Self-relevant information is subject to privileged processing over information related to other people. Object ownership is a way of making otherwise neutral objects self-relevant, and therefore giving these items access to the same privileges as other self-relevant stimuli. Previous research has shown that object ownership effects (faster processing of self-owned over other-owned items) are reliable and consistent across a range of tasks. One dimension of ownership that has yet to be explored, however, is the role of territory. We know that space and territory play a role in terms of the physical environment – people show privileged processing for items that are accessible to them (peripersonal space; Constantini et al., 2011) – but we can also conceptualise territory in more abstract terms. For example, you do not need to be physically present in your own house for it to be your house. The question is, does territory affect processing even when it is an abstract, arbitrary compartmentalising of space that does not impact physical affordances? And how does ownership of territory interact with ownership of objects? We explore how territory affects ownership effects in an adapted trolley-sorting paradigm. Participants sort items that belong to them or to another person into relevant baskets or trolleys. The key manipulation is that items can appear in a territory belonging to the self or to the other. Across three experiments we find that territory does affect ownership effects, as the privileged processing of self-owned items disappears when those items appear in another’s territory. This indicates that people are not just responding to the ownership status of items in a universal way, but are taking into account how these items are embedded within the social environment.
Even from early childhood, humans have a sense of fairness. Unfair players are judged harshly and people expect those who shirk effort at the expense of others to be punished, not rewarded. As adults, there is also a reputational motivation to be seen as fair, and people prefer to continue interactions with fair interaction partners rather than unfair ones. However, to date these studies have examined fairness in a third-party perspective: they often look at how people judge other people’s fairness in relation either to themselves or to other people. These studies have also focussed on resource or reward distribution in response to fair or unfair behaviour. There is little research looking at how and whether people choose to be fair themselves when they are responsible for task distribution. It is also unclear whether a desire to be fair could compete with other motivations in joint tasks, namely efficiency. Previous research has shown that interactants show a strong drive towards maximising the overall efficiency of joint actions (co-efficiency), even when this means sacrificing the efficiency of their individual actions. In the present study, participants completed a task where they were passing objects on a screen to a virtual partner whom they believed to be a real person in a different room. Participants could choose to pass the object at one of two points – one that was equidistant between the origin and target site, meaning that both actors would contribute the same effort in moving the item (fair) and one where the passing site was closer to either the origin or target (unfair). The unfair route could be either longer overall than the fair route (fairness and co-efficiency are congruent), shorter overall (fairness and co-efficiency are incongruent), or the same length (equal trials). We find that people show a strong drive towards maximising co-efficiency, choosing the shortest overall path even when this disadvantages themselves, but little evidence for a drive towards fairness. On equal trials, participants show evidence of altruism in their decisions, often choosing the route that minimises the contribution of their partner when this does not compromise the overall co-efficiency. As such, it is not that participants behave selfishly during interactions, but that they do not have a drive to ensure a fair task distribution on a trial-by-trial basis. Instead, they choose to be efficient as a group.
If they have to meet a stranger somewhere in Paris tomorrow at noon, most people would go to the Eiffel Tower as the landmark’s saliency creates a natural focal point. However, there are many landmarks in Paris and these can be more or less salient to different individuals. How does a person know that the landmark they find the most salient is the same that the stranger finds most salient? In this study we use an adapted Schelling-point coordination game with three levels of item saliency (high, medium, and low) to see how people coordinate under cases of such ambiguity. We compare the choices of people who were instructed to make individual decisions about saliency (n=188; 199) with people who were instructed to coordinate their decisions with a partner (n=188; 197). Counterintuitively, we find that participants who intentionally coordinate show lower agreement on items than those who make individual decisions. While making decisions based on individual feelings of saliency is the most effective coordination strategy in the current task, intentionally coordinating participants sometimes use alternative strategies that paradoxically compromise coordination success. This raises a compelling avenue for further study to explore how and why coordinated decision making fails.
The face inversion effect is typically used to show that faces are processed holistically – when a face is presented upside down it disrupts the perception of identity, expression and eye gaze, even though low-level perceptual features of the image are preserved. We used the inversion effect to investigate how participants perceive the relationship between individual faces. We presented participants with pairs of faces that either looked towards each other (socially engaged) or away from each other (disengaged). We then asked participants to judge where the faces were looking. When the pairs of faces were inverted judgement of engaged pairs was significantly impaired (compared with upright), but the same impairment was not found for inverted disengaged pairs. This selective impairment for engaged pairs suggests that mutual gaze leads to dyads being perceived as perceptual units rather than pairs of discrete individuals.