Tag Archives: Social Cognition

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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Alternative Pain Medicine: A Loved One’s Picture

Pain_PillsBeen to the doctor for a painful medical procedure lately? How about overexerted yourself over the weekend during a ballgame with your buddies? In either case, over the counter pain medication, or analgesics if you prefer, will do. An overwhelming number of pharmaceutical companies have some sort of chemical concoction waiting to be picked up at the local pharmacy.

Recent findings however may change the way people think about mitigating pain. Evidently the mere mental representation of a partner is enough to mitigate experienced pain (Master et al., 2009). Not surprisingly holding the hand of one’s partner during a painful procedure is better than holding a strangers if both were to stand behind a curtain. Would you guess that the picture of one’s partner is better than holding the partners hand while behind a curtain?  Masters et al., found that indeed the mental representation or picture reduced more pain. A question left unanswered is what to do if you’re single? Alternatively can a different source (i.e. grandma’s picture) replace the partner’s picture?

square-eye Read more: Pain medication

square-eye Master, S.L., Eisenberger, N.I., Taylor, S.E., Naliboff, B.D., Shirinyan, D., Lieberman, M.D. (2009). A picture’s worth: Partner photographs reduce experimentally induced pain.

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Appearance Matters

Kelis_perfect_smileWhat advice would a tourist board give to the local community when the tourist numbers drop? Smile! The Paris tourist board concluded that appearance matters. The tourist board proceeded to request that the residents of Paris smile.  After conducting a travelers survey it was found that among the high cost of travel, tourists experience included the perception of unpleasantness.  The tourist board concluded that the impressions people form about Parisians affect the overall tourist economy.

However, asking the locals to smile is not enough. When visiting Paris expect to be greeted by specialists known as “smile ambassadors”. On certain days you may even experience roller skaters gather to form a smile.

The story featured in the Reuters section, Oddly enough, may not be as odd as it is presented to be. Social Psychologists, Leslie A. Zebrowitz and Joann M. Montepare, 2008, explain why first impressions start with looking at a persons face and how people make judgments about others. A safe conclusion is that smiling will give the best impression, tourists or not.

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Read more: Reuters article on Paris smile campaign

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$1.99Zebrowits, L.A. & Montepare, J.M (2008) Social Psychological Face Perception: Why Appearance Matters

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Evaluating [bare] objects

Flugzeug-SicherheitsunterweisungA marketing campaign, including an airplane safety video from a New Zealand airline implements a strategy in hopes that passengers have a positive response and more importantly pay attention. A safety video presents a purportedly formally dressed flight crew. However a closer look reveals that the crew—presenting safety instructions—is wearing only body paint, nametags included. And while the crew delivers the safety information they playfully hint at the viewer to “take a closer look”.
To an unsuspecting observer the video is meant to add shock value while portraying a literal representation of the airlines marketing campaign. Additionally the video speaks to the evaluation of stimulus that may be appealing or demanding one’s attention.

Read more: Link to Reuters article

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YouTube video

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$1.99 De Houwer, J. (2009) How People Evaluate Objects? A Brief Review