Good Outcomes

Kevin Lewis

April 28, 2020

Health Adversity and Value Change
Wiebke Bleidorn, Ted Schwaba & Christopher Hopwood
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Life span theories of human development assert that people prioritize emotional values over informational values when they believe their time is limited. This process unfolds naturally as people age but may be accelerated by life-threatening events. We tested whether the experience of serious health adversity leads to changes in value orientation. Using 10 annual waves of data from a nationally representative sample, we charted the course of value change in 247 individuals who experienced serious health adversity in comparison to a propensity score–matched group of 714 healthy individuals. Although there were no differences in values related to friendship and love for those with and without health adversity, we found that the importance of social recognition declined in the face of health problems and continued to recede thereafter. This finding is consistent with folk wisdom about value changes in the face of mortality.

Upright and Honorable: People Use Space to Understand Honor, Affecting Choice and Perception
Ying Lin & Daphna Oyserman
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Honor is abstract. We predict that people make sense of honor metaphorically as an up–right position in space and that endorsing honor values makes this metaphor more accessible. Supporting our prediction, people in China (Study 1) and the United States (Studies 1–4) associate honor with up and right and dishonor with down and left, controlling for the association of positive with up–right (Studies 3, 4). We document downstream consequences for choice and perception of this metaphoric representation. Regarding choice, Americans who endorse honor values and voted for then-candidate Trump prefer photographs in which President Trump is positioned in the up–right quadrant (Study 5). Images from conservative news websites position the President’s face in the up–right quadrant more than nonconservative ones (Study 6). Regarding perception, Americans who rate President Trump as honorable are more likely to perceive him as facing up and to the right in news website images (Study 7).

Can Bad Be Good? The Attraction of a Darker Self
Rebecca Krause & Derek Rucker
Psychological Science, forthcoming


To avoid threats to the self, people shun comparisons with similar — yet immoral, mentally unstable, or otherwise negatively viewed — others. Despite this prevalent perspective, we consider a contrarian question: Can people be attracted to darker versions of themselves? We propose that with self-threat assuaged, similarity signals self-relevance, which draws people toward those who are similar to them despite negative characteristics. To test this general idea, we explored a prevalent context that may offer a safe haven from self-threat: stories. Using a large-scale proprietary data set from a company with over 232,000 registered users, we demonstrated that people have a preference for villains — unambiguously negative individuals — who are similar to themselves, which suggests that people are attracted to such comparisons in everyday life. Five subsequent lab experiments (N = 1,685) demonstrated when and why similarity results in attraction toward — rather than repulsion from — negative others.

Extreme Harm Demotivates Prosocial Behavior
Polly Kang, David Daniels & Maurice Schweitzer
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, January 2020


Prosocial behavior is a critical feature of human social interactions, but it is unknown whether individuals help more when others face high levels of harm. We report results from a natural experiment combining a unique, massive dataset (including almost 3 million time-stamped prosocial behaviors by over 19 thousand volunteers) with exogenous shocks that created high levels of harm: all major hurricanes that hit the U.S. during 2015-2018. We show that prosocial behavior actually decreases when others face extreme harm. This result is inconsistent with both normative theories and lay beliefs regarding prosocial behavior, which both predict the opposite. However, it is consistent with an alternative theory in which people are averse to helping others when extreme harm makes the situation feel like a “lost cause.”

The Othello Effect: People Are More Disturbed by Others' Wrong Beliefs Than by Different Beliefs
Andras Molnar & George Loewenstein
Carnegie Mellon University Working Paper, January 2020


We propose an alternative account to the theory of belief homophily -- that people have an intrinsic distaste for encountering differences in beliefs. We argue that when people face others who hold beliefs different from their own, they do not find these encounters disturbing because others hold different beliefs per se, but because they are convinced that others hold false beliefs. In three preregistered studies (N = 1408) featuring self-recalled personal experiences and vignette scenarios, we demonstrate that participants are more disturbed when others hold false beliefs, compared to cases in which others' beliefs are different, even when participants' objective knowledge about the validity of beliefs is held constant. This effect is robust across contexts and types of social interactions, and is present among all ages and both sexes. We also show that higher confidence that others hold wrong beliefs, but not different beliefs, evokes stronger negative emotions.

Aversion towards simple broken patterns predicts moral judgment
Anton Gollwitzer et al.
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming


To what extent can simple, domain-general factors inform moral judgment? Here we examine whether a basic cognitive-affective factor predicts moral judgment. Given that most moral transgressions break the assumed pattern of behavior in society, we propose that people's domain-general aversion towards broken patterns – their negative affect in response to the distortion of repeated forms or models – may predict heightened moral sensitivity. In Study 1, participants’ nonsocial pattern deviancy aversion (e.g., aversion towards broken patterns of geometric shapes) predicted greater moral condemnation of harm and purity violations. This link was stronger for intuitive thinkers, suggesting that this link occurs via an intuitive rather than analytical pathway. Extending these results, in Study 2, pattern deviancy aversion predicted greater punishment of harm and purity violations. Finally, in Study 3, in line with pattern deviancy aversion predicting moral condemnation because moral violations break the pattern of behavior in society, pattern deviancy aversion predicted context-dependent morality. Participants higher in pattern deviancy aversion exhibited a greater shift towards tolerating moral violations when these violations were described as the pattern of behavior in an alternate society. Collectively, these results suggest that something as basic as people's aversion towards broken patterns is linked to moral judgment.

Buying Unethical Loyalty: A Behavioral Paradigm and Empirical Test
Isabel Thielmann, Robert Böhm & Benjamin Hilbig
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Unethical behavior is often accompanied by others covering up a transgressor’s actions. We devised a novel behavioral paradigm, the Unethical Loyalty Game (ULG), to study individuals’ willingness to lie to cover up others’ dishonesty. Specifically, we examined (i) whether and to what extent individuals are willing to lie to cover up others’ unethical behavior, (ii) whether this unethical loyalty depends on the benefits (bribe) at stake, and (iii) whether trait Honesty–Humility accounts for interindividual variability in unethical loyalty. In a fully incentivized experiment (N = 288), we found a high prevalence of lying to cover up others’ unethical behavior, which increased with increasing bribes. In turn, unethical loyalty decreased with individuals’ Honesty–Humility levels. Overall, the findings show that most but not all individuals are corruptible to disguise others’ transgressions. Future research using the ULG can help to further illuminate (the determinants of) this prevalent type of unethical behavior.

Dehumanizing Prisoners: Remaining Sentence Duration Predicts the Ascription of Mind to Prisoners
Jason Deska, Steven Almaraz & Kurt Hugenberg
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


We tested the novel hypothesis that the dehumanization of prisoners varies as a function of how soon they will be released from prison. Seven studies indicate that people ascribe soon-to-be-released prisoners greater mental sophistication than those with more time to serve, all other things being equal. Studies 3 to 6 indicate that these effects are mediated by perceptions that imprisonment has served the functions of rehabilitation, retribution, and future deterrence. Finally, Study 7 demonstrates that beliefs about rehabilitation and deterrence may be the most important in accounting for these effects. These findings indicate that the amount of time left on a prison sentence influences mind ascription to the incarcerated, an effect that has implications for our understanding of prisoner dehumanization.

Political results: Outcomes of sporting events affect egalitarian attitudes and ingroup evaluations
Nicholas Kerry et al.
Self and Identity, forthcoming


Vicariously experiencing sporting events is a worldwide phenomenon, and sports results affect fans’ emotional states. The current studies examined how sports results affect spectators’ political and intergroup attitudes. “Strategic” perspectives on social attitudes suggest that spectators may have higher ingroup preference and less egalitarian attitudes after seeing their team win than after seeing them lose. Two quasi-experimental studies examined people’s attitudes immediately after real sporting events. Study 1 surveyed 589 participants from the United Kingdom immediately following games during the Euro 2016 soccer tournament. Study 2 surveyed 648 fans before and after four college-level American football games in the USA. We found suggestive evidence that vicarious winners perceived their ingroup more favorably and were less financially egalitarian than vicarious losers.

Existential Threat Fuels Worldview Defense, but not after Priming Autonomy Orientation
Kenneth Vail et al.
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, May/June 2020, Pages 150-166


Although mortality salience (MS) typically motivates worldview defensiveness, priming an autonomy/self-determined orientation may attenuate that defensiveness. In Study 1 (n = 156) MS (vs. pain) had higher support for militaristic defense of American interests abroad, unless participants were also primed with autonomy-oriented (vs. controlled) concepts. In Study 2 (n = 205), a pilot survey found participants were strongly aware of and interested in the cultural value of tolerance; MS (vs. neutral) had higher defense of that salient value in the form of support for more expansive/accepting immigration policy, unless participants were primed to recall autonomous/self-determined (vs. controlled) experiences. These findings bear implications for both aggressive and prosocial existential defenses, political ideology, and the intersection of existential defense and growth orientations.


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