Association for Psychological Science meeting

News includes likeable look-alikes, seeing clearer through meditation and bouncing back from bad events

Association for Psychological Science annual meeting, Washington, D.C., May 26–29

Familiarity breeds congeniality
Snap judgments about others sometimes depend not on what the person looks like but on whom they look like. Women tend to preferentially like male strangers who facially resemble the woman’s romantic partner, psychologist Gül Günaydin of Cornell University reported May 27. This type of social attraction often occurs unconsciously, Günaydin’s team found. For unclear reasons, men showed no signs of especially liking women who resembled a romantic partner. Members of 30 romantic couples observed opposite-sex strangers’ faces for half a second on a computer screen. Some faces were digitally altered to resemble the volunteers’ partners. —Bruce Bower

Om-tastic vision
Intensive meditation, like that practiced by Buddhist monks, can give eyesight a lift. After completing one to three months of training in either of two Buddhist meditation techniques, volunteers performed much better than before the training on a difficult visual task that required perceiving the lengths of briefly flashed lines, Katherine MacLean of the University of California, Davis, reported May 27. Both meditation approaches, which participants practiced for five to 12 hours daily during training, emphasize maintaining focused attention and clarity of thought. For those who continued meditating daily for five months after training, visual perception remained greatly improved. —Bruce Bower

Accentuate the negative
Life has its ups and downs, but the downs have a bigger impact. That’s the theme of a 25-year study of 50,000 Germans tracked from young adulthood on, psychologist Denis Gerstorf of Penn State University reported on May 28. In annual surveys, marriage and other happy events preceded modest boosts in self-reported well-being over the next year, relative to large well-being declines following negative events especially a spouse’s death or becoming unemployed. Most people returned to former levels of well-being within five years of negative events. In that time, though, 15 percent reported life satisfaction levels below those typically found among sick people preparing for death, Gerstorf said. —Bruce Bower

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