Fall 2020 Workshops
When: Every other Monday, 10:00–11:30 a.m.
Where: Workshops were held via Zoom due to COVID-19
Monday, January 11, 2021
"Perceived (Im)morality and Identity"
Abstract: What makes us who we are? Philosophers have long suggested that it's our memories -- if we remembered our lives differently, our entire sense of self might change. This talk considers the extent to which laypeople's judgments match philosophical theories and what consequences these judgments hold for social judgment. In Part I, I discuss data showing that children and adults perceive moral beliefs to be especially central to identity. This is particularly true of widely shared moral beliefs, which are shared with most other people in one's culture. In Part II, I ask how children and adults think about the identities of people who have violated widely shared moral norms. Here, findings suggest that laypeople, especially children, attribute such behavior (e.g., contact with the legal system, which is often perceived to reflect a violation of widely shared moral norms) to internal "essences." Such perceptions lead to more negative responses toward people who are perceived to have committed transgressions. When discussing immorality, emphasizing behaviors ("she did something wrong") as opposed to internal characteristics ("she is a bad person") may benefit people who have transgressed -- which, at some point, will be all of us.
Monday, February 22, 2021
"Doesn’t everybody jaywalk? On rules that are seldom followed and selectively enforced"
Abstract: We propose the existence of a subclass of explicitly codified rules—phantom rules—whose violations are frequent, and whose apparent punishability is malleable (e.g., jaywalking). For example, people invoke phantom rules as means to punish others when a pre-existing motivation to punish them (e.g., for a different violation) is active. Across five experiments, (N = 855) we provide evidence for the existence of phantom rules and their motivated enforcement. In Experiments 1, 2a and 2b, participants recognized phantom rule violations as illegal, frequent, and differentiable from violations of both social norms and more prototypical laws. Next, we found that people judge phantom rule violations to be more punishable and legitimate when the phantom rule violator has also violated a social norm (vs. phantom rule alone; Experiment 3)—unless the motivation to punish them has been satiated some other way (Experiment 4). Phantom rules—seldom followed, selectively punished rules—highlight a tension between individual-level moral psychology and systems designed to uniformly enforce rules (i.e., bureaucracies). Implications for examining bureaucratic systems as a setting to further understand moral psychology will be discussed.
Monday, March 8, 2021
"Scientific forecasts, naïve reasoning, and societal change in the time of a pandemic"
Abstract: It is self-evident that human societies are not static—consider how art, fashion, child rearing, and the workplace have changed in recent decades and especially in the last year. How accurate are social scientists in estimating and predicting societal change and what strategies are they using to arrive at their conclusions? The goal of the Behavioral and Social Science Forecasting Collaborative is to address these questions. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as a naturalistic experiment, we explored processes guiding scientists’ ex ante forecasts for phenomena of broad societal relevance, including political polarization, prejudice, traditional values and well-being. In my talk I will present initial set of results from this endeavor. In the spring of 2020, we asked social scientists and representative samples of lay Americans to make predictions about pandemic-related societal change across social and psychological domains. Six months later we obtained retrospective assessments for the same domains and compared these judgments to objective data to assess estimation accuracy. Irrespective of domain expertise or educational certifications, estimates of the magnitude of change were off by more than 20% and less than half of participants accurately predicted the direction of change. In these studies of intuitive judgment, experts and lay people fared poorly at predicting social and psychological consequences of the pandemic and misperceived what effects it may have already had. Second, I will present initial results of the on-going forecasting tournament among social and data scientists (over 150 teams from around the world), who provided time point forecasts in May and November 2020 in a deliberate (theory or modeling-driven) fashion. I will conclude by discussing possible ways to foster accuracy of social scientists’ judgments, including greater focus on generalizability, out-of-sample predictions, and modeling of the dynamic nature of psychological and societal phenomena.
Suggested pre-read: "The pandemic fallacy: Inaccuracy of social scientists’ and lay judgments about COVID-19’s societal consequences in America"
Monday, March 15, 2021
University of Cologne
Note: This talk was originally scheduled for February 15, but has been moved to March 15.
"A memory perspective on attitude acquisition"
In this talk, I apply a memory perspective to attitude acquisition. Attitudes (which I understand here as stimulus preferences) can be acquired via evaluative conditioning (EC). EC is an attitude change of a stimulus that is due to pairings with other, typically positive or negative, stimuli. EC is a powerful concept when trying to understand the basic processes that lead to the acquisition of attitudes. The theoretical debate about EC is dominated by associative, propositional and dual process models.
The core idea of the here proposed Declarative Memory Model (Gast, 2018) is that EC effects (and related attitude acquisition effects) are determined by memory traces that are retrieved when the liking of a stimulus is measured and which influence this liking. The retrieval depends on factors in the learning phase, factors in the phase in which the attitude towards the stimulus is measured, and factors that play a role between theses stages, that is, in the retention interval. These factors can be predicted based on research on explicit memory.
A memory account of EC poses different advantages. First, it is parsimonious and based on a strong research tradition. Second, most models of EC do not restrict the situations where pairing-based attitude acquisition should occur. This leads to unrealistic predictions when applied to situations outside of the lab. The Declarative Memory Model, on the other hand, naturally restricts EC effects to situations that are conducive to strong memory traces and thus makes more realistic assumptions. Third, the Declarative Memory Model paints a dynamic picture of the cognitive representations that – perhaps adaptively – underlie EC effects. I will present and discuss studies in which predictions of the model and its boundary conditions were tested.