Author Archives: Andres Olide

Are Too Many Choices a Hindrance?

One reason for achieving goals is that people are motivated by self-gratification that may occur consciously or unconsciously (Aarts, 2007).  Addressing needs, or accomplishing a task etc. are examples of goal achievement that occur on a regular basis.  Some tasks however require more thought process and perhaps may involve more choices. While more choices are what society may strive for, it is arguably a positive outcome.

Take television or cable channels, for instance, the former may allow a person in the U.S. access to see 12 channels while the latter may result in 70 or more.  A person can be content with watching one show at any given time or bits and pieces of many. Whereas channel surfing may be a popular past time it’s hardly time well spent and people may even be less happy in the end. In the context of dating there may be the ‘perfect [person] list’ where there is an elusive perfect individual somewhere out there.  The individual may be so overwhelmed with choices of an ideal that, again, the outcome is less than positive.

Iyengar, Wells, and Schwartz (2006) argue that too many choices can make someone feel worse rather than better. The researchers found that people who were fixed on options (i.e. TV channels or attributes on the perfect person list, for instance) and used external sources (i.e. TV guide and fashion) as information tended to be less happy.  An explanation for the result is that, in pursuing the goal, the individual is in search for the ideal and while a person may have indeed performed better in some way in the end the ideal cannot been reached (Iyengar et al., 2006).

Depiction of water choices

Read more: NPR- basic TV offers cable alternative

Read more: Ladies and ‘perfect man’ list

Iyengar, S.S., Wells, R.E., & Schwartz, B. (2006).  Doing better but feeling worse: Looking for the “best” job undermines satisfaction.

Aarts, H. (2007). On the emergence of human goal pursuit: The nonconscious regulation and motivation of goals.

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Misery: The Cause of the Economic Recession?

A 2009 New York Times article described how before the economic recession people would not hesitate to enjoy a “momentary pleasure–$4 lattes…lip gloss, [or] mints”, for example. Presently people have to go without those pleasures due to economic factors. A rather simple traditional explanation for the economic recession is that people were perhaps having too much fun buying, borrowing, selling etc. When describing the pre-economic recession behavior the emphasis is usually on the emotion of enjoyment that drives the behavior. Now, during the recession people are described as fearful and will spend less, which is expected since there is a degree of uncertainty, the reporter writes.

An alternative explanation is that a collective sense of misery or sadness and being self-focused caused individuals to spend more leading to the present economic recession. In fact, in a laboratory experiment individuals who were primed with sadness and self-focus tended to sell items at a lower price and buy at a higher price (Cryder et al., 2008; Lerner et al., 2004).  Researchers argued that participants, feeling down, wanted to enhance the way they felt and as a result gave a higher value to the object purchased. For the opposite effect, Lerner et al., (2004) primed participants with disgust that resulted in the willingness to pay less for the item and lowering the selling price. The results were explained as participants wanting to rid themselves of “anything new”, which may explain the present economic recession. Of course, the findings have limited ecological validity and the generalization may be slightly simplistic.  However it is not farfetched to conclude, as newspaper articles do, that specific emotions motivate us to act.

Read more: The reluctance to spend more may be legacy of recession.

Lerner, J.S., Small, D.A., & Loewenstein, G. (2004). Heart strings and purse strings: Carryover effect of emotion on economic decisions.

Cryder, C. E., Lerner, J.S., Gross, J.J., & Dahl, R.E. (2008). Misery is not miserly: Sad and self-focused individuals spend more.

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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.

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When Perspective Taking Counts

A BBC news correspondent wrote a piece about living in Paris. The theme focused on equality between service providers and their patrons–at times leaving the reader aghast.  For example the writer tells of taxi drivers ignoring her because of the inconvenience of carrying crutches because of a broken foot. And when the patron asked the taxi driver for accommodation the taxi sped away. Drawing a sharp contrast the correspondent notes that one would not find that type of service in London, or the U.S.

Yet before the reader gets a chance to make dispositional attributions about the service workers the writer introduces some perspective. The writer introduces the idea that service workers are asserting themselves and want to be treated as equals. Had the readers been left with their first impression, Gill and Andreychik (2009) note their minds would have been made up, perhaps making a mental note that the service workers in Paris are not service oriented. However, attributing the behavior to the workers wanting equality brings another perspective, which Gill and Andreychik (2009) would argue to be pro-social.  Perspective taking, the researchers argue, allows people to understand the reason for other people’s behaviors and reduces bias toward other groups.

Read more: “In Paris, the customer is not always right”

Gill, M.J. & Andreychik, M, R. (2009). Getting Emotional About Explanations: Social Explanations and Social Explanatory Styles as Bases of Prosocial Emotions and Intergroup Attitudes.

Conscious or Unconscious Aromas?

People go to great lengths to conceal bad odors or enhance pleasant ones. For example, a store shelf will reveal a myriad of deodorants while upscale name brand perfumes may be “designed to capture the essence of a garden on the Nile”. In fact, celebrities are capitalizing by adding their names to the bottle of perfume. An NPR news report cites rapper 50 Cent, as selling the “smell of success” in a bottle.  Even more, markets not normally associated with perfume are beginning to introduce their own products. The implication of these developments is the importance of others noticing the “smell of success” or the scent of “a garden on the Nile” when near you.

However, if the purpose of wearing perfume is to look favorably in other people’s eyes then according to research by Li, Moallem, Paller, and Gottfried (2007) people are taking the wrong approach. It appears that the best way to influence someone’s social preference is to wear perfume that is perceived outside of consciousness. The researchers found that pleasant odors presented unconsciously produced more favorable ratings of faces. Contrary to general perception, favorable ratings were not found when presenting pleasant scents consciously. It remains unclear, however, if the findings will hold in social interactions.  If so, how close would people have to stand next to each other for the effect to occur?

Read more: Money in a bottle

Hear more: Russian perfume

Li, W., Moallem, I., Paller, K.A., & Gottfried, J.A. (2007) Subliminal smells can guide social preferences.

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Behind Workplace Abuse

People finding themselves in a job where a boss or supervisor is aggressive should consider the reasons for the boss’ behavior. A survey from NPR news revealed several anecdotes describing how bosses abused their employees. The “double-dealing” supervisor, for instance, is said to be one of the worst type of bosses; this type of boss will threaten (perhaps with insults) an employee, then at a later time compliment the employee and completely ignore previous behavior. “The User” is said to be an aggressive type boss who has other individuals to assert his authoritative position. Basically telling others to be aggressive toward their peers. When this person receives negative feedback from their peers the boss turns on the individual.

Driving these behaviors, according to Fast & Cheng (2009) is the perception of incompetence on the part of the boss. However, when perceived competence has been restored, via self-affirmation, the aggressive behavior is reduced. The show “Talk of the Nation” discussed the psychology of the boss and speakers talked about culture as a contributing factor to the boss’ aggressive behavior.

In sum, company culture dictates whether the boss can get away with aggressive behavior. Also, the perceived competence on the part of the boss determines the likelihood of the boss being aggressive toward workers. It appears that complementing your boss is just as important as selecting where to work.

Read more: exploring the psychology of the boss

Read more: types of bosses

Fast, N., Chen, S. (2009) When the boss feels inadequate: power, incompetence, and aggression.

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Iphone’s, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Why lusting over cool technology and being immortalized may not be such a good thing after all

Remember when the iphone came out and people were paying exorbitantly high prices for it? Nevertheless, people made it clear that there was a demand and that they would pay the price deemed by the company selling it. While at first people were lusting for the object eventually some people began to abhor their previously prized technology and took action. One individual went as far as suing the company after the company significantly reduced the price because the object could not be sold or sold at a loss.

Take another story of a group of people wanting to fit in; for example, a rock band with a long history and influence that is nominated for the rock & roll hall of fame. However the band is denied several times after nomination. The band, who thought of themselves as outsiders, members would tell themselves, and others, that it was no big deal to not be inducted to the rock & roll hall of fame. Finally the band was accepted to the rock & roll hall of fame. While some might consider it a positive outcome there seems to be some debate on the importance to some band members with regard to their induction.

What do these two stories have in common? How do we make sense of the counterintuitive reasoning that first, we want something, but at a high cost or many failures, and when we get it perhaps we don’t care so much for it? Litt et al., 2009, reasoned that the mechanisms for wanting and the liking of, although not mutually exclusive, are being dissociated. Litt et al., 2009, noted that affect, how much the object was liked, moderates a person’s decision to pay more for and get rid of the object when given the chance. The researchers suggest that wanting is not necessarily affected by failure to obtain the object. On the other hand liking is more likely to be influenced by attainability. So perhaps paying a large sum of cash or being rejected several times may in turn influence how someone feels about what they wanted.

Read more: Iphone’s price cut 2007 story

Read more: Iggy Pop and the Hall of Fame Induction

Read more: Apple sued over dropping phone prices

Litt, A., Khan, U., Shiv, B. (2009). Lusting while loathing: Parallel counterdriving of wanting and liking.

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Consider Peoples Eating Behaviors

A quick count of the Social Psychology Eye blog reveals at least 8 posts related to weight, health, and eating behaviors. A quick diet search on the Internet will leave the individual with a plethora of websites to sort through. Eating and related topics have become so important because of the implications of food on our lives. Whether investigating the issue of overeating, not eating, perceived food restraint from food, or perhaps consuming a “manly” meal it is important to consider the contributing factors to understand eating behaviors. One phenomenon to consider for instance is the disinhibition effect where people are purportedly more likely to overeat after violating their diet. Diet violations are commonplace especially when considering all the possible places where food or snacks are sold and people’s disposition to eating junk food (refer to the November 7th post).

Recently researchers assessed the generalizability of the disinhibition effect (Tomiyama et al., 2009). The researchers selected female participants, who are more likely to practice restraint eating. Participants reported food consumption on an hourly basis. No evidence was found for the disinhibition effect. The experiment was repeated using female participants who reported restraint eating. In addition to regular reports of eating behavior participants were asked to stop by the laboratory and drink a milkshake. A manipulation designed as a diet violation. Again participants reported their eating behavior but no effect was found related to overeating. To the surprise of the researchers the participants compensated for over consumption by reducing calorie consumption. Researchers explain that participants who violated their diets perhaps succeeded in not overeating because they avoided additional foods whereas in the classic experiments participants would have been able to indulge by having access to the tempting food. While the findings highlight the importance of investigating eating behaviors the findings cannot be generalized to other age groups or to males. Some questions left unanswered are, outside of the lab, when might the disinhibition effect be most likely to occur, and with what population? Is it more likely to occur when participants are overweight? Lastly when does diet violation, which is ubiquitous, become a problem?

Read more: Internet diet search

Tomiyama, A, J., Moskovich, A., Byrne Haltom, K., Ju, T., Mann, T. (2009). Consumption after a diet violation; Disinhibition or       compensation?

When Gut Feelings Trump Conscious Thought

At almost every major sports event there will be commentators giving their opinions on the predicted winners, losers, or favorites. People tend to give commentators due credibility for their knowledge of the game and sometimes experience. For the layperson however it may be better not to give the event much thought. This is true when making predictions on your own. In a recent study, Dijksterhuis and colleagues (2009) asked participants to make predictions about random football matches two weeks prior to the event. Three groups were used in this investigation. Those who were asked to guess performed the worse. Those who were asked to think about their answers performed better. But the group that performed the best was the group who thought unconsciously.

One exception however is that making predictions unconsciously without prior knowledge is not recommended. The participants who performed the best in the investigation also perceived themselves as relatively knowledgeable.  Those who made conscious decisions with relative knowledge are said to not give proper value to relevant information, hence why they performed worse. People who are essentially asked to guess tend to do worse overall. So next time there’s a football, or sports match for that matter, it might be better to not give it much thought about whom will win.

Read More: Football info

Read more: Sports commentary

Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M.W., van der Leij, A., van Baaren, R.B. (2009) Predicting soccer matches after unconscious and conscious thought as a function of expertise.

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The Restraint Bias: Another reason why a diet won’t work

Chocolate_chip_cookiesAs it happens people underestimate control over situations. Take the classic example of a student who waits until the last minute to study for a final exam because “they have it all under control”. This example is a type of bias that surprisingly is more common than expected. Another example of bias is a person who walks into a café to only get a coffee and is temped to get a tasty pastry. The phenomenon referred to is the restraint bias, or the perceived ability to have control over an impulse. Apply this concept to any vice when someone feels or is biased into perceived control and a similar conclusion is likely to occur.

Take the new fad: the cookie diet. People are purportedly allowed to eat cookies in addition to one meal. And it is precisely because of the name that people underestimate their ability to control the impulse, according to the New York Times report. However because people see the feasibility they are likely to try the diet and nevertheless fall for the impulse of eating that extra cookie.

As an example, Nordgren, van Harreveld & van der Pligt (2009), asked satiated and hungry participants to select a snack which was to be returned a week later in exchange for money. The authors reported that the more restraint bias experienced by satiated participants the greater the likelihood of not returning the snack. More importantly is the fact that the satiated participants chose their first or second favorite snacks while the hungry participants reportedly accounted for the bias by selecting a second or third favorite snack. The cookie diet then is an important example because it sounds harmless and increases the likelihood of bias. However based on the experiment by Nordgren et al., (2009) it can be concluded that because a cookie seems harmless people are more likely to be biased for that extra snack.

square-eye Read more: The Cookie diet

square-eye Nordgren, van Harreveld & van der Pligt (2009) The restraint bias-How the illusion of self-restraint  promotes impulsive behavior.

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