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08-01-2019 | Original Article

Socially alerted cognition evoked by a confederate’s mere presence: analysis of reaction-time distributions and delta plots

Auteurs: Michael B. Steinborn, Lynn Huestegge

Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 5/2020

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Abstract

We examined aspects of social alerting as induced through the presence of an attentive but non-evaluative confederate on mental efficiency. To this end, individuals were administered with a chained mental-arithmetic task (levels: low vs. high demand) in two contextual conditions (levels: alone vs. presence). In addition, we examined self-report measures of subjective state for purposes of control. As a result, the presence (vs. alone) condition improved (not hampered) processing speed (while error rate remained low overall), and this effect was differentially more pronounced for high (vs. low) demand. Reaction-time distributional analyses revealed that improvements in average performance actually originated from a selective speeding-up in the slower percentiles, indicating that social alerting promotes stability of information-processing throughput. These results challenge prevalent theoretical notions of mere-presence effects as individuals became consistently faster and less vulnerable to commit attention failure. Our findings indicate that social presence promotes not only processing speed but volitional steadiness.
Voetnoten
1
One reviewer was curious of whether the performance in mere-presence (A) blocks is influenced by their mixing in alone (B) blocks. If participants maintain their focus in a more stable way in B blocks due to the presence of the experimenter, what do they do in the A blocks in between B blocks? The reviewer speculated that the exercising of effort and the resulting benefit in a mere-presence (A) block could potentially have yielded costs in the subsequent alone (B) block. In response to this request, we performed an extensional GLM analysis, comparing RT performance in alone (A) blocks immediately after a presence (B) block in the experimental group with exactly the same (A) block position in the control (ABABA vs. AAAAA) group. The result of this extensional analysis does not indicate that the participants relax their performance (or are even depleted) after a presence condition. Quite the contrary, participants were relatively faster (not slower) after a mere-presence block (i.e., BA sequence) as compared to after an alone block (i.e., AA sequence, p < 0.01). This indicates that attentional control settings are affected by effort mobilization (not resource depletion) due to social alerting. Admittedly, the precise mechanism underlying this after effect cannot be determined here. Future research might elucidate whether this effect originates from (1) a simple carry-over of attentional-control settings, or alternatively, (2) from the individual’s mental representation of “pure potentiality” of a confederate’s presence (cf. Krishna & Strack, 2017, pp. 152–158; Kurzban, Duckworth, Kable, & Myers, 2013, pp. 663–667). We do, however, want to make it quite clear that this aspect of our study is exploratory and requires further study in future research. Hence, we will not further expand on this issue at this point.
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
Socially alerted cognition evoked by a confederate’s mere presence: analysis of reaction-time distributions and delta plots
Auteurs
Michael B. Steinborn
Lynn Huestegge
Publicatiedatum
08-01-2019
Uitgeverij
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Gepubliceerd in
Psychological Research / Uitgave 5/2020
Print ISSN: 0340-0727
Elektronisch ISSN: 1430-2772
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01143-z

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