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Reports on the latest psychology research plus psych gossip and comment. Brought to you by the British Psychological Society.
Keeping it real often means hanging out
From Ancient Greek philosophy to humanistic psychology to modern day rap songs, there's a long tradition of espousing the benefits of being true to yourself or "keeping it real". Despite this interest, a new study by Alison Lenton is one of the first to investigate what being true to oneself actually feels like, how often it happens and in what circumstances.
Lenton and her colleagues began by surveying 104 participants (average age 35; 66 women) on th........ Read more »
Lenton, A., Bruder, M., Slabu, L., & Sedikides, C. (2013) How Does “Being Real” Feel? The Experience of State Authenticity. Journal of Personality, 81(3), 276-289. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2012.00805.x
Nevermind increasingly violent video games or the ever-present danger of an uncensored internet, a far more insidious and unexpected change is afoot that could be affecting our children's emotional development. Researchers have discovered that the faces on LEGO Minifigures are becoming increasingly angry and less happy. Combined with a trend towards more combat-related LEGO themes, a team led by Christoph Bartneck at the University of Canterbury said "we cannot help but wonder how ... this imp........ Read more »
C Bartneck, M Obaid, & K Zawieska. (2013) Agents with faces - What can we learn from LEGO Minifigures?. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (iHAI 2013), Sappor, Japan. info:/
"Just one more thing ..."
Dishevelled, diminutive and deep in thought, the TV detective Columbo would often bring a cigar-bearing hand to his forehead. You could almost hear the cogs whirring. Like so many other fictional detectives he had a brilliant intuitive sense, largely mysterious, almost magical. The same can be said for the puzzle-solving skills of real-life homicide detectives, whose thought processes have received little research attention. Now psychologist Michelle Wright has shone........ Read more »
A significant milestone was passed last August when Amazon announced that sales of books on its Kindle e-reader platform outstripped print sales for the first time. There's no question that e-readers are convenient - you can load a single device with thousands of titles. But some commentators have started to question whether digital reading has adverse effects on memory and comprehension compared with reading from print.
In 2010, a reassuring study in fact found no difference in recall a........ Read more »
Margolin, S., Driscoll, C., Toland, M., & Kegler, J. (2013) E-readers, Computer Screens, or Paper: Does Reading Comprehension Change Across Media Platforms?. Applied Cognitive Psychology. DOI: 10.1002/acp.2930
Braggarts who hype their own achievements while derogating those around them can fare well in a new situation. Their confidence appeals and they may achieve high status at first. But over the longer term evidence suggests that narcissists are harmful to themselves and others. They alienate people and their work performance is scored poorly by bosses. So why do they persist? Do they have insight into their narcissism? Do they realise what other people think of them? A new study aimed to find ou........ Read more »
Carlson, E. (2013) Honestly Arrogant or Simply Misunderstood? Narcissists' Awareness of their Narcissism. Self and Identity, 12(3), 259-277. DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2012.659427
Some of the most popular videos on YouTube are of would-be thieves getting their comeuppance, either knocked-out by brave store-keepers or caught out by their own dazzling ineptitude. Seeing a person deservedly suffer this way brings a special pleasure known as schadenfreude. A new study is the first to study whether young children are capable of experiencing this delight.
Katrin Schulz and her colleagues presented simple picture stories to 100 children aged four to eight years (52 girls). Th........ Read more »
Schulz, K., Rudolph, A., Tscharaktschiew, N., & Rudolph, U. (2013) Daniel has fallen into a muddy puddle - Schadenfreude or sympathy?. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/bjdp.12013
US law professor Amy Chua attracted controversy in 2011 when she published an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior. The traditional Chinese parenting style that Chua described was strict and authoritarian - an approach now referred to popularly as Tiger Parenting, thanks to Chua's later book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Past research supports the idea that parents of Chinese descent, whether in the US or China, tend to be more c........ Read more »
Ng, F., Pomerantz, E., & Deng, C. (2013) Why Are Chinese Mothers More Controlling Than American Mothers? “My Child Is My Report Card”. Child Development. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12102
Imagine you and your partner are about to enjoy a meal together. They have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and get incredibly anxious until they've completed a time-consuming sequence of checks and rituals involving their cutlery. Do you offer to help with the checks in the hope of assuaging their anxiety?
The process of helping an OCD patient in this way is called "accommodation" and though it may be motivated by compassion and empathy, the authors of a new paper say that it can be a bar........ Read more »
Boeding, S., Paprocki, C., Baucom, D., Abramowitz, J., Wheaton, M., Fabricant, L., & Fischer, M. (2013) Let me check that for you: Symptom accommodation in romantic partners of adults with Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51(6), 316-322. DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2013.03.002
Hey good looking!
Never mind the sleepless nights and domestic disarray, new fathers think they're hot stuff. The finding comes from a survey of 182 heterosexual couples by Alicia Cast and her colleagues. The couples were quizzed three times - just after they got married, a year later, and again a year after that.
Whereas women who had a baby in the first year of marriage experienced a subsequent dip in their feelings of physical attractiveness, new fathers showed the opposite pattern. The f........ Read more »
Imagine you are the driver & your chocolate cravings are unruly passengers
If someone gave you a bag of 14 chocolates to carry around for five days, would you be able to resist eating them and any other chocolate? That was challenge faced by 135 undergrads in a new study that compared the effectiveness of two different "mindfulness" resistance techniques.
To help them, Kim Jenkins and Katy Tapper taught 45 of their participants "cognitive diffusion", the essence being that "you are not y........ Read more »
Jenkins, K., & Tapper, K. (2013) Resisting chocolate temptation using a brief mindfulness strategy. British Journal of Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/bjhp.12050
What is going on in the brain of someone who has the deluded belief that they are brain dead? A team of researchers led by neuropsychologist Vanessa Charland-Varville at CHU Sart-Tilman Hospital and the University of Liege has attempted to find out by scanning the brain of a depressed patient who held this very belief.
The researchers used a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner, which is the first time this scanning technology has been used on a patient with this kind of delusion -........ Read more »
Charland-Verville, V., Bruno, M., Bahri, M., Demertzi, A., Desseilles, M., Chatelle, C., Vanhaudenhuyse, A., Hustinx, R., Bernard, C., Tshibanda, L.... (2013) Brain dead yet mind alive: A positron emission tomography case study of brain metabolism in Cotard's syndrome. Cortex. DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2013.03.003
Publication of US psychiatry's updated diagnostic code has provoked renewed debate in recent weeks over the extent to which mental illness ought to be framed as a psychosocial or a biological problem. The answer of course is that it is both. A new Canadian study captures this interplay, showing how close friendships mitigate the risk for girls whose genes mean they are more vulnerable than average to depression.
Mara Brendgen and her colleagues studied 294 pairs of twins aged ten years old (1........ Read more »
Brendgen, M., Vitaro, F., Bukowski, W., Dionne, G., Tremblay, R., & Boivin, M. (2013) Can friends protect genetically vulnerable children from depression?. Development and Psychopathology, 25(02), 277-289. DOI: 10.1017/S0954579412001058
For the penultimate round of the TV show The Apprentice, the competing entrepreneurs must face a series of interviews with a crack team of hardened executives. The implicit, believable message is that these veterans have seen all the interview tricks in the book and will spot any blaggers a mile off. However, a new study provides the reality TV show with a reality check. A team led by Marc-André Reinhard report that experienced job interviewers are in fact no better than novice interviewers a........ Read more »
Reinhard, M., Scharmach, M., & Müller, P. (2013) It's not what you are, it's what you know: experience, beliefs, and the detection of deception in employment interviews. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(3), 467-479. DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2013.01011.x
Can fluent presenters makelearning feel too easy?
Eloquent and engaging scientific communicators in the mould of physicist Brian Cox make learning seem fun and easy. So much so that a new study says they risk breeding overconfidence. When a presenter is seen to handle complicated information effortlessly, students sense wrongly that they too have acquired a firm grasp of the material.
Shana Carpenter and her colleagues showed 42 students a one-minute video of a science lecture about calico ........ Read more »
Carpenter, S., Wilford, M., Kornell, N., & Mullaney, K. (2013) Appearances can be deceiving: instructor fluency increases perceptions of learning without increasing actual learning. Psychonomic Bulletin . DOI: 10.3758/s13423-013-0442-z
Suicide rates have fallen among farmers
Among the various risk factors for suicide, psychologists have recognised for some time that a person's occupation plays an important part. Suicide rates have tended to be unusually high in professions that provide ready access to guns, drugs, or open water, such as in farming, medicine, dentistry and maritime careers.
A new analysis has examined whether this still holds true. Stephen Roberts and his colleagues accessed the UK suicide rates for dozens ........ Read more »
The Greek Stoic Epictetus wrote that "Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them." A new study involving 185 children and teenagers, 88 fathers and 97 mothers shows how this same principle applies to children's fear of the dentist. This is an important topic because many children avoid the dentist out of fear, and around half of dentally anxious adults trace their fears to childhood.
Antonio Crego and his colleagues assessed the children's fear of the dentist, an........ Read more »
Crego, A., Carrillo-Diaz, M., Armfield, J., & Romero, M. (2013) Applying the Cognitive Vulnerability Model to the analysis of cognitive and family influences on children's dental fear. European Journal of Oral Sciences. DOI: 10.1111/eos.12041
In a safety-obsessed culture, why do some people throw caution to the wind and pursue sports where a wrong move often means instant death? Clues come from a series of interviews conducted with a group of 15 extreme sport participants (aged 30 to 70; 10 men) about their relationship with fear, including BASE jumpers (who launch themselves off high buildings), big wave surfers and waterfall kayakers.
Eric Brymer and Robert Schweitzer transcribed the interviews and looked for emerging themes. Co........ Read more »
Brymer, E., & Schweitzer, R. (2012) Extreme sports are good for your health: A phenomenological understanding of fear and anxiety in extreme sport. Journal of Health Psychology, 18(4), 477-487. DOI: 10.1177/1359105312446770
We each vary in how much we use first-person singular pronouns (I, Me, Myself) in our speech and writing, and how much we use first-person plural pronouns (We, Us, Ourselves). Researchers say it's a kind of habit and not something we usually have much control over. Now a study conducted in Germany claims that people who are more prolific users of "I" and "Me" tend to have more interpersonal problems and to experience more depression. "Using first-person singular pronouns highlights the self as........ Read more »
Zimmermann, J., Wolf, M., Bock, A., Peham, D., & Benecke, C. (2013) The way we refer to ourselves reflects how we relate to others: Associations between first-person pronoun use and interpersonal problems. Journal of Research in Personality, 47(3), 218-225. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2013.01.008
When we adults are confronted by a bridge, we're concerned not just by its width and sturdiness, but also by the height of the drop beneath. If there's a deep canyon, we'd usually rather the bridge was mighty strong and wide. If there's but a short drop, we'll happily jaunt along the narrowest, flimsiest of crossings - after all, it won't matter much if we fall.
Infants - those aged 11 to 14 months - are different. They don't want to fall, so they're wary of narrow bridges. But the height of ........ Read more »
Kretch, K., & Adolph, K. (2013) No bridge too high: Infants decide whether to cross based on the probability of falling not the severity of the potential fall. Developmental Science, 16(3), 336-351. DOI: 10.1111/desc.12045
In 2004, in Silicon Valley, Google posted a huge billboard ad featuring a mathematical problem. The answer led to a web address with yet another puzzle to crack. People who successfully followed this intellectual treasure hunt ended up being invited in for a job interview.
This is an extreme example of a recruitment principle spelled out in a new article by psychologists in Belgium. They say that distinctive recruitment procedures are the secret to attracting more and better job applica........ Read more »
Cromheecke, S., Van Hoye, G., & Lievens, F. (2013) Changing things up in recruitment: Effects of a ‘strange’ recruitment medium on applicant pool quantity and quality. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/joop.12018
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