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Invited Sessions

2018 Symposium Panel:

Kerry Kawakami
York University

R. Chris Fraley
UI at Urbana-Champaign

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The Importance of Social Psychological and Personality Research in the Age of Trump

Friday, March 2, 2:15 – 3:30PM

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The primary goal of this symposium is to examine the importance of social psychological and personality research in the age of Donald Trump. Five presenters will describe their research and theorizing that either specifically investigates or speaks directly to issues related to the presidential election or the Trump government and policies.

Laurie A. Rudman
Rutgers University

Shira Gabriel
University at Buffalo, SUNY

David Dunning
University of Michigan

W. Keith Campbell
University of Georgia

Nour Kteily
Northwestern University

Laurie A. Rudman, Rutgers University

Americans who justify the gender, racial, or class system (i.e., social hierarchies) were respectively also more likely to reject Hillary Clinton in favor of Donald Trump (Study 1); reject the Black Lives Matter movement (Study 2); and support Trump's proposed budget cuts that harm the poor (Study 3). But why are social hierarchies deemed worthy of defense? Inspired by the Trump campaign, we designed a measure of social Darwinism: "survival of the fittest" beliefs that humans, like plants and animals, must ruthlessly compete for success. In each study, social Darwinism explained significantly more variance when predicting gender, race, or class system justification than social dominance orientation and gender, race, or class essentialism, whether or not we adjusted for demographics (e.g., gender, political identity, religious identity, and SES). In summary, social Darwinism legitimizes viewing social hierarchies as just and fair, and justifying social hierarchies motivates responses that perpetuate them. In concert, the findings advance backlash theory and illuminate the appeal of Trumpism.

Shira Gabriel, University at Buffalo, SUNY

The election of Donald Trump came as a surprise to many pundits and citizens, including his own supporters (Norman, 2016). We conducted a study of 521 voters to examine the role parasocial bonds (i.e., one-sided psychological relationships) played in his surprising victory. Although most politicians fiercely compete for precious media time and work hard to form a likable yet authoritative impression - often with mixed results - Trump had 14 seasons of carefully edited primetime exposure to imprint a presidential impression on American minds. We suggest that these programs created an image of Trump as a presidential, led to the formation of parasocial bonds, and influenced the presidential campaign. As predicted, the more participants were exposed to Trump, both through his TV shows and other media, the more likely they were to have a parasocial bond with Trump. That bond predicted having a positive attitude towards Trump, believing his promises, disregarding his inflammatory statements, and even voting behavior. In addition, these effects were particularly strong for those whose votes were a surprise in the election: people who did not identify with the Republican Party. This research suggests that Trump’s election might have been influenced by his appearance on reality TV. Indeed, given the close election, it is possible that Trump would not be President if he were not on The Apprentice first.

David Dunning, University of Michigan

Thomas Jefferson once famously observed that any nation expecting to be both ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be. Yet surveys of American citizens have shown for decades that voters are largely uninformed. In 2012, for example, one survey found that 35% of native-born citizens would fail a naturalization civics exam. More important, this voter ignorance is best described as being not uninformed but misinformed, in that voters harbor false factual beliefs about government and social conditions that increasing correlate with partisanship. Voters do not disagree on priorities for their country as much as they now argue about the ground truth taking place in their country. Voters also suffer the Dunning-Kruger effect, mistakenly thinking themselves as more informed to the extent they endorse both false and true political facts. I discuss the implications of misinformed “low information” voters for political debate, civic action, and classic arguments that democracy can survive the shortcomings of its citizens.

W. Keith Campbell, University of Georgia

Narcissism has been a recurring theme throughout the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump. Narcissism appears to potentially explain the rise and governance of President Trump in at least four ways. First, work on narcissism and emergent leadership describes the ability of assertive, narcissistic leaders like Trump to emerge in free-form leadership selection both because of a desire to lead and extraversion. Second, the association of narcissism with emerging media forms (e.g., social media use, reality television, and trolling), in conjunction with Trump’s masterful disintermediation of the corporate media, may explain part of Trump’s campaign success. Third, the Energy Clash Model of narcissism and leadership (Sedikides & Campbell, 2017) describes well the intense and ongoing conflict between Donald Trump and the establishment (e.g., mainstream politicians, deep state). Ironically, this clash has included one soft coup attempt against Trump via the 25th amendment based on Trump’s “malignant” narcissism. Fourth and finally, the complex outcomes experienced by previous narcissistic U.S. presidents are discussed (Watts et al., 2013).

Nour Kteily, Northwestern University

Even in an otherwise atypical presidential election cycle, one of the features that stood out in the 2016 campaign was the rhetoric used by Donald Trump towards members of minority groups such as Muslims and Mexican immigrants, and, in particular, its overtly dehumanizing nature. Surprisingly to many, Trump’s comments and policy positions towards minorities appeared to help rather than hurt his presidential prospects. Here, we examine the prevalence of blatant dehumanization towards minorities among Americans, and its unique association with support for Trump and his policies (e.g., travel ban; wall between the U.S. and Mexico). We employ a variety of samples (including a large sample of alt-right adherents) and methodologies (correlational, longitudinal, and experimental designs; reverse-correlation technique). We further consider how being on the receiving end of overt dehumanization affected members of minority groups (i.e., Muslim and Latino residents of the U.S.), and examine the potential for dehumanization to contribute to vicious cycles of reciprocal intergroup hostility. We conclude by discussing recent efforts at developing interventions.

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Registered Reports and Results-Blind Reviews: Examples from Social/Personality Psychology

Saturday, March 3, 2:15PM – 3:30PM

This symposium highlights the value of the registered report format (i.e., results-blind reviewing) for research in social and personality psychology. The symposium features reports from scholars who have proposed a study or are currently collecting data for which the results are currently (at the submission stage) unknown.

Chair: R Chris Fraley, UI at Urbana-Champaign

R. Chris Fraley
UI at Urbana-Champaign

Lorne Campbell
University of Western Ontario

William Chopik
Michigan State University

Simine Vazire
University of California, Davis

R. Chris Fraley, UI at Urbana-Champaign

The research we learn about at conferences and in journals is merely a small subset of research that is actually conducted. It is generally assumed that publicized research is of higher quality than non-publicized research. However, the decision to submit, report, and publish research findings is often made after the results are known. Thus, research is often promoted based on empirical findings rather than the quality of the methods used to produce them. This process can distort cumulative knowledge because it excludes data from informative studies that did not provide desirable outcomes while including data from uninformative studies that did provide desirable outcomes. This presentation will elaborate on the nature of the problem, and introduce one potential solution: Registered reports. The registered report format is becoming increasingly common in scientific outlets (e.g., Chambers, 2017; Simons, Holcombe, & Spellman, 2014), but has yet to catch on in mainstream social-personality psychology. This talk introduces the need for this format, the pros and cons of the process, and will serve as a general overview of the talks that follow.

Lorne Campbell, University of Western Ontario

Introducing a novel sexual behaviour into an existing relationship may help to improve relationship quality and potentially re-ignite feelings of passion and improve intimacy. A new sexual behaviour introduced into a couple’s longstanding romantic relationship can constitute a shared, novel, exciting, and pleasurable activity, and such experiences may alleviate relationship boredom and improve partners’ feelings for one-another and their relationship. Further, novel sexual behaviours that improve the frequency, quality, and timing of coital orgasm, within the romantic relationship may have intrinsically positive effects on sexual satisfaction in both partners in and of themselves. This study examines the impact of novel sexual behaviours on relationship quality by asking heterosexual couples to engage in shared use of a novel vibrator while engaging in novel sexual positions, or engage in novel sexual positions without an accompanying vibrator, and compare changes in their feelings of intimacy, passion, sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, to a group of couples who will not be asked to modify their sexual behavior. (https://osf.io/yksxt/)

William Chopik, Michigan State University

What do we find attractive in initial encounters with potential dating partners? Despite considerable research on this topic, a consistent set of characteristics that predicts interpersonal attraction remains elusive (Finkel & Eastwick, 2015). In addition, the contexts in which people meet may affect what we find attractive (Finkel et al., 2012). One such setting that has yet to receive much empirical attention is mobile-based dating applications such as Tinder (LeFebvre, 2017). In the current study, we designed a swiping-based dating study in which participants nominate potential partners with whom they would like to contact. To understand the processes underlying these decisions, we applied a sequential sampling technique—the drift diffusion model—to model dating decisions (Johnson et al., 2017). We predicted both behaviors and process-level mechanisms underlying attraction based on rater and target individual differences. Study design, measures, and hypotheses were pre-registered and will use both exploratory and confirmatory samples (https://goo.gl/gr5Ktj).

Simine Vazire, University of California, Davis

Sometimes you have an extremely valuable and hard-to-collect dataset, but you can't pre-register anything because you know too much. Can you still do confirmatory research in such situations? How can we use these existing data to test confirmatory research questions? One solution is to solicit registrations of questions and analysis plans from people who have not seen the data. For this talk, we will invite research parasites to mooch off PAIRS--a longitudinal, multi-method data set involving EAR audio data from over 400 people. We will share a description of our measures and materials, and invite researchers outside our lab to submit hypotheses and analysis plans.

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