Here’s What Makes A Good Gift, According To Research

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If you’re trying to apologize to someone, expensive gifts work:

The present study examined a costly signaling model of human apology. The model assumes that an unintentional transgressor is more motivated to restore the relationship with the victim than an intentional transgressor who depreciates the relationship. The model predicts the existence of a separating equilibrium, in which only sincere apologizers will pay a certain cost to restore the relationship, while dishonest apologizers will not. Accordingly, we hypothesized that the receivers of an apology would be sensitive to the cost involved in the apology. were vignette experiments, in which participants imagined that they were victims of an interpersonal transgression and received either a costly or no-cost apology. The costliness of the apology was manipulated by the presence of an apology gift in Experiment 1, and by inconvenience voluntarily experienced by the transgressor to make an apology in Experiment 2. In both experiments, participants found the costly apologizer to be more sincere than the no-cost apologizer. Experiment 3 employed a modified dictator game, in which a fictitious partner behaved in an unfair manner and apologized to the participants. The apology cost was manipulated as a fee for sending the apology message. The results of were replicated. In addition, when given a chance to send a complaint message to the unfair person, participants in the costly apology condition abstained from doing so. Implications of the study are discussed in relation to applications of the costly signaling theory to interpersonal behavior.

Source: “Do sincere apologies need to be costly? Test of a costly signaling model of apology” from Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 30, Issue 2, Pages 114-123 (March 2009)

If you’re giving a gift to a guy, it better be a good gift. Girls are less picky:

We tested the hypothesis that gifts act as markers of interpersonal similarity for both acquaintances and close relationship partners. Participants were led to believe that a new opposite sex acquaintance (Experiment 1) or romantic partner (Experiment 2) had selected either a desirable or undesirable gift for them. In Experiment 1, men viewed themselves as less similar to their new acquaintance after receiving a bad versus good gift from her, whereas women’s perceived similarity ratings were unaffected by gift quality. In Experiment 2, men reported decreased similarity to their romantic partner after receiving a bad gift, whereas women responded to the bad gift more positively; perceived similarity, in turn, had an impact on participants’ evaluations of the relationship’s future potential. This research highlights the need for more experimental work on gift-giving, which has been largely overlooked by mainstream social psychologists despite its economic and interpersonal significance.

Source: “The Gift of Similarity: How Good and Bad Gifts Influence Relationships” from Social Cognition, Vol. 26, Issue 4, 8/2008

And guys, if you’re giving a gift to a woman you’re interested in, the best kind seem to be expensive, worthless gifts:

What are the characteristics of a good courtship gift? We address this question by modelling courtship as a sequential game. This is structured as follows: the male offers a gift to a female; after observing the gift, the female decides whether or not to accept it; she then chooses whether or not to mate with the male. In one version of the game, based on human courtship, the female is uncertain about whether the male intends to stay or desert after mating. In a second version, there is no paternal care but the female is uncertain about the male’s quality. The two versions of the game are shown to be mathematically equivalent. We find robust equilibrium solutions in which mating is predominantly facilitated by an ‘extravagant’ gift which is costly to the male but intrinsically worthless to the female. By being costly to the male, the gift acts as a credible signal of his intentions or quality. At the same time, its lack of intrinsic value to the female serves to deter a ‘gold-digger’, who has no intention of mating with the male, from accepting the gift. In this way, an economically inefficient gift enables mutually suitable partners to be matched.

Source: “Costly but worthless gifts facilitate courtship” from Proc. R. Soc. B 22 September 2005 vol. 272 no. 1575 1877-1884

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How to easily increase your persistence in just one second:

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Eric Barker  -  
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Cross your arms:

Two experiments investigated the hypothesis that arm crossing serves as a proprioceptive cue for perseverance within achievement settings. Experiment 1 found that inducing participants to cross their arms led to greater persistence on an unsolvable anagram. Experiment 2 revealed that arm crossing led to better performance on solvable anagrams, and that this effect was mediated by greater persistence. No differences in comfort, instruction adherence, or mood were observed between the arms crossed and control conditions, and participants appeared to be unaware of the effect of arm crossing on their behavior. Implications of the findings are discussed in terms of the interplay between proprioceptive cues and contextual meaning.

Source: “The effect of arm crossing on persistence and performance” from European Journal of Social Psychology

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Can personalities be judged by physical appearance alone?

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Via Eurekalert:

Observers were able to accurately judge some aspects of a stranger’s personality from looking at photographs, according to a study in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSBP), the official monthly journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Self-esteem, ratings of extraversion and religiosity were correctly judged from physical appearance.

Researchers asked participants to assess the personalities of strangers based first on a photograph posed to the researchers’ specifications and then on a photograph posed the way the subject chose. Those judgments were then compared with how the person and acquaintances rated that individual’s personality. They found that while both poses provided participants with accurate cues about personality, the spontaneous pose showed more insight, including about the subject’s agreeableness, emotional stability, openness, likability, and loneliness.

The study suggested that physical appearance alone can send signals about their true personality.


Want to predict the result of a sporting event? Don’t even think about it:

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“…people with expertise in football are better at predicting match outcomes when they spend time not consciously thinking about their predictions.”

Via bps-research-digest.blogspot.com:

Imagine you’ve just paid an expert good money for their verdict and they say to you: “Can you hang on a couple of minutes whilst I don’t think about this”. You’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve gone silly. They may have. But another possibility is that you’ve chosen a shrewd expert who’s totally up-to-speed with the latest decision-making research: Ap Dijksterhuis and his colleagues have just shown that people with expertise in football are better at predicting match outcomes when they spend time not consciously thinking about their predictions.

And:

This may seem bizarre but it’s entirely consistent with Dijksterhuis’s Unconscious Thought Theory and with the folk wisdom that says it’s a good idea to sleep on a problem. According to Dijksterhuis’s theory, the subconscious is sometimes less prone to the biases that afflict the conscious mind, thus ensuring that an expert gives due weight to the most important factors.

This was borne out in a second experiment, much like the first, in which students predicted the outcomes of World Cup football matches. Again, distracted experts made the most accurate predictions. This time, however, the researchers also asked participants to estimate the teams’ world rankings – apparently this is the most reliable predictor for the outcomes of World Cup matches. For experts who spent time consciously considering their match predictions, there was no correlation between their knowledge of team rankings and their prediction accuracy. By contrast, for the experts who spent time not thinking about their predictions, there was a correlation between their ranking knowledge and predictive accuracy. Not consciously thinking about the problem at hand seemed to ensure that experts paid due attention to the most important factor affecting match outcomes.

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The 4 Psychological Techniques That Increased Navy SEAL Passing Rates

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Ever since reading The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228 I’ve been interested in Navy SEAL training, particularly the psychological aspects.

In his blog at Psychology Today, Bakari Akil covers a History channel documentary The Brain and what it revealed about the four techniques the Navy used to increase passing rates in the elite SEAL program:

Goal Setting

“With goal setting the recruits were taught to set goals in extremely short chunks. For instance, one former Navy Seal discussed how he set goals such as making it to lunch, then dinner.”

Mental Rehearsal

“With mental rehearsal they were taught to visualize themselves succeeding in their activities and going through the motions.”

Self Talk

“As far as self talk is concerned, the experts in The Brain documentary made the claim that we say 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute. By instructing the recruits to speak positively to themselves they could learn how to “override fears” resulting from the amygdala, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.”

Arousal Control

“And finally, with arousal control the recruits were taught how to breathe to help mitigate the crippling emotions and fears that some of their tasks encouraged.”

How successful were these techniques?

This very simple four step process increased their passing rates from 25 percent to 33 percent, which is excellent in a rigorous program as theirs. It demonstrates that achieving success doesn’t always have to be a complex process. A few minor additions and tweaks may be all that is needed.

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