Insight
is our reward

Publications in Psychology & Cognitive Sciences by NOMIS researchers

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

November 2, 2023

When we see new people, we rapidly form first impressions. Whereas past research has focused on the role of morphological or emotional cues, we asked whether transient visceral states bias the impressions we form. Across three studies (N = 94 university students), we investigated how fluctuations of bodily states, driven by the interoceptive impact of cardiac signals, influence the perceived trustworthiness of faces. Participants less often chose faces presented in synchrony with their own cardiac systole as more trustworthy than faces presented out of synchrony. Participants also explicitly judged faces presented in synchrony with their cardiac systole as less trustworthy. Finally, the presentation of faces in synchrony with participants’ cardiac diastole did not modulate participants’ perceptions of the faces’ trustworthiness, suggesting that the systolic phase is necessary for such interoceptive effects. These findings highlight the role of phasic interoceptive information in the processing of social information and provide a mechanistic account of the role of visceroception for social perception. © The Author(s) 2022.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

There is widespread agreement that delusions in clinical populations and delusion-like beliefs in the general population are, in part, caused by cognitive biases. Much of the evidence comes from two influential tasks: the Beads Task and the Bias Against Disconfirmatory Evidence Task. However, research using these tasks has been hampered by conceptual and empirical inconsistencies. In an online study, we examined relationships between delusion-like beliefs in the general population and cognitive biases associated with these tasks. Our study had four key strengths: A new animated Beads Task designed to reduce task miscomprehension, several data-quality checks to identify careless responders, a large sample (n= 1,002), and a preregistered analysis plan. When analyzing the full sample, our results replicated classic relationships between cognitive biases and delusion-like beliefs. However, when we removed 82 careless participants from the analyses (8.2% of the sample) we found that many of these relationships were severely diminished and, in some cases, eliminated outright. These results suggest that some (but not all) seemingly well-established relationships between cognitive biases and delusion-like beliefs might be artifacts of careless responding. © 2023 American Psychological Association

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

July 20, 2023

A growing body of research has shown that simple choices involve the construction and comparison of values at the time of decision. These processes are modulated by attention in a way that leaves decision makers susceptible to attentional biases. Here, we studied the role of peripheral visual information on the choice process and on attentional choice biases. We used an eye-tracking experiment in which participants (N = 50 adults) made binary choices between food items that were displayed in marked screen “shelves” in two conditions: (a) where both items were displayed, and (b) where items were displayed only when participants fixated within their shelves. We found that removing the nonfixated option approximately doubled the size of the attentional biases. The results show that peripheral visual information is crucial in facilitating good decisions and suggest that individuals might be influenceable by settings in which only one item is shown at a time, such as e-commerce. © The Author(s) 2023.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

June 27, 2023

The human embryo undergoes morphogenetic transformations following implantation into the uterus, but our knowledge of this crucial stage is limited by the inability to observe the embryo in vivo. Models of the embryo derived from stem cells are important tools for interrogating developmental events and tissue–tissue crosstalk during these stages 1. Here we establish a model of the human post-implantation embryo, a human embryoid, comprising embryonic and extraembryonic tissues. We combine two types of extraembryonic-like cell generated by overexpression of transcription factors with wild-type embryonic stem cells and promote their self-organization into structures that mimic several aspects of the post-implantation human embryo. These self-organized aggregates contain a pluripotent epiblast-like domain surrounded by extraembryonic-like tissues. Our functional studies demonstrate that the epiblast-like domain robustly differentiates into amnion, extraembryonic mesenchyme and primordial germ cell-like cells in response to bone morphogenetic protein cues. In addition, we identify an inhibitory role for SOX17 in the specification of anterior hypoblast-like cells 2. Modulation of the subpopulations in the hypoblast-like compartment demonstrates that extraembryonic-like cells influence epiblast-like domain differentiation, highlighting functional tissue–tissue crosstalk. In conclusion, we present a modular, tractable, integrated 3 model of the human embryo that will enable us to probe key questions of human post-implantation development, a critical window during which substantial numbers of pregnancies fail. © 2023, The Author(s).

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

May 3, 2023

Why do some explanations strike people as highly satisfying while others, seemingly equally accurate, satisfy them less? We asked laypeople to generate and rate thousands of open-ended explanations in response to ‘Why?’ questions spanning multiple domains, and analyzed the properties of these explanations to discover (1) what kinds of features are associated with greater explanation quality; (2) whether people can tell how good their explanations are; and (3) which cognitive traits predict the ability to generate good explanations. Our results support a pluralistic view of explanation, where satisfaction is best predicted by either functional or mechanistic content. Respondents were better able to judge how accurate their explanations were than how satisfying they were to others. Insight problem solving ability was the cognitive ability most strongly associated with the generation of satisfying explanations. © 2023 Elsevier B.V.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

May 2, 2023

Do we judge hate incidents similarly when they are performed using words or bodily actions? Hate speech incidents are rarely reported by bystanders, and whether or how much they should be punished remains a matter of legal, theoretical and social disagreement. In a pre-registered study (N = 1309), participants read about verbal and nonverbal attacks stemming from identical hateful intent, which created the same consequences for the victims. We asked them how much punishment the perpetrator should receive, how likely they would be to denounce such an incident and how much harm they judged the victim suffered. The results contradicted our pre-registered hypotheses and the predictions of dual moral theories, which hold that intention and harmful consequences are the sole psychological determinants of punishment. Instead, participants consistently rated verbal hate attacks as more deserving of punishment, denunciation and being more harmful to the victim than nonverbal attacks. This difference is explained by the concept of action aversion, suggesting that lay observers have different intrinsic associations with interactions involving words compared to bodily actions, regardless of consequences. This explanation has implications for social psychology, moral theories, and legislative efforts to sanction hate speech, which are considered. Protocol registration: The Stage 1 protocol for this Registered Report was accepted in principle on 29/06/2022. The protocol, as accepted by the journal, can be found at: https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/Z86TV . © 2023, The Author(s).

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

April 3, 2023

Nudge is a popular public policy tool that harnesses well-known biases in human judgement to subtly guide people’s decisions, often to improve their choices or to achieve some socially desirable outcome. Thanks to recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) methods new possibilities emerge of how and when our decisions can be nudged. On the one hand, algorithmically personalized nudges have the potential to vastly improve human daily lives. On the other hand, blindly outsourcing the development and implementation of nudges to “black box” AI systems means that the ultimate reasons for why such nudges work, that is, the underlying human cognitive processes that they harness, will often be unknown. In this paper, we unpack this concern by considering a series of examples and case studies that demonstrate how AI systems can learn to harness biases in human judgment to reach a specified goal. Drawing on an analogy in a philosophical debate concerning the methodology of economics, we call for the need of an interdisciplinary oversight of AI systems that are tasked and deployed to nudge human behaviours. © 2023, The Author(s).

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

April 3, 2023

In countries such as Britain and the US, court witnesses must declare they will provide truthful evidence and are often compelled to publicly choose between religious (“oath”) and secular (“affirmation”) versions of this declaration. Might defendants who opt to swear an oath enjoy more favourable outcomes than those who choose to affirm? Two preliminary, pre-registered survey studies using minimal vignettes (Study 1, N = 443; Study 2, N = 913) indicated that people associate choice of the oath with credible testimony; and that participants, especially religious participants, discriminate against defendants who affirm. In a third, Registered Report study (Study 3, N = 1821), we used a more elaborate audiovisual mock trial paradigm to better estimate the real-world influence of declaration choice. Participants were asked to render a verdict for a defendant who either swore or affirmed, and were themselves required to swear or affirm that they would try the defendant in good faith. Overall, the defendant was not considered guiltier when affirming rather than swearing, nor did mock-juror belief in God moderate this effect. However, jurors who themselves swore an oath did discriminate against the affirming defendant. Exploratory analyses suggest this effect may be driven by authoritarianism, perhaps because high-authoritarian jurors consider the oath the traditional (and therefore correct) declaration to choose. We discuss the real-world implications of these findings and conclude the religious oath is an antiquated legal ritual that needs reform. © 2023 The Authors. British Journal of Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The British Psychological Society.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

March 8, 2023

Delusions are distressing and disabling symptoms of various clinical disorders. Delusions are associated with an aberrant and apparently contradictory treatment of evidence, characterized by both excessive credulity (adopting unusual beliefs on minimal evidence) and excessive rigidity (holding steadfast to these beliefs in the face of strong counterevidence). Here we attempt to make sense of this contradiction by considering the literature on epistemic vigilance. Although there is little evolutionary advantage to scrutinizing the evidence our senses provide, it pays to be vigilant toward ostensive evidence—information communicated by others. This asymmetry is generally adaptive, but in deluded individuals the scales tip too far in the direction of the sensory and perceptual, producing an apparently paradoxical combination of credulity (with respect to one’s own perception) and skepticism (with respect to the testimony of others). © The Author(s) 2023.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 16, 2023

Goal directed behaviour requires transformation of sensory input to decision, and then to output action. How the sensory input is accumulated to form the decision has been extensively studied, however, the influence of output action on decision making has been largely dismissed. Although the recent emerging view postulates the reciprocal interaction between action and decision, still little is known about how the parameters of an action modulates the decision. In this study, we focused on the physical effort which necessarily entails with action. We tested if the physical effort during the deliberation period of the perceptual decision, not the effort required after deciding a particular option, can impact on the process of forming the decision. Here, we set up an experimental situation where investing effort is necessary for the initiation of the task, but importantly, is orthogonal to success in task performance. The study was pre-registered to test the hypothesis that the increased effort will decrease the metacognitive accuracy of decision, without affecting the decision accuracy. Participants judged the direction of a random-dot motion stimuli, while holding and maintaining the position of a robotic manipulandum with their right hand. In the key experimental condition, the manipulandum produced force to move away from its position, requiring the participants to resist the force while accumulating the sensory evidence for the decision. The decision was reported by a key-press using the left-hand. We found no evidence that such incidental (i.e., non-instrumental) effort may influence the subsequent decision process and most importantly decision confidence. The possible reason for this result and the future direction of the research are discussed. © 2023 Hagura et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 15, 2023

Aging is a process that affects almost all multicellular organisms and since our population ages with increasing prevalence of age-related diseases, it is important to study basic processes involved in aging. Many studies have been published so far using different and often single age markers to estimate the biological age of organisms or different cell culture systems. However, comparability of studies is often hampered by the lack of a uniform panel of age markers. Consequently, we here suggest an easy-to-use biomarker-based panel of classical age markers to estimate the biological age of cell culture systems that can be used in standard cell culture laboratories. This panel is shown to be sensitive in a variety of aging conditions. We used primary human skin fibroblasts of different donor ages and additionally induced either replicative senescence or artificial aging by progerin overexpression. Using this panel, highest biological age was found for artificial aging by progerin overexpression. Our data display that aging varies depending on cell line and aging model and even from individual to individual showing the need for comprehensive analyses. Copyright © 2023 Hartmann, Herling, Hartmann, Köckritz, Fuellen, Walter and Hermann.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

December 6, 2022

Why do swear words sound the way they do? Swear words are often thought to have sounds that render them especially fit for purpose, facilitating the expression of emotion and attitude. To date, however, there has been no systematic cross-linguistic investigation of phonetic patterns in profanity. In an initial, pilot study we explored statistical regularities in the sounds of swear words across a range of typologically distant languages. The best candidate for a cross-linguistic phonemic pattern in profanity was the absence of approximants (sonorous sounds like l, r, w and y). In Study 1, native speakers of various languages (Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, French, German, Spanish; N = 215) judged foreign words less likely to be swear words if they contained an approximant. In Study 2 we found that sanitized versions of English swear words – like darn instead of damn – contain significantly more approximants than the original swear words. Our findings reveal that not all sounds are equally suitable for profanity, and demonstrate that sound symbolism – wherein certain sounds are intrinsically associated with certain meanings – is more pervasive than has previously been appreciated, extending beyond denoting single concepts to serving pragmatic functions.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Changing collective behaviour and supporting non-pharmaceutical interventions is an important component in mitigating virus transmission during a pandemic. In a large international collaboration (Study 1, N = 49,968 across 67 countries), we investigated self-reported factors associated with public health behaviours (e.g., spatial distancing and stricter hygiene) and endorsed public policy interventions (e.g., closing bars and restaurants) during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic (April-May 2020). Respondents who reported identifying more strongly with their nation consistently reported greater engagement in public health behaviours and support for public health policies. Results were similar for representative and non-representative national samples. Study 2 (N = 42 countries) conceptually replicated the central finding using aggregate indices of national identity (obtained using the World Values Survey) and a measure of actual behaviour change during the pandemic (obtained from Google mobility reports). Higher levels of national identification prior to the pandemic predicted lower mobility during the early stage of the pandemic (r = −0.40). We discuss the potential implications of links between national identity, leadership, and public health for managing COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Social Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

People assign less punishment to individuals who inflict harm collectively, compared to those who do so alone. We show that this arises from judgments of diminished individual causal responsibility in the collective cases. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 1002) assigned less punishment to individuals involved in collective actions leading to intentional and accidental deaths, but not failed attempts, emphasizing that harmful outcomes, but not malicious intentions, were necessary and sufficient for the diffusion of punishment. Experiments 2.a compared the diffusion of punishment for harmful actions with ‘victimless’ purity violations (e.g., eating a dead human’s flesh as a group; N = 752). In victimless cases, where the question of causal responsibility for harm does not arise, diffusion of collective responsibility was greatly reduced—an outcome replicated in Experiment 2.b (N = 479). Together, the results are consistent with discounting in causal attribution as the underlying mechanism of reduction in proposed punishment for collective harmful actions.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Is there a way to visually depict the image people “see” of themselves in their minds’ eyes? And if so, what can these mental images tell us about ourselves? We used a computational reverse-correlation technique to explore individuals’ mental “self-portraits” of their faces and body shapes in an unbiased, data-driven way (total N = 116 adults). Self-portraits were similar to individuals’ real faces but, importantly, also contained clues to each person’s self-reported personality traits, which were reliably detected by external observers. Furthermore, people with higher social self-esteem produced more true-to-life self-portraits. Unlike face portraits, body portraits had negligible relationships with individuals’ actual body shape, but as with faces, they were influenced by people’s beliefs and emotions. We show how psychological beliefs and attitudes about oneself bias the perceptual representation of one’s appearance and provide a unique window into the internal mental self-representation—findings that have important implications for mental health and visual culture.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

August 1, 2022

In a Bayesian brain, every perceptual decision will take into account internal priors as well as new incoming evidence. A reality monitoring system—eventually providing the agent us with a subjective sense of reality avoids us them being confused about whether our experience is perceptual or imagined. Yet not all confusions we experience mean that we wonder wonder whether we may be imagining: some confused experiences feel clearly perceptual but still feel not right. What happens in such confused perceptions, and can the Bayesian brain explain this kind of confusion? In this paper, we offer a characterisation of perceptual confusion and argue that it requires our subjective sense of reality to be a composite of several subjective markers, including a categorical one that can clearly identify an experience as perceptual and connecting us to reality. Our composite account makes new predictions regarding the robustness, the non-linear development and the possible breakdowns of the sense of reality in perception.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

July 1, 2022

In a recent paper, ‘Peripersonal perception in action’ (Synthese, 2018), Frédérique de Vignemont tackles the problem of defining what is peculiar to the visual perception of objects falling within the peripersonal space of the observer, i.e. the space immediately surrounding the body, and which is commonly described as the space in which action takes place. In this paper, I first discuss the proposal offered by de Vignemont about what characterizes peripersonal perception. Then, I suggest an extension of this account that offers a meticulous description of the nature of the Content of Peripersonal Visual Experience – a topic never explicitly considered in the philosophical literature on vision – by discussing some peculiar features of it that, as recognized also by de Vignemont’s account, still need to be explained. In particular, I offer a philosophical examination of the specificity of peripersonal visual experience, in relation to its phenomenological dimension, its optical mechanisms and its neurophysiological underpinnings, in the light of our best theories from vision science, and in comparison to the visual experience of other visual spaces.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

May 1, 2022

Can diversity make for better science? Although diversity has ethical and political value, arguments for its epistemic value require a bridge between normative and mechanistic considerations, demonstrating why and how diversity benefits collective intelligence. However, a major hurdle is that the benefits themselves are rather mixed: Quantitative evidence from psychology and behavioral sciences sometimes shows a positive epistemic effect of diversity, but often shows a null effect, or even a negative effect. Here we argue that to make progress with these why and how questions, we need first to rethink when one ought to expect a benefit of cognitive diversity. In doing so, we highlight that the benefits of cognitive diversity are not equally distributed about collective intelligence tasks and are best seen for complex, multistage, creative problem solving, during problem posing and hypothesis generation. Throughout, we additionally outline a series of mechanisms relating diversity and problem complexity, and show how this perspective can inform metascience questions.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Social Psychology

The sensation of internal bodily signals, such as when your stomach is contracting or your heart is beating, plays a critical role in broad biological and psychological functions ranging from homeostasis to emotional experience and self-awareness. The evolutionary origins of this capacity and, thus, the extent to which it is present in nonhuman animals remain unclear. Here, we show that rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) spend significantly more time viewing stimuli presented asynchronously, as compared to synchronously, with their heartbeats. This is consistent with evidence previously shown in human infants using a nearly identical experimental paradigm, suggesting that rhesus monkeys have a human-like capacity to integrate interoceptive signals from the heart with exteroceptive audiovisual information. As no prior work has demonstrated behavioral evidence of innate cardiac interoceptive ability in nonhuman animals, these results have important implications for our understanding of the evolution of this ability and for establishing rhesus monkeys as an animal model for human interoceptive function and dysfunction.We anticipate that this work may also provide an important model for future psychiatric research, as disordered interoceptive processing is implicated in a wide variety of psychiatric conditions.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology