The current project examines, through two independent experiments, the moderating role of neuroticism on evaluative conditioning. Evaluative conditioning (EC) is an effect which consists in repeatedly presentations of a conditioned stimulus (CS) with a positive or negative unconditioned stimulus (US), resulting a valence transfer from US to CS. To further investigate the interindividual differences of neuroticism on this effect, we introduced the uncertainty/ ambivalence element which helped us to capture the natural tendency of highly neurotic people in transferring negative valence. Experiment 1 presented an experimental manipulation at the US level by using ambivalent USs (i.e., a positive picture and a negative picture merged into one image), whereas Experiment 2 provided a reinforcement manipulation by presenting two CSs in half of exposures with positive USs and in half of exposures with negative USs.
Despite the breakthrough of recent studies on evaluative conditioning, attribute conditioning and halo effect, it was quite difficult to find common ground between these phenomena, even if they employed similar methodologies. Thus, De Houwer et al. (2019), proposed a comprehensive framework that reduces the fragmentation caused by using different terms that describe similar learning mechanisms.
Hence, the main aim of this study is to determine whether the positive or negative valence transferred from the USs (unconditioned stimuli, here valenced pictures) to the CSs (conditioned stimuli, here neutral faces) in a classical evaluative conditioning paradigm (Hofmann et al., 2010), can be generalized through a halo effect towards specific features relevant to a person’s characteristics (De Houwer et al., 2019). More precisely, we intend to investigate if the obtained EC effect can go beyond a simple positive or negative transformation and influence the subsequent assessment of the target in terms of features related to personality and behavior such as: friendliness, trustworthiness, vulnerability, and anxiety.
A secondary aim consists in addressing the mechanisms through which people differentiate themselves in generating assumptions about their world. By following the premise that individuals are dissimilar in data processing (both emotional and cognitive), based on their personality traits, we will try to understand the relationship between evaluative conditioning and personality. The results obtained by Vogel et al. (2019) are to be used as a starting point. Thus, the focus will be on Neuroticism and Agreeableness, assessed at the level of domains and facets.
In the first stage of our study, we will use a existing dataset to build a network of adjectives related to the Emotional Stability dimension from the Big Five Adjectives personality questionnaire. We will then identify the most and the least central nodes.
In the second stage, we will use an evaluative conditioning procedure to establish a relationship between a personality dimension and a novel person. Two relationships will be established. The first will involve a relation between a person and two of the most central traits in the network. The second will involve a relationship between another person and two of the least central traits in the network.
Given that centrality indicates the level of association of a certain node with the rest of the network, we hypothesize that the individual related to the most central nodes will be related to other nodes (traits) in the network MORE THAN the individual that was related to peripheral nodes via EC.