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Culture and Social Cognition Laboratory

Dr Roy Spina
r.spina@chi.ac.uk

Research Focus: Cultural and Individual Differences in Social Cognition, particularly the social aspects of: attention/perception, attitudes, attributions, categorization, information seeking, judgment and decision making, prediction, relationships, response biases, and time perception.

Expertise: After completing his BSc, Roy spent 3 years living and teaching in Japan and subsequently travelled throughout East and Southeast Asia. Upon returning, Roy completed his postgraduate studies in Social and Personality psychology in Canada, acquiring a strong background in research methodology and statistics, with an emphasis on quantitative experimental research.

Current projects and available participation opportunities

We are currently running a number of different studies on cultural and individual differences in how people think about time, and in the factors that affect relationships. If you would be interested in participating in such studies (either online or at our campus in the lab), please contact Dr Roy Spina (r.spina@chi.ac.uk).

Lay Theories of Change and Regulatory Focus
Past research found that Westerners (e.g., Americans, British, and Canadians) tend to have linear lay theories of change, predicting that past trends will continue in the same direction as in the past (e.g., a previously increasing stock price will continue to increase in the near future). In contrast, Easterners (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans) tend to have cyclical lay theories of change, predicting the past trends will reverse (e.g., a previously increasing stock price will decrease in the near future).

We have recently found that such cultural differences are related to individual differences in regulatory focus (having a promotion vs prevention orientation).

Lay Theories of Change and Planning
We are currently investigating the effects of lay theories of change on people’s planning for the future.

Cultural and Individual Differences in Response Bias
Past research claimed to find that when answering on Likert Scales, Easterners tend to respond closer to the midpoints of the scales than Westerners. However, such studies rely on existing data using actual content based questions, and thus it is uncertain whether the differences were caused by response bias or actual differences in thinking about content (e.g., actual attitude differences). We have thus been exploring cultural and individual differences in response biases more systematically.

We have recently found that there does appear to be a cultural difference response bias, but it is not the simple midpoint response bias that has been purported to exist.

Cultural and Individual Differences in Health Beliefs
We are currently investigating the effects of cultural differences in thinking styles on people’s health beliefs.

Cultural and Individual Differences in Relationships
We have been exploring cultural and individual differences in factors that affect relationships quality.

We have recently found that intriguing individual differences in factors that affect Sibling Relationship Quality which differ across cultures.

Some recent past projects

Cultural Differences in Judgment

Based on previous research on cultural differences in analytic and holistic thinking, we predicted and found cultural differences in heuristics (cognitive shortcuts) people rely on when making inferences about cause and effect.

Lay Theories of Change and Education

Past research has found that students have great difficulty understanding many statistical concepts. We found that simple factors such as how people reason about change can affect such learning difficulties.

Cultural Differences in Relationships

One of the key factors determining relationship formation is the Similarity-Attraction Effect (we like others similar to us). We found that Japanese were less likely to be influenced by similarity, as a result of cultural differences in self-esteem.

Any other member(s) involved including faculty, PhD students, research volunteers

  • Dr Tieyuan Guo, University of Macau, China
  • Dr Li-Jun Ji, Queen’s University, Canada
  • Dr Mai Helmy, Minoufiya University, Egypt
  • Dr Markus Zenger, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany

Recent publications

Schmalbach, B., Zenger, M., Spina, R., Steffens-Guerra I., Kliem, S.; Michaelides, M., Hinz, A., & Zenger, M. (2017). Gain +1 or Avoid -1: Validation of the German Regulatory Focus Questionnaire (RFQ), BioMedCentral Psychology, 5-40, 1-11. doi 10.1186/s40359-017-0207-y.

Schmalbach B., Spina R., Steffens-Guerra I., Franke G. H., Kliem S., Michaelides M. P., Hinz A., & Zenger M. (2017).  Psychometric Properties of the German Version of the Health Regulatory Focus Scale. Frontiers in Psychology, 8-2005, 1-10. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02005

Guo T., & Spina, R. (2016). Chinese are more loss averse than British. Asian Journal of Social Psychology.

Guo, T., & Spina, R. R., (2015). Regulatory focus affects predictions of the future. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Guo, T., Ji, L.J., Spina, R. R., & Zhang, Z. (2012). Culture, Temporal Focus, and Values of the Past and the Future. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Wilson, D., Spina, R. R., & Canaan, J. (2011). In Praise of the Carceral Tour: Learning from the Grendon Experience. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice.

Spina, R. R., Ji, L. J., Guo, T., Zhang, Z, Ye, L., & Fabrigar, L. (2010). Cultural differences in the representativeness heuristic: Expecting a correspondence in magnitude between cause and effect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Spina, R. R., Ji, L. J., Ross, M., & Zhang, Z. (2010). Why best can't last: Cultural differences in anticipating a regression toward the mean. Asian Journal of Social Psychology.

Heine, S. J., Foster, J., & Spina, R. R. (2009). Do birds of a feather universally flock together? Cultural variation in the similarity-attraction effect. Asian Journal of Social Psychology.