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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007 Jul;93(1):75-84.

Evaluating Eve: visceral states influence the evaluation of impulsive behavior.

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  • 1Department of Social Psychology, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. l.f.nordgren@uva.nl


Impulsive behavior is a common source of stigma. The authors argue that people often stigmatize impulsive behavior because they fail to appreciate the influence visceral impulses have on behavior. Because people tend to underestimate the motivational force of cravings for sex, drugs, food, and so forth, they are prone to stigmatize those who act on these impulses. In line with this reasoning, in 4 studies, the authors found that participants who were in a cold state (e.g., not hungry) made less favorable evaluations of a related impulsive behavior (impulsive eating) than did participants who were in a hot state (e.g., hungry). This empathy gap effect was tested with 3 different visceral states--fatigue, hunger, and sexual arousal--and was found both when participants evaluated others' impulsive behavior (Studies 1 & 2) and when participants evaluated their own impulsive behavior (Study 3). Study 3 also demonstrated that the empathy gap effect is due to different perceptions of the strength of the visceral state itself. Finally, Study 4 revealed that this effect is state specific: Hungry people, for example, evaluated only hunger-driven impulses, and not other forms of impulse, more favorably.

Copyright 2007 APA, all rights reserved.

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