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.

BPS Research Digest
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  • March 18, 2015
  • 06:05 AM

"Look at me!": When we feel powerful, we find ourselves inspirational

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Matthew McConaughey may have surprised some during the 2014 Oscars ceremony when he listed his heroes: each one was a past, present or future version of himself. But it turns out that being your own inspiration isn’t unusual, especially for people who feel socially powerful and influential.A new study, led by Gerben van Kleef from the University of Amsterdam, asked 140 undergraduates to spend a few minutes writing about a personally inspiring event that took place in the prior five years. Part........ Read more »

Van Kleef, G., Oveis, C., Homan, A., van der Lowe, I., & Keltner, D. (2015) Power Gets You High: The Powerful Are More Inspired by Themselves Than by Others. Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI: 10.1177/1948550614566857  

  • March 17, 2015
  • 05:21 AM

Different mental abilities peak at different times of life, from 18 to 70

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Look at the age at which athletes reach their top performance levels in different sports and it seems there isn't a single time in life at which physical capability peaks. For example, footballers are said to peak at around age 27 while for golfers the peak is likely at least five years later, and for ultra-marathon runners, the peak is later still, in the forties. Put simply, you reach your optimum age for different sporting skills at different ages. According to a new analysis, so it is with b........ Read more »

  • March 16, 2015
  • 07:51 AM

Morning people ("larks") are more punctual than "owls"

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

You've probably heard that sleep psychologists like to divide people up into those who function optimally in the morning, and those who come alive at night (but see also). The former, "larks", tend to get up and go to bed earlier than "owls". A new study asks whether larks also tend to be more punctual people than owls – surprisingly, this is the first time anyone has examined this link.Laura Werner and her team waited as nearly 300 students arrived for their 8.15am morning lectures on 14 diff........ Read more »

Werner, L., Geisler, J., & Randler, C. (2014) Morningness as a Personality Predictor of Punctuality. Current Psychology, 34(1), 130-139. DOI: 10.1007/s12144-014-9246-1  

  • March 13, 2015
  • 12:25 PM

Associations uncovered between scientists' personalities and their research style

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

To solve the biggest challenges in science and medicine, many commentators argue what's needed is more inter-disciplinary research. The idea is that the cross-pollination of thought and techniques from different fields helps to break new ground. A new study finds that some scientists are more disposed to this kind of boundary-defying research than others, by virtue of their personality.Thomas Bateman and Andrew Hess focused on the field of diabetes research, which they chose because it's a vast,........ Read more »

  • March 11, 2015
  • 05:00 AM

What recycled sewage water reveals about human psychology

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The technology now exists to recycle sewage water safely, but would you drink it?By guest blogger Sam McNerneyEach year around one million people die from water-related diseases. In most cases, the causes are painfully obvious. Without access to a modern sewage system, people dump their bodily waste into the nearest river or street, which funnels their filthy excrement and urine back into the water supply. It’s a catastrophic problem without a cheap solution.Until now. A few years ago Bill Gat........ Read more »

Paul Rozin, Brent Haddad, Carol Nemeroff, & Paul Slovic. (2015) Psychological aspects of the rejection of recycled water: Contamination, purification and disgust. Judgment and Decision Making. info:/

  • March 10, 2015
  • 06:36 AM

Professional footballers have unusually high self-control

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

There are reasons for doubting the self-control of professional footballers. Most week's – most days, in fact – there are tabloid stories about the latest indiscretions of premiere league players, at least in the UK. But perhaps this is an unfair test. What often goes unreported is their years of dedication to practice, dieting, fitness and more practice.Tynke Toering and Geir Jordet surveyed 314 premiere league players and 305 second league players (all male). The country where this took pl........ Read more »

Toering, T., & Jordet, G. (2015) Self-Control in Professional Football Players. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. DOI: 10.1080/10413200.2015.1010047  

  • March 9, 2015
  • 07:49 AM

People are hopeless at drawing the Apple logo, and that tells us something about human memory

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Apple's iconic apple, featuring a bitten-off chunk, is one of the most recognisable logos in the world. And with the company's ubiquitous products increasing in popularity, we're exposed to the famous fruit image more frequently than ever. Yet a new study finds that while all this exposure provokes confidence in our memories for the logo, it fails to translate into accurate recall. Before reading on, test your own memory.Adam Blake and his colleagues asked 85 undergrads – a mix of Apple and PC........ Read more »

  • March 6, 2015
  • 08:55 AM

By age three, girls already show a preference for thin people

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

These days it's hard to avoid the message that thin is best. From advertising billboards to the Oscar red carpet, we are inundated with images of successful ultra-thin women.Past research has already shown that this ideal is filtering through to our children, even preschoolers. But before now, there has been little study of just how early pro-thin bias (and prejudice against fat people) appears, and how it develops with age.Jennifer Harriger tested 102 girls from the South Western US, aged betwe........ Read more »

  • March 5, 2015
  • 07:52 AM

The psychology of female serial killers

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

There is a mistaken cultural assumption, say Marissa Harrison and her colleagues, that women are, by their nature, incapable of being serial killers – defined here as murderers of three or more victims, spaced out with at least a week between killings.This misconception, the psychologists warn, is a "deadly mistake". They point out that one in six serial killers are female. Their crimes tend to go undetected for longer than their male counterparts, likely in part because "our culture is in den........ Read more »

Harrison, M., Murphy, E., Ho, L., Bowers, T., & Flaherty, C. (2015) Female serial killers in the United States: means, motives, and makings. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry , 1-24. DOI: 10.1080/14789949.2015.1007516  

  • March 4, 2015
  • 09:54 AM

What use are flashbulb memories?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

MJ Memorial at London's 02 Arena It could be the time you heard about the 9/11 terror attacks, or the moment you discovered that Michael Jackson had died. "Flashbulb memory" is the term psychologists use for when we remember the details of what we were doing and where we were when we heard dramatic news. What's the function of these memories, and is there any difference when the news is public or private, negative or positive?Burcu Demiray and Alexandra Freund surveyed 565 US participants o........ Read more »

  • March 3, 2015
  • 12:02 PM

Visual illusions foster open-mindedness

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

From sworn witness accounts of alien visitations, to deep-rooted trust in quack medical treatments, the human trait that psychologists call "naive realism" has a lot to answer for. This is people's instinctive feeling that they perceive the world how it is, encapsulated by the saying "seeing is believing." The truth, of course, is that our every perception is our brain's best guess, built not merely with the raw material of what's out in the world, but just as much with the bricks of expectation........ Read more »

  • March 2, 2015
  • 05:43 AM

"I did it for the team" – How outsiders cheat in pursuit of popularity

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you would do anything to stay popular with your team-mates, what might follow? Bending the rules? Cheating? Sabotage of rivals? An international team led by Stefan Thau of INSEAD investigated “pro-group” unethical behaviours, and they suggest the people most likely to connive to boost the team are those at its margins, fearful of exclusion.The experiment gave participants an easy opportunity to cheat at an anagram task, as the setup meant they themselves reported how many they s........ Read more »

  • February 27, 2015
  • 05:13 AM

What do clients think of psychotherapy that doesn't work?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Psychotherapy works for most people, but there's a sizeable group for whom it's ineffective, or worse still, harmful. A new study claims to be the first to systematically investigate what the experience of therapy is like for clients who show no improvement after therapy, or who actually deteriorate.Andrzej Werbart and his colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with 20 non-improved clients (out of a larger client group of 134) who were enrolled in individual or group psychoanalytic psychothera........ Read more »

  • February 26, 2015
  • 11:02 AM

Some student-professor pairings lead to "unusually effective teaching" (and it's possible to predict which ones)

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Video trailers can be used to predict whichlecturers are the best teachers, and whichstudents they are especially suited to.In the near future, students could be presented with a series of video trailers of different professors at their university. Based on their ratings of these videos, the students will be paired with the professors who provide the best fit. The outcome will be superior learning, and greater student satisfaction.That's the promise of a new study that asked 145 psychology under........ Read more »

Gross, J., Lakey, B., Lucas, J., LaCross, R., R. Plotkowski, A., & Winegard, B. (2015) Forecasting the student-professor matches that result in unusually effective teaching. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(1), 19-32. DOI: 10.1111/bjep.12049  

  • February 25, 2015
  • 06:01 AM

The six forms of resistance shown by participants in Milgram's notorious "obedience studies"

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When discussing Milgram's notorious experiments, in which participants were instructed to give increasingly dangerous electric shocks to another person, most commentators take a black or white approach.Participants are categorised as obedient or defiant, and the headline result is taken as the surprising number of people – the majority – who obeyed by going all the way and administering the highest, lethal voltage.A new study takes a different stance by looking at the different acts of resis........ Read more »

  • February 24, 2015
  • 10:31 AM

Recruiters think they can tell your personality from your resume. They can't

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Recruiters are poor at inferring an applicant’s personality from their resume, but that doesn’t stop them from jumping to conclusions on the back of their flawed assumptions. That’s according to a new study that involved over a hundred professional recruiters evaluating pairs of resumes.The US-based recruiters estimated applicant personality from the limited information in short two-page resumes. Their estimates were poorly correlated with the self-ratings made by the MBA students who’d ........ Read more »

Burns, G., Christiansen, N., Morris, M., Periard, D., & Coaster, J. (2014) Effects of Applicant Personality on Resume Evaluations. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29(4), 573-591. DOI: 10.1007/s10869-014-9349-6  

  • February 23, 2015
  • 10:34 AM

The “Backfire Effect”: Correcting false beliefs about vaccines can be surprisingly counterproductive

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Nearly half of the US population wrongly believes the flu vaccine can give you flu,but correcting this error has the opposite of the desired effectBy guest blogger Simon OxenhamAccording to a new study, 43 per cent of the US population wrongly believes that the flu vaccine can give you flu. In actual fact this is not the case – any adverse reaction, besides a temperature and aching muscles for a short time, is rare. It stands to reason that correcting this misconception would be a good move fo........ Read more »

  • February 20, 2015
  • 04:40 AM

Is self-disgust the emotional trigger that leads to self-harm?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

To help people who perform non-lethal self-harm, such as cutting and burning themselves, we need a better understanding of the thoughts and feelings that contribute to them resorting to this behaviour. Risk factors are already known, including depression and a history of sexual abuse. However, Noelle Smith and her colleagues wondered if these factors increase the risk of self-harm because they lead people to experience self-disgust. Viewed this way, the researchers believe "self-disgust may serv........ Read more »

Smith, N., Steele, A., Weitzman, M., Trueba, A., & Meuret, A. (2014) Investigating the Role of Self-Disgust in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury. Archives of Suicide Research, 19(1), 60-74. DOI: 10.1080/13811118.2013.850135  

  • February 19, 2015
  • 11:12 AM

Threat of punishment makes us better judges of our own knowledge

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

People show better understanding oftheir own knowledge when threatenedwith large penalties for wrong answers. There are some walks of life where trying to be right as often as possible is not enough. Just as important is having insight into the likely accuracy of your own knowledge.Think of doctors and surgeons making diagnostic decisions. They can't be right all the time, and neither can they be completely certain over their judgments. What becomes important then, is that they have an accu........ Read more »

  • February 17, 2015
  • 05:15 AM

Jokey team meetings are more productive, as long as people laugh along

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Science suggests a funnier workplace should be a more effective one, encouraging positive mood and a playful, open approach. But much of the evidence to date rests on theoretical argument or lab experiments. Now a new study of genuine team meetings shows that laughter begets laughter and that bouts of humour really can clear the ground for new approaches and better performance.Using videos taken as part of an improvement process run across two German companies, the study was able to determine th........ Read more »

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