Within a comprehensive perspective of human behavior we present data that suggests that cognitive processing is accompanied by specific motivational states of challenge and threat, being this effect amplified by basic social contexts, like mere presence. Our framework brings together evidence from social cognition and psychophysiology and relates it with a classic effect of social psychology. Specifically, we integrated the familiarity as a regulation mechanism model (Garcia-Marques, 1999; Garcia-Marques & Mackie, 2001, 2007) with the biopsychossocial model of challenge and threat (Tomaka et. al, 1991; Blascovich, 2008), within a social facilitation setting. This integrated approach originated two main assumptions that were tested in this investigation. The first one derives from the assumption that familiarity moderates information-processing modes (Garcia-Marques & Mackie, 2001, 2007) and that familiarity increases psychophysiological state of challenge (Blascovich et al, 1993; 1999). Based on this, we hypothesized that non-analytic processing would be associated to cardiovascular challenge. We tested this hypothesis on experiment 1 using a persuasion paradigm. Participants assigned to a familiar or unfamiliar condition were asked to read a strong or weak persuasive message and then asked to list their thoughts to a video-camera while their physiological responses were recorded. As expected, results demonstrated that those, assigned to a familiar condition, generated thoughts that reflect non-analytic processing and exhibited a cardiovascular pattern of challenge. Conversely, those assigned to an unfamiliar condition generated the types of thoughts associated to analytic processing and exhibited a cardiovascular pattern of threat. Based on these results, we raised the subsidiary hypothesis that challenge could have a direct impact on information-processing. Thus, on experiment 2 we eliminated the familiarity path and induced challenge and threat prior to information-processing task. Our results made the previously found association clearer. Participants assigned to a challenge condition processed persuasive information non-analytically, whereas participants assigned to a threat condition processed it more analytically. The second assumption derived from our framework suggests an amplification role played by the presence of others. Based on Blascovich et al.´work (1999) we expected that the effects of challenge and threat on information-processing to be more strongly observed when participants perform in the presence of other, than when they perform alone. To test this hypothesis, we replicated experiment 1 and 2 adding a manipulation of presence vs. absence of others. Results seem to support an amplification effect, such as the effects observed in the previous experiments were only significant when others were present in the experimental situation, but not when participants were alone. These results are interpreted in terms of the cognitive characteristics associated with challenge that typically trigger non-analytic processing, namely accessibility and ease. Further interpretations are also provided in order to explore if the stimulus that signals the cognitive system to engage in non-analytic processing is a pure cognitive or motivational one. Implications for the FARM model, the BPS model and social facilitation are discussed within an integrated perspective of human behavior.
|Fonseca, R., Fernandes, A. C., Blascovich, J., & Garcia-Marques, T. (2011, November). Modes of processing and challenge and threat in the presence or absence of others. Poster presented at the meeting of the Society for Social Neuroscience, Washington, DC: USA.|