal-level theory. Individuals were less likely to procrastinate performing the task when the questionnaire induced a more concrete construal. Furthermore, this effect did not depend on the attractiveness, importance, or perceived difficulty of the task.