Reasons to avoid scoundrels
If your mom warned you about running around with the wrong crowd, it turns out she may have been on to something: New research suggests that hanging out with immoral people can actually change your own standards for behavior. People who were made to relate to another person—whether by writing a perspective-taking essay, writing about collaboration, or being told they were born in the same month—were subsequently more willing to emulate selfish or dishonest behavior in those people. And although relating to a positively behaving person induced positive behavior, the effect was stronger for negative behavior.
Gino, F. & Galinsky, A., “Vicarious Dishonesty: When Psychological Closeness Creates Distance from One’s Moral Compass,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (forthcoming).
For better teamwork, try hierarchy
Wouldn’t it be great to have a team where everyone is equal? Not if you want to get things done. In an experiment, some people were put in a high-power frame of mind by writing about an experience of power, while others were put in a low-power frame of mind by writing about an experience without power. When participants were assembled into groups of three, groups with just one high-power individual were more productive in a group task than groups with all high-power or all low-power individuals. The same thing happened with individuals with ostensibly different testosterone profiles—as measured by the ratio of the length of the index finger to the length of the ring finger. Groups with just one high-testosterone individual were more productive than groups with all high-testosterone or all low-testosterone individuals.
Ronay, R. et al., “The Path to Glory Is Paved with Hierarchy: When Hierarchical Differentiation Increases Group Effectiveness,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).
Can sexism make you racist?
You’d think dealing with sexism might make women more sensitive to discrimination on other factors, like race—but a new study suggests the opposite may be true. In several experiments, white women who read about pervasive sexism subsequently exhibited significantly more pro-white and antiminority sentiment. However, this effect was attenuated if an unrelated aspect of the women’s identity was affirmed.
Craig, M. et al., “Do unto Others as Others Have Done unto You? Perceiving Sexism Influences Women’s Evaluations of Stigmatized Racial Groups,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (forthcoming).
Mixed feelings: good for your health
When we hear that someone has “mixed feelings” about something, we usually don’t see that as a good thing. But maybe we should—it sounds like they might be good for you. In a new study, researchers asked a diverse sample of people in the San Francisco Bay Area about their health and their daily experience of emotions. Controlling for one’s age and overall level of positive and negative emotion, people who experienced more simultaneous positive and negative emotion tended to report fewer health symptoms. Moreover, when the researchers followed up with people years later, those who experienced increasing amounts of simultaneous positive and negative emotion also reported less of a decline in health.
Hershfield, H. et al., “When Feeling Bad Can Be Good: Mixed Emotions Benefit Physical Health across Adulthood,” Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming).
Fellowship of the stressed
Why do telemarketers call on weekday evenings and not on weekends? Perhaps it’s not just that you’re likely to be home, but because they’ve anticipated the findings of a new study. Healthy young men were exposed to stressful tasks—public speaking and mental arithmetic—not unlike those involved in a hard day’s work. This stress—and the associated increase in heart rate—led to significantly more trust, trustworthiness, and sharing, with no change in antisocial or nonsocial risk-taking behavior.
von Dawans, B. et al., “The Social Dimension of Stress Reactivity: Acute Stress Increases Prosocial Behavior in Humans,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).