The seemingly endless stream of sex scandals by powerful politicians in the United States raises a question: Does this say something about men, or does it say something about power?
New research suggests that power, not being a guy, is the corrupting factor. Powerful people tend to see themselves as more attractive than they really are and, more importantly, tend to believe that others see them as more attractive than others really do. Power also seems to change how people think about risk — power gets people to focus on potential rewards and ignore the potential downside. Add it all up and you get a far higher propensity for infidelity among both powerful men and powerful women.
In the latest Hidden Brain Puzzle, posted as always on the Facebook page, I asked:
Hidden Brain Puzzle # 39: Having power increases the odds that
A) Both men and women engage in infidelity
B) Men engage in infidelity
C) Women engage in infidelity
D) Neither men nor women engage in infidelity
The correct answer is A. For a fuller explanation, listen to this piece I just did — my first for NPR.
We know that some people tend to define themselves by their possessions, but did you know the level of uncertainty a person feels can influence whether they behave in materialistic ways?
That’s the conclusion of new research by Kimberly Rios Morrison and Camille S. Johnson. The researchers also found that uncertainty does not trigger materialism uniformly across people; it selectively influences individualists rather than people who tend to see themselves as members of a social group.
In a puzzle, posted as always on The Hidden Brain’s Facebook page, I asked
European and Asian Americans were recently asked whether their jeans reflected who they were. Which group felt defined by their clothes?
A) Asian Americans feeling confident
B) Asian Americans feeling uncertain
C) European Americans feeling confident
D) European Americans feeling uncertain
The correct answer is D. Morrison and Johnson found that European Americans, who tend to see things in individualistic terms, were more likely to identify with their personal possessions when their self-concept was threatened and they were made to feel uncertain.
In a paper published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, they write about a possible implication of the research in the real world:
“Imagine a member of an individualistic culture who is experiencing a midlife crisis or who feels uncertain about her coworkers’ perceptions of her abilities. Assuming that the midlife crisis (or uncertainty about coworkers’ perceptions) instigates feelings of self-uncertainty, this person would likely cling to the objects that best convey her personal characteristics. For example, she might choose not to donate her favorite but worn-out pair of jeans to charity or not to relinquish her old car that no longer functions properly …”
Share your thoughts about this research (or how you feel about your old pair of jeans) here or at www.facebook.com/hiddenbrain
Corruption is more likely in countries where people have a “collective responsibility” ethic as opposed to an individualistic ethic, according to new research.
Poverty matters too — poor countries are likely to see more corruption than rich countries — but this squares with common sense. I can more easily imagine a cop in a poor country taking a bribe (when he may have had to pay a bribe to get his job in the first place) than in a country where cops make a living wage.
The new research looked at both correlational and causational evidence. Countries where business executives expressed greater levels of pride in collective enterprises — workplaces, communities, family etc — were also countries where more corruption is documented.
In an interesting laboratory experiment, researchers Nina Mazar and Pankaj Aggarwal at the University of Toronto found that volunteers who were unconsciously primed to prize collective responsibility as opposed to individual responsibility were more likely to say they would offer a bribe to win a contract that would provide them with a lucrative commission. These volunteers felt less accountable for their corruption.
In a puzzle posted on The Hidden Brain’s facebook page, I asked:
Bribery is more likely in countries where
A) Individualism is prized (we’re all on our own)
B) Shared responsibility is prized (we’re in this together)
C) Individualism and shared responsibility are both prized
D) None of the above
The correct answer is B.
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Why do people spend decades tracing their lineages? Thinking about one’s ancestors provides comfort, improves one’s ability to deal with challenges and actually boosts cognitive performance, new research shows.
In a simple experiment, researchers asked people to think about their ancestors (or something else) and then measured their beliefs about their own performance on several cognitive tests. People who had been made to think about their ancestors expected to do better on the tests.
But did they actually do better? Yes. Researchers Peter Fischer, Anne Sauer, Claudia Vogrincic and Silke Weisweiler found that people who had recently thought about their ancestors actually did better on cognitive tests of intelligence than people who had been made to think of other things.
In a recent puzzle posted on The Hidden Brain’s Facebook page, I asked
You would have been more likely to solve this puzzle if I had first asked you to
A) Think about a friend
B) Draw a family tree
C) Remember what was in your last shopping list
D) None of the above
The correct answer is B.
The researchers hypothesized, in a piece they published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, that thinking about one’s ancestors increases our sense of control over everyday activities. So the next time someone asks you to solve a puzzle or tackle a difficult test, spend a moment thinking about your great-grandmother first!
Anger can make people want things more, according to a counterintuitive new study which found that when people associate a product with anger, they desire it more.
Henk Aarts of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and his colleagues showed people a number of objects such as pens and mugs. Before the picture of the object appeared on a screen, Aarts subliminally primed his volunteers with an angry, fearful or neutral face. He found that people later reported wanting the object more when they had been primed with the angry face rather than the fearful face. They also exerted more physical effort in acquiring the object in a subsequent test.
Aarts thinks there is an evolutionary reason for the phenomenon: In a statement issued via Psychological Science, where the paper was published, he said, that in competitive environments such as the struggle over a limited food supply or in battle, “If the food does not make you angry or doesn’t produce aggression in your system, you may starve and lose the battle.”
In a recent puzzle posted on the Hidden Brain’s Facebook page, I asked:
You have to decide whether to buy something. You are most likely to make the purchase when
A) You are angry
B) You are fearful
C) You are angry and fearful
D) You are neither angry nor fearful
The correct answer is A.
Does this theory explain the behavior of all those angry couples we see in movies who patch up fights by having sex?
Tell your friends to sign up to receive puzzles at the Facebook Page of The Hidden Brain.
Sorry John, Ringo, George and Paul. Apparently, love isn’t all you need. To make a relationship work longterm, self-discipline apparently outscores love.
Love and warm feelings prompt people to make promises of fidelity to one another. The stronger the emotion we feel, the bigger the promises we make. But new research by Johanna Peetz and Lara Kammrath published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that the people who keep promises are neither the ones who have the most positive feelings toward their partners nor the ones who make the biggest promises, but those who have the greatest internal self-discpline.
“People who had the most positive relationship feelings and who were most motivated to be responsive to the partner’s needs made bigger promises than did other people but were not any better at keeping them. Instead, promisers’ self-regulation skills, such as trait conscientiousness, predicted the extent to which promises were kept or broken,” the researchers write.
In the most recent Hidden Brain puzzle, posted first as always on The Hidden Brain’s Facebook page, I asked
Lovers make promises because they feel an emotional connection to one another. The lovers who KEEP their promises are
A) Those who make the biggest promises
B) Those who make the smallest promises
C) Those who are the most emotionally connected to the other person
D) Those with the most internal discipline
The correct answer is D.
A considerable number of people got the answer right on the Facebook page, which either means this puzzle was way too easy or lots of people have been in longterm relationships and are past the romantic illusions of the Fab Four!
Share puzzles about how our minds work with your friends by clicking on the SHARE link at www.facebook.com/hiddenbrain
In a study of 2,447 residents in five provinces at the epicenter of a 2008 earthquake in China, researchers found that residents who were hardest hit were more generous with their help than people who were slightly affected or not affected at all. The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, was co-authored by Li-Lin Rao, Ru Han, Xiao-Peng Ren, Xin-Wen Bai, Rui Zheng, Huan Liu, Zuo-Jun Wang, Jin-Zhen Li, Kan Zhang and Shu Li.
In a puzzle posted on The Hidden Brain’s Facebook fan page, where all puzzles get posted first, I asked:
After a natural disaster, the people most likely to behave in prosocial (cooperative) ways are
A) Those worst affected
B) Those least affected
C) Those in the middle
The correct answer is A.
The researchers wrote, “residents in more devastated areas demonstrated more prosocial behavior, but the degree of prosocial behavior declined with the passage of time. These findings suggest that prosocial behavior can be induced in individuals by being at a disadvantage. Indirect evidence for our claim includes the fact that commitment works best under harsh conditions: the more individuals are challenged by nature to survive, the more compelled they are to cooperate with each other in durable relationships.”
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Listen here or download the file here http://bit.ly/9OpK5a
Ever hear of the phenomenon called an “illusory correlation”? It explains why commentator Williams, who was recently fired from NPR, associates Muslims at airports with terrorists.
I am going to be writing my next column for Slate about this issue. To whet your appetite, here’s a radio interview about illusory correlations and other biases with Steve Fast of WJBC. ]]>