BPS Research Digest

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Reports on the latest psychology research plus psych gossip and comment. Brought to you by the British Psychological Society.

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  • August 19, 2014
  • 04:58 AM
  • 35 views

How to help an anxious interviewee - be mean to them

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

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 w........ Read more »

  • August 18, 2014
  • 04:59 AM
  • 63 views

The simple piece of information that could dramatically increase your muscular endurance

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

How most of us choose to behave is shaped powerfully by the behaviour of others (or, more specifically, our perception of their behaviour). Psychologists call this the influence of "social norms", and its potency has been investigated extensively in the context of environmentally friendly behaviours like recycling, and health behaviours, such as binge drinking and frequency of exercise.What if this same psychological lever could be exploited, not to encourage people to take up more physical acti........ Read more »

  • August 15, 2014
  • 05:19 AM
  • 15 views

We're happier when we chat to strangers, but our instinct is to ignore them

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It's become a truism that humans are "social animals". And yet, you've probably noticed - people on public transport or in waiting rooms seem to do everything they can not to interact. On the London tube there's an unwritten rule not to even look at one another. This is the paradox explored by Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder in a series of nine new studies involving members of the public on trains, planes, in taxis and a waiting room.The investigation began with rail and bus commuters ........ Read more »

Epley N, & Schroeder J. (2014) Mistakenly Seeking Solitude. Journal of experimental psychology. General. PMID: 25019381  

  • August 13, 2014
  • 04:49 AM
  • 13 views

The stability of your personality peaks in mid-life (then grows increasingly wobbly again)

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

As we continue to settle into ourselves, you might think that personality would be something that becomes ever more cemented through life.  Not so, according to a survey of nearly 4000 New Zealanders aged from 20 to 80 years (including 2409 women). Petar Milojev and Chris Sibley report that the stability of personality increases through youth, peaks in mid-life and then gradually reduces again into old age, presumably in response to the variations in social and biological pressures we exper........ Read more »

  • August 12, 2014
  • 04:45 AM
  • 80 views

Remembering and imagining both engage the same key brain region, but they depend on distinct neural processes

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

credit: Gray's Anatomy/WikipediaRemembering and imagining appear to be very different functions, one recovering true information from the past, the other considering the unreal or exploring the future. And yet many patients with damage to the hippocampus (a structure in the temporal lobes) - and resultant memory impairment - struggle in imagining the future. Moreover, neuroimaging data show the hippocampus is involved in both tasks. Taken together, this evidence suggests that memory for the past........ Read more »

  • August 11, 2014
  • 07:04 AM
  • 67 views

Do infant dummies (pacifiers) impede the emotional connection between adult and baby?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Dummies (known as pacifiers in the US) can calm a crying baby in seconds, so their appeal is obvious. However, a new study warns there could be a price to pay. Magdalena Rychlowska and her colleagues claim that because dummies obscure babies' faces, they interfere with the way that adults respond to babies' emotions.The researchers used electrodes to record the facial muscles of 29 women (average age 21; two of them were mothers) while they looked at photographs of two young babies expressing ha........ Read more »

Rychlowska, M., Korb, S., Brauer, M., Droit-Volet, S., Augustinova, M., Zinner, L., & Niedenthal, P. (2014) Pacifiers Disrupt Adults’ Responses to Infants’ Emotions. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 36(4), 299-308. DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2014.915217  

  • August 8, 2014
  • 06:50 AM
  • 25 views

How do you prove that reading boosts IQ?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A recent study on whether reading boosts intelligence attracted global media attention: "Reading at a young age makes you smarter," announced the Daily Mail. "Early reading boosts health and intelligence," said The Australian.In the race for eye-catching headlines, this mainstream media coverage arguably missed the more fascinating story of the hunt for cause and effect. Here lead author Dr Stuart Ritchie explains the science:"Causality, it turns out, is really difficult to prove. Correlational ........ Read more »

  • August 7, 2014
  • 06:16 PM
  • 32 views

In it together: Couples' life satisfaction takes a bigger hit when one partner loses their job, than when both do

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If your partner were to lose their job, you might think keeping your own employment would cushion the psychological blow. In fact new research finds that life satisfaction is higher for couples who share their unemployed predicament, than for couples where only one partner loses their job.Maike Luhmann and her colleagues analysed over ten years of longitudinal data from 3000 co-habiting couples in Germany, where one or both partners had gone through an unemployment. If one partner lost their job........ Read more »

  • August 6, 2014
  • 04:40 AM
  • 26 views

Welcome to the weird world of weight illusions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Normally bigger objects weigh more; breaking this rule provokes illusory perceptionsVisual illusions are useful to psychologists because, by tricking the brain, they provide clues about how it works. The same is true for weight illusions, it's just that they're far less well known. Now Gavin Buckingham at Heriot-Watt University has published a handy review of weight illusions, and he explores some of the thinking about their likely causes.Among the most studied is known as the "size-weight illus........ Read more »

  • August 5, 2014
  • 04:25 AM
  • 30 views

Why was Darth Vader so evil? Blame his lack of parental care, say psychologists

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Image: wikipediaWhy was Darth Vader such a bad dude? According to a team of psychologists led by Peter Jonason, it's down to his lack of parental care: the fact he was separated from his mother at age 9, and his father's absence. The researchers believe such circumstances can catalyse the emergence of the Dark Triad of personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy. These traits are usually seen as negative, but Jonason and his colleagues believe they may be an adaptive respons........ Read more »

Jonason, P., Lyons, M., & Bethell, E. (2014) The making of Darth Vader: Parent–child care and the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 30-34. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2013.10.006  

  • August 4, 2014
  • 06:06 AM
  • 131 views

The iPhone Effect - when mobile devices intrude on our face-to-face encounters

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

You've probably experienced this. You're in the middle of telling your friend a story when his eyes flick across to his phone. Perhaps he even picks it up, checks the screen. "Sorry, go on," he says. But your flow is interrupted. And you know his mind is at least half elsewhere.Shalini Misra and her team approached 100 pairs of people (109 women; average age 33) in cafes across Washington DC and neighbouring districts. They asked them to chat for ten minutes at a table in the cafe about a trivia........ Read more »

  • August 1, 2014
  • 05:25 AM
  • 136 views

Psychologists investigate a major, ignored reason for our lack of sleep - bedtime procrastination

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Short term, lack of sleep scrambles our mental functioning. Long term, the health consequences can be dire. What's stopping us from getting enough?For many, adequate sleep is elusive because of sleep disorders, including varieties of insomnia. For others there are practical challenges - baby care or night shifts, for example. A new study focuses on another major, yet strangely overlooked, reason - bedtime procrastination. You want to go to bed early. You know you need to get to bed. And yet you ........ Read more »

  • July 31, 2014
  • 05:31 AM
  • 109 views

The voices heard by people with schizophrenia are friendlier in India and Africa, than in the US

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When a patient with schizophrenia hears voices in their head, is the experience shaped by the culture they live in? Tanya Luhrmann and her colleagues investigated by interviewing twenty people diagnosed with schizophrenia living in San Mateo, California; twenty in Accra, Ghana; and twenty others in Chennai India. There were similarities across cultures, including descriptions of good and bad voices, but also striking differences.In San Mateo the interviewees talked about their condition as a bra........ Read more »

  • July 30, 2014
  • 05:35 AM
  • 99 views

When the cuddle hormone turns nasty - oxytocin linked with violent intentions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

For many years, the hormone oxytocin was caricatured as the source of all human goodness - trust, altruism, love, and morality. Among the findings that contributed to this picture were the discovery that sniffing oxytocin increases people's trust and generosity in financial games; that it aids face recognition; and that its release is associated with maternal bonding; and with orgasm.However, the picture has grown a lot more complicated of late, with findings showing that oxytocin........ Read more »

  • July 29, 2014
  • 05:30 AM
  • 67 views

Remembering together - How long-term couples develop interconnected memory systems

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Although it might seem a good idea to work with other people to remember important information, the evidence suggests that this typically isn't so. Individual recall is most efficient whereas social remembering comes with drawbacks, tripping up our flow and inhibiting memories. But this evidence mostly comes from asking people to collaborate with a stranger. What happens when you know each other really, really well?Celia Harris and colleagues at Macquarie University recently reviewed their previ........ Read more »

  • July 28, 2014
  • 09:05 AM
  • 120 views

The mistakes that lead therapists to infer psychotherapy was effective, when it wasn't

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

How well can psychotherapists and their clients judge from personal experience whether therapy has been effective? Not well at all, according to a paper by Scott Lilienfeld and his colleagues. The fear is that this can lead to the continued practice of ineffective, or even harmful, treatments.The authors point out that, like the rest of us, clinicians are subject to four main biases that skew their ability to infer the effectiveness of their psychotherapeutic treatments. This includes the mistak........ Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 10:23 AM
  • 135 views

How our judgments about criminals are swayed by disgust, biological explanations and animalistic descriptions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

We expect of our jurors and judges calm, reasoned evaluation of the evidence. Of course we know the reality is rather different - prejudice and emotional reactions will always play their part. Now two new studies add insight into the ways people's legal judgements depart from cool objectivity.Beatrice Capestany and Lasana Harris focused on two main factors - the disgust level of a crime, and whether or not the perpetrators' personality was described in biological terms. Seventeen participants we........ Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 06:44 AM
  • 142 views

Why job interviewers should focus on the candidates, not selling their organisation

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It’s hard to find the best person for the job through an interview. New research uncovers part of the problem: judging a candidate’s calibre becomes trickier when we’re also trying to sell them the benefits of joining the organisation.In an initial study, participants were asked to interview a person (another participant) who was acting as an applicant for a fictional position. Half the interviewers were told their priority was to get a good sense of the applicant, while the rest had to pr........ Read more »

  • July 23, 2014
  • 10:22 AM
  • 124 views

What the textbooks don't tell you - one of psychology's most famous experiments was seriously flawed

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Zimbardo speaking in '09Conducted in 1971, the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) has acquired a mythical status and provided the inspiration for at least two feature-length films. You'll recall that several university students allocated to the role of jailor turned brutal and the study had to be aborted prematurely. Philip Zimbardo, the experiment's lead investigator, says the lesson from the research is that in certain situations, good people readily turn bad. "If you put good apples into a bad ........ Read more »

  • July 22, 2014
  • 04:43 AM
  • 85 views

Study of dynamic facial expressions suggests there are four basic emotions, not six

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

New research suggests that humans recognise facial emotional expressions in a dynamic way. We search for urgent signals first, before seeking out more nuanced information. The University of Glasgow researchers also argue their data show there are four basic facial expressions of emotion rather than the widely accepted six.Rachael Jack and her colleagues developed computerised 3-D faces that began neutral and relaxed before transforming over one second into a random expression, created through a ........ Read more »

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