Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Effectiveness of public apologies for sexual misconduct: More comprehensive & less defensive apologies received more favorable reactions; denials were viewed more favorably by men than women

Is moral redemption possible? The effectiveness of public apologies for sexual misconduct. Karina Schumann, Anna Dragotta. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 90, September 2020, 104002. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2020.104002

• Examined reactions to apologies by public figures accused of sexual misconduct.
• More comprehensive and less defensive apologies received more favorable reactions.
• Denials were viewed more favorably by men than women.
• General attitudes toward apologies during #MeToo movement were slightly negative.
• Advances knowledge of public apologies, with comparisons to interpersonal apologies.

Abstract: Amidst an international movement against sexual violence in 2017, hundreds of high-profile men were accused of sexual misconduct, and people's news feeds were flooded with apologies issued by many of these men. In five studies (N = 1931), we examined people's reactions to these apologies, with a focus on how their perceived content (participants' evaluations of how comprehensive and non-defensive they were), the gender of the audience, and the severity of the allegations against the accused influenced their effectiveness relative to denials and “no comment” statements. Using both real statements issued during the #MeToo movement (Study 1) and experimentally controlled statements issued by fictitious (Studies 2–4) and real (Study 5) public figures, we found that what the accused men said in their statements indeed mattered. Apologies were more effective when they were more comprehensive and less defensive, and when they were offered in response to lower (versus higher) severity allegations. Consistent effects of gender also emerged, with women reacting less favorably to denials and “no comment” statements than men. On the whole, the findings provide intriguing evidence for parallels between public and interpersonal apologies, revealing that high-quality apologies hold some value in a context where doubts about the remorsefulness and morality of the apologizer abound. However, the benefits of even the highest quality apologies were modest, resembling those found in the literature on intergroup apologies. These findings thus suggest that the public may view apologies for sexual misconduct as an appropriate starting point—but certainly not endgame—for the accused men.

Keywords: ApologiesDenialsDefensivenessForgivenessSexual misconduct#MeToo

Expansive and Contractive Postures and Movement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Motor Displays on Affective and Behavioral Responses

Expansive and Contractive Postures and Movement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Motor Displays on Affective and Behavioral Responses. Emma Elkjær et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science, June 22, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691620919358

Abstract: This review and meta-analysis explores the experimental effects of expansive and contractive motor displays on affective, hormonal, and behavioral responses. Experimental studies were located through systematic literature searches. Studies had to manipulate motor displays to either expansive or contractive displays and investigate the effect of the displays on affect, hormones, or overt behavior. Meta-analyses were conducted to determine the pooled, standardized mean differences between the effects of motor displays on affective, hormonal, and behavioral responses. From 5,819 unique records, 73 relevant studies were identified. Robust differences between expansive and contractive displays emerged for affective responses and overt behavioral responses across contexts, type of manipulation, and methods of measurement. The results suggest that the effects are driven by the absence of contractive motor displays (contractive vs. neutral displays: Hedges’s g = 0.45) rather than the presence of expansive displays (expansive vs. neutral displays: g = 0.06). The findings stand as a corrective to previous research, as they indicate that it is the absence of contractive displays rather than the presence of expansive displays that alters affective and behavioral responding. Future research should include neutral control groups, use different methods to assess hormonal change, and investigate these effects in the context of ideographic goals.

Keywords: methodology, quantitative, emotion, affect, expansive displays, contractive displays

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime (and Immune System)? A Potential Role for the Immune System in Regulating Punishment Sensitivity

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime (and Immune System)? A Potential Role for the Immune System in Regulating Punishment Sensitivity. Jeffrey Gassen, Summer Mengelkoch, Hannah K. Bradshaw and Sarah E. Hill. Front. Psychol., June 22 2020. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01263

Abstract: Although the criminal justice system is designed around the idea that individuals are invariant in their responses to punishment, research indicates that individuals exhibit a tremendous amount of variability in their punishment sensitivity. This raises the question of why; what are the individual- and situation-level variables that impact a person’s sensitivity to punishment? In the current research, we synthesize theory and research on inflammation, learning, and evolutionary biology to examine the relationship between inflammatory activity and sensitivity to punishment. These theories combine to predict that inflammatory activity – which is metabolically costly and reflects a context in which the net payoff associated with future oriented behaviors is diminished – will decrease sensitivity to punishment, but not rewards. Consistent with this hypothesis, Study 1 found that in U.S. states with a higher infectious disease burden (a proxy for average levels of inflammatory activity) exhibit harsher sentencing in their criminal justice systems. Studies 2 and 3 experimentally manipulated variables known to impact bodily inflammatory activity and measured subsequent punishment and reward sensitivity using a probabilistic selection task. Results revealed that (a) increasing inflammation (i.e., completing the study in a dirty vs. clean room) diminished punishment sensitivity (Study 2), whereby (b) administering a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, suppressing inflammatory activity, enhanced it. No such changes were found for reward sensitivity. Together, these results provide evidence of a link between the activities of the immune system and punishment sensitivity, which may have implications for criminal justice outcomes.

General Discussion

In the current research, we investigated the role that the activities of the immune system play in regulating punishment sensitivity. Based on insights from research in psychoneuroimmunology (Maier and Watkins, 1998Banks, 2005Dantzer and Kelley, 2007Lasselin et al., 2017Draper et al., 2018), and RSFT (Real and Caraco, 1986Lima and Dill, 1990Houston, 1991McNamara and Houston, 1992), we predicted that punishment sensitivity would decrease in contexts where inflammation is elevated and increase when inflammatory activity is diminished. This pattern was hypothesized to occur because in the context of heightened inflammation (a) an individual’s probability of survival is lower, lowering the payoffs one can expect from investing in future-oriented behaviors (e.g., Gassen et al., 2019abGassen and Hill, 2019), and (b) the immunometabolic constraints that occur in this context decrease one’s ability to inhibit dominant responses (see e.g., Lacourt et al., 2018Treadway et al., 2019).
Preliminary support for this hypothesis was found across three studies. Study 1 revealed that an environmental factor that promotes inflammatory activity (i.e., high infectious disease burden; e.g., Zhu et al., 1999Gattone et al., 2001Nazmi et al., 2010Thompson et al., 2014Ferrucci and Fabbri, 2018) was associated with the use of harsher punishments for criminal offenses. Although there may be numerous contributors that play a role in the association between these variables, it is consistent with the hypothesis that inflammation should predict reduced sensitivity to punishment, as harsher punishments are required to modify the behavior of individuals with lower punishment sensitivity (compared to those with higher punishment sensitivity; Jean-Richard-Dit-Bressel et al., 2018Marchant et al., 2018). In addition to providing initial support for the hypothesis that the activities of the immune system will predict meaningful differences in punishment sensitivity, these results suggest that this relationship could have implications for criminal justice outcomes.
Studies 2 and 3 found continued support for the hypothesized relationship between inflammatory activity and punishment sensitivity. Study 2 revealed that exposure to an environment that elicited increased inflammatory activity (measured via salivary IL-1β) led to diminished punishment sensitivity. The results of Study 3 found further support for this hypothesis, demonstrating that administering a manipulation designed to experimentally reduce inflammatory activity (via aspirin administration) led to an increase in punishment sensitivity. No difference in reward sensitivity was observed across these two studies. Taken together, these results suggest that the activities of the immune system – and inflammation in particular – play a role in regulating punishment sensitivity. Further, these results provide preliminary evidence that the relationship between punitive measures and infectious disease burden found in Study 1 may be driven by elevated inflammation leading to (a) decreased punishment sensitivity and (b) harsher punishments to compensate for reduced sensitivity to punishment.
Together, the results of the current research add to a growing body of work demonstrating an important role for the immune system in regulating processes involved in learning (see e.g., Depino et al., 2004Huang and Sheng, 2010Sartori et al., 2012). Further, the current work contributes to the body of research examining inflammatory activity and processes related to punishment sensitivity (see e.g., Pugh et al., 1998Patil et al., 2003Sparkman et al., 2005Kohman et al., 2007Harrison et al., 2016). The latter is particularly important given the inconsistent results found across previous studies using different methods. For example, some studies have found no association between states known to be associated with increased inflammatory activity and punishment sensitivity (Kunisato et al., 2012Berghorst et al., 2013). Others have found that heightened inflammatory activity increases punishment sensitivity (Harrison et al., 2016), with participants exhibiting more punishment sensitivity on a monetary task after an inflammatory response had been elicited via typhoid vaccination. One potential explanation for the inconsistencies between this previous work and the results of the current studies is that they reflect differences in the magnitude of the inflammatory response elicited by our manipulation (i.e., Study 2; dirty room) and theirs (i.e., typhoid vaccine). The typhoid vaccination used in Harrison et al. (2016) research resulted in an average 250% increase in plasma levels of interleukin-6, a proinflammatory cytokine. Our much subtler contextual manipulation of inflammation, on the other hand, only revealed an average 191% increase (with a rather large standard deviation) in IL-1β levels in saliva. As such, one possibility is that inflammation exerts a dose-dependent effect on punishment sensitivity, where small increases in inflammation may impair punishment sensitivity (as found in the current work), and larger increases in inflammation may enhance it (as found in Harrison et al., 2016). Moreover, differences in the timing of the punishment sensitivity task between our study and Harrison et al. (2016) may also help explain the disparate findings. Participants in the current research completed the PST shortly after entering the dirty room. In contrast, the behavioral task in Harrison et al. (2016) study was administered 2.5–3.5 h after vaccination. Thus, this could indicate that the effects of proinflammatory cytokines on reward and punishment sensitivity are time-dependent. Future research should examine these possibilities.
Much of the previous research studying the impact of inflammation on punishment sensitivity has been conducted using non-human animals. Consistent with the findings reported here, this animal research suggests that inflammatory challenges often reduce performance on tasks related to punishment sensitivity, such as avoiding aversive stimuli (e.g., foot shocks or predators) and contextual fear conditioning (Pugh et al., 1998Patil et al., 2003Sparkman et al., 2005Kohman et al., 2007Adelman et al., 2017). Moreover, during acute infection, which is associated with heightened inflammatory activity, house finches exhibit reduced behavioral avoidance of predators (Adelman et al., 2017).
Inherent in the current work are several limitations. For example, although Study 1 found that states with a greater infectious disease burden exhibited harsher punishments, it is possible that this association reflects processes other than reduced punishment sensitivity in the context of heightened inflammatory activity. For example, in addition to offenders, judges in high pathogen areas are also exposed to greater infectious disease risk than those in less pathogen dense areas. Thus, high infectious disease burden may influence psychological characteristics of judges (e.g., impulsivity) that render them more oriented toward harsher sentencing. Exploring these and other possibilities will be an important direction for future research.
The experimental studies also have important limitations. While Study 2 provided evidence that our manipulation of room cleanliness resulted in heightened inflammation and decreased punishment sensitivity, results did not provide evidence that levels of IL-1β mediated the relationship between room condition and punishment sensitivity. This could be due to a variety of factors. First, we only measured one proinflammatory cytokine, IL-1β. Given that a host of different proinflammatory proteins coordinates the inflammation response, it is possible that the relationship between room condition and punishment sensitivity is driven by a proinflammatory protein that we did not measure. Second, saliva samples were collected 30 min after exposure to room condition. It is possible that participants’ levels of inflammation were declining at this time and may not have been representative of their inflammatory levels during the task. As such, this detracts from our ability to make causal inferences about the role that inflammation plays in calibrating punishment sensitivity. However, it bears noting that past research examining the influence of experimental manipulations that elicit an inflammatory response on behavior often do not test or report whether inflammation serves as a mediator (e.g., Eisenberger et al., 2010Inagaki et al., 2012Harrison et al., 2016). It is important that future studies report these mediation analyses to provide evidence for or against claims of causal relationships between inflammation and behavioral outcomes.
Another potential limitation of Study 2 was our measurement of IL-1β in participants’ saliva samples, as opposed to peripheral blood samples (e.g., plasma or serum). Research into the strength of correlations between salivary and plasma/serum levels of cytokines across different contexts has yielded mixed results (e.g., Cruz-Almeida et al., 2017La Fratta et al., 2018Lee et al., 2018), and overall, there is a paucity of research on the topic. However, our primary objective for measuring levels of IL-1β was to provide a manipulation check on the prediction that exposure to the dirty room (compared to the clean room) would lead to a rise in inflammation. Recent research suggests that salivary measures of inflammation are well-suited for this purpose (e.g., Walsh et al., 2016Newton et al., 2017La Fratta et al., 2018Gassen et al., 2019a). The results of Study 2 should also be interpreted with caution given that there were unequal numbers of men and women between the two conditions. While sex was controlled for in the analyses and did not significantly interact with experimental condition to predict any outcome, this is still an important limitation to consider.
One unexpected difference in punishment sensitivity emerged between the control conditions in Studies 2 and 3. Specifically, punishment sensitivity was higher in the clean room condition of Study 2 than in the control condition of Study 3. While we cannot say for certain what accounted for these differences, there was heterogeneity in the methods and sample characteristics between the two studies that may have contributed to them. First, the testing rooms used for the control conditions in each study were not equivalent. Specifically, to increase perceptions of cleanliness in the clean room condition of Study 2, a number of steps were taken to increase the room’s cleanliness, including removing trash receptacles, wiping down all of the computers and keyboards with disinfectant wipes, and placing a large bottle of hand sanitizer near the sign-in sheet. Given that these extra steps were not taken in the second experiment (for which room cleanliness was not part of the manipulation), the room used for the control condition in Study 2 was even cleaner than that used for the control condition in Study 3. Accordingly, it is possible that differences in punishment sensitivity between the two control conditions (with higher sensitivity found in Study 2) can be attributed to greater cleanliness in the control condition for Study 2 compared to Study 3.
Further, in Study 2, before entering the experimental room, participants provided their initial saliva sample in a separate room. They were then transferred to the experimental room before completing the remainder of the study. This differs from the methodology utilized in Study 3, where the entire study was completed in a single room. Although it is unclear how these procedural differences may influence punishment sensitivity, they are worthy of note in this context. A final explanation for the differences in punishment sensitivity that emerged between these conditions could lie in differences between demographic characteristics of the samples. As is displayed in Tables 23, childhood and adult SES for the sample in the clean room condition for Study 2 were higher than for the control condition in Study 3 (d = 0.37–0.40). We are not aware of extant research finding SES-based differences in performance on the probabilistic selection task, specifically. However, more generally, research finds that those from a lower SES environment exhibit a higher risk for certain behavioral problems (e.g., impulsivity: Griskevicius et al., 2011), for which reduced punishment sensitivity has been identified as part of the underlying psychological architecture (e.g., Potts et al., 2006).

Humans navigate with stereo olfaction

Humans navigate with stereo olfaction. Yuli Wu et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 22, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2004642117

Significance: The human brain exploits subtle differences between the inputs to the paired eyes and ears to construct three-dimensional experiences and navigate the environment. Whether and how it does so for olfaction is unclear, although humans also have two separate nasal passages that simultaneously sample from nonoverlapping regions in space. Here, we demonstrate that a moderate internostril difference in odor intensity consistently biases recipients’ perceived direction of self-motion toward the higher-concentration side, despite that they cannot report which nostril smells a stronger odor. The findings indicate that humans have a stereo sense of smell that subconsciously guides navigation.

Abstract: Human navigation relies on inputs to our paired eyes and ears. Although we also have two nasal passages, there has been little empirical indication that internostril differences yield directionality in human olfaction without involving the trigeminal system. By using optic flow that captures the pattern of apparent motion of surface elements in a visual scene, we demonstrate through formal psychophysical testing that a moderate binaral concentration disparity of a nontrigeminal odorant consistently biases recipients’ perceived direction of self-motion toward the higher-concentration side, despite that they cannot verbalize which nostril smells a stronger odor. We further show that the effect depends on the internostril ratio of odor concentrations and not the numeric difference in concentration between the two nostrils. Taken together, our findings provide behavioral evidence that humans smell in stereo and subconsciously utilize stereo olfactory cues in spatial navigation.

Keywords: binaral disparityolfactory navigationheading perceptionoptic flow