European Journal of Social Psychology

Published by Wiley

Online ISSN: 1099-0992


Print ISSN: 0046-2772


Figure 1: Mean action-definition ratings Study 1
Naïve Definitions of Action and Inaction: The Continuum, Spread, and Valence of Behaviors
  • Article
  • Full-text available

March 2012


535 Reads



Sungjin Hong


The cohesiveness of a society depends, in part, on how its individual members manage their daily activities with respect to the goals of that society. Hence, there should be a degree of social agreement on what constitutes action and what constitutes inaction. The present research investigated the structure of action and inaction definitions, the evaluation of action versus inaction, and individual differences in these evaluations. Action-inaction ratings of behaviors and states showed more social agreement at the ends of the inaction-action continuum than at the middle, suggesting a socially shared construal of this definition. Action-inaction ratings were also shown to correlate with the valence of the rated behaviors, such that the more active the behavior the more positive its valence. Lastly, individual differences in locomotion, need for closure, and Christian religious beliefs correlated positively with a preference for action.

By whose standard? The affective implications of ethnic minorities' comparisons to ethnic minority and majority referents

September 2006


68 Reads

In a 'diary' study, we examined the frequency and affective implications of 34 ethnic minority students' comparisons to other ethnic minorities or to members of a high-status ethnic majority (i.e., European-Americans). Participants made more frequent comparisons to ethnic majority than ethnic minority referents, although neither type of comparison tended to be perceived in terms of group membership (see also Smith & Leach, 2004). Comparisons to ethnic majority referents did not alter participants' positive affect even where they suggested poor future prospects in status-relevant domains. In contrast, comparisons to fellow ethnic minorities led to increased positive affect when they suggested a future prospect of improvement. We discuss the conceptual and practical implications of social comparison in the context of group status.

We're warmer (they're more competent): I-sharing and African-Americans' perceptions of the ingroup and outgroup

December 2008


37 Reads

Researchers currently know very little about how African Americans regard themselves and their salient outgroup (i.e., European Americans). The current study examines how experiences with individual ingroup and outgroup members affect these evaluations on two key dimensions in intergroup research: warmth and competence. In particular, the study asks what effect I-sharing (i.e., sharing a subjective experience) with an African American or a European American has on African Americans' perceptions of the warmth and competence of their ingroup and outgroup. Results revealed an ingroup preference on the dimension of warmth when participants had I-shared with a fellow African American but not when they had I-shared with a European American. No such ingroup preference emerged on the dimension of competence. Instead, participants exhibited an outgroup preference on this dimension after I-sharing with a European American. The discussion entertains possible explanations for these differential effects of I-sharing on judgments of the ingroup and outgroup.

Is the Belief in Meritocracy Palliative for Members of Low Status Groups? Evidence for a Benefit for Self-Esteem and Physical Health via Perceived Control

June 2013


277 Reads






Elissa Epel
Consensually held ideologies may serve as the cultural "glue" that justifies hierarchical status differences in society (e.g. Augustinos, 1998). Yet to be effective these beliefs need to be embraced by low-status groups. Why would members of low-status groups endorse beliefs that justify their relative disadvantage? We propose that members of low-status groups in the United States may benefit from some system-justifying beliefs (such as the belief in meritocracy) to the extent that these beliefs emphasize the perception of control over future outcomes. In 2 studies, among women, lower-SES women, and women of color, we found a positive relationship between the belief in meritocracy and well-being (self-esteem and physical health) that was mediated by perceived control. Members of low-status groups may benefit from some system-justifying beliefs to the extent that these beliefs, like the belief in meritocracy, emphasize the perception of control over future outcomes.

Music, Lyrics, and Dangerous Things

December 2009


60 Reads

In the traditional, information-processing model of cognition the human mind does well with lyrics, but it just can’t dance. Real life is like a musical, rich with elaborate sets, costumes, music, and movement as well as dialogue, and impossible to appreciate fully just by reading the script. That’s not to say that words are unimportant: They carry a huge amount of information, and language is a defining feature of our species. Language is especially important to academics since our own histories and battles take place largely through print. But people are actors in the show, not just readers in a library, and our minds must serve this performance. Whereas the traditional approach to cognition was all about the lyrics, the embodied cognition approach turns on the video and sound to help us understand how people feel the beat in their social interactions. As nicely articulated by Kaschak & Maner (2009) in the target article, the principle of embodied cognition is that nervous systems “evolved to allow organisms to successfully plan and execute action in the world”(p. 3). In other words, thinking is grounded in simulated physical experience, which informs our judgments and behaviors. The authors take a fresh approach in applying an evolutionary framework to the role of embodiment in social cognition, offering a rich basis for new research questions and hypotheses about how embodied cognition works. Our commentary explores three broad issues raised by the target article: (1) implications for the role of non-verbal communication in social cognition; (2) emotion as an important mechanism for embodied social cognition; and (3) the challenges of embodied cognition in an increasingly disembodied social world.

What have we been priming all these years? On the development, mechanisms, and ecology of nonconscious social behavior

March 2006


558 Reads

Priming or nonconscious activation of social knowledge structures has produced a plethora of rather amazing findings over the past 25 years: priming a single social concept such as aggressive can have multiple effects across a wide array of psychological systems, such as perception, motivation, behavior, and evaluation. But we may have reached childhood's end, so to speak, and need now to move on to research questions such as how these multiple effects of single primes occur (the generation problem); next, how these multiple simultaneous priming influences in the environment get distilled into nonconscious social action that has to happen serially, in real time (the reduction problem). It is suggested that models of complex conceptual structures (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980), language use in real-life conversational settings (Clark, 1996), and speech production (Dell, 1986) might hold the key for solving these two important 'second-generation' research problems.

Group membership and everyday social comparison

May 2004


90 Reads

In two everyday experience studies, we examined the degree to which everyday social comparisons are framed by group membership. In the first study, 30 undergraduates attending a public university in the United States completed short questionnaires about their social comparison experiences whenever they were signalled. In the second study, 34 ethnic minority undergraduates from the same university completed similar questionnaires about their social comparison experiences. Across both studies, comparisons in which participants viewed themselves as an ingroup member in comparison to an outgroup comprised less than 10% of the comparison experiences reported by participants. However, minorities in the second study who reported closer identification with their ethnic group reported more comparison experiences in which they mentioned their own or the comparison target's ethnicity.

The Scaffolded Mind: Higher Mental Processes Are Grounded in Early Experience of the Physical World

December 2009


458 Reads

It has long been a staple of psychological theory that early life experiences significantly shape the adult's understanding of and reactions to the social world. Here we consider how early concept development along with evolved motives operating early in life can come to exert a passive, unconscious influence on the human adult's higher-order goal pursuits, judgments, and actions. In particular, we focus on concepts and goal structures specialized for interacting with the physical environment (e.g., distance cues, temperature, cleanliness, and self-protection), which emerge early and automatically as a natural part of human development and evolution. It is proposed that via the process of scaffolding, these early sensorimotor experiences serve as the foundation for the later development of more abstract concepts and goals. Experiments using priming methodologies reveal the extent to which these early concepts serve as the analogical basis for more abstract psychological concepts, such that we come easily and naturally to speak of close relationships, warm personalities, moral purity, and psychological pain. Taken together, this research demonstrates the extent to which such foundational concepts are capable of influencing people's information processing, affective judgments, and goal pursuit, oftentimes outside of their intention or awareness.

Framing the Framing Effect: The Impact of Context Cues on Solutions to the 'Asian Disease' Problem

March 1998


355 Reads

Participants were exposed to the "asian disease" problem (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981). When the problem was subtly framed as a medical decision problem previous findings replicated: Participants avoided the risky option when the problem was framed positively, but preferred the risky option when the problem was framed negatively. This reversal of preferences was eliminated however, when the same problem was subtly introduced as a statistical problem. The results are interpreted as evidence for the impact of context cues on the representation of decision problems.

Natural sampling and base-rate neglect

January 1997


32 Reads

Using an analogue of the lawyer-and-engineer item (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973), we compared conditions in which base-rates were either presented as percentages (A), or frequencies (B), to conditions in which the natural sampling process was described additionally (C) or was directly experienced (D). We expected the likelihood of base-rate utilization to increase as the presentation approaches the process of natural sampling. Accordingly, results showed that the contingency of judgments on base-rates systematically increased across conditions A to D.

Social Inequality and the Reduction of Ideological Dissonance on Behalf of the System: Evidence of Enhanced System Justification Among the Disadvantaged

January 2003


3,867 Reads

According to system justification theory, people are motivated to preserve the belief that existing social arrangements are fair, legitimate, and justifiable (Jost & Banaji, 1994). The strongest form of this hypothesis, which draws on the logic of cognitive dissonance theory, holds that people who are most disadvantaged by the status quo would have the greatest psychological need to reduce ideological dissonance and would therefore be most likely to support, defend, and justify existing social systems, authorities, and outcomes. Variations on this hypothesis were tested in four U.S. national survey studies. We found that: (a) low income respondents and African Americans were more likely than others to support limitations on the rights of citizens and media representatives to criticize the government (b) low income Latinos were more likely to trust in U.S. government officials and to believe that “the government is run for the benefit of all” than were high income Latinos, (c) Southerners in the U.S. were more likely to endorse meritocratic belief systems than were Northerners and poor and Southern African Americans were more likely to subscribe to meritocratic ideologies than were African Americans who were more affluent and from the North, (d) low income respondents and African Americans were more likely than others to believe that economic inequality is legitimate and necessary, and (e) stronger endorsement of meritocratic ideology was associated with greater satisfaction with one’s own economic situation. Taken together, these findings provide support for the dissonance-based argument that people who suffer the most from a given state of affairs are paradoxically the least likely to question, challenge, reject, or change it. Implications for theories of system justification, cognitive dissonance, and social change are also discussed.

Intention-Behaviour consistency: Effects of consideration set size, involvement and need for cognition

January 1995


29 Reads

This paper shows that increases in the minimum wage rate can have ambiguous effects on the working hours and welfare of employed workers in competitive labor markets. The reason is that employers may not comply with the minimum wage legislation and instead pay a lower subminimum wage rate. If workers are risk neutral, we prove that working hours and welfare are invariant to the minimum wage rate. If workers are risk averse and imprudent (which is the empirically likely case), then working hours decrease with the minimum wage rate, while their welfare may increase.

Depression and reliance on ease-of-retrieval experiences

March 2008


297 Reads

The relationship between level of depressive symptomatology and reliance on the ease-ofretrieval heuristic was investigated. In two studies, differences in ease-of-retrieval were instigated by means of the paradigm introduced by Schwarz and colleagues (1991). Subsequently, participants were screened for depressive symptoms with the ADS (Allgemeine-Depressions-Skala, Experiments 1 and 2) and the BDI (Beck-Depression-Inventory, Experiment 2). In both experiments, participants were randomly selected from a non-clinical population. Results indicate that participants with low levels of depressive symptomatology relied on experienced ease or difficulty, whereas individuals with high levels of depressive symptomatology based their judgment on the accessible content information. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Social power

July 2006


3,406 Reads

In the present article, we discuss and compare recent theoretical and empirical contributions to the growing body of research on social power. In the last decade, five different theories on power have been proposed. These theories can be distinguished according to whether they focus on intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup or ideological processes. Our analysis leads us to claim that future theoretical contributions would have much to gain by addressing the issue of social power on multiple levels of analysis. The recent empirical work on social power suggests that powerful individuals and members of powerful groups differ from powerless individuals and members of powerless groups with regard to (a) how they perceive and judge others, (b) how they are evaluated as targets, and (c) how they behave. Those who have power perceive others more stereotypically and judge them more negatively. They also tend to take action more frequently and generally behave in a more variable manner. This difference in objective variability is further reinforced by perceivers' tendency to exaggerate the variability of high power groups. The latter two effects contribute to the phenomenon that high power groups are less often the target of stereotypes than low power groups. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Kurt Lewin's early intentions (dedicated to his 100th birthday)

March 1989


31 Reads

This article deals with Lewin's early intentions to promote applied psychology, especially with his essay ‘Die Sozialisierung des Taylorsystems’ (The Socialisation of the Taylor System). The authors point out that certain characteristics of Lewin's social psychological approach can already be seen in this early article. Furthermore, they want to show how important the role of applied psychology has been in the development of Lewin S scientific work.

Figure 2: Proportion of respondents who reported talking, hearing, and ruminating about March 11th terrorist attacks at the various measurement times
Figure 2 of 2
Social sharing of emotion, post‐traumatic growth, and emotional climate: Follow‐up of Spanish citizen's response to the collective trauma of March 11th terrorist attacks in Madrid

October 2010


1,060 Reads

A questionnaire measuring social sharing of emotion, coping, intensity of emotions and rumination related to March 11th (2004) terrorist attacks in Madrid, emotional climate, social integration, and post-traumatic growth was completed by 644 students and their relatives (38%) in 5 Spanish regions and 8 universities 1 week, 3 weeks, and 8 weeks after the terrorist act. Results supported a two-sided model of the effects of social sharing of emotion derived from Durkheim's classic model of the social functional effects of collective remembering. Higher levels of sharing initially predicted (1) higher event-related emotional arousal and mental rumination and (2) superior social integration and well-being assessed in later weeks. Structural equation modeling showed that higher levels of initial sharing and coping by search for social support predicted directly or indirectly (1) higher social integration (2) higher perceived post-traumatic growth, and (3) higher perceived contentment, hope, solidarity, and confidence in the emotional climate. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

The plausibility of the implausible: A critique of Snyder and Swann (1978)

October 1980


396 Reads

Snyder and Swann (1978) advance an argument that individuals display a cognitive bias in testing hypotheses about the personal attributes of other people, i.e. they seek out information which is supportive of their hypothesis (hypothesis-confirming strategy). It is argued here that these authors confound the hypothesis a person might entertain (belief) with a hypothesis the person is asked to test (assigned task). The findings of two experimental studies in which task and belief were manipulated independently suggest that Snyder and Swann's (1978) results are due to the task manipulation and not to an hypothesis-confirming bias.

Social psychological research in The Netherlands, 1980‐1988

January 1992


33 Reads

This paper contains an investigation about research of Dutch social psychologists. Based on reported publications two types of analyses were performed. The reported publications were categorized by means of a topic-inventory proposed by Fisch and Daniel (1982), which enabled us to compare Dutch trends with developments in Europe and the U. S.A. Moreover, by means of bibliometric analyses publications of Dutch social psychologists were related to data obtained by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). Several trends were observed and discussed.

Self-category constructions in political rhetoric; an analysis of Thatcher's and Kinnock's speeches concerning the British miners' strike (1984-5)

May 1996


66 Reads

This paper examines the way in which different speakers may construe both the context and the categories involved in a single event. This is achieved through an analysis of Margaret Thatcher's and Neil Kinnock's leadership speeches to their respective party conferences during the British miners' strike of 1984–5. The analysis shows that both speakers construe the nature of the event such that their party is representative of an ingroup which encompasses almost the entire population and such that their policies are consonant with the definition of the ingroup identity. Thus their category constructions mirror the ways in which the respective leaders seek to mobilize the electorate during the strike. This analysis is used for two purposes: firstly, to argue for an integration of self-categorization theory with rhetorical/discursive psychologies and hence for further research into the ways in which self-categories may be contested in argument rather than determined by cognitive computations; secondly, to argue for further research into how political rhetoric may affect mass action through the ways in which collectivities are defined.

‘Zeitgeist’and minority influence—where is the causality: A comment on Clark (1990)

November 1995


55 Reads

Does the mood of the time (Zeitgeist) facilitate the influence minorities are able to exercise, or is it itself direct product of minority influence? It is argued, from a social psychological definition of the minority–majority relation, that the former interpretation fails to explain many of the observed effects and in particular the conversion effect. A model is offered that is consistent with the second interpretation.

Me, us and them: Political identification and the third-person effect in the 1993 Australian Federal Election

March 1995


48 Reads

Three days prior to the 1993 Australian federal election 54 Australian university students who identified with one of the two major political parties were surveyed regarding their perceptions of media campaign impact on self and others. Results provided evidence of a third-person effect (Davison, 1983) wherein respondents judged others us more influenced by the election campaign than themselves. Consistent with predictions derived from social identity theory and self-categorization theory (e.g. Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher and Wetherell, 1987), political ingroup members were also judged as less injuenced by campaign content than political outgroup members. Respondents who identified strongly with their preferred party judged self and ingroup members as less influenced by campaign content than did other respondents, and showed more evidence of positive intergroup differentiation. At the same time, however, these respondents exaggerated self–ingroup differences, challenging the theoretical assumption that intergroup diferentiation is associated with ingroup assimilation. Judgements of media impact on self and other also depended on the direction of the campaign message. Respondents believed ‘voters in general’ were persuaded in line with the intent of campaign content, while outgroup members were seen to be persuaded by material favouring their own side but to be uninfluenced by counter-attitudinal content. Election propaganda, irrespective of direction, was seen to amplify existing party preferences in self and ingroup members. Hence the relative invulnerability of self to media impact was pronounced when respondents judged the impact of pro-outgroup messages. Results suggest that perceptions of self–other differences in media vulnerability are influenced by the subjectively salient social relationship between self and other, and are governed by motivational needs, such as self-esteem, social-identity, and differentiation from others (cf. Brewer, 1991; Hogs and Abrams, 1993).

Westermann, R., Spies, K., Stahl, G. K., & Hesse, F. W. (1996). Relative effective¬ness and vali-dity of mood induction procedures: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 557-580.

June 1996


5,447 Reads

The effectiveness and validity of 11 important mood induction procedures (MIPs) were comparatively evaluated by meta-analytical procedures. Two hundred and fifty effects of the experimental induction of positive, elated and negative, depressed mood in adult, non-clinical samples were integrated. Effect sizes were generally larger for negative than for positive mood inductions. The presentation of a film or story turned out to be most effective in inducing both positive and negative mood states. The effects are especially large when subjects are explicitly instructed to enter the specified mood state. For elated mood, all other MIPs yielded considerably lower effectiveness scores. For the induction of negative mood states, Imagination, Velten, Music, Social Interaction and Feedback MIPs were about as effective as the Film/Story MIP without instruction. Induction effects covaried with several study characteristics. Effects tend to be smaller when demand characteristics are controlled or subjects are not informed about the purpose of the experiment. For behavioural measures, effects are smaller than for self-reports but still larger than zero. Hence, the effects of MIPs can be partly, but not fully due to demand effects.

'Everything is relative': Comparison processes in social judgment The 2002 Jaspars Lecture

November 2003


139 Reads

Any judgment involves a comparison of the evaluated target to a pertinent norm or standard, so that comparison processes lie at the core of human judgment. Despite this prominent role, however, little is known about the psychological mechanisms that underlie comparisons and produce their variable consequences. To understand these consequences, one has to examine what target knowledge is sought and activated during the comparison process. Two alternative comparison mechanisms are distinguished. Similarity testing involves a selective search for evidence indicating that the target is similar to the standard and leads to assimilation. Dissimilarity testing involves a selective search for evidence indicating that the target is dissimilar from the standard and leads to contrast. Distinguishing between these alternative mechanisms provides an integrative perspective on comparison consequences in the realm of social comparison and beyond. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Emotional prejudice, essentialism, and nationalism: The 2002 Tajfel Lecture

November 2003


2,348 Reads

In explaining differences between groups, people ascribe the human essence to their ingroup and consider outgroups as less human. This phenomenon, called infra-humanization, occurs outside people's awareness. Because secondary emotions (e.g. love, hope, contempt, resentment) are considered uniquely human emotions, people not only attribute more secondary emotions to their ingroup than to outgroups, but are reluctant to associate these emotions with outgroups. Moreover, people behave less cooperatively (in terms of altruism, imitation, and approach) with an outgroup member who expresses himself through secondary emotions. Infra-humanization occurs for high and low status groups, even in the absence of conflict between groups. It does not occur when the outgroup target is adequately individualized, by a complete name or through perspective taking, for instance. The differential familiarity with the ingroup and the outgroup cannot explain infra-humanization. Yet, preliminary results show that subjective essentialism and ingroup identification may mediate the effects of infra-humanization. A connection is made between nationalism and infra-humanization. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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