Abstracts Keynotes


Predicting social outcomes from perspective taking: It may not really matter what you think.

Sara D. Hodges
University of Oregon

“Try to take the other person’s perspective.” For laypeople and psychology researchers alike, these instructions are likely linked with the expectation that a greater understanding of and a heightened empathic response (more compassion, helping, concern, etc.) towards “the other person” will follow. Indeed, a preponderance of studies manipulating perspective taking have produced these two prosocial outcomes. However, the last decade has uncovered a number of notable exceptions to what previously may have been seen as a fundamental rule of social cognition. Social perspective taking – and the related task of inferring another person’s thoughts – require construction. The product of this construction may be reliably moderated by social variables, including how much perspective takers know about their targets; the perceived relationship between perspective takers and targets (e.g., shared group membership or not – and if unshared, the history between their two groups); the context in which perspective taking occurs (face-to-face versus imagined;  cooperative versus conflictual); and the content of schemas available to the perspective taker (e.g., stereotypes, self concept). These variables may help us predict when perspective taking will produce prosocial outcomes - and also may explain more variance in other outcomes than how accurately the perspective was taken.


Affect contagion: Physiological covariation among strangers and close others

Wendy Berry Mendes
UC San Francisco

Emotions, thoughts, and intentions are not simply concepts that live privately in one’s minds, but rather, affective states emanate from us via multiple channels – voice, posture, facial expressions, and behavior – and influence those around us. Affect contagion, or the spread of affective states—including stress, emotions, motivation—from one person to another, is studied in a variety of ways in the social sciences: sociologists find that happiness is contagious within social networks, social psychologists show that mimicking others behaviors increases liking, and neuroscientists demonstrate that observing someone experience pain may produce similar neural activation as experiencing pain. In this talk I will discuss a series of experiments exploring the antecedents and consequences of affect contagion using dynamic psychophysiological measurement. The experiments include ones focusing on mothers and children and explore how infants (12 to 14 month olds) “catch” their mothers’ stress reactivity and how touch potentiates stress contagion. Another series of experiments explore how recently acquainted individuals can catch each others’ affective state and how moderators such as racial/ethnic group, social standing, valence and empathetic tendencies moderate affect contagion.


A Theory of System Justification

John T. Jost
New York University

Why do people stay in abusive relationships, why do women feel that they are entitled to lower salaries than men, and why do African American children come to think that white dolls are more attractive and desirable? Why do people blame victims of injustice and why do victims of injustice sometimes blame themselves? Why do people tolerate stark and increasing forms of economic inequality? Why is it so difficult get people to stand up for themselves, and why do we find personal and social change to be so difficult, even painful? This presentation will address these and other thorny questions by providing an overview of system justification theory. From this perspective, people are motivated, often at a nonconscious level of awareness, to defend, justify, and legitimize the societal status quo—sometimes even when doing so conflicts with personal or collective self-interest. By drawing on two decades of cutting-edge research in social, personality, and political psychology, Professor Jost will summarize major tenets of system justification theory and describe the results of empirical studies designed to investigate these ideas.