Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Participants viewed psychiatric disorders as more likely to be innate and immutable when the diagnosis was supported by a brain test as compared to a behavioral test

Essentialist Biases Toward Psychiatric Disorders: Brain Disorders Are Presumed Innate. Iris Berent  Melanie Platt. Cognitive Science, April 19 2021.

Abstract: A large campaign has sought to destigmatize psychiatric disorders by disseminating the view that they are in fact brain disorders. But when psychiatric disorders are associated with neurobiological correlates, laypeople's attitudes toward patients are harsher, and the prognoses seem poorer. Here, we ask whether these misconceptions could result from the essentialist presumption that brain disorders are innate. To this end, we invited laypeople to reason about psychiatric disorders that are diagnosed by either a brain or a behavioral test that were strictly matched for their informative value. Participants viewed disorders as more likely to be innate and immutable when the diagnosis was supported by a brain test as compared to a behavioral test. These results show for the first time that people spontaneously essentialize psychiatric conditions that are linked to the brain, even when the brain probe offers no additional diagnostic or genetic information. This bias suggests that people consider the biological essence of living things as materially embodied.

From 2020... Some advertisements work well across many cultures, others do not

From 2020... The evolution-similarity matrix: an evolutionary psychology perspective on cross-cultural advertising. Lachezar Ivanov ORCID , Jordan Buck , Rory Sutherland. Innovative Marketing Volume 16 2020, Issue #2, pp. 159-167, July 3, 2020.

Abstract: The standardization/adaptation debate in cross-cultural advertising is a topic on which little consensus prevails and which remains heavily discussed. Using evolutionary psychology, this paper presents a typology of advertising cues and explains their cross-cultural relevance and transportability. The paper highlights three distinct categories – human universals (evolved similarities), local adaptations (evolved differences), and local socialization (differences not due to evolution). The paper contributes to advertising theory by providing a meta-framework for the study of cross-cultural similarities and differences in the processing of advertising cues. It further assists advertising practice by delivering a framework aiding in cross-cultural advertising copy decisions. By raising the questions that the paper poses to develop the proposed typology categories, advertisers can identify which advertising cues are malleable by advertising and which are based on innate human preferences and are relatively stable. With that knowledge in hand, advertisers can decide when and to what extent to use a standardization approach versus an adaptation approach.

Keywords: ad appeals, adaptation, cross-cultural, evolutionary psychology, evolved differences, evolved similarities, international, standardization

Your Personality does not Care Whether you Believe it Can Change: Beliefs about Whether Personality can Change do not Predict Change among Emerging Adults

Your Personality does not Care Whether you Believe it Can Change: Beliefs about Whether Personality can Change do not Predict Trait Change among Emerging Adults. Nathan W. Hudson et al. European Journal of Personality, December 2, 2020.

Abstract: Theorists have suggested that beliefs about whether personality can change might operate in a self–fulfilling fashion, leading to growth in personality traits across time. In the present two studies, we collected intensive longitudinal data from a total of 1339 emerging adults (ns = 254 and 1085) and examined the extent to which both global beliefs that personality can change (e.g. ‘You can change even your most basic qualities’) and granular beliefs that the individual Big Five personality domains can change (e.g. ‘You can change how extraverted and enthusiastic you generally are’) predicted trait change across approximately 4 months. Results indicated that traits did change across time, yet beliefs that personality can change were almost completely unrelated to actual change in personality traits. Our findings suggest that personality development during emerging adulthood does not depend to any meaningful degree on whether or not individuals believe that their traits can change. © 2020 European Association of Personality Psychology

Keywords: adult personality development, implicit theories of personality, personality mindsets, fixed vs. growth, mindsets, entity vs. incremental orientation

Societies characterized by higher importance of religion or higher degree of church attendance reported higher likelihood of staying at home behavior

Cooperation and Trust Across Societies During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Angelo Romano et al. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, April 13, 2021.

Abstract: Cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust among strangers in the provision of public goods may be key to understanding how societies are managing the COVID-19 pandemic. We report a survey conducted across 41 societies between March and May 2020 (N = 34,526), and test pre-registered hypotheses about how cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust relate to prosocial COVID-19 responses (e.g., social distancing), stringency of policies, and support for behavioral regulations (e.g., mandatory quarantine). We further tested whether cross-societal variation in institutions and ecologies theorized to impact cooperation were associated with prosocial COVID-19 responses, including institutional quality, religiosity, and historical prevalence of pathogens. We found substantial variation across societies in prosocial COVID-19 responses, stringency of policies, and support for behavioral regulations. However, we found no consistent evidence to support the idea that cross-societal variation in cooperation and trust among strangers is associated with these outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These results were replicated with another independent cross-cultural COVID-19 dataset (N = 112,136), and in both snowball and representative samples. We discuss implications of our results, including challenging the assumption that managing the COVID-19 pandemic across societies is best modeled as a public goods dilemma.

Keywords: cooperation, trust, COVID-19, institutions, social dilemmas, culture

Recent review papers have suggested that many behaviors required to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., maintaining social distance, washing hands, self-imposed quarantine) can be construed as social dilemmas, involving a conflict between short-term immediate self-interests and long-term collective benefits (Johnson et al., 2020Van Bavel et al., 2020). If the COVID-19 pandemic indeed creates a social dilemma, then research on cross-societal differences on cooperation and trust should help predict responses to COVID-19 and potentially offer insights into policies that could regulate behaviors in response to COVID-19 (Johnson et al., 2020).

To address this question, we utilized a survey across 41 societies linking country-level predictors (cooperation, trust, institutional quality, religion, historical prevalence of pathogens) with individual-level prosocial COVID-19 responses, behaviors, and support for behavioral regulations to address COVID-19. Results revealed substantial cross-societal variation in individuals’ self-reported willingness to engage in prosocial COVID-19 behaviors (e.g., social distancing, donating to charities), self-reported actual prosocial COVID-19 behaviors (e.g., hand washing, staying at home), and support for behavioral regulation policies (e.g., mandatory quarantine, vaccination). We applied theory and research on cooperation and trust across societies to predict these outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we did not find any consistent support for our pre-registered hypotheses that these cross-societal differences in prosocial COVID-19 responses and support for policies would be associated with country-level differences in cooperation or trust among strangers. These results were replicated using an additional dataset which included a larger sample of countries, and also when restricting the analyses in the present study to only include countries with age-gender representative samples of around 1,000 participants.

We also examined how several societal-level factors may play a role in responding to the pandemic. Several theories explain why societies differ in cooperation among strangers, emphasizing the quality of institutions (Hruschka & Henrich, 2013), religiosity (Norenzayan et al., 2014), and historical prevalence of pathogens (Fincher & Thornhill, 2012). The current results, however, revealed no consistent association between these cross-societal factors and prosocial COVID-19 responses. We also did not find consistent support for our hypotheses that societies characterized by lower levels of cooperation (and trust) would implement stricter government policies. Societies with lower cooperation and trust also did not display larger increases in prosocial COVID-19 responses in relation to more stringent rules. Taken together, the results of this study question the value of using cross-cultural research on social dilemmas to guide policy making in response to the pandemic.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic may still create a large-scale public goods dilemma among strangers, cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust among strangers may not be relevant to individual decision-making in response to an emerging pandemic. Instead, COVID-19 responses may be understood in light of (1) individual differences in tendencies to trust and cooperate with strangers (Aschwanden et al., 2020), (2) proself motivations instead of prosocial, that is, people may engage in costly self-sacrifices (e.g., social distancing) to benefit themselves, their families, co-habitants, co-workers, and/or neighbors (not anonymous strangers), (3) a psychology functionally specialized for disease avoidance (Schaller, 2011Tybur et al., 2013) instead of cooperation, and/or (4) differences in information about the pandemic across societies, which might play a major role in shifting how people perceive this situation (independent of whether the situation is truly a social dilemma). Accordingly, people may not even recognize their mutual dependence with broader societal members, and could frame the situation entirely different than a public goods dilemma, such as total independence from others (i.e., own and others’ social distancing decisions don’t affect others’ outcomes) or as a situation with asymmetrical dependence (i.e., only the elderly benefit from one’s costly cooperation; Balliet et al., 2017Gerpott et al., 2018).

Another possibility is that COVID-19 does not create a public goods dilemma, but instead creates a different interdependent situation, which would produce a different set of expectations for behavior. For example, social distancing during the dilemma may best be understood as a chicken game (Smith & Price, 1973), where the most favorable outcome for each person is doing the opposite of what others choose to do. In this frame, costly self-sacrifices may result in the best outcome for an individual when others are not engaging in costly self-sacrifices (e.g., social distancing), but when other people are engaging in these costly behaviors, then people would achieve the best outcome by not making the sacrifices. However, in this kind of situation, everyone would receive a better outcome if each person engages in social distancing, relative to when each person does not. If the COVID-19 pandemic represents a chicken game, this would question the relevance of cooperation and trust in public goods dilemmas to understand responses to the pandemic. Indeed, we tested a number of pre-registered hypotheses based on the assumption that cooperation in a public goods dilemma among strangers would be key to understand variation across societies in responses to the pandemic, but we failed to find consistent support for these hypotheses across different datasets. Therefore, researchers wanting to extend implications of cross-societal cooperation research to policy in response to the pandemic would be advised to follow along these lines of inquiry, and collect data to test their assumptions and theory prior to making policy recommendations.

One limitation of the present research is worth noting. We used country-level indicators of cooperation and trust. Although we found considerable between-country variation in responses to the pandemic, this variation was not explained by cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust. While cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust have been widely used in past research to predict individual behaviors across societies (e.g., Gächter & Schulz, 2016Romano et al., 2017Schulz et al., 2019), future research can measure individual differences in cooperation and trust, and then examine whether these measures are able to detect cross-societal variation in individual behaviors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this limitation, the present study embodies several strengths, including (1) being guided by theory and pre-registered hypotheses about cooperation across societies, (2) utilizing a sample comprised of a large and varied set of societies, (3) revealing results which were robust across different operationalizations of the predictor variables (i.e., cooperation and trust) and outcome variables (i.e., motivations, behaviors), and (4) cross-validating the results with alternative datasets which comprised even larger number of societies and representative samples, addressing the possible concern that our results may be due to the sampling strategy and methods (see SI).

To conclude, we applied theory of human cooperation across societies to generate pre-registered hypotheses about prosocial COVID-19 responses across 41 societies and found no consistent support for these hypotheses. Previous papers have claimed that a social dilemma framework can guide policy making in response to the pandemic, without offering any empirical evidence about whether the pandemic actually poses a social dilemma, and whether theory and research from this domain apply to predict variation in behaviors in response to the pandemic. To guide evidence-based policies to address the pandemic, it is necessary to offer robust evidence that previous theory and research apply to this context. Cooperation may still be relevant to understanding responses to the pandemic, but the current findings strongly suggest the need to revisit fundamental assumptions about the nature of COVID-19 responses and do the relevant empirical research prior to making policy recommendations.

One appears more attractive in a selfie with other people than in isolation, as long as the other people are equally or less attractive

Change in Evaluation Mode Can Cause a Cheerleader Effect. Claude Messner, Mattia Carnelli and Patrick Stefan Hähener. Front. Psychol., April 21 2021.

The cheerleader effect describes the phenomenon whereby faces are perceived as being more attractive when flanked by other faces than when they are perceived in isolation. At least four theories predict the cheerleader effect. Two visual memory processes could cause a cheerleader effect. First, visual information will sometimes be averaged in the visual memory: the averaging of faces could increase the perceived attractiveness of all the faces flanked by other faces. Second, information will often be combined into a higher-order concept. This hierarchical encoding suggests that information processing causes faces to appear more attractive when flanked by highly attractive faces. Two further explanations posit that comparison processes cause the cheerleader effect. While contrast effects predict that a difference between the target face and the flanking faces causes the cheerleader effect due to comparison processes, a change in the evaluation mode, which alters the standard of comparison between joint and separate evaluation of faces, could be sufficient for producing a cheerleader effect. This leads to the prediction that even when there is no contrast between the attractiveness of the target face and the flanking faces, a cheerleader effect could occur. The results of one experiment support this prediction. The findings of this study have practical implications, such as for individuals who post selfies on social media. An individual’s face will appear more attractive in a selfie taken with people of low attractiveness than in a selfie without other people, even when all the faces have equally low levels of attractiveness.


The goal of this study was to demonstrate that a change in evaluation mode could cause a cheerleader effect. The results show that faces are perceived as more attractive when they are flanked by faces of low rather than high attractiveness, even when the target faces do not differ in attractiveness from the flanking faces. This is in line with the predictions of the change in evaluation mode and that the presence of flanking faces changes the evaluation mode (Hsee and Leclerc, 1998Hsee and Zhang, 2010).

Contrast Effect and Evaluation Mode

The contrast hypothesis and the evaluation mode do not contradict each other. Both theories argue that judgments are constructed by contrasts. When flanking faces are available, target face attractiveness is evaluated in contrast to flanking faces. The contrast between the target face and the flanking face could cause a cheerleader effect (Ying et al., 2019). However, if no flanking faces are available, observers base their judgment on the contrast with their internal standards (Hsee and Zhang, 2010). This change from an external to an internal standard of comparison could cause a cheerleader effect as well. In our experiment, we minimized the contrast between the target faces and the flanking faces. In the condition with unattractive targets flanked by equally unattractive flankers, we observed a cheerleader effect.

In our experiment, we had no direct measure of the change in evaluation mode. Our argumentation is based on the idea that a contrast between target and flanking face attractiveness is a necessary condition for a contrast effect. Therefore, we selected targets and flankers which are very similar in their degree of attractiveness. However, minimal contrasts between target and flanking face attractiveness still exist. Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that minimal contrasts cause the cheerleader effect in those conditions as well. However, there are additional results which support our hypotheses. First, when considering faces with low attractiveness with equally low attractive flanking faces the cheerleader effect is greater than when considering highly attractive faces with unattractive flanking faces, although the contrasts are smaller. Second, we calculated the difference between the attractiveness of each target face with equally attractive flankers (minimal contrasts) and with more or less attractive flankers respectively (high contrast). In both conditions with high contrast there was a correlation between the contrast and the cheerleader effect. However, in both conditions with minimal contrast there was no correlation between the contrast and the cheerleader effect.

The aim of this paper is to introduce the idea that a change of evaluation mode is a process which could cause a cheerleader effect. Falsifying other processes is not an aim of this paper. Actually, even small changes could cause other processes to influence the evaluation of facial attractiveness.

Real-Time Rating vs. Memory

This study focused on real-time impressions and not on memory-based judgments. Therefore, the participants rated the attractiveness of faces online while these faces were in view. However, real-time ratings differ from memory-based judgments (Hastie and Park, 1986Ying et al., 2020). It is possible that visual memory processes have a higher influence on attractiveness ratings when judgments are memory-based but not when they occur in real time. In a recent study, participants evaluated faces after they had disappeared from the screen (Ying et al., 2019). Although the interval was short, the participants gave memory-based judgments. Ying et al.’s results could be interpreted as a mix between cognitive and visual memory processes because they show that facial attractiveness was more favorable when faces were flanked by faces of both low and high attractiveness.

Simultaneous and Sequential Presentation of Faces

Similar to memory-based judgments are situations where people evaluate a face online and compare it with a formerly viewed face. Such situations attest to two opposing influences: on the one hand a face is rated as more attractive when it follows a face of low attractiveness (Pegors et al., 2015Ying et al., 2019), while on the other hand a face is rated as more attractive when a face of high attractiveness precedes it (Pegors et al., 2015). Therefore, judgments of the perceived attractiveness of flanked faces may differ when they are recalled compared to when they are made in real time. In addition, there is evidence that the cognitive processes differ if the observer evaluates a group of faces simultaneously or sequentially (Ying et al., 2020).

First Impressions vs. Familiar Faces

One important limitation of our study concerns the familiarity of the faces. Similar to other studies of the cheerleader effect, we measured the attractiveness of faces that were unfamiliar to the participants. Therefore, our results are based exclusively on the first impression of these faces. The precise mechanisms by which the attractiveness of a familiar face is influenced by flanked faces remains to be determined. However, attractiveness judgments are not only influenced by physical aspects but also by psychological aspects, such as associations (Rhodes and Zebrowitz, 2002) or sentimental feelings (Yang and Galak, 2015). It is possible that the more an attractiveness rating is influenced by psychological aspects, the less it is influenced by flanking faces.

Highly Attractive Flankers

It seems that a reversal of the cheerleader effect is less likely to occur than the cheerleader effect. In the present study, we found a reversal of the cheerleader effect when target faces were flanked by highly attractive faces only for target faces of low attractiveness, but not when highly attractive target faces were flanked by equally highly attractive faces. Similarly, Ying et al. (2019) reported cheerleader effects and no reversal of the cheerleader effect even when the flankers were attractive. One possible explanation is that in addition to cognitive processes, additional processes, such as averaging in the visual memory, generally increase facial attractiveness in groups.

Extremely Attractive Faces

A further limitation pertains to extremely attractive faces. We did not use extremely attractive faces. The potential to increase the attraction of extremely attractive faces is limited. Therefore, due to the ceiling effect, one would expect no or minimal cheerleader effects for extremely attractive people. In addition, if a person is unambiguously attractive, like Scarlett Johansson or Chris Hemsworth, observers do not need additional information to build their impressions. They have sufficient information for their evaluation, will not contrast them to flanking faces, and will not sample additional information (Simon, 1955Fiedler and Bless, 2010Stüttgen et al., 2012). However, for people with more ambiguous levels of attractiveness, such as John C. Reilly or Rebel Wilson, observers will consider the attractiveness of flanking faces (Messner, manuscript in preparation).

Assimilation vs. Contrast

Judgments are not always formed in contrast to something; they can be formed in assimilation toward something as well (Sherif et al., 1958Mussweiler, 2003Bless and Schwarz, 2010). Assimilation corresponds to the idea of hierarchical encoding. An explanation of the cheerleader effect based on hierarchical encoding is based on two assumptions: First, observers calculate the mean attractiveness of faces they see simultaneously; second, observers differentiate between the target face and other faces and bias their evaluation of the attractiveness of the target face toward the main attractiveness of the group of other faces. While evidence for the first assumption exists (Luo and Zhou, 2018), no such evidence exists for the second assumption (Luo and Zhou, 2018Carragher et al., 2019Ying et al., 2019). However, it is possible that additional redundancy would facilitate differentiation between the target face and the flanking faces and foster hierarchical encoding.


The change in evaluation mode has a high impact on marketing practice. A seller of low-budget products (e.g., a cheap-looking watch) presents the products alongside other low-budget products (other cheap-looking watches), while the seller of luxury goods presents the products separately (Hsee and Leclerc, 1998). This article provides evidence that similar processes are relevant for self-marketing, assuming the goal is that observers evaluate one’s attractiveness highly when one posts selfies on social media. One appears more attractive in a selfie with other people than in isolation, as long as the other people are equally or less attractive. The higher one’s own attractiveness, the less one benefits from this effect; however, it is not beneficial to post a selfie taken with other people in the frame if the attractiveness of these other people is high. Finally, the more unambiguous one’s attractiveness, the less one is affected by flanking faces.

College Students in the Western World are Becoming Less Emotionally Intelligent

College Students in the Western World are Becoming Less Emotionally Intelligent: A Cross‐Temporal Meta‐Analysis of Trait Emotional Intelligence. Mahreen Khan  Amirali Minbashian  Carolyn MacCann. Journal of Personality, April 19 2021.


Objective: Over the last two decades, Western society has undergone a marked cultural transformation characterised by rising individualism. Concurrently, the digital landscape has transformed through the rise of social media and smartphones. These factors have previously been implicated in changing individuals’ attitudes, behaviour and interpersonal interactions. We investigated whether these societal changes have coincided with changes in trait emotional intelligence (EI) over the last 17 years in Western university students.

Method: We examined this question using a cross‐temporal meta‐analysis (k = 70; N = 16,917).

Results: There was no change in overall trait EI; however, the trait EI domains “wellbeing,” “self‐control” and “emotionality” demonstrated significant decreases with time, after controlling for gender composition and between‐country differences.

Conclusion: We discuss these findings in relation to how they contribute to our understanding of trait EI, and how they add to the literature on how Western society is changing with time.