Altruism isn't just about being nice to others. It's also about punishing wrongdoers, even if it comes at a cost. In this research I investigated "altruistic punishment" in young children. I find that children as young as 3 years of age will make a personal sacrifice to punish someone who has broken the rules. Moreover, young children placed in a position of responsibility tend to punish in-group members more than out-group members, suggesting there is something about feeling a sense of authority that leads people to police the members of their own group.
Citation: Yudkin, D. A., Rhodes, M., & Van Bavel, J. (Invited Revision). Young Children Police Group Members at Personal Cost. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General [preprint]
Current theory in psychology suggests two distinct factors come into play when people judge other people’s actions: the benefit they think those actions will have, and how good those actions would feel to perform (known as “warm glow”). In this research, my collaborators and I found that warm glow is actually more important than benefit in people’s moral judgments. In other words, when people evaluate about how morally praiseworthy something is, they are paying more attention to how good it would feel to perform than how beneficial it would be to others. The results explain why, for instance, we may be more approving of donating to causes like the Make A Wish foundation than the Against Malaria foundation.
Citation: Yudkin, D.A., Prosser, A., & Crockett, M. (2018). Actions speak louder than outcomes in judgments of prosocial behavior. Emotion. [link]
How does group membership influence people's willingness to enact punishment on others? This research shows that people demonstrate intergroup bias, but only under cognitive load. The results have implications for theories of intergroup relations, justice, and social policy.
Citation: Yudkin, D. A., Rothmund, T., Thalla, N., Twardawski, M., & Van Bavel, J. (2016). Reflexive intergroup bias in third-party punishment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 1448-1459. [link]
The act of sightseeing in an unfamiliar city, of deciding whether to end a relationship, and of trying out a new item on a menu all have at least one thing in common: they all involve the act of venturing beyond the relative safety of a known environment (the “local maximum”) in search of a superior alternative. In this research, I investigate what sorts of mental states lead people to engage in exploration. I observed that the people who are most likely to take a risk by venturing into the unknown are the ones who are thinking of their situation in abstract or distant terms. The results highlight the mental faculties that may be necessary for people to transcend the here-and-now.
Citation: Yudkin, D. A., Pick, R., Hur, E. Y., Liberman, N., & Trope, Y. (2018). Psychological Distance Promotes Exploration in Search of a Global Maximum. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0146167218799309. [link]
How much should a person's specific features (race, religion, nationality) influence their right to justice? And when are people better or worse at applying justice equally to all individuals? In this research, we predicted that the more perspective (or, as it's known, psychological distance) people had on a situation, the better they would be at applying justice principles equally. This research shows that the best way to be fair is to take a step back from the situation.
Citation: Mentovich, T., Yudkin, D. A., Tyler, T., & Trope, Y. (2016). Justice without borders: Construal level and the scope of justice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. [link]
It is well known that people evaluate their own outcomes (i.e., their possessions, achievements, etc.) in contrast to others’—a phenomenon termed “social comparison.” In this research, I investigated how people’s sense of similarity to the person they are comparing to (“comparison target”) influences what gets compared. Results showed that the more dissimilar the comparison target, the more abstract the comparison became. For example, while someone may compare trivial matters like cell phone thicknesses to their friends', when comparing themselves to dissimilar others, by contrast, they may learn about broader things such as values, relationships, and how to live a good life.
Citation: Yudkin, D. A., Liberman, N., Wakslak, C., & Trope, Y. (Invited Revision). Better off and far away: Reactions to others’ outcomes depends on their distance. Organizational Behavioral and Human Decision Processes [preprint]
People sometimes take social comparisons too personally. Consider a high schooler whose friend outperforms her on the SATs because the friend’s family spent thousands of dollars on a private tutor her own family couldn’t afford. In this case, it would not be rational to believe that the difference in test scores indicates something about her intrinsic ability; rather the score difference is due to external factors that has nothing to do with intelligence. The word “nondiagnostic” is used to describe comparisons whose outcomes are due to extraneous, rather than personal, factors, and “diagnosticity neglect” is people’s tendency to take nondiagnostic comparisons too personally. In this research, I explore the possibility that taking a mental step back from a comparison can reduce diagnosticity neglect. The results point the way toward a way by which people can have a wiser approach to their life circumstances relative to others’.
Citation: Yudkin, D. A. (Invited Revision). Stepping back to see what matters: Psychological distance reduces diagnosticity neglect in social comparison. Journal of Personal and Social Psychology. [preprint]