Posts

January 29, 2015

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8:53 AM | Why you might want to beware the introvert on your team
Introverts have received a lot of positive press in recent years thanks to the run-away success of Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Cain tells us these are people who like their own space, but also happen to be empathic and sensitive and deep-thinkers. A new paper on peer appraisals by team-members bucks this hug-an-introvert trend.Amir Erez and his co-authors report that introverts tend to give especially low performance ratings to their team-mates who are extravert and […]

January 28, 2015

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9:50 AM | A face that could get away with anything
First impressions lead to a multitude of assumptions, and trustworthiness is one of them: faces with v-shaped eyebrows and frowning mouths are consistently judged as less trustworthy than others with ^-shaped brows and mouths with upturned corners (this may be related to the former betraying a hidden anger and the latter having positive undertones). Now a study by Brian Holtz suggests that a person's looks can colour perceptions, not only of how trustworthy their character […]

January 27, 2015

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9:38 AM | No one noticed when this man's speech was fed to him by a 12-year-old. Welcome to the Cyranoid Illusion
Imagine if the words that came out of your mouth were spoken by another person. Would anyone notice? This idea was explored by social psychologist Stanley Milgram, famous for his studies into obedience, but he never published his results.Milgram called the hybrid of one person's body and another person's mind, a Cyranoid, after the play Cyrano de Bergerac, in which the handsome Christian woos a woman using the graceful words provided by plain-looking Cyrano. Now the concept has been resurrected […]

January 26, 2015

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9:46 AM | We're more likely to cheat when we're anxious
When we’re stressed out and feeling threatened, our priority becomes self-preservation. According to new research, this defensive mode even affects our morality, making us more likely to cheat and excuse our own unethical behaviour.Maryam Kouchaki and Sreedhari Desai demonstrated this through six experiments. In the clearest example, 63 student participants spent three minutes listening to either calm music, or in the anxiety condition, to Bernard Herrmann's Psycho score. Those freaked […]

Kouchaki, M. & Desai, S. (2014). Anxious, Threatened, and Also Unethical: How Anxiety Makes Individuals Feel Threatened and Commit Unethical Acts., Journal of Applied Psychology, DOI: 10.1037/a0037796

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January 24, 2015

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9:00 AM | Link Feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:Why are men more likely than women to take their own lives?In the Guardian, Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman argue that suicide prevention programmes need to take sex differences into account.Introducing The Psychologist Magazine's First Ever Poetry Competition"There is no guidance other than to consider our publication and audience; come on what you know, pure discovery," says Editor Jon Sutton.Brain-branded […]

January 23, 2015

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9:56 AM | Why the risk of losing is more fun than an easy win
I've started playing in a higher division in my local table-tennis league. I'm winning games less, but enjoying the experience more. I'm far from alone in preferring the danger of possible defeat to the comfort of easy wins. Psychologically this is curious because, at whatever level, virtually everyone who plays competitive games finds winning more pleasurable than losing, and most people like to feel good at what they do. In a new study, Sami Abuhamdeh and his colleagues have shone a light on […]

January 22, 2015

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10:32 AM | Testing the American Dream - can the right mix of personality and IQ compensate for poverty?
We know that possessing certain personal traits can help people do better in life – by knuckling down, making the right connections or having the best ideas. A new study goes further and asks whether a person’s traits and their background interact, with personal qualities being more important for people of lower socio-economic status. If true, this would provide intellectual support for the “American Dream” – being smart or diligent might make some difference for […]

January 21, 2015

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9:48 AM | What do confident people say to themselves before giving a speech?
Before you speak to an audience, can you first talk yourself out of feeling nervous? One step towards this strategy is to find out how confident people speak to themselves in their heads (their internal "self-talk"), compared with others who are more anxious.Xiaowei Shi and his colleagues surveyed nearly 200 students on a public speaking course. The researchers approached the students after they'd given two public presentations on the course and were soon to give their third. The students […]

January 20, 2015

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10:08 AM | When our beliefs are threatened by facts, we turn to unfalsifiable justifications
On being told physics could underminereligious claims, believers said faithwas more about living a moral lifeIt's great to have facts on your side. The fundamentalist is delighted by the archaeological find that tallies with scripture, just as the atheist seizes on the evidence that contradicts it. But when the evidence goes against us, we're less likely to change a belief than to criticise the validity or provenance of the evidence. Now, research suggests that the mere prospect of a […]
Editor's Pick

January 19, 2015

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9:59 AM | The psychology of Facebook, digested
With over a billion users, Facebook is changing the social life of our species. Cultural commentators ponder the effects. Is it bringing us together or tearing us apart? Psychologists have responded too - Google Scholar lists more than 27,000 references with Facebook in the title. Common topics for study are links between Facebook use and personality, and whether the network alleviates or fosters loneliness. The torrent of new data is overwhelming and much of it appears contradictory. Here is […]

January 17, 2015

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10:27 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do ThisMandy Catron fell in love after following the format of a psychology study from 20 years ago. "I’ve skied steep slopes and hung from a rock face by a short length of rope, but staring into someone’s eyes for four silent minutes was one of the more thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life."Trying to Cure Depression, but Inspiring TortureThe sorry tale of how […]

January 16, 2015

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9:22 AM | Reverse psychology: How bad managers inspire team camaraderie
An unfair, uncaring manager makes for an uncertain working life, one characterised by stress, absenteeism and poor performance. But new research suggests a silver lining: when the boss is unjust, team members come together.A multi-institution collaboration led by Adam Stoverink presented teams of students with an awkward event. The students thought they’d been recruited to solve tasks for a cash prize, but they were left twiddling their thumbs while waiting for an assigned supervisor to […]

January 15, 2015

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9:37 AM | How to get kids to tell the truth? It's not all about carrot or stick
By guest blogger Dan JonesAll parents have to come to terms with the fact that their little angels will, from time to time, act like little devils. They’ll throw tantrums over trivial issues, or they’ll push, hit, bite or scratch other kids. And at some point they’ll start lying about what they’ve done.Lying is perfectly normal among children, not a sign of a sociopath in the making. Many kids start telling the odd fib around their second birthday, and by the time […]

January 14, 2015

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1:14 PM | Imagining walking through a doorway triggers increased forgetting
We've all had that experience of going purposefully from one room to another, only to get there and forget why we made the journey. Four years ago, researcher Gabriel Radvansky and his colleagues stripped this effect down, showing that the simple act of passing through a doorway induces forgetting. Now psychologists at Knox College, USA, have taken things further, demonstrating that merely imagining walking through a doorway is enough to trigger increased forgetfulness. Zachary Lawrence and […]

Lawrence, Z. & Peterson, D. (2014). Mentally walking through doorways causes forgetting: The location updating effect and imagination, Memory, 1-9. DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2014.980429

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Editor's Pick

January 13, 2015

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9:38 AM | People may be happier when their neighbourhood fits their personality
Levels of trait "openness to experience"are higher in central London than otherareas of the city. Image from PNAS. It is surely easier to be happy in some neighbourhoods than others. But a new study suggests one size does not fit all. Based on data from 56,000 Londoners collected by a BBC initiative, Markus Jokela and his colleagues report that the correlations between different personality dimensions and life satisfaction vary across the capital. The researchers say this shows "finding […]

January 12, 2015

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9:50 AM | Psychologists and psychiatrists feel less empathy for patients when their problems are explained biologically
The idea that mental illness is related to brain abnormalities or other biological factors is popular among some patients; they say it demystifies their experiences and lends legitimacy to their symptoms. However, studies show that biological explanations can increase mental health stigma, encouraging the public perception that people with mental illness are essentially different, and that their problems are permanent. Now Matthew Lebowitz and Woo-young Ahn have published new evidence that […]

January 10, 2015

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9:00 AM | Link Feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:Dos and don’ts of a January detoxAs we start a new year, David Robson at BBC Future takes a scientific look at how to get healthier'Detoxing' has been debunked. Maybe it's time to debunk thatOliver Burkeman argues that scepticism about the benefits of detoxing has gone too farAre Understandings of Mental Illness Mired in the Past?In the latest issue of The Psychologist magazine, Vaughan Bell and John Cromby […]

January 09, 2015

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10:04 AM | One in ten student research participants don't make an effort
It's near the end of your university semester, you're tired and now you've got to sit through 90 minutes of monotonous psychology tests to fulfil the requirements for your course. This is a familiar situation for psychology undergrads, many of whom form the sample pools for thousands of psychology studies.Concerns have been raised before that psychology findings are being skewed by the (lack of) effort students put into their performance as research participants. Last year, for example, […]

DeRight, J. & Jorgensen, R. (2014). I Just Want My Research Credit: Frequency of Suboptimal Effort in a Non-Clinical Healthy Undergraduate Sample, The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 1-17. DOI: 10.1080/13854046.2014.989267

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January 08, 2015

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9:55 AM | Cheating bosses stain the reputation of their organisations and their junior staff
Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling (left) and his attorney leave the courthouse in 2006When high-ranking members of an organisation break the rules, it's not just their own reputation on the line. New research from Stanford University shows that the stain of transgression sends its fingers out to every organisational member.In a series of online studies, Takuya Sawaoka and Benoît Monin presented participants with information about a hypothetical company employee involved in unethical activity […]

Sawaoka, T. & Monin, B. (2014). Moral Suspicion Trickles Down, Social Psychological and Personality Science, DOI: 10.1177/1948550614555027

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January 07, 2015

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9:58 AM | Some people think they know themselves well, but do they really?
Some people will tell you that they have a clear sense of who they are, and that their sense of self is stable over time. Psychologists refer to this as having high "self-concept clarity". In a new study, Jean Guerrettaz and Robert Arkin shine a spotlight on these self-proclaimed self-knowers. The researchers find that their confidence is often fragile, and that somewhat paradoxically, it is people confident in their sense of self whose self-esteem is most undermined by challenging questions […]

Guerrettaz, J. & Arkin, R. (2014). Who Am I? How Asking the Question Changes the Answer, Self and Identity, 14 (1) 90-103. DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2014.955049

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January 06, 2015

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10:05 AM | Could violent video games make players more moral in the real world?
Video games allow players to indulge in simulated behaviours that in the real world would be highly antisocial or unethical, and many people are concerned how this might spill over from the screen to the street. A new study, however, suggests that such activities can elicit a moral response in players, reinforcing the potential of the medium as a means of civic development.In the study developed by Matthew Grizzard and colleagues, players of a first-person shooter game reported higher levels of […]

Grizzard, M., Tamborini, R., Lewis, R., Wang, L. & Prabhu, S. (2014). Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us Morally Sensitive, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17 (8) 499-504. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2013.0658

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January 05, 2015

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11:02 AM | British first-time fathers describe their experiences of separation and helplessness
Ante-natal classes only serve to increase fathers' feelings of separation from their pregnant partners, according to a series of in-depth interviews with ten White British fathers.Anja Wittkowski and her colleagues interviewed the men to help increase our understanding of what it's like for men to become a father for the first time - a neglected area of research. All the participants, aged 27 to 47, were married to their partners, they were middle-class, employed, and the pregnancies were all […]

Kowlessar, O., Fox, J. & Wittkowski, A. (2014). First-time fathers’ experiences of parenting during the first year, Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 1-11. DOI: 10.1080/02646838.2014.971404

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January 02, 2015

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11:38 AM | Psychologists explore a new reason why quitting smoking is so difficult
When a cigarette smoker attempts to quit, not only do they crave their usual nicotine hit, they also experience an unpleasant inability to enjoy other pleasures in life - a state known as "anhedonia".Jessica Cook and her colleagues studied over a thousand smokers enrolled on a quitting programme in the US. The participants (mostly White, 58.3 per cent were female) were placed on a range of nicotine replacement therapies or they were given placebo. The participants also kept an evening diary […]
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