Friends and enemies

Kevin Lewis

January 28, 2018

The social genome of friends and schoolmates in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health
Benjamin Domingue et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 23 January 2018, Pages 702-707


Humans tend to form social relationships with others who resemble them. Whether this sorting of like with like arises from historical patterns of migration, meso-level social structures in modern society, or individual-level selection of similar peers remains unsettled. Recent research has evaluated the possibility that unobserved genotypes may play an important role in the creation of homophilous relationships. We extend this work by using data from 5,500 adolescents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to examine genetic similarities among pairs of friends. Although there is some evidence that friends have correlated genotypes, both at the whole-genome level as well as at trait-associated loci (via polygenic scores), further analysis suggests that meso-level forces, such as school assignment, are a principal source of genetic similarity between friends. We also observe apparent social-genetic effects in which polygenic scores of an individual's friends and schoolmates predict the individual's own educational attainment. In contrast, an individual's height is unassociated with the height genetics of peers.

Exposure to nature counteracts aggression after depletion
Yan Wang et al.
Aggressive Behavior, January/February 2018, Pages 89-97


Acts of self-control are more likely to fail after previous exertion of self-control, known as the ego depletion effect. Research has shown that depleted participants behave more aggressively than non-depleted participants, especially after being provoked. Although exposure to nature (e.g., a walk in the park) has been predicted to replenish resources common to executive functioning and self-control, the extent to which exposure to nature may counteract the depletion effect on aggression has yet to be determined. The present study investigated the effects of exposure to nature on aggression following depletion. Aggression was measured by the intensity of noise blasts participants delivered to an ostensible opponent in a competition reaction-time task. As predicted, an interaction occurred between depletion and environmental manipulations for provoked aggression. Specifically, depleted participants behaved more aggressively in response to provocation than non-depleted participants in the urban condition. However, provoked aggression did not differ between depleted and non-depleted participants in the natural condition. Moreover, within the depletion condition, participants in the natural condition had lower levels of provoked aggression than participants in the urban condition. This study suggests that a brief period of nature exposure may restore self-control and help depleted people regain control over aggressive urges.

Emotion in the Wilds of Nature: The Coherence and Contagion of Fear During Threatening Group-Based Outdoors Experiences
Craig Anderson, Maria Monroy & Dacher Keltner
Emotion, forthcoming


Emotional expressions communicate information about the individual's internal state and evoke responses in others that enable coordinated action. The current work investigated the informative and evocative properties of fear vocalizations in a sample of youth from underserved communities and military veterans while white-water rafting. Video-taped footage of participants rafting through white-water rapids was coded for vocal and facial expressions of fear, amusement, pride, and awe, yielding more than 1,300 coded expressions, which were then related to measures of subjective emotion and cortisol response. Consistent with informative properties of emotional expressions, fear vocalizations were positively and significantly related to facial expressions of fear, subjective reports of fear, and individuals' cortisol levels measured after the rafting trip. It is important to note that this coherent pattern was unique to fear vocalizations; vocalizations of amusement, pride, and awe were not significantly related to fear expressions in the face, subjective reports of fear, or cortisol levels. Demonstrating the evocative properties of emotional expression, fear vocalizations of individuals appeared to evoke fear vocalizations in other people in their raft, and cortisol levels of individuals within rafts similarly converged at the end of the trip. We discuss how the study of spontaneous emotion expressions in naturalistic settings can help address basic yet controversial questions about emotions.

Killing characters in video games kills memory for in-game ads
Robert Lull et al.
Psychology of Popular Media Culture, January 2018, Pages 87-97


Evolutionary theory predicts that people attend to emotionally arousing cues at the expense of less arousing cues. Violence is one emotionally arousing cue that attracts attention away from less arousing cues located in the same visual environment. Previous research has shown that violent media content attracts attention at the expense of brands advertised during violent media content. We predicted that participants who played a video game violently would recall and recognize fewer brands than participants who played the same game nonviolently. In Study 1, participants (N = 154) drove cars in the game The Getaway while real brands appeared within the city. Half of the participants played the game violently (running over characters) and half of the participants played the game nonviolently (carefully avoiding characters). Violent players recalled and recognized fewer brands than did nonviolent players. In Study 2, participants (N = 102) drove cars in the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas while fictitious brands were advertised on their vehicles. Half of the participants played the game violently (running over characters) and half of the participants played the game nonviolently (carefully avoiding characters). Violent players were less likely to recognize advertised brands than were nonviolent players. Not enough participants recalled brands to test whether violent players recalled fewer brands than did nonviolent players. These results across both studies suggest that within-game violence reduces the effectiveness of product placement, such that brands advertised in violent video games are less likely to be remembered than brands advertised in nonviolent video games.

Facial Expression Predictions as Drivers of Social Perception
Lorena Chanes et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Emerging perspectives in neuroscience indicate that the brain functions predictively, constantly anticipating sensory input based on past experience. According to these perspectives, prediction signals impact perception, guiding and constraining experience. In a series of six behavioral experiments, we show that predictions about facial expressions drive social perception, deeply influencing how others are evaluated: individuals are judged as more likable and trustworthy when their facial expressions are anticipated, even in the absence of any conscious changes in felt affect. Moreover, the effect of predictions on social judgments extends to both real-world situations where such judgments have particularly high consequence (i.e., evaluating presidential candidates for an upcoming election), as well as to more basic perceptual processes that may underlie judgment (i.e., facilitated visual processing of expected expressions). The implications of these findings, including relevance for cross-cultural interactions, social stereotypes and mental illness, are discussed.

Do I Really Feel Your Pain? Comparing the Effects of Observed and Personal Ostracism
Anna Giesen & Gerald Echterhoff
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


It has been argued that "we feel the pain of others' ostracism as our own". However, it is unknown whether observed ostracism is as distressing as self-experienced ostracism. We conducted two studies to address this lacuna. In Study 1, participants played or observed an online ball-tossing game, in which they or a stranger were ostracized or included by others. In Study 2, participants imagined themselves or someone else being ostracized or included. Across both studies, self-experienced and observed ostracism had the same negative effect on mood. Also, both self-experienced and observed ostracism evoked need threat, but this effect was slightly lower after observed ostracism. In sum, the findings suggest that we do feel the pain of others' ostracism as our own, consistent with the notion that humans are equipped with a system that detects violations of social inclusion norms in the environment.

Oxytocin regulates social approach
Daniela Cohen & Simone Shamay-Tsoory
Social Neuroscience, forthcoming


The physical space individuals share is known as interpersonal space. As social creatures, people tend to approach others actively and explore the environment around them, opting for different space preferences with different people. In the current study, we sought to examine the role of oxytocin (OT) in regulating active social interpersonal space preferences. Contrary to previous studies that reported a preference for increased space following intranasal OT, we predicted that following OT administration individuals would exhibit increased active approach towards a protagonist. Accordingly, we measured active approach towards friends and strangers. The results indicated that OT increased social approach, particularly to strangers, suggesting that the OT system plays a major role in regulating social approach, depending on type of protagonist. The results are in line with the social salience and anxiety reduction hypotheses showing that OT increases approach to strangers.

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