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The role of the conscious self in the Meaning Maintenance Model and other theories of threat compensation Randles, Daniel 2010

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   The	
  role	
  of	
  the	
  conscious	
  self	
  in	
  the	
  Meaning	
  Maintenance	
  Model	
  and	
  other	
   theories	
  of	
  threat	
  compensation	
   by	
   Daniel	
  Randles	
   BSc.,	
  York	
  University,	
  2008	
   A	
  THESIS	
  SUBMITTED	
  IN	
  PARTIAL	
  FULFILLMENT	
  OF	
  THE	
  REQUIREMENTS	
  FOR	
   THE	
  DEGREE	
  OF	
  	
   MASTER	
  OF	
  ARTS	
  	
   In	
   THE	
  FACULTY	
  OF	
  GRADUATE	
  STUDIES	
   (Psychology)	
   The	
  University	
  of	
  British	
  Columbia	
   (Vancouver)	
   August	
  2010	
   ©	
  Daniel	
  Randles,	
  2010	
   	
    	
   ABSTRACT	
   There	
  are	
  currently	
  a	
  number	
  of	
  competing	
  theories	
  of	
  threat	
  compensation,	
  which	
   attempt	
  to	
  explain	
  why	
  humans	
  affirm	
  schemas	
  and	
  cultural	
  worldviews	
  following	
   events	
  that	
  are	
  distressing,	
  anomalous	
  or	
  unexpected.	
  	
  Central	
  to	
  many	
  of	
  these	
   theories	
  is	
  the	
  role	
  affirmations	
  play	
  in	
  preserving	
  self-­‐identity.	
  	
  The	
  Meaning	
   Maintenance	
  Model	
  is	
  one	
  threat	
  compensation	
  theory	
  that	
  does	
  not	
  require	
  the	
  self	
   to	
  be	
  threatened,	
  in	
  that	
  it	
  claims	
  any	
  violation	
  of	
  expectations	
  is	
  threatening,	
  even	
   those	
  that	
  are	
  not	
  directly	
  related	
  to	
  the	
  self,	
  nor	
  are	
  necessarily	
  consciously	
   perceived.	
  	
  The	
  role	
  of	
  the	
  self	
  as	
  a	
  necessary	
  mediator	
  between	
  the	
  perception	
  of	
   threat	
  and	
  evoked	
  response	
  is	
  empirically	
  tested	
  in	
  three	
  studies.	
  	
  Results	
  show	
  that	
   a	
  subliminal	
  presentation	
  of	
  incoherent	
  word	
  pairs	
  can	
  produce	
  the	
  same	
  type	
  of	
   schema	
  affirmation	
  seen	
  with	
  other	
  explicit	
  and	
  implicit	
  threatening	
  stimuli.	
  	
   Furthering	
  this,	
  the	
  same	
  subliminal	
  threat	
  also	
  produces	
  changes	
  in	
  behaviour	
  that	
   are	
  not	
  consciously	
  directed,	
  in	
  this	
  case	
  by	
  increasing	
  implicit	
  learning	
  ability	
  and	
   working	
  memory.	
  	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
    ii	
    	
   	
    Table	
  of	
  Contents	
   ABSTRACT……………………………………………………..…………………………………………………...ii	
   TABLE	
  OF	
  CONTENTS………………………………………………………………………………………...iii	
   LIST	
  OF	
  TABLES……………………………………………………………………..……………….………....iv	
   LIST	
  OF	
  FIGURES……………………………………………………………………………………………......v	
   ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………………….……….………………………..vii	
   INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………………………….……...1	
   	
   1.1	
  Review	
  of	
  the	
  MMM……………………………………………………………………...….....2 	
   1.1.1	
  	
  Meaning	
  making…………...……………………….……………………….........2	
  	
   1.1.2	
  	
  Meaning	
  threats…………………………………………………..…………........3	
  	
   1.1.3	
  	
  Schema	
  affirmation……………………………………………………….…......4	
   1.1.4	
  	
  Schema	
  abstraction……………………………………….................................6	
   	
   1.2	
  	
  The	
  role	
  of	
  misattribution	
  of	
  arousal	
  in	
  compensatory	
  behaviour............8	
   	
   1.3	
  	
  The	
  role	
  of	
  conscious	
  awareness	
  in	
  fluid	
  compensation..............................10	
   2	
  	
  THE	
  PRESENT	
  RESEARCH............................................................................................................11	
   	
   2.1	
  Study	
  1:	
  	
  Subliminal	
  meaning	
  threats	
  and	
  explicit	
  schema	
  affirmation..12	
   	
   	
   2.1.1	
  Study	
  1	
  methods............................................................................................12	
   	
   	
   2.1.2	
  Study	
  1	
  results	
  and	
  discussion................................................................14	
   	
   2.2	
  Study	
  2:	
  	
  Subliminal	
  meaning	
  threats	
  and	
  implicit	
  learning.........................16	
   	
   	
   2.2.1	
  	
  Study	
  2	
  methods...........................................................................................16	
   	
   	
   2.2.2	
  	
  Study	
  2	
  results	
  and	
  discussion...............................................................17	
   	
   2.3	
  Study	
  3:	
  	
  Subliminal	
  meaning	
  threats	
  and	
  working	
  memory.......................21	
   	
   	
   2.3.1	
  	
  Study	
  3	
  methods...........................................................................................21	
   	
   	
   2.3.2	
  	
  Study	
  3	
  results	
  and	
  discussion...............................................................22	
   3	
  GENERAL	
  DISCUSSION....................................................................................................................23	
   	
   3.1	
  	
  Limitations........................................................................................................................25	
   	
   	
   3.1.1	
  	
  Methodological	
  limitations......................................................................25	
   	
   	
   3.1.2	
  	
  Limitations	
  of	
  theoretical	
  implications..............................................26	
   	
   3.2	
  	
  Future	
  directions............................................................................................................27	
   	
   	
   3.2.1	
  	
  Neural	
  evidence............................................................................................27	
   	
   	
   3.2.2	
  	
  Selection	
  process..........................................................................................29	
   	
   3.3	
  	
  Conclusion.........................................................................................................................34	
   REFERENCES………………………………...………………………………………………..……….…….......35	
   APPENDICES	
   	
   Appendix	
  A:	
  	
  Coherent	
  and	
  incoherent	
  word-­‐pairs.................................................44	
   	
   Appendix	
  B:	
  	
  Research	
  ethics	
  certificate......................................................................45	
   	
   	
    	
    iii	
    	
   TABLES	
   Table	
  2.1	
  	
   Pattern	
  learning	
  following	
  subliminal	
  word-­pair	
   presentation………………………………………………………………….........................……19	
    	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
    	
    iv	
    	
   FIGURES	
   Figure	
  2.1	
   Bond	
  value	
  set	
  for	
  prostitute……………………………..….…………...16	
   Figure	
  2.2	
   Percentage	
  of	
  correct	
  trials	
  on	
  the	
  working	
  memory	
  task..…23	
    	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
    v	
    	
   ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS	
   I	
  am	
  deeply	
  grateful	
  for	
  the	
  members	
  of	
  the	
  MECC	
  lab,	
  both	
  faculty	
  and	
  fellow	
   students.	
  	
  The	
  camaraderie,	
  intellectual	
  curiosity	
  and	
  general	
  willingness	
  to	
  explore	
   and	
  discuss	
  new	
  ideas	
  (even	
  to	
  the	
  point	
  of	
  distraction)	
  have	
  left	
  me	
  wondering	
  why	
   the	
  image	
  of	
  a	
  lonely	
  and	
  unsupported	
  student	
  exists	
  at	
  all.	
  	
  Of	
  course,	
  the	
  image	
   exists	
  because	
  it	
  applies	
  to	
  many	
  people,	
  just	
  not	
  us.	
   	
   I	
  am	
  especially	
  grateful	
  to	
  my	
  advisor,	
  Steve,	
  who	
  has	
  helped	
  make	
  these	
  first	
  two	
   years	
  as	
  successful	
  as	
  they	
  have	
  been.	
  	
  Steve,	
  you	
  are	
  generous	
  with	
  your	
  time,	
   supportive	
  of	
  my	
  development	
  as	
  a	
  theoretical	
  contributor,	
  and	
  an	
  excellent	
  guide	
  in	
   the	
  wilderness	
  of	
  academia.	
  	
  Thanks.	
    	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
    vi	
    	
   1	
  INTRODUCTION	
   	
    The	
  Meaning	
  Maintenance	
  Model	
  (MMM)	
  argues	
  that	
  humans	
  have	
  a	
  need	
  for	
    the	
  world	
  to	
  be	
  meaningful,	
  that	
  is,	
  for	
  elements	
  in	
  the	
  world	
  to	
  be	
  related	
  in	
   comprehensible	
  ways.	
  	
  When	
  someone’s	
  meaning	
  is	
  threatened,	
  which	
  can	
  occur	
   through	
  any	
  violation	
  of	
  an	
  expected	
  relationship,	
  they	
  compensate	
  by	
  addressing	
   the	
  threat	
  directly,	
  affirming	
  an	
  alternative	
  framework	
  or	
  abstracting	
  a	
  new	
  one.	
  	
   The MMM has been proposed as a model that can offer coherence to the large threatcompensation literature by providing a common foundation to how people process and respond to threats. For example, cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1962), terror management theory (Rosenblatt et al., 1989), system-justification theory (John, Banaji & Nosek, 2004), self-affirmation theory (Sherman & Cohen, 2006), and uncertainty theories (Kay, et al., 2009; McGregor, et al., 2008) can be construed as specific instantiations of different threats that may be perceived and responded to through the same or similar cognitive processes (see Heine et al., 2006; Proulx & Heine, 2006). 	
    To	
  date,	
  research	
  through	
  the	
  MMM	
  has	
  focused	
  on	
  expanding	
  the	
  scope	
  of	
    these	
  related	
  theories,	
  revealing	
  the	
  inter-­‐connectedness	
  of	
  different	
  domains	
  of	
   threats,	
  and	
  how	
  they	
  can	
  lead	
  to	
  convergent	
  compensatory	
  behaviours.	
  	
  The	
   current	
  studies	
  take	
  a	
  different	
  approach,	
  by	
  focusing	
  on	
  the	
  role	
  of	
  self-­‐awareness	
   in	
  mediating	
  the	
  perception	
  and	
  response	
  to	
  meaning	
  threats.	
  	
  Throughout	
  the	
  field,	
   a	
  number	
  of	
  theories	
  have	
  suggested	
  that	
  the	
  uniqueness	
  of	
  the	
  human	
  experience	
    	
    1	
    can	
  lead	
  to	
  emotional	
  and	
  mental	
  distress	
  not	
  experienced	
  by	
  other	
  animals.	
  	
  Self-­‐ affirmation	
  theory	
  for	
  instance,	
  argues	
  that	
  humans	
  have	
  a	
  need	
  to	
  see	
  themselves	
   as	
  good,	
  virtuous	
  and	
  successful	
  (Sherman	
  &	
  Cohen,	
  2006),	
  while	
  Terror	
   Management	
  Theory	
  has	
  argued	
  that	
  humans	
  needed	
  to	
  handle	
  the	
  unique	
  problem	
   of	
  being	
  able	
  to	
  envision	
  their	
  own	
  future	
  death	
  (Greenberg,	
  Solomon,	
  &	
   Pyszczynski,	
  1997).	
  	
  While	
  the	
  MMM	
  agrees	
  that	
  threats	
  to	
  the	
  self	
  are	
  disturbing,	
  it	
   argues	
  that	
  any	
  perceived	
  violation	
  of	
  expectations	
  can	
  produce	
  the	
  unpleasant	
   arousal	
  that	
  motivates	
  compensatory	
  behaviours.	
  	
  Thus,	
  while	
  humans	
  are	
  sensitive	
   to	
  self-­‐threats,	
  they	
  are	
  also	
  sensitive	
  to	
  environmental	
  changes	
  that	
  are	
  not	
  directly	
   related	
  to	
  the	
  self,	
  even	
  to	
  the	
  point	
  of	
  not	
  being	
  consciously	
  perceived.	
  	
  The	
  current	
   studies	
  test	
  this	
  part	
  of	
  theory	
  by	
  exploring	
  whether	
  non-­‐consciously	
  perceived	
   anomalies	
  can	
  produce	
  not	
  only	
  changes	
  in	
  deliberate	
  behaviour,	
  but	
  changes	
  in	
   non-­‐conscious	
  behaviour	
  as	
  well.	
  	
    1.1	
  Review	
  of	
  the	
  MMM	
   1.1.1	
  Meaning	
  Making	
   The Meaning Maintenance Model (MMM) maintains that people engage with their world through meaning frameworks: that is, they are only able to understand events and themselves through mental representations of expected associations. Arguably, it is possible that all organisms operate through the use of mental relationships. Whether you’re a human or a horse, you still need to connect your internal drives to the external world, you need to know what to eat and who can provide you protection, among other examples. However, unlike most other animals, humans have relatively few innate expectations for the world. Unlike the foal that enters the world ready to run, humans 	
    2	
    have a prolonged developmental period where information is slowly absorbed and incorporated. While this extended development allows a human to adapt to its unique environment (Burghardt, 2005; Dunbar, 2006), it means that every human must go through the process of forging relationships between the self, the world and other people that allow for actions with adaptive results (Heine, Proulx, & Vohs, 2006). Even play, which is experienced as enjoyable, seems to largely be in the service of testing new behavioural scripts, or mastering new tasks (Burghardt, 2005; Pellegrini, Dupuis, & Smith, 2007). Development is not the focus of this paper, but it is worth noting that for portions of every human life, most of one’s time is dedicated to meaning making. During this time, one is fully engaged with the task of understanding one’s own identity, what goals are worthy to pursue and how to be successful at pursuing them. At some point though, we get it. We may not understand the world, but we understand our world; who we are, what we want, and the daily tasks involved in achieving our goals. Having acquired the unique information about our physical and cultural environment, we can finally begin running. Importantly, from this perspective meaning is in the service of action. Given people’s dependence on these meaning frameworks and the error-prone nature of learning, it is both likely that they will encounter information that does not fit with their frameworks, and problematic when such an event occurs – such information leads to the experience of meaninglessness. 1.1.2	
  Meaning	
  threats	
   	
    	
    At	
  a	
  proximal	
  level,	
  the	
  MMM	
  argues	
  that	
  any	
  violation	
  of	
  expectations	
    (meaning	
  threat)	
  produces	
  unpleasant	
  arousal.	
  	
  This	
  arousal	
  is	
  not	
  consciously	
   accessible,	
  though	
  some	
  evidence	
  suggests	
  it	
  motivates	
  a	
  general	
  desire	
  for	
  less	
    	
    3	
    uncertainty	
  or	
  more	
  structure	
  (Whitson	
  &	
  Galinsky,	
  2008)	
  .	
  	
  When people feel meaningless they strive to regain a sense of meaning through a variety of strategies. They may assimilate the incongruous element such that it fits with their existing meaning framework, or they may accommodate their meaning framework such that the incongruous element is no longer an anomaly. These two responses were first explored in the meaning and development literature (e.g., Kuhn, 1996/1962; Piaget, 1960; Park & Folkman, 1997) and could be understood as a shifting to “learning mode”. However, because both assimilation and accommodation may require considerable cognitive resources, people may not always have the wherewithal to make sense of an encountered anomaly. In these situations, the MMM proposes that people often respond to meaning threats in one of two ways. One solution is to affirm their commitment to an alternative meaning framework, which allows them to regain a sense of meaning by focusing their attention on something that remains meaningful. For example, when participants encounter the unexpected while reading a surreal story by Franz Kafka, they come to identify more with their culture (Proulx & Heine, 2009). If an alternative meaning framework is not readily available, people may abstract a novel meaning framework. For example, when considering how their behavior is sometimes so contradictory that their self appears to be disunified, people are better able to learn novel patterns (Proulx & Heine, 2009). 	
   1.1.3	
  Schema	
  affirmation	
   	
    	
  When	
  times	
  are	
  tough,	
  stick	
  with	
  what	
  you	
  know.	
  	
  In	
  response	
  to	
    experiencing	
  the	
  unexpected,	
  people	
  generally	
  adhere	
  to	
  and	
  reinforce	
  opinions,	
   world-­‐views	
  and	
  behaviours	
  that	
  are	
  firmly	
  held	
  and	
  still	
  intact.	
  	
  Currently,	
  most	
   	
    4	
    threat-­‐compensation	
  theories	
  argue	
  for	
  this,	
  claiming	
  that	
  in	
  response	
  to	
  threat	
  we	
   affirm	
  a	
  world-­‐view	
  or	
  schema,	
  taking	
  a	
  view	
  we	
  already	
  believe	
  and	
  affirming	
  it	
   further.	
  	
  Thus,	
  while	
  Americans	
  already	
  dislike	
  anti-­‐Americans,	
  have	
  strong	
  views	
   on	
  abortion	
  and	
  are	
  implicitly	
  racist,	
  feeling	
  threatened	
  aggravates	
  these	
  views	
  and	
   pushes	
  them	
  into	
  the	
  extremes	
  (Kay,	
  Gaucher,	
  McGregor,	
  &	
  Nash,	
  2009;	
  McGregor,	
   Gailliot,	
  Vasquez,	
  &	
  Nash,	
  2007;	
  McGregor,	
  Zanna,	
  Holmes,	
  &	
  Spencer,	
  2001).	
  	
  This	
   has	
  the	
  effect	
  of	
  framing	
  compensatory	
  behaviours	
  as	
  zealously	
  charged	
  versions	
  of	
   regular	
  behaviour	
  and	
  is	
  used	
  to	
  suggest	
  that	
  displays	
  of	
  extremism	
  and	
  religiosity,	
   like	
  those	
  in	
  the	
  U.S.	
  following	
  the	
  9/11	
  attacks,	
  are	
  the	
  result	
  of	
  a	
  population	
   experiencing	
  threat	
  (Das,	
  Bushman,	
  Bezemer,	
  Kerkhof,	
  &	
  Vermeulen,	
  2009;	
  Jonas	
  &	
   Fischer,	
  2006).	
  	
  The	
  MMM	
  generally	
  agrees	
  with	
  these	
  theories	
  regarding	
   compensation,	
  but	
  disagrees	
  on	
  the	
  limited	
  range	
  of	
  stimuli	
  that	
  can	
  cause	
  the	
   threat.	
  	
  For	
  instance,	
  if	
  social	
  rejection	
  (McGregor,	
  Haji,	
  &	
  Kang,	
  2008),	
  being	
   reminded	
  of	
  one’s	
  death	
  and	
  being	
  surprised	
  by	
  a	
  visual	
  anomaly	
  (Proulx	
  &	
  Heine,	
   2008)	
  can	
  all	
  produce	
  similar	
  compensatory	
  behaviours,	
  it	
  is	
  at	
  least	
  possible	
  that	
   the	
  experiences	
  are	
  being	
  processed	
  in	
  a	
  similar	
  way.	
  	
   	
    Evidence	
  for	
  schema	
  affirmation	
  reveal	
  that	
  a	
  wide	
  range	
  of	
  behaviours	
  are	
    produced	
  following	
  different	
  types	
  of	
  threat,	
  but	
  most	
  fall	
  into	
  the	
  general	
  category	
   of	
  adherance	
  to	
  cultural	
  world-­‐views	
  or	
  internalized	
  behavioural	
  scripts.	
  	
  Following	
   threat,	
  participants	
  are	
  hesitant	
  to	
  violate	
  a	
  norm	
  (Greenberg,	
  Porteus,	
  Simon,	
   Pyszczynski,	
  &	
  Solomon,	
  1995),	
  prefer	
  in-­‐groups	
  (Lau,	
  Kay,	
  &	
  Spencer,	
  2008),	
  avoid	
   out-­‐groups	
  (Navarrete,	
  2005),	
  are	
  less	
  risky	
  if	
  they	
  are	
  dispositionally	
  cautious	
  and	
   more	
  risky	
  if	
  they	
  are	
  by	
  trait	
  risk	
  inclined	
  (Ben-­‐Ari,	
  Florian,	
  &	
  Mikulincer,	
  1999),	
   	
    5	
    punish	
  norm-­‐violators	
  more	
  strongly	
  (Proulx	
  &	
  Heine,	
  2008),	
  commit	
  to	
  an	
  opinion	
   that	
  they	
  held	
  but	
  were	
  ambivalent	
  about	
  (McGregor,	
  et	
  al.,	
  2001),	
  prefer	
   prestigious	
  products	
  (Heine,	
  Harihara,	
  &	
  Niiya,	
  2002),	
  are	
  more	
  likely	
  to	
  commit	
  to	
   tasks	
  that	
  they	
  believe	
  are	
  important	
  (McGregor,	
  et	
  al.,	
  2007),	
  prefer	
  more	
  social	
   contact	
  if	
  they	
  have	
  	
  a	
  fearful	
  attachment	
  temperament	
  but	
  less	
  contact	
  if	
  they	
  have	
   an	
  avoidant	
  attachment	
  (Hart,	
  Shaver,	
  &	
  Goldenberg,	
  2005),	
  believe	
  more	
  people	
   agree	
  with	
  their	
  decisions	
  (McGregor,	
  Nail,	
  Marigold,	
  &	
  Kang,	
  2005),	
  	
  prefer	
  mates	
   that	
  are	
  more	
  culturally	
  normative	
  (Landau,	
  et	
  al.,	
  2006),	
  and	
  feel	
  guiltier	
  if	
  they	
   were	
  engaging	
  in	
  creative	
  thought	
  either	
  just	
  before	
  or	
  after	
  a	
  meaning	
  threat	
   (Arndt,	
  Greenberg,	
  Solomon,	
  Pyszczynski,	
  &	
  Schimel,	
  1999)	
  but	
  will	
  increase	
   espoused	
  openness	
  to	
  new	
  ideas	
  if	
  they’re	
  told	
  that	
  creativity	
  is	
  valued	
  in	
  their	
   culture	
  (Routledge	
  &	
  Arndt,	
  2009).	
  	
  	
  The	
  last	
  finding	
  suggests	
  that	
  schema	
   affirmation	
  is	
  not	
  experienced	
  in	
  a	
  mental	
  vacuum,	
  but	
  incorporates	
  the	
   expectations	
  of	
  others	
  into	
  the	
  threatened	
  individual’s	
  actions.	
  	
  	
  Creative	
  thought	
   seems	
  to	
  be	
  unpleasant	
  under	
  threat,	
  possibly	
  because	
  it	
  involves	
  being	
  open	
  to	
   revising	
  schemas,	
  but	
  despite	
  this,	
  people	
  claim	
  they	
  are	
  more	
  open	
  to	
  new	
  ideas	
  if	
   they	
  think	
  this	
  is	
  culturally	
  valued.	
  	
  A	
  more	
  direct	
  example	
  of	
  this	
  is	
  found	
  after	
   mortality	
  salience,	
  where	
  participants	
  are	
  either	
  more	
  or	
  less	
  likely	
  to	
  agree	
  to	
  use	
   sun-­‐screen	
  based	
  on	
  a	
  magazine	
  article	
  telling	
  them	
  whether	
  most	
  people	
  think	
  light	
   or	
  dark	
  skin	
  is	
  attractive	
  (Cox,	
  et	
  al.,	
  2009).	
  	
  This	
  manipulation	
  even	
  worked	
  on	
   participants	
  already	
  at	
  a	
  beach,	
  suggesting	
  that	
  participants	
  are	
  not	
  just	
  zealously	
   defending	
  their	
  view,	
  but	
  are	
  still	
  sensitive	
  to	
  the	
  preferences	
  of	
  others.	
  	
  The	
   question	
  of	
  why	
  we	
  affirm	
  schemas,	
  then,	
  has	
  not	
  yet	
  been	
  fully	
  unpacked,	
  as	
  it	
  isn’t	
    	
    6	
    clear	
  whether	
  we	
  are	
  affirming	
  beliefs	
  more	
  strongly,	
  or	
  changing	
  our	
  behaviour	
  to	
   appear	
  more	
  normal,	
  or	
  typical.	
  	
   1.1.4	
  Schema	
  abstraction	
   	
    The	
  MMM	
  argues	
  that	
  schema	
  abstraction	
  occurs	
  when	
  neither	
  learning	
  (in	
    the	
  form	
  of	
  assimilation	
  or	
  accommodation)	
  nor	
  affirmation	
  can	
  take	
  place.	
  	
  Schema	
   abstraction	
  involves	
  heightened	
  motivation	
  and	
  ability	
  to	
  identify	
  new	
  mental	
   relationships.	
  	
  Thus	
  far,	
  evidence	
  suggests	
  that	
  the	
  increased	
  motivation	
  is	
  strong	
   enough	
  to	
  lead	
  to	
  illusory	
  pattern	
  detection	
  (Whitson	
  &	
  Galinsky,	
  2008),	
  though	
  it	
   may	
  also	
  lead	
  to	
  greater	
  ability	
  to	
  detect	
  patterns	
  when	
  they	
  actually	
  exist	
  (Proulx	
  &	
   Heine,	
  2009).	
  	
  The	
  result	
  of	
  this	
  can	
  take	
  the	
  literal	
  form	
  of	
  identifying	
  new	
  patterns,	
   such	
  as	
  images	
  in	
  static,	
  but	
  also	
  extends	
  to	
  a	
  readiness	
  to	
  see	
  behavioural	
  patterns,	
   such	
  as	
  suspecting	
  a	
  conspiracy	
  based	
  on	
  unrelated	
  events.	
  	
   	
    Galinsky	
  &	
  Liljenquist	
  (2005)	
  have	
  suggested	
  that	
  abstraction	
  underlies	
  the	
    connection	
  between	
  anomaly	
  and	
  conspiracy	
  theories.	
  	
  When	
  an	
  event	
  of	
  low-­‐ probability	
  occurs,	
  people	
  generally	
  (and	
  rightly)	
  assume	
  that	
  the	
  event	
  was	
  likely	
   not	
  random	
  and	
  may	
  have	
  implications	
  for	
  them.	
  	
  Depending	
  on	
  the	
  scope	
  and	
   complexity	
  of	
  the	
  event,	
  this	
  may	
  lead	
  to	
  reasonable	
  suspicions,	
  such	
  as	
  a	
  hated	
  co-­‐ worker	
  getting	
  you	
  fired,	
  to	
  the	
  somewhat	
  less	
  reasonable,	
  such	
  as	
  the	
  U.S.	
   government	
  destroying	
  the	
  World	
  Trade	
  Towers	
  to	
  force	
  their	
  own	
  country	
  into	
   war.	
  	
  Unlikely	
  events,	
  by	
  their	
  nature,	
  can	
  be	
  meaning	
  threats	
  in	
  that	
  they	
  are	
  often	
   unexpected	
  and	
  their	
  consequences	
  unplanned	
  for.	
  	
  	
    	
    7	
    The	
  fact	
  that	
  people	
  are	
  more	
  prone	
  to	
  mistakenly	
  see	
  patterns	
  under	
  threat	
   is	
  expected.	
  	
  If	
  threat	
  signals	
  identify	
  some	
  kind	
  of	
  change,	
  then	
  increasing	
  one’s	
   sensitivity	
  is	
  on	
  average	
  a	
  “good	
  bet”	
  that	
  there	
  is	
  a	
  new	
  relationship	
  to	
  be	
   uncovered.	
  	
  That	
  this	
  leads	
  to	
  errors	
  is	
  just	
  another	
  example	
  of	
  how	
  human	
   heuristics	
  can	
  be	
  fooled	
  but	
  may	
  be	
  ecologically	
  useful,	
  as	
  in	
  the	
  case	
  of	
  frequency	
  or	
   conjunction	
  fallacies	
  (Cosmides	
  &	
  Tooby,	
  1996;	
  Tooby	
  &	
  Cosmides).	
  	
  	
   Whereas	
  schema	
  affirmation	
  is	
  supported	
  by	
  all	
  threat	
  compensation	
   theories	
  in	
  some	
  form,	
  schema	
  abstraction,	
  the	
  motivation	
  and	
  heightened	
  ability	
  to	
   forge	
  new	
  mental	
  relationships,	
  is	
  less	
  recognized.	
  	
  Thus,	
  schema	
  abstraction	
  may	
  be	
   a	
  useful	
  tool	
  in	
  making	
  unique	
  predictions	
  regarding	
  consequences	
  of	
  threats,	
  such	
   as	
  system	
  threats,	
  or	
  mortality	
  salience	
  that	
  their	
  respective	
  theories	
  would	
  not	
   have	
  made.	
  	
  	
  	
    1.2	
  The	
  role	
  of	
  misattribution	
  of	
  arousal	
  in	
  compensatory	
   behaviour	
   We	
  are	
  always	
  paying	
  attention,	
  even	
  when	
  we’re	
  not.	
  	
  Whether	
  we	
  catch	
  our	
   name	
  in	
  a	
  noisy	
  room	
  or	
  are	
  woken	
  by	
  a	
  door	
  opening	
  (but	
  not	
  a	
  car	
  passing	
  in	
  the	
   street),	
  there	
  are	
  many	
  examples	
  of	
  how	
  our	
  unconscious	
  processes	
  perceive	
  more	
   than	
  what	
  we	
  are	
  focused	
  on.	
  	
  In	
  the	
  same	
  way	
  that	
  our	
  name	
  is	
  a	
  special	
  “key”	
  that	
   diverts	
  our	
  attention,	
  perceiving	
  events	
  that	
  violate	
  expectations	
  may	
  alert	
  our	
   conscious	
  attention	
  that	
  something	
  has	
  changed.	
  	
  There	
  is	
  already	
  evidence	
  showing	
   that	
  violations	
  that	
  are	
  not	
  consciously	
  recognized	
  (Proulx	
  &	
  Heine,	
  2008)	
  or	
  are	
   presented	
  subliminally	
  (Arndt,	
  Greenberg,	
  Pyszczynski,	
  &	
  Solomon,	
  1997)	
  can	
  still	
   	
    8	
    be	
  perceived	
  and	
  produce	
  compensatory	
  behaviour.	
  	
  Going	
  beyond	
  mere	
  perception,	
   in	
  one	
  study	
  participants	
  with	
  high	
  trait	
  anxiety	
  were	
  more	
  likely	
  to	
  complete	
  word	
   stems	
  using	
  subliminally	
  primed	
  threatening	
  words	
  (e.g.	
  terror,	
  defeat,	
  punish)	
  over	
   neutral	
  words	
  (e.g.	
  celery,	
  bridge),	
  suggesting	
  we	
  are	
  capable	
  of	
  biasing	
  even	
  non-­‐ conscious	
  processing	
  in	
  favour	
  of	
  certain	
  stimuli,	
  long	
  before	
  the	
  stimulus	
  enters	
   conscious	
  focus	
  (Li,	
  Paller,	
  &	
  Zinbarg,	
  2008).	
  	
  However,	
  just	
  because	
  we	
  perceive	
  an	
   anomaly	
  and	
  experience	
  arousal,	
  does	
  not	
  mean	
  we	
  are	
  capable	
  of	
  consciously	
   identifying	
  the	
  source	
  of	
  that	
  arousal.	
  	
  Failure	
  to	
  consciously	
  identify	
  problematic	
   stimuli	
  may	
  in	
  part	
  explain	
  the	
  need	
  to	
  affirm	
  schemas.	
  	
  	
   The	
  MMM	
  argues	
  that	
  the	
  expected	
  unexpected	
  is	
  not	
  particularly	
   threatening	
  (Proulx,	
  Heine,	
  &	
  Vohs,	
  2008).	
  	
  When	
  one	
  is	
  able	
  to	
  identify	
  a	
  likely	
   cause	
  of	
  their	
  arousal,	
  we	
  would	
  expect	
  the	
  experience	
  of	
  threat	
  to	
  be	
  reduced,	
  or	
   the	
  response	
  directed	
  at	
  the	
  anomaly,	
  at	
  least.	
  	
  Thus,	
  if	
  a	
  plausible	
  source	
  is	
   identified,	
  this	
  should	
  be	
  sufficient	
  to	
  turn	
  off	
  the	
  “threat,”	
  or	
  at	
  least	
  reduce	
   motivation	
  to	
  produce	
  unrelated	
  compensatory	
  behaviour.	
  	
  This	
  may	
  explain	
  why	
   such	
  unrelated	
  threats	
  and	
  responses	
  become	
  linked:	
  	
  If	
  you	
  can’t	
  identify	
  what	
  has	
   made	
  you	
  feel	
  uneasy,	
  your	
  best	
  bet	
  is	
  whatever	
  your	
  attention	
  has	
  been	
  guided	
  to.	
  	
   The	
  evidence	
  thus	
  far	
  does	
  suggest	
  that	
  misattribution	
  of	
  arousal	
  plays	
  an	
  important	
   role	
  in	
  mediating	
  threats,	
  as	
  giving	
  participants	
  an	
  explanation	
  for	
  their	
  arousal	
   (Proulx	
  &	
  Heine,	
  2008)	
  or	
  allowing	
  them	
  to	
  contemplate	
  how	
  the	
  manipulation	
   made	
  them	
  feel	
  (Pyszczynski,	
  Greenberg,	
  Solomon,	
  Sideris,	
  &	
  Stubing,	
  1993)	
  seems	
   to	
  eliminate	
  the	
  effect.	
  	
  For	
  explicit	
  threats,	
  it	
  is	
  somewhat	
  counter-­‐intuitive	
  to	
   suspect	
  that	
  misattribution	
  is	
  a	
  critical	
  component	
  in	
  compensation.	
  	
  For	
  instance,	
  it	
   	
    9	
    is	
  difficult	
  to	
  believe	
  that	
  people	
  reading	
  absurd	
  literature,	
  or	
  talking	
  about	
  their	
   own	
  death	
  mistakenly	
  misattribute	
  their	
  arousal	
  to	
  an	
  entirely	
  unrelated	
   experience.	
  	
  However,	
  the	
  fact	
  that	
  longer	
  delays	
  between	
  the	
  manipulation	
  and	
   dependant	
  variable	
  produce	
  stronger	
  responses	
  (Burke,	
  Martens,	
  &	
  Faucher,	
  2010)	
   lend	
  some	
  support	
  to	
  this	
  hypothesis,	
  suggesting	
  that	
  it	
  is	
  easier	
  to	
  misattribute	
   arousal	
  when	
  the	
  cause	
  is	
  not	
  the	
  current	
  focus	
  of	
  attention.	
  	
  This	
  is	
  not	
  an	
  unusual	
   finding	
  with	
  humans,	
  who	
  also	
  confuse	
  arousal	
  between	
  danger	
  and	
  sexual	
   attraction	
  (Dutton	
  &	
  Aron,	
  1974),	
  sexual	
  arousal	
  and	
  aggression	
  (Zillmann,	
  Katcher,	
   &	
  Milavsky,	
  1972),	
  arousal	
  caused	
  by	
  unrelated	
  forms	
  of	
  goal-­‐conflict	
  (Eisenberger	
   &	
  Lieberman,	
  2004)	
  and	
  pain	
  caused	
  by	
  social	
  or	
  physical	
  sources	
  (DeWall,	
  et	
  al.).	
    1.3	
  The	
  role	
  of	
  conscious	
  awareness	
  in	
  fluid	
  compensation	
   	
    Throughout	
  the	
  literature,	
  there	
  is	
  disagreement	
  regarding	
  whether	
  self-­‐  awareness	
  is	
  a	
  core	
  mediating	
  component	
  in	
  fluid	
  compensation.	
  	
  Although	
  it	
  is	
   widely	
  accepted	
  that	
  the	
  arousal	
  produced	
  by	
  various	
  threats	
  is	
  not	
  consciously	
   accessible,	
  many	
  argue	
  that	
  the	
  source	
  of	
  the	
  arousal	
  is	
  related	
  to	
  a	
  problem	
   originating	
  in	
  the	
  self.	
  	
  For	
  instance,	
  terror	
  management	
  theory	
  argues	
  that	
  the	
   source	
  of	
  arousal	
  is	
  due	
  to	
  the	
  uniquely	
  human	
  ability	
  to	
  perceive	
  the	
  self	
  both	
  in	
  the	
   present	
  and	
  future,	
  where	
  it	
  will	
  die	
  (Greenberg,	
  et	
  al.,	
  1997).	
  	
  Likewise,	
  self-­‐ affirmation	
  theory	
  holds	
  that	
  humans	
  have	
  a	
  need	
  to	
  perceive	
  themselves	
  as	
  morally	
   good	
  or	
  successful	
  from	
  the	
  perspective	
  of	
  their	
  culture	
  and	
  attempt	
  to	
  affirm	
   unrelated	
  but	
  valuable	
  parts	
  of	
  their	
  identity	
  when	
  one	
  component	
  fails	
  (Sherman	
  &	
    	
    10	
    Cohen,	
  2006).	
  	
  The	
  evidence	
  reviewed	
  here	
  suggests	
  that	
  the	
  self	
  can	
  but	
  does	
  not	
   need	
  to	
  be	
  involved	
  in	
  either	
  the	
  perception	
  of	
  or	
  response	
  to	
  threat.	
  	
  	
   	
    Although	
  a	
  conscious	
  threat	
  to	
  the	
  self	
  can	
  produce	
  deliberate,	
  compensatory	
    action	
  in	
  an	
  unrelated	
  domain,	
  subliminal	
  or	
  non-­‐conscious	
  threats	
  can	
  also	
   motivate	
  these	
  deliberate	
  compensatory	
  actions.	
  	
  In	
  these	
  cases,	
  it	
  has	
  been	
  argued	
   that	
  concepts	
  that	
  are	
  primed	
  non-­‐consciously	
  still	
  reach	
  awareness	
  and	
  can	
  thus	
   influence	
  deliberate	
  behaviour.	
  	
  Although	
  in	
  many	
  cases	
  participants	
  do	
  not	
  know	
   why	
  their	
  behaviour	
  has	
  changed,	
  the	
  measure	
  is	
  some	
  form	
  of	
  deliberate	
  action,	
   such	
  as	
  a	
  self-­‐reported	
  opinion,	
  or	
  explicit	
  behavoiur	
  such	
  as	
  adhering	
  to	
  a	
  norm.	
   There	
  have	
  been	
  very	
  few	
  studies	
  that	
  use	
  an	
  implicit	
  or	
  non-­‐conscious	
  measure	
  as	
   the	
  dependant	
  variable,	
  which	
  would	
  help	
  solve	
  this	
  dilemma.	
  	
  Part	
  of	
  the	
  reason	
  for	
   this	
  is	
  likely	
  not	
  that	
  the	
  question	
  of	
  implicit	
  behaviour	
  is	
  uninteresting,	
  but	
  that	
  it	
  is	
   difficult	
  to	
  develop	
  a	
  measure	
  that	
  does	
  not	
  include	
  self-­‐reflection.	
  	
  One	
  such	
   measure	
  that	
  has	
  been	
  recently	
  used	
  is	
  the	
  implicit	
  grammer	
  task	
  (Dienes	
  &	
  Scott,	
   2005),	
  which	
  reveals	
  learning	
  that	
  occurs	
  without	
  intentional	
  effort.	
  	
  	
  	
    2	
  The	
  present	
  research	
   	
    In	
  the	
  current	
  studies,	
  we	
  directly	
  address	
  the	
  question	
  of	
  whether	
  the	
    conscious	
  self	
  is	
  a	
  necessary	
  component	
  of	
  meaning	
  maintenance.	
  	
  In	
  study	
  1,	
  we	
   ask	
  whether	
  compensatory	
  behaviour	
  will	
  follow	
  a	
  prime	
  designed	
  to	
  elicit	
   confusion,	
  or	
  the	
  subjective	
  experience	
  that	
  something	
  anomalous	
  has	
  occurred,	
   while	
  not	
  directly	
  priming	
  concepts	
  that	
  are	
  associated	
  with	
  unpleasant	
  arousal	
  (e.g.	
    	
    11	
    “death”	
  or	
  “uncertainty”).	
  	
  In	
  study	
  2,	
  we	
  directly	
  test	
  whether	
  self-­‐awareness	
  is	
  a	
   necessary	
  component	
  of	
  meaning	
  maintenance	
  by	
  pairing	
  the	
  same	
  subliminal	
   prime	
  with	
  an	
  implicit	
  measure	
  of	
  schema	
  abstraction.	
  	
  In	
  study	
  3,	
  working	
  memory	
   as	
  a	
  response	
  to	
  meaning	
  threats	
  is	
  explored	
  as	
  a	
  potential	
  explanation	
  for	
  the	
   increase	
  in	
  schema	
  affirmation	
  or	
  abstraction.	
  	
    2.1	
  Study	
  1:	
  	
  Subliminal	
  meaning	
  threats	
  and	
  explicit	
  schema	
   affirmation	
   	
    In	
  study	
  1	
  we	
  attempt	
  to	
  design	
  a	
  subliminal	
  prime	
  that,	
  instead	
  of	
  priming	
  a	
    concept	
  that	
  individuals	
  find	
  confusing	
  or	
  disturbing,	
  would	
  itself	
  produce	
  the	
   experience	
  of	
  confusion.	
  	
  Thus,	
  there	
  should	
  be	
  no	
  opportunity	
  for	
  self-­‐reflection	
  of	
   a	
  concept	
  that	
  people	
  find	
  threatening	
  (such	
  as	
  death,	
  or	
  failure),	
  only	
  the	
  arousal	
   that	
  is	
  presumably	
  caused	
  by	
  these	
  disturbing	
  concepts.	
  	
  The	
  hypothesis	
  was	
  that	
   this	
  prime	
  would	
  produce	
  an	
  increase	
  in	
  schema	
  affirmation	
  compared	
  to	
  the	
   control,	
  as	
  has	
  been	
  seen	
  in	
  past	
  studies.	
  	
  We	
  included	
  a	
  third	
  condition	
  where	
   participants	
  complete	
  a	
  mortality	
  salience	
  prime,	
  to	
  compare	
  our	
  pattern	
  of	
  results	
   with	
  a	
  reliable	
  threat.	
   2.1.1 Study 1 methods Participants 97 participants (36 women, 55 men, 6 unreported) were recruited from a Vancouver-area beach. Their average age was 30.1 years (range 18-49). The sample was diverse, with 60% born in North America, 4% in China, 3% in Israel, 3% in Brazil, 24% from various other countries, and 6 % unreported. 	
    12	
    Procedure Participants were seated in front of a 15-inch laptop with a 60hz refresh rate. All components of the study were completed on the computer. Participants first completed the subliminal word task (described below) or mortality salience manipulation, followed by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) and social judgment survey. Subliminal Word Task. Participants were told they would see a series of words flashed on the screen and that they should sort the words into “pleasant” or “unpleasant” categories by pressing p or q respectively. For each word, a cross was presented for 1000ms, followed by the word for 356ms, a 42ms “gap” and finally a static block that remained until the participant selected a category. The sorting task and static block were used as a forward and backward mask to hide the presentation of the subliminal word primes, presented within the 42 ms gap. Both control and experimental conditions completed 60 trials. The first 20 trials were the same for both conditions, where the gap contained a mix of either no subliminal stimuli or coherent word pairs. In trials 21-30 the gap contained coherent and meaningful hyphenated word pairs (e.g., quickly-running, juicy-blueberry) in the control condition, and the same words recombined into incoherent and meaningless pairs in the experimental condition (e.g.,. quickly-blueberry, juicysewing; see Appendix A). This process was repeated for trials 31-60 with different words. The incoherent word-pairs were predicted to violate expectations by activating syntactic (e.g. car-throw) or semantic (e.g. smiling-box) violations. Although consciously perceiving these violations is not disturbing per se, participants would not  	
    13	
    have the opportunity to identify or address the arousal when caused by a subliminal presentation. Although Bargh & Chartrand (2000) have suggested that foveally presented stimuli should not be present for more than 15ms to be considered subliminal, they acknowledge that the greater concern is whether participants are able to identify having seen the stimuli in a post-test awareness check. We were concerned that the complex nature of our stimuli (word pairs consisting of up to 17 characters) might be missed entirely with too short a presentation window. As Arndt, et al. (1997) were successful in subliminally priming “death” with a 42ms exposure, we decided to use this length. Mortality salience. This manipulation was taken directly from Arndt, et al. (1997). Participants completed 60 trials and received either blank gaps or coherent word pairs during 40 trials, as in the other two conditions. Instead of seeing incoherent word pairs, participants were flashed the word “death” for the critical trials. Social Judgment Survey. Participants read a hypothetical arrest report about a prostitute and were asked to set the amount of the bail, between $0-$999. This identical measure has been used in several meaning-threat and mortality salience studies ( e.g. Proulx & Heine, 2008; Proulx et al., in press; Rosenblatt et al., 1989). We predicted that the amount of bail would be set higher for participants completing the incoherent word-pair prime or mortality salience, as it provides an opportunity to affirm an unrelated schema following an anomalous event. 2.1.2 Results and discussion As a manipulation check, we asked participants at the end of the study to identify how many words were presented at once for each trial. 37 (38% of the sample) correctly  	
    14	
    identified that 2 had been presented. However, only 1 participant in either the coherent or incoherent word prime condition was actually able to list one of the subliminally presented words. In the mortality salience condition, ten participants were able to list the word “death” suggesting that this manipulation was not uniformly successful at presenting the stimulus outside of conscious awareness. As is typical of meaning threat studies, there were no differences across conditions in either positive (F(2,94)=1.44, ns) or negative (F< 1) affect. Distributions of responses on the bail bond were not normal, so the dependent variable was loge transformed1. A one-way ANOVA was used to test our predictions. The model yielded a significant effect between conditions (F(2, 95)=8.86, p < .01; See Figure 1). Dunn-Bonferroni adjusted comparisons were used to test individual differences, in order to maintain a family-wise type 1 error rate at .05. These comparisons revealed a significant difference between the control and meaningless words condition (p <. 01, d=1.05) as well as control and mortality salience (p = .014, d=.61). The mortality salience and meaningless words conditions did not differ from one another (p >.5)2. Although our mortality salience prime was noticed by at least some of the participants, it still managed to produce the predicted effect.  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
   1	
  When  we compared our results to a non-parametric analysis, we found an inconsistent  pattern of significance, indicating that the ANOVA was not robust to the distribution in our data set.	
   2	
  This  pattern of significance using loge transformed values was consistent with boot-  strapping at 10,000 repetitions.	
    	
    15	
    Figure 2.1 Bond value set for prostitute  Analyses were conducted on loge transformed means.  As predicted, we found that a subliminally presented prime can produce an experience of meaninglessness, without directly priming a troubling experience, such as mortality salience. This is a replication of Proulx & Heine (2008), who found that when participants fail to consciously notice that their experimenter has switched with another individual, they affirm unrelated schemas. As with their study, we show that events that are neither consciously perceived nor related to existential concerns, such as mortality or identity, can still produce schema affirmation. However, this study still involves a deliberate action that is at least partially under the control of conscious attention. In study 2, we extend this effect by showing that it can affect cognitive processes that are not at all under conscious control.  	
    16	
    2.2 Study 2: Subliminal meaning threats and implicit learning 2.2.1 Study 2 methods Participants 135 participants (95 women, 38 men, 2 unreported) took part in the study. Two were removed for not following instructions, leaving 66 participants in the meaningful prime condition (control) and 67 in the meaningless prime condition (experimental). Participants were born in North America (53%), China (23%) Korea (7%) and other (17%) countries. Mean age was 20 years (range 18-44). Procedure Participants were seated in front of a laptop with a 15-inch screen and a 60hz refresh rate. All components of the study except for the implicit learning task were completed on the computer. Participants first completed the subliminal word task, followed by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) and an implicit learning task. Implicit learning task. This measure was taken directly from Dienes & Scott (2005) and has been used following unrelated, explicit meaning threats (Proulx & Heine, 2009). Participants were given a sheet of 45 “Training” letter strings (e.g., VTVTRVTM) and are instructed only to copy them verbatim. They are then given another sheet of 60 “Test” letter strings with the following instructions: The strings of letters you just copied contained a strict pattern. Some of the letter strings below follow the same pattern. Some of these letter strings do not. Please place a checkmark beside the letter strings you believe follow the same pattern as the letter strings you just copied.  Because the participants were not told that there would be recall test, any learning that took place was caused by mere exposure to the training strings. Thus, if the threatened  	
    17	
    group outperforms the control condition, this is evidence implicit learning strategies have been affected without the participant’s awareness. 2.2.2 Results and discussion As a manipulation check, participants were asked how many words they had seen presented at once during the sorting task. Although over half the participants (53%) correctly identified that two words has been presented, none of them were able to list any of the words presented. Again, there were no significant differences in either positive or negative affect (both ts<1) between conditions, as measured by the PANAS. Of the 60 items in the test strings, 30 of them matched the implicit pattern and 30 did not. Two measures were used to assess participants’ learning of the artificial grammar: Absolute Success and Accuracy. Absolute Success is a score representing how successful the participant was at detecting patterns overall, which is calculated by subtracting the number of false alarms from the number of hits. This provides a score ranging from -30 to +30, with participants scoring highest if they were both motivated to find patterns (by selecting many strings) and accurate in the strings they selected. Although this measure produces a “real” success score, it confounds motivation and accuracy, where a highly accurate but unmotivated individual would score fairly low. The second measurement approach, Accuracy, divides hits by the number of total attempts (hits + false alarms) and measures how accurate a participant was when they selected a pattern, regardless of how many “test” strings they selected. Both of these are measures of learning, and have different tradeoffs associated with them (Wagner, 1993), but both are predicted to be higher following subliminal exposure to meaningless words.  	
    18	
    The mean values for each dependant variable are reported in Table 2.1. Distributions for each of the dependant variables were positively skewed, so the data were loge transformed, which reduced, but did not completely eliminate the skew3. Participants in the meaningless prime condition scored significantly higher in both the measures of Accuracy (Welch’s t(131) = 2.18, p<.05, d=.38) and Absolute Success (Welch’s t(131) = 2.06, p<.05, d=.36), compared to those in the meaningful prime condition, largely replicating the pattern found with explicit meaning threats (Proulx & Heine, 2009). That is, exposure to the subliminal meaningless word pairings led participants to learn new patterns better. Table 2.1 Pattern Learning Following Subliminal Word-Pair Presentations Control  Meaning Threat  Absolute Success (H-F)  5.9  7.5  Accuracy (H/(H+F))  .68  .74  Conditions are significantly different at p < .05. Analyses were conducted on loge transformed means.  This is the first study to show that meaning threats that are not consciously perceived can shift cognition without requireing conscious attention or effort. Although other studies show that individuals will increase their effort on a task following threat 	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
  	
   3	
  Results  were re-analyzed using bootstrapping at 10,000 repetitions. The pattern of  significance was the same, indicating the results are robust to the remaining violation of normality.  	
    19	
    (Jamieson & Harkins, 2009; Pettit & Lount Jr, 2009) this is the first to show a change in task ability unrelated to effort or conscious motivation. The MMM argues that schema abstraction occurs in the service of reducing arousal and that this does not require conscious awareness of that arousal or of the abstraction efforts. However, this still leaves the question of what does change to increase ability in abstraction. Although effort may increase in general following threats, participants were unaware that they were engaged in a learning task. In study 3, we explore whether increased working memory may account for greater ability in pattern detection. If, following a meaning threat, individuals experience a cognitive re-allocation of resources such that working memory is temporarily boosted, then this could explain heightened retention of information, even without the individual’s conscious effort. There is some evidence to suggest that information which is organized in a counter-intuitive or incoherent layout, provides better opportunity for learning when someone is familiar with the type of information they are learning about (e.g. biology) (Kintsch, 1994; McNamara, Kintsch, Songer, & Kintsch, 1996). This effect does not occur for topics unfamiliar to the reader, though one could argue that a new knowledge domain is, in itself, enough to arouse a person’s sense of novelty. Although this is an example of increased learning associated with the anomalous stimuli, other work has shown that any material associated with the anomalous event is more securely stored and better recalled up to a week later (Norenzayan, Atran, Faulkner, & Schaller, 2006). In this study, the authors found that a few counter-intuitive word pairs inter-mixed with a list of regular word pairs allowed for greater overall memory of the list a week later,  	
    20	
    compared to an entirely intuitive list or one populated with almost all counter-intuitive pairs. This suggests that anomalous information is more difficult to remember (as memory of the highly counter-intuitive list was mostly degraded), but that it encourages a change in processing that increases the likelihood of remembering anything at that time. The authors argue that this bias has real-world effects, and show that folk tales that contain 2 or 3 counter-intuitive elements are identified as more likely to be remembered. If anomalous stimuli can increase overall memory in a particular task, it is possible that any stimuli presented temporally close enough to the anomaly also has a greater chance of being remembered. Although no study has shown that unrelated tasks benefit from anomaly, one	
  anecdotal	
  example	
  is	
  flashbulb	
  memories.	
  	
  When	
   momentous	
  and	
  unusual	
  events	
  happen,	
  people	
  not	
  only	
  remember	
  the	
  details	
  of	
   the	
  event,	
  but	
  also	
  store	
  a	
  great	
  deal	
  of	
  information	
  about	
  their	
  own	
  circumstances	
   when	
  they	
  heard	
  the	
  news,	
  much	
  of	
  which	
  is	
  unrelated	
  to	
  the	
  main	
  information.	
  	
   Although	
  considerable	
  debate	
  has	
  arisen	
  since	
  the	
  phenomenon	
  was	
  first	
  identified	
   (R.	
  Brown	
  &	
  Kulik,	
  1977)	
  regarding	
  how	
  these	
  memories	
  are	
  formed,	
  current	
   models	
  and	
  data	
  suggest	
  that	
  surprise,	
  though	
  not	
  necessarily	
  emotional	
  intensity,	
   contribute	
  to	
  the	
  development	
  of	
  flashbulb	
  memories	
  	
  (Luminet	
  &	
  Curci,	
  2009).	
  	
   This	
  is	
  generally	
  what	
  might	
  be	
  predicted	
  for	
  a	
  real-­‐world	
  instance	
  of	
  meaning	
   maintenance,	
  where	
  anomalous	
  and	
  surprising	
  events	
  lead	
  to	
  an	
  impactful	
  change	
  in	
   cognition	
  (e.g.	
  greater	
  memory).	
    	
    21	
    2.3 Study 3: Subliminal meaning threats and working memory 2.3.1	
  Study	
  3	
  methods	
   Participants 106 participants (86 women, 20 men) took part. One was removed before analysis on suspicion of entering data randomly. Mean age was 19.9 years (range 16 – 53). 48% were born in Canada, 25% in China, 8% in Taiwan and 4% in Korea, with the remaining 15% from other countries. Procedure The procedure was exactly the same as study 2, with a measure of working memory used as the dependant variable. The measure was taken from study 3 in (Schmader & Johns, 2003). Participants are given a word to remember, followed by a distracter where they count the number vowels in a sentence. After a number of words are presented, they are asked to recall as many as they can. Words are recalled in sets of 4 for the first four blocks and sets of 5 for the remaining 8 blocks. 2.3.2 Results and discussion 35 participants (33%) listed the correct number of words flashed, which would be expected by chance. However, 5 of those were able to list at least one of the subliminal words. There was no difference between conditions for either positive or negative affect (t<1). Working memory was analyzed by counting the number of blocks where participants correctly recalled all of the words, producing a score between 0 to 12 and converted to percent. Over the whole measure, there was a trending effect towards increased working memory in the threat condition, t104=1.68, p<.1, d=.33. However, 	
    22	
    when we removed the first four, easier blocks, the threatened group was shown to have significantly better working memory, t104=1.97, p=.05, d=38 (See figure 2.2). As predicted, working memory increased for participants who experienced a meaning threat, which was more apparent for the more difficult trials in the measure. Although success at this task likely could be improved with effort, there was no explicit threat that should have motivated participants to do so. Thus, it would appear that meaning threats can increase both implicit learning and short-term retention of information.  Figure 2.2 Percentage of correct trials on the working memory task  †=p<.1  	
    *=p<.05  23	
    3 General Discussion In study 1, a subliminally presented incoherent statement produced the same compensatory schema affirmation as an explicit mortality salience prime, replicating the effects in Proulx & Heine (2008). In study 2, the same subliminal prime produced cognitive changes that are not under conscious control, leading to an increase in implicit pattern detection. Finally, study 3 found that meaning threats cause an increase in working memory, possibly identifying the means by which implicit pattern detection can improve. These studies combine to suggest that meaning threats that are perceived outside conscious awareness can not only impact conscious behaviour, but also change cognitive processes that are not under conscious control. The results in this paper fit with the MMM, but present problems for theories of threat compensation that require the self to be a necessary component of threat perception and response. For instance, Terror Management Theory cannot explain why threats should increase implicit learning or working memory. Likewise, self-affirmation theory, which requires a direct attack on the coherence of the self, would have to struggle to explain how non-conscious experiences can create behaviours that resemble the response to a self threat (as in study 1) but also changes in cognition that avoid the self entirely, as in study 2. While more explicit threats can produce these responses, the studies here suggest that there is a low-level system involved in processing a number of different frustrating or unexpected experiences. Furthermore, the ability for subliminal primes to produce both implicit and explicit effects, supports the hypothesis that one cognitive system is involved for both peripheral “nuisance” threats and more relevant threats, such as failure feedback.  	
    24	
    Future studies should begin to explore what elements of this process are in fact, similar, and where specific threats have a unique influence. For example, consider stereotype threat. Although in the current study, the threat was found to increase working memory, there is a large body of evidence showing that experiencing stereotype threat decreases working memory, affecting both domain relevant and irrelevant tasks (Schmader, Johns, & Forbes, 2008). Stereotype threat is viewed as emerging from the conflict of holding negative group stereotypes that conflict with one’s self-identity (e.g. women are bad at math, and I’m a woman but I’m good at math). This should, by the definition of the MMM be a violation of expectations, but produces results opposite of what was found here. As there is still considerable debate regarding whether a core motive exists at all, questions of this type have yet to be explored.  3.1 Limitations 3.1.1 Methodological limitations One methodological limitation is the “subliminal” status of the prime, with up to 53% participants in one study identifying the subliminal stimulus, noticeably higher than the 33% expected by chance. Although the exposure time is longer than 15ms limit that Bargh & Chartrand (2000) recommends for foveal presentation of stimuli, the task that participants engaged in as the forward mask is more complicated than typical subliminal presentation paradigms . Arndt et al. (1997) were successful in subliminally priming words using a similarly engaging task, suggesting that foveal presentation can be increased if the participant is experiencing some distraction. Furthermore, it is not strictly necessary that participants are unaware that additional stimuli are being presented, only that they fail to consciously perceive the content, which appeared to be the case in  	
    25	
    these studies. Ideally, future modifications of the paradigm would aim to produce a consistently low awareness of the subliminal presentation, to avoid any concerns on this issue. 3.1.2 Limitations of theoretical implications I have suggested that working memory may be the means by which implicit learning is improved, but this is an as of yet an untested assumption. Another possibility is that general arousal is increasing vigilance, which may underlie both effects. Research has shown that making people moderately aroused or stressed increases general perceptual and motor function (Lambourne & Tomporowski, 2010; Stefanucci & Storbeck, 2009). The results of study 3 somewhat support this. The control group declined in success over time, while the experimental group remained consistent throughout the task. If participants are more attentive in general, this may increase success on any kind of perceptual task requiring focus over a period of time. One possible way to test this would be to compare the success of threatened groups to those who have received a mild stimulant, such as caffeine. If participants who receive a familiar stimulant perform equally well to those who experience a meaning threat, it would suggest that increased schema abstraction is the result of any arousal, and not specific to arousal associated with meaning threats. This paradigm would also make it possible to test whether schema abstraction and affirmation are both in the service of reducing unexplained arousal. If they are, we would expect both to occur when participants consume a stimulant but are told it is a placebo, while neither should occur if they are aware they’ve consumed an arousal-causing drug. However, another possibility is that any arousal increases implicit learning through vigilance or working memory,  	
    26	
    while affirmation only occurs if one experiences unexplained arousal. In this case, we would expect that all participants show abstraction, but only those who can’t explain their arousal would show affirmation. A final limitation is that thus far we have relied on convergent behavioural evidence. While useful in supporting the theory, this reliance has led to various circular arguments in the literature. For instance, one criticism the MMM has levied against terror management theory is that it cannot account for the wide variety of threats that produce compensatory behaviour. The rebuttal to this has been studies showing that some unrelated threats nevertheless do cause higher death thought activation, which they argue mediates the compensatory response (though no one has been able to show mediation on this yet) (Hayes, Schimel, Faucher, & Williams, 2008; Schimel, Hayes, Williams, & Jahrig, 2007; Vess, Routledge, Landau, & Arndt, 2009). One potential counter to this argument is that any anomaly causes a spreading pattern of semantic activation, making all arousal-causing ideas more accessible, but this creates a debate where neither side can be falsified. One solution to this problem likely lies in more attention to cognitive process.  3.2 Future Directions 3.2.1 Neural evidence One solution to the limitation of convergent validity is to also find convergent neural processing of different types of threats. Cognitive neuroscience has already identified a number of neural events in response to anomalous stimuli. Humans show a mismatch negativity response in as little as 120ms following an anomalous stimuli, such as a tone that is different from tones preceding it (Pulverm¸ller & Shtyrov, 2006). This  	
    27	
    immediate response is not restricted to impoverished stimuli, as grammatical errors and possibly even semantic violations can evoke this response. For instance, two responses to anomaly that follow shortly after mismatch negativity are the P300 and N400 (C. Brown & Hagoort, 1993). These waves have been shown to appear following unexpected stimuli, such as when the sentence “He took the pizza from the …” ends in “toothbrush” instead of something semantically expected, like “counter”. Likewise a semantically deviant word in a list of similar words, or a male name in a list of female names can elicit the P300 (Fabiani, Karis, & Donchin, 2007). When this cocurs, not only do the unusual stimuli typically evoke a stronger P300, but the relative strength of the P300 response to any word predicts how likely that word will be remembered later on. This effect is at least somewhat similar to the findings of study 3. Although no cognitive study has shown that anomaly leads to enhanced memory on a following task, there is at least evidence that anomaly can boost memory at the moment it is experienced. There are three benefits to increasing use of the above approach. As mentioned, convergent behavioural evidence can now be supported by convergent neurological evidence. If incoherent word pairs and mortality salience are actually processed through the same system, they should both elicit similar waves (possibly the P300) and the strength of that wave should predict increased schema affirmation. It may also turn out that the P300 predicts only certain types of threat, in which case there may not be any core motive driving these similar behaviours. This methodology would also help further the question involving the role of conscious self-awareness in the threat response. For instance, the mismatch negativity and P300 have been identified as largely pre-conscious waves, whereas the N400 does  	
    28	
    not emerge for completely sublminal stimuli (C. Brown & Hagoort, 1993). Finding the earliest evoked potential that can predict schema affirmation or abstraction can tell us what the sufficient conditions are for threat response. Finally, accessing the neuroscience literature allows for greater comparison to other non-human animals. It is unlikely that humans have developed unique cognitive machinery for detecting anomaly, and in fact other mammals show the same P300 response to many of the same eliciting stimuli used with humans (Harrison, Buchwald, Kaga, Woolf, & Butcher, 1988; Swick, Pineda, & Foote, 1994). More attention to this area will allow us to identify at what stage of the cognitive event the response becomes unique to humans. 3.2.2 Selection Processes Another area of research that has yet to receive serious consideration is the selection processes that have led to meaning maintenance. Currently, the MMM argues that humans respond to the arousal caused by an anomaly by either learning about the anomaly, affirming an unrelated schema, or abstracting a new schema. The latter two are not considered functional behaviours, but are entirely a by-product of the cognitive need to reduce distracting arousal and return to the task on hand. This explanation, while potentially correct, suffers from a theoretical problem similarly found in Terror Management Theory. This theory argues that humans have an instinct to avoid death that became problematic as we developed forethought and could envision our own demise (Greenberg, et al., 1997). To	
  overcome	
  this,	
  we	
  projected	
  our	
   identity	
  onto	
  various	
  symbolic	
  immortal	
  systems,	
  and	
  by	
  affirming	
  these	
  systems,	
   were	
  able	
  to	
  alleviate	
  our	
  existential	
  terror.	
  	
  This	
  approach	
  involves	
  a	
  failure	
  to	
    	
    29	
    apply	
  a	
  priori	
  evolutionary	
  thinking. Cognition	
  types	
  increase	
  in	
  frequency	
  if	
  they	
   produce	
  a	
  useable	
  behaviour	
  (such	
  as	
  experiencing	
  food	
  cognitions	
  when	
  the	
  body	
   requires	
  energy),	
  but	
  TMT	
  argues	
  that	
  certain	
  behaviours	
  have	
  increased	
  in	
   frequency	
  to	
  control	
  maladaptive	
  cognitions.	
  	
  	
   	
    Although	
  it	
  hasn’t	
  been	
  stated	
  explicitly,	
  the	
  MMM	
  is	
  viewing	
  the	
  arousal	
    caused	
  by	
  nuisance	
  anomalies	
  as	
  a	
  spandrel	
  of	
  a	
  learning	
  system	
  interacting	
  with	
  a	
   highly	
  complex	
  world.	
  	
  In	
  evolutionary	
  terms,	
  a	
  spandrel	
  is	
  a	
  behaviour	
  or	
  trait	
  that	
   emerges	
  as	
  a	
  result	
  of	
  another	
  trait	
  that	
  has	
  been	
  selected	
  for,	
  such	
  as	
  whiteness	
  in	
   bones	
  being	
  selected	
  for	
  incidentally	
  because	
  of	
  the	
  adaptiveness	
  of	
  their	
  calcium-­‐ rich	
  structure.	
  	
  An	
  important	
  difference	
  between	
  these	
  two,	
  is	
  that	
  some	
  spandrels	
   (like	
  bone	
  whiteness)	
  are	
  free	
  to	
  vary	
  in	
  any	
  direction	
  because	
  there	
  is	
  no	
   opportunity	
  for	
  selection.	
  	
  However,	
  meaning	
  maintenance	
  produces	
  visible	
   behavioural	
  changes	
  such	
  as	
  schema	
  affirmation,	
  adherence	
  to	
  norms	
  and	
  so	
  on,	
   which	
  are	
  exposed	
  and	
  thus	
  subject	
  to	
  selection.	
  	
  The	
  argument	
  requires	
  then,	
  that	
   costs	
  imposed	
  by	
  meaning	
  maintenance	
  be	
  outweighed	
  by	
  the	
  benefits	
  of	
  being	
  able	
   to	
  ignore	
  new	
  stimuli	
  that	
  are	
  either	
  not	
  worth	
  one’s	
  attention,	
  or	
  beyond	
  the	
  ability	
   of	
  the	
  individual	
  to	
  understand.	
  	
  This	
  perspective	
  also	
  requires	
  an	
  explanation	
  for	
   how	
  individuals	
  decide	
  between	
  learning	
  and	
  maintenance.	
  	
  Currently,	
  the	
  model	
   does	
  not	
  include	
  a	
  clear	
  process	
  for	
  how	
  this	
  decision	
  is	
  arrived	
  at,	
  which	
  is	
   problematic	
  given	
  that	
  individuals	
  are	
  not	
  consciously	
  aware	
  that	
  they	
  find	
  the	
   threats	
  troubling,	
  or	
  that	
  some	
  threats	
  are	
  never	
  consciously	
  perceived.	
  	
  	
   One	
  alternative	
  to	
  the	
  by-­‐product	
  hypothesis	
  is	
  that	
  meaning	
  maintenance	
   itself	
  has	
  been	
  selected	
  for.	
  Research	
  has	
  shown	
  that	
  participants	
  perceive	
  more	
    	
    30	
    than	
  they	
  are	
  consciously	
  aware	
  of.	
  	
  When	
  we	
  experience	
  uncertainty	
  then,	
  we	
  may	
   lack	
  the	
  cognitive	
  capacity	
  to	
  consciously	
  identify	
  how	
  our	
  expectations	
  have	
  been	
   violated,	
  but	
  still	
  receive	
  a	
  blunt	
  signal	
  warning	
  us	
  that	
  “something”	
  has	
  occurred	
   that	
  wasn’t	
  expected.	
  	
  This	
  signal	
  may	
  motivate	
  us	
  to	
  focus	
  on	
  our	
  environment	
   more	
  than	
  normal,	
  and	
  place	
  us	
  in	
  a	
  state	
  of	
  conservative	
  behaviour,	
  as	
  we	
  have	
   been	
  alerted	
  that	
  our	
  normal	
  ability	
  to	
  predict	
  outcomes	
  has	
  been	
  jeopardized	
  and	
   thus,	
  we	
  cannot	
  predict	
  the	
  consequences	
  of	
  deviating	
  from	
  normative	
  rules.	
  	
  	
   It	
  is	
  uncontroversial	
  to	
  suggest	
  that	
  the	
  motivation	
  to	
  learn	
  about	
  novel	
   information	
  is	
  itself	
  likely	
  adaptive.	
  	
  Even	
  animals	
  with	
  less	
  capacity	
  to	
  organize	
   complex	
  information	
  spend	
  the	
  effort	
  to	
  explore,	
  when	
  first	
  exposed	
  to	
  novel	
   environments	
  (Russell,	
  McMorland,	
  &	
  MacKay,	
  2010).	
  	
  Following	
  from	
  this	
   phenomenon,	
  schema	
  abstraction	
  doesn’t	
  seem	
  out	
  of	
  place	
  next	
  to	
  assimilation	
  and	
   accommodation.	
  	
  If	
  it	
  is	
  beneficial	
  to	
  learn	
  about	
  novel	
  events,	
  than	
  redirecting	
   resources	
  to	
  increase	
  the	
  likelihood	
  of	
  successfully	
  learning	
  (through	
  boosted	
   working	
  memory,	
  vigilance,	
  etc.)	
  would	
  follow	
  naturally.	
  	
  The	
  fact	
  that	
  humans	
  show	
   increased	
  abstraction	
  abilities	
  in	
  areas	
  unrelated	
  to	
  the	
  threat	
  may	
  simply	
  be	
  a	
  case	
   of	
  misdirected	
  effort.	
  	
  Foster	
  &	
  Kokoo	
  (2009)	
  have	
  made	
  a	
  similar	
  argument	
  for	
  the	
   role	
  of	
  misattribution	
  in	
  superstitious	
  behaviour,	
  suggesting	
  that	
  as	
  long	
  as	
  there	
  is	
   some	
  correlation	
  between	
  environmental	
  events	
  and	
  the	
  costliness	
  of	
  errors	
  of	
   omission,	
  a	
  bias	
  could	
  evolve	
  that	
  leaves	
  one	
  assuming	
  any	
  precursor	
  to	
  the	
  event	
   was	
  causal.	
  	
  This	
  can	
  be	
  especially	
  problematic	
  when	
  multiple	
  actions	
  precede	
  an	
   event,	
  leading	
  to	
  bundling	
  multiple	
  behaviours	
  with	
  the	
  event,	
  some	
  of	
  which	
  are	
    	
    31	
    superstitious.	
  	
  Again,	
  the	
  reason	
  this	
  occurs	
  with	
  humans	
  is	
  that	
  we	
  can’t	
  always	
  tell	
   how	
  events	
  are	
  related,	
  and	
  so	
  need	
  to	
  rely	
  on	
  what	
  is	
  salient.	
  	
  	
   From	
  this	
  perspective,	
  schema	
  affirmation	
  is	
  the	
  odd	
  one	
  out.	
  	
  One	
  possibility	
   is	
  that	
  schema	
  affirmation	
  is	
  somehow	
  involved	
  in	
  the	
  learning	
  process	
  (possibly	
  by	
   increasing	
  salience	
  of	
  currently	
  held	
  scripts)	
  and	
  that	
  any	
  behaviours	
  are	
  a	
  by-­‐ product	
  of	
  this.	
  	
  We	
  know	
  that	
  participants	
  polarize	
  and	
  strengthen	
  their	
  opinions	
   following	
  threat,	
  which	
  could	
  be	
  an	
  by-­‐product	
  of	
  a	
  schema	
  that	
  is	
  more	
  salient	
  than	
   normal.	
  	
  However,	
  there	
  is	
  also	
  evidence	
  that	
  people	
  are	
  more	
  influenced	
  by	
  others	
   after	
  threat,	
  which	
  stands	
  in	
  opposition	
  to	
  a	
  “hardened	
  schema”	
  hypothesis.	
  	
  For	
   instance,	
  after	
  a	
  mortality	
  salience	
  prime,	
  participants	
  were	
  either	
  more	
  or	
  less	
   likely	
  to	
  claim	
  they	
  would	
  use	
  sunscreen,	
  depending	
  on	
  whether	
  a	
  popular	
  fashion	
   magazine	
  endorsed	
  it,	
  even	
  if	
  they	
  completed	
  the	
  study	
  at	
  the	
  beach	
  (presumably	
   ready	
  to	
  start	
  tanning)	
  (Cox,	
  et	
  al.,	
  2009).	
  	
  One	
  alternative	
  to	
  the	
  by-­‐product	
   hypothesis	
  that	
  can	
  account	
  for	
  increased	
  sensitivity	
  to	
  social	
  pressure,	
  is	
  that	
   affirmation	
  benefits	
  the	
  individual	
  by	
  reducing	
  any	
  socially	
  deviant	
  behaviour.	
  	
  If	
  a	
   person	
  believes	
  that	
  something	
  about	
  their	
  environment	
  has	
  changed,	
  the	
  cost	
  and	
   likelihood	
  of	
  an	
  error	
  suddenly	
  become	
  unpredictable,	
  which	
  may	
  have	
  lead	
  to	
  a	
   bias	
  for	
  socially	
  conservative	
  (i.e.	
  normative)	
  behaviour	
  while	
  feeling	
  uncertain.	
  	
   One	
  example	
  of	
  this	
  is	
  found	
  with	
  men	
  who,	
  after	
  a	
  threat,	
  rate	
  their	
  sexual	
  intent	
  as	
   lower	
  and	
  women	
  as	
  less	
  attractive	
  (Landau,	
  et	
  al.,	
  2006)	
  	
  and	
  yet	
  show	
  an	
  increase	
   in	
  desire	
  for	
  children	
  (Wisman	
  &	
  Goldenberg,	
  2005).	
  	
  Although	
  neither	
  study	
  asked	
   their	
  participants	
  what	
  they	
  thought	
  most	
  other	
  people	
  would	
  have	
  said,	
  it	
  is	
   possible	
  that	
  their	
  expressed	
  opinion	
  is	
  being	
  biased	
  so	
  that	
  one	
  appears	
  more	
   	
    32	
    similar	
  to	
  what	
  they	
  believe	
  the	
  norm	
  is.	
  	
  One	
  set	
  of	
  studies	
  has	
  shown	
  that,	
   following	
  a	
  number	
  of	
  different	
  threats,	
  participants	
  are	
  more	
  likely	
  to	
  claim	
  that	
   most	
  people	
  agree	
  with	
  the	
  opinion	
  they	
  hold	
  (McGregor,	
  et	
  al.,	
  2005).	
  	
  	
   One	
  important	
  future	
  study	
  would	
  be	
  to	
  assess	
  whether	
  not	
  only	
  social	
   conformity	
  increases	
  following	
  threat,	
  but	
  informational	
  conformity	
  as	
  well.	
  	
  Social	
   conformity	
  involves	
  the	
  motivation	
  to	
  conform	
  because	
  it	
  will	
  reduce	
  punishment	
   from	
  others	
  or	
  increase	
  opportunities	
  for	
  cooperation,	
  whereas	
  informational	
   conformity	
  involves	
  motivation	
  to	
  conform	
  because	
  the	
  model	
  (or	
  group	
  of	
  models)	
   is	
  more	
  likely	
  to	
  be	
  correct	
  than	
  you	
  are.	
  	
  Baron,	
  Vandello,	
  &	
  Brunsman(1996)	
  were	
   able	
  to	
  show	
  that	
  these	
  motivations	
  are	
  different.	
  	
  They	
  found	
  that	
  with	
  easy	
  tasks,	
   participants	
  would	
  conform	
  to	
  confederates	
  who	
  gave	
  an	
  incorrect	
  answer	
  when	
   there	
  was	
  no	
  reward	
  for	
  correctness,	
  apparently	
  motivated	
  to	
  agree	
  with	
  the	
  group	
   even	
  at	
  the	
  cost	
  of	
  being	
  wrong.	
  	
  The	
  opposite	
  pattern	
  emerged	
  when	
  the	
  task	
  was	
   difficult,	
  where	
  participants	
  were	
  more	
  likely	
  to	
  conform	
  when	
  the	
  reward	
  was	
   large,	
  suggesting	
  that	
  they	
  trusted	
  the	
  group	
  consensus	
  more	
  than	
  their	
  own	
   perception.	
  	
  Informational	
  conformity	
  would	
  not	
  involve	
  affirming	
  a	
  schema,	
  but	
  it	
   would	
  show	
  that	
  more	
  attention	
  is	
  being	
  paid	
  to	
  what	
  others	
  think	
  is	
  correct.	
  	
   In	
  additional	
  to	
  lab	
  work,	
  this	
  question	
  would	
  greatly	
  benefit	
  from	
  being	
  able	
   to	
  show	
  that	
  schema	
  affirmation	
  has	
  real-­‐world	
  consequences.	
  	
  If	
  the	
  effect	
  of	
   meaning	
  threats	
  is	
  largely	
  negligible	
  and	
  limited	
  to	
  artificial	
  lab	
  environments,	
  then	
   a	
  by-­‐product	
  effect	
  becomes	
  more	
  tenable.	
  	
  If,	
  however,	
  affirmation	
  has	
  an	
   appreciable	
  impact	
  on	
  real-­‐world	
  consequences,	
  it	
  is	
  more	
  difficult	
  to	
  claim	
  that	
    	
    33	
    fluid	
  compensation	
  is	
  just	
  a	
  spandrel,	
  as	
  it	
  likely	
  has	
  an	
  impact	
  on	
  fitness	
  and	
  can	
   thus	
  be	
  shaped	
  by	
  selection.	
  	
  Theorists	
  in	
  this	
  area	
  have	
  argued	
  that	
  fluid	
   compensation	
  has	
  a	
  real	
  impact	
  on	
  behavior,	
  such	
  as	
  the	
  increase	
  of	
  both	
  flag	
  sales	
   and	
  church	
  attendance	
  in	
  the	
  United	
  States	
  following	
  the	
  9/11	
  terrorist	
  attacks	
   (Crowson,	
  Debacker,	
  &	
  Thoma,	
  2006;	
  Landau,	
  et	
  al.,	
  2004).	
  	
  In	
  a	
  similar	
  vein,	
  recent	
   analyses	
  of	
  voter	
  behaviour	
  reveals	
  Canadian	
  ridings	
  experiencing	
  a	
  soldier	
  death	
  in	
   Afghanistan	
  were	
  more	
  likely	
  to	
  vote	
  for	
  the	
  Conservative	
  party	
  (which	
  was	
   incumbent	
  at	
  the	
  time)	
  (Loewen	
  &	
  Rubenson,	
  2010).	
  	
  These	
  behaviours	
  may	
  be	
  the	
   result	
  of	
  rational	
  decision-­‐making,	
  but	
  if	
  it	
  could	
  be	
  shown	
  that	
  meaning	
   maintenance	
  influences	
  behavioural	
  changes	
  of	
  this	
  magnitude,	
  it	
  would	
  suggest	
   that	
  the	
  process	
  is	
  experiencing	
  selection	
  pressure	
  on	
  its	
  outcome,	
  not	
  just	
  its	
   relationship	
  to	
  anxiety.	
    3.3 Conclusion Results of three studies show that a subliminally perceived meaning threat can produce both implicit and explicit changes in behaviour, as well as changes in overall cognitive functioning. This work calls into question the core motive driving fluid compensation, specifically whether the self is a necessary part of that core. Future work should explore in more detail how much of this process is similar between threats and how much is unique to specific threats. Additionally, there is room to explore the actual neurological processes involved and stronger theoretical arguments for the selection pressures that have lead to meaning maintenance.  	
   	
    34	
    	
    35	
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  7	
  Finding	
  meaning	
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  mutability	
   Making	
  sense	
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  deriving	
  significance	
  through	
  counterfactual	
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  Psychology,	
  8(3),	
  247-­259.	
  	
   	
   	
    	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
   	
    40	
    Appendix	
  A	
   Words in both conditions  Control cond. words  Meaning-threat words  Hot-lava  Quickly-running  Quickly-blueberry  Snow-man  Careful-sewing  Careful-sweater  Cheese-cake  Juicy-blueberry  Juicy-sewing  Round-table  Pink-sweater  Pink-running  Basket-ball  Car-dent  Car-throw  Belly-dance  Fighting-bravely  Fighting-dent  Tissue-box  Clean-dish  Clean-bravely  Play-list  Fast-throw  Fast-dish  Maple-leaf  Belly-dance  Belly-slowly  Tool-box  Ping-pong  Ping-dance  Young-puppy  Jumping-high  Jumping-pong  Park-bench  Crawling-slowly  Crawling-high  Down-hill  Metal-fork  Role-fork  Fork-lift  Magic-wand  Magic-softly  Bull-frog  Weeping-softly  Weeping-wand  Ping-pong  Role-playing  Metal-playing  Mad-cat  Bull-frog  Bull-left  Air-plane  Tool-box  Tool-politely  Power-chord  Turn-left  Turn-frog  Ham-burger  Smiling-politely  Smiling-box  	
    41	
    https://rise.ubc.ca/rise/Doc/0/0486HQVN8I24R784ATICAUNHB3/fromString.html  10-06-11 1:52 PM  The University of British Columbia Office of Research Services Behavioural Research Ethics Board Suite 102, 6190 Agronomy Road, Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z3  CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL - MINIMAL RISK PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Steven J. Heine  INSTITUTION / DEPARTMENT: UBC/Arts/Psychology, Department of  UBC BREB NUMBER: H09-02437  INSTITUTION(S) WHERE RESEARCH WILL BE CARRIED OUT: Institution  Site  UBC  Vancouver (excludes UBC Hospital)  Other locations where the research will be conducted:  N/A  CO-INVESTIGATOR(S): Jason Martens Daniel Randles  SPONSORING AGENCIES: N/A PROJECT TITLE: Personality and Opinions CERTIFICATE EXPIRY DATE: September 29, 2010 DOCUMENTS INCLUDED IN THIS APPROVAL:  DATE APPROVED: September 29, 2009  Document Name  Protocol: Proposal Consent Forms: Consent Form Questionnaire, Questionnaire Cover Letter, Tests: Working Memory task Personality questions Implicit learning 2 Implicit learning 1 Scenario questions Other Documents: Debriefing form  Version  Date  N/A  September 1, 2009  Version 1  September 1, 2009  N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A  September 1, 2009 April 1, 2009 September 1, 2009 September 1, 2009 September 1, 2009  Version 1  September 1, 2009  The application for ethical review and the document(s) listed above have been reviewed and the procedures were found to be acceptable on ethical grounds for research involving human subjects. Approval is issued on behalf of the Behavioural Research Ethics Board and signed electronically by one of the following: Dr. M. Judith Lynam, Chair Dr. Ken Craig, Chair Dr. Jim Rupert, Associate Chair Dr. Laurie Ford, Associate Chair Dr. Anita Ho, Associate Chair  Page 1 of 1  	
    	
    42	
    

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