Author Archives: Andres Olide

Expert Accounts and Their Ability to Attenuate Loss

Group dynamics can be quite difficult and even then things can go wrong. In such situations experts are given the important responsibility to provide an explanation and in effect attenuate any hard feelings. In these instances, according to Frey and Cobb (2010), individuals in the group consider the level of expertise, specificity or clarity of social account, and most important degree of loss when something goes wrong. Further, and contrary to expectations, experts are not always the best individuals to attenuate negativity, which tends to vary depending on the degree of loss (Frey & Cobb, 2010).

At the macro level, these findings can be generalized to the current economic crisis. For instance, the show “This American Life” recounts the economic meltdown and concludes that governments, companies and a number of individuals are to blame for the economic crisis. Thus, some individuals were affected economically more than others. To address the problem the experts, or those in charge of the economy, are creating their own social accounts to make things better. However, CNN reports that the skeptics or critics are not quite convinced of the expert accounts.

It is in this context of uncertainty or bad turn out that the expert is tasked with attenuating hard feelings individuals may have. Frey and Cobb interestingly found that, “under conditions of higher loss, expertise actually becomes a sizable liability, indicating a boomerang effect”. The researchers explain that the experts, in all their wisdom, should have used their knowledge to stop any mistakes that may have occurred. So whatever social accounts are presented, to some, will fall under the backdrop of the mistakes that caused the economic crisis.

Hear more: Return of the Giant Pool of Money: This American life

Read more: Bad timing could sink the democrats

Frey, F.M. & Cobb, A.T. (2010). What matters in social accounts? The roles of account specificity, source expertise, and outcome loss on acceptance

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The influence of feedback on goal pursuit

At some point we have all been put off by the negative feedback we received. As a novice though, negative feedback can be quite difficult to accept and can even impact our future attempts at a task; while positive feedback for novices’ means improvement–improvement that can encourage future attempts. Experts, on the other hand, often seek negative feedback and see it as a source of improvement. Since experts usually know their strengths positive feedback will not help much. This analysis, according to Fishbach, Eyal, and Finkelstein (2010), helps individuals with goal pursuit.

A case in point: NPR reports that it is becoming more and more acceptable to cry at work. Why? As a way to reach a goal employers are giving their employees’ negative feedback, in turn evoking sadness. These individuals, according to the report, tend to be younger and “in touch with their emotions”. Perhaps the employers can take a different approach and provide these younger (novice) individuals with positive feedback that can be more constructive and encourage goal pursuit.

Not surprising, T.V. shows, radio shows, and even newspapers have had their success providing advice or feedback. Feedback is so important to some individuals’ that online tools have been created for that purpose and with some success. According to an NPR story, the claim of the tool is to provide honest and anonymous feedback. The idea behind anonymous feedback is to reduce any anxiety and allow privacy.  Applying this tool should not be difficult; the story cites the example of individuals getting feedback when it is too late and the person is getting laid off.  The target of the tool is individuals in their 20’s who tend to be newer at their jobs and are constantly seeking feedback or advice to reach their goals and perhaps obtain promotions.

However, Fishbach et al. (2010) make the point that providing advice, whether positive or negative should be consistent with an individuals’ level of experience. Providing the proper feedback to individuals can lead to improvement and also “goal adherence”.

Hear More:Weeping while you work? Go right ahead

Hear More: Online tool offers honest, Anonymous Feedback

Fishbach, A., Eyal, T., Finkelstein, S.R. (2010). How positive and negative feedback motivate goal pursuit.

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When it comes to road rules France uses a reward approach to driving

One thing police officers can count on is people breaking the law. So in anticipation of seasonal bad drivers traveling across France police decided to ignore this tradition. In a tactical change the police officers are turning to a reward system—that’s right a reward system. Drivers following the rules will be stopped and rewarded. The prize for good driving is a gas voucher.

To explain this good driving campaign, Checkroun (2008) notes that individuals control their behavior when they are likely to lose or gain. However, people who speed usually weigh the consequences of either getting a speeding ticket or arriving somewhere on time and are likely to speed anyway.  Additionally, factors such as “what in-group members identify with” are likely to shape, at times negatively, people’s perceptions of the campaign (Smith & Winnifred, 2009).  So if the drivers view the campaign negatively the act of rewarding good drivers may actually increase speeding drivers. On the other hand, if most drivers view the campaign positively and the incentive is appealing then the campaign will likely succeed.

Hear more: Police reward good drivers

Checkroun, P. (2008). Social control behavior: The effects of social situations and personal implication on informal social sanctions.

Smith, J.R., Winnifred, L.R. (2009). Group norms and the attitude-behavior relationship.

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A positive experience: Take my money and then some!

Events interpreted as aversive tend to elicit effects that influence our response. So if an average individual is in a casino gambling and he or she is on a losing streak the response is likely to be to stop gambling–withdrawal. Generally speaking the purpose of the response is so that the individual will have money left over to get home. This sort of response, however, is bad for business and casinos are doing something about it.

What can casinos do to keep me gambling my money, you ask? A Radiolab reporter found that, for starters, casino workers can be very nice to you in effect giving you a positive experience. The next thing casinos can do is reward you with, not money (they keep that), but with random gifts such as gift cards etc. These gifts are not of major significance by any means but make a whole lot of difference in the long run. So much so, that the casinos are making the practice standard protocol for the purpose of keeping their customers returning to the gambling table.

How the effect works: van Steenbergen et al., (2009) found that randomly rewarding participants in a conflict adaptation task did not affect their performance, a negative effect was found for those that did not get rewarded or even lost. The reward in this context is perceived as attenuating the negative effect or experience of the event.  The idea is that the effect of losing while gambling can be counteracted by rewarding customers with other smaller gifts leading to a more pleasing experience.

Hear more : Radiolab—episode on Choice

Van Steenbergen, Band, & Hommel (2009). Reward Counteracts Conflict Adaptation: Evidence for a role of affect in the executive control.

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Why flee when you can fight: the counter-evolutionary practice of bullfighting

A bullfight conjures many images, such as cheering crowds, brave matadors, and rushing bulls. A bullfighter earns respect and attention because, unlike most of the population, he dares to step into the bullring and face a bull. In the process the bullfighter asserts control over the body and controls the innate response to run and instead seeks to fight the bull. So when a bullfighter decides to run from a bull instead of fight it, albeit a natural evolutionary response, it becomes a newsworthy event.

A news report shows a video of a bullfighter who, took the traditional evolutionary route and fled from an attacking bull. Although running from bulls is a common practice for bullfighters when in a pinch, this event was particularly important. The news report explains that the bullfighter had been gored the previous year. So, after almost getting gored again by the bull the bullfighter made a run for it. This time around the bullfighter thought it best to get out and stop fighting the bull—in effect ending his career as a bullfighter.

Matsumoto and Hwang (2010) explain that the context of a bull rushing toward an individual should elicit a host of evolutionary responses.  An emotion such as fear, manifesting itself as the bullfighter running from the bull, is part of a set of responses that occur. The fact that bullfighters train to control their fear and fight the bull, the authors argue, is part of an adaptive “open system” of emotional appraisal. Thus, making bullfighting possible as a counter-evolutionary practice. On the other hand, a bullfighter that takes the evolutionary route and runs is worthy of making the news.

See more: Fleeing Matador

Matsumoto, D. & Hwang, H.S. (2010). Judging faces in context.

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The overwhelming habit of biases and self-evaluation

Differences amongst groups of people tend to be most salient at the cultural level. A comparison often cited is that of Eastern and Western cultures. These group differences, however, tend to be caricatured stereotypes of people that may not hold true in all contexts.  Take for instance, the cultural differences in East vs. West explained pictorially. Life for those in the Eastern culture is pictured as having multiple individuals holding hands signifying collectivism. In the Western culture there is a picture of one individual, depicting the concept of individualism. Another cultural difference is portrayed as Westerners addressing problems directly, and Easterners indirectly addressing problems.

Brown (2010), on the other hand, argues that Eastern and Western cultures may not be as different as people think. At a basic level, for instance, Brown writes that people want to feel good about themselves and those around them.  The researcher notes that when given negative feedback individuals tend to feel worse about themselves; tend to compare themselves to each other, and see themselves and those close to them in better light than others as a result. Comparisons such as self-evaluations require that the individual see him or herself independent from others, regardless of culture.

Self-serving biases that occur during social comparisons or self-evaluations are important for purposes such as competition—especially in one to one combat or group sports. In one to one combat, for instance the individual is accountable for oneself only.  In group sports, the team is meant to act as a unit but the individual is held accountable or readily replaced should he or she not be cut out for the task.  More to the point, as the FIFA 2010 world cup draws closer, individuals will observe similar behavior from different cultural groups. Such behavior is expected since individuals are likely to get football fever. Eastern and Western cultures therefore are similar; people adapt.

See more: East vs. West explained pictorially

Brown, J.D. (2010). Across the (Not So) great divide: Cultural similarities in self-evaluative processes

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Social communication and SHOUTING MATCHES

Although it may seem like a breeze at times, the back and forth of social interactions is replete with intricacies. When two or more persons are interacting subtle events such as pauses, gestures, eye movements etc. may signal the need for a response. Van Kleef (2010) and others include the expression of emotion to the repertoire of social information. Originally presented as the manifestation of physiological arousal meant to prepare the individual to respond adaptively, researchers have found that the expression emotion can also provide social signals. A good example could be an escalating shouting match that is typical of sports games. Usually an individual will begin shouting and another person reciprocates.

However, shouting is the outcome; before shouting the expression of anger more than likely takes place. One individual more than likely expressed anger. As Van Kleef notes, anger is usually reciprocated with more anger; and so the cycle continues. The end result is the always entertaining and viscerally charged shouting match. Van Kleef writes, that the processing of social information occurs unconsciously and so how one ended up shouting or even reciprocating the anger of another may not be clear to the individual. Thus making an escalated shouting match fun to observe.

Moreover, the social signal of emotion is not limited to bouts of anger such as when two people are laughing and commenting about the shouting match.

See more: The Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera Bust Up

Van Kleef, G.A. (2010). The emerging view of emotion as social information.

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Mind reading gone awry

There are times when individuals are well synchronized with each other that they can finish each other’s sentences. These interactions seem almost magical in that people understand how each other feels about a topic or event. There are instances however when it is difficult to understand where the miscommunication occurred. How a simple exchange of words could go so wrong is anyone’s guess, but the fact that the individuals made up their mind about the event or another individual can be strikingly clear.

Take the example that the media popularized between an English politician and a political constituent. After a few words relating to political concerns were exchanged, the politician went on his way. Upon entering the vehicle, presumably a safe place to express his personal opinion with a microphone still on, the politician uttered how he perceived his constituent (refer to May 1st post).

One can only imagine how the politician made his conclusion about the interaction. Epley (2008) suggests that misinterpretations are likely to occur when individuals are under high cognitive load, where schemas seem to be the default interpretation of events. Further, Eyal and Epley (2010) suggests that when two strangers interact they seem to focus on different parts of the context (i.e. self or other). In the context of the political concern the constituent focused on the perceived problem, while the politician focused on his constituent. A solution to misunderstandings is to take part in perspective taking and to take more time to reduce the likelihood of biased interpretation (Epley, 2008).

Eyal & Epley (2010). How to Seem Telepathic – Enabling Mind Reading by Matching Construal.

Epley, N. (2008). Solving the (real) other minds problem.

“Me a bigot? No way, I hate them!”

See more: Brown overheard calling voter ‘bigoted’

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Performance: Winning and losing and the ensuing judgments

The context of competition is loaded with emotions, feelings, judgments, so-called winners, so-called losers and social comparisons (Pekrun & Stephens, 2010). There are feelings that occur before performance, perhaps during, and after the event.  One may remember experiencing some degree of stress before an important evaluative event. During these events emotions allow us to experience winning and the frustration of losing—provided the event is important to us.

Within the context of performance exists a phenomenon where depending on what group one identifies with, and perhaps how others see us, we feel better or worse about ourselves (Alicke, Zell, & Bloom, 2009). The frog-pond effect occurs when individuals see themselves in better light if they perform better in the low achieving group and worse if they perform lower in the high achieving group. Take the example of an athlete who was not expected to be in the lead of the Ironman Hawaii 1982 Triathlon. Maybe because the athlete was the underdog or in the low performing group and was not expected to win, even then, her great efforts and the fact that she almost won the triathlon granted her support and attention from those around her—more so than the first place athlete.  Years later Julie Moss, in a Radiolab commentary, remembers the event positively.

See more: Julie Moss 1982 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon

Hear more: Iron man competitor Julie Moss on Radiolab

Alicke, M.D., Zell, E., Bloom, D.L. (2009). Mere categorization and the frog-pond effect.

Pekrun, R., & Stephens, E. (2010). Achievement emotions: A control-value approach.

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Novelty and Gadgetry

In a society saturated with technology individuals must find a reason (or not) to justify their purchase. Gadgets nowadays come in all shapes and sizes and with all sorts of features and applications. Indeed, the more novel the device the more press it receives, and if curiosity is aroused, then perhaps there will be more buyers as well. The topic of discussion is the iPad, and following the anticipation people have either settled on buying the device or not.

The New York Times produced a video asking people on the street if they were going to buy the iPad. Some people rejected the idea completely citing that the device is “in-betweener”; that is, a device that can do a task that other devices already do. Yet, another group of people noted that they were willing to purchase the gadget because it is different.

The reason why the gadget might be getting mixed feedback is precisely because the technology is novel. Viscerally people who are getting put off by the novelty of the device might be experiencing anxiety (Maner, 2009). Perhaps these are the individuals The New York Times notes that are not quite sure what to do with the device. On the opposite side of the spectrum, individuals who find the device appealing are attracted to its uniqueness. These same individuals tend to be curious and are trying out new things (Silvia & Kashdan, 2009).  Although the approach-avoidance dimension can be applied to many things in this instance it is the allure of technology.

Read more: The iPad Math.

Maner, J.K. (2009). Anxiety: Proximate processes and ultimate functions.

Silvia, P.J. & Kashdan, T.B. (2009). Interesting things and curious people: Exploration and engagement as transient states and enduring strengths.

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