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SciFund Teaser Video

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As many of you already know, we are participating in the SciFund Challenge! As part of the Challenge, we are trying to raise money to buy psychophysiological equipment that measures things like heart rates and micro-changes in facial expressions. Check out the full video on Rockethub!

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Keep Those Girls Away from Me

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We have a new paper coming out in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology!  Check out the abstract below, a quick video summary of the findings also below, or the full paper at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2012.04.012.

The present research examined how a group’s gender composition influences intragroup evaluations. Group members evaluated fellow group members and the group as a whole following a shared task. As predicted, no performance differences were found as a function of gender composition, but judgments of individuals’ task contributions, the group’s effectiveness, and desire to work with one’s group again measured at a 10-week follow-up were increasingly negative as the proportion of women in the group increased. Negative judgments were consistently directed at male and female group members as indicated by no gender of target effects, demonstrating that men, simply by working alongside women, can be detrimentally affected by negative stereotypes about women. Implications for gender diversity in the workplace are discussed.

Stress and Health

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One of the reasons Lindy and I try to “read emotions” – in other words, understand what people are thinking and feeling – through the use of psychophysiological measures is because negative (and sometimes positive) emotions can negatively affect our health. We all have lay theories about what is good and bad for our health (e.g., it’s probably not great if your boss screams at you everyday), but Lindy and I use physiological measurements to gain stronger evidence about how certain situations influence health and disease.  Below, I’ll tell you about one study within the field of social psychology that did just that.

We all know that it’s important to try to stay away from long-term, chronic stressors. Long-term stressors – like the chronic illness of a loved one, an emotionally abusive relationship, or an overly-taxing job – all tend to erode the body’s systems over time, making us less able to fight off disease and infection. But in addition to chronic stressors, we also experience more acute stressors: having a job interview, going on a first date, or performing in front of a large crowd. When we are acutely stressed, it’s adaptive for the body to work hard to deal with the stressor, so getting stressed, in and of itself, is not the problem.  However, if our body’s physiological response to acute stressors does not quickly dissipate, acute stressors can lead to the same negative health effects as more chronic stressors.

So, what are some things that might make you stressed in the short term? And what is it about some people that allows their bodies to recover from stress more quickly than others?

Inter-racial interactions and speeches can both elicit a lot of stress. To study stress and stress recovery, researchers asked White and Black participants to give a speech in front of White or Black evaluators. During the speech and immediately after the speech, the experimenters measured how forcefully participants’ hearts were contracting, how much of a stress hormone called cortisol they were releasing, and how quickly their hearts returned to a resting state.

Results showed that participants were stressed and engaged during the speech: their hearts contracted more forcefully, and they released a stress hormone called cortisol. When participants were evaluated by an outgroup member (a member of another race), the amount of contact the participant had with members of the other race across a number of situations influenced how quickly they recovered from the stress of the task. Their stress hormone levels and their hearts returned to rest more quickly than those who had less previous experience with members of the other race.

What does this mean in the long run for our health? In a diverse world where we interact with members of other races and groups frequently, these results suggest that the stress sometimes associated with those interactions can be mitigated by past experience. Having experience interacting with members of other groups in different contexts may be one way to reduce the maladaptive effects that stress or anxiety can have on you. Over time, this could be beneficial for the functioning of your immune and cardiovascular systems.

-Kate

Page-Gould, E., Mendes, W. B., & Major, B. (2010). Intergroup contact facilitates physiological recovery following stressful intergroup interactions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46,854-858.

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How did we pick our “theme?”

When you make a blog on wordpress, you are given a variety of choices for color themes and formats.  From solid black backgrounds to pink flowers, you can have almost whatever your heart desires.  I’m sure for many bloggers picking their theme seems (somewhat) simple.  Pick something that you like that is pleasing to the eye.  It should be easy to read, and the theme should make sense for your topic.  I, for example, should never pick a format that highlights photos cause, let’s be honest, I’m not exactly a hot shot behind the camera.  However, there was one thing (beyond readability) that I was looking for in a theme.  Warm colors.

Psychological research (largely from the lab of John Bargh) consistently shows that the little things in life DO matter. If you are negotiating with someone, you should soften them up by putting them in a soft chair.  If you are meeting a new person and you want them to like you, hand them a warm cup of coffee.  If you are in an interview and you want to your interviewer to think that you are important, make sure that they are holding something heavy.  If you are writing a blog, make people feel good by using warm colors like red and pink and orange.

-Lindy

 

For papers on related research, see Ackerman, Nocera, and Bargh (2010). Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions.