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  • Good morning.

  • Welcome to the second panel of today's conference.

  • My name is Bo Feng, I'm an associate professor in the Department

  • of Communications at UC Davis, and I'll be the moderator for this panel.

  • The theme of this panel is how perception changes reality.

  • I think this is a, a great continuation and

  • of complementation of the earlier panel, which looks at how perception of

  • the world, how perception of reality, including social events,

  • organizations and ethnic groups is shaped by different things.

  • In this panel, we're going to hear from, three wonderful panelists

  • talking about their research into the other side of the cycle of relationship

  • between perception and reality, how perception shapes reality,

  • shapes people's cognitions, behaviors, and so so on.

  • So we're going to have the presenters, panelists present first, and after that we

  • will open up the floor to questions from the audience and coming from the audience.

  • So, let me first introduce our first panelist, Dr. Alison Ledgerwood.

  • Dr. Ledgerwood is an associate professor of psychology at the University of

  • California Davis and also, a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.

  • Dr. Ledgerwood's research focuses on people's use of social psychological

  • controls to either immerse themselves in the current context or to transcend it.

  • She also studies symbols as tools that people use to communicate

  • group identity across time, space, and disparate individuals.

  • The title of her talk today is sticky frames,

  • why negatives lodge in the mind and what to do about it.

  • So without further ado,

  • let's welcome Dr. Alison Ledgerwood.

  • [APPLAUSE] >> Hi.

  • Let's see.

  • So because I'm being recorded, I can't pace, I have to stand next to that.

  • Okay, we'll see how that goes.

  • Remind me if I just start wandering over, to come back.

  • So I thought I would talk today about a, oh I can't, I cannot pace at all.

  • I'm just going to stand here calmly like I'm, like I'm fine with that.

  • [LAUGH] >> About a topic that,

  • that has been hinted on hinted at in some of the morning sessions.

  • So Amber hinted at negative news stories sticking more than positive ones.

  • We had some hints from Kim about what

  • negative behaviors might tend to stick to organizational identities.

  • Brad asked Christina a question about stereotypes sticking to social groups

  • [SOUND] and so I'm going to be talking a bit about

  • why that might happen in a very broad and general way and

  • more broadly, I'm going to be talking about the question of how do people think.

  • I'm kind of obsessed with this question.

  • I'm a social psychologist, which basically means I'm a professional people watcher.

  • So, this is what I do, I try to figure out how do humans think and

  • how could we maybe think better and

  • here's something I noticed a few years ago about how I seem to think.

  • Here's a typical week in my life,

  • which often seems to revolve entirely around publishing papers.

  • So here I am, that's me, just go with it.

  • I'm going along at baseline and let's say a paper gets accepted, I get this rush,

  • this blip of happiness, and then I'm back to baseline by about lunchtime.

  • [LAUGH] A few days later, a paper might get rejected, and that feels awful.

  • My world is crumbling, and so I wait for that blip to end but somehow,

  • I just can't stop thinking about it.

  • [LAUGH] Here's the kicker, though.

  • Even if another paper gets accepted the next day, well, that's nice but

  • somehow I just can't stop thinking about that stupid rejection.

  • So what is going on here?

  • Why does a failure often seem to stick in our minds, so much longer than a success?

  • Well, together, with my colleague Amber Boidstan who you heard from

  • earlier this morning, I started thinking about this question, a few years ago.

  • This question of do our minds get stuck on the negatives?

  • Now we all know intuitively that there are different ways of thinking about things.

  • So the same proverbial glass, for instance, can be seen as half full or

  • half empty and there's quite a bit of research across the social sciences now

  • showing that the way you describe the glass to people matters quite a lot

  • in shaping how they feel about it.

  • So if you describe the glass as half full, this is called a gain frame because you're

  • focusing people on what's good, they tend to like it.

  • If you describe the same exact glass as half empty, a loss frame, well,

  • now people don't like it.

  • So here's an example of a kind of prototypical experiment that would look

  • at this question, that would test this question.

  • In this particular study,

  • participants were asked to evaluate a work team based on its past performance and

  • the participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions.

  • In one condition, one group of participants

  • read that 30 out of 50 of the team's past projects had been successful.

  • In the other group, the other condition, the participants read

  • that 20 out of 50 of the team's past projects had been unsuccessful.

  • So mathematically, objectively, the reality is exactly the same here, right?

  • It's just that some of the participants have had their attention focused on

  • the part of the glass that's full, and the other participants have had their

  • attention focused on the part of the glass that's empty.

  • Then they're asked, how good is this work team?

  • And what you can see is that participants evaluated the work team much more

  • positively when it's record had been described in terms of gains,

  • the success rate, compared to when it's record had been described in terms of

  • losses, the failure rate.

  • All right, so this kind of effect has been studied across economics,

  • psychology, political science, marketing, a whole range of different disciplines in

  • the social sciences and together, these studies basically converge on the core

  • idea that what people think about something, what they do,

  • depends on how information is currently described or framed.

  • So you can really think of the key message of this literature, this body of research,

  • as being about the power of the current context to shape people's perceptions and

  • behavior but because it focuses on the current context,

  • this literature, one assumption, or implication of this literature,

  • seems to be that people are just happy when they see a gain frame and

  • sad when they see a loss frame, right?

  • That it's easy to bounce from one to the other but

  • that assumption hasn't actually ever been tested.

  • So, we wanted to know what actually happens when you switch back and forth.

  • This seems like an important question to ask, right.

  • In the real world after all,

  • people don't just encounter a single frame, like they do in the lab.

  • Instead, information is often repeatedly framed and

  • then reframed before people act on it.

  • So you might be talking to your doctor and hear him or

  • her describe a medical procedure, in terms of its success rate but

  • then go to get a second opinion or read an article online that talks about that same

  • procedure in terms of its failure rate.

  • Or you might be browsing the morning headlines and

  • see an article that talks about a program or policy in terms of the number of

  • workers who have lost their jobs and then see a different article that talks about

  • that policy in terms of the number of workers' jobs that have been saved.

  • So we wanted to know what happens in this kind of situation.

  • Can people really just switch back and forth or

  • do they get stuck in one way of thinking about it?

  • Does one of these frames, one of these mental labels,

  • tend to stick more in the mind?

  • And there's reason to think that at least some kinds of mental labels might be

  • cognitively or mentally sticky in this way.

  • That once we've thought about something in a particular way, that way of thinking

  • about it might tend to lodge in our heads and resist our attempts to change it.

  • There's a classic paradigm in psychology used to study creativity,

  • called the Duncker candle problem, that illustrates this idea nicely.

  • So if you're in a study that uses this paradigm, you walk into a room and you

  • see on the table in front of you a candle, a box of tacks, and some matches, and your

  • mission should you choose to accept it is to figure out how to light the candle and

  • then fix it to the wall in such a way that no wax drops onto the table below.

  • Any ideas for how to solve it?

  • It's kind of hard.

  • Here's the funniest solution I've seen to this problem.

  • [LAUGH] And here's the correct solution.

  • Notice though why it's so hard to solve, participants struggle with this a lot.

  • It takes them a long time and often they don't get it.

  • The reason it's so hard for

  • us to figure out the correct answer here is that once you've conceptualized that

  • box as a box, it's really hard to re-conceptualize it as a shelf.

  • That box label sticks in your head and it's very hard to change it.

  • So we thought maybe a similar thing would happen with gain and loss frames.

  • Now if frames can be cognitively, mentally sticky in this way

  • it makes sense to predict that loss frames would be especially sticky.

  • And that's because there's a general and presumably very adaptive human tendency to

  • prioritize or focus on potential negatives and safety.

  • The logic here, evolutionarily speaking,

  • is that if you're considering a visit to the prehistoric pond, and

  • you can think of this as getting a drink or as potentially aggravating a tiger it's

  • useful, it's functional, it's adaptive for the tiger conceptualization to stick.

  • Once you've thought about it,

  • you don't want to forget about the tiger in your excitement over the possibility

  • of getting a drink.

  • So, we thought that lost frames the, when we conceptualize something as a potential

  • loss that way of thinking about it might tend to stick in our heads, and

  • linger there, even in the face of a potential gain frame.

  • To put that idea a bit more formally, we reason that loss frames might be stickier

  • than gain frames in shaping people's thinking.

  • In particular, we predicted that the effects of a loss frame might linger

  • longer than those of a gain frame, when information is subsequently reframed, and

  • that this asymmetry might arise because it's more difficult for

  • people to mentally convert a loss-framed concept into a gain-framed concept

  • than to move in the opposite direction to re-conceptualize a gain as a loss.

  • All right, so one of the first experiments that we conducted to test this idea