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Reports on the latest psychology research plus psych gossip and comment. Brought to you by the British Psychological Society.
Health experts say we aren't eating enough fruit. Perhaps psychology can help. Try this. Picture yourself eating a portion of fruit tomorrow - an apple, say, or a couple of plums. Take your time. Focus on the colours, the consistency, the flavour. Visualise where you are at the time, and what you are doing.Do you think this simple imagery task will have increased the likelihood you will eat fruit tomorrow? A new study led by Catherine Adams attempted to find out. Over two hundred volunteers were........ Read more »
Adams C, Rennie L, Uskul AK, & Appleton KM. (2013) Visualising future behaviour: Effects for snacking on biscuit bars, but no effects for snacking on fruit. Journal of health psychology. PMID: 24217063
For some it's lying on a sun-drenched beach sipping sangria, for others it's wallowing in a cosy cocoon munching on chocolate and playing video games. Many people will admit that these or other immediate indulgences are what makes them happy. And yet, even given the freedom and resources to live a life of hedonism, many of us find it's not enough - we want to have meaning in our lives too.Unfortunately, what we mean by "meaning" has largely been neglected by psychologists. But now Roy Baumeister........ Read more »
Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs, Jennifer L. Aaker, & Emily N. Garbinsky. (2013) Some key differences between a happy life and a meaningful life. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2013.830764
After looking at sexually arousing images, men, but not women, become more impatient for financial rewards and more willing to take financial risks. Now a study has shown that women too show these changes to their decision making if they touch "sexually laden stimuli" - in this case men's boxer shorts! Across three studies, Anouk Festjens and her colleagues led over a hundred female undergrads to believe they were taking part in customer research for a clothing manufacturer. The women hand........ Read more »
Anouk Festjens, Sabrina Bruyneel, & Siegfried Dewitte. (2013) What a feeling! Touching sexually laden stimuli makes women seek rewards. Journal of Consumer Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2013.10.001
Studying the ways people talk to themselves in their own minds is incredibly tricky because as soon as you ask them about it, you're likely interfering with the process you want to investigate. As William James said, some forms of introspective analysis are like "… trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks."For many years Russell Hurlbert and his colleagues have used a technique that they believe offers the best way to study what they call "pristine" inner speaking........ Read more »
I remember, aged five or so, a friend and I were the cool police motorcyclists from the TV show CHiPs. Our props were limited to the usual paraphernalia of a suburban home and yet somehow both of us knew when the other person was on foot or on his Kawasaki motorbike, which routes through the house were motorways, where the baddies were located, and most important, we both understood the plot of our game.For a new study, a team of psychologists in Australia has taken an interest in the conversati........ Read more »
Frances Hoyte, Jane Torr, & Sheila Degotardi. (2013) The language of friendship: Genre in the conversations of preschool children. Journal of Early Childhood Research. DOI: 10.1177/1476718X13492941
It's only in the last few years that researchers have documented the existence of a select group of individuals who have memories like a diary. Give them a random date from the past and they can tell you what they were doing that day, they can name public events happening around the time, and they can say what day of the week it was. Does this mean that their memories are less prone to distortion than yours and mine? Not according to a new study.Lawrence Patihis and his colleagues, including the........ Read more »
Patihis L, Frenda SJ, Leport AK, Petersen N, Nichols RM, Stark CE, McGaugh JL, & Loftus EF. (2013) False memories in highly superior autobiographical memory individuals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 24248358
Explaining a rule or concept to yourself forces you to think deeply about it. Plenty of studies have shown this has benefits, both in terms of improving the understanding of relevant concepts and aiding the skill or process in question. Unfortunately, as Katherine McEldoon and her colleagues argue in their new paper, most of these studies are flawed because they failed to control for the extra time spent on self-explanation. So a typical study has compared, say, 30 minutes practice against 30 mi........ Read more »
McEldoon KL, Durkin KL, & Rittle-Johnson B. (2013) Is self-explanation worth the time? A comparison to additional practice. The British journal of educational psychology, 83(4), 615-32. PMID: 24175685
The faster people do things, the more mistakes they make. Also known as the speed-accuracy trade-off, this rule is considered by many fundamental to human behaviour. Not so, according to sports psychologist James Bell and his colleagues. They've authored a new paper that suggests people who score higher on the personality trait of neuroticism make more accurate judgments the faster they respond.One hundred and ninety-six teenage male cricketers, all members of regional academies, took part in th........ Read more »
James J. Bella, Lauren Mawn, & Rosemary Poynor. (2013) Haste makes waste, but not for all: The speed-accuracy trade-off does not apply to neurotics. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.07.001
The latest version of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) controversial diagnostic code - "the DSM-5" - continues the check-list approach used in previous editions. To receive a specific diagnosis, a patient must exhibit a minimum number of symptoms in different categories. One problem - this implies someone either has a mental illness or they don't.To avoid missing people who ought to be diagnosed, over time the criteria for many conditions have expanded, and nowhere is this more appar........ Read more »
Isaac R. Galatzer-Levy, & Richard A. Bryant. (2013) 636,120 Ways to Have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Perspectives on Psychological Science. info:/
Simple facts about the brain are rare, but one of them is that for most people language function is located mainly in their left brain hemisphere. The stats vary according to the measures used, but this is the situation for around 95 per cent of right-handers and approximately 75 per cent of left-handers. When it comes to the brain though, few things are straight-forward.If we dig deeper, as Byron Bernal and Alfredo Ardila have done for a new review paper, we find a more complex, two-sided story........ Read more »
Byron Bernal, & Alfredo Ardila. (2013) Bilateral representation of language: A critical review and analysis of some unusual cases. Journal of Neurolinguistics. DOI: 10.1016/j.jneuroling.2013.10.002
"Out, damned spot!" cries a guilt-ridden Lady Macbeth as she desperately washes her hands in the vain pursuit of a clear conscience. Consistent with Shakespeare's celebrated reputation as an astute observer of the human psyche, a wealth of contemporary research findings have demonstrated the reality of this close link between our sense of moral purity and physical cleanliness.One manifestation of this was nicknamed the Macbeth Effect - first documented by Chen-Bo Zhong and Katie Liljenquist ........ Read more »
Brian D. Earp, Jim A. C. Everett, Elizabeth N. Madva, & J. Kiley Hamlin. (2014) Out, damned spot: Can the "Macbeth Effect" be replicated?. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. info:/
Teddy bears and cuddly "haptic" jackets could be the solution to existential angst for people with low self-esteem. That's according to a team of psychologists based in Amsterdam who say that people with low self-belief are unable to use meaning in their lives to protect against fear of death, as other more confident individuals do. But on the plus side, the psychologists say that touch can provide the less confident with visceral comfort.
"Although the thought of the body's mortality fuels p........ Read more »
Koole SL, Tjew A Sin M, & Schneider IK. (2013) Embodied Terror Management: Interpersonal Touch Alleviates Existential Concerns Among Individuals With Low Self-Esteem. Psychological science. PMID: 24190907
There's a scene in the 2013 comedy film The World's End in which a group of middle-aged old school friends are on a nostalgic pub crawl, yet one of them, Andy Knightly, insists on abstaining from alcohol. "I haven't had a drink for sixteen years Gary," he tells the ring-leader and lush Gary King. "You must be thirsty then," Gary retorts.
This social dynamic - the reluctant non-drinker coerced to join in with the drinking majority - will be familiar to many readers. And given the health risks ........ Read more »
Conroy D, & de Visser R. (2013) 'Man up!': Discursive constructions of non-drinkers among UK undergraduates. Journal of health psychology, 18(11), 1432-44. PMID: 23188922
Regular readers of this blog will know that social psychology has gone through a traumatic time of late. Some of its most high profile proponents have been found guilty of research fraud. And some of the field's landmark findings have turned out to be less robust than hoped. This has led to soul searching and one proposal for strengthening the discipline is to encourage more replication attempts of existing research findings.
To this end, some journals have introduced dedicated replication ar........ Read more »
Mark J. Brandt, Hans IJzerman, Ap Dijksterhuis, Frank J. Farach, Jason Gellerd, Roger Giner-Sorollae, James A. Grange, Marco Perugini, Jeffrey R. Spies, & Anna van 't Veer. (2013) The Replication Recipe: What Makes for a Convincing Replication?. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2013.10.005
When you move your body, how do you know that it was "you" who chose to move it? One answer comes from a computational perspective. Your brain builds expectations (known as a "forward model") about the outcomes of your planned movements, and when sensory information matches these predictions, this suggests your movement was internally generated. But that still leaves the mystery of how you acquire a feeling of subjective ownership. How do you know you willed the movement to happen?
A theory w........ Read more »
Demanet J, Muhle-Karbe PS, Lynn MT, Blotenberg I, & Brass M. (2013) Power to the will: How exerting physical effort boosts the sense of agency. Cognition, 129(3), 574-8. PMID: 24060604
After Aaron Alexis shot dead 12 people at the Navy Yard in Washington DC in September, media outlets were quick to highlight his reported enjoyment of violent video games. To many, this was just the latest example of how violent games can foster real-life aggression. There is research supporting such a link, although experts are far from reaching a consensus view on the matter. Take, for example, the letter written in September by a group of 230 scholars, calling for the American Psychological........ Read more »
Happ C, Melzer A, & Steffgen G. (2013) Superman vs. BAD Man? The Effects of Empathy and Game Character in Violent Video Games. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking, 16(10), 774-8. PMID: 23745616
In the competition for readers' mouse clicks, a favoured trick is to phrase headlines as questions. This isn't an Internet innovation. As a way to grab attention, question headlines have been recommended by editors and marketeers for decades. But what is new, is the easy ability today to measure how often readers choose to click a headline. For a new paper, researchers in Norway have used Twitter to find out if question headlines really do entice more clicks.
Linda Lai and Audun Farbrot used ........ Read more »
Linda Lai, & Audun Farbrot. (2013) What makes you click? The effect of question headlines on readership in computer-mediated communication. Social Influence. DOI: 10.1080/15534510.2013.847859
Why do rich celebrities steal groceries? Why do students risk their academic careers by cheating for just a few extra marks? A team of researchers may have the answer: because it feels good. Across several studies, Nicole Ruedy and her colleagues found that people expect that behaving unethically will make them feel bad, and yet when they take the chance to break the rules, it actually gives them a buzz - an effect the researchers dub "the cheater's high".
In one study, 179 students at a US u........ Read more »
Ruedy NE, Moore C, Gino F, & Schweitzer ME. (2013) The cheater's high: The unexpected affective benefits of unethical behavior. Journal of personality and social psychology, 105(4), 531-48. PMID: 24000799
In 2010 more people died by suicide than were killed in war, by murder, or in natural disasters. In Norway, the location of a heart-rending new study of suicide notes left by children and young teens, suicide is the second leading cause of death for this age group. We need urgently to do more to understand why so many young people are taking their own lives.
The researchers Anne Freuchen and Berit Grøholt predicted that, given their immaturity, the young authors of suicide notes would s........ Read more »
Anne Freuchen, & Berit Grøholt. (2013) Characteristics of suicide notes of children and young adolescents: An examination of the notes from suicide victims 15 years and younger. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1177/1359104513504312
For people with synaesthesia, stimulation of one sense - or in some cases just thinking of a particular concept - triggers another kind of sensory experience. The most common form of the condition is for letters to trigger colour perceptions, but there are some truly strange variants, such as people for whom various swimming strokes trigger colours, and others who experience emotional sensations at the touch of different fabrics.
Although there are first-hand accounts in sex research that sou........ Read more »
Nielsen J, Kruger TH, Hartmann U, Passie T, Fehr T, & Zedler M. (2013) Synaesthesia and sexuality: the influence of synaesthetic perceptions on sexual experience. Frontiers in psychology, 751. PMID: 24137152
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