Models of Affective Decision Making – How do Feelings Predict Choice?

Intuitively, how you feel about potential outcomes will determine your decisions. Indeed, an implicit assumption in one of the most influential theories in psychology, prospect theory, is that feelings govern choice. Surprisingly, however, very little is known about the rules by which feelings are transformed into decisions. Here, we specified a computational model that used feelings to predict choices. We found that this model predicted choice better than existing value-based models, showing a unique contribution of feelings to decisions, over and above value. Similar to the value function in prospect theory, our feeling function showed diminished sensitivity to outcomes as value increased. However, loss aversion in choice was explained by an asymmetry in how feelings about losses and gains were weighted when making a decision, not by an asymmetry in the feelings themselves. The results provide new insights into how feelings are utilized to reach a decision.


Posted in Affect, Decision making, Feeling | Tagged , ,

Subjective Status Shapes Political Preferences

Economic inequality in America is at historically high levels. Although most Americans indicate that they would prefer greater equality, redistributive policies aimed at reducing inequality are frequently unpopular. Traditional accounts posit that attitudes toward redistribution are driven by economic self-interest or ideological principles. From a social psychological perspective, however, we expected that subjective comparisons with other people may be a more relevant basis for self-interest than is material wealth. We hypothesized that participants would support redistribution more when they felt low than when they felt high in subjective status, even when actual resources and self-interest were held constant. Moreover, we predicted that people would legitimize these shifts in policy attitudes by appealing selectively to ideological principles concerning fairness. In four studies, we found correlational (Study 1) and experimental (Studies 2–4) evidence that subjective status motivates shifts in support for redistributive policies along with the ideological principles that justify them.

Decisions about how wealth should be distributed and redistributed are among the most fundamental political decisions that citizens and their leaders must make. We suggest that social comparisons are critical for understanding attitudes toward economic inequality, as differences in relative status can contribute to differences in political preferences.


Posted in Political preferences, Social inequality, Social status, Subjectivity | Tagged , , ,

Americans Overestimate Social Class Mobility

In this research we examine estimates of American social class mobility—the ability to move up or down in education and income status. Across studies, overestimates of class mobility were large and particularly likely among younger participants and those higher in subjective social class—both measured (Studies 1–3) and manipulated (Study 4). Class mobility overestimates were independent of general estimation errors (Study 3) and persisted after accounting for knowledge of class mobility assessed in terms of educational attainment and self-ratings. Experiments revealed that mobility overestimates were shaped by exposure to information about the genetic determinants of social class—a faux science article suggesting genetic constraints to economic advancement increased accuracy in class mobility estimates (Study 2)—and motivated by needs to protect the self—heightening the self-relevance of class mobility increased overestimates (Study 3). Discussion focused on both the costs and benefits of overestimates of class mobility for individuals and society.

The disconnect between actual economic conditions on the one hand and beliefs in the American Dream on the other suggests that Americans may be unaware of the actual levels of social class mobility in society.


Posted in Class mobility, Social exclusion, Social inequality | Tagged , ,

Why Income Inequality Increases Maternal Infanticide

Natural selection has provided mothers with an early warning system, one that can alert them to danger before others are even aware of the risk. After all, humans have the ability to make conscious choices and design political systems that protect the least among us. Haven’t we improved on the harsh conditions faced by our distant monkey cousins? The answer to this couldn’t be more clear: humans are very different from macaques. We’re much worse. The anxiety caused by human inequality is unlike anything observed in the natural world. In order to emphasize this point, Robert Sapolsky put all kidding aside and was uncharacteristically grim when describing the effects of human poverty on the incidence of stress-related disease. “When humans invented poverty,” Sapolsky wrote, “they came up with a way of subjugating the low-ranking like nothing ever before seen in the primate world.” This is clearly documented in studies looking at human inequality and the rates of maternal infanticide.  The World Health Organization Report on Violence and Health reported a strong association between global inequality and child abuse, with the largest incidence in communities with “high levels of unemployment and concentrated poverty.” According to these researchers, inequality is literally killing our kids.


Posted in Income distribution, Inequality, Maternal infanticide, Mothers, Violence | Tagged , , , ,

Teaching Empathy in School

What children do not come by naturally is empathy, the ability to understand another person’s perspective and want to help them. Empathy, as it turns out, is a skill—akin to math or science or writing—that must be taught, over and over and over. And it must be taught. Not only does empathy help turn children into more pleasing people; it also is a key to forging social connections that contribute to overall happiness and success.

Danish children learn, from a young age, that being connected socially—and empathetically—to other people is as important as securing a high grade on their exams. They carry this with them beyond the school walls, into adulthood and their communities. It’s like counteractive programming: Yes, survival requires selfishness; but living takes something much harder—generosity.


Read also: Teaching Kids Empathy: In Danish Schools, It’s … Well, It’s a Piece of Cake

Posted in Children, Empathy, Schools | Tagged , ,

The Psychological Benefits of Being Authentic on Facebook

Having others acknowledge and validate one’s true self is associated with better psychological health. Existing research indicates that an individual’s true self may be more readily expressed on Facebook than in person. This study brought together these two premises by investigating for the first time the psychosocial outcomes associated with communicating one’s true self on Facebook. Participants completed a personality assessment once as their true self and once as the self they present on Facebook (Facebook self), as well as measures of social connectedness, subjective well-being, depression, anxiety, and stress. Euclidean distances quantified the difference between one’s true self and the Facebook self. Hypotheses received partial support. Better coherence between the true self and the Facebook self was associated with better social connectedness and less stress. Two models provided evidence of mediation effects. Findings highlight that authentic self-presentation on Facebook can be associated with positive psychological outcomes.


Posted in Authentic, Psychology, Social media | Tagged , ,

Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning

In this paper, we build on research on the microfoundations of strategy and learning processes to study the individual underpinnings of organizational learning. We argue that once an individual has accumulated a certain amount of experience with a task, the benefit of accumulating additional experience is inferior to the benefit of deliberately articulating and codifying the experience accumulated in the past. We explain the superior performance outcomes associated with such deliberate learning efforts using both a cognitive (improved task understanding) and an emotional (increased self-efficacy) mechanism. We study the proposed framework by means of a mixed-method experimental design that combines the reach and relevance of a field experiment with the precision of two laboratory experiments. Our results support the proposed theoretical framework and bear important implications from both a theoretical and practical viewpoint.


Posted in Learning, Learning processes, Reflection, Reflective learning | Tagged , , ,

Lasting Impact of Study Abroad Experiences: A Collaborative Autoethnography

Researchers in the field of study abroad have focused on language, identity construction, and motivation, yet few studies have shown its lasting impact on participants. This article contains the reflections of two individuals who took part in studies abroad and remain engaged in multicultural education and in the instruction and research of second language acquisition. We review the literature in the area of study abroad, then discuss the suitability of using a collaborative autoethnography (CAE) approach, defined as “the study of self collectively” for this project. We analyzed our data, which are in the form of reflective narratives and archived e-mails, through open coding, based on grounded theory methodology. Four major themes surfaced from our data analysis: language and culture; academics; identity; and lasting impact. Finally, we compare our experiences, identify some of the lasting effects of our time abroad, and consider both the practical and theoretical implications of the research. This research has been useful for us to understand CAE and the lasting effects of study abroad experiences on students who become language teachers.


Posted in Study abroad | Tagged

Conversational Leadership: Thinking Together for a Change

After experiencing his first World Café dialogue at a program on self-organizing systems, Bob Veazie had an uncomfortable epiphany. At the time, he was a senior engineer and manufacturing manager at a Hewlett Packard plant in Oregon. In that World Café, Bob experienced how the collective intelligence of a group can become visible as people move from one table to another over several rounds of conversation, cross-pollinating ideas, making unexpected connections, developing new knowledge, and creating action opportunities. Afterward he said:

“Something profound but disturbing happened to me during those Café conversations. I realized that the boxes on my organization chart might more accurately be depicted as webs of conversations. Each day, we are engaged in conversations about different questions, just like in those table conversations, and we move between the ‘tables’ as we do our work in the company. It hit me with laser-beam clarity: This is how life actually works! So I began to wonder: If our conversations and personal relations are at the heart of our work, how am I, as a leader, contributing to or taking energy away from this natural process? Are we using the intelligence of just a few people when we could gain the intelligence of hundreds or thousands by focusing on key questions and including people more intentionally in the conversation?”


Posted in Leadership, Systemic change, Systems | Tagged , ,

Dancing with Systems

People who are raised in the industrial world and who get enthused about systems thinking are likely to make a terrible mistake. They are likely to assume that here, in systems analysis, in interconnection and complication, in the power of the computer, here at last, is the key to prediction and control. This mistake is likely because the mindset of the industrial world assumes that there is a key to prediction and control.

But self-organizing, nonlinear feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. They are understandable only in the most general way. The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable. The idea of making a complex system do just what you want it to do can be achieved only temporarily, at best. We can never fully understand our world, not in the way our reductionistic science has led us to expect. Our science itself, from quantum theory to the mathematics of chaos, leads us into irreducible uncertainty. For any objective other than the most trivial, we can’t optimize; we don’t even know what to optimize. We can’t keep track of everything. We can’t find a proper, sustainable relationship to nature, each other, or the institutions we create if we try to do it from the role of omniscient conqueror.


Posted in Self-organized systems, Systems | Tagged ,