Posts

October 22, 2014

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8:38 AM | Can a brain scan tell us anything about the art of creative writing?
When an accomplished creative writer gets on with their craft, their brain operates in a somewhat different way to a novice's. A new imaging study suggests that the expert approach may be more streamlined, emotionally literate, and initially unfiltered.Katharina Erhard with her colleagues from the German universities of Greifswald and Hildesheim asked participants to read a fragment of a story, to brainstorm what could continue the narrative, and then, for two minutes, to write a continuation […]

October 21, 2014

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8:29 AM | Five-year-olds can see through your bravado
Imagine you wanted to lie to a five-year-old. "The toy shop is closed Billy," you say, "it always closes at 2pm on a Monday." You reason that if you make this announcement with confidence, then Billy is sure to believe you.It's not a bad strategy. In a new study involving nearly a hundred kids aged four to five, they were more likely to believe statements made by a woman who spoke and gestured with confidence, than those made by a woman who was hesitant and uncertain. In this case, the women's […]

October 20, 2014

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8:37 AM | Decades of lie detection research has been unrealistic
According to decades of psychology research, most people, including law enforcement professionals, are useless at detecting lies. But in a new paper, a team led by Tim Levine argues that nearly all previous research has been unrealistic. The field has been dominated by studies that place the "lie detector" in a passive role, tasked with spotting "tells" leaked by the liar. But this just isn't how deception detection works in real life, say Levine and his team. Rather, the interrogator interacts […]

October 17, 2014

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7:00 AM | "Place cells" discovered in the rat brain
John O'KeefeImage: Nobelprize.orgThis month John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work identifying the brain's "GPS system" - the internal maps that allow us to understand our position in space. The Moser's discovery of grid cells this century built upon O'Keefe's earlier accomplishment at UCL in London, the discovery of place cells in the brain. Here, we look back to his 1971 "Short Communication" in the journal Brain […]

October 14, 2014

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8:57 AM | High Emotional Intelligence linked with more delinquency among young women (but not men)
If, as research suggests, the psychological trait of sensation seeking is the catalyst for youthful delinquency, might high emotional intelligence (EI; having empathy for other people's emotions and good control over one's own) act as a calming restraint? That was the question Alison Bacon her colleagues posed in their study of 96 undergrads (average age 20; 48 women).Their "surprising and unprecedented" discovery was that for women, not only did high EI not moderate the link between sensation […]

Bacon, A., Burak, H. & Rann, J. (2014). Sex differences in the relationship between sensation seeking, trait emotional intelligence and delinquent behaviour, The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 25 (6) 673-683. DOI: 10.1080/14789949.2014.943796

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October 13, 2014

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8:26 AM | Evolutionary psychologists expose the "shoddy" treatment of their discipline by textbooks
The Gendered Society contained 12 errors about evolutionary psychology, morethan any other book in this evaluation. Evolutionary theory is universally accepted among the mainstream science community. And yet, when the evolutionary perspective is applied to human behaviour, the approach continues to meet with resistance, and in some cases outright disdain.A team led by Benjamin Winegard thinks part of the reason is because of the misrepresentation of evolutionary psychology in textbooks, […]

Winegard BM, Winegard BM & Deaner RO (2014). Misrepresentations of evolutionary psychology in sex and gender textbooks., Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior, 12 (3) 474-508. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25299988

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October 11, 2014

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7:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:The Struggles of a Psychologist Studying Self-ControlMaria Konnikova profiles her former mentor Walter Mischel - the creator of the famous Marshmallow Experiments - who has published his first pop psychology book at age 84.  Violent Video Games Research: Consensus or Confusion?A new paper claims that there's a consensus among experts that violent media cause aggression in children. At the Guardian Head Quarters […]

October 10, 2014

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8:48 AM | How sharing a toilet helps students make more friends
The built environment shapes our behaviour profoundly - piazzas and park benches promote unplanned encounters between strangers whereas car-friendly streets have the opposite effect, the efficiency of speedy travel promoting "streets as corridors" over "streets as sociable space".What’s true at the level of cities also applies within buildings, including student residences. This has been investigated in the past, one famous example being Leon Festinger’s 1950 study that suggested […]

October 09, 2014

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1:11 PM | Has psychology found its Lost Boy?
In 1920, in what would become one of the most infamous and controversial studies in psychology, a pair of researchers at Johns Hopkins University taught a little baby boy to fear a white rat. For decades, the true identity and subsequent fate of this poor infant nicknamed "Little Albert" has remained a mystery.But recently this has changed, thanks to the tireless detective work of two independent groups of scholars. Now there are competing proposals for who Little Albert was and what became of […]

October 08, 2014

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8:02 AM | Students learn better when they think they're going to have to teach the material
Researchers say they've uncovered a simple technique that improves students' memory for passages of text. All that's required is to tell the students that they're going to have to teach the material to someone else.Fifty-six undergrads were split into two groups. One group were told that they had 10 minutes to study a 1500-word passage about fictional depictions of The Charge of The Light Brigade, and that they would be tested on it afterwards. The other group were similarly given 10 minutes to […]

October 07, 2014

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8:17 AM | Are sweet-toothed people also sweet by nature?
Three years ago psychologists reported that we assume people who like sweet food are also sweet natured. More surprisingly perhaps, Brian Meier and his colleagues also found that the sweet-toothed really do have more agreeable personalities and are more inclined to behave altruistically.How far can we trust these eye-catching results? There is a growing recognition in psychology of the need to attempt replications of past findings. In that spirit, a new paper led by Michael Ashton has attempted […]

Ashton, M., Pilkington, A. & Lee, K. (2014). Do prosocial people prefer sweet-tasting foods? An attempted replication of Meier, Moeller, Riemer-Peltz, and Robinson (2012), Journal of Research in Personality, 52 42-46. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2014.06.006

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October 06, 2014

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8:34 AM | Other people can tell whether your partner is cheating on you
Do humans have an infidelity radar?We can identify a surprising amount of information about each other from the briefest of glimpses - a process that psychologists call thin-slicing. In the latest study in this area, a group led by Nathaniel Lambert have explored whether we can watch a romantic couple interact and tell within minutes whether one of them is a cheat.Fifty-one student participants (35 women) in a relationship answered survey questions about their own infidelities toward their […]

October 04, 2014

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8:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:Autism: Myth and RealityProfessor Uta Frith introduces an entirely open-access special issue of The Psychologist magazine devoted to the subject of autism. Also available via the Issuu platform.What Life Is Like When You're Perfectly Alive, But Swear You're DeadAn interview with Esmé Weijun Wang who used to think she was dead when she wasn't, a rare condition known as Cotard's Delusion.Susan Greenfield: Why […]

October 03, 2014

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8:51 AM | Did a five-day camp without digital devices really boost children's interpersonal skills?
"There's a brilliant study that came out two weeks ago," Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield said at a recent event promoting her new book, "... they took away all [the pre-teens'] digital devices for five days and sent them to summer camp ... and tested their interpersonal skills, and guess what, even within five days they'd changed."Greenfield highlighted this study in the context of her dire warnings about the harmful psychological effects of modern screen- and internet-based technologies. […]

LAMBERT, N., MULDER, S. & FINCHAM, F. (2014). Thin slices of infidelity: Determining whether observers can pick out cheaters from a video clip interaction and what tips them off, Personal Relationships, DOI: 10.1111/pere.12052

Uhls, Y., Michikyan, M., Morris, J., Garcia, D., Small, G., Zgourou, E. & Greenfield, P. (2014). Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues, Computers in Human Behavior, 39 387-392. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.036

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October 02, 2014

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9:19 AM | How does the psychology of ownership differ between Western and Eastern cultures?
Michael Jackson's glove sold for $350,000 at a New York auction in 2009. In India,celebrity possessions are not valued so highly. By guest blogger Bruce Hood.Many of us are nostalgic for original, authentic experiences and prepared to pay for them. For example, not so long ago vinyl records were ubiquitous but nowadays they are considered collectibles, with some attracting a high price. Even with the most mundane record, there is still a tangible tactile experience to possessing these […]

October 01, 2014

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8:24 AM | “Just try to ignore it”: How neurotic people respond to extreme rudeness at work
We’ve all experienced rudeness at work; at the time it’s offensive and can harm our creativity, but it bears even darker fruits in the long-term, as repeated exposure is associated with depression, anxiety and psychological distress.How do people deal with rudeness? When is it buried away, and when addressed? A new study suggests that we actually tend to ignore it most of the time. However more offensive acts may set us off – unless we are particularly emotionally sensitive, […]

September 30, 2014

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11:04 AM | Most people think CEOs are paid too much
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc, attends the 2013 Allen & Co conference. It's often assumed that a desire to reduce income inequality is held only by people on lower pay, or by those who endorse left-wing views. However, a new study of over 55,000 people (average age 47; 55 per cent were female) across 40 countries on 6 continents finds a universal desire to reduce the gap between the highest and lowest paid workers. The authors, Sorapop Kiatpongsan and Michael Norton, say their results […]

September 29, 2014

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3:22 PM | Can this simple strategy reduce children's anxiety about school tests?
The sad thing about children's exam nerves is that their fears often become self-fulfilling. Too much anxiety and they can end up under-performing relative to their abilities.A team of psychologists led by Fred Paas and colleagues has taken a cognitive psychology approach to this situation. Children have a certain amount of "working memory" capacity, they say, and it's either used up by the task at hand, or by external pressures, such as intrusive, worrying thoughts.Paas and his team have […]

September 26, 2014

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7:00 AM | Eye contact makes us more aware of our own bodies
If you've ever felt acutely self conscious upon making eye contact with another person, a new study may help you understand why. Matias Baltazar and his colleagues have found that making eye contact activates people's awareness of their own bodies. That feeling of self consciousness induced by mutual gaze might be based in part on the fact that your brain is suddenly more attuned to your body.The researchers presented 32 participants with a series of positive and negative images on a computer […]

Baltazar M, Hazem N, Vilarem E, Beaucousin V, Picq JL & Conty L (2014). Eye contact elicits bodily self-awareness in human adults., Cognition, 133 (1) 120-7. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25014360

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September 25, 2014

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7:00 AM | How do male scientists balance the demands of work and family?
Academia remains heavily gendered, thanks in part to historical stereotypes that assert men are suited to solving complex problems and ready to put "great works" over other concerns such as community or family. Psychology and sociology have shown how this disadvantages women working in these fields, particularly if they wish to have children.A new study led by Sarah Damaske of Pennsylvania State University takes a different approach, looking at what this world is like for men. From the 73 male […]

September 24, 2014

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7:00 AM | Rats outperformed humans on this learning task
We like to think of ourselves as the top of the class when it comes to intelligence in the animal kingdom. Our inventions and scientific progress are testament to that claim, and yet there are some ways in which our complex brains let us down. In this new study researchers led by Ben Vermaercke compared human and rat performance on two forms of category-based learning. On one of them, the rodents trounced the homo sapiens.The participants - 16 rats and 24 humans - were trained to recognise that […]

September 23, 2014

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8:00 AM | Neuroscience does not threaten people's sense of free will
A key finding from neuroscience research over the last few decades is that non-conscious preparatory brain activity appears to precede the subjective feeling of making a decision. Some neuroscientists, like Sam Harris, have argued that this shows our sense of free will is an illusion. Books have even started to appear with titles like My Brain Made Me Do It: The Rise of Neuroscience and the Threat to Moral Responsibility by Eliezer J. Sternberg.However, in a new paper, a team led by […]
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