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Personality and social psychology highlights from the 2013 APA Convention

From how secrets influence our emails to that increase the risk of obesity – a guide to some talks with new research in and at the in , July 31 – August 4, 2013 …

Linguistic Fingerprints of Secrets[1]

Keeping a secret not only burdens someone with the guilt of withholding information but also changes the way the person interacts with others, according to new research. In two studies, researchers looked at linguistic changes in the emails of people harboring secrets. They found that interactions with friends became more deceptive and detached, while interactions with acquaintances became more superficially positive and frequent.

Judging Health Based on Behavior, Personality[2]

Can you accurately size up someone’s health just by watching them? In a recent set of studies, researchers sought to answer this question by filming research participants and asking research assistants to assess their health or behavior. In one study, researchers judged participants on 15 health dimensions – including general health, tobacco use, alcohol use, physical activity, sleep quality, cholesterol, and blood pressure – based on just 5 minutes of film. They found that intuitive snap judgments of health can be surprisingly accurate.

Personalty Traits That Increase Risk of Obesity[3]

A complex mix of biological and social factors affects a person’s likelihood of becoming obese. Across four studies that looked at more than 8,900 people, researchers have found significant links between personality traits and obesity – showing that that high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, among other traits, are consistently associated with increased risk for obesity. These associations are similar across samples that vary in ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status.

The Benefits of Confronting Bias[4]

Confronting discrimination may boost your well-being, according to new research. In three studies, researchers found that while experiencing discrimination is associated with depression, confronting that bias gives people more autonomy, which helps to moderate the stressful situation. These results were true not only for minorities but also for Whites.

Being Grateful Trains Our Brains for the Good[5]

Feeling grateful can train us to feel better, finds a new study. Asking people daily for one week to write about three good things that made them grateful increased their well-being after the week, and even five weeks later. Researchers think that the gratitude exercise trains the brain for cognitive processes that support well-being, such as increasing attention so that individuals are more likely to notice benefits in their lives.

Two Hormones Together Explain Status-Seeking[6]

Looking at only testosterone as a hormonal measure of status-seeking behaviors is incomplete, argues new research. Testosterone’s influence on status-related behavior critically depends on levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Six studies suggest that researchers must consider the effects of testosterone and cortisol together. The studies show that a profile of high testosterone and low cortisol is associated with leadership, social dominance, risk-taking, emotional stability, and monetary reward maximization. On the other hand, a hormone profile of high testosterone and high cortisol is associated with subordinate behaviors, socioemotional sensitivity, anxiety, and monetary loss.

Positive Anticipation Helps Overcome Stress[7]

Past research has shown that eliciting positive emotions immediately to offset stress can ameliorate the negative effects of the stressor. Now researchers are testing the effects on stress of anticipating positive events – as that more realistically mirrors how people use emotion to regulate stress in daily life. In two studies, they found that anticipating a positive event leads to improved recovery after stress and is more effective in coping with stress than experiencing a positive event just prior to being stressed.

Recognizing that Life is Meaningful[8]

In our never-ending quest to understand the meaning of life, social psychologists are bringing a different perspective: urging us to think of meaning as an experience that involves seeing, recognizing, and noticing rather than something to search for or struggle to create. Simply maintaining a positive mood, for example, can facilitate meaning in our everyday lives and connect us more to the world.

Source

[1] Speaker: James W. Pennebaker (Pennebaker[at]mail.utexas.edu), University of Texas, Austin
Wed., July 31, 2013, 9:00-10:50 a.m., Convention Center, 319A, Symposium: Secrets and Health – New Insights Into How Concealment and Disclosure Affect Well-Being

[2]Speaker: Christopher S. Nave (christopher.nave[at]rutgers.edu), Rutgers University
Fri., August 2, 2:00-3:50 p.m., Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort, Honolulu Suite III, Symposium: Personality Processes – Identifying Instrumental and Reactive Mechanisms of Trait-Health Relations

[3] Speaker: Angelina R. Sutin (angelina.sutin[at]med.fsu.edu), Florida State University College of Medicine
Fri., August 2, 2:00-3:50 p.m., Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort, Honolulu Suite III, Symposium: Personality Processes – Identifying Instrumental and Reactive Mechanisms of Trait-Health Relations

[4] Speaker: Diana T. Sanchez (disanche[at]rci.rutgers.edu), Rutgers University
Wed., July 31, 2013, 11:00-12:50 p.m., Convention Center, 305B, Symposium: Revisiting the Costs and Benefits of Challenging Racial Bias and Embracing Egalitarianism

[5] Speaker: Phillip C. Watkins (pwatkins[at]ewu.edu), Eastern Washington University
Thurs., August 1, 8:00-9:50 a.m., Convention Center, 318B, Symposium: Mechanisms of Gratitude – Exploring How Gratitude Enhances Well-Being

[6]Speaker: Pranjal Mehta (mehta[at]uoregon.edu), University of Oregon
Sun., August 4, 9:00-9:50 a.m., Convention Center, 318B, Symposium: Cutting-Edge Research in Social Behavioral Endocrinology – Dominance, Mating, Affiliation

[7] Speaker: Christian Waugh (waughce[at]wfu.edu), Wake Forest University
Sun., August 4, 10:00-11:50 a.m., Convention Center, 305B, Symposium: Positive Emotions in the Context of Stress – How and When Are They Beneficial?

[8] Speaker: Laura A. King (kingla[at]missouri.edu), University of Missouri, Columbia
Fri., August 2, 9:00-9:50 a.m., Convention Center, 304B, Invited Address: Life is Meaningful: The Commonplace Experience of Meaning in Life

For more personality and social psychology talks at the APA Convention, see the SPSP program online.

Society for Personality and Social Psychology