Our "games" are designed to help you practice specific mental skills. For example, some games involve practicing disengaging from unhelpful or distracting thoughts of social criticism and rejection, rather than dwelling on them and worrying about them. Research has shown that practicing this mental habit can help people to feel less distracted by social threats, and to feel less stressed. In one set of published studies by social psychologist Mark Baldwin and his collaborators at McGill University, participants played a prototype version of this tool for 5 minutes either in the lab or during breaks from work each day for five minutes, to assess the impact on their feelings of stress during the day. University students preparing for an exam, who used the tool while taking occasional breaks from studying, felt less stressed about their exam and ended up feeling less anxious while writing the exam compared to others who used a placebo task. Telemarketing operators who used the tool before their work shift reported feeling less stressed and more self-confident over the course of a week. Remarkably, they also had lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol and they even made more sales at work. This research suggests, then, that having a habit of mind that allows us to avoid being overly distracted by unhelpful thoughts of social rejection can help us deal with the stresses of daily life, and stay focused on other things we would prefer to pay attention to.
Other games are more focused on the "activation" of experiences of social connection or acceptance, since bringing such experiences into working memory can help us to avoid any tendency to anticipate and focus on negative expectations of rejection or criticism. Still other games involve pairing images of acceptance with thoughts about oneself: This way thoughts about oneself can come to trigger associated images of social connection.
Note that of course there is no guarantee that the tool will have these kinds of effects on any specific individual: This is why our goal is to develop an algorithm to tailor the games to each individual's characteristics and pattern of responses. Over time we will ask users of this website to help us by agreeing to contribute their anonymous responses, which will allow us to develop the algorithm.
Chiu, C. D., Siu, C. Y., Ng, H. C., & Baldwin, M. W. (2021). Visuospatial perspective shifting and relational self-association in dispositional shame and guilt. Consciousness and cognition, 92, 103140. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2021.103140
Although dispositional shame and guilt have been distinguished by perceptions of the self and behavioral responses, the underlying information processing patterns remain unclear. We hypothesized that an ability to contemplate alternatives to perceptions of the current environment, i.e., slot online flexibility in perspective shifting, may be essential to both dispositions. Dispositional shame may additionally relate to negative relational knowledge that involves a self-representation of being rejected. One hundred and six community participants rated the two dispositions, and had their flexibility in perspective shifting and internalized self-association with rejection assessed. Regression analysis indicated that a lower cost of perspective shifting was observed with dispositional guilt and shame. Yet, unlike a direct association with perspective shifting for dispositional guilt, it was an interaction between perspective shifting and negative relational knowledge that accounted for dispositional shame. The association of dispositional shame with perspective shifting was contingent upon the tendency to pair the self with rejection.
Ravary, A., Stewart, E. K., & Baldwin, M. W. (2020). Insecurity about getting old: age-contingent self-worth, attentional bias, and well-being. Aging & mental health, 24(10), 1636-1644.
Objectives: Older adulthood has often been recognized as a time of increased well-being and positive cognitive biases. However, older adults can also experience many social and identity challenges. We sought to investigate which older adults might be most vulnerable to these difficulties. We propose that to the extent an older adult has age-related contingent self-esteem they will be at risk for lower well-being and negative attentional biases.Methods: Across three studies, we measured older adults' self-reported aging self-worth contingencies, as well as various measures of well-being including subjective stress. We then had participants complete a cued-dot probe task, where each trial either began with an aging threat or not.Results: In an initial pilot study, we found that older adults reporting specific cognitive decline contingencies held an attentional bias toward rejection, primarily when cued with the word senile. In Study 1, we found general aging contingencies to be associated with lower well-being and a rejection bias when cued with old. In Study 2, we found that a stronger rejection bias, particularly when cued with old, was associated with greater stress.Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that older adults who are insecure about aging may have lower well-being and negatively biased social cognitive patterns. Negatively biased attentional patterns may play a key role in maintaining feelings of insecurity. Importantly, our research sheds light on those older adults who may not experience a positivity effect.
Ravary, A., Baldwin, M. W., & Bartz, J. A. (2019). Shaping the body politic: Mass media fat-shaming affects implicit anti-fat attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45(11), 1580-1589. [winner of the Student Publication Prize from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology]
The human psyche is profoundly shaped by its cultural milieu; however, few studies have examined the dynamics of cultural influence in everyday life, especially when it comes to shaping people’s automatic, implicit attitudes. In this quasi-experimental field study, we investigated the effect of transient, but salient, cultural messages—the pop-cultural phenomenon of celebrity “fat-shaming”—on implicit anti-fat attitudes in the population. Adopting the “copycat suicide” methodology, we identified 20 fat-shaming events in the media; next, we obtained data from Project Implicit of participants who had completed the Weight Implicit Association Test from 2004 to 2015. As predicted, fat-shaming led to a spike in women’s (N=93,239) implicit anti-fat attitudes, with events of greater notoriety producing greater spikes. We also observed a general increase in implicit anti-fat attitudes over time. Although these passing comments may appear harmless, we show that feedback at the cultural level can be registered by the “body politic.”
Ravary, A., & Baldwin, M.W. (2018). Self-esteem vulnerabilities are associated with cued attentional biases toward rejection. Personality and Individual Differences, 126, 44-51.
Feelings of insecurity, including those related to low self-esteem, have been linked to broad attentional biases toward social rejection. However, people's insecurities are often not broad and all-encompassing but rather are linked to specific self-worth contingency domains. We hypothesized that a person should exhibit a rejection bias primarily when reminded of a self-perceived flaw in an important domain. We adapted the dot probe measure of attentional bias by beginning each trial with a cue word. First, we re-examined a cognitive avoidance pattern documented in previous research and found that socially anxious people exhibited a rejection bias when cued with social competence flaws such as foolish (Study 1). Next, we found that low self-esteem was associated with a rejection bias when cued with failure (Study 2). Finally, people with specific self-worth contingencies relating to academics (Study 3) and thinness (Study 4) exhibited a rejection bias when cued with stupid and obese, respectively. Our findings show that attentional biases are particularly likely when a person feels most vulnerable.
Dedovic, K.,Giebl, S., Duchesne, A., Lue, S.D., Andrews, J., Efanov, S., Engert, V., Beaudry, T., Baldwin, M. W., & Pruessner, J. C. (2016). Psychological, endocrine and neural correlates of attentional bias in subclinical depression. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 29, 479-96.
Background: Our knowledge with respect to psychological, endocrine, and neural correlates of attentional bias in individuals with high vulnerability to developing depression - the subclinically depressed, still remains limited.
Design: The study used a 2 × 2 mixed design.
Methods: Attentional bias toward happy and sad faces in healthy (N = 26) and subclinically depressed individuals (N = 22) was assessed via a neuroimaging dot-probe attention task. Participants also completed trait and state psychological measures and provided saliva samples for cortisol analysis.
Results: The subclinical group showed attentional bias toward happy faces; past use of problem-focused coping strategies when dealing with a personally relevant stressor as well as state levels of anxiety, together, contributed to this bias. In the control group, the happy attentional bias was positively correlated with activity in the right caudate. In the subclinical group, the bias was negatively associated with the left fusiform gyrus and positively with the left inferior parietal lobule and bilateral putamen. We observed group differences in association between cortisol levels during the task and neural activity during happy attentional bias processing within the key regions involved in attention.
Conclusions: The attentional bias toward happy faces may reflect an active coping attempt by the subclinical participants.
McEwan, K., Gilbert, P., Dandeneau, S., Lipka, S., Maratos, F., Paterson, K.B., & Baldwin, M. (2014). Facial expressions depicting compassionate and critical emotions: The development and validation of a new emotional face stimulus set. PLOS One, vol. 9. DOI: 10.1371.
Attachment with altruistic others requires the ability to appropriately process affiliative and kind facial cues. Yet there is no stimulus set available to investigate such processes. Here, we developed a stimulus set depicting compassionate and critical facial expressions, and validated its effectiveness using well-established visual-probe methodology. In Study 1, 62 participants rated photographs of actors displaying compassionate/kind and critical faces on strength of emotion type. This produced a new stimulus set based on N = 31 actors, whose facial expressions were reliably distinguished as compassionate, critical and neutral. In Study 2, 70 participants completed a visual-probe task measuring attentional orientation to critical and compassionate/kind faces. This revealed that participants lower in self-criticism demonstrated enhanced attention to compassionate/kind faces whereas those higher in self-criticism showed no bias. To sum, the new stimulus set produced interpretable findings using visual-probe methodology and is the first to include higher order, complex positive affect displays.
Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., and Milyavskaya, M. (2010). Computer game associating self-concept to images of acceptance can reduce adolescents' aggressiveness in response to social rejection, Cognition & Emotion, 24: 5, 855-862. Full article [.pdf]
- The experience of social rejection can lead to an aggressive response. However, the ability to maintain a sense of social connection may reduce the likelihood of this type of response. We tested a computer-based intervention designed to use simple learning principles to boost the sense of social connection and acceptance. Adolescents aged 9-15 (n=138) first completed a conditioning game on computer that repeatedly paired their own name with images of social acceptance (versus a control condition with no systematic pairing), and subsequently reported how aggressively they would behave in response to being rejected by a peer. Those completing the self-acceptance conditioning (particularly those low in self-esteem) reported less aggressive feelings and intentions.
Ronen, R., and Baldwin, M. W. (2010). Hypersensitivity to Social Rejection and Perceived Stress as Mediators between Attachment Anxiety and Future Burnout: A Prospective Analysis. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 59 (3), 380–403. Full article [.pdf]
- Drawing on Sociometer Theory, the current study examined whether the tendency to focus on and worry about social rejection at the workplace can predict stress and burnout. Data were collected at two time points from 231 hotel employees. Prospective-longitudinal design, structural equation modeling analyses revealed that participants’ hypersensitivity to social rejection at the workplace predicted an increase in stress and in burnout across the 1 month of participation. Furthermore, the findings revealed that hypersensitivity to social rejection fully mediated the link between attachment anxiety and future stress and that hypersensitivity to social rejection and stress fully mediated the link between attachment anxiety and future burnout. Approximately 64 per cent of the variance in future burnout was explained by these variables. The results demonstrate the significant role social evaluative stressors play in the development of stress responses at the workplace.
Dandeneau, S. D., & Baldwin, M. W. (2009). The buffering effects of rejection-inhibiting attentional training on social and performance threat among adult students. Contemporary Educational Psychology. Full article [.pdf]
- Concerns about social rejection can be disruptive in an academic context. We set out to train a positive cognitive habit that would buffer against social and performance threat thereby making students less vulnerable and more resilient to rejection. Participants from adult education centers (n = 150) were first trained to inhibit rejection using a specially designed computer task, and were then taken through a rejection and failure manipulation. Results showed that of the most vulnerable participants with low explicit and low implicit self-esteem, those in the experimental conditions exhibited significantly less vigilance for rejection compared to their counterparts in the control condition. The attentional training also made participants with low explicit self-esteem feel less rejected after a rejection manipulation and less willing to perseverate on a virtually impossible anagrams task. Finally participants in the experimental conditions reported less interfering thoughts of being rejected while completing difficult anagrams and overall higher state self-esteem after having been rejected and experiencing failure. The results show that training positive social cognitions can have beneficial self-regulatory outcomes in response to social and performance threat in a school context.
Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., Dandeneau, S. D., & Sakellaropoulo, M. (2007). Time for some new tools: Toward the application of learning approaches to the study of interpersonal cognition. To appear in J. Wood, J. Holmes, & A. Tesser (Eds.), The Self and Social Relationships, Psychology Press.
- In our lab we have been exploring the usefulness of what might broadly be termed learning paradigms. Bargh and Ferguson (2000), in their provocative article showing the links between behaviorism and the current social cognitive literature, examined such notions as activation, automatic and implicit processing, and the situational control of behavior, to conclude that many of the assumptions of social cognition are consistent with those typically associated with learning theory. We share this view, and we have begun to press beyond this and ask whether conditioning paradigms and the like might therefore be handy tools for examining cognition about relationships. After all, if activation patterns of social knowledge play a key role in interpersonal life, might it be possible and beneficial to find ways of modifying those activation patterns in a relatively enduring way?
Pruessner, J.C., Wuethrich, S., & Baldwin, M.W. (2007). The stress of low self-esteem: On the relationship between personality factors and stress responsivity. In G. Fink (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Stress (2nd Edition), Oxford, UK: Elsevier.
Dandeneau, S. D., Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., Sakellaropoulo, M., & Pruessner, J. C. (2007). Cutting Stress Off at the Pass: Reducing Vigilance and Responsiveness to Social Threat by Manipulating Attention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 651-666. Full article [.pdf]
- Personality processes relating to social perception have been shown to play a significant role in the experience of stress. In 5 studies, the authors demonstrate that early stage attentional processes influence the perception of social threat and modify the human stress response. The authors first show that cortisol release in response to a stressful situation correlates with selective attention toward social threat. Second, the authors show in 2 laboratory studies that this attentional pattern, most evident among individuals with low self-esteem, can be modified with a repetitive training task. Next, in a field study, students trained to modify their attentional pattern to reduce vigilance for social threat showed lower self-reported stress related to their final exam. In a final field study with telemarketers, the attentional training task led to increased self-esteem, decreased cortisol and perceived stress responses, higher confidence, and greater work performance. Taken together, these results demonstrate the impact of antecedent-focused strategies on the late-stage consequences of social stress.
Sakellaropoulo, M. & Baldwin, M. W. (2007). The hidden sides of self-esteem: Two dimensions of implicit self-esteem and their relation to narcissistic reactions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 995-1001. Full article [.pdf]
- Implicit, or nonconscious, self-esteem is often assumed to involve a unidimensional evaluation of the self. Our studies demonstrate that implicit self-esteem is in fact multifaceted and can be divided into at least two dimensions, which we term self-liking and self-attractiveness. Among participants for whom narcissistic thoughts and feelings were experimentally activated, we found that the two dimensions of implicit self-esteem were differentially associated with self-reported narcissism (Study 1) and feelings of aggressiveness (Study 2). In particular, narcissistic reactions were predicted by the combination of a high level of implicit self-attractiveness and a low level of implicit self-liking. These findings add to the growing understanding of the complexities of implicit self-esteem.
Gilbert, P., Baldwin, M. W., Irons, C., Baccus, J.R., & Clark, M. (2006). Self-criticism and self-warmth: An imagery study exploring their relation to depression. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 10, 183-200. Full article [.pdf]
- When things go wrong for people, those who are self-critical, compared to those who self-reassure, are at increased risk of psychopathology. However, little is known of the internal processes involved in self-criticism and self-reassurance, such as the ease of eliciting critical imagery, and the power, emotion and vividness of self-criticalness and self-reassurance. This study used a self-imagery task to investigate trait self-criticism and trait self-reassurance in relation to the ease and clarity of generating self-critical and self-reassuring images, and the felt power and emotion of self-critical and self-reassuring imagery. We also explored these in relation to depressive symptoms in students. Results suggested that trait self-criticism is associated with ease and clarity in generating hostile and powerful self-critical images, while trait self-reassurance is associated with ease and clarity of generating warm and supportive images of the self. Data analysis using structural equation models also suggests that difficulties in generating self-reassurance and compassionate images about the self with self-directed warmth, may also contribute to depressive symptoms. Thus self-critics may not only suffer for elevated negative feelings about the self but may also struggle to be able to generate self-supportive images and feelings for the self, and these difficulties could be a focus of therapeutic interventions.
Irons, C., Gilbert, P., Baldwin, M.W., Baccus, J. & Palmer, M. (2006). Parental recall, attachment relating and self attacking/self-reassurance: Their relationship with depression. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 297-308. Full article [.pdf]
- When things go wrong for people they can become self-critical or focus on positive, reassuring aspects of the self. This study explored the relationship between forms of self-criticism and self-reassurance, recall of parental experiences and attachment style in relation to depressed symptoms in students. A sample of 197 undergraduate students from the UK and Canada completed self-report questionnaires measuring recall of parental styles, attachment, forms of self-criticism, self-reassurance, and depression symptoms. Recall of parents as rejecting and overprotecting was significantly related to both inadequacy and self-hating self-criticism. In contrast, parental warmth was negatively correlated with these forms of self-criticism. In addition, when things go wrong for the person, recall of parental warmth was associated with the ability to be self-reassuring. A mediator analysis suggested that (1) the impact of recall of negative parenting on depression is mediated through the forms of self-criticism and (2) the effect of parental warmth on depression was mediated by the ability to be self-reassuring. The impacts of negative parenting styles may translate into vulnerabilities to depression via the way children (and later adults) develop their self-to-self relating (e.g. as self-critical versus self-reassuring). Hence, there is a need for further research on the link between attachment experiences, recall of parental rejection/warmth and their relationship to internal, self-evaluative and affect systems in creating vulnerabilities to psychopathology.
Baldwin, M.W. (Ed.) (2005). Interpersonal Cognition. New York: Guilford press. Interpersonal Cognition on Amazon.ca
- Presenting state-of-the-art research from leading investigators, this volume examines the processes by which people understand their interpersonal experiences. Provided are fresh perspectives on how individuals glean social knowledge from past relationships and apply it in the here and now. Also explored are the effects of biases and expectancies about significant others on relationship satisfaction and personal well-being. Broad in scope, the book integrates findings from experimental social psychology with insights from developmental, personality, and clinical psychology. Throughout, chapters strike an appropriate balance between theory and method, offering an understanding of the core issues involved as well as the tools needed to study them.
Baldwin, M. W., & Dandeneau, S. D. M. (2005). Understanding and modifying the relational schemas underlying insecurity. In M. Baldwin (Ed.) Interpersonal Cognition. New York: Guilford press.
- In this chapter, we begin with a brief examination of some of the theoretical foundations of our perspective, present the assumptions of our model, and review almost two decades of research into the basic workings of relational schemas. Then we turn to our most recent research, in which we have examined the possibility of modifying relational knowledge structures. We have come to believe that the next step for the social cognitive perspective is to embrace the insights of learning theory, which from its earliest days has been focused on the processes of change in the acquisition and modification of behavior and cognition. We describe our recent efforts to apply basic learning principles, such as classical conditioning, to the issue of changing relational cognition. We have examined these questions primarily in the context of the cognitive structures underlying experiences of security and insecurity, with the goal of identifying means of decreasing the influence of insecurity-producing cognitive processes, and increasing the influence of security-producing processes.
Pruessner, J. C., Baldwin, M.W., Dedovic, K., Renwick, R., Mahani, N. K., Lord, C., Meaney, M., & Lupien, S. (2005). Self-esteem, locus of control, hippocampal volume, and cortisol regulation in young and old adulthood. Neuroimage, 28, 815-826. Full article [.pdf]
- Self-esteem, the value we place on ourselves, has been associated with effects on health, life expectancy, and life satisfaction. Correlated with self-esteem is internal locus of control, the individual’s perception of being in control of his or her outcomes. Recently, variations in selfesteem and internal locus of control have been shown to predict the neuroendocrine cortisol response to stress. Cumulative exposure to high levels of cortisol over the lifetime is known to be related to hippocampal atrophy. We therefore examined hippocampal volume and cortisol regulation, to investigate potential biological mechanisms related to self-esteem.We investigated 16 healthy young (age range 20– 26 years of age) and 23 healthy elderly subjects (age range 60–84 years). The young subjects were exposed to a psychosocial stress task, while the elderly subjects were assessed for their basal cortisol regulation. Structural Magnetic Resonance Images were acquired from all subjects, and volumetric analyses were performed on medial temporal lobe structures, and whole brain gray matter. Standardized neuropsychological assessments in the elderly were performed to assess levels of cognitive performance, and to exclude the possibility of neurodegenerative disease. Self-esteem and internal locus of control were significantly correlated with hippocampal volume in both young and elderly subjects. In the young, the cortisol response to the psychosocial stress task was significantly correlated with both hippocampal volume and levels of self-esteem and locus of control, while in the elderly, these personality traits moderated age-related patterns of cognitive decline, cortisol regulation, and global brain volume decline.
Ratelle, C.F., Baldwin, M. W., & Vallerand, R.J. (2005). On the cued activation of situational motivation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 482-487. Full article [.pdf]
- We examined the hypothesis that situational (or state) motivation can generalize from one situation to another via activation by associated cues. In an experimental setting, a neutral cue (a computer tone sequence) was paired repeatedly with controlling feedback. We then assessed the effect of presenting this conditioned cue during a subsequent task on participants’ motivation for that novel task. In two studies we found evidence that cued activation of controlledness significantly undermined participants’ self-determined motivation toward this subsequent task. These findings demonstrate that subtle cues, including contextual primes, can influence people’s motivational state.
Dandeneau, S. D. M., & Baldwin, M. W. (2004). The inhibition of socially rejecting information among people with high versus low self-esteem: The role of attentional bias and the effects of bias reduction training. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23. 584-602. Full article [.pdf].
- In two studies, we examined the inhibition of rejection information. In Study 1, we developed a Rejection Stroop task with the purpose of measuring an attentional bias to rejection words hypothesized to characterize individuals with low self-esteem. Results indicated that people with low self-esteem experienced significantly more interference on rejection words than on acceptance words, whereas for people with high self-esteem there was no such difference. In Study 2, we developed a task to train the response of inhibiting rejection information by repeatedly identifying the smiling/accepting face in a 4 × 4 matrix of frowning faces. Results showed that after this inhibition training, people with chronic low self-esteem experienced significantly less interference on rejection words on the Rejection Stroop than their counterparts in the control condition. People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, did not exhibit different amounts of interference on rejection or acceptance words between conditions. The present findings suggest that it is possible to measure people’s attentional bias to rejection and teach people skills that help them deal with negative social information.
Baccus, J. R., Baldwin, M. W., & Packer, D. J. (2004). Increasing implicit self-esteem through classical conditioning. Psychological Science, 15, 498-502. Full article [.pdf].
- Implicit self-esteem is the automatic, nonconscious aspect of self-esteem. This study demonstrated that implicit selfesteem can be increased using a computer game that repeatedly pairs self-relevant information with smiling faces. These findings, which are consistent with principles of classical conditioning, establish the associative and interpersonal nature of implicit self-esteem and demonstrate the potential benefit of applying basic learning principles in this domain.
Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J.R. & Fitzsimons, G.M.(2004). Self-esteem and the Dual Processing of Interpersonal Contingencies. Self and Identity, pp.1-13. Full article [.pdf]
- Social cognitive research has shown that individuals with low self-esteem exhibit contingency expectations involving interpersonal acceptance and rejection (e.g., If I fail, then I will be rejected). We examined whether the processing differences between low and high self-esteem individuals would be evident in their most spontaneous reactions, or only in relatively deliberate responses. A lexical decision task measured people's reaction times to positive or negative interpersonal words, following success or failure primes. The stimulus onset asynchrony was manipulated to allow spontaneous or deliberate processing. Individuals with low self-esteem exhibited contingencies at the spontaneous level. These contingencies were not evident in individuals with high self-esteem. The findings support interpersonal models of self-esteem, and confirm that controlled, deliberate thought is not required for the activation of relational expectations.
Baldwin, M. W., Granzberg, A. & Pritchard, E.T. (2003). Cued Activation of Relational Schemas: Self-Evaluation and Gender Effects. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 35, 153-163. Full article [.pdf]
- In two studies, men's and women's self-evaluative responses following presentation of rejection and acceptance cues were examined. Two different conditioning procedures were utilized to associate computer-generated tones with images of social rejection or acceptance. When these tones were played later in a self-evaluative situation, women tended to respond to rejection cues by becoming more self-critical, and to acceptance cues by becoming less self-critical. On some indicators, men responded in the opposite fashion. These findings are discussed in light of recent analyses of gender differences in the sources of self-esteem.
Baldwin, M. W. & Kay, A. (2003). Adult Attachment and the Inhibition of Rejection. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22, pp.275-293. Full article [.pdf]
- Recent research has identified the inhibition of negative interpersonal information as a critical social cognitive mechanism associated with adult attachment orientations. Sixty undergraduate participants were conditioned to associate one computer tone with interpersonal rejection, and another with acceptance. The tones were played again while the participants performed a lexical decision task that assessed the activation of rejection information. To the extent that individuals were low on attachment anxiety, the conditioned tones led to slower reaction times to rejection target words, indicating the inhibition of rejection expectations. The implications of such inhibitory processing are discussed
Baldwin, M. W., & Main, K. J. (2001). The Cued Activation of Relational Schemas in Social Anxiety. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1637-1647. Full article [.pdf]
- A cued activation procedure was used to examine the hypothesis that social anxiety involves an expectation of being rejected or evaluated negatively by others, combined with a concern about impression management (e.g., Schlenker & Leary, 1982). Participants underwent a conditioning procedure in which distinctive computer tones were paired with thoughts of social rejection and acceptance respectively. In a pilot study, a lexical decision task established that when these tone cues were played later, they differentially activated expectations of rejection. In the main study, female participants interacted with a male confederate while one of the tones, or a control tone, sounded repeatedly in the background. Several indicators of social anxiety showed an interaction between level of public self-consciousness and the nature of the tone played. High self-conscious individuals tended to be affected by the cues; low self-conscious people were not.
Baldwin, M.W. (2001). Does Bob Zajonc ever scowl at you from the back of your mind? In J. Bargh & D. Apsley (Eds.), Festschrift in honor of Robert Zajonc. Festschrift in honor of Robert Zajonc. American Psychological Association.
- One of the main issues of interest to me was how cognition regarding the self was shaped by structures relating to communicative contexts. As Zajonc suggested in his provocative work on cognitive tuning (Zajonc, 1960), our thought processes are often shaped by thoughts of communicating with specific other people having specific traits, knowledge, goals, and so on. While I agree with Zajonc & Adelmann (1987) that this profound principle has not been studied adequately by social psychologists, it has received some attention (e.g., Higgins & Rholes, 1978; Levine, Bogart, & Zdaniuk, 1996). My contribution has been to seek some evidence that this communicative context need not be a function of one's current or immediately anticipated interactions, but can be established by the activation of a knowledge structure representing a well-learned interaction pattern. The audience shaping the cognitive tuning of thought, therefore, need not be present in the flesh but can be a completely private audience.
Baldwin, M.W. & Fergusson, P. (2001). Relational schemas: The Activation of Interpersonal Knowledge Structures in Social Anxiety. In R. Crozier & L. Alden (Eds.) The International Handbook of Social Anxiety.
- The fear of negative evaluation involves images or representations about how social interactions likely will ensue - images that link apprehension about behaving in an embarrassing or inferior manner with expectations of being rejected, humiliated or otherwise devalued as a consequence. The model presented here is primarily concerned with the cognitive representations that underlie such anxieties. In approaching a new situation, what autobiographical memories resonate with the current context, and trigger negative social expectations? What causes certain images or outcomes (e.g., being teased or mocked) to enter into mind so easily, effortlessly, and automatically that they seem not only plausible but also inevitable? What social categories (e.g., 'loser') influence - even implicitly - the interpretation of ongoing experience? How might it be possible to modify the categories that become activated, to replace dysfunctional structures with more functional ones?
Baldwin, M. W., & Meunier, J. (1999). The Cued Activation of Attachment Relational Schemas. Social Cognition, 17, 209-227. Full article [.pdf]
- People's interaction expectancies and views of self are shaped by accessible relational schemas, knowledge structures representing regularities in interpersonal experience. Recent research using classical conditioning paradigms has examined the possibility of creating associations between neutral cues and specific relational schemas so that presentation of the cue serves to activate the relational expectancies. In the current study, a lexical decision task was employed to assess the cued activation of acceptance and rejection expectations as a function of chronic attachment orientation. 42 introductory psychology students were asked to visualized relationships in which they felt noncontingently vs contingently accepted by another person; while doing so they were given repeated computer presentations of distinctive tone sequences. Later, these conditioned tones were played again while Ss performed lexical decisions on stimuli that represented if-then contingencies of interpersonal acceptance and rejection. Results indicate that the conditioning procedure had different effects, depending on participants' chronic attachment orientations.
Baldwin, M. W. (1999). Activation and Accessibility Paradigms in Relational Schemas Research. In D. Cervone & Y. Shoda (Eds.) Coherence in personality, (pp. 127-154). New York: Guilford.
- Over the past decade my collaborators and I have been developing a social-cognitive model of how people think about their significant relationships and the effects of this thinking has on their interactions and sense of self. The central construct is the relational schema, or cognitive structure representing regularities in patterns of interpersonal relatedness. Their research has explored how relational schemas shape expectations, social behavior, and the interpretations people make of their interpersonal experiences. Topics discussed include: basic principles of the relational schemas approach; research (assessing the content and structure of relational schemas, temporary accessibility, behavior and behavioral intentions); and personality coherence: stability and variability.
Baldwin, M. W., & Sinclair, L. (1996). Self-Esteem and "If...Then" Contingencies of Interpersonal Acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1130-1141. Full article [.pdf]
- An important influence on the social construction of self-esteem is the degree to which the individual perceives interpersonal acceptance as relatively unconditional versus contingent on one's successes and failures. Three studies were conducted using a lexical-decision task to examine high and low self-esteem individuals' if-then expectancies with respect to contingencies of interpersonal acceptance. On each trial, participants first were shown a success or failure context word. Then, they made a word/nonword judgment on another letter string which sometimes was a target word relating to interpersonal acceptance or rejection. Study 1 showed that for low self-esteem participants, success and failure contexts facilitated the processing of acceptance and rejection target words, respectively, thus revealing associations between performance and social outcomes. Study 2 demonstrated that the finding could not be explained as a simple valence- congruency effect. Study 3 demonstrated that the lexical- decision pattern was stronger for people who had recently been primed with a relationship in which acceptance was highly conditional, as opposed to one based more on unconditional acceptance. These studies contribute to a social cognitive formulation of the role that accessible relational schemas play in the social construction of self-esteem.
Baldwin, M. W., Keelan, J. P. R., Fehr, B., Enns, V., & Koh-Rangarajoo, E. (1996). Social Cognitive Conceptualization of Attachment Working Models: Availability and Accessibility Effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 94-104. Full article [.pdf]
- The mental models underlying adult attachment styles were conceptualized from a social cognitive perspective. Three studies were conducted to test hypotheses related to the availability and accessibility of attachment-relevant relational knowledge. Results showed that whereas most people reported experience with multiple styles of relating, the general attachment style they endorsed was related to: a) the proportion of their significant relationships in which their feelings corresponded to the different attachment style descriptions, b) the ease with which they could generate exemplar relationships to match these descriptions, and c) their interpersonal expectations in these relationships. The last study involved a priming manipulation in which a relationship matching one of the attachment style descriptions was brought to mind, and attraction to different potential dating partners was assessed. Overall, the findings suggest that most people process relational knowledge corresponding to all three attachment styles and that the relative availability and accessibility of this knowledge determines which style people report to characterize their thinking about relationships.
Baldwin, M. W. (1994). Primed Relational Schemas as a Source of Self-Evaluative Reactions. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 13, 380-403.
- It is argued that self-evaluative reactions are shaped by activated relational schemas, which represent how one would be evaluated in a significant relationship. In two studies the unobtrusive presentation of a significant other's name was used to prime a specific internalized relationship. Under certain conditions, exposures to the name of a critical versus accepting significant other led subjects to report more negative versus positive self-evaluations and mood. The conditions producing an impact of primed relational schemas were subliminal presentation of the prime (Experiment 1) and heightened self-awareness (Experiment 2).