BPS Research Digest

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Cutting-edge reports on the latest psychology research

Christian Jarrett
932 posts

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  • July 21, 2014
  • 05:51 AM
  • 37 views

It's time for Western psychology to recognise that many individuals, and even entire cultures, fear happiness

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

It's become a mantra of the modern Western world that the ultimate aim of life is to achieve happiness. Self-help blog posts on how to be happy are almost guaranteed popularity (the Digest has its own!). Pro-happiness organisations have appeared, such as Action for Happiness, which aims to "create a happier society for everyone." Topping it all, an increasing number of governments, including in the UK, have started measuring national well-being (seen as a proxy for "happiness") - the argument be........ Read more »

  • July 18, 2014
  • 07:52 AM
  • 71 views

Men's sex appeal boosted by taking risks like a cave man

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

A willingness to take risks enhances men's sex appeal. This much we know from past research. What's not clear, is whether this is because of cultural beliefs about traditional gender roles, or if it's an evolutionary hang-over (or perhaps both). John Petraitis and his colleagues have put these two explanations to the test by drawing a distinction between risk-taking behaviours that reflect the challenges faced by our ancestors, and contemporary risks based around modern technology.Over two-hundr........ Read more »

Petraitis, J., Lampman, C., Boeckmann, R., & Falconer, E. (2014) Sex differences in the attractiveness of hunter-gatherer and modern risks. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 44(6), 442-453. DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12237  

  • July 17, 2014
  • 03:59 AM
  • 40 views

How your mood changes your personality

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Participants scored higher on neuroticism & lower on extraversion when they were sadExcept in extreme cases of illness or trauma, we usually expect each other's personalities to remain stable through life. Indeed, central to the definition of personality is that it describes pervasive tendencies in a person's behaviour and ways of relating to the world. However, a new study highlights the reality - your personality is swayed by your current mood, especially when you're feeling down.Jan Quere........ Read more »

  • July 16, 2014
  • 09:54 AM
  • 87 views

What does it feel like to be depressed?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

We're used to reading about depression as a checklist of symptoms. These lists have their uses, but arguably they miss the human story of what depression truly feels like. Now the psychologists Jonathan Smith and John Rhodes have published their analysis of the first-hand accounts of seven therapy clients, (three women and four men) about what it's like to be depressed for the first time. The participants had an average age of 44, and all had been referred for therapy in London.The first theme t........ Read more »

  • July 15, 2014
  • 04:33 AM
  • 75 views

It's possible to "forget" unwanted habits

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

New research shows that we can weaken and even undo practised habits by deliberately deciding to forget them.Gesine Dreisbach and Karl-Heinz Bäuml from Regensburg University first instilled new habits in their participants by presenting them with German words and training them over many trials to make the same response to each word - a left-handed key-press for half of them, a right-hand response for the remainder.Later, participants had to categorise the same words by gender, with key-presses ........ Read more »

Dreisbach, G., & Bauml, K. (2014) Don't Do It Again! Directed Forgetting of Habits. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1242-1248. DOI: 10.1177/0956797614526063  

  • July 14, 2014
  • 10:23 AM
  • 84 views

Young men and women have very different attitudes towards touch in cross-sex friendships

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Friendships between heterosexual men and women can be tricky to navigate, especially when it comes to tactile contact. Is that touch on the arm a gesture of platonic care and affection? Or an unwanted signal of sexual interest? A new survey by US researchers shows the situation is complicated by the contrasting attitudes of young men and women towards touch in cross-sex friendships.Michael Miller and his team quizzed 276 undergrads at an Eastern US University, including 128 women*. The participa........ Read more »

MILLER, M., DENES, A., DIAZ, B., & RANJIT, Y. (2014) Touch attitudes in cross-sex friendships: We're just friends. Personal Relationships, 21(2), 309-323. DOI: 10.1111/pere.12033  

  • July 11, 2014
  • 10:16 AM
  • 101 views

Adults, like children, have a tendency to think vision is more informative than it is

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Among the cute mistakes that children make, one is to overestimate how much information they can garner through vision. For instance, asked to judge whether they can tell apart two identical-looking, but differently weighted (or different sounding) objects, simply by looking at them, five-year-olds tend to say Yes. Now an intriguing new paper suggests this is an error that we adults fail to completely outgrow.In the second and more persuasive of their experiments, Jessica Wang and her colleagues........ Read more »

Wang JJ, Diana Miletich D, Ramsey R, & Samson D. (2014) Adults see vision to be more informative than it is. Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006), 1-14. PMID: 24853581  

  • July 10, 2014
  • 05:00 AM
  • 46 views

By treating depression, do we also treat suicidality? The answer is far from straightforward

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger James Coyne.Edgar Allan Poe’s fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin warns against tackling questions that are too complicated to test, but too fascinating to give up. Whether psychotherapy or medication can reduce suicidality is probably such a question. Particularly if we are really interested in whether treatments can reduce attempted suicides, not whether they change patients’ answers in an interview or on a questionnaire.There is no doubt about the clinical and publi........ Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 12:05 PM
  • 97 views

You can do it! Self-talk is more effective when you refer to yourself as You, rather than I

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

We know self-talk can help people's self-control (e.g. "Don't do it!"), and boost their morale (e.g. "Hang in there!") in sporting situations. However, before now, no-one has investigated whether self-talk is more effective depending on whether you refer to yourself in the grammatical first person (i.e. "I can do it!") or the second person (i.e. "You can do it?").Sanda Dolcos and her team first asked 95 psychology undergrads to imagine they were a character in a short story. The charac........ Read more »

  • July 8, 2014
  • 06:13 PM
  • 61 views

People's happiness at work usually dips mid career - now researchers think they know why

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

If you're in or not far from your thirties, you're part of the age group that previous research shows is most likely to experience lower workplace wellbeing. A new study suggests the reasons for this midlife dip: a double whammy of more demands on time and less support from co-workers. Dr Hannes Zacher's team surveyed nearly 800 mostly male workers in various roles in the Australian construction industry. Participants reported wellbeing in terms of job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion. Cons........ Read more »

  • July 4, 2014
  • 12:52 PM
  • 63 views

Is it the darkness within? Some people would rather shock themselves with electricity than spend time with their own thoughts

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Go people-watching in any Western country and it's rare to come across a person sat alone in quiet contemplation. Most lone individuals are seen playing with their mobile phone, reading, watching a movie on their tablet, or people-watching. Why this need for distraction? Is there something so aversive about spending time immersed in our own thoughts?A team of psychologists led by Timothy Wilson has investigated. Across six initial studies they invited hundreds of undergrads, one at a time, to sp........ Read more »

Timothy D. Wilson, David Reinhard, Erin Westgate, Daniel T. Gilbert, Nicole Ellerbeck, Cheryl Hahn, Casey Brown, & Adi Shaked. (2014) Just Think: The Challenges of the Disengaged Mind. Science. info:/

  • July 2, 2014
  • 08:09 AM
  • 136 views

What happens to the cool kids when they grow up?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

"Cool kids", according to a new study, are those early teens (aged 13 to 15) who want to be popular, and try to impress their peers by acting older than their years. They have precocious romantic relationships, commit relatively minor acts of bad behaviour (such as sneaking into the cinema without paying), and surround themselves with good-looking friends. These teenagers attract respect from their peers at first, but what's the story by the time they reach early adulthood?Joseph Allen and his c........ Read more »

  • July 1, 2014
  • 12:18 PM
  • 70 views

When work conditions are tough, Machiavellians thrive

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

When budgets are cut or time is short, watch out for those who excel at work. Their contribution could be admirable, but a new study suggests you may alternatively be witnessing a “Machiavellian” in action – someone exploiting the situation for their own interests.Daniel Kuyumcu and Jason Dahling assessed the Machiavellianism of 110 psychology students, all of whom worked at least 15 hours part-time. Questionnaire items included: "I am willing to sabotage the efforts of other people if the........ Read more »

  • June 30, 2014
  • 04:03 PM
  • 70 views

Exploding the 10,000 hours myth - it's no guarantee for greatness

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson has studied elite performers in music, chess and sport for decades, and he says the main distinguishing characteristic of experts is the amount of deliberate practice they've invested - typically over 10,000 hours.This is painstaking practice performed for the sole purpose of improving one's skill level. Best-selling authors like Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Matthew Syed and others, have taken Ericsson's results and distilled them into the uplifting message that........ Read more »

Hambrick, D., Oswald, F., Altmann, E., Meinz, E., Gobet, F., & Campitelli, G. (2014) Deliberate practice: Is that all it takes to become an expert?. Intelligence, 34-45. DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2013.04.001  

  • June 27, 2014
  • 07:27 AM
  • 121 views

What is “Cultural IQ” training and does it really work?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

IQ was once the only game in town. Now it rubs shoulders with a gaggle of human ability measures such as Emotional Intelligence, Empathy Quotient, and Rationality Quotient. The increasingly interconnected and diverse world of work has magnified interest in another newcomer: CQ, or cultural intelligence. With it come courses promising to prepare their students to work with colleagues, partners and customers who have different values and norms. A new paper investigates how effective this training ........ Read more »

  • June 25, 2014
  • 01:00 PM
  • 73 views

How can we increase altruism towards future generations?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Dan JonesLike many parents, I often wonder what kind of world my two-year-old son will grow up to inhabit. Will the planet be ravaged by extreme climatic events, depleted of vital forests and biodiversity? Although some of our fears about the future may be overblown, if we don’t want to leave the planet in ruins for future generations, we need to think about how we act today — and maybe change our ways.Some changes are likely to involve minor sacrifices or small inconvenienc........ Read more »

Oliver P. Hauser, David G. Rand, Alexander Peysakhovich, & Martin A. Nowak. (2014) Cooperating with the future. Nature. info:/

  • June 25, 2014
  • 04:39 AM
  • 54 views

Men who are ashamed of their bodies are more prone to sexual aggression against women - US study

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

When men are aggressive towards women, their behaviour is often driven by the feeling that their masculinity has been threatened. Consider these previous findings: men told they'd performed poorly on a strength test gave more painful electric shocks to a woman who criticised them; and men whose masculine identity was threatened subsequently harassed a feminist woman by sending her pornographic photos.Now Kris Mescher and Laurie Rudman have shown that this link is particularly strong for men who ........ Read more »

  • June 24, 2014
  • 12:30 PM
  • 112 views

Is it possible to predict who will benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

The rise of CBT has been welcomed by many as safe, effective alternative to drug treatments for mental illness. However, there are also fears that CBT has grown too dominant, crowding out other less structured, more time consuming forms of psychotherapy.The fact is, CBT doesn't work for everyone. Precious resources could be better managed, and alternative approaches sensibly considered, if there were a way to predict in advance those patients who are likely to benefit from CBT, and those who are........ Read more »

  • June 23, 2014
  • 11:48 AM
  • 74 views

A man's fighting ability is written in his face

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

A composite of the most (A) and least (B) experienced UFC fighters (from Zilioli et al.)Men with faces that are wide relative to their length are more formidable fighters, on average. That's according to a new paper that also finds that observers use the width of a man's face to ascertain with accuracy his likely fighting ability. Samuele Zilioli and his collaborators believe their findings support the idea that humans have evolved specific "neurocognitive adaptations" for assessing the fig........ Read more »

Zilioli S, Sell AN, Stirrat M, Jagore J, Vickerman W, & Watson NV. (2014) Face of a fighter: Bizygomatic width as a cue of formidability. Aggressive behavior. PMID: 24910133  

  • June 23, 2014
  • 04:43 AM
  • 63 views

Is group brainstorming more effective if you do it standing up?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Experts say that spending more time standing at work is good for your physical well-being. Now there's another reason to ditch your office chair. According to psychologists in the US, standing improves group brainstorming sessions.Andrew Knight and Markus Baer recruited 214 undergrads to take part in a 30-minute brainstorming session in groups of three to five people. The challenge for the groups was to come up with ideas for a university recruitment video, which they then recorded at the end of........ Read more »

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