Posts

September 01, 2014

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8:34 AM | Students with more autistic traits make fewer altruistic choices
Most people with autism have difficulties socialising and connecting with others. It's generally agreed that part of this has to do with an impairment in taking other people's perspective. More specifically, an emerging consensus suggests that autism is associated with having normal feelings for other people, but an impaired understanding of them. Little explored before now is how this affects the behaviour of people with autism towards others who need help.Leila Jameel and her colleagues […]

Jameel L, Vyas K, Bellesi G, Roberts V & Channon S (2014). Going 'Above and Beyond': Are Those High in Autistic Traits Less Pro-social?, Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 44 (8) 1846-58. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24522968

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August 30, 2014

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7:25 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week:Uta and Chris Frith: A Partnership of the MindMo Costandi profiles the cognitive neuroscience pioneers.Using Pseudoscience to Shine Light on Good ScienceA video of Scott Lilienfeld's APS-David Myers lecture at this year's meeting of the Association for Psychological Science.Against EmpathyPaul Bloom starts a debate at the Boston Review. "I’ve come to realize that taking a position against empathy is like announcing […]

August 29, 2014

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8:30 AM | The psychology of wearable computing - does Google Glass affect where people look?
Computing eyewear such as Google Glass can record information far more discreetly than a handheld camera. As a result, privacy concerns have been raised, whether in a bar or changing for the gym. Are users of this tech likely to use their new toys responsibly? Early research was promising, suggesting that the very act of recording our gaze may lead us to be extra considerate in where we look. Unfortunately a new study finds that while wearing gaze-monitoring devices may initially encourage […]
Editor's Pick

August 28, 2014

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8:15 AM | Managers, conservatives, Europeans and the non-religious show higher levels of psychopathic traits
Christian Bale played the archetypalpsychopath in American Psycho (2000).Mention psychopathic personality traits and the mind turns to criminals. The archetype is a callous killer who entraps his victims with a smile and easy charm. However, recent years have seen an increasing recognition that psychopathic traits are on a continuous spectrum in all of us (akin to other personality factors like extraversion), that they don't always manifest in criminality, and that in certain contexts, they may […]

August 27, 2014

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9:06 AM | 10 Surprising Things Babies Can Do
Human infants are helpless. At first they can't even support the weight of their own heads. Crawling and walking take months to master. Compare this with the sprightly newborns of other mammals, such as kittens and foals, up and about within an hour of their birth. There are several theories as to why human development is so protracted - among them that this extra time is required for the human brain to develop. This post side-steps such debates and focuses on 10 studies hinting at the […]

August 26, 2014

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7:00 AM | Drinking small amounts of alcohol boosts people's sense of smell
As our modern world relies overwhelmingly on sight and sound to transmit information, it might not strike you quite how acute our sense of smell is. In fact we humans can outperform the most sensitive measuring instruments in detecting certain odours, and distinguish smells from strangers from those of our blood relations. Now new research suggests our natural olfactory talents may be even greater when we use modest amounts of alcohol to reduce our inhibitions.A team led by Yaara […]

August 25, 2014

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7:00 AM | Your angry face makes you look stronger
No matter where you travel on earth, you'll likely have no problem recognising when someone is angry with you. From the plains of Russia to the beaches of Brazil, anger shows itself in a tell-tale facial display involving lowered brow, snarled nose, raised chin and thinned lips.A popular view has it that, besides reliably conveying anger, this particular constellation of facial movements is arbitrary and serves no other function. A team of evolutionary psychologists led by Aaron Sell disagrees. […]

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 […]
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