Monthly Archives: February 2010

Saving Face

Corporations, like people, are all about maintaining a good public image. They want to be seen as reliable, trustworthy, and even generous. Our impressions of these companies influence what products we buy and what brands garner our loyalty. Establishing a positive reputation in the market takes a very long time, yet  these hard won images can be dismantled instantly. Can companies bounce back from bad publicity to regain their former reputation? Toyota stockholders are anxiously waiting to find out.

Problems with the floor-mats in several Toyota models occurred in 2007 and 2009, and in early January of 2010 the company began to recall millions of vehicles for faulty accelerator and brake pedals. Recalling and repairing vehicles as well as dealing with impending lawsuits represents a huge financial blow to the company.

Additionally, Toyota must deal with the damage to the company’s reputation that will likely influence profits well into the future. Customers loyal to the brand may reconsider purchasing a Toyota because its reputation as a maker of efficient, reliable, and safe vehicles has been threatened.  The connection between good corporate image and profit is undeniable (Roberts & Dowling, 2002). Research suggests that restoring consumer trust after negative publicity involves a calculated use of informational, affective and  functional strategies to influence attitudes about corporate competence, benevolence, and integrity. Affective initiatives were shown to be more effective in repairing corporate image with regard to benevolence and integrity while informational strategies were more effective for attitudes about competence (Xie & Peng, 2009). Toyota still has the opportunity to rebuild their image and retain customer loyalty. According to a report by the Financial Post yesterday Toyota customers have not jumped ship yet. Resolving the recall issues and recovering from them depends not only on financial reparations but also on restoring the positive image that made them so successful in the first place.

Roberts & Dowling (2002)

Xie & Peng ( 2009)

After recall, Toyota customers not buying from anyone

add to del.icio.us add to blinkslist add to furl digg this add to ma.gnolia stumble it! add to simpy seed the vine add to reddit add to fark tailrank this post to facebook

How we are moral

In November 2009, the Philippine Commission on Elections issued a disqualification against an LGBT partylist group, accusing it of advocating immorality. This in turn, triggered an ‘I Am Not Immoral’ campaign by members of the LGBT community and supporters. The issue of morality, according to Steven Pinker pervades all aspects of our lives, and he refers to moral goodness, as ‘something that makes us feel worthy as human beings’. Morality has been deemed universal and yet culturally expressed. Pinker identifies five aspects of morality: harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority and purity, acknowledging that each culture may choose to give more preference to any aspect over another.
Krebs (2008) looks into the evolutionary beginnings of morality and discusses adaptations in the brain brought on by both early and modern circumstances. These early circumstances have caused certain adaptations, decision making strategies, that are triggered in modern events that evoke familiarity of setting, such as the need for certain responses such as obedience, conformity or others. One also must understand the adaptive functions of morality in order to understand what it is. Using the evolutionary theory, morality is when an individual’s genetic self-interest is promoted through a genuine concern for the welfare of others.

Krebs (2008). Morality: An Evolutionary Account. Perspectives in Psychological Science

The Moral Instinct (Steven Pinker)

Gays legally deemed immoral and a danger to youth



Photo: “Innocence so suffocating, now she cannot move” by Samantha Rose Pollari, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Going for the Gold

The Winter Olympics have been a huge draw for many people this year. In fact, for Americans and Canadians, they have dominated the television ratings since opening night. Given the excitement of many of the sports, it’s not surprising the games have garnered so much attention. In fact, when comparing these games to the Summer Olympics, it seems that many of the featured sports are considered rather extreme and dangerous. There is snowboarding, which landed one American Olympic hopeful in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury prior to the games. Then there are the high speed sports of skeleton and luge, which involves athletes sledding on a track either head first (in the case of skeleton) or feet first (in the case of luge) with no protection other than a helmet. The danger of these latter two sports has been especially apparent following the death of a Georgian athlete during a training run in which he was traveling at an estimated 89 miles per hour.

So why is it that so many athletes not only choose to participate in a sport with such risk but seem to be constantly pushing themselves to more extreme levels? One possible answer comes from the personality psychology literature and is related to a trait called Sensation Seeking. This individual difference, which is thought to vary from person to person, is often characterized by 4 behaviors: Thrill and Adventure Seeking, Experience Seeking, Disinhibition, and Boredom Susceptibility. Not surprisingly, individuals who score high in this measure are more likely to engage is risky behavior that is known to be thrilling and provide high levels of excitement. Also not surprisingly, athletes who participate in extreme sports (such as skydiving) rate especially high on this measure. What’s also interesting is some researchers have argued that sensation seeking involves addictive-like components. Namely, high sensation seekers experience a “rush” when engaging in risky behaviors but often need to engage in even riskier behavior soon after to experience this same feeling.

It’s no wonder then that so many athletes who participate in the Winter Olympics are returning every 4 years with bigger and faster maneuvers. When competing in a sport filled with people who are always looking for their next rush, the words “Go big or go home” become a way of life.

The Danger of Winter Olympic Sports.

Meertens, R. M., & Lion, R. (2008). Measuring an individual’s tendency to take risks: The Rick Propensity Scale. Journal of Applied Psychology.

Olympic expectations gone awry: Plushenko conforms to silver medalist syndrome.

Avid Olympic watchers most likely tuned in to Thursday night’s main event: the men’s figure skating free skate. Evan Lysacek won gold for the United States, becoming the first American man to win it since 1988. Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko took the silver – losing by a mere 1.31 points overall – and ended Russia’s streak in the sport. Had Plushenko won the gold, as he expected, he would have been the first man to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals since 1952.

But he didn’t win it. And as social psychology would predict, the disappointment generated by being so close to an expected win (and then losing) has some pretty unpleasant side effects. For starters, Plushenko acted like a true to form sore loser when he told reporters, “Obviously, Evan needs the medal more than me, maybe because I’ve got one already.” He ended up never congratulating Lysacek and took off his silver medal immediately as he left the ice following the victory lap.

Psychologists explain this silver medalist syndrome as an effect of upward counterfactual thinking. In short, reflecting on how past events might have turned out better – especially if those alternative realities were within very close reach – has a unique sting to it to which no bronze medalist could even begin to relate. According to Medvec, Madey, and Gilovich (1995), bronze medalists are often happier than silver medalists – they smile more on the podium at the medal ceremony – because they focus on the alternative of winning no medal, whereas the silver medalists focus on the alternative of winning gold. Decision Affect Theory (DAT) extends this line of research to integrate the added effects of expectation: although good outcomes feel better when unexpected than when expected, bad outcomes bite extra hard when unexpected than when expected.

Adding it all up, high expectations for success + losing by a little more than a point + upward counterfactual thinking = Plushenko may have surprised us with his loss, but we social psychologists landed the aftermath with precision and grace.

Even in defeat, Yevgeny Plushenko steals show

When Less is More: Counterfactual Thinking and Satisfaction Among Olympic Medalists

The Affective Consequences of Expected and Unexpected Outcomes

Geography and Attentiveness

Geography is a factor in relationships.  Not surprising, working, taking a class, or sharing a common space with someone may lead to a long-term friendship or relationship.  An NPR news report notes that many people make long time friends when in college. Although geographical closeness at times leads to friendships the question remains as to what motivates these relationships.  Cross (2009) points to a variable known as the relational self-construal defined in terms of how an individual see’s oneself in relation to others close to us. So close relationships must have lasted because someone (or both) in the dyad is high on the relational self-construal. For the purpose of continuing the relationship these individuals tend to be particularly attentive to the needs of others by paying close attention to information.  Cross writes that actions such as give and take, openness, providing support and encouragement are characteristic of those high in relational self-construal. While geography may be a factor when it comes to who you are acquainted with, attentiveness to others in relation to oneself determines who your friends will be .

Read more: Becoming close: The geography of friendship

Cross, S.E. (2009) Relational self-construal: Past and Future.

add to del.icio.us add to blinkslist add to furl digg this add to ma.gnolia stumble it! add to simpy seed the vine add to reddit add to fark tailrank this post to facebook

Psychology, rape and the attribution of responsibility

The recent ‘Wake Up To Rape’ report by Havens rape centres in London found ‘that more than half of women believe victims share the blame for what happens’. This provides an alarming example of the self-serving attributional phenomenon – attribution of responsibility (Weiner, 1995). In short, some social psychologists believe that people hold on to the notion of a ‘just world’ (Lerner, 1977). That is, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. In this view of the world, sits the ‘illusion of control’ (Langer, 1975). In other words, people believe they and others are in control of their own lives and destinies. What happens to them therefore, is to a large extent their own doing. Unfortunately, this belief also extends to victims of crimes in which people frequently hold them accountable for their own misfortunes. Miller and Porter (1983) also suggest that victims draw on the notion of the ‘just world’ to account for their victimization. Havens rape centres report provides some evidence of a ‘gendered’ self-blame. Of those women questioned, over 50% suggested the victim should ‘share the blame’. The reasons women cited for this were, ‘wearing provocative clothes’ and ‘engaging in conversation in a bar or accepting a drink’. Ironically, by victims attributing some responsibility on themselves, they reinstate the ‘illusion of control’ (Hogg and Vaughan, 2005).

Rape Crisis – Stats

Fawcett Society

1 in 4 women admit to being a ‘victim of rape’

Culture, Gender, and Men’s Intimate Partner Violence

‘Teen girls abused by boyfriends warns NSPCC’: Standardised Relational Pairs and Membership Categorisation Analysis.

“I can resist everything except temptation” – Oscar Wilde

By Erica Zaiser

Lent began yesterday and for many Christians this means giving up something for 40 days, in part to practice self-discipline. While forgoing meat, chocolate, smoking, or whatever else one chooses, when temptation hits, it might be useful to review some of the findings in social psychology on self-control. According to one theory, self-control is construal dependent. So, when trying to refrain from something, depending on how you see the tempting situation you may come to a different conclusion.

It seems that we have better self-control when something is psychologically distant (for example through time or space). There are many ways to be psychologically distant from a situation. In one study, psychologists found that when people pictured themselves voting from a third person perspective they were more likely to actually go and vote versus people who pictured voting from a first person perspective. So, maybe when you go for that chocolate you vowed to give up you will do a better job refraining if you picture yourself eating it from a third person perspective. Other ways to distance yourself psychologically would be to view your action in the context of time– tell yourself yes you can drink a glass of wine now, but in the long run you won’t be happy with yourself for breaking Lent. Or perhaps the easiest way to distance yourself from your temptation is to literally distance yourself from it. Move the cake into a different room or don’t keep cake in your house in the first place because (no surprises here) physical distance has been shown to make self-control easier as well.

Although, my guess is that if psychological distance can improve self-control, people who are practicing Lent may already have an advantage over people who just choose to forgo something outside the religious context. Lent itself provides a superordinate goal of discipline and willpower in order to become more spiritually fulfilled. Remembering this bigger picture when tempted may provide the psychological distance needed to refrain.

Read more about self-control:  Fujita, Kentaro (2008).  Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees: A Construal-Level Approach to Self-Control. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 2, 1475-1496.

Read more:  Libby et al. (2007). Picture Yourself at the Polls: Visual Perspective in Mental Imagery Affects Self-Perception and Behavior. Psychological Science. 18, 199-203.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Valentine’s Day or Chinese New Year?

For the first time since 1953, Valentine’s Day falls on the same data as the Chinese New Year. For most Chinese people, the Chinese New Year will trump Valentine’s Day because the Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in the culture’s calendar and is also the traditional family reunion date. However, much of China’s Generation X/Y population, who are catching on to Western cultures and holidays such as Valentine’s Day, are forced to choose between Eastern and Western traditions, and between mothers and girlfriends/boyfriends.

According to Chui and Cheng (2007), when both cultural representations are activated simultaneously, they are placed in cognitive juxtaposition and attention is directed to their contrastive differences. As a consequence, the perceived differences between the two cultures and the perceived impermeability of their boundary tend to be exaggerated. Thus, individuals constructing a cultural identity will find it easier to compare their personal values with the value representations of the two cultures. For most Chinese people, their personal values are more consistent with the value representation of Chinese culture than that of American culture. These individuals will choose to identify with Chinese culture and be ready to reaffirm their cherished culture in anticipation of globalization’s erosive effects. However, when the context calls for the creative use of ideas from diverse cultural sources, simultaneous activation of American and Chinese cultures will facilitate creative performance by enlarging the perceived distinctiveness of the two cultures and placing them in cognitive juxtaposition. For Chinese young people who have to choose between “the West’s ideal of a paradise for two” and the “Chinese New Year’s ideal of a reunited family”, the creative performance might be trying to do both – spending the morning with the family and the night with their girlfriends. Of course, they have to be delicate in explaining it to both mother and girlfriend.

Chiu, C. &  Cheng,  S. Y. (2007).Toward a social psychology of culture and globalization: Some social cognitive consequences of activating two cultures simultaneously. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 84 – 100.

Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year fall on same day this year, a rare occurrence.

The Look of Young Hollywood

This month Vanity Fair magazine released their Young Hollywood issue, featuring celebrities that they proclaim are the new wave in Hollywood. However, a quick glance at the cover reveals that their selections seem to be particularly homogenous: all of the picks are attractive, thin, white, and female. Undoubtedly some of the recognition is deserved – the issue features actresses from Oscar nominated films (Anna Kendrick) and incredibly popular movie franchises (Kristen Stewart). But notably missing are minority actresses such as Gabourey Sidibe, who is an Oscar nominee for her starring role in the film Precious, and Zoe Saldana, who was widely acclaimed for her roles in Star Trek and Avatar.

The so-called “white-washing” of the Vanity Fair cover may be due to a number of factors. One possible reason is the selections may simply reflect the lack of diversity that has been present in Hollywood for decades. Another possible reason may be the “halo effect”.  Particularly, as has been seen in the impression formation literature, attractive individuals are often attributed with a number of other positive qualities (i.e., warmth, competence, intelligence). Thus, it might be the case that celebrities such as Sidibe and Saldana, who do not meet the traditional Hollywood standards of beauty, are not appropriately recognized for their talent while actresses who do meet these standards are praised before they’ve actually had a chance to prove themselves.

What is particularly surprising is that past issues of Vanity Fair have featured a more diverse set of actors, including minorities and a mix of men and women. It has only been in the past few years that those recognized have begun to look more and more similar. It remains to be seen whether the magazine, and Hollywood, will continue this trend into the next decade.

USA Today: Vanity Fair criticized for the lack of diversity.

Fiske, S. T. (2000). Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination at the seam between the centuries. European Journal of Social Psychology.

Kruglanski, A. W., & Ajzen, I. (1983). Bias and error in human judgment. European Journal of Social Psychology.

Stress, the Self, and the Stock Market

Although stress is an inevitable part of life the recession has amplified the nature, magnitude, and impact of stress for many around the globe. The threat or reality of losing a job or one’s home, searching for work in an untenable job market, having to stretch an already thin budget even further, and many other concerns all cause fear, anxiety, worry, and frustration. Marc Skelton suggests that although what makes these types of stressors so problematic is our inability to control them, we do have control over how we respond. He suggests a number of strategies including using social support networks and reframing the situation. Coping comes in many forms and researchers have highlighted a new factor, self-compassion that may influence coping attempts. Those high in self-compassion (those who treat the self with kindness and concern in response to negative events) tend to avoid problems less and engage in cognitive restructuring more than those low in self-compassion whereas the two groups do not differ in problem solving or distraction (Allen & Leary, 2010). Treatment of the self during stressful events could also influence physiological and psychological adjustment as well as how one responds to others in need. Further work is needed to clarify how this and other characteristics might influence coping attempts.

Self-compassion, Stress, and Coping (Allen & Leary, 2010)

Relax to relive stress in 2010

add to del.icio.us add to blinkslist add to furl digg this add to ma.gnolia stumble it! add to simpy seed the vine add to reddit add to fark tailrank this post to facebook