Matthew T. Gailliot

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What do I research?

Links to my research

Faculty Webpage:

Testable Hypotheses for Future Research

Enacting successful self-control or self-change - Changing the self often requires changing the environment. Self-control or self-change involves metabolism, and so factors that influence metabolism could potentially help with self-control or self-change. Factors influencing metabolism include the amount of calories consumed, types and amounts of vitamins and minerals consumed, and air content inhaled (e.g., breathing supplementary oxygen).

Difficulties with conservation - Conserving resources can be important, but many factors make increased conservation problematic. One factor might be the need to contribute to the group. When resources are conserved, employment opportunities are decreased, and group contribution is made more difficult.

Ironic effects of dietary goals - Setting a goal should increase desires for resources that help achieve that goal. Meeting goals entails using metabolites, and therefore setting goals might often entail obtaining metabolites. In the case of dietary goals, people often set a goal of eating less, but accomplishing this goal requires metabolites. Desiring to eat less might therefore activate the goal to increase metabolites (i.e., take in more calories), which is the opposite of the dietary goal. Dietary goals should be more likely to fail as a result of this process.

Forms of Self-Esteem Might Fluctuate with Glucose Availability - To the extent that a form of self-esteem is effortfully maintained, then its level might fluctuate with glucose availability (e.g., periphery glucose levels, time until mealtime, food stores in pantry). One sample of participants might include people who already regularly assess their glucose levels (e.g., people with diabetes), so that they would only have to rate their self-esteem periodically so as to participate.

Reduce driving accidents involving alcohol - Placing candles and warming devices at bars at which drunken patrons can increase warmth reduces metabolic load of thermoregulation, freeing metabolites that might benefit driving performance, reducing the incident of drunk driving accidents. Drunken patrons warming at bars and drinking locales might decrease the likelihood of accidents from drunk driving. This effect should occur only among patrons for whom increased warmth would reduce metabolite use or caloric-energy expenditure (and for whom the increased non-used metabolites or calories would improve driving performance). The effect of candles and warming devices among patrons for whom decreased warmth would reduce metabolite use or caloric-energy use is unclear from this hypothesis. Warming devices might include gloves, candles, heaters, fireplaces, rubbing hands together, putting hands in pockets, and sitting on hands.

    - Future testable hypotheses
        * Do people who would be less likely to get in traffic accidents tend to use these warming devices when they would be less likely to get in traffic accidents?

Glucose Intolerance and Brain Activity - Glucose intolerance or impaired glucose tolerance(i.e., when glucose remains in the bloodstream rather than being absorbed by cells) can be attributable to brain regions being deprived of glucose. The extent of glucose intolerance or impaired glucose tolerance therefore might be related to the extent to which one or more brain areas are being deprived of glucose.

Manipulating Time and Effort - Doing some things takes more effort than others, and it can often seem like time slows while exerting effort. Time flies when you’re having fun, but not when you’re exerting strenuous effort. Might perceptions of time passage influence effort? If someone thought time was progressing at a different rate than it was, would this influence feelings of exerting effort? If the clock at work was off and made the hour 15 minutes shorter, then perhaps workers might have felt less drained or fatigued by the work. People might use the rate at which time passes as a cue as to how much effort they exert. Various projects related to this general idea can be pursued, such as manipulating how long people think a task took and then assessing perceptions of effort exerted and fatigue, as well as performance on a later task as a behavioral measure of fatigue.

Happiness and Efficiency of Movement - The happy state is an energetic state. Happiness represents having free energy to expend as one wishes – such as after having met prior goals and having few or no task demands. Emotions are signaled to others, so how do people signal the energetic feelings of happiness? One possibility is that they walk, run, stand, and move in ways that take more energy, such as by swinging their hands higher in the air or picking their feet up high above the steps. One project is to test these possibilities.

The Semantics of Energy – Good vs. Bad - Energy is an important construct in psychology. Psychological states often are defined by whether they connote having energy (e.g., feeling energetic or happy) or lacking energy (e.g., feeling tired or sad). People also need metabolic energy (foodstuffs) to function. Perhaps words related to energy – as used in language – have meaningful links to broad psychological domains. In this project, it is proposed that ‘energy’ relates to the ideas of good and bad. That which connotes having energy is good, and that which connotes lacking energy or depleting energy is bad. Objects that are up (e.g., an apple on a tree) have more potential mechanical energy than objects that are down (e.g., an apple on the ground), and ‘up’ might have more positive connotations than ‘down’. Light (e.g., the sun) contains more energy than dark (e.g., the vacuum of outer space), and ‘light’ might have more positive connotations than ‘dark’. Studies involve examining the link between energy and good vs. bad in language.

Observational Learning and Efficiency - Humans readily observe others so as to learn how to perform behaviors, such as a tourist watching people buy a train ticket so as to learn how to buy a ticket. It has been assumed that observational learning occurs because it is a fast and efficient means of learning. Rather than recreate the wheel, one can watch others create a wheel. If observational learning occurs readily in part because of its efficiency, then perhaps people more readily pay attention to people who model efficient behaviors than inefficient behaviors. Children might pay closer attention to adults who tie their shoes efficiently than adults who tie their shoes inefficiently, and people learning how to lock their bikes might pay closer attention to someone who locks the bike efficiently than inefficiently. Studies under this umbrella could involve modeling both efficient and inefficient behaviors and examining which are more readily mimicked or repeated.

Distance Perception and Meaning - The physical distance between a person and an object may be fixed in physical terms (at least at the macrolevel) but not in psychological terms. An approaching tram might be 10 meters from a bicyclist riding on the tracks, but the tram can seem much closer than 10 meters to that bicyclist. What factors influence the perceived distance between one’s self and an object? Studies proposed in this project could examine whether meaning or meaningfulness makes objects appear closer than they are. A sign with words on it might seem closer than a sign without words (meaning), or a sign that is relevant to the self might seem closer than a sign that is irrelevant to the self (meaningfulness).

Distance Perception and Time- The physical distance between a person and an object may be fixed in physical terms (at least at the macrolevel) but not in psychological terms. An approaching tram might be 10 meters from a bicyclist riding on the tracks, but the tram can seem much closer than 10 meters to that bicyclist. What factors influence the perceived distance between one’s self and an object? Studies proposed in this project could examine whether the possession of time influences distance perception. When in a rush or hurry, objects appear farther or closer away. The train might appear father away to the rushed commuter than the commuter who has plenty of time to reach the train.

The Power of the Female Sex Drive - On average, women can more easily obtain sex from men than men can obtain sex from women. This idea led to the theory of sexual economics, in which the female sex drive functions as a resource that is exchanged for other meaningful resources, such as attention, emotional concern, money, and material goods. From this view, the female sex drive operates as a reward for certain behaviors and therefore might function to regulate work in society. When a certain form of work is scarce and desirable (e.g., musical, athletic, or intellectual abilities), women will find these forms of work increasingly sexually appealing. Conversely, people who perform forms of work that are less needed will be seen as less sexually desirable. Cues to the amount of work required in society might also influence the female sex drive – when life requires high degrees of work, women will become less sexually promiscuous. When life requires less work, women will become more promiscuous.

The Anxiety of Life and Death - Ernest Becker (1973) proposed that people are highly motivated to avoid death psychologically and physically, and that much of life can be viewed as avoiding the anxiety that thoughts of death evoke. People socialize with others, participate in culture, and strive to meet their most important goals so as to avoid thinking about death. Though death has the potential to evoke anxiety, so too might the idea of living life in ways that diverge from how one believes life ought to be lived. It can be terrifying to die, but it can also be terrifying to live a life in disharmony with one’s innermost values and beliefs. Ample evidence indicates that thoughts of death make people bolster support for their most cherished values and beliefs and respond negatively to those who threaten those values and beliefs. The same might hold true for the thought of being forced to live how one does not want to live. In this case, people might respond by bolstering support for their own values and beliefs.

How Space Makes Us Eat More or Less - When people start and stop eating is often controlled by external factors outside of ourselves. The size of the container, the time on the clock, and whether others are eating can all be cues that regulate the amount of food we eat. Another factor that might dictate our eating behavior is the amount of space in which we have to move. If space is generally limited, and people must move in small spaces throughout the day and move around obstacles, then eating too much food can be cumbersome – it limits the ability to move freely. Thus, people should eat less. If space is ample, and people have plenty of room to move around, then there is less reason to limit one’s eating so as to remain highly mobile. Studies can be designed to test this hypothesis, such as by having people move through small spaces and then examine how much food they eat, or by having people eat in smaller spaces. This work holds the potential to reduce the amount of food eaten by people who eat too much and hope to eat less, which might ultimately provide food to those who need and want it more.

Insomnia and implementation intentions - During insomnia, people form implementation intentions (e.g., If I cannot sleep, then I will do laundry) that reduce the likelihood of sleeping by activating a monitoring process (that searches for the 'if' component of the implementation intention). The monitoring process itself entails increased brain activation that opposes changes in activation required for sleep.

The Work Heuristic - Individuals work more in high-work cultures (e.g., cultures in which people work longer hours) than in low-work cultures. The proposed 'work heuristic' is that the extent to which people work in the surrounding social environment (e.g., the length of the average work week, the amount of vacation time) serves as a mental guideline as to how much work one should put into any given task or role. For example, in a high work culture, police officers might develop the heuristic that they should put more effort into enforcing laws (e.g., make more arrests) and reviewers for journal articles might feel the need to work more on reviews (e.g., provide more comments, think of more potential problems), compared to similar people in low work cultures. The 'work heuristic' might help reduce guilt and other negative feelings (e.g., feeling as though one does not contribute to the group) that would result from working less in a given culture than is normative.


Helping / Prosocial behavior - Assess helping / prosocial behavior for people in need of help / prosocial behavior

Nutritional Intake - A socially beneficial and experimentally simple way of assessing the effects of nutritional intake would be to provide free food in locations in which nutritional intake is inadequate, allowing people to walk over and take food while participating in a study. The food could be provided by people who would benefit from the act of giving food, such as the lonely chef.

Metabolism Applied to Psychological Terms

Hypothesis - Something about metabolism.

Belongingness - benefits of - provides metabolism.

Metabolism - Referring to the use of potential and/or usable metabolites.

Metabolite use - The dissipation of metabolites across time and space.

Need to belong - Intertwined with the need for metabolites.

Social norms - Both decrease (conserve) metabolites and increase metabolite use. Riding a bike on a sidewalk (norm) decreases metabolic use (norm conserves metabolites), but if the sidewalk provides an indirect route, riding a bike on the sidewalk (norm) can increase metabolite use. Whether, and the extent to which, the norm increases or decreases metabolite use would vary also with the functionality of the bike (e.g., the extent to which the bike is entropized) and sidewalk (e.g., the extent to which the sidewalk creates friction with the bike tire).

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