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Concept: Attitude change


Research has shown that people often exert control over their emotions. By modulating expressions, reappraising feelings, and redirecting attention, they can regulate their emotional experience. These findings have contributed to a blurring of the traditional boundaries between cognitive and emotional processes, and it has been suggested that emotional signals are produced in a goal-directed way and monitored for errors like other intentional actions. However, this interesting possibility has never been experimentally tested. To this end, we created a digital audio platform to covertly modify the emotional tone of participants' voices while they talked in the direction of happiness, sadness, or fear. The result showed that the audio transformations were being perceived as natural examples of the intended emotions, but the great majority of the participants, nevertheless, remained unaware that their own voices were being manipulated. This finding indicates that people are not continuously monitoring their own voice to make sure that it meets a predetermined emotional target. Instead, as a consequence of listening to their altered voices, the emotional state of the participants changed in congruence with the emotion portrayed, which was measured by both self-report and skin conductance level. This change is the first evidence, to our knowledge, of peripheral feedback effects on emotional experience in the auditory domain. As such, our result reinforces the wider framework of self-perception theory: that we often use the same inferential strategies to understand ourselves as those that we use to understand others.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Emotion, Feeling, Attitude change, Somatic markers hypothesis


Popular belief holds that eye contact increases the success of persuasive communication, and prior research suggests that speakers who direct their gaze more toward their listeners are perceived as more persuasive. In contrast, we demonstrate that more eye contact between the listener and speaker during persuasive communication predicts less attitude change in the direction advocated. In Study 1, participants freely watched videos of speakers expressing various views on controversial sociopolitical issues. Greater direct gaze at the speaker’s eyes was associated with less attitude change in the direction advocated by the speaker. In Study 2, we instructed participants to look at either the eyes or the mouths of speakers presenting arguments counter to participants' own attitudes. Intentionally maintaining direct eye contact led to less persuasion than did gazing at the mouth. These findings suggest that efforts at increasing eye contact may be counterproductive across a variety of persuasion contexts.

Concepts: Eye, Social psychology, Attitude change, Persuasion


How do individuals emotionally cope with the imminent real-world salience of mortality? DeWall and Baumeister as well as Kashdan and colleagues previously provided support that an increased use of positive emotion words serves as a way to protect and defend against mortality salience of one’s own contemplated death. Although these studies provide important insights into the psychological dynamics of mortality salience, it remains an open question how individuals cope with the immense threat of mortality prior to their imminent actual death. In the present research, we therefore analyzed positivity in the final words spoken immediately before execution by 407 death row inmates in Texas. By using computerized quantitative text analysis as an objective measure of emotional language use, our results showed that the final words contained a significantly higher proportion of positive than negative emotion words. This emotional positivity was significantly higher than (a) positive emotion word usage base rates in spoken and written materials and (b) positive emotional language use with regard to contemplated death and attempted or actual suicide. Additional analyses showed that emotional positivity in final statements was associated with a greater frequency of language use that was indicative of self-references, social orientation, and present-oriented time focus as well as with fewer instances of cognitive-processing, past-oriented, and death-related word use. Taken together, our findings offer new insights into how individuals cope with the imminent real-world salience of mortality.

Concepts: Psychology, Word, Limbic system, Emotion, Affective neuroscience, Concepts, Attitude change, Joseph E. LeDoux


Cognitive dissonance theory proposes that choice produces negatively arousing cognitive conflict (called dissonance), which motivates the chooser to justify her decision by increasing her preference for the chosen option while decreasing her preference for the rejected option. At present, however, neural mechanisms of dissonance are poorly understood. To address this gap of knowledge, we scanned 24 young Americans as they made 60 choices between pairs of popular music CDs. As predicted, choices between CDs that were close (vs. distant) in attractiveness (referred to as difficult vs. easy choices) resulted in activations of the dorsal anterior cingulated (dACC), a brain region associated with cognitive conflict, and the left anterior insula (left aINS), a region often linked with aversive emotional arousal. Importantly, a separate analysis showed that choice-justifying attitude change was predicted by the in-choice signal intensity of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), a region that is linked to self-processing. The three regions identified (dACC, left aINS, and PCC) were correlated, within-subjects, across choices. The results were interpreted to support the hypothesis that cognitive dissonance plays a key role in producing attitudes that justify the choice.

Concepts: Cognition, Cerebrum, Cognitive bias, Cognitive dissonance, Choice, Brodmann area 24, Anterior cingulate cortex, Attitude change


Human emotions are strongly shaped by the tendency to compare the relative state of oneself to others. Although social comparison based emotions such as jealousy and schadenfreude (pleasure in the other misfortune) are important social emotions, little is known about their developmental origins. To examine if schadenfreude develops as a response to inequity aversion, we assessed the reactions of children to the termination of unequal and equal triadic situations. We demonstrate that children as early as 24 months show signs of schadenfreude following the termination of an unequal situation. Although both conditions involved the same amount of gains, the children displayed greater positive expressions following the disruption of the unequal as compared to the equal condition, indicating that inequity aversion can be observed earlier than reported before. These results support an early evolutionary origin of inequity aversion and indicate that schadenfreude has evolved as a response to unfairness.

Concepts: Evolution, Empathy, Feeling, Inequality, Binary relation, Equality, Emotions, Attitude change


This research applied insights from terror management theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986) to the world of sport. According to TMT, self-esteem buffers against the potential for death anxiety. Because sport allows people to attain self-esteem, reminders of death may improve performance in sport. In Study 1, a mortality salience induction led to improved performance in a “one-on-one” basketball game. In Study 2, a subtle death prime led to higher scores on a basketball shooting task, which was associated with increased task related self-esteem. These results may promote our understanding of sport and provide a novel potential way to improve athletic performance.

Concepts: Improve, According to Jim, Motivation, Social psychology, Basketball, Attitude change, Terror management theory, Mortality salience


Attitude change is a critical component of health behavior change, but has rarely been studied longitudinally following extensive exposures to persuasive materials such as full-length movies, books, or plays. We examined changes in attitudes related to food production and consumption in college students who had read Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma as part of a University-wide reading project. Composite attitudes toward organic foods, local produce, meat, and the quality of the American food supply, as well as opposition to government subsidies, distrust in corporations, and commitment to the environmental movement were significantly and substantially impacted, in comparison to students who had not read the book. Much of the attitude change disappeared after 1 year; however, over the course of 12 months self-reported opposition to government subsidies and belief that the quality of the food supply is declining remained elevated in readers of the book, compared to non-readers. Findings have implications for our understanding of the nature of changes in attitudes to food and eating in response to extensive exposure to coherent and engaging messages targeting health behaviors.

Concepts: Food, Organic food, Local food, Attitude change, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire, In Defense of Food


Communication with health care providers during diagnosis and treatment planning is of special importance because it can influence a patient’s emotional state, attitude, and decisions about their care. Qualitative evidence suggests that some patients experience poor communication with health care providers and have negative experiences when receiving their cancer diagnosis. Here, we use survey data from 8 provinces to present findings about the experiences of Canadian patients, specifically with respect to patient-provider communication, during the diagnosis and treatment planning phases of their cancer care.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Medicine, Oncology, Patient, Physician, Illness, Attitude change


While a persuasion network has been proposed, little is known about how network connections between brain regions contribute to attitude change. Two possible mechanisms have been advanced. One hypothesis predicts that attitude change results from increased connectivity between structures implicated in affective and executive processing in response to increases in argument strength. A second functional perspective suggests that highly arousing messages reduce connectivity between structures implicated in the encoding of sensory information, which disrupts message processing and thereby inhibits attitude change. However, persuasion is a multi-determined construct that results from both message features and audience characteristics. Therefore, persuasive messages should lead to specific functional connectivity patterns among a priori defined structures within the persuasion network. The present study exposed 28 subjects to anti-drug public service announcements where arousal, argument strength, and subject drug-use risk were systematically varied. Psychophysiological interaction analyses provide support for the affective-executive hypothesis but not for the encoding-disruption hypothesis. Secondary analyses show that video-level connectivity patterns among structures within the persuasion network predict audience responses in independent samples (one college-aged, one nationally representative). We propose that persuasion neuroscience research is best advanced by considering network-level effects while accounting for interactions between message features and target audience characteristics.

Concepts: Scientific method, Emotion, A priori, Message, Rhetoric, Attitude change, Persuasion, Bruce Payne


Two key emotions people can experience when someone else is better than them are envy and admiration. There are conflicting findings in the scientific literature on which behaviour is elicited by these emotions. In one study (with two samples, total Nā€‰=ā€‰345), we test which motivations are triggered by envy and admiration. The main finding is that (benign) envy and admiration both lead to a motivation to improve oneself. This confirms earlier findings that admiration leads to a motivation to affiliate with the admired other and a motivation to improve one’s own position. Furthermore, it supports the idea that envy can lead to both a motivation to improve oneself and a motivation to pull down the envied other, finding support for a subtypes theory of envy.

Concepts: Psychology, Science, Motivation, Empathy, Emotion, Finding, Attitude change, Envy