December 17, 2014

9:48 AM | Is being a worrier a sign of intelligence?
We usually see worry as a bad thing. It feels unpleasant, like a snake coiling in the pit of your stomach. And worriers are often considered weak links in a team - negative influences who lack confidence. But of course, anxiety has a useful function. It's about anticipating and preparing for threats, and learning from past mistakes.Increasingly psychologists are recognising the strengths of anxious people. For example, there's research showing that people more prone to anxiety are quicker to […]

December 15, 2014

10:46 AM | Want to learn something better? Draw it
When you're trying to learn, do something with your new knowledge, such as summarising it or explaining it to someone else. This deepens your memories and helps integrate what you've learned with what you already knew. A new study has tested the benefits of another beneficial learning activity - drawing.Annett Schmeck and her team asked 48 German school-kids (average age 14) to read a 850-word passage about the biology of influenza, broken down into seven paragraphs. This was an unfamiliar […]

Schmeck, A., Mayer, R., Opfermann, M., Pfeiffer, V. & Leutner, D. (2014). Drawing pictures during learning from scientific text: testing the generative drawing effect and the prognostic drawing effect, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 39 (4) 275-286. DOI: 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.07.003


December 13, 2014

9:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:2014’s Best Books on Psychology, Philosophy, and How to Live MeaningfullyAn end-of-year roundup from the BrainPickings website.Sickening and Morally ReprehensibleElla Rhodes at The Psychologist magazine reports on the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program (story requires free registration to access).That CIA Torture Methods Were Pointless Is No ShockThe New […]

December 12, 2014

9:00 AM | Why do friendly people usually lead happier lives?
High scorers on the personality trait of agreeableness are eager to please, concerned for others, and compliant to other perspectives. On average, they live happier lives too. A new study suggests a possible reason: when they have the chance, friendly people tend to avoid engaging with negative things.The researchers, Konrad Bresin and Michael Robinson, began by asking participants to view a series of positive and negative images, spending as much time as they wanted on each one. Most people […]

Bresin K & Robinson MD (2014). You Are What You See and Choose: Agreeableness and Situation Selection., Journal of personality, PMID:


December 11, 2014

3:25 PM | Rapport-building interrogation is more effective than torture
Past research (pdf) suggests that using torture as a way to extract information or confessions from terror suspects isn't just unethical, it's also ineffective. The advantage of rapport-building interrogation strategies (including respect, friendliness and empathy towards suspects) over more coercive techniques is highlighted once again in a new study that involved interviews with law enforcement interrogators and detainees.The research involved 34 interrogators (1 woman) from several […]

December 10, 2014

3:27 PM | Is the "ticking time bomb scenario" a valid defence of torture?
In the wake of a report published yesterday into the CIA's use of torture, many people are shocked and appalled. Yet one defence of the practice remains popular - "the ticking time bomb scenario".This is the idea that torture is justified if a suspect knows the location of bomb in a public place, and many lives would be saved if he or she were coerced into telling authorities the location in time for it to be deactivated. The new Senate Intelligence Committee report describes how the ticking […]

Spino, J. & Cummins, D. (2014). The Ticking Time Bomb: When the Use of Torture Is and Is Not Endorsed, Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 5 (4) 543-563. DOI: 10.1007/s13164-014-0199-y


December 09, 2014

9:43 AM | Is sexism in science really over?
A new review (pdf) of how women fare in the sciences has provoked a lot of online response, thanks mainly to a pugnacious newspaper op-ed concluding "Academic science isn't sexist" penned by the review co-authors Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci.The full review team - two psychologists and two economists (two women and two men) - focused on issues within the mathematical sciences comprising geo-science, engineering, economics, maths and computer science, and physical sciences, which they […]

December 08, 2014

9:00 AM | Gender differences in superstition - men are influenced by lucky numbers, women by the unlucky
Imagine taking a seat for a university exam and seeing that your seat number is unlucky. Would it bother you? A new study by Maria De Paola and her colleagues explored this question in a field study with over 700 Italian students.Sixty-one of the students took an exam in a seat numbered 17, which is widely considered unlucky in Italian culture (for example, cinemas and theatres avoid having a 17th row for this reason). One hundred and eight students took an exam in a lucky seat, numbered either […]

December 06, 2014

9:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:Why Our Memory Fails UsChristopher Chabris and Daniel Simons provide some compelling examples of the fallibility of memory.PTSD: Do Most People Get it After Terrifying Incidents?Claudia Hammond looks at the myths surrounding post-traumatic stress.Real Talk"For decades, the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics" writes Vyvyan Evans at Aeon magazine. "It is simple, powerful and completely […]

December 05, 2014

9:00 AM | Can psychologist and psychiatrist expert witnesses be trusted to know how memory works?
Psychologists and psychiatrist are frequently called on to provide expert testimony in court. When the memories recalled by an alleged victim, suspect and/or eye-witness become an explicit issue, is it safe to assume that the psychologist or psychiatrist in the expert role will have up-to-date scientific knowledge about the reliability of memory? Worryingly, a new Norwegian study suggests not.Annika Melinder and Svein Magnussen surveyed 858 psychologists and 78 psychiatrists about their […]

December 04, 2014

9:19 AM | Suffer from extreme social anxiety? Your friends probably like you more than you realise
A psychologist helping a person with social anxiety disorder will often try to convince them that they come over far more positively in social situations than they realise. A new study provides some evidence to back this up. Thomas Rodebaugh and his colleagues asked people with social anxiety disorder to rate a friendship in terms of intimacy, liking, support and satisfaction, then they asked that friend to also rate the relationship on the same terms. The reassuring finding is that friends' […]

December 03, 2014

9:33 AM | After this training regime, people saw letters of the alphabet as being alive with colour
A training regime at the University of Sussex has successfully conditioned fourteen people with no prior experience of synesthesia - crossing of the senses - to experience coloured phenomena when seeing letters.The regime took place over nine weeks, a half hour session every workday together with extra homework. Again and again, the trainees were encouraged to treat the letter "r" as red, or "e" as green, with a similar a process repeated on 13 letters in all. This was tested every session […]

December 02, 2014

10:00 AM | Are prisoners calmer when their cells are painted pink?
On the back of research first published in 70s and 80s, an increasing number of jails in the Western world are painting their cells pink, in the belief that doing so has a calming effect on prisoners.Unfortunately, this early research was poorly designed. For example, one study found that prisoners' strength, pushing against an experimenter, was reduced when they were presented with a pink vs. blue coloured card. But the experimenter could also see the card and may simply have exerted more […]

Genschow, O., Noll, T., Wänke, M. & Gersbach, R. (2014). Does Baker-Miller pink reduce aggression in prison detention cells? A critical empirical examination, Psychology, Crime & Law, 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/1068316X.2014.989172


December 01, 2014

11:28 AM | 10 of The Most Counter-intuitive Psychology Findings Ever Published
One of the most annoying things you can say to a psychologist is: "Isn't it all just common sense?". No it's not, as the list below demonstrates. But anyway, such a criticism of the field misses the point. Many findings in psychology can seem obvious after the fact, but we can't know in advance which aspects of folk wisdom will stand up to scientific scrutiny. Striving for the objective truth through empirical testing - that's what science is for, whether applied to molecules or minds.That […]

November 29, 2014

7:38 AM | Link feast - psychosis special
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so (psychosis special):Understanding Psychosis and SchizophreniaThe British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) publishes a major new report that concludes: "psychosis can be understood and treated in the same way as other psychological problems such as anxiety or shyness."Attitudes To Psychosis on All in the MindThe editor of the new DCP report, Anne Cooke, was among the guests on the latest […]

November 28, 2014

9:42 AM | A shocking result - people are more willing to hurt themselves than others for profit
You wait in a cubicle, electrodes strapped to your body. In a room nearby, a stranger is confronted with a series of decisions. They can choose a smaller cash reward and avoid an electric shock, or a larger sum that comes together with an unpleasant zap. The twist is that in half of the trials, the stranger knows the associated shock punishment is for them, but in the others they know it’s you who will suffer. You glance nervously at the electrodes.It's a tough spot. Surely you will […]

November 27, 2014

10:33 AM | Exposure to different forms of violence affects kids’ sleep differently
By guest blogger Jordan Gaines LewisIf you need an accurate assessment of your emotional health, look no further than the quality of your sleep. Have an important test coming up? Giving a big talk to your company tomorrow morning? Chances are you’re not sleeping as well as you typically would.While most kids have fewer of these worries than adults, some unfortunately have to deal with a different type of stressor—violence. Previous work has shown that kids exposed to violence report […]
Editor's Pick

November 26, 2014

9:00 AM | Why sadness lasts longer than other emotions
Staying positive can feel like an uphill battle. No wonder: when Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen asked over 200 high-school students (average age 17) to reminisce about the duration of their recent emotional experiences, they found that sadness had an unfortunate habit of lingering, more so than any of the other 26 emotions studied, including joy, pride and relief.Indeed, the average duration of the episodes of sadness recalled by the students was 120 hours. At the other extreme, the most […]

Verduyn, P. & Lavrijsen, S. (2014). Which emotions last longest and why: The role of event importance and rumination, Motivation and Emotion, DOI: 10.1007/s11031-014-9445-y


November 25, 2014

9:00 AM | When Korea imposed a limit on working hours, did it make people happier?
Across different professions, many people are familiar with the sense of having to deliver more with less, meaning clocking-off time falls later and later. One way to protect workers’ rights, and look after their wellbeing, is to introduce working hours restrictions. But a new paper by Korea University's Robert Rudolf investigates the impact of such a reform, and its conclusions are disappointing.Beginning its roll-out in 2004, the (South) Korean Five Day Working Reform was intended to […]

November 24, 2014

9:20 AM | Happy people think they're good at empathising with the pain of others. They're wrong
Which of your friends - the happier, or the more melancholy - is better at spotting your excitement that Chris is attending your birthday, or that a B+ has left you disappointed?Evidence suggests that more upbeat people consider themselves especially empathic, and it would be reasonable to believe them, given that they know more people on average, and tend to form deeper, more trusting relationships. The reality, however, is more complicated. New research led by Yale's Hillary Devlin suggests […]

November 22, 2014

8:13 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:Down The Culinary Rabbit HoleOver at The Psychologist magazine, Chef Heston Blumenthal describes his work with psychologists,  and there's an exclusive extract from The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining, by Charles Spence and Betina Piqueras-Fiszman (free registration required).The Best Optical Illusions to Bend Your Eyes and Blow Your Mind – In PicturesHighlights from the book Eye […]

November 21, 2014

8:31 AM | The 100 most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter
Updated for November 2014, here are the 100 most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter based on follower counts recorded over the last few weeks. If we've missed anyone (individuals, not organisations) who should be in the top 100, please let us know via comments and we'll add them in. This is an update to our February 2014 post. Check the comments to that earlier post for even more psychologists on Twitter than we were able to include here. We're aware there are issues with […]

November 20, 2014

8:20 AM | Bankers become dishonest when reminded of their professional identity
The "Natwest 3" jailedfor wire fraud in 2008.Picture a banker tossing a coin ten times. She knows the more tails she gets, the more money she wins (up to $200), so long as she gets more tails than a rival playing the same game. She performs her coin tossing in private and reports her number of tails. Do you think she'll be honest?When a team of researchers surveyed the general population about the likely dishonesty of bankers and other groups in this scenario, they found the bankers had the […]

November 19, 2014

9:26 AM | Do you remember the time? How collective nostalgia inspires group loyalty
Nostalgia seems like a distraction in a world that’s moving forward. But new research proposes a powerful function of the emotion: as a glue to bind members of social groups.Students from the University of Southampton recalled and wrote about an experience either involving other students, or where they were alone. They were either asked to choose an ordinary event or one that triggered nostalgic feeling, defined in the instructions as "sentimental longing for the past".Next they were […]
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