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  1. Inferring humans’ complex emotions is challenging but can be done with surprisingly limited emotion signals, including merely the eyes alone. Here, we test for a role of lower-level perceptual processes involved in such sensitivity using the well-validated Reading the Mind in the Eyes task. Over three experiments, we manipulated configural processing to show that it contributes to sensitivity to complex emotion from human eye regions. Specifically, inversion, a well-established manipulation affecting configural processing, undermined sensitivity to complex emotions in eye regions (Experiments 1-3). Inversion extended to undermine sensitivity to nonmentalistic information from human eye regions (gender; Experiment 2) but did not extend to affect sensitivity to attributes of nonhuman animals (Experiment 3). Taken together, the current findings provide evidence for the novel hypothesis that configural processing facilitates sensitivity to complex emotions conveyed by the eyes via the broader extraction of socially relevant information. 
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  2. Past research has demonstrated a link between facial expressions and mind perception, yet why expressions, especially happy expressions, influence mind attribution remains unclear. Conducting four studies, we addressed this issue. In Study 1, we investigated whether the valence or behavioral intention (i.e., approach or avoidance) implied by different emotions affected the minds ascribed to expressers. Happy (positive valence and approach intention) targets were ascribed more sophisticated minds than were targets displaying neutral, angry (negative-approach), or fearful (negative-avoidance) expressions, suggesting emotional valence was relevant to mind attribution but apparent behavioral intentions were not. We replicated this effect using both Black and White targets (Study 2) and another face database (Study 3). In Study 4, we conducted path analyses to examine attractiveness and expectations of social acceptance as potential mediators of the effect. Our findings suggest that signals of social acceptance are crucial to the effect emotional expressions have on mind perception. 
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  3. Five experiments investigate the hypothesis that heavier weight individuals are denied mental agency (i.e., higher order cognitive and intentional capacities), but not experience (e.g., emotional and sensory capacities), relative to average weight individuals. Across studies, we find that as targets increase in weight, they are denied mental agency; however, target weight has no reliable influence on ascriptions of experience (Studies 1a–2b). Furthermore, the de-mentalization of heavier weight targets was associated with both disgust and beliefs about targets’ physical agency (Study 3). Finally, de-mentalization affected role assignments. Heavier weight targets were rated as helpful for roles requiring experiential but not mentally agentic faculties (Study 4). Heavier weight targets were also less likely than chance to be categorized into a career when it was described as requiring mental agency (versus experience; Study 5). These findings suggest novel insights into past work on weight stigma, wherein discrimination often occurs in domains requiring mental agency.

     
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  4. null (Ed.)
    We tested the novel hypothesis that the dehumanization of prisoners varies as a function of how soon they will be released from prison. Seven studies indicate that people ascribe soon-to-be-released prisoners greater mental sophistication than those with more time to serve, all other things being equal. Studies 3 to 6 indicate that these effects are mediated by perceptions that imprisonment has served the functions of rehabilitation, retribution, and future deterrence. Finally, Study 7 demonstrates that beliefs about rehabilitation and deterrence may be the most important in accounting for these effects. These findings indicate that the amount of time left on a prison sentence influences mind ascription to the incarcerated, an effect that has implications for our understanding of prisoner dehumanization. 
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  5. Social pain, defined as responses to aversive interpersonal experiences (e.g., ostracism, unfairness, disrespect), has profound effects on health and well-being. Yet, research indicates that race biases judgments of social pain, leading people to believe that Black individuals experience less social pain than White individuals. The current work extends this research, testing whether characteristics associated with Black racial phenotypicality shapes this social pain effect. Five studies tested the hypothesis that people would judge targets high in Black racial phenotypicality as less sensitive to social pain and consequently requiring fewer coping resources than targets low in racial phenotypicality. The results of these studies reveals a consistent effect of Black racial phenotypicality on social pain judgments (Studies 1-5; Ncumulative=1,064). Moreover, this phenotypicality effect shaped judgments of social pain for both Black and White targets, suggesting effects are driven by stereotype-related characteristics rather than activation of the Black racial category. Study 3 links this bias with judgments of toughness independent of other plausible mechanisms and Studies 4-5 provide evidence that phenotypic biases in social pain undermine social support judgments. Perceivers believed Black individuals high in phenotypicality experienced less social pain and, consequently, required fewer coping resources to manage distress compared to individuals low in Black phenotypicality. These results provide evidence for a target-level bias in social pain judgments. 
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  6. Six studies tested the hypothesis that evaluators judge Black people less sensitive to social pain than White people. Social pain was operationalized as the psychological distress caused by experiences that damage social worth and interpersonal relationships (e.g., derogation, exclusion, unfairness). White evaluators judged both Black male (Studies 1, 2a, & 2b) and female (Studies 2a & 2b) targets as experiencing less social pain than White male and female targets. Study 3 provided evidence that this bias also extends to Black evaluators. Further, the belief that Black people are less sensitive to social pain than White people was mediated by judgments of differential life hardship experienced by Black and White targets (Study 4) and did not seem to be a subset of a broader tendency to judge Black targets as generally insensate (Study 5). Critically, the observed race-based social pain bias also translated into beliefs that Black targets needed fewer supportive resources than White targets to cope with socially painful events (Study 6). The current research demonstrates that there are racial biases in judgments of others’ psychological distress and these biases inform social support judgments for those in need. 
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