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.
In this research, I show that interpersonal similarity influences what people attend to in social comparison. Specifically, I hypothesize that the more dissimilar a person is, the more abstract the information people learn from them. While someone may compare trivial matters like cell phone thicknesses to their friends', when comparing themselves to distant others, by contrast, people may have a greater opportunity to learn about broader things such as values, interpersonal relationships, and how to live a good life.
Citation: Yudkin, D. A., Liberman, N., Wakslak, C., & Trope, Y. (Under Revision). Measuring up to distant others: Expanding and contracting the comparative scope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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. (Under Review). Young Children Police Group Members at Personal Cost
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.
In this research I test the psychological processes that can mitigate the effect of what I call "diagnosticity neglect." Diagnosticity neglect occurs when someone is emotionally impacted by a social comparison whose outcome is externally caused. For instance, a high schooler may feel bad about his performance on the SATs if he is outperformed by a peer, even if he knows the peer's parents spent thousands on a tutor. Here I test--and find--that taking "psychological distance" from a given comparison can help people separate diagnostic from nondiagnostic comparisons. The results suggest an important intervention that may confer on people a more circumspect approach to their lot in life.
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.