Michael E Mccullough

Michael E Mccullough
University of Miami | UM · Department of Psychology

About

157
Publications
138,341
Reads
How we measure 'reads'
A 'read' is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. Learn more
23,134
Citations

Publications

Publications (157)
Article
What features of people’s childhood environments go on to shape their prosocial behavior during adulthood? Past studies linking childhood environment to adult prosocial behavior have focused primarily on adverse features, thereby neglecting the possible influence of exposure to enriched environments (e.g., access to material resources, experiences...
Article
Although much is known about cooperation, the internal decision rules that regulate motivations to initiate and maintain cooperative relationships have not been thoroughly explored. Here, we focus on how acts of benefit delivery and perceptions of social value inform gratitude, an emotion that promotes cooperation. We evaluated alternate informatio...
Preprint
Empathy motivates people to help needy others. Does it do so by activating genuine concern, or by activating more self-interested goals that helping needy others might enable them to fulfill? The empathy-altruism hypothesis claims that empathic concern reflects a non-instrumental desire to improve the welfare of a person in need. To rule out the al...
Preprint
We review the logic of an evolutionary perspective on forgiveness, highlighting how insight into the likely function of forgiveness--solving adaptive problems related to acquiring and maintaining social relationships--has productively guided research and theory. A combination of experimental, longitudinal, cross-sectional, and cross-cultural eviden...
Article
We review the logic of an evolutionary perspective on forgiveness, highlighting how insight into the likely function of forgiveness--solving adaptive problems related to acquiring and maintaining social relationships--has productively guided research and theory. A combination of experimental, longitudinal, cross-sectional, and cross-cultural eviden...
Preprint
Full-text available
Although much is known about cooperation, the internal decision rules that regulate motivations to initiate and maintain cooperative relationships have not been thoroughly explored. Here, we focus on how acts of benefit delivery and perceptions of social value inform gratitude, an emotion that promotes cooperation. We evaluate alternate information...
Article
Full-text available
Robust evidence supports the importance of apologies for promoting forgiveness. Yet less is known about how apologies exert their effects. Here, we focus on their potential to promote forgiveness by way of increasing perceptions of relationship value. We used a method for directly testing these causal claims by manipulating both the independent var...
Article
Full-text available
Recent theorizing suggests that religious people's moral convictions are quite strategic (albeit unconsciously so), designed to make their worlds more amenable to their favored approaches to solving life's basic challenges. In a meta-analysis of 5 experiments and a preregistered replication, we find that religious identity places a sex premium on m...
Article
Although most people present themselves as possessing prosocial traits, people differ in the extent to which they actually act prosocially in everyday life. Qualitative data that were not ostensibly collected to measure prosociality might contain information about prosocial dispositions that is not distorted by self‐presentation concerns. This pape...
Article
Full-text available
Punishment can reform uncooperative behavior and hence could have contributed to humans’ ability to live in large-scale societies. Punishment by unaffected third parties has received extensive scientific scrutiny because third parties punish transgressors in laboratory experiments on behalf of strangers that they will never interact with again. Oft...
Article
Researchers commonly conceptualize forgiveness as a rich complex of psychological changes involving attitudes, emotions, and behaviors. Psychometric work with the measures developed to capture this conceptual richness, however, often points to a simpler picture of the psychological dimensions in which forgiveness takes place. In an effort to better...
Article
We conducted a series of meta-analytic tests on experiments in which participants read perspective-taking instructions—that is, written instructions to imagine a distressed persons’ point of view (“imagine-self” and “imagine-other” instructions), or to inhibit such actions (“remain-objective” instructions)—and afterwards reported how much empathic...
Article
We offer a friendly criticism of May's fantastic book on moral reasoning: It is overly charitable to the argument that moral disagreement undermines moral knowledge. To highlight the role that reasoning quality plays in moral judgments, we review literature that he did not mention showing that individual differences in intelligence and cognitive re...
Article
Three autobiographical studies tested the valuable relationships hypothesis of forgiveness. Although previous studies revealed that relationship value predicts interpersonal forgiveness, the measure of relationship value may be conflated with affective assessments of the relationship with the transgressor, which might have caused a criterion contam...
Article
Human social life is rife with uncertainty. In any given encounter, one can wonder whether cooperation will generate future benefits. Many people appear to resolve this dilemma by initially cooperating, perhaps because (a) encounters in everyday life often have future consequences, and (b) the costs of alienating oneself from long-term social partn...
Preprint
Laboratory research has shown that people’s choices about helping and sharing with others can change from situation to situation as people learn the material and social consequences of their choices. Do more momentous life experiences also facilitate longer-term learning about how to help others? Support for this hypothesis has been mixed. However,...
Preprint
Though most people present themselves as possessing prosocial traits, people differ in the extent to which they actually act prosocially in everyday life. Researchers use a variety of approaches to capture prosocial traits, including manually coding themes in qualitative data (i.e., participants’ descriptions of their personal strivings). This pape...
Preprint
Full-text available
Researchers commonly conceptualize forgiveness as a rich complex of psychological changes involving attitudes, emotions, and behaviors. Psychometric work with the measures developed to capture this conceptual richness, however, often point to a simpler picture of the latent psychological dimensions along which forgiveness takes place. In an effort...
Preprint
We conducted a series of meta-analytic tests on experiments in which participants read perspective-taking instructions—i.e., written instructions to imagine a distressed persons’ point of view (“imagine-self” and “imagine-other” instructions), or to inhibit such actions (“remain-objective” instructions)—and later reported how much empathic concern...
Preprint
Human social life is rife with uncertainty. In any given social interaction, one can wonder: Is cooperating with this person in my long-term best interest? Many people resolve to play it safe by cooperating rather than behaving selfishly, likely because (a) most social interactions in everyday life have long-term consequences and (b) the costs of a...
Preprint
We offer a friendly criticism of May's fantastic book on moral reasoning: It is overly charitable to the argument that moral disagreement undermines moral knowledge. To highlight the role that reasoning quality plays in moral judgments, we review literature that he did not mention showing that individual differences in intelligence and cognitive re...
Article
Full-text available
See a text-only version of the paper here: https://rdcu.be/9PjF. The Social Heuristics Hypothesis claims that cooperation is intuitive because it is positively reinforced in everyday life, where behaviour typically has reputational consequences. Consequently, participants will cooperate in anonymous lab-oratory settings unless they either reflect o...
Preprint
Punishment can reform uncooperative behavior, and hence could have contributed to humans’ ability to live in large-scale societies. Third-party punishment, the infliction of retaliatory costs on a transgressor by an unaffected third party, has received extensive scrutiny from researchers because it appears to be an anomaly in need of explanation: I...
Article
See a text-only version of the paper here: https://rdcu.be/bbdVf. The Dictator Game, a face valid measure of altruism, and the Trust Game, a face valid measure of trust and trustworthiness, are among the most widely used behavioural measures in human cooperation research. Researchers have observed considerable covariation among these and other ec...
Preprint
Although the possibility sounds paradoxical, several studies have found that positive and negative regard for others’ welfare are orthogonal and have unique personality correlates. We tested whether this result is an artefact of treating the oft-used self-report altruism scale (SRA) as unidimensional. In a pilot study of students and community-dwel...
Article
Full-text available
Does religion promote prosocial behaviour? Despite numerous publications that seem to answer this question affirmatively, divergent results from recent meta-analyses and pre-registered replication efforts suggest that the issue is not yet settled. Uncertainty lingers around (i) whether the effects of religious cognition on prosocial behaviour were...
Preprint
Does religious cognition motivate generosity toward strangers? Divergent results from recent meta-analyses and pre-registered replication efforts suggest the issue is not yet settled. Additional uncertainty lingers around whether (a) the effects of religious cognition on prosocial behaviour obtain through implicit cognitive processes, explicit cogn...
Preprint
Full-text available
What happens in the human mind when someone forgives? Recent theoretical work predicts that the psychological mechanisms underlying forgiveness consult the victim’s perceptions of the transgressor’s relationship value and exploitation risk, and that apologies influence forgiveness by changing these perceptions. To date, however, there has been no d...
Article
Full-text available
Many social scientists believe humans possess an evolved motivation to punish violations of norms-including norm violations that do not harm them directly. However, most empirical evidence for so-called altruistic punishment comes from experimental economics games that create experimental demand for third-party punishment, raising the possibility t...
Preprint
Why would people pay costs to deliver benefits to anonymous strangers in one-shot interactions? The Social Heuristics Hypothesis (SHH) claims that cooperation is intuitive because it is positively reinforced in everyday life, where behavior typically has reputational consequences. Consequently, participants will cooperate in anonymous laboratory se...
Preprint
The Dictator Game, a face valid measure of altruism, and the Trust Game, a face valid measure of trust and trustworthiness, are among the most widely used behavioral measures in human cooperation research. Researchers have observed considerable covariation among these and other economic games, leading them to assert that there exists a general huma...
Preprint
Many social scientists believe humans possess an evolved motivation to punish violations of norms—including norm violations that do not harm them directly. However, most empirical evidence for so-called altruistic punishment comes from experimental economics games that create experimental demand for third-party punishment, raising the possibility t...
Article
Here we examine the roles of interpersonal valuation and gratitude in the formation of cooperative relationships. Building on prior work, we draw on the concept of a welfare tradeoff ratio (WTR), an internally computed index of the extent to which one person values another person's welfare relative to his or her own. We test several predictions reg...
Article
Full-text available
Gratitude is an emotion that promotes cooperative relationships and is elicited when an act reveals that an actor values the recipient, especially when the benefit conferred is greater than the recipient expected. But recipient expectations might vary depending on how much the benefactor values the recipient —all else equal, the greater the benefac...
Article
Failures of self-control are thought to underlie various important behaviors (e.g., addiction, violence, obesity, poor academic achievement). The modern conceptualization of self-control failure has been heavily influenced by the idea that self-control functions as if it relied upon a limited physiological or cognitive resource. This view of self-c...
Article
Full-text available
Many contemporary concerns (e.g., addiction, failure to save) can be viewed as intertemporal choice problems in which the consequences of choices are realized at different times. In some laboratory paradigms used to study intertemporal choice, non-human animals demonstrate a preference for immediacy (impulsive choice) that results in failures to ma...
Article
Full-text available
We conducted 4 experiments to examine how people incorporate visual information about strangers' religious identities-religious badges-into their decisions about how much to trust them. Experiment 1 revealed that Christian and non-Christian participants were more trusting (as measured by self-report) of targets who wore a religious badge associated...
Article
Full-text available
Objective: Childhood adversity has been linked to internalizing and externalizing disorders and personality disorders in adulthood. This study extends that research by examining several personality measures as correlates of childhood adversity. Method: In a college sample self-reports were collected of childhood adversity, several scales relating t...
Article
We sought to perform an exact replication of previously published experiment that indicated that religious cognition (manipulated via an implicit religious prime) reduced hand-grip endurance in men but not in women. We randomly assigned 168 female and 159 male undergraduate students to either a task in which they completed scrambled sentences inter...
Article
Full-text available
Religiousness is reliably associated with lower substance use, but little research has examined whether self-control helps explain why religiousness predicts lower substance use. Building on prior theoretical work, our studies suggest that self-control mediates the relationship between religiousness and a variety of substance-use behaviors. Study 1...
Article
Full-text available
Conflict is an inevitable component of social life, and natural selection has exerted strong effects on many organisms to facilitate victory in conflict and to deter conspecifics from imposing harms upon them. Like many species, humans likely possess cognitive systems whose function is to motivate revenge as a means of deterring individuals who hav...
Article
Full-text available
Few models of self-control have generated as much scientific interest as has the limited strength model. One of the entailments of this model, the depletion effect, is the expectation that acts of self-control will be less effective when they follow prior acts of self-control. Results from a previous meta-analysis concluded that the depletion effec...
Article
Full-text available
The code of honor, which is characterized by a preoccupation with reputation and willingness to take retaliatory action, has been used extensively to explain individual and cultural differences in peoples' tendencies to behave aggressively. However, research on the relationship between the code of honor and emotional responses to social interaction...
Article
Prior research indicates that religiousness is related negatively to adolescent health risk behaviors, yet how such protective effects operate is not well understood. This study examined the longitudinal associations among organizational and personal religiousness, delay discounting, and substance use initiation (alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana u...
Article
Full-text available
The depletion effect, a decreased capacity for self-control following previous acts of self-control, is thought to result from a lack of necessary psychological/physical resources (i.e., "ego depletion"). Kurzban et al. present an alternative explanation for depletion; but based on statistical techniques that evaluate and adjust for publication bia...
Article
Full-text available
Background: The limited strength model of self-control predicts that acts of self-control impair subsequent performance on tasks that require self-control (i.e., “ego depletion”), and the majority of the published research on this topic is supportive of this prediction. Additional research suggests that this effect can be alleviated by manipulating...
Article
Full-text available
Based on sexual selection theory, we hypothesized that sex differences in mating effort and social competitiveness-and subsequent sex differences in sexual and competitive motivations for participating in drinking games-are responsible for the well-documented sex differences in college students' drinking game behaviors. Participants in a cross-sect...
Article
Full-text available
Empirical evidence suggests that religiousness is related negatively to adolescent substance use; yet, we know little about how such protective effects might occur. The current study examined whether parents' and adolescents' religiousness are associated positively with parental, religious, and self-monitoring, which in turn are related to higher s...
Article
Full-text available
We thank Claire El Mouden and Robert Kurzban for comments on a previous draft.
Article
Full-text available
Variations in the gene that encodes the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) have been associated with many aspects of social cognition as well as several prosocial behaviors. However, potential associations of OXTR variants with reactions to betrayals of trust while cooperating for mutual benefit have not yet been explored. We examined how variations in 10 si...
Article
Full-text available
Some researchers have proposed that natural selection has given rise in humans to one or more adaptations for altruistically punishing on behalf of other individuals who have been treated unfairly, even when the punisher has no chance of benefiting via reciprocity or benefits to kin. However, empirical support for the altruistic punishment hypothes...
Article
In this response, we address eight issues concerning our proposal that human minds contain adaptations for revenge and forgiveness. Specifically, we discuss (a) the inferences that are and are not licensed by patterns of contemporary behavioral data in the context of the adaptationist approach; (b) the theoretical pitfalls of conflating proximate a...
Article
Minimizing the costs that others impose upon oneself and upon those in whom one has a fitness stake, such as kin and allies, is a key adaptive problem for many organisms. Our ancestors regularly faced such adaptive problems (including homicide, bodily harm, theft, mate poaching, cuckoldry, reputational damage, sexual aggression, and the infliction...
Article
In humans, the ratio of the second digit to the fourth digit — the 2D:4D ratio — is a sexually dimorphic trait (men, on average, exhibit lower 2D:4D ratios than do women) that is influenced by prenatal testosterone exposure, but not by circulating testosterone levels in adulthood. Consequently, 2D:4D ratios are commonly used as indirect measures of...
Article
Full-text available
Religiosity is related to a variety of positive outcomes and the nature of this relationship has long been a topic of inquiry. Recently, it was proposed that an important piece of this puzzle may be the propensity for religious beliefs to promote self-control, a trait that is linked to a range of benefits. How religion translates into self-control,...
Article
Full-text available
Across and within societies, people vary in their propensities towards exploitative and retaliatory defection in potentially cooperative interaction. We hypothesized that this variation reflects adaptive responses to variation in cues during childhood that life will be harsh, unstable and short-cues that probabilistically indicate that it is in one...
Article
Men are typically stronger, riskier, “showier,” and more impulsive than women. According to sexual selection theory, such behaviors may have enhanced reproductive fitness for ancestral human males. However, such behaviors are facultative, and the mechanisms that cause them respond to social and environmental cues that indicate whether outlays of st...
Article
Parents generally take pains to insure that their children adopt their own religious beliefs and practices, so what happens psychologically to adolescents who find themselves less religious than their parents? We examined the relationships among parents' and adolescents' religiousness, adolescents' ratings of parent-adolescent relationship quality,...
Article
Prior investigations have demonstrated that parents' religiousness is related inversely to adolescent maladjustment. However, research remains unclear about whether the link between parents' religiousness and adolescent adjustment outcomes-either directly or indirectly via adolescents' own religiousness-varies depending on relationship context (e.g...
Article
The propensity for religious belief and behavior is a universal feature of human societies, but religious practice often imposes substantial costs upon its practitioners. This suggests that during human cultural evolution, the costs associated with religiosity might have been traded off for psychological or social benefits that redounded to fitness...
Article
Previous research has shown that age is positively related to a dispositional tendency to forgive others. The present investigation tested the hypothesis that agreeableness and neuroticism partially mediate the association between age and forgivingness. Data from two representative cross-sectional samples of adults were used to test this hypothesis...
Article
The present study examined age differences in the disposition to forgive others and the role of interpersonal transgression frequency and intensity. Data from a representative cross-sectional sample of Swiss adults (N=451, age: 20–83years) were used. Participants completed a self-report measure of forgivingness and indicated whether and how intense...
Article
Full-text available
Treatment for breast cancer affects psychological adaptation and related neuroendocrine stress indicators. Previously, a 10-week cognitive behavioral stress management (CBSM) group intervention decreased cortisol over 12-months among women receiving treatment for breast cancer. The current re-analysis tested whether changes in stress management ski...
Article
Full-text available
Exploitation is a fact of life for social organisms, and natural selection gives rise to revenge mechanisms that are designed to deter such exploitations. However, humans may also possess cognitive forgiveness mechanisms designed to promote the restoration of valuable social relationships following exploitation. In the current article, the authors...
Article
There is increased interest in measuring peripheral oxytocin levels to better understand the role of this peptide in mammalian behavior, physiology, and disease. The purpose of this study was to compare methods for plasma oxytocin measurement using a commercially available enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and radioimmunoassay (RIA), to evaluate the need fo...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined if the prosocial effects of oxytocin (OT) extend from individuals to a generalized other who is in need. Participants played a series of economic games to earn money and were presented with an opportunity to donate a portion of their earnings to charity. OT did not significantly increase the decision to donate, but among the 36%...
Article
The authors examined how conciliatory gestures exhibited in response to interpersonal transgressions influence forgiveness and feelings of friendship with the transgressor. In Study 1, 163 undergraduates who had recently been harmed were examined longitudinally. Conciliatory gestures exhibited by transgressors predicted higher rates of forgiveness...
Article
The hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin, known for its involvement in social affiliation and bonding in animals, has recently been associated with a host of prosocial behaviors that are beneficial for maintaining positive social relationships in humans. Paradoxically, however, people with high endogenous levels of oxytocin also tend to report relati...
Article
Full-text available
In two studies, the authors sought to identify the mathematical function underlying the temporal course of forgiveness. A logarithmic model outperformed linear, exponential, power, hyperbolic, and exponential-power models. The logarithmic function implies a psychological process yielding diminishing returns, corresponds to the Weber-Fechner law, an...
Article
Full-text available
Religious people tend to live slightly longer lives (M. E. McCullough, W. T. Hoyt, D. B. Larson, H. G. Koenig, & C. E. Thoresen, 2000). On the basis of the principle of social investment (J. Lodi-Smith & B. W. Roberts, 2007), the authors sought to clarify this phenomenon with a study of religion and longevity that (a) incorporated measures of psych...