Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Personality & social psychology bulletin


This article speaks to the classic view that mental health requires accurate self-perception. Using a representative British sample (N = 1,601) it finds that, as measured by two established well-being indicators, those with mistaken expectations, whether optimistic or pessimistic, do worse than realists. We index unrealistic optimism as the difference between financial expectations and financial realizations measured annually over 18 years. The effects are not small, with those holding the most pessimistic (optimistic) expectations experiencing a 21.8% (13.5%) reduction in long-run well-being. These findings may result from the decision errors and counteracting emotions associated with holding biased beliefs. For optimists, disappointment may eventually dominate the anticipatory feelings of expecting the best while for pessimists the depressing effect of expecting doom may eventually dominate the elation when the worst is avoided. Also, plans based on inaccurate beliefs are bound to deliver worse outcomes than would rational expectations.


Cynicism refers to a negative appraisal of human nature-a belief that self-interest is the ultimate motive guiding human behavior. We explored laypersons' beliefs about cynicism and competence and to what extent these beliefs correspond to reality. Four studies showed that laypeople tend to believe in cynical individuals' cognitive superiority. A further three studies based on the data of about 200,000 individuals from 30 countries debunked these lay beliefs as illusionary by revealing that cynical (vs. less cynical) individuals generally do worse on cognitive ability and academic competency tasks. Cross-cultural analyses showed that competent individuals held contingent attitudes and endorsed cynicism only if it was warranted in a given sociocultural environment. Less competent individuals embraced cynicism unconditionally, suggesting that-at low levels of competence-holding a cynical worldview might represent an adaptive default strategy to avoid the potential costs of falling prey to others' cunning.


Many topics that scientists investigate speak to people’s ideological worldviews. We report three studies-including an analysis of large-scale survey data-in which we systematically investigate the ideological antecedents of general faith in science and willingness to support science, as well as of science skepticism of climate change, vaccination, and genetic modification (GM). The main predictors are religiosity and political orientation, morality, and science understanding. Overall, science understanding is associated with vaccine and GM food acceptance, but not climate change acceptance. Importantly, different ideological predictors are related to the acceptance of different scientific findings. Political conservatism best predicts climate change skepticism. Religiosity, alongside moral purity concerns, best predicts vaccination skepticism. GM food skepticism is not fueled by religious or political ideology. Finally, religious conservatives consistently display a low faith in science and an unwillingness to support science. Thus, science acceptance and rejection have different ideological roots, depending on the topic of investigation.

Concepts: Epistemology, Science, Religion, Conservatism, Political party


Although there has been limited progress toward economic equality between Americans over the past half-century, many Americans are largely unaware of the persistence of economic racial disparities. One intervention for this widespread ignorance is to inform White Americans of the impact of racism on the outcomes of Black Americans. In two studies, we attempted to improve the accuracy of Whites' perceptions of racial progress and estimates of contemporary racial economic equality. Reminding White Americans about the persistence of racial disparities produced smaller overestimates of how much progress had been made toward racial economic equality between 1963 and 2016. Rather than modifying overestimates of contemporary racial economic equality, participants who read about disparities assessed the past as more equitable than participants who did not. We discuss implications of these findings for efforts to address Whites' misperceptions of racial economic equality and to challenge narratives of American racial progress.


Responsiveness may signal to a potential partner that one is concerned with her or his welfare, and may therefore increase sexual interest in this person. Research shows, however, that this proposition holds true for men, but not for women. In three studies, one observational and two experimental, we explored a potential mechanism that explains why men and women diverge in their sexual reactions to a responsive opposite-sex stranger. Studies 1 and 2 showed that men, but not women, perceived a responsive stranger as more gender typical (masculine/feminine) and, in turn, as more attractive. Study 3 revealed that responsiveness increased men’s perception of partner’s femininity. This, in turn, was associated with higher sexual arousal, which was, in turn, linked to greater partner attractiveness and greater desire for a long-term relationship. These findings suggest that whether responsiveness affects perceptions of partner attractiveness varies in individuals, depending on the contextually based meaning of responsiveness.

Concepts: Psychology, Gender, Cognition, Perception, Philosophy of perception, Sexual arousal, Physical attractiveness


Although we interact with a wide network of people on a daily basis, the social psychology literature has primarily focused on interactions with close friends and family. The present research tested whether subjective well-being is related not only to interactions with these strong ties but also to interactions with weak social ties (i.e., acquaintances). In Study 1, students experienced greater happiness and greater feelings of belonging on days when they interacted with more classmates than usual. Broadening the scope in Studies 2A and 2B to include all daily interactions (with both strong and weak ties), we again found that weak ties are related to social and emotional well-being. The current results highlight the power of weak ties, suggesting that even social interactions with the more peripheral members of our social networks contribute to our well-being.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Human bonding, Interpersonal relationships, Interpersonal ties, Mathematical sociology


Benevolent sexism (BS) has detrimental effects on women, yet women prefer men with BS attitudes over those without. The predominant explanation for this paradox is that women respond to the superficially positive appearance of BS without being aware of its subtly harmful effects. We propose an alternative explanation drawn from evolutionary and sociocultural theories on mate preferences: Women find BS men attractive because BS attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest. Five studies showed that women prefer men with BS attitudes (Studies 1a, 1b, and 3) and behaviors (Studies 2a and 2b), especially in mating contexts, because BS mates are perceived as willing to invest (protect, provide, and commit). Women preferred BS men despite also perceiving them as patronizing and undermining. These findings extend understanding of women’s motives for endorsing BS and suggest that women prefer BS men despite having awareness of the harmful consequences.


Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan summarized cultural differences in psychology and argued that people from one particular culture are outliers: people from societies that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD). This study shows that liberals think WEIRDer than conservatives. In five studies with more than 5,000 participants, we found that liberals think more analytically (an element of WEIRD thought) than moderates and conservatives. Study 3 replicates this finding in the very different political culture of China, although it held only for people in more modernized urban centers. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures. Studies 4 to 5 show that briefly training people to think analytically causes them to form more liberal opinions, whereas training them to think holistically causes shifts to more conservative opinions.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Culture, Anthropology, Cultural studies, Conservatism, Liberalism, Classical liberalism


This research was aimed to provide a comprehensive test of the classic notion that narcissistic individuals are appealing as short-term romantic or sexual partners. In three studies, we tested the hypotheses that narcissism exerts a positive effect on an individual’s mate appeal and that this effect is mediated by high physical attractiveness and high social boldness. We implemented a multimethod approach and used ratings of opposite sex persons (Study 1), ratings of friends (Study 2), and records of courtship outcomes in naturalistic interactions (Study 3) as indicators of mate appeal. In all cases, narcissism had a positive effect on mate appeal, which was mainly due to the agentic self-enhancement aspects of narcissism (rather than narcissists' lacking communion). As predicted, physical attractiveness and social boldness mediated the positive effect of narcissism on mate appeal. Findings further indicated that narcissism was more strongly linked to mate appeal than to friend appeal.

Concepts: Individualism, Individual, Narcissistic personality disorder, Narcissism, Narcissus


We tested whether signaling warmth and competence (“Big Two”) in job applications increases hiring chances. Drawing on a field experimental data from five European countries, we analyzed the responses of employers (N = 13,162) to applications from fictitious candidates of different origin: native candidates and candidates of European, Asian, or Middle-Eastern/African descent. We found that competence signals slightly increased invitation rates, while warmth signals had no effect. We also found ethnic discrimination, a female premium, and differences in callbacks depending on job characteristics. Importantly, however, providing stereotype signals did not reduce the level of ethnic discrimination or the female premium. Likewise, we found little evidence for interactions between stereotype signals and job demands. While speaking against the importance of “Big Two” signals in application documents, our results highlight the importance of group membership and hopefully stimulate further research on the role of in particular ethnic stereotypes for discrimination in hiring.