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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  • November 26, 2015
  • 05:31 AM

Does it matter if pain medication is branded or not?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Around the world many health services are moving towards generic (non-branded) medicines as a way to reduce costs. Where does psychology come into this? Well, we know that, thanks to the placebo effect, people's expectations about a treatment can influence the effects that treatment has on them. We also know, thanks to research conducted over the last decade, that people expect branded medicines to be more effective and to have fewer side effects than their generic counterparts. A new study in H........ Read more »

  • November 25, 2015
  • 04:31 AM

Are extraverts or introverts more cooperative? It depends on the situation

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Our achievements as a species owe a debt to our willingness to cooperate. But we all vary in how we solve the social dilemma – whether in any given situation we choose to favour self-interest or cooperation. This issue has long fascinated researchers, who delight in testing people’s choices in hypothetical setups involving prisoners’ loyalty to each other or the sharing of community resources. But these setups have struggled to give us a clear picture of how personality tips people one way........ Read more »

Schroeder, K., Nettle, D., & McElreath, R. (2015) Interactions between personality and institutions in cooperative behaviour in humans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1683), 20150011. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0011  

  • November 24, 2015
  • 06:41 AM

Why do people find some nonsense words like "finglam" funnier than others like "sersice"

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Calm down, it's not that funny! When you're trying to understand a complex phenomenon, a sensible approach is to pare things back as far as possible. For a new study, published recently in the Journal of Memory and Language, psychologists have applied that very principle to test a popular theory of humour.The theory states that, fundamentally, we are most often amused when we are surprised by, and then resolve, an apparent incongruity: a word that didn't mean what we originally thought........ Read more »

  • November 24, 2015
  • 05:09 AM

Embrace your bad moods and they may not take such a toll on you

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"Being upset is a warmer, close-up feeling, not a chilly distant feeling like laughing at people" from Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes LastGenerally speaking, being in a bad mood isn't just no fun, it also isn't good for you – people who feel negative emotions like anger, anxiety and sadness a lot of the time tend to have poorer social lives and suffer worse physical health in the long run, suggesting that dark moods take a toll. But a new study published in Emotion shows how this i........ Read more »

  • November 23, 2015
  • 05:06 AM

On some issues, liberals are more dogmatic than conservatives

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

In the liberal worldview, conservatives are notoriously narrow-minded – and for years we’ve had the science to prove it. Meta-analyses published in 2003 and 2010 of dozens of studies using different measures revealed a consensus on "the rigidity of the right" – that is, people who hold more right-wing views tend to be more close-minded. Case closed? Or should we be open to other perspectives, such as the one offered in a new article published recently in Political Psychology. Produced by a........ Read more »

  • November 20, 2015
  • 04:14 AM

In search of the optimum level of trust between human and machine

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A computer screen at the NASA flight control room is used to remotely pilot a Proteus aircraft during flight demonstrations of collision avoidance systems. April 3, 2003 in Mojave, California.(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)By guest blogger Craig Aaen-StockdaleWe live in a world where volatile industrial processes, military actions and our morning commute are increasingly controlled by automated systems. The arrival of the autonomous vehicle on our roads, drones in our skies an........ Read more »

Clare, A., Cummings, M., & Repenning, N. (2015) Influencing Trust for Human-Automation Collaborative Scheduling of Multiple Unmanned Vehicles. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 57(7), 1208-1218. DOI: 10.1177/0018720815587803  

  • November 18, 2015
  • 05:16 AM

What happens when you fall in love with someone who's aggressive?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Does experiencing aggression in a relationship make us more vigilant against it – or more forgiving? New research published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that when we want to keep our partner badly enough, we redefine the levels of aggression that we believe it is justifiable to endure.Aggression can manifest in obvious violations such as controlling behaviours or physical violence, but also includes more common behaviours – denigrating a partner, or t........ Read more »

  • November 17, 2015
  • 04:58 AM

Sports psychologists understand surprisingly little about "the yips"

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Two-time Masters Champion Bernhard Langerhas battled the yips throughout his career. He told the Telegraph they are: "an involuntary and uncontrollable movement of the muscles, resulting in a fast, jerky, uncontrolled putting stroke. It is like a muscle spasm; you hold the putter this way or that way - it doesn't matter - and sometimes you can't take it back. You freeze, you totally freeze - or you just jerk."Image: Wikipedia. A golf champion prepares for the easiest of putts on t........ Read more »

Clarke, P., Sheffield, D., & Akehurst, S. (2015) The yips in sport: A systematic review. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-29. DOI: 10.1080/1750984X.2015.1052088  

  • November 16, 2015
  • 10:27 AM

Being true to yourself may protect against the harmful effects of loneliness

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A lot has been written about the downward spiral of loneliness. People who crave more social contact often develop behaviours and thinking styles that only serve to accentuate their isolation, such as turning to drink and becoming more sensitive to perceived slights and rejections. Less studied is the question of whether some people have personality traits that give them a buffer against these loneliness-related risks. A new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology finds a promising c........ Read more »

  • November 16, 2015
  • 06:33 AM

Careful – a long-running rivalry can make you reckless

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Victory is always gratifying and acquires an even more delicious taste when it involves the defeat of a rival. But new evidence published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that rivalries, as well as spurring us on, also promote a mindset that favours eagerness, even recklessness – a mindset that seeks to achieve a legacy for the history books, but carries a risk to our chances on the day.NYU psychologist Gavin Kilduff defines rivalry as a relationship charac........ Read more »

  • November 12, 2015
  • 05:10 AM

Older people appear to be especially good at remembering things that interest them

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Our memory abilities begin to diminish in some respects as early as our twenties. But the picture isn't entirely bleak. A new study published in Psychology and Aging explores the possibility that an older person's curiosity or interest in a subject can reinforce their powers of memory. Following this view, old age is associated with forgetting more of what you don't care about, but the ability to remember what matters to you is preserved or even enhanced.Shannon McGillivray and her colleagues te........ Read more »

  • November 11, 2015
  • 10:05 AM

Comparing Obama's and Romney's speech styles and the way their audiences react

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

In the run up to the 2012 US election, President Obama visited the undecided swing-states he needed to win in order to hold on to the Presidency. A new study published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology features an analysis of the speeches he gave, together with those of his opponent Mitt Romney, and finds it’s possible to estimate the candidates’ subsequent electoral success by measuring how audiences reacted to their speeches. It also describes how speeches are intentionally ........ Read more »

  • November 10, 2015
  • 04:24 AM

"Super recognisers": more than just clever lab rats

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It's only within the last 10 years that psychologists have realised some people have extremely good face recognition abilities that set them apart from the rest of the population, a group they call "super recognisers". These individuals excel on established lab tests of their abilities, such as the Cambridge Face Memory Test. Understandably, this has led to interest in using these people's skills in real-life settings, such as to help identify rioters whose faces have been captured on CCTV. In f........ Read more »

  • November 9, 2015
  • 11:03 AM

When anticipating their future needs, children can't see past their current state

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

You know how it feels after you've gorged on a large packet of pretzels or crisps – you have a mouth like a salt mine, an unquenchable thirst, and the thought occurs to you that wouldn't mind if you never saw another pretzel again in your life. Except you know that's not really true. That's why you leave the other packets snug in the kitchen cupboard, fully aware that tomorrow evening you'll be delighted to get munching again.In other words, you have "episodic foresight". You are able to look ........ Read more »

  • November 5, 2015
  • 05:10 AM

Why do we feel older on some days than others?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

People who feel young for their age tend to live longer than those who don't. Indeed, it's thought that what psychologists call "subjective age" is likely a pretty accurate marker for a person's actual psychological and physical health. While a lot of past research has looked at the major factors that influence changes in subjective age over a lifetime, such as chronic physical disease and mental health problems, a new study published recently in Psychology and Health has investig........ Read more »

  • November 3, 2015
  • 07:02 AM

Attention training can wire your brain to be less scaredy-cat

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

After the training, participants wereless distracted by scary picturesA simple computer training task, which involves ignoring irrelevant information, can change the brain's wiring to make it less responsive to threatening pictures. That's according to a new study published in Neuroimage. The authors say they are the first to demonstrate that neutral (as in, non emotional) attention training can change the brain's emotional reactivity.Twenty-six healthy participants completed the "executive cont........ Read more »

Cohen N, Margulies DS, Ashkenazi S, Schaefer A, Taubert M, Henik A, Villringer A, & Okon-Singer H. (2015) Using Executive Control Training to Suppress Amygdala Reactivity to Aversive Information. NeuroImage. PMID: 26520770  

  • November 2, 2015
  • 05:52 AM

The ideal therapist doubts their professional skills, but loves themselves as a person

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Given a choice, you might think it better to undertake psychotherapy with a confident therapist than a self-doubting one. After all, you want a firm hand to guide you through a storm. But in fact, there's evidence that therapy clients do better when their therapist has professional self-doubts. In a new paper published in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Helene Nissen-Lie and her colleagues tested their idea that therapist self-doubt might not always be helpful, and specifically that the i........ Read more »

Nissen-Lie, H., Rønnestad, M., Høglend, P., Havik, O., Solbakken, O., Stiles, T., & Monsen, J. (2015) Love Yourself as a Person, Doubt Yourself as a Therapist?. Clinical Psychology . DOI: 10.1002/cpp.1977  

  • October 30, 2015
  • 05:42 AM

Googling stuff can cause us to overestimate our own knowledge

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Simon OxenhamThe internet has changed the way we do many things, from organising a get-together to looking up a recipe. Tasks that little over a decade ago would have involved dozens of phone calls or a trip to the library, can now be completed in a heartbeat. There has been much animated debate about the potential relative harms or benefits of all this, but convincing evidence has not been forthcoming. Now a new study of 119 men and 83 women recruited through Amazon’s Mechani........ Read more »

  • October 29, 2015
  • 03:33 PM

Feeling like you're an expert can make you closed-minded

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"Not listening ..."What happens to us as we accrue knowledge and experience, as we become experts in a field? Competence follows. Effortlessness follows (pdf). But certain downsides can follow too. We reported recently on how experts are vulnerable to an overclaiming error – falsely feeling familiar with things that seem true of a domain but aren’t. Now a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology explores how feelings of expertise can lead us to be more dogmatic towards........ Read more »

  • October 28, 2015
  • 12:05 PM

Survey that revealed widespread iffy research practices in psychology was itself iffy

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Four years ago we were the first to break the disconcerting news that a survey of thousands of US psychologists had found their use of "questionable research practices" was commonplace: that is, their tendency to do things like failing to report all the measures they'd taken, or collecting more data after looking to see if their results were significant.The story went viral, further aggravating the storm cloud sitting over the discipline at that time (it wasn't long since one of social psycholog........ Read more »

Fiedler, K., & Schwarz, N. (2015) Questionable Research Practices Revisited. Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI: 10.1177/1948550615612150  

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