1. Study suggests babies can pick up on and respond to social dominance

    August 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Washington press release:

    The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party — all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish and earn more, from accolades and material wealth to friends and romantic partners.

    This social hierarchy may be so naturally ingrained, University of Washington researchers say, that toddlers as young as 17 months old not only can perceive who is dominant, but also anticipate that the dominant person will receive more rewards.

    The research, led by UW psychology professor Jessica Sommerville and graduate student Elizabeth Enright, appears in the July issue of the journal Cognition.

    “This tells us that babies are sorting through things at a higher level than we thought. They’re attending to and taking into consideration fairly sophisticated concepts,” Sommerville said. “If, early on, you see that someone who is more dominant gets more stuff, and as adults, we see that and say that’s how the world is, it might be because these links are present early in development.”

    The study evaluated the reactions of 80 toddlers, each of whom watched three short videos of puppets in simple social situations. Researchers measured the length of time the children focused on the outcome of each video in an effort to determine what they noticed.

    Measuring a baby’s “looking time” is a common metric used in studies of cognition and comprehension in infants, the researchers explained.

    “Really young babies can’t talk to us, so we have to use other measures such as how long they attend to events, to gauge their understanding of these events,” said Enright. “Babies will look longer at things they find unexpected.”

    The same is true of adults, she pointed out. Adults will focus on the result of a magic trick, for instance, or a car accident on the side of the road. Both defy expectations about what normally happens.

    While other research has found that infants and young children expect equal distributions and react positively toward sharing, the UW study is one of the first to explore the impact of a personality trait, such as social dominance, on those expectations.

    For the study, each toddler watched an introductory video at least six times; this brief clip aimed to establish the “dominant” puppet in the scene — the one who appeared to win a minor competition with a second puppet over a special chair. Then each child watched a second set of videos so that researchers could compare how the toddler reacted to various outcomes. The researchers employed puppets, rather than people, for the videos because the puppets look essentially the same, offer no facial or other emotional reaction, and don’t draw an infant’s attention the way that differences among humans might, said Sommerville.

    The researchers set up three narrative scenarios using the puppets. In one scenario, a clip showed the dominant puppet receiving more Legos, while another clip showed both puppets receiving the same number. In the other scenario, a clip again showed the puppets receiving the same number of Legos, while a different clip showed the submissive puppet receiving more.

    The study found that toddlers looked an average of 7 seconds longer at the videos in which the weaker puppet received more Legos, or when the two puppets received the same number, versus when the dominant puppet received more Legos. This indicates that the children didn’t expect those outcomes, Sommerville said, because their lingering gaze suggests their brains were continuing to process the information on the screen.

    The results demonstrated toddlers’ expectation that a dominant individual receives more resources and that toddlers are able to adjust their thinking about resource distribution based on their perceptions of social status of the recipients, the researchers said.

    However, the experiment suggests other questions, which Enright is exploring now in a new study: What other traits could inform infants’ and young children’s expectations about resources? Using a similar approach with puppets, researchers will show toddlers a series of videos that aims to portray competence — a puppet who does a better job at completing a goal than another puppet — and test expectations about which puppet receives the reward.

    “Is the issue dominance? From the videos, it could be that the dominant one was perceived as more persistent or competent,” Enright said. “This could be the very start of finding out what infants know about social status.”

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNk_6WLNvBU

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoPvN47dAK4


  2. Why Facebook is so hard to resist

    August 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University press release:

    Why is social media such a hard habit to break?

    Because it makes us feel good, said Michigan State University’s Allison Eden, assistant professor in the Department of Communication.

    She and researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands, conducted two studies of frequent and less frequent Facebook users.

    They found even brief exposure to a Facebook-related image (logo, screenshot) can cause a pleasurable response in frequent social media users, which in turn might trigger social media cravings. The combination of pleasant feelings and cravings makes social media too difficult to resist.

    Most likely, that’s because Facebook exposure is a learned response — such as when children learn misbehavior earns them attention or when dogs learn going to the bathroom outside earns them a treat — and learned responses are hard to break, Eden said.

    “People are learning this reward feeling when they get to Facebook,” she said. “What we show with this study is that even with something as simple as the Facebook logo, seeing the Facebook wall of a friend or seeing anything associated with Facebook, is enough to bring that positive association back.”

    In the first study, participants were exposed to a Facebook-related cue or a control picture, followed by a Chinese symbol. They were then asked to judge whether the symbol was pleasant or unpleasant. After being exposed to a Facebook-inspired image, heavy Facebook users rated the Chinese image as pleasant with greater consistency than less frequent users.

    Then, in the second study, participants were given a survey to measure their cravings to use Facebook.

    Because of giving in to temptation, people often struggle with feelings of guilt, Eden said. If they try to regulate Facebook usage and fail, they feel badly, so they turn to Facebook and feel badly again. It’s a cycle of self-regulatory failure, she said.

    But, Eden says, the guilt is more damaging to the psyche than failing to control the media.

    The solution could be to remove some of the cues from people’s environment, like, for example, removing the Facebook logo from a cell phone home screen.

    “Media, including social media, is one of the most commonly failed goals to regulate,” Eden said. “People try to regulate themselves and they really have difficulty with it.”


  3. Study links higher cognitive abilities to greater risk of stereotyping

    August 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the New York University press release:

    People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more easily unlearn stereotypes when presented with new information.

    “Superior cognitive abilities are often associated with positive outcomes, such as academic achievement and social mobility,” says David Lick, a postdoctoral researcher in New York University’s Department of Psychology and the study’s lead author. “However, our work shows that some cognitive abilities can have negative consequences — specifically, that people who are adept at detecting patterns are especially quick to learn and apply social stereotypes.”

    “The good news is we also found that these individuals are better able to diminish their stereotyping when presented with new patterns that challenge existing stereotypical associations,” adds co-author Jonathan Freeman, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and whose lab Lick works in.

    The study, which appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, also included Adam Alter, an associate professor in NYU’s Stern School of Business.

    It’s been long established that the ability to detect patterns enables us to learn languages, recognize faces, and detect others’ emotions, among other benefits. In this research, the authors considered how pattern recognition could be detrimental in terms of social bias.

    “Stereotypes are generalizations about the traits of social groups that are applied to individual members of those groups,” the authors note. “To make such generalizations, people must first detect a pattern among members of a particular group and then categorize an individual as belonging to that group.

    “Because pattern detection is a core component of human intelligence, people with superior cognitive abilities may be equipped to efficiently learn and use stereotypes about social groups.”

    To test this hypothesis, the researchers conducted a series of six online experiments on a total of 1,257 subjects from Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk,” a tool in which individuals are compensated for completing small tasks and is frequently used in running behavioral science studies.

    Among the experiments was one in which the subjects were shown a series of male faces — some with wide noses and others with narrow noses. Each face was also paired with a description of past behavior. Some behaviors were friendly (e.g., “Sent flowers to someone who was sick”) while other behaviors were unfriendly (e.g., “Laughed and jeered at a homeless person”). Critically, the displays were manipulated so that most of the faces with a particular facial feature (e.g., wide noses) were paired with negative stereotypes.

    After viewing the faces, subjects played an online trust game that involved a partner represented by an avatar. In the game, they chose how much money to allocate to their partner, which the partner could then split between both parties however they wanted. Importantly, the avatars’ noses were manipulated to be slightly wide or slightly narrow.

    As the scientists predicted, subjects who scored higher on a test of pattern detection ability tended to behave in accordance with stereotypes. They allocated less money to partners whose avatars had wider or narrower noses (depending on which was associated with negative behaviors), despite the fact these avatars were presumably unrelated to those from the earlier task. Additional experiments using ‘priming’ tasks revealed the same bias but at a less conscious level, where subjects implicitly associated faces as more negative if they had a feature previously linked to negative behaviors (e.g., wider nose).

    Critically, however, the researchers also found that superior pattern detectors could more readily update their stereotypes based on new knowledge, making them particularly susceptible to counter-stereotype training and the ability to change one’s existing bias. In a final experiment, the researchers first gauged subjects’ implicit gender stereotypes, such as the extent to which subjects implicitly associated men as being more authoritative and women as being more submissive. Then they exposed subjects to a series of counter-stereotypical gender concepts (e.g., women as authoritative, men as submissive) before again measuring subjects’ implicit gender stereotypes.

    The results showed that exposure to counter-stereotypical gender traits led to a stronger reduction in stereotyping among subjects who scored high as opposed to low on a test of pattern detection ability.

    “People with better pattern detection abilities are at greater risk of picking up on and applying stereotypes about social groups,” observes Lick. “However, what’s promising about our findings is that people with higher cognitive ability also tend to more readily update their stereotypes when confronted with new information.”

    “Finding that higher pattern detection ability puts people at greater risk to detect and apply stereotypes, but also to reverse them, implicates this ability as a cognitive mechanism underlying stereotyping,” adds Freeman. “Our findings may help pave the way for future research that leverages pattern detection or other cognitive abilities for reducing social biases.”


  4. Study suggests inattention, poor memories shape inflation expectations

    August 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology press release:

    Do you know your country’s current inflation rate? What do you think it will be in the future? And how do you, personally, try to plan your finances accordingly?

    Those are important questions for economists and policymakers, because central bankers generally assess future expectations of inflation when setting interest rates. Yet as a new study co-authored by an MIT economist reveals, people have a haphazard approach to assessing inflation. Most citizens only pay attention to the topic intermittently, and they overestimate how bad inflation will become.

    Still, there is some good news in these findings, based on research in the U.S. and Argentina, countries that have very different experiences with inflation. Many people are “rationally inattentive” to inflation, as economists put it. That means an occasional focus on the subject may actually help people avoid overreactions to price blips.

    “There’s evidence of rational inattention,” says Alberto Cavallo, the Douglas Drane Associate Professor in Information Technology and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a co-author of the study. “People are paying attention when they need to.”

    And now for the bad news.

    People have terrible memories,” Cavallo says. “Even in a place like Argentina, which has so much inflation, where this is so important to correctly estimate, people have no clue what past prices were. They tended to think past prices were much lower than they were, so they thought inflation was much higher than it is.” Overall, Cavallo adds, “There is often an upward bias in inflation expectations.”

    The paper, “Inflation Expectations, Learning, and Supermarket Prices,” appears in the newest issue of the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics. In addition to Cavallo, the authors are Guillermo Cruces of the National University of La Plata, in Argentina, and Ricardo Perez-Truglia of the University of California at Los Angeles.

    Statistics vs. store prices

    The study derives its findings from a series of online and offline surveys in both the U.S. and Argentina — in some cases conducted right after people have gone shopping in supermarkets.

    The two countries were chosen as sites for the study precisely because of their contrasting inflation histories. The U.S. inflation rate was 1.8 percent over the five years before the study, while in Argentina the inflation rate was 22.5 percent. That helped the scholars to examine what effect the experience of high or low inflation may have.

    The study produced multiple results. The researchers found that people in Argentina do tend to have absorbed more information about inflation than people in the U.S. — and as a consequence, they have more firmly entrenched ideas about the subject. For instance, respondents in the survey placed quite different amounts of emphasis on how much that new information would affect their views.

    In the U.S., people assigned a weight of just 15 percent to prior beliefs when it came to making assessments about future inflation; in Argentina, people assigned a weight of about 50 percent to their prior beliefs.

    “I think there’s good evidence in the paper that countries with higher inflation rates historically have people paying more attention, and thus stronger priors,” Cavallo says.

    That also fits with the notion on “rational inattention,” since in the U.S., where inflation rates are lower and more stable, people can afford to have accumulated less information about the subject in the past.

    “In the U.S., if inflation is 2 or 3 percent, it won’t change dramatically, and you are not affected too much,” Cavallo explains. “In Argentina, knowing what the inflation rate will be in the future is key for your salary. If it’s going to be 30 percent or 15 percent, that question becomes much more important.”

    It is also the case that people pay more attention to select prices they personally encounter, not to aggregate inflation statistics, even if the larger data sets may be a better guide to overall prices. Based on a series of questions to consumers, the researchers found that people are willing to give specific supermarket prices more weight in their inflation expectations, compared to the aggregate (but more abstract) data.

    “Within each country, we found people react more to the information of individual products,” Cavallo notes.

    Additionally, the study found, in the U.S., 29 percent of the variation in inflation expectations is due to perceptions of past inflation, whereas in Argentina, 60 percent of the variation in expectations stems from perceptions. Meaning: People’s memories of past inflation vary widely.

    As Cavallo observes, this could be a defense mechanism deployed by some people, since expectations tend to overshoot actual inflation increases.

    “In a country like Argentina with high inflation, it’s better to have an upward bias,” he says. “It’s a protective mechanism to think things are going to be worse than they actually are.”

    Great expectations

    The current paper is related to an extended series of studies Cavallo and his colleagues have undertaken on inflation. Cavallo and MIT Sloan economist Roberto Rigobon are co-founders of the MIT-based Billion Prices Project, an innovative program launched several years ago that tracks prices in real time, partly as a way of evaluating the accuracy of official inflation statistics.

    The current papers bears on the practices of monetary policy — the interest rates set by central banks. The so-called “real” interest rate consumers grapple with is a combination of the listed interest rates of lenders as well as inflation expectations.

    If people expect inflation to be higher than interest rates, they will — in theory, at least — be more likely to buy products now, averting future inflation, rather than depositing money at low rates. In turn, that behavior could have significant macroeconomic effects.

    Cavallo thinks the current study can help clarify for policymakers how people sort through information and shape their expectations in the first place.

    “One policy implication is that governments can provide [people] either better aggregate statistics or better individual examples,” Cavallo says. “I think they should … make sure they communicate clearly to consumers [and] speak about goods that are important. We’re basically seeing how much people learn from the information we give them.”


  5. Secret to giving the perfect gift: stop being afraid

    August 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Consumer Psychology press release:

    Have you ever faced the daunting task of deciding what gift to give a significant other, friend or relative? And once you finally find a gift, will it be well received?

    Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study to investigate whether recipients are getting the gifts they want, and their findings suggest that the answer is no. When given the choice of receiving a gift that has sentimental value — such as a photograph of a special memory — versus a more superficial gift — such as a jersey from a favorite sports team — givers opt for the superficial gift more often that their recipients expect.

    Why are gift givers missing the mark? The researchers found that most people are unsure whether a sentimental gift will be well-liked, but they are confident that a superficial gift aligning with someone’s interests and preferences will be enjoyed.

    “Essentially, givers seem to view sentimentally valuable gifts as having the potential to be either home runs or strikeouts, but they view preference-matching gifts as a sure single,” says Julian Givi, lead author of the study. “Rather than risking a strikeout, they go for the sure thing, when what recipients truly desire are sentimentally valuable gifts.”

    The researchers discovered this mismatch between givers and receivers in two separate experiments. In the first, participants were told to write down the name of a friend, and those who were “givers” were asked to select a gift for the friend. Some were told it would be a birthday gift while others were told it was for a going away party. They could choose either a framed photo of their friend’s favorite musician, or a framed photo of the two friends on a day they had a lot of fun together. The participants who were “recipients” were asked to select which of the two gifts they would prefer to receive.

    The study results provided evidence that people do not give sentimentally valuable gifts as often as recipients would prefer. The researchers also tested to see whether the level of closeness of two friends made the gift giving mismatch disappear, but there was still a discrepancy.

    Then they tested whether this pattern emerged when romantic partners were giving gifts to one another. In the experiment, partners could give either a gift card to their loved one’s favorite store, or a sentimental gift, such as a photo of the couple with carved initials in the frame. Like the previous experiment, recipients didn’t receive the sentimental gifts as often as they wished.

    Finally, the researchers conducted a study to uncover why givers were not choosing sentimental gifts. In this experiment, one group of participants started by writing about a time in their lives when they took a risk that paid off, while the other group wrote about a time when they took a risk and failed. Then the groups were asked to read a vignette in which they were deciding between two bicycle gifts for a friend. One of the bicycles had sentimental value, while the other was made by a brand the recipient liked.

    The results were consistent with the researchers’ hypothesis: The participants who had written about risks paying off were much more likely to choose the sentimental gift compared to those who had written about risks failing.

    “People spend billions of dollars every year on gifts, and the data suggests that they’re not spending money in the best way possible,” Givi says. “We are also finding evidence in a different project that people feel closer to givers when they receive sentimental gifts, so people should keep this in mind the next time they’re making gift-giving decisions.”


  6. Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

    August 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Wisconsin-Madison press release:

    The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

    But how do we tell one kind of smile from another?

    “When distinguishing among smiles, both scientists and laypeople have tended to focus on true and false smiles. The belief is that if you smile when you’re not happy, the smile is false,” says Paula Niedenthal, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But people smile in many different circumstances and during many emotional states. So asserting that only smiles that result from states of happiness are ‘true’ smiles limits our understanding of this important facial expression.”

    Niedenthal and colleagues from Cardiff University and the University of Glasgow published a set of experiments that seek to expand our understanding of the human smile this week in the journal Psychological Science, showing three distinct, reliably recognized expressions — smiles of reward, affiliation and dominance — and describing the facial muscle combinations that make them.

    Each smile hinges on an anatomical feature known as the zygomaticus major, straps of facial muscle below the cheekbones that pull up the corners of the mouth. But it’s not the only muscle at work.

    Participants in the study looked at thousands of computer-generated expressions with random combinations of facial muscles activated — with one exception.

    “We varied everything that could be varied in an expression, but our stimuli included some action from the smile muscle, the zygomaticus,” says Magdalena Rychlowska, a postdoctoral researcher at Cardiff. “We asked participants to tell us when they see a reward or affiliative or a dominance smile, and when the expression is not a smile.”

    The researchers turned their participant-sorted smiles back on two more sets of observers, checking recognition and social messages until they had recipes for each smile.

    For example, a reward smile — “probably the most intuitive,” Niedenthal says, “the kind of smile you would use with a baby, so he will smile back or do things you like” — is a symmetrical hoist of zygomaticus muscles plus a dash of eyebrow lift and some sharp lip pulling.

    Affiliative smiles — used to communicate tolerance, acknowledgment, or a bond, and show that you’re not a threat — come with a similar symmetrical upturn to the mouth, but spread wider and thinner with pressed lips and no exposed teeth.

    Dominance smiles are used to signify status and manage social hierarchies. They dispense with the symmetry, pairing a bit of lopsided sneer with the raised brows and lifted cheeks typically associated with expressing enjoyment.

    “This facial expression has evolved to solve basic tasks of human living in social groups: Thanks, I like this. Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you. Hey, I’m in charge here,” Niedenthal says. “There are so many words people use to describe different smiles, but we see them as describing subtypes of a reward situation or an affiliative situation or a situation of negotiating hierarchy and having disdain for someone else.”

    With precise physical descriptions of smile types, researchers can better classify subtypes and study the use and effects of smiles in pivotal human interactions.

    “We now know which movements we should look for when we describe smiles from real life,” says Rychlowska. “We can treat smiles as a set of mathematical parameters, create models of people using different types of smiles, and use them in new studies.”

    Rychlowska and collaborators are already digging into the way affiliative and dominance smiles can shift the outcome of games and negotiations. Niedenthal is working with surgeons who repair and reconstruct facial bones and muscles.

    “They may have to make choices that will affect a patient’s expression for the rest of their life,” Niedenthal says. “It’s useful for them to know how different kinds of smiles are used in the world, and which muscles are involved in making them.”

    Better definitions of smile types should also help people navigate intercultural communication. Previous research has shown Niedenthal that while the types of smiles used vary from country to country, there is plenty of variation in how often they are used.

    “Americans smile so much that people from other countries are taught to smile more when they interact with us,” she says. “The problem is, they’re almost always taught one kind of smile, and that can cause confusion. “Simply teaching people about the existence of different types of ‘true’ smiles can help people pay more attention and avoid some of those misunderstandings.”


  7. Body ownership is not impaired in schizophrenia

    August 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) press release:

    Schizophrenia patients often experience an altered sense of self, e.g. as if someone else is controlling their actions. This impairment is described as a deficit in the “sense of agency,” and while it has been well established and linked to problems with sensorimotor brain signals, another category has been left unexplored: the “sense of body ownership” by which we feel that our bodies belong to ourselves. Using a full-body illusion experiment, EPFL scientists have now determined that body ownership is not affected in schizophrenia. The study is published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin.

    The study was carried out by the lab of Michael Herzog at EPFL. Led by postdoc Albulena Shaqiri, the scientists tested 59 patients suffering from chronic schizophrenia, and compared to 30 healthy people. The patients undertook a well-established test called the “Full-Body Illusion,” which has been developed by Olaf Blanke’s lab at EPFL.

    The idea behind the Full-Body Illusion is to induce changes in body ownership through prolonged multisensory stimulation. In this study, participants had their backs stroked while watching their back being stroked on a virtual body using a virtual reality visor.

    When both real and virtual stroking happen at the same time, the participants typically experienced a stronger sense of body ownership and identification with the virtual body, while they also felt drifting towards it. But when the strokes were not synchronized, the patients felt none of this.

    The study found that the patients performed the same way as healthy controls in the Illusion, meaning that their sense of body ownership is unaffected by schizophrenia. “This has never been shown or reported before,” says Albulena Shaqiri. “Up to now, it was believed that schizophrenia patients have a disturbed sense of body ownership.”

    “This finding gives us a more realistic understanding of deficits of the Self in schizophrenia, and may assist us in finding solutions to these problems,” adds Roy Salomon from Bar-Illan University, and one of the study’s lead authors.

    Schizophrenia patients are known to be impaired in their sense of agency, which has to do with the feeling of being the author of one’s actions. This is caused by problems with sensorimotor mechanisms in the brain, impairing the ability of the patient to discriminate self-generated actions from those caused by external sources.

    But until now, the question of body ownership has been left open. This is critical because agency and body ownership are the two main components of what we call the Self, and this is the area where schizophrenia manifests.

    “It is important to publish such ‘negative’ results,” says Michael Herzog on the finding that the sense of body ownership is not impaired in schizophrenia. “Otherwise, we give the impression that schizophrenia patients are deficient in all paradigm tests — which, as our study shows, is simply not true.”

    “This study suggests that body ownership is not affected in schizophrenia,” says Olaf Blanke. “Yet, more work is needed to test important aspects of self-consciousness in schizophrenia, such as the many different forms of body ownership — hand, torso, face — their dependency on different multisensory stimuli, and their relation to sensorimotor aspects of self-consciousness such as agency.”


  8. Study suggests people find it difficult to judge how good their intuitions are

    August 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Kent press release:

    Whether people believe they are ‘intuitive’ or not may have no bearing on how they perform in tasks that require intuition, according to new research by psychologists at the University of Kent.

    Researchers Dr Mario Weick and Stefan Leach, of the University’s School of Psychology, found that the extent to which people feel confident about, and endorse, their intuitions may often not provide an indication of how good their intuitions actually are.

    The researchers asked 400 people from the UK and US to complete a questionnaire to find out how much of an ‘intuitive’ person they were. They then required the study participants to perform a series of tasks that involved learning new and complex associations between letters and images. The associations followed certain patterns and the task was designed in a way that encouraged learning of the underlying rules without people realising this was happening.

    The researchers found that people who described themselves as intuitive did not perform better and had no superior grasp of the rules than people who did not think of themselves as intuitive.

    The researchers also asked participants more specifically about the task they performed and how confident they were that their intuitions were accurate.

    They found that this task-specific measure was so weakly related to performance that nine out of ten times someone with high levels of confidence in his or her intuition would have not performed any better than someone with low levels of confidence.


  9. Study tests people’s ability to detect manipulated images of real-world scenes

    August 9, 2017 by Ashley

    From the BioMed Central press release:

    People can detect a fake image of a real-world scene only 60% of the time, and even then can only tell what is wrong with the image 45% of the time, according to research published in the open access journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.

    Sophie Nightingale, PhD Student and lead author from the University of Warwick said: “Our study found that although people performed better than chance at detecting and locating image manipulations, they are far from perfect. This has serious implications because of the high-level of images, and possibly fake images, that people are exposed to on a daily basis through social networking sites, the internet and the media.”

    The researchers set up an online test that used a bank of 40 images created from 10 original images sourced from Google Images. Six of the original images were subjected to five different types of manipulation, including physically implausible and physically plausible manipulations, to create 30 manipulated images. 707 participants in the online test were shown 10 random images that included each of the five manipulation types and five original images. Participants never saw a manipulation or original form of the same image twice.

    A mean 60% of images were correctly identified as being manipulated when participants were asked “Do you think this photo has been digitally altered?,” which was just over the chance performance of 50%. Of the people that answered “yes” to this question only a mean 45% of manipulations could be correctly located in the image when a grid overlay was placed on the image and participants were prompted to select the regions where a manipulation was present.

    Dr Derrick Watson, study co-author from the University of Warwick explained: “We found that people were better at detecting physically implausible manipulations but not any better at locating these manipulations, compared to physically plausible manipulations. So even though people are able to detect something is wrong they can’t reliably identify what exactly is wrong with the image. Images have a powerful influence on our memories so if people can’t differentiate between real and fake details in photos, manipulations could frequently alter what we believe and remember.”

    In a second experiment using an image set created by the authors, 659 people completed an online task that tested their ability to locate manipulations regardless of whether or not they said there was one present. The results revealed that ability to detect something wrong was similar (mean 65% of the time) to the first experiment but that manipulations were accurately located in the image 39% more of the time than expected by chance. This suggests that people are better at the more direct task of locating manipulations than the more generic one of detecting if a photo has been manipulated or not.

    Dr Kimberley Wade, study co-author from the University of Warwick, said: “People’s poor ability to identify manipulated photos raises problems in the context of legal proceedings where photos may be used as evidence. Jurors and members of the court assume these images to be real, though a manipulated image could go undetected with devastating consequences. We need to work to find better ways to protect people from the negative effects of photo manipulation, and we’re now exploring a number of ways that might help people to better detect fakes.”

    What was changed in the image? The boat was added. It has no wake; not a ripple in the water near it.


  10. Day-to-day experiences affect awareness of aging, mood

    August 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the North Carolina State University press release:

    A study of older adults finds an individual’s awareness of aging is not as static as previously thought, and that day-to-day experiences and one’s attitude toward aging can affect an individual’s awareness of age-related change (AARC) — and how that awareness affects one’s mood.

    “People tend to have an overall attitude toward aging, good or bad, but we wanted to know whether their awareness of their own aging — or AARC — fluctuated over time in response to their everyday experiences,” says Shevaun Neupert, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper on the study.

    For the study, researchers enrolled 116 participants between the ages of 60 and 90. Each participant took a survey to establish baseline attitudes toward aging. For the following eight days, participants kept a log of daily stressors (such as having an argument), completed a daily evaluation of age-related experiences (such as “I am becoming wiser” or “I am more slow in my thinking”), and reported on their affect, or mood.

    “We found that people’s AARC, as reflected in their daily evaluations, varied significantly from day to day,” says Jennifer Bellingtier, a recent Ph.D. graduate from NC State and co-author of the paper. “We also found that people whose baseline attitudes toward aging were positive also tended to report more positive affect, or better moods.”

    People with positive attitudes toward aging were also less likely to report ‘losses,’ or negative experiences, in their daily aging evaluations,” Neupert says.

    “However, when people with positive attitudes did report losses, it had a much more significant impact on their affect that day,” Neupert says. “In other words, negative aging experiences had a bigger adverse impact on mood for people who normally had a positive attitude about aging.”

    The study expands on previous work that found having a positive attitude about aging makes older adults more resilient when faced with stressful situations.