Posts

August 23, 2014

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7:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week:Finding a Good TherapistJules Evans' (author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations) recent encounter with a "somatic therapist" didn't go too well.Why Nurture Is Just As Important As Nature For Understanding GeneticsThe influence of genetics on our health and behaviour is not fixed, explains Claire Howarth, but depends on complex interactions with the environment. Why Do We Fear the Wrong Things?Over […]

August 22, 2014

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7:49 AM | Reader reactions to news of terrorism depend on the images that are used
After viewing images of terrorists people reported feelings of anger and fearHow readers' emotions are affected by media reports of terrorist attacks depends on the the photos used to accompany the story. That's according to an analysis by Aarti Iyer and colleagues, who say these different emotional reactions in turn lead to support for different government policies.Over two-hundred British adults (aged 18 to 68; 92 women), many based in London, read a news summary of the London terrorist […]

August 21, 2014

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8:43 AM | Back to the future - Psychologists investigate why some people see the future as being behind them
Speakers of English and many other languages refer to the future as being in front, and the past behind (e.g. "I look forward to seeing you"). This manner of thinking and speaking is so entrenched, we rarely pause to consider why we do it. One influential and intuitive explanation is that humans have an obvious front (the way our heads face), which combined with our tendency to think about time in terms of space, leads us to see ourselves moving forwards into the future, or the future coming […]

de la Fuente J, Santiago J, Román A, Dumitrache C & Casasanto D (2014). When You Think About It, Your Past Is in Front of You: How Culture Shapes Spatial Conceptions of Time., Psychological science, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25052830

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August 20, 2014

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8:40 AM | Inspired by a Soprano? Psychologists investigate whether fictional characters can aid our self development
"... forming a relationship with an interesting but potentially dangerous character does not present the same obstacles in the narrative world as it might in the physical world.”By guest blogger Robin Abrahams.If you’ve been on the internet at all this year, you may have noticed an explosion of fiction-based personality quizzes. What house would you belong to in Hogwarts—or in Westeros? Which “Mad Man” are you? What Shakespeare role were you born to play?Why […]

Shedlosky-Shoemaker, R., Costabile, K. & Arkin, R. (2014). Self-Expansion through Fictional Characters, Self and Identity, 13 (5) 556-578. DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2014.882269

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August 19, 2014

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8:36 AM | How to help an anxious interviewee - be mean to them?
They've barely taken their seat, but it's obvious that your interviewee is nervous. You give her a reassuring smile and nod affirmatively at each of her answers, hoping to put her at ease. Unfortunately, it turns out that positive feedback does a socially anxious interviewee no favours. In fact, it would be better to turn that smile upside-down.We know this from a new study from North Illinois University where a "careers counsellor" (actually a research assistant) conducted practice interviews […]

Budnick CJ, Kowal M & Santuzzi AM (2014). Social anxiety and the ironic effects of positive interviewer feedback., Anxiety, stress, and coping, 1-17. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24773204

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August 18, 2014

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8:21 AM | The simple piece of information that could dramatically increase your muscular endurance
How most of us choose to behave is shaped powerfully by the behaviour of others (or, more specifically, our perception of their behaviour). Psychologists call this the influence of "social norms", and its potency has been investigated extensively in the context of environmentally friendly behaviours like recycling, and health behaviours, such as binge drinking and frequency of exercise.What if this same psychological lever could be exploited, not to encourage people to take up more physical […]

Priebe, C. & Spink, K. (2014). Blood, sweat, and the influence of others: The effect of descriptive norms on muscular endurance and task self-efficacy, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 15 (5) 491-497. DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2014.04.012

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August 16, 2014

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7:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week:One Death Too ManyClinical neuropsychologist Vaughan Bell criticises the sensationalist media coverage of Robin Williams' suicide. Addressing newspaper editors, Bell says: "you ... have a personal and professional responsibility to ensure that you are not putting people at risk by your need to sell copy."The Science Behind Suicide ContagionMargot Sanger-Katz for the NYT summarises the relevant science, but she also […]

August 15, 2014

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9:19 AM | We're happier when we chat to strangers, but our instinct is to ignore them
It's become a truism that humans are "social animals". And yet, you've probably noticed - people on public transport or in waiting rooms seem to do everything they can not to interact. On the London tube there's an unwritten rule not to even look at one another. This is the paradox explored by Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder in a series of nine new studies involving members of the public on trains, planes, in taxis and a waiting room.The investigation began with rail and bus commuters […]

August 14, 2014

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8:51 AM | Star performers suffer more than most from a loss in status
Tiger Woods experienced a loss of status in 2009.(He didn't win another major until 2012.)Compared with lower-ranked people, those higher up the pecking order find it more difficult to stomach a drop in status, and their performance takes a bigger nosedive as a result. This is the verdict of a new article that presents experimental work, together with a more unusual source of evidence: major league baseball arbitration, in which players and clubs contest the players’ worth.In many ways, […]

August 13, 2014

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8:48 AM | The stability of your personality peaks in mid-life (then grows increasingly wobbly again)
As we continue to settle into ourselves, you might think that personality would be something that becomes ever more cemented through life.  Not so, according to a survey of nearly 4000 New Zealanders aged from 20 to 80 years (including 2409 women). Petar Milojev and Chris Sibley report that the stability of personality increases through youth, peaks in mid-life and then gradually reduces again into old age, presumably in response to the variations in social and biological pressures we […]

August 12, 2014

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8:35 AM | Remembering and imagining both engage the same key brain region, but they depend on distinct neural processes
credit: Gray's Anatomy/WikipediaRemembering and imagining appear to be very different functions, one recovering true information from the past, the other considering the unreal or exploring the future. And yet many patients with damage to the hippocampus (a structure in the temporal lobes) - and resultant memory impairment - struggle in imagining the future. Moreover, neuroimaging data show the hippocampus is involved in both tasks. Taken together, this evidence suggests that memory for the […]

August 11, 2014

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8:48 AM | Do infant dummies (pacifiers) impede the emotional connection between adult and baby?
Dummies (known as pacifiers in the US) can calm a crying baby in seconds, so their appeal is obvious. However, a new study warns there could be a price to pay. Magdalena Rychlowska and her colleagues claim that because dummies obscure babies' faces, they interfere with the way that adults respond to babies' emotions.The researchers used electrodes to record the facial muscles of 29 women (average age 21; two of them were mothers) while they looked at photographs of two young babies expressing […]

August 09, 2014

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8:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week:Is It Bad To Bottle Up Your Anger?Claudia Hammond examines the myth that suppressing anger is always bad for your health.When It's Bad To Have Good ChoicesDifficult choices cause us anxiety whether they're trivial or heart-wrenching, explains Maria Konnikova.Heal Thyself: A History of Self-HelpRobin Ince presents the first in a three-part Radio 4 Series (you can listen again on iPlayer).Video Games "Beneficial" For […]

August 08, 2014

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8:56 AM | How do you prove that reading boosts IQ?
A recent study on whether reading boosts intelligence attracted global media attention: "Reading at a young age makes you smarter," announced the Daily Mail. "Early reading boosts health and intelligence," said The Australian.In the race for eye-catching headlines, this mainstream media coverage arguably missed the more fascinating story of the hunt for cause and effect. Here lead author Dr Stuart Ritchie explains the science:"Causality, it turns out, is really difficult to prove. Correlational […]

August 07, 2014

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8:09 AM | In it together - Couples fare better psychologically when both partners lose their jobs, rather than just one of them
If your partner were to lose their job, you might think keeping your own employment would cushion the psychological blow. In fact new research finds that life satisfaction is higher for couples who share their unemployed predicament, than for couples where only one partner loses their job.Maike Luhmann and her colleagues analysed over ten years of longitudinal data from 3000 co-habiting couples in Germany, where one or both partners had gone through an unemployment. If one partner lost their […]
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8:09 AM | In it together: Couples' life satisfaction takes a bigger hit when one partner loses their job, than when both do
If your partner were to lose their job, you might think keeping your own employment would cushion the psychological blow. In fact new research finds that life satisfaction is higher for couples who share their unemployed predicament, than for couples where only one partner loses their job.Maike Luhmann and her colleagues analysed over ten years of longitudinal data from 3000 co-habiting couples in Germany, where one or both partners had gone through an unemployment. If one partner lost their […]

August 06, 2014

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8:35 AM | Welcome to the weird world of weight illusions
Normally bigger objects weigh more; breaking this rule provokes illusory perceptionsVisual illusions are useful to psychologists because, by tricking the brain, they provide clues about how it works. The same is true for weight illusions, it's just that they're far less well known. Now Gavin Buckingham at Heriot-Watt University has published a handy review of weight illusions, and he explores some of the thinking about their likely causes.Among the most studied is known as the "size-weight […]

August 05, 2014

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8:22 AM | Why was Darth Vader so evil? Blame his lack of parental care, say psychologists
Image: wikipediaWhy was Darth Vader such a bad dude? According to a team of psychologists led by Peter Jonason, it's down to his lack of parental care: the fact he was separated from his mother at age 9, and his father's absence. The researchers believe such circumstances can catalyse the emergence of the Dark Triad of personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy. These traits are usually seen as negative, but Jonason and his colleagues believe they may be an adaptive […]

August 04, 2014

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8:30 AM | The iPhone Effect - when mobile devices intrude on our face-to-face encounters
You've probably experienced this. You're in the middle of telling your friend a story when his eyes flick across to his phone. Perhaps he even picks it up, checks the screen. "Sorry, go on," he says. But your flow is interrupted. And you know his mind is at least half elsewhere.Shalini Misra and her team approached 100 pairs of people (109 women; average age 33) in cafes across Washington DC and neighbouring districts. They asked them to chat for ten minutes at a table in the cafe about a […]

Misra, S., Cheng, L., Genevie, J. & Yuan, M. (2014). The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices, Environment and Behavior, DOI: 10.1177/0013916514539755

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August 02, 2014

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10:20 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week:Why Psychologists’ Food Fight MattersMichelle Meyer and Christopher Chabris with an in-depth overview of the recent rows and controversies about replication in psychology.Psychology Comes To Halt As Weary Researchers Say The Mind Cannot Possibly Study ItselfThe Onion imagines a world in which scholars of the mind give up.Neuroscience vs. Philosophy: Explaining the Secrets of the MindVideo of a debate hosted by the […]

August 01, 2014

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8:32 AM | Psychologists investigate a major, ignored reason for our lack of sleep - bedtime procrastination
Short term, lack of sleep scrambles our mental functioning. Long term, the health consequences can be dire. What's stopping us from getting enough?For many, adequate sleep is elusive because of sleep disorders, including varieties of insomnia. For others there are practical challenges - baby care or night shifts, for example. A new study focuses on another major, yet strangely overlooked, reason - bedtime procrastination. You want to go to bed early. You know you need to get to bed. And yet you […]

Kroese, F., Evers, C., Adriaanse, M. & de Ridder, D. (2014). Bedtime procrastination: A self-regulation perspective on sleep insufficiency in the general population, Journal of Health Psychology, DOI: 10.1177/1359105314540014

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July 31, 2014

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8:33 AM | The voices heard by people with schizophrenia are friendlier in India and Africa, than in the US
When a patient with schizophrenia hears voices in their head, is the experience shaped by the culture they live in? Tanya Luhrmann and her colleagues investigated by interviewing twenty people diagnosed with schizophrenia living in San Mateo, California; twenty in Accra, Ghana; and twenty others in Chennai India. There were similarities across cultures, including descriptions of good and bad voices, but also striking differences.In San Mateo the interviewees talked about their condition as a […]

Luhrmann, T., Padmavati, R., Tharoor, H. & Osei, A. (2014). Differences in voice-hearing experiences of people with psychosis in the USA, India and Ghana: interview-based study, The British Journal of Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.113.139048

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July 30, 2014

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8:23 AM | When the cuddle hormone turns nasty - oxytocin linked with violent intentions
For many years, the hormone oxytocin was caricatured as the source of all human goodness - trust, altruism, love, and morality. Among the findings that contributed to this picture were the discovery that sniffing oxytocin increases people's trust and generosity in financial games; that it aids face recognition; and that its release is associated with maternal bonding; and with orgasm.However, the picture has grown a lot more complicated of late, with findings showing that […]

DeWall, C., Gillath, O., Pressman, S., Black, L., Bartz, J., Moskovitz, J. & Stetler, D. (2014). When the Love Hormone Leads to Violence: Oxytocin Increases Intimate Partner Violence Inclinations Among High Trait Aggressive People, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5 (6) 691-697. DOI: 10.1177/1948550613516876

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July 29, 2014

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9:06 AM | Remembering together - How long-term couples develop interconnected memory systems
Although it might seem a good idea to work with other people to remember important information, the evidence suggests that this typically isn't so. Individual recall is most efficient whereas social remembering comes with drawbacks, tripping up our flow and inhibiting memories. But this evidence mostly comes from asking people to collaborate with a stranger. What happens when you know each other really, really well?Celia Harris and colleagues at Macquarie University recently reviewed their […]

July 28, 2014

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8:51 AM | The mistakes that lead therapists to infer psychotherapy was effective, when it wasn't
How well can psychotherapists and their clients judge from personal experience whether therapy has been effective? Not well at all, according to a paper by Scott Lilienfeld and his colleagues. The fear is that this can lead to the continued practice of ineffective, or even harmful, treatments.The authors point out that, like the rest of us, clinicians are subject to four main biases that skew their ability to infer the effectiveness of their psychotherapeutic treatments. This includes the […]

Lilienfeld, S., Ritschel, L., Lynn, S., Cautin, R. & Latzman, R. (2014). Why Ineffective Psychotherapies Appear to Work: A Taxonomy of Causes of Spurious Therapeutic Effectiveness, Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9 (4) 355-387. DOI: 10.1177/1745691614535216

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July 26, 2014

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7:30 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week:Getting Over ProcrastinationMaria Konnikova with an overview of some fascinating genetic research.The End of ‘Genius’"[T]he lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness" writes Joshua Shenk.Do You Need a Mental Health First Aider in The Office?Mental health "first aider" Charlotte Walker explains her role.Won’t They Help?Dwyer Gunn for Aeon magazine looks at new programmes that are using […]

July 25, 2014

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10:12 AM | How our judgments about criminals are swayed by disgust, biological explanations and animalistic descriptions
We expect of our jurors and judges calm, reasoned evaluation of the evidence. Of course we know the reality is rather different - prejudice and emotional reactions will always play their part. Now two new studies add insight into the ways people's legal judgements depart from cool objectivity.Beatrice Capestany and Lasana Harris focused on two main factors - the disgust level of a crime, and whether or not the perpetrators' personality was described in biological terms. Seventeen participants […]

Capestany, B. & Harris, L. (2014). Disgust and biological descriptions bias logical reasoning during legal decision-making, Social Neuroscience, 9 (3) 265-277. DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2014.892531

Vasquez, E., Loughnan, S., Gootjes-Dreesbach, E. & Weger, U. (2014). The animal in you: Animalistic descriptions of a violent crime increase punishment of perpetrator, Aggressive Behavior, 40 (4) 337-344. DOI: 10.1002/ab.21525

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July 24, 2014

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9:02 AM | When interviewers try to sell the job, they become bad interviewers
It’s hard to find the best person for the job through an interview. New research uncovers part of the problem: judging a candidate’s calibre becomes trickier when we’re also trying to sell them the benefits of joining the organisation.In an initial study, participants were asked to interview a person (another participant) who was acting as an applicant for a fictional position. Half the interviewers were told their priority was to get a good sense of the applicant, while the […]

Marr, J. & Cable, D. (2013). Do Interviewers Sell Themselves Short? The Effects of Selling Orientation on Interviewers' Judgments, Academy of Management Journal, 57 (3) 624-651. DOI: 10.5465/amj.2011.0504

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9:02 AM | Why job interviewers should focus on the candidates, not selling their organisation
It’s hard to find the best person for the job through an interview. New research uncovers part of the problem: judging a candidate’s calibre becomes trickier when we’re also trying to sell them the benefits of joining the organisation.In an initial study, participants were asked to interview a person (another participant) who was acting as an applicant for a fictional position. Half the interviewers were told their priority was to get a good sense of the applicant, while the […]
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