Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Big Secrets Do Not Necessarily Cause Hills to Appear Steeper

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Big Secrets Do Not Necessarily Cause Hills to Appear Steeper

Article excerpt

Published online: 16 November 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract Slepian, Masicampo, Toosi, and Ambady (Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141, 619-624, 2012, Study 1) found that individuals recalling and writing about a big, meaningful secret judged a pictured hill as steeper than did those who recalled and wrote about a small, inconsequential secret (with estimates unrelated to physical effort unaffected). From an embodied cognition perspective, this result was interpreted as suggesting that important secrets weigh people down. Answering to mounting calls for the crucial need of independent direct replications of published findings to ensure the self-correcting nature of our science, we sought to corroborate Slepian et al.'s finding in two extremely high-powered, preregistered studies that were very faithful to all procedural and methodological details of the original study (i.e., same cover story, study title, manipulation, measures, item order, scale anchors, task instructions, sampling frame, population, and statistical analyses). In both samples, we were unsuccessful in replicating the target finding. Although Slepian et al. reported three other studies supporting the secret burdensomeness phenomenon, we advise that these three other findings need to be independently corroborated before the general phenomenon informs theory or health interventions.

Keywords Embodied cognition · Secrecy · Concealment of secrets · Independent direct replication

In recent years, psychological science has experienced a rap- idly growing interest in embodied cognition (e.g., Schnall, Benton, & Harvey, 2008; Vess, 2012; see Landau, Meier, &Keefer,2010, for a review). According to the embodied cognition perspective, the body and the mind are inextrica- bly linked in that bodily states influence mental processes and vice versa (Barsalou, 2008;Landauetal.,2010). For example, thinking about past social exclusions has been shown to cause people to feel physically colder (IJzerman &Semin,2009), and holding a warm coffee cup caused individuals to judge a target as more interpersonally warm (Williams & Bargh, 2008). Given that the embodied cog- nition perspective has been applied to several classic, di- verse domains of psychological inquiry, including romantic attachment (Vess, 2012), moral judgment (e.g., Schnall et al., 2008), and visual perception (e.g., Cole, Balcetis, & Zhang, 2013), it offers a potentially parsimonious account for explaining myriad forms of human thought and behav- ior. A fundamental scientific principle, however, is that particular findings must be shown to be replicable before they become accepted as genuine contributions to human knowledge. Indeed, there are mounting calls for conducting independent direct replications to ensure the self-correcting nature of our science (Asendorpf et al., 2013;Bakker,van Dijk, & Wicherts, 2012; Ioannidis, 2012; Koole & Lakens, 2012; Makel, Plucker & Hagerty 2012; Neuliep & Crandall, 1990; Nosek, Spies, & Motyl, 2012; Pashler & Wagenmakers, 2012;Schimmack,2012). In this spirit, we sought to replicate a potentially important recent finding by Slepian, Masicampo, Toosi, & Ambady (2012)ontheem- bodiment of secrets.

Guided by an embodied cognition perspective, Slepian et al. (2012) reasoned that because secrets mentally tax the secret bearer, they might also be experienced as physically taxing. Given that being burdened by physical weight has previously been shown to influence perceptions related to physical effort (Proffitt, 2006), Slepian et al. hypothesized that harboring important secrets would result in perceiving the physical environment as more demanding and would limit physical forms of helping.

In their first study, Slepian et al. (2012) found that partic- ipants recalling and writing about a big, meaningful secret judged a pictured hill as steeper than did those who recalled and wrote about a small, inconsequential secret. …

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