Posts

September 17, 2014

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8:43 AM | There's a problem with assuming the most intelligent candidates make the best employees
Workplace research through the 20th Century suggested that selecting for intelligence is the best way to identify good performers. General mental ability (GMA), a popular recruitment measure that maps closely to the colloquial meaning of "intelligence", is strongly correlated with on-the job performance, well ahead of any other single measure.This consistent finding came from studies that mostly defined job performance as carrying out the duties expected in that role. Although intuitive, this […]

September 16, 2014

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7:00 AM | Forgive yourself for relaxing in front of the TV and the couch time might actually do you some good
There's a snobbishness about relaxation time. Tell someone your hobby is watching TV and chances are they'll look at you with derision. Mention meditation, reading or yoga and you're far more likely to attract nods of approval.And yet there is substantial evidence that time watching TV or playing video games can have a powerful restorative effect - just what many of us need after a hard day. This benefit isn't found for everyone, and in new paper Leonard Reinecke and his collaborators propose […]

September 15, 2014

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8:28 AM | Pupils benefit from praise, but should teachers give it to them publicly or privately?
There's a best practice guide for teachers, produced by the Association of School Psychologists in the US, that states praise is best given to pupils in private. This advice is not based on experimental research - there hasn't been any - but on surveys of student preferences, and on the rationale that pupils could be embarrassed by receiving praise in public.Now, in the first study of its kind, John Blaze and his colleagues have systematically compared the effect of public and private praise […]

Blaze JT, Olmi DJ, Mercer SH, Dufrene BA & Tingstom DH (2014). Loud versus quiet praise: A direct behavioral comparison in secondary classrooms., Journal of school psychology, 52 (4) 349-60. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25107408

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September 13, 2014

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7:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week:“Cyranoids”: Stanley Milgram’s Creepiest ExperimentMilgram is most famous for his obedience experiments, but Neuroskeptic reports on new research into another of Milgram's ideas - that our speech can be fed to us by someone else (so we become a Cyranoid) without anyone realising anything is amiss.Rising star of business psychology, Professor Adam Grant, has launched a new, free newsletter called […]

September 12, 2014

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8:23 AM | Psychologists compare the mental abilities of Scrabble and crossword champions
Completed Scrabble (left) and crossword grids (image from Toma et al 2014).Every year, hundreds of word lovers arrive from across the US to compete in the American Crossword Puzzle tournament. They solve clues (e.g. "caught some Z's") and place the answers (e.g. "sleep") in a grid. Meanwhile, a separate group of wordsmiths gather regularly to compete at Scrabble, the game that involves forming words out of letter tiles and finding a suitable place for them on the board.Both sets of players have […]

Toma, M., Halpern, D. & Berger, D. (2014). Cognitive Abilities of Elite Nationally Ranked SCRABBLE and Crossword Experts, Applied Cognitive Psychology, DOI: 10.1002/acp.3059

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September 11, 2014

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8:41 AM | The illusion that gives you sensations in a rubber tongue
Our sense of where our bodies begin and end usually feels consistent and reliable. However psychologists have been having fun for decades, exposing just how malleable the body concept can be.You may have heard of the "rubber hand illusion" (video). By visibly stroking a rubber hand in time with stroking a participant's hidden real hand, you can induce for them the feeling of sensation in the rubber hand.The rubber hand illusion is thought to occur because the brain tends to bind together […]

September 10, 2014

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9:06 AM | During jokes, the teller and responder engage in an involuntary "dance"
Knock Knock!Who's There?ImaIma who?Ima psychologist. I'm here cos you won't open up.When dance partners perform, their bodily movements become synchronised. This is deliberate on their part, of course, and we can see the timed interplay of their actions. What psychologists have begun to realise is that this kind of bodily synchrony also occurs between people in many everyday situations, except in these cases the physical "dance" is unintentional and it's more subtle, such as when two people […]

September 09, 2014

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8:53 AM | When you set sad lyrics against happy music, the music wins
The Beatles' Hello, Goodbye featuressad lyrics and a happy tuneIt's a quirk of human nature that many of us enjoy sad music. Research last year uncovered some reasons why, including feeling a sense of connection, and the aesthetic appeal. For a new study, Kazuma Mori and Makoto Iwanaga drilled down into the specific situation where sad lyrics are combined with happy music, as in the Beatles' Hello, Goodbye. They wanted to see how people would respond to the music or lyrics in isolation, and how […]

Mori, K. & Iwanaga, M. (2013). Pleasure generated by sadness: Effect of sad lyrics on the emotions induced by happy music, Psychology of Music, 42 (5) 643-652. DOI: 10.1177/0305735613483667

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September 08, 2014

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9:11 AM | Why your team should appoint a "meta-knowledge" champion - one person who's aware of everyone else's area of expertise
Being on top of "who knows what" is crucial for any team. If I were scheduled to meet a new client from an unfamiliar industry, it would be handy to know that my office-mate had worked in that area for years and could offer me some tips. But how is this team meta-knowledge (knowledge of who knows what) best handled? New research suggests teams, especially those composed of specialists, gain an advantage when they concentrate this information in the hands of one person instead of spreading it […]

September 06, 2014

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7:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week:How Do Hallucinogens Work On The Brain?Just one of the articles in a hallucinogens-themed special issue of The Psychologist that's entirely free to access.Famous Milgram 'Electric Shocks' Experiment Drew Wrong Conclusions About Evil, Say PsychologistsThe Independent reports on a new analysis of feedback provided by participants in Milgram's studies.Why Walking Helps Us ThinkFerris Jabr reflects poetically on the […]

September 05, 2014

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8:44 AM | People's belief in free will is lower when they need to urinate or desire sex
Embodied or grounded cognition is the name for the idea that physical states affect our thoughts and emotions. It's a controversial field, but typical findings include people's judgments of social closeness being shaped by room temperature, and their attentional style by the clothes they wear. A new paper takes things further, asking whether bodily states affect people's philosophical beliefs, specifically their belief in the notion of free will, defined and measured here in the lay sense […]

September 04, 2014

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9:17 AM | Drop the strut: Both men and women find humility more attractive
By guest blogger Temma Ehrenfeld.There’s been much debate about the “cheerleader effect,” the idea that men are wired to attract desirable mates by showing off in silly ways. The effect may not even exist, but if it does, they might try humility instead. New research suggests that both men and women prefer humble to less humble partners.The studies are part of a push to define humility, a concept associated less with science than Christianity, as in Matthew 11:29 where Jesus […]

September 03, 2014

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9:08 AM | Want people to care about the environment? Don't overplay the power of science
When people are presented with a picture of rapid scientific progress, they are less likely to engage in environmentally friendly behaviours. This is the conclusion reached across a series of experiments in which students were presented with a short newspaper article on science's achievements and future prospects.The news article came in two flavours. Participants in the "progress" condition read a uniformly positive perspective, lauding medical advances and new technologies to combat climate […]

Meijers, M. & Rutjens, B. (2014). Affirming belief in scientific progress reduces environmentally friendly behaviour, European Journal of Social Psychology, 44 (5) 487-495. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.2009

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Editor's Pick

September 02, 2014

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8:17 AM | On being labelled "schizophrenic", in the words of the diagnosed
The label "schizophrenic" is loaded with connotations. For many, its utterance provokes thoughts of madness, of violence and oddity. No wonder that clinical psychologist Lorna Howe and her colleagues found the people they interviewed - all diagnosed with the illness - had strived to avoid the label.In all, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews lasting up to 90 minutes with seven participants diagnosed with schizophrenia. There were three men, four women (average age 44), and they'd […]

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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