Sunday, January 10, 2021

After group conversations, people underestimated how much they were liked by others; people focus on negative aspects of the impressions they make on others

The liking gap in groups and teams. Adam M. Mastroianni et al. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 162, January 2021, Pages 109-122.

Rolf Degen's take:


• After group conversations, people underestimated how much they were liked by others.

• This liking gap persisted in engineering teams working together on group projects.

• The effect was larger among peers than between supervisors and supervisees.

• The liking gap also had important consequences in a general sample of working adults.

• Consequences include team communication and efficacy as well as job satisfaction.

Abstract: Every relationship begins with a conversation. Past research suggests that after initial conversations, there exists a liking gap: people underestimate how much their partners like them. We extend this finding by providing evidence that it arises in conversations among small groups (Study 1), continues to exist in engineering teams working on a project together (Study 2), and is linked to important consequences for teams’ ability to work together in a sample of working adults (Study 3). Additional evidence suggests that the liking gap is largest for peer relationships and that it is determined in part by the extent to which people focus on negative aspects of the impressions they make on others. Group conversations and team interactions often leave people feeling uncertain about where they stand with others, but our studies suggest that people are liked more than they know.

Keywords: ConversationSocial interactionRelationship formationMeta-perceptionGroup dynamicsTeams

Acquisition of object-robbing behavior in macaques: After stealing inedible & more or less valuable objects from humans, they appear to use them as tokens, by returning them to humans in exchange for food

Acquisition of object-robbing and object/food-bartering behaviours: a culturally maintained token economy in free-ranging long-tailed macaques. Jean-Baptiste Leca, Noƫlle Gunst, Matthew Gardiner and I. Nengah Wandia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Volume 376, Issue 1819, January 11 2021.

Abstract: The token exchange paradigm shows that monkeys and great apes are able to use objects as symbolic tools to request specific food rewards. Such studies provide insights into the cognitive underpinnings of economic behaviour in non-human primates. However, the ecological validity of these laboratory-based experimental situations tends to be limited. Our field research aims to address the need for a more ecologically valid primate model of trading systems in humans. Around the Uluwatu Temple in Bali, Indonesia, a large free-ranging population of long-tailed macaques spontaneously and routinely engage in token-mediated bartering interactions with humans. These interactions occur in two phases: after stealing inedible and more or less valuable objects from humans, the macaques appear to use them as tokens, by returning them to humans in exchange for food. Our field observational and experimental data showed (i) age differences in robbing/bartering success, indicative of experiential learning, and (ii) clear behavioural associations between value-based token possession and quantity or quality of food rewards rejected and accepted by subadult and adult monkeys, suggestive of robbing/bartering payoff maximization and economic decision-making. This population-specific, prevalent, cross-generational, learned and socially influenced practice may be the first example of a culturally maintained token economy in free-ranging animals.

4. Discussion

This field observational and experimental study of token-robbing and token/reward-bartering interactions in the free-ranging population of Balinese long-tailed macaques produced three main findings: (i) these behaviours need to be learned throughout juvenescence (i.e. until up to 4 years in this species) to be successfully performed; (ii) older monkeys preferentially selected tokens that were more valued by humans; and (iii) these more skilful and selective individuals appeared to make economic decisions, as evidenced by clear behavioural associations between value-based token possession and quantity or quality of food rewards rejected and accepted.

(a) Experiential learning

As predicted, we found a significant increase in token-robbing success from juveniles to subadults to adults, whereas the main behaviour patterns required for the successful performance of token/reward-bartering interactions were already in place from around 4 years (i.e. in subadults). Likewise, the ability to engage in more negotiated successful token/reward-bartering sequences—during which the monkey only returned the token after being proposed more food rewards, or after rejecting more food rewards, or after accepting a type of food reward different from the one(s) previously rejected—was not fully acquired before the subadult stage.

These results lend some support to the ‘experiential learning' hypothesis, whereby token-robbing and token/reward-bartering interactions are multi-stepped and complex behavioural sequences requiring perceptual learning, sensorimotor coordination and cognitive skills (e.g. memory, associative learning) to be successfully performed; they are thus gradually acquired through extended individual practice during the juvenile period, in part via experiential trial-and-error learning. It is noteworthy to mention that the development of (sub)adult-level proficiency at robbing/bartering is not only dependent on skill learning (e.g. detection, sneaky approach, self-control), but may also be constrained by physical maturation. This is particularly true during the token-robbing phase that often involves monkey–human body contact and/or requires muscular strength when a monkey has to yank on a flip-flop still worn by an adult human. In these cases, the limited physical capabilities of juveniles, and the maturing bodies of subadults, may partly explain the significant increase in token-robbing success from juveniles to subadults to adults.

Primates are characterized by the longest juvenile period in relation to life span of all mammals [20]. According to the ‘needing-to-learn' hypothesis [20], prolonged juvenility is associated with behavioural patterns that necessitate acquiring a proportionally large amount of information and/or skills to reach adult competence before individuals become reproductively mature. These behaviours include extractive foraging techniques [21] and (socio-)sexual behaviour patterns [22]. Our study indicates that both phases of the robbing/bartering practice also required experiential learning to be fully mastered.

(b) Value-based token selection

The first step in economic decision-making requires the cognitive ability to distinguish among different expected material values of a given symbolic currency (e.g. tokens, cash, virtual money). After showing that token selection was not significantly affected by token availability and the relative ease with which different types of tokens were stolen by the monkeys from human targets, our observational data revealed a marked age difference in how the monkeys responded to a human-based three-level hierarchy of valuable objects. When considering the token selection among all the prospective human targets (i.e. temple visitors with potential tokens available in a given area), juveniles did not show any preferential selection among low-valued, medium-valued and high-valued tokens, whereas subadults and adults preferentially selected high- and medium-valued tokens over low-valued ones. When two tokens of different values were available on a given human target, subadults and adults preferentially selected the higher-value token, whereas juvenile individuals did not show any significant difference. We found a similar age difference in the value-based token selection, after experimentally controlling for token accessibility and lateral bias.

These results support the ‘value-based token selection' hypothesis, positing age differences in the selection of higher-valued tokens by the monkeys during the token-robbing phase that are indicative of a developmental trajectory toward more strategic choices in more mature individuals. Subadult and adult monkeys (but not juveniles yet) have learned to map their token-robbing behaviours onto the hierarchical (and arbitrary) scale of values attributed by humans to different tokens: they preferentially selected tokens that were more likely to be exchanged for food (e.g. electronic devices, pairs of glasses) over other objects that were less valuable for humans and typically not worth bartering (e.g. empty camera bags, hairpins). Our findings are consistent with data obtained in other non-human primate species, showing that subadult and adult capuchin monkeys and chimpanzees correctly preferred a high-valued token over a low-valued token in an experimental bartering situation [1,11,23].

(c) Robbing/bartering payoff maximization

The second step in economic decision-making requires the cognitive ability (i.e. mental processes involving associative learning and memorization) to respond differently to differentially valued tokens by trying to maximize one's payoff. We found evidence for such behavioural associations between value-based token possession and quantity or quality of food rewards rejected and accepted by subadult and adult monkeys (i.e. the most skilful and selective individuals) during the token/reward-bartering phase. They consistently and actively obtained either more food rewards or a more preferred food reward in exchange for a higher-valued token. They were also more likely to end a successful bartering interaction by accepting a less preferred food reward in exchange for a lower-valued token.

Our findings support the ‘robbing/bartering payoff maximization' hypothesis in that subadult and adult monkeys strategically responded to differentially valued tokens in their possession by adjusting the amount or type of food rewards they gained from the barters. The result showing that subadults (unlike adults) failed to significantly reject more low-preferred food rewards before returning a higher-valued token may be explained in terms of poorer temporal cognition or higher impulsivity (compared to adults): subadult long-tailed macaques may either not have yet acquired the cognitive capacity to anticipate the subsequent proffering of more preferred food rewards in this specific situation, or not be patient/self-controlled enough to wait for possibly more preferred food rewards.

Overall, our field observational data are in line with laboratory-based studies showing that several non-human primate species can (i) understand the effectiveness of tokens as secondary reinforcements to make simple calculations about quantities of reward, (ii) determine an item's value on the basis of its perceived utility (e.g. exchanging only a low-preferred reward for a tool necessary to reach a more preferred reward) and (iii) recognize the appropriate conditions in which a successful exchange could occur (e.g. presence/absence of the experimenter, safe/risky experimenter) [1,2,2327]. Other cognitive skills and temperamental traits exhibited to varying extents by non-human primates engaging in token-aided economic behaviours include preference transitivity, self-control, delay of gratification, action planning and calculated reciprocity, because they may facilitate or constrain an individual's ability to make optimal economic decisions [1,5,23,28]. Even though these characteristics were not explicitly examined in this study, some of them will be the subject of our future observational and experimental investigations.

The origins of human variation in human economic behaviour: Comparative studies of other primates can help disentangle the relative role of shared biological processes vs human-unique cultural influences in risk preferences

Variation in primate decision-making under uncertainty and the roots of human economic behaviour. Francesca De Petrillo and Alexandra G. Rosati. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Volume 376, Issue 1819, January 11 2021.

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: Uncertainty is a ubiquitous component of human economic behaviour, yet people can vary in their preferences for risk across populations, individuals and different points in time. As uncertainty also characterizes many aspects of animal decision-making, comparative research can help evaluate different potential mechanisms that generate this variation, including the role of biological differences or maturational change versus cultural learning, as well as identify human-unique components of economic decision-making. Here, we examine decision-making under risk across non-human primates, our closest relatives. We first review theoretical approaches and current methods for understanding decision-making in animals. We then assess the current evidence for variation in animal preferences between species and populations, between individuals based on personality, sex and age, and finally, between different contexts and individual states. We then use these primate data to evaluate the processes that can shape human decision-making strategies and identify the primate foundations of human economic behaviour.

5. Conclusion: primate decision-making and human economic origins

Humans exhibit great variation in responses to risk across populations, individuals and contexts, so understanding the origins of this variation is crucial to explaining patterns of human economic behaviour. We have argued that comparative studies of decision-making can disentangle the mechanisms and the function of this variation to address questions about both the proximate mechanisms and the ultimate consequences of these decision-making patterns. As such, non-human primates provide a complementary line of evidence to test hypotheses about the origins of human economic behaviours (figure 2).

Figure 2. The origins of human variation in human economic behaviour. Comparative studies of other primates can help disentangle the relative role of shared biological processes versus human-unique cultural influences in risk preferences. Current evidence for variation across populations, individuals and contexts in primates suggests some processes are shared with humans whereas others are human-unique.

We found that non-humans sometimes show patterns of variation like those in humans. For example, emotional states, social context and some neurotransmitter systems can modulate risk preferences in primates like in humans. This suggests that at least some of the proximate psychological mechanisms driving human economic behaviour build upon cognitive, emotional and neurobiological substrates that are shared with other primates Yet other mechanisms may be more specific to humans: while humans show robust gender differences in risk preferences as well as developmental change over the life-course, there is limited evidence for parallel shifts in non-human risky choice. This suggests that this variation may stem more from human-specific mechanisms, such as cultural learning and socialization. Given that culturally based traits are more malleable and thus more amenable to interventions, this provides new clues for promoting optimal economic behaviour in humans.

A second question concerns the ultimate consequences of variation in risk preferences. Here, comparative work can provide an important line of evidence to test the adaptive consequences of different strategies. For example, there are robust species differences in responses to risk indicating that species that typically feed on more variable, heterogeneous resources are relatively more risk-seeking. Yet there are also crucial differences in human and animal patterns that may stem from humans' novel socioecological niche. Human hunter–gatherer lifestyles are characterized by a dependence on high-value and high-risk foods that may have required new social mechanisms to cope with a greater variability in foraging, such as food sharing and resource redistribution [107,116]. As a consequence, humans might have evolved new cognitive abilities and innovated new cultural practices to deal with the social risks presented by exchanges.

Yet there is still much work to be done. First, different species and questions have sometimes been tested using different tasks (figure 1), limiting some inferences across studies. In addition, primate studies, in general, are often limited by small sample sizes, especially with respect to questions of intra-individual variation. As such, comparisons of decision-making using standardized methods in larger populations with wider variation in sex, ages or particular life experiences are crucial to test these ideas. Finally, the animal choice typically involves biologically relevant rewards, but there is increasing evidence that people can be more risk-seeking when making ‘foraging’ decisions about food than in equivalent decisions involving money [67,103]. Given that humans engage in evolutionarily novel forms of economic exchange involving abstract currencies, but other primates can be trained to use and exchange tokens in specific contexts [84], animals thus present untapped opportunities to test how experience with markets impacts economic decision-making. More generally, comparative research is well-positioned to advance our understanding of human economic behaviour by pinpointing the necessary cognitive and experiential prerequisites that enable different aspects of decision-making and exchange.

Hyper-altruistic Behavior Vanishes with High Stakes: Individuals decrease the donated fraction of the pie as the stakes increase; hyper-altruistic behavior seems an artifact of the typical stakes used in lab work

Branas-Garza, Pablo, Diego A. Jorrat, Jaromir Kovarik, and Maria C. Lopez. 2021. “Hyper-altruistic Behavior Vanishes with High Stakes.” PsyArXiv. January 10. doi:10.31234/

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: Using a powered and incentivized experiment, this paper explores the role of stakes in charitable giving of lottery prizes, where subjects commit to donate a fraction of the prize before they learn the outcome of the lottery. We study three stake levels: 5€ (n = 177), 100€ (n = 168), and 1,000€ (n = 171). We find that individuals decrease the donated fraction of the pie as the stakes increase. However, people still share roughly 20% of 1,000€, an amount as high as the average monthly salary of people at the age of our subjects. We further report that the number of people sharing 50% of the pie is remarkably stable across stakes but donating the whole pie -the modal behavior in charity-donation experiments- disappears with stakes. Such hyper-altruistic behavior thus seems to be an artifact of the stakes typically employed in economic and psychological experiments. Our findings point out that sharing with others is a prevalent human feature, but stakes are an important determinant of sharing and policies frequently promoted via prosocial frames (such as stressing the effects of mask-wearing or social distancing on others during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic or environmentally-friendly behaviors on future generations) may thus be miscalibrated if they disregard the stakes at play.

Perceptions of physical attractiveness: Smiling images were rated as more attractive (regardless of stimulus motion format); PPAs were based more on the perceiver than on either the target or format in which the target was presented

In the Eye of the Beholder: A Comprehensive Analysis of Stimulus Type, Perceiver, and Target in Physical Attractiveness Perceptions. Molly A. Bowdring, Michael A. Sayette, Jeffrey M. Girard & William C. Woods. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, Jan 9 2021.

Abstract: Physical attractiveness plays a central role in psychosocial experiences. One of the top research priorities has been to identify factors affecting perceptions of physical attractiveness (PPA). Recent work suggests PPA derives from different sources (e.g., target, perceiver, stimulus type). Although smiles in particular are believed to enhance PPA, support has been surprisingly limited. This study comprehensively examines the effect of smiles on PPA and, more broadly, evaluates the roles of target, perceiver, and stimulus type in PPA variation. Perceivers (n = 181) rated both static images and 5-s videos of targets displaying smiling and neutral-expressions. Smiling images were rated as more attractive than neutral-expression images (regardless of stimulus motion format). Interestingly, perceptions of physical attractiveness were based more on the perceiver than on either the target or format in which the target was presented. Results clarify the effect of smiles, and highlight the significant role of the perceiver, in PPA.