Saturday, July 23, 2022

Why it's easier to approach other people's problems with wisdom than one' s own

The Psychological Mechanisms Underlying Solomon’s Paradox: Impact of Mood and Self-Transcendence. Wentao Xu, Kaili Zhang and Fengyan Wang. Front. Psychol., July 22 2022.

Abstract: Solomon’s paradox of wise reasoning, in which performance of wisdom differs when reasoning on an issue in one’s own life vs. another’s life, has been supported by robust evidence. However, the underlying psychological mechanism remains unclear. This asymmetry of wise reasoning may be explained by the different mindsets of self-transcendence when people reason about various conflicts (personal vs. others’), and mood should play a fundamental role. To explore this issue, three hundred ninety-nine participants were recruited to test a hypothesized model. The results supported the effect of Solomon’s paradox—that is, participants endorsed wise-reasoning strategies more strongly when resolving others’ social conflicts than their own. Further mediation analysis showed that the sequential mediation model was supported. Solomon’s paradox can be explained by the difference in positive affect and self-transcendence when reasoning about the two conflicts. This study directly verifies the mediating role of self-transcendence in Solomon’s paradox. At the same time, reasoning about personal affairs reduces individuals’ self-transcendence mindset, and positive affect can explain the differences. These results are helpful for understanding and effectively avoiding Solomon’s wisdom dilemma.


Although Solomon’s paradox of wise reasoning has received much attention (Kross and Grossmann, 2012Grossmann and Kross, 2014Huynh et al., 2017), the psychological mechanisms involved are still not quite precise. The present study directly examined the role of mood and self-transcendence and found that participants showed significantly lower self-transcendence when reasoning about personal conflicts than about those of others, supporting H1. Self-transcendence mediated the relationship between conflict type and wise reasoning, supporting H2. Positive affect and self-transcendence played significant sequential mediating role between conflict type and wise reasoning, partly supporting H3. The main contribution of this study is that these findings go deeper into the multiple occurrence mechanism of Solomon’s paradox. Additionally, the mediating role of positive affect provides theoretical guidance to avoid Solomon’s dilemma through emotion management.

Solomon’s Paradox

Solomon’s paradox concerns the wisdom all people experience in life. Impaired wisdom performance in the face of personal life problems is a real problem that people should confront. Our results are consistent with previous findings that people not only use less wisdom-related cognitive strategies when coping with conflicts (Grossmann and Kross, 2014) but also do not recognize the effectiveness of wise reasoning strategies (Huynh et al., 2017). Unlike Huynh et al. (2017), who found significant differences only in some dimensions in terms of conflict types, our study found that Solomon’s paradox was represented on all subcomponents of wise reasoning, possibly because we adopted a between-subjects design (compared to Study 2) and obtained a larger sample size (compared to Study 1). Regarding the mechanisms involved, Grossmann (2017) explained this difference in terms of cognitive perspective when faced with different conflicts and provides indirect evidence with the moderating effect of self-decentering. In addition, Huynh et al. (2017) found that pursuit of virtue moderates Solomon’s paradox, suggesting that psychological factors may exist beyond perspective preference.

The Mediating Role of Self-Transcendence

While the relationship between wisdom and self-transcendence is undeniable, the positioning of self-transcendence in different wisdom theories varies widely. For example, Aldwin et al. (2020) viewed self-transcendence as the core of wisdom or even wisdom itself while Grossmann et al.’s (2020) contextually oriented generic model of wisdom had difficulty accommodating self-transcendence in a rounded way. When wisdom is viewed as a personality trait, we argue that self-transcendence should be included in its complex construct. In contrast, if wisdom is considered a contextual manifestation of wisdom reasoning, both trait- and state-level self-transcendence should be subsumed as influences.

Similar to Le’s (2010) study in which trait self-transcendence positively predicted wisdom personality, the present study found that simply thinking about one’s interpersonal conflict reduced self-transcendent mindset, which led to poor performance in wisdom reasoning, and that self-transcendence mediated the relationship between conflict type and wisdom reasoning. This not only creatively develops a new paradigm of self-transcendence manipulation but also directly explains the occurrence mechanism of Solomon’s paradox and expands the depth and breadth of research in both fields, which should be integrated at theoretical and empirical levels in the relationship between the two in the future.

The Mediating Role of Mood

Early theories of wisdom paid little attention to the importance of emotions with only Ardelt’s (2003) three-dimensional view of wisdom incorporating affect as a core dimension in the wisdom construct. In recent years, researchers have begun to explore the relationship between emotions and emotion-related psychological characteristics and wisdom, such as Thomas et al.’s (2019) San Diego Wisdom Inventory, which includes emotion regulation as one of six dimensions, Schneider et al.’s (2021) finding that emotional intelligence positively predicts both trait- and state-level wisdom, and the MORE life experience model, which considers emotion regulation and empathy to be important resources of wisdom (Glück et al., 2019Glück et al., 2013). A longitudinal follow-up study by Grossmann et al. (2019) found a positive correlation between wise reasoning and emotional diversity rather than intensity.

Our study supports the positive predictive role of positive affect and emotional intelligence on self-transcendence and wise reasoning, which suggests an essential link between wisdom and emotions and related abilities (Grossmann et al., 2019Schneider et al., 2021); on the other hand, the mediating role of positive affect in Solomon’s paradox was found, which suggests the complexity of the underlying mechanisms, where essential positive affect suppression beyond the cognitive perspective and self-transcendent mindset can lead directly to impaired wise reasoning endorsement. These results point to a theoretical path to improving wisdom through emotion management.

However, no significant differences between conditions were observed in any specific negative emotions. By comparison, Huynh et al.’s (2017) study also revealed quite low negative affect (M = 1.93, SD = 0.81, α = 0.91) and relatively higher positive affect (M = 3.26, SD = 0.80, α = 0.89). This may be an inherent defect of event reconstruction technology: After all, the conflicts recalled has passed.

Limitation and Theoretical Implication

The main limitation of this study was that the effect sizes of the main findings were relatively small. The effect size for Solomon’s paradox was ηp2 = 0.05–0.25 in Grossmann and Kross (2014) and ηp2 = 0.01–0.05 in Huynh (2017), and the effect size was ηp2 = 0.03 in our study. Overall, our results generally agree with those of Huynh (2017), but both are significantly smaller than the effect sizes derived by Grossmann and Kross (2014). One possible explanation is that Grossmann and Kross (2014) used three self-assessment questions and one objective scoring indicator to measure wise reasoning (Study 1: ηp2 = 0.25). The effect sizes decreased sharply when the number of questions was increased to just seven (Study 2: ηp2 = 0.12, Study 3: ηp2 = 0.05) whereas our study and Huynh (2017) used a 19/21-question situational wise reasoning scale; robust measures of standardized scales may have more difficulty capturing Solomon’s paradox. Furthermore, Grossmann and Kross (2014) examined the use of wise reasoning strategies. In contrast, both our study and Huynh (2017) measured the endorsement of wise reasoning strategies, and the subtle differences between the two may also explain the difference in effect sizes. However, this also suggests that the mere difference in endorsing wise reasoning strategies of ηp2 = 0.01–0.05 may translate into a ηp2 = 0.05–0.25 difference in wise reasoning. These findings provide a deeper understanding of the cognitive and behavioral robustness of Solomon’s paradox.

Furthermore, major information difference between what we know about personal conflicts and those of friends may be a confounder in Solomon’s paradox when event-reconstruction is used. Fictitious conflicts used in Grossmann and Kross (2014) provide almost the same amount of but quite thin information for both conditions of personal and others’ conflicts. The event-reconstruction technology makes up for the lack of information, but raised a new problem of potential asymmetry of information in both conditions. To a large extent, this asymmetry may be an important reason for Solomon’s paradox in daily lives. However, future research should take measures to separate and investigate or control this confounding variable for a deeper understanding of Solomon’s paradox. Another limitation is that ethnic backgrounds and native languages are not included in this study, which may impair the measurements.

More liberal participants assigned higher disgust ratings after the headlines discounted the threat of COVID-19, whereas more conservative participants did so after the headlines emphasized it

COVIDisgust: Language processing through the lens of partisanship. Veranika Puhacheuskaya, Isabell Hubert Lyall, Juhani Järvikivi. PLoS, July 21, 2022.

Abstract: Disgust is an aversive reaction protecting an organism from disease. People differ in how prone they are to experiencing it, and this fluctuates depending on how safe the environment is. Previous research has shown that the recognition and processing of disgusting words depends not on the word’s disgust per se but rather on individual sensitivity to disgust. However, the influence of dynamically changing disgust on language comprehension has not yet been researched. In a series of studies, we investigated whether the media’s portrayal of COVID-19 will affect subsequent language processing via changes in disgust. The participants were exposed to news headlines either depicting COVID-19 as a threat or downplaying it, and then rated single words for disgust and valence (Experiment 1; N = 83) or made a lexical decision (Experiment 2; N = 86). The headline type affected only word ratings and not lexical decisions, but political ideology and disgust proneness affected both. More liberal participants assigned higher disgust ratings after the headlines discounted the threat of COVID-19, whereas more conservative participants did so after the headlines emphasized it. We explain the results through the politicization and polarization of the pandemic. Further, political ideology was more predictive of reaction times in Experiment 2 than disgust proneness. High conservatism correlated with longer reaction times for disgusting and negative words, and the opposite was true for low conservatism. The results suggest that disgust proneness and political ideology dynamically interact with perceived environmental safety and have a measurable effect on language processing. Importantly, they also suggest that the media’s stance on the pandemic and the political framing of the issue may affect the public response by increasing or decreasing our disgust.

General discussion

Our study tested the hypothesis that the media’s stance on the pandemic may elevate or reduce participants’ disgust, which would affect word ratings and word recognition latencies. We also predicted that such person-based factors as disgust proneness and political ideology will mediate the effect. A word rating (Experiment 1) and a lexical decision (Experiment 2) study found partial support for these hypotheses. In brief, the main findings were as follows:

  • More liberal participants rated the stimuli as more disgusting after being exposed to the headlines downplaying the threat of COVID-19, whereas more conservative participants gave higher disgust ratings following the headlines emphasizing it.
  • More liberal participants were more extreme with their ratings and gave a broader range of responses (rating disgusting words as more disgusting and negative words as more negative, as well as rating non-disgusting words as less disgusting and positive words as more positive) than their more conservative peers regardless of the condition.
  • Disgusting and negative words had a facilitatory effect for more liberal participants (shorter RTs) and an inhibitory effect for more conservative participants (longer RTs).
  • More disgust-prone individuals rated everything as more disgusting than low disgust-prone ones.
  • In the severe condition, low disgust-prone participants rated all the stimuli as more disgusting and negative, whereas high disgust-prone participants only rated low to moderately disgusting words as more disgusting and negative.

Affective word ratings and political ideology

As expected, political orientation had a clear impact on word ratings. As we noted in the Introduction, the perception of the severity of the virus became an identity marker for both ends of the political spectrum. Given such drastic polarization, it is not surprising that the two types of the headlines produced the exact opposite effect on the participants depending on their political ideology. More liberal participants in our study were more disgusted by the headlines downplaying the severity of COVID-19 than those emphasizing it, rating everything as more disgusting afterwards. In contrast, more conservative participants assigned higher disgust ratings following the severe headlines. We offer two possible explanations for this result, one based on direct affective evaluation and the other on the disgust system response due to stimulus habituation. According to the first explanation, the stance on the virus from the political outgroup (downplaying headlines for the liberal participants and severe headlines for the conservative ones) evoked a strong emotional response, which translated into higher ratings on the disgust scale. However, in this case, one would also expect lower ratings on the valence scale depending on the headline, and this was not what we found. That leaves us the second possibility. As the liberal narrative revolves around the costs of not treating the virus seriously enough, they may have become habituated and desensitized to it. The take on the danger of COVID-19 may thus be perceived as the “default” by them and no longer alert their disgust system, whereas headlines contradicting this view might instantly elevate their disgust levels, signaling danger. The opposite, of course, should be true for more conservative participants. Note that one of our hypotheses was that more conservative participants will discard the severe headlines as alarmist, since previous research showed that conservatives have less trust in contradictory media and firmly believe that COVID-19 does not pose big health risks [55]. The current findings suggest that this was either not the case or, if it was the case, it did not stop their disgust system from ramping up. All in all, this is in line with mounting evidence that conservatives are more prone to disgust [4951]. Even though previous studies found conservatives to be less concerned about the pandemic and less eager to engage in social distancing than liberals [5570], our results show that highlighting the danger of the virus still makes conservative participants give higher disgust ratings. Whether this translates into more adherence to safety protocols is a topic for further research.

One novel finding of our study is more extreme disgust and valence ratings by more liberal participants compared to their more conservative peers regardless of the condition. Disgusting and negative words were rated as more disgusting and more negative by more liberal participants, and the opposite was true for non-disgusting and positive words. We are not aware of any research examining whether political ideology correlates with ratings’ extremity. It is entirely possible that this broader range of ratings is additionally mediated by some other personality traits and this needs to be verified by future research.

Affective word ratings and disgust proneness

Disgust proneness affected word ratings over and above the effects of political ideology. Regardless of the headline type, more disgust-prone individuals rated all the stimuli as more disgusting and negative stimuli as more negative than less disgust-prone individuals. This demonstrates that disgust ratings can serve as a good proxy for participant’s disgust and adds to the growing body of evidence regarding the effects of disgust proneness on cognition in general and language processing in particular. [4041] found that disgust sensitivity was positively correlated with pupil dilation during the processing of stereotype-based clashing statements, suggesting that more disgust-prone individuals may experience greater arousal when interacting with stimuli that are disgusting either physically or morally. The results of the current study further indicate that even single word processing can be significantly affected by the participant’s disgust sensitivity. In addition, disgust proneness significantly interacted with the headline type. While low disgust-prone participants rated all the stimuli as more disgusting and negative when the threat of COVID-19 was highlighted (severe headlines), high disgust-prone participants only rated low and moderately disgusting words as more disgusting and positive words as more negative in the severe condition. As we addressed in the Discussion after Experiment 1, this may be due to the ceiling effect since ratings assigned by high-disgust prone participants to extremely valenced stimuli were very close to the top of the disgust scale and the bottom of the valence scale.

Political ideology vs disgust proneness in lexical access: The role of the pandemic

Our findings from the lexical decision experiment partially corroborated and extended the results for French by [46]. The authors found that disgusting words had a facilitatory effect for lexical recognition in less disgust-prone participants and an inhibiting effect in more disgust-prone participants. Our study, however, found that political ideology was more predictive of RTs than disgust sensitivity. Even though the general direction of the effect was the same (more liberal participants patterned like less disgust-prone ones), only political ideology significantly improved the model’s fit when both factors were examined together. Overall, disgusting and negative words had a facilitatory effect on word recognition for more liberal participants and an inhibitory effect for more conservative participants. To the best of our knowledge, the interaction between political ideology and lexical decision times has not yet been researched. One possible explanation for the dominant effect of political ideology in our study is a big political component pertinent to the ongoing pandemic from its very beginning. [55] suggested that political ideology was uniquely predictive of the participant’s COVID-19 behavior even when controlling for such variables as belief in science and COVID-related anxiety. Thus, it may be that political views have temporarily become a more salient marker of the behavioral immune system response than disgust sensitivity per se. This is, of course, a speculative idea that needs to be addressed by further research. One way to verify this would be to conduct the same study during the pandemic and post-pandemic.

Differential effects of traits and states on lexical access

We did not find an effect of dynamically changing disgust levels (induced by headlines) on lexical access. Even though the headlines successfully affected participants’ ratings in Experiment 1, they did not have an effect on RTs in Experiment 2—neither by themselves nor in interaction with person-based factors. Unlike headlines, however, political ideology was found predictive of word recognition latencies. Why would that be the case? Previous research has found political views to be just one manifestation of a cognitive and affective make-up and to have a robust correlation with threat perception [74]. It is thus not surprising that aligning with a particular political ideology may make disgust-related concepts in long-term memory more or less accessible (see [75] for converging findings with threat-related concepts). Thus, our results suggest a difference between fluctuating states (i.e., the participant’s emotional response to a particular set of headlines) and stable traits (i.e., aligning with more conservative or more liberal ideology) in affecting the ease of accessing disgusting and negative words. One alternative possibility to consider is that an exposure to COVID-related news may need to be longer to see an effect on lexical decision (we only showed a handful of headlines that the participants could switch through at their own pace). This could be tested by future research.

Limitations of present research

Our study had several limitations that need to be noted. First and foremost, we did not collect participants’ socioeconomic status, belief in science, self-perceived likelihood of contracting COVID-19, or COVID-19 related anxiety. Second, a convenience sample of university students produced a slightly skewed distribution of gender, age, and political ideology (most participants were young and more liberal females), which may have affected the results. That said, within the range of scores obtained in this experiment, the distribution was very close to normal.

One other concern needs to be addressed. Since our headlines reported on the pandemic, it is important to make sure that word recognition latencies were not affected by the presence of words directly related to the pandemic and to disease in general. As no lists of pandemic-related words exist, it is difficult to estimate how many words in the final dataset satisfied this criterion. Using our best judgment, we counted 6 out of 99 words that were disease-related, with the disgust indexes given in brackets: “unhealthy” (-0.7), “germ” (0.9), “sickening” (1.24), “deadly” (0.8), “parasite” (1.5), “disease” (1). Three of those words occurred in the severe headlines in full (“sickening”, “disease”, “deadly”) and one in part (“bloodthirsty”–“blood”). As one can see, the words were relatively dispersed on the disgust scale. To make sure the results of Experiment 2 were not contaminated by this overlap, we reran the models without these four words. While disgust proneness was no longer significant, political ideology remained significant. This, once again, testifies to the stability of the effect of political ideology.

All in all, our studies found that not only do headlines about the pandemic affect the participants’ disgust levels but that they also interact with a range of person-based factors, namely how prone the participant is to disgust and what political ideology they align with.

We routinely miss important information that is right in front of our eyes because our brains generate predictive models of the world that can overshadow what's out there

Normal blindness: when we Look But Fail To See. Jeremy M. Wolfe, Anna Kosovicheva, Benjamin Wolfe. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, July 21 2022.


Looked But Failed to See (LBFTS) errors occur when observers fail to notice a clearly visible item, and occur across a wide range of tasks and settings, from driving and medical image perception to laboratory visual search tasks.

We outline a new, unified account of LBFTS errors, arguing that processes that serve us well under most circumstances are guaranteed to produce a steady stream of LBFTS errors under some circumstances.

LBFTS can be thought of as a form of ‘normal blindness’. It is obviously far less severe than clinical blindness but it is so universal that its costs are substantial at a societal level.

Abstract: Humans routinely miss important information that is ‘right in front of our eyes’, from overlooking typos in a paper to failing to see a cyclist in an intersection. Recent studies on these ‘Looked But Failed To See’ (LBFTS) errors point to a common mechanism underlying these failures, whether the missed item was an unexpected gorilla, the clearly defined target of a visual search, or that simple typo. We argue that normal blindness is the by-product of the limited-capacity prediction engine that is our visual system. The processes that evolved to allow us to move through the world with ease are virtually guaranteed to cause us to miss some significant stimuli, especially in important tasks like driving and medical image perception.

Keywords: inattentional blindnessvisual searchfunctional visual fieldattentioneye movements

Boys/men are more isolated than girls/women through most of the life course; gap is much greater for the never married & those with disrupted relationship histories; levels of social isolation steadily increase from adolescence for both men/women

Gender and Social Isolation across the Life Course. Debra Umberson, Zhiyong Lin, Hyungmin Cha. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, July 20, 2022.

Abstract: Social isolation has robust adverse effects on health, well-being, dementia risk, and longevity. Although most studies suggest similar effects of isolation on the health of men and women, there has been much less attention to gendered patterns of social isolation over the life course—despite decades of research suggesting gender differences in social ties. We build on theoretical frames of constrained choice and gender-as-relational to argue that gender differences in isolation are apparent but depend on timing in the life course and marital/partnership history. Results indicate that boys/men are more isolated than girls/women through most of the life course, and this gender difference is much greater for the never married and those with disrupted relationship histories. Strikingly, levels of social isolation steadily increase from adolescence through later life for both men and women.

Keywords: aging, gender, life course, relationships, social isolation