Think you have good self-control? Yes? Now you don’t.

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Eric Barker  -  
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Four studies examined how impulse-control beliefs—beliefs regarding one’s ability to regulate visceral impulses, such as hunger, drug craving, and sexual arousal—influence the self-control process. The findings provide evidence for a restraint bias: a tendency for people to overestimate their capacity for impulse control. This biased perception of restraint had important consequences for people’s self-control strategies. Inflated impulse-control beliefs led people to overexpose themselves to temptation, thereby promoting impulsive behavior. In Study 4, for example, the impulse-control beliefs of recovering smokers predicted their exposure to situations in which they would be tempted to smoke. Recovering smokers with more inflated impulse-control beliefs exposed themselves to more temptation, which led to higher rates of relapse 4 months later. The restraint bias offers unique insight into how erroneous beliefs about self-restraint promote impulsive behavior.

Source: “The Restraint Bias: How the Illusion of Self-Restraint Promotes Impulsive Behavior” from Psychological Science, Volume 20 Issue 12, Pages 1523 – 1528

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If your neighbor gets a new car, do you buy a new car?

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Each week, the Dutch Postcode Lottery (PCL) randomly selects a postal code, and distributes cash and a new BMW to lottery participants in that code. We study the effects of these shocks on lottery winners and their neighbors. Consistent with the life-cycle hypothesis, the effects on winners’ consumption are largely confined to cars and other durables. Consistent with the theory of in-kind transfers, the vast majority of BMW winners liquidate their BMWs. We do, however, detect substantial social effects of lottery winnings: PCL nonparticipants who live next door to winners have significantly higher levels of car consumption than other nonparticipants.

Source: “The Effects of Lottery Prizes on Winners and their Neighbors: Evidence from the Dutch Postcode Lottery” from IZA Discussion Paper No. 4950, May 2010

You are very influenced by context and those around you. Your happiness is heavily influenced by those around you as well.

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Your Phone Distracts You So Much You Won’t Notice Unicycling Clowns

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Eric Barker  -  
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I don’t do the studies, I just post them, folks:

We investigated the effects of divided attention during walking. Individuals were classified based on whether they were walking while talking on a cell phone, listening to an MP3 player, walking without any electronics or walking in a pair. In the first study, we found that cell phone users walked more slowly, changed directions more frequently, and were less likely to acknowledge other people than individuals in the other conditions. In the second study, we found that cell phone users were less likely to notice an unusual activity along their walking route (a unicycling clown). Cell phone usage may cause inattentional blindness even during a simple activity that should require few cognitive resources

Source: “Did you see the unicycling clown? Inattentional blindness while walking and talking on a cell phone” from Applied Cognitive Psychology

Ha-ha, how silly…

There is a serious element here: if talking on a cellphone means you don’t notice unicycling clowns, should you really be driving and talking on one?

Let me word it differently: do you want those other people — who are not as smart, good-looking, and as excellent a driver as you are — talking on a cellphone and driving? I didn’t think so.

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Is an attractive person touching an item enough to make you want to buy it?

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Eric Barker  -  
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This research examines the impact of attractiveness on consumers during a consumption experience. Specifically, it examines the effects of an attractive social influence in the context of touching and contamination of store products by investigating how consumers respond when they see attractive others touching the same products they want to purchase. In doing so, it provides the first experimental evidence of a positive contagion effect in either the marketing or the psychology literature. Across three field experiments using an actual retail shopping environment, the authors find that product evaluations are higher when consumers perceive a product as having been physically touched by a highly attractive other. Moreover, they identify sex as a critical moderating variable in the realization of this positive contagion effect; the contact source and observing consumer must be of the opposite sex for positive contagion to occur. Finally, in contrast to previous work, the authors demonstrate that these effects are driven by a physical model of contagion.

Source: “Positive Consumer Contagion: Responses to Attractive Others in a Retail Context” from Journal of Marketing Research, Volume: 45 | Issue: 6, Cover date: December 2008, Page(s): 690-701

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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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