All Publications

  • Prosocial Conformity: Prosocial Norms Generalize Across Behavior and Empathy PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Nook, E. C., Ong, D. C., Morelli, S. A., Mitchell, J. P., Zaki, J. 2016; 42 (8): 1045-1062


    Generosity is contagious: People imitate others' prosocial behaviors. However, research on such prosocial conformity focuses on cases in which people merely reproduce others' positive actions. Hence, we know little about the breadth of prosocial conformity. Can prosocial conformity cross behavior types or even jump from behavior to affect? Five studies address these questions. In Studies 1 to 3, participants decided how much to donate to charities before learning that others donated generously or stingily. Participants who observed generous donations donated more than those who observed stingy donations (Studies 1 and 2). Crucially, this generalized across behaviors: Participants who observed generous donations later wrote more supportive notes to another participant (Study 3). In Studies 4 and 5, participants observed empathic or non-empathic group responses to vignettes. Group empathy ratings not only shifted participants' own empathic feelings (Study 4), but they also influenced participants' donations to a homeless shelter (Study 5). These findings reveal the remarkable breadth of prosocial conformity.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0146167216649932

    View details for Web of Science ID 000378533400003

    View details for PubMedID 27229679

  • Tracking the Emotional Highs but Missing the Lows: Hypomania Risk is Associated With Positively Biased Empathic Inference COGNITIVE THERAPY AND RESEARCH Devlin, H. C., Zaki, J., Ong, D. C., Gruber, J. 2016; 40 (1): 72-79
  • Affective cognition: Exploring lay theories of emotion COGNITION Ong, D. C., Zaki, J., Goodman, N. D. 2015; 143: 141-162


    Humans skillfully reason about others' emotions, a phenomenon we term affective cognition. Despite its importance, few formal, quantitative theories have described the mechanisms supporting this phenomenon. We propose that affective cognition involves applying domain-general reasoning processes to domain-specific content knowledge. Observers' knowledge about emotions is represented in rich and coherent lay theories, which comprise consistent relationships between situations, emotions, and behaviors. Observers utilize this knowledge in deciphering social agents' behavior and signals (e.g., facial expressions), in a manner similar to rational inference in other domains. We construct a computational model of a lay theory of emotion, drawing on tools from Bayesian statistics, and test this model across four experiments in which observers drew inferences about others' emotions in a simple gambling paradigm. This work makes two main contributions. First, the model accurately captures observers' flexible but consistent reasoning about the ways that events and others' emotional responses to those events relate to each other. Second, our work models the problem of emotional cue integration-reasoning about others' emotion from multiple emotional cues-as rational inference via Bayes' rule, and we show that this model tightly tracks human observers' empirical judgments. Our results reveal a deep structural relationship between affective cognition and other forms of inference, and suggest wide-ranging applications to basic psychological theory and psychiatry.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.06.010

    View details for Web of Science ID 000359885600017

    View details for PubMedID 26160501

  • A Second Look at Automatic Theory of Mind: Reconsidering Kovács, Téglás, and Endress (2010). Psychological science Phillips, J., Ong, D. C., Surtees, A. D., Xin, Y., Williams, S., Saxe, R., Frank, M. C. 2015; 26 (9): 1353-1367


    In recent work, Kovács, Téglás, and Endress (2010) argued that human adults automatically represented other agents' beliefs even when those beliefs were completely irrelevant to the task being performed. In a series of 13 experiments, we replicated these previous findings but demonstrated that the effects found arose from artifacts in the experimental paradigm. In particular, the critical findings demonstrating automatic belief computation were driven by inconsistencies in the timing of an attention check, and thus do not provide evidence for automatic theory of mind in adults.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797614558717

    View details for PubMedID 26253550

  • Not As Good as You Think? Trait Positive Emotion Is Associated with Increased Self-Reported Empathy but Decreased Empathic Performance PLOS ONE Devlin, H. C., Zaki, J., Ong, D. C., Gruber, J. 2014; 9 (10)