Previous Lab News
DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY POSTER CONFERENCE 2016
Dr. Wilson's undergraduate and graduate students recently presented their thesis projects at Laurier's poster conference. Congratulations!
The Large and Small of It: A Longitudinal Analysis of Gratitude Interventions on Happiness and Well-Being
Although gratitude diaries have been established as a means of enhancing well-being, little is known about how specific forms of gratitude may influence outcomes. We assigned participants to one of two gratitude conditions, where they were asked to either list very general categories that evoked gratitude (i.e., friends, family, health) or little things/ specific events that elicited feelings of gratitude (i.e., their first sip of coffee, receiving a text from a friend, etc.) daily for a week. A control condition reported only their affect daily. The little things condition was rated as higher in difficulty (low fluency) and took longer to complete than the general gratitude condition. Length of time predicted perceived difficulty. Importantly, ratings of greater perceived difficulty were linked to lower well-being outcomes. The implications of these findings will be discussed: results underline how imperative it is to understand the participants' subjective experience of completing the gratitude exercises, as it is an important component of self-perceived efficacy. An intervention that is both difficult and takes longer for participants to complete may actually produce well-being vulnerabilities in some participants.
When Fear Backfires: The Roles of Threat and Efficacy in Promoting Pro-Environmental Beliefs and Intentions
The present study evaluated the impact of combining threatening and efficacy building messages in environmental posters on participants' distress, environmental efficacy, climate change skepticism, and future environmental intentions. Real-world environmental posters often include threatening messages. However, past research suggests that participants may actively avoid such threats to reduce their anxiety, for instance by denying the existence of climate change. However, we predict that high efficacy measures might mitigate the threat and promote proactive responding. The present study randomly assigned 409 participants to nine conditions where they would view a combination of threatening (high, low, neutral) and efficacy building (high, low, neutral) posters that were previously identified on the basis of pilot testing. As predicted, high threat posters increased distress, increased skepticism, and lowered efficacy; however, efficacy did not moderate these results. Results suggest that highly threatening posters may backfire, rather than have their intended effect on promoting pro-environmental behaviours.
The Role of Implicit Theories of Malleability in Judgments of a Criminal Offender
There is currently a dearth of research regarding implicit theories of malleability in the morality domain. The present study assessed whether implicit theories about the fixed or malleable nature of personality/ morality would interact with time to predict judgments of a moral transgressor. Entity theorists, who believe personality traits are fixed, should provide harsh moral judgments of a person's past and future based on evidence of a single offense. Incremental theorists, who view human characteristics as being malleable, should be more lenient and more sensitive to the passage of time. We measured participants' implicit beliefs, asked them to imagine being a member of a jury, and provided a concocted scenario about an offender who committed armed robbery a specified time ago (six conditions varied by calendar and subjective temporal distance). Entity theorists were more likely to misremember past offenses, emphasize punishment, and provide harsh moral judgments compared to incremental theorists. The passage of time did not affect moral judgments. Results suggest entity theorists are making biased assumptions of an offender's past and future behaviour without adequate evidence for their beliefs.
The Role of Implicit Theories and Landmarks on the Motivation to Pursue Health Goals
The present study assessed whether implicit theories moderate the impact temporal landmarks have on motivation to pursue health goals. Incremental theorists, who believe traits are malleable and learn from past failures, were predicted to be more motivated across all conditions than entity theorists, who believe traits are fixed. Due to the impact temporal landmarks can have on temporal selves, it was predicted that giving participants a "fresh start" to start reaching their goal would be more motivating than a regular calendar date. Lastly, it was predicted that entity theorists would find temporal landmarks more useful in initiating motivation to pursue a goal than incremental theorists. The study included 366 participants who took an implicit theory premeasure, and then were randomly assigned to one of four experimental landmark conditions, and then asked about their motivation. The study found that incremental theorists were more motivated than entity theorists across conditions, and the fresh start condition was most motivating for both incremental and entity theorists. No interaction was found between temporal landmarks and implicit theories. Thus, temporal landmarks may prompt goal pursuit, while adopting an incremental theorist view can keep us motivated, regardless of specific landmarks.