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Apologies, High-Heels, and Humor: Tales from the SPSP Poster Session Trenches

Each year at SPSP, (mostly) students and faculty line up to present over 1000 posters, which are descriptions of research studies presented on a 3-foot by 4-foot bulletin board. It’s quite a sight.  With approximately 300+ presenters telling their scientific stories at any given poster session; these sessions can be a bit overwhelming and hectic to navigate. I slogged through such a poster session last night, and have returned with findings from three posters that I thought were particularly interesting.

The Effectiveness of Apologies

First up was When Are Apologies Effective? A Meta-Analysis on the Outcomes of Apology, by Hill, Colvin, and Conlon. Mistakes happen in close relationships, and when they do, it’s important to know the most effective ways of repairing them. Hill and colleagues reviewed over a hundred studies to figure out what are the most—and least—effective ways to apologize. Their conclusions? Apologies do work, particularly when those doing the apologizing express sincere remorse, or offer some means of compensation for the trespass.  Importantly, however, doubling up by offering an apology expressing remorse and offering compensation at the same time is not more effective than an apology using either one of these strategies. So if you make a mistake in your relationship, as most of us will, cry about how sorry you are, or offer to make it up to your partner—don’t do both at the same time.

The Power of High Heels (for Men, but not for Women)

Next was The Embodied Effects of High Heels on Perceptions of Power, by Crone, Zahratka, and Bogaards. In previous research, men who made fists felt more powerful than men did not, but this embodied power effect was not seen for women. Crone and colleagues thought that this might occur because men typically use and associate their fists with gaining power, whereas women do not. So, in their study, Crone and colleagues used an embodied power prime they thought would be more relevant for women, and not relevant for men—having women and men simulate the posture of wearing high-heels. Completely contradicting their predictions, however, men who were in the simulated high-heel condition felt higher levels of self-esteem, and more powerful than men who keep their feet flat on the ground. Women in the high-heel condition, alternatively, had lower self-esteem, and felt somewhat less powerful than women who kept their feet on the ground. Thus, although women in heels might be perceived by others as more powerful, this research suggests that ladies wanting to feel powerful should consider shelving their heels and opting for flats.

Ruining a Joke’s Punchline

Finally, I visited When Spoiling a Punchline Does Not Ruin a Joke by Topolinski, Erie, and Bakhtiari. We like people who are funny, both as romantic partners and as friends. It might seem intuitive, when you think of a joke’s structure, to consider the punchline as the most important part, and that it is imperative to keep the punchline a secret until the time of delivery. After all, who wants to be told, “the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side”, and then asked, “why did the chicken cross the road?”  However, the research by Topolinski and colleagues, however, says otherwise. They found that ruining the punchline for a joke (i.e., flashing the punchline on a computer screen) can actually increase the a joke’s funniness, as long as there has been a brief delay after ruining the punchline—even as small as a couple minutes. So next time you’re hoping to make a good impression on someone, consider striking up a conversation with them about toads, and then sometime later, ask them what happens to frogs that park illegally….wait for it…they get toad!

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John Sakaluk - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV

John is interested in experimental existential psychology, sexual health, cultural scripts, double standards, and other sexual attitudes. He relies on theories such as attachment, terror management, and conceptual metaphor, while researching topics such as condom use and sexual strategies.

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