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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  • May 18, 2015
  • 11:57 AM

Free will inside the Nazi death camps

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The sign "Arbeit macht Frei" means "Work liberates".Free will is a controversial topic in psychology, thanks in part to studies suggesting that the brain activity associated with making decisions comes before the conscious feeling of making a choice. Other research claims that when people are exposed to arguments against free will, this makes them more prone to cheat. While intriguing, such insights are arguably somewhat removed from ev........ Read more »

  • May 15, 2015
  • 10:46 AM

Companies are more successful when their employees feel young for their age

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you want a dynamic workforce, seek not the young, but the young at heart. That’s the message of a new study that surveyed over 15,000 employees from 107 companies to determine how subjective age influences workplace performance.Past research has made the case that employee age is important to workplace performance, with younger workers more likely to make breakthrough contributions – but the evidence is patchy, suggesting there is more to the story. The proposed cause for the youth advant........ Read more »

  • May 14, 2015
  • 04:46 AM

Do we really love our favourite brands the same way we love people?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

People can get awfully attached to their preferred brands. Some tattoo logos on their skin, others camp out overnight to buy the latest products. Late in life, people often still favour and trust brands from their youth. But is brand obsession and attachment really the same as the love we feel for people?The question is pertinent for researchers in the field of consumer psychology where there's a tendency to apply theories and measures from the study of interpersonal love to the study of brand a........ Read more »

  • May 13, 2015
  • 11:43 AM

The secret to overturning negative first impressions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It can be tough to shift someone’s opinion if you’ve made a bad first impression. They might accept your apology or take on board your good points, but beneath the surface, ill feeling persists. New research from Cornell University suggests that the way to reach those deeper feelings, and earn a second chance, is to get the other person to see your initial actions in an entirely new light.Researchers Thomas Mann and Melissa Ferguson presented 200 participants with a scenario that raised thei........ Read more »

  • May 13, 2015
  • 05:06 AM

Give up the #OCD jokes on Twitter, they won't make you popular

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

One of the fictional Twitter accountsused in Pavelko & Myrick (2015).Stigma is a problem for all forms of mental illness, but arguably obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – a condition that at its most severe can ruin lives – is subject to a disproportionate amount of trivialisation and ridicule.A brief perusal of the hashtag #OCD on Twitter makes this obvious – the term is used frequently everyday to lampoon fussy, perfectionist behaviours. A new study asks how this Twitter trivialisa........ Read more »

  • May 11, 2015
  • 06:31 AM

Most students struggle to take effective lecture notes. Here are two ways to help them

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Sit in a university lecture and you'll see most students scribbling away taking notes (or tapping away on laptops). Unfortunately, while note-taking ought to be beneficial in principle – by encouraging reflection on, and systematic organisation of, the material – countless studies have found it to have little to no benefit. It's likely this is in part because of the way students take notes. Many simply record verbatim what the lecturer is saying.Now the US psychologists Dung Bui and Mark McD........ Read more »

  • May 8, 2015
  • 02:23 PM

Do interviewers really make a hiring decision in the first four minutes?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

There's an urban myth that interviewers make their hiring decisions within the first four minutes of an interview and spend the remaining time seeking information to bolster that gut judgment. The evidence for this is extremely limited and probably originates with a 1954 doctoral thesis. Now Rachel Frieder and her colleagues have conducted a field study involving hundreds of real interviews and they say that claims about snap decisions in interviews are exaggerated.The researchers collected thei........ Read more »

  • May 8, 2015
  • 12:08 PM

Story envy: When we borrow other people's personal anecdotes

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

In the study, men admitted "borrowing" other people's stories more than womenAdmit it, have you ever told a cracking story to your friends but failed to include the crucial (but perhaps boring) caveat that the amusing events actually happened to someone else? A new survey of hundreds of US undergrads finds that borrowing personal memories in this way is common place.Alan Brown and his colleagues found that nearly half of the 447 undergrads they sampled admitted to having told someone else's pers........ Read more »

Brown, A., Croft Caderao, K., Fields, L., & Marsh, E. (2015) Borrowing Personal Memories. Applied Cognitive Psychology. DOI: 10.1002/acp.3130  

  • May 8, 2015
  • 12:07 PM

A new questionnaire measures people's "no mobile phone phobia" or nomophobia

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Do you get intensely anxious when your mobile phone runs out of battery or you don't know where it is? If so, researchers in the US believe you could be showing signs of a distinctly modern malaise: "nomophobia", or "no mobile phone phobia".To galvanise more research into the phenomenon, Caglar Yildirim and Ana-Paula Correia have developed a 20-item nomophobia questionnaire. The pair began by interviewing nine undergrads (five women) who were identified as being heavily dependent on their smartp........ Read more »

  • May 5, 2015
  • 10:14 AM

Mindful eating makes smaller portions more satisfying

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Have you ever been to an exclusive restaurant that serves tiny portions and found that, in spite of the paltry servings, you felt satisfied afterwards and the food seemed unusually tasty? If so, you might have engaged in what psychologists call "savouring" behaviours. Charles Areni and Iain Black have studied savouring under laboratory conditions, and they've found that when we're given smaller portions than normal, we eat differently – more slowly, more mindfully, and we feel more satiated as........ Read more »

  • May 2, 2015
  • 11:37 AM

Children use time words like "seconds" and "hours" long before they know what they mean

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

For adults, let alone children, time is a tricky concept to comprehend. In our culture, we carve it up into somewhat arbitrary chunks and attribute words to those durations: 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 of those in an hour and so on. We also have a sense of what these durations feel like. Children start using these time-related words at around the age of two or three years, even though they won't master clocks until eight or nine. This raises the question – what do young children really unde........ Read more »

  • April 30, 2015
  • 06:34 AM

Why the message – that we're all prone to stereotyping others – is so dangerous

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Telling people they are biased in their treatment of others – that they are racist or ageist, for example – can make them defensive and result in backlash. For this reason, change-makers nowadays often spread a different message: that stereotyping others isn’t a personal sin, but near-universal and something we must all aim to resist. However a new paper from researchers Michelle Duguid and Melissa Thomas-Hunt argues that this "Everyone Stereotypes" message, far from reducing bias, may act........ Read more »

  • April 29, 2015
  • 05:02 AM

People are overly optimistic about the benefits of optimism

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome." The sentiment articulated here by psychology pioneer William James is currently in vogue, if its preponderance in self-help books, motivational posters, and memes is anything to go by. But are we pinning too much on positive thinking?A research team led by Elizabeth Tenney asked participants to guess how much a given task is affected by optimism, then compared this to how........ Read more »

  • April 28, 2015
  • 07:57 AM

Can feeling lonely make you hungry?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Loneliness is bad for you. Some experts have even likened it to a kind of disease. What's unclear is how being being lonely leads to these adverse effects on our health. A new study looks at one possibility – that loneliness makes people feel hungrier than normal, thus increasing their food intake and putting them at risk of obesity with all its associated health problems.Lisa Jaremka and her colleagues asked 42 women (average age 53) to fast for 12 hours before visiting the psych lab. On arri........ Read more »

Jaremka, L., Fagundes, C., Peng, J., Belury, M., Andridge, R., Malarkey, W., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. (2015) Loneliness predicts postprandial ghrelin and hunger in women. Hormones and Behavior, 57-63. DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.01.011  

  • April 27, 2015
  • 07:57 AM

You can change your personality at will

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Surveys show that most of us wish our personalities were different. Change is certainly possible: people's personalities evolve as they get older (for example, most of us become more friendly but less open-minded), and there's research showing more immediate influences on personality, such as our current mood (we're less extravert when we're sad). And yet, before now, no one has studied whether people can simply choose to change their personality at will.Nathan Hudson and Chris Fraley asked 135 ........ Read more »

  • April 26, 2015
  • 11:21 PM

References to alcohol in UK pop music are on the increase

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"My wine is good to me, it helps me pass the time. And my good old buddy whiskey keeps me warmer than the sunshine," Aloe Blacc – I need a dollar, 2011.Psychologists have documented a striking increase in references to alcohol and heavy drinking in the lyrics of UK chart music. They warn this could mean that attempts to control the direct advertising of alcohol to young people will be in vain, as pop music is effectively spreading a positive message on the drinks companies' behalf.Katheri........ Read more »

  • April 23, 2015
  • 07:28 AM

Men and boys with older sisters are less competitive

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

One of the longest-debated and most studied issues in psychology is whether and how our personalities are affected by our birth order and the sex of our siblings. A problem with much previous research is that it's depended on people self-reporting their own personality, or on siblings or parents providing the personality ratings. These ratings are prone to subjectivity and skewed by people's expectations about how, say, a younger sibling ought to behave.A new study focused on one particular find........ Read more »

Okudaira, H., Kinari, Y., Mizutani, N., Ohtake, F., & Kawaguchi, A. (2015) Older sisters and younger brothers: The impact of siblings on preference for competition. Personality and Individual Differences, 81-89. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.02.037  

  • April 22, 2015
  • 09:54 AM

Psychologists study burglars' expertise

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Their actions are criminal and they cause untold misery, but repeat burglars are skilled at what they do and in that sense they are experts. By studying this expertise we can learn to better secure our properties against the threat of theft, and detectives can learn to spot the signature trail of an experienced robber.Most previous research in this area has relied on interviews with burglars about their strategies: a limited approach. A new study is more compelling. Claire Nee and her team recru........ Read more »

  • April 21, 2015
  • 05:12 AM

Optimism and pessimism are separate systems influenced by different genes

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"... the optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose,” Kahlil Gibran.Optimists enjoy better health, more success, more happiness, and longer lives, than pessimists. No surprise, then, that psychologists are taking an increasing interest in our outlook on life. An unresolved issue is whether optimism and pessimism are two ends of the same spectrum, or if they're separate. If the traits are separate, then in principle, some people cou........ Read more »

  • April 20, 2015
  • 04:47 AM

Autistic children's sensory experiences, in their own words

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Children diagnosed with autism often have distinctive sensory experiences, such as being ultra sensitive to noise, or finding enjoyment in repeated, unusual sensory stimulation. However, much of what we know about these experiences comes from the testimony of parents, researchers and clinicians. Now Anne Kirby and her colleagues have published the first report of autistic children's sensory experiences, based on these children's own accounts. As the authors say, "children's voices are still rare........ Read more »

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