Seven psychoanalytic psychotherapists reflect on the clients that didn ’t get better, or even felt worse
A key theme was that it felt like having just half the client in therapy By Alex Fradera Psychotherapists are devoted to improving people’s psychological health, but sometimes their efforts fail. A new qualitative study in Psychotherapy Research delves into what therapists take away from these unsuccessful experiences. Andrzej Werbart led the Stockholm University research team that focused on eight therapy cases where the clients – all women under the age of 26 – had experienced no improvement, or in three cases, had deteriorated. This was based on comparing their pre- and post-therapy symptom l...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 25, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Qualitative Therapy Source Type: blogs

“Growth mindset” theory doesn’t translate directly from kids to adults – telling an adult they are a “hard worker” can backfire
By Emma Young The way parents and teachers praise children is known to influence not only their future performance, but how they feel about the malleability of intelligence. If a child has done well, focusing positive comments on their efforts, actions and strategies (saying, for example, “good job” or “you must have tried really hard”) is preferable to saying “you’re so smart”, in part because process-centred praise is thought to encourage kids to interpret setbacks as opportunities to grow, rather than as threats to their self-concept. In contrast, a kid who’s led to believ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 24, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Occupational Source Type: blogs

Strangers are more likely to come to your help in a racially diverse neighbourhood
By Alex Fradera The “Big Society” initiative – launched at the turn of this decade by the incoming British government – was a call for politics to recognise the importance of community and social solidarity. It has since fizzled out, and for a while communitarianism fell out of the political conversation, but it has returned post-Brexit, sometimes with a nationalist or even nativist flavour. The US political scientist Robert Putnam’s research is sometimes recruited into these arguments, as his data suggests that racially and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods have lower leve...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 23, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Political Social Source Type: blogs

The results are in from the first study of what encourages and deters people from bullshitting
By Christian Jarrett “Our country doesn’t do many things well, but when it comes to big occasions, no one else comes close,” so claimed an instructor I heard at the gym this week. He might be an expert in physical fitness but it’s doubtful this chap was drawing on any evidence or established knowledge about the UK’s standing on the international league table of pageantry or anything else, and what’s more, he probably didn’t care about his oversight. What he probably did feel is a social pressure to have an opinion on the royal wedding that took place last weekend. To borrow the ter...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 22, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Social Source Type: blogs

New research reveals our folk beliefs about immortality – we think the good and bad will live on, but in very different ways
By guest blogger Dan Jones When, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony delivers his funeral oration for his fallen friend, he famously says “The evil that men do lives on; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  Anthony was talking about how history would remember Caesar, lamenting that doing evil confers greater historical immortality than doing good. But what about literal immortality?  While there’s no room for such a notion in the scientific worldview, belief in an immortal afterlife was common throughout history and continues to this day across many cultures. Formal, codif...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 21, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: guest blogger Morality Religion Source Type: blogs

Chess grandmasters show the same longevity advantage as elite athletes
  Red and blue lines show the ratio of the yearly survival rates for Olympic medallists and Chess grandmasters, respectively, relative to the general population (flat dashed line). Shaded areas show confidence intervals. Via An Tran-Duy et al, 2018 By Christian Jarrett It’s well established that elite athletes have a longer life expectancy than the general public. A recent review of over 50 studies comprising half a million people estimated the athletic advantage to be between 4 and 8 years, on average. This comes as little surprise. One can easily imagine how the same genetic endowment and training necess...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 18, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Health Sport Source Type: blogs

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Abraham Maslow and self-actualisation – a new paper puts the record straight
By Alex Fradera Abraham Maslow was one of the great psychological presences of the twentieth century, and his concept of self-actualisation has entered our vernacular and is addressed in most psychology textbooks. A core concept of humanistic psychology, self-actualisation theory has inspired a range of psychological therapies as well as approaches taken in social work. But a number of myths have crept into our understanding of the theory and the man himself. In a new paper in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, William Compton of Middle Tennessee State University aims to put the record straight. Maslow’...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 17, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Personality The self Therapy Source Type: blogs

Three years of research into #thedress, digested – a lesson in humility for perceptual science
By Christian Jarrett Three years ago, in a time before Trump or Brexit or This Is America, someone posted an overexposed photograph of a black and blue striped dress on Tumblr. Soon millions of people had seen it and started arguing about it. The reason? It quickly became apparent that about half of us – more often women and older people – perceive the dress, not as black and blue, but white and gold. In a neat example of real life echoing a classic psychology experiment (I’m referring to Asch), #thedress was enough to make you think your friends were gas lighting you – how could it be tha...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 16, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Feature Perception Source Type: blogs

Class is still written into our psychology – working class folk are more empathic, selfless, vigilant and fatalistic
By Alex Fradera Social class may seem different today than in the early 20th Century. Former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s comment in 1997 that “we are all middle class now” had a ring of truth, given that most people in the West have access to what once were luxuries, such as running water, in-house entertainment, and eye-catching brands. But this is something of an illusion, according to Cardiff University’s Antony Manstead, who shows in the British Journal of Social Psychology (open access) how class is still written into our psychology, and the implications this has for...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 15, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Social Source Type: blogs

Study suggests your adulthood self-esteem has its roots in the way you were raised as a child
By Christian Jarrett Studies of identical and non-identical twins indicate that our self-esteem is influenced by the genes we inherited from our parents, but also, and perhaps slightly more so, by environmental factors. And according to a new study in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, these environmental influences started playing a lasting role very early in life. Ulrich Orth at the University of Bern has reported evidence that, on average, the higher the quality of a person’s home environment when they were aged between 0 and 6 years – based on warm and responsive parenting; cognitive stimulation;...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 14, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Mental health Personality The self Source Type: blogs

15-year study: stress did not increase risk of breast cancer among women with a genetic susceptibility to the disease
By Emma Young The idea that stress increases the risk of breast cancer is a persistent one, despite a number of major large-scale findings to the contrary. “Over the past 40 years, women have been exposed to strong messages about the importance of ‘thinking positively’ and reducing stress in their lives, which can add to the burden of guilt in those who develop cancer, who feel they have somehow failed”, note the authors of a new prospective study of women in Australia, published in Psycho-Oncology. Their findings suggest that neither acute nor chronic stressors recorded over a three-year period inf...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 11, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cancer Health Mental health Source Type: blogs

Sports coaches with an interest in the brain are especially prone to believing neuromyths
By Christian Jarrett Sports coaches are always on the look out for new ideas to improve their players’ performance and it’s understandable that insights from psychology and neuroscience hold particular appeal. However, as with other applied fields, it’s not easy to translate neuroscience findings into useful sports interventions. There are also a lot of charlatans who use the mystique of the brain to sell quack sports products and programmes. Without specialist neuroscience training, coaches might struggle to distinguish genuine brain insights from neuro-based flimflam. It’s in this context that a g...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 10, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Sport Source Type: blogs

More time spent abroad increases “self-concept clarity” – confidence in and clarity about who you are
By Emma Young The idea that taking a gap year allows you to “find yourself” is often derided. But if you spend that time living in one foreign country, it just might. And if you can make it years, even better.  Hajo Adam at Rice University, US, led what his team say is the first empirical investigation of the effects of living abroad on “self-concept clarity” – how clearly and confidently someone defines who they “are”. Since people are increasingly spending time living abroad for work or study – and since other “transitional” life experiences, such as gettin...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 9, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Personality The self Source Type: blogs

Our attitudes toward immigrants are related to our folk beliefs about nationality
By Christian Jarrett What is nationality? Is it something fixed that we inherit biologically from our parents or is it a characteristic that we can change and acquire? A new study in Nature Human Behaviour is the first to study people’s “folk theories” about nationality – based on surveys of US and Indian participants – and the results show that, at least in these countries, people are broadly sympathetic toward both these contrasting theories of nationality at the same time, although with a bias toward the fluid theory. The relative strength of people’s endorsement of the theories at an...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 8, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Social Source Type: blogs

Our beliefs about nationality are mixed and malleable, and may help explain attitudes toward immigration
By Christian Jarrett What is nationality? Is it something fixed that we inherit biologically from our parents or is it a characteristic that we can change and acquire? A new study in Nature Human Behaviour is the first to study people’s “folk theories” about nationality – based on surveys of US and Indian participants – and the results show that, at least in these countries, people are broadly sympathetic toward both these contrasting theories of nationality at the same time, although with a bias toward the fluid theory. The relative strength of people’s endorsement of the theories at an...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 8, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Social Source Type: blogs

Learning by teaching others is extremely effective – a new study tested a key reason why
By Christian Jarrett The learning-by-teaching effect has been demonstrated in many studies. Students who spend time teaching what they’ve learned go on to show better understanding and knowledge retention than students who simply spend the same time re-studying. What remains unresolved, however, is exactly why teaching helps the teacher better understand and retain what they’ve learned. For a new study in Applied Cognitive Psychology researchers led by Aloysius Wei Lun Koh set out to test their theory that teaching improves the teacher’s learning because it compels the teacher to retrieve what they’...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 4, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Memory Source Type: blogs

We are haunted more by regrets about not becoming the person we wanted to be, than not becoming the person we were expected to be
Regrets about not becoming our “ideal selves” are more enduring than regrets about not becoming our “ought selves” By Christian Jarrett In research published in the 1990s, psychologists asked people to list their biggest regrets in life and found that they tended to mention things they hadn’t done, rather than things they had.  Now, one of the psychologists behind that seminal research – Thomas Gilovich at Cornell University – together with his colleague Shai Davidai at The New School for Social Research – have looked into the content of people’s regrets, as oppose...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 3, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Personality Social Source Type: blogs

A radical new theory proposes that facial expressions are not emotional displays, but “tools for social influence”
Expressing sadness or seeking protection? By Emma Young You’re at a ten-pin bowling alley with some friends, you bowl your first ball – and it’s a strike. Do you instantly grin with delight? Not according to a study of bowlers, who smiled not at a moment of triumph but rather when they pivoted in their lanes, to look at their fellow bowlers.  That study provided the earliest evidence for a controversial hypothesis, the Behavioural Ecology View (BECV) of facial displays, outlined in detail in a new opinion piece in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Carlos Crivelli at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 2, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Faces Social Source Type: blogs

Even those participants who claimed pop culture is unimportant suffered psychological ill effects from feeling out of the loop
By guest blogger Tomasz Witkowski Celebrities are people famous for being famous. Have you ever given any thought to how it happens that pop-culture figures become so well-known, even when they have risen to the top upon a wave of interest for which there was not the slightest rational explanation? What is the real root cause of our lemming-like rush to keep tabs on insignificant but famous people? What leads us to share this information on social media? Why do we visit gossip portals and read tabloids, even though they’re totally worthless to us? Partial answers to these questions are given by a trio of researc...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - May 1, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: evolutionary psych guest blogger Social Source Type: blogs

New findings challenge the idea that women are more attracted to dominant men during the fertile phase of their ovulatory cycle
Women’s sexual interest in men increased at the more fertile phase of their ovulatory cycle, especially if they were already in a relationship, but there was no evidence for an increased interest specifically in dominant men By Alex Fradera In 1914, the psychologist Leta Hollingworth’s experiments punctured holes in the prevailing idea that menstruating affects women’s intellect. But a century on, the ovulation cycle continues to interest psychologists, who today focus on how it affects sexual behaviour. A popular evolutionary psychology theory states that during fertile periods, women become more in...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 30, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Dating evolutionary psych Sex Source Type: blogs

Contrary to popular belief, smiling makes you look older
By Christian Jarrett In the adverts for anti-ageing skin products, everyone is smiling, positively blooming with youthfulness. A canny move by the marketeers you might think – after all, past research has found most of us believe smiling makes people look younger. It’s just that actually, it doesn’t. It makes you look older. That’s according to a new paper in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review that explores an intriguing mismatch between our beliefs and perceptions. Tzvi Ganel at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Melvyn Goodale at the University of Western Ontario began by asking 40 particip...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 27, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Faces Perception Source Type: blogs

Taking a mere five-day break from Facebook will lower your physiological stress levels, researchers claim
By Christian Jarrett Does the prospect of taking a “Facebook holiday” fill you with dread as you picture a life of social isolation, or does it sound like an appealing and refreshing chance to change priorities? A new paper in the Journal of Social Psychology has investigated the psychological effects of taking time off from using Facebook. Given that Facebook helps keep us connected but can also expose us to many social stressors, like envy and gossip, the researchers, led by Eric Vanman at the University of Queensland, expected to find a Facebook break would be associated with a drop in life-satisfaction, but...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 26, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Facebook Mental health Source Type: blogs

Study of long-term heterosexual couples finds women over-estimate and men underestimate their partner ’s sexual advances
By Emma Young Imagine that, during a quiet evening at home watching a movie with your romantic partner, you feel intense sexual desire and sensually put a hand on your partner’s thigh. Your partner does not respond and blithely continues to watch the movie… Is your partner truly not interested in sexual activity, or did she/he simply miss your cue? So begins a new paper, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, that explores how accurate heterosexual people are at judging their partner’s attempts to initiate sex – in terms of their ability to the spot their partner’s cue...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 25, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Sex Source Type: blogs

New cross-cultural analysis suggests that g or “general intelligence” is a human universal
By Alex Fradera Intelligence is a concept that some people have a hard time buying. It’s too multifaceted, too context-dependent, too Western. The US psychologist Edwin Boring encapsulated this scepticism when he said “measurable intelligence is simply what the tests of intelligence test.” Yet the scientific credentials of the concept are undimmed, partly because intelligence is strongly associated with so many important outcomes in life. Now Utah Valley University researchers Russell Warne and Cassidy Burningham have released evidence that further strengthens the case for intelligence being a valid ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 24, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cross-cultural Intelligence Source Type: blogs

Are tweets a goldmine for psychologists or just a lot of noise? Researchers clash over the meaning of social media data
By guest blogger Jon Brock Johannes Eichstaedt was sitting in a coffee shop by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala when he received a slack about a tweet about a preprint. In 2015, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist and his colleagues published a headline-grabbing article linking heart disease to the language used on Twitter. They’d found that tweets emanating from US counties with high rates of heart disease mortality tended to exhibit high levels of negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, disengagement, aggression, and hate. The study, published in Psychological Science, has proven influential, already a...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 23, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Feature guest blogger Health Methods Twitter Source Type: blogs

Our brains rapidly and automatically process opinions we agree with as if they are facts
By Christian Jarrett In a post-truth world of alternative facts, there is understandable interest in the psychology behind why people are generally so wedded to their opinions and why it is so difficult to change minds. We already know a lot about the deliberate mental processes that people engage in to protect their world view, from seeking out confirmatory evidence (the “confirmation bias“) to questioning the methods used to marshal contradictory evidence (the scientific impotence excuse). Now a team led by Michael Gilead at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev report in Social Psychological and Personality Sci...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 20, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Decision making Thought Source Type: blogs

Study of 20,000 finds an income advantage for those judged to be very unattractive
By Alex Fradera Do chiselled features garner better pay? Researchers have previously found that income is associated with attractiveness, leading to the idea of both a beauty premium and an ugliness penalty. A common explanation is discrimination: employers seek out beautiful people and reject or ignore those harder on the eye. But in the Journal of Business Psychology, Satoshi Kanazawa and Mary Still have published research aiming to upset this. The biggest takeaway is that being perceived as very unattractive may not incur an income penalty at all. The researchers drew on a longitudinal study of 20,000 young Americ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 19, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Occupational Social Source Type: blogs

Does it matter whether your therapist is similar to you?
By Emma Young How do you choose the best possible therapist for someone who needs help? Does it make any difference if the therapist is about the same age, for instance, or the same gender, or from the same socio-economic background?  It seems intuitive that it might be easier to relate to someone from a similar background. However, while a positive relationship between client and therapist is known to be one of the most important factors for a good treatment outcome, there’s been surprisingly little work on how their respective personal attributes might interact to create a successful alliance.   Now work ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 18, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Therapy Source Type: blogs

The public find articles about education more convincing when they contain extraneous neuroscience
By Christian Jarrett Brain science is mysterious and sexy and people are more inclined to believe claims that contain superfluous neuroscience references or neuro-imagery – an effect referred to as “the seductive allure of neuroscience” or “SANE” (that’s the short story, however the literature on the effect is messy, to say the least, with a mix of successful and failed replications). One context where we might expect the seductive allure of neuroscience to be particularly problematic is in the emerging field of educational neuroscience, which seeks to use findings about the brain to imp...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 17, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Educational Source Type: blogs

First ever neuroimaging study of people in the midst of Transcendental Meditation
By Christian Jarrett It is possible to pay attention effortlessly, your mind “pulled by the inherent nature of the object of experience”. In fact, with practice, doing so can “lead you to experience inner silence, tranquility, peace and transcendence”. That’s according to a research team led by Michelle Mahone at the California School of Professional Psychology, who have published in Brain and Cognition what they describe as the first neuroimaging study of people in the midst of Transcendental Meditation (TM). The 16 women volunteers (average age 60) had practised TM for an average o...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 16, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain In Brief Source Type: blogs

People with “misophonia” find background chewing sounds so annoying it affects their ability to learn
By Alex Fradera Research in clinical settings shows that some people with mental health problems experience extreme distress when hearing non-speech vocal sounds, like coughs and chewing noises, a phenomenon called “misophonia”. Now research from Amanda Seaborne at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Logan Fiorella at the University of Georgia, published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, suggests that this issue exists in the broader population, and that people sensitive to these sounds perform poorly in their presence. Seventy-two undergraduates sat in a cubicle and read a technical text about...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 16, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: In Brief Perception Source Type: blogs

Becoming the real you: Do we become more authentic as we get older?
By Christian Jarrett Do you think you are closer to your “true self” today than in the past? If so, is this a work in progress? Will the you of the future be even more authentic than you are today? A pair of US psychologists recently put these kind of questions to over 250 volunteers across two studies, to find out if there is a general pattern in the way that we think about the development of our true selves. Reporting their findings in Self and Identity, Elizabeth Seto and Rebecca Schlegel found there is a tendency for us to see ourselves as becoming progressively more authentic through life. “If these ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 13, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Personality Source Type: blogs

Around 20 to 30 per cent of us hear something when viewing silent videos – do you?
People who hear silent videos are more likely to report other synaesthesias, including seeing flashes upon hearing sounds in the dark / giphy.com By Emma Young If you have a couple of minutes, click through to this survey site of “noisy gifs” – brief silent movies that, for some people at least, evoke illusory sounds. If you hear a thwack when fists collide with a punchbag, or a yell while watching a man silently scream, then you’re experiencing a “visual-evoked auditory response” (vEAR), also called “hearing motion synaesthesia”. Ten years after the first, preliminary journa...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 12, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Perception Source Type: blogs

Ad hominem attacks on scientists can be as damaging as critiques of their evidence
Any allegations of past bad behavior, whether directly relevant or not, made a researcher’s claims appear suspect By Alex Fradera To punch holes in a scientific claim, it’s legitimate to critique the supporting evidence, or query the way the evidence has been interpreted. More questionable is to throw dirt on the character or capability of the researcher making the claim. New research in PLOS One explores the effectiveness of ad hominem attacks against scientists and shows that some are more damaging than others.  Ralph Barnes of Montana State University and his team asked around 500 undergraduate st...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 11, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Social Source Type: blogs

Caffeine causes widespread brain entropy (and that ’s a good thing)
By Christian Jarrett Basic neuroscience teaches us how individual brain cells communicate with each other, like neighbours chatting over the garden fence. This is a vital part of brain function. Increasingly however neuroscientists are zooming out and studying the information processing that happens within and between neural networks across the entire brain, more akin to the complex flow of digital information constantly pulsing around the globe. This has led them to realise the importance of what they call “brain entropy” – intense complexity and irregular variability in brain activity from one mome...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 10, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Intelligence Source Type: blogs

An over-abundance of toys may stifle toddler creativity
By Emma Young When my kids were toddlers, there were caches of easily-accessible toys in most rooms of our house. But perhaps I should have kept most of them stored away, and brought just a few out at a time, on rotation – because the results of a new study in Infant Behaviour and Development suggest that a toddler with few toy options not only spends longer playing with each one – presumably developing their attentional skills – but is also more creative in their play. Carly Dauch at the University of Toledo, US, and her colleagues studied 36 toddlers, aged between 18 and 30 months. The researchers drew...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 9, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Source Type: blogs

What are the psychological effects of losing your religion?
By Christian Jarrett For many, their religion is a core part of their identity, the meaning they find in life, and their social world. It seems likely that changing this crucial aspect of themselves will have significant psychological consequences. A devout person would probably predict these will be unwelcome – increased emotional distress, isolation and waywardness. A firm atheist, on the other hand, might see the potential positives – perhaps the “deconvert” will grow in open-mindedness and thrive thanks to their newfound free thinking and spiritual freedom. A new study in Psychology of Reli...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 6, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Religion Source Type: blogs

This is what happened when psychologists gave toddlers a version of the classic Marshmallow Test
By Christian Jarrett The US psychologist Walter Mischel famously tested children’s ability – aged four to six – to delay immediate gratification with his “Marshmallow Experiment”. It’s become a classic, not least because the children who were better at resisting one marshmallow now, for the promise of two if they waited, went on to enjoy more success in adult life. Mischel also showed that children with stronger willpower used better distraction strategies, such as looking away or covering their eyes. Now a group of Polish psychologists have extended this line of inquiry to toddlers...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 5, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Source Type: blogs

Mind your tongue: teen swearers perceived as less trustworthy and less intelligent
By Emma Young Crap. Merde. Ibn sharmoota.* Swear words exist in most cultures (Japan is a notable exception), and many of us use them so casually and so frequently that by the time children start school, they have, according to one count, acquired a profanity bank of 30 to 40 words. (My own seven-year-old loves to whisper “fricking” in a friend’s ear, making them both giggle guiltily. My only defence is that he certainly didn’t get that one from me…) Since even words like “f.” are used conversationally, at least in the US and UK, surely they’ve lost the power to trigger a ne...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 4, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Language Source Type: blogs

“Another nail in the coffin for learning styles” – students did not benefit from studying according to their supposed learning style
By Christian Jarrett The idea that we learn better when taught via our preferred modality or “learning style” – such as visually, orally, or by doing – is not supported by evidence. Nonetheless the concept remains hugely popular, no doubt in part because learning via our preferred style can lead us to feel like we’ve learned more, even though we haven’t. Some advocates of the learning styles approach argue that the reason for the lack of evidence to date is that students do so much of their learning outside of class. According to this view, psychologists have failed to find evidence for ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - April 3, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Source Type: blogs

The Psychology of Fighting, Digested: 9 Fascinating Findings Involving Boxing and Other Combat Sports
This study showed that fighting in training does not adequately simulate the affective and cognitive demands of fighting in competition,” the researchers concluded. The psychology behind who you think is the greatest ever boxer Whatever the sport, if you play the game of “Who was the greatest?” your judgment will probably be swayed by the “availability heuristic” (we judge as more important those examples that we can bring more easily to mind) and the “reminiscence bump” (we find it easier to recall memories from our teens and early twenties). So if you are in your youth today, it ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 29, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Feature Sport Source Type: blogs

54-study analysis says power posing does affect people ’s emotions and is worth researching further
By Emma Young Does power-posing –  such as standing with your hands on your hips and your feet spaced well apart – really help to improve your life? Yes – according to Amy Cuddy, one of the pioneers of the idea, at Harvard University (famous for her massively popular TED talk on the subject and her best-selling book Presence). No – according to a critical analysis by Joseph Simmons and Uri Simonsohn at the University of Pennsylvania, published in Psychological Science in 2017. The pair’s statistical analysis of 33 previous studies of potential posture effects led them to a damni...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 28, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Methods Replications Source Type: blogs

How well can university roommates judge each other ’s distress levels?
By Christian Jarrett With suicide among university students on the increase in England and Wales, there’s an urgent need to find better ways to support those students who are experiencing distress. Many campuses have provisions in place, such as student counselling services, but students often prefer to turn to their peers in times of need. This raises the possibility that students themselves are best placed to sound the alarm if and when one of their friends is going through a crisis. A new study from the US – where there are similar concerns about student mental health issues – has investigated how...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 27, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Source Type: blogs

Can you mind wander if you have damaged hippocampi?
By Christian Jarrett The hippocampus is a structure found on both sides of the brain in the temporal lobes, near the ears. It plays an important role in memory and thinking about the past and future. This led a team of researchers, led by Cornelia McCormick at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, to wonder if people with damage to both hippocampi are still capable of mind-wandering – after all, when we mind wander or day-dream, a lot of the time it is about things we’ve done or plan to do. And if these patients can mind wander, will the content of their mind-wandering thoughts be different from heal...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 27, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Cognition Memory Source Type: blogs

Can your mind wander if you have damaged hippocampi?
By Christian Jarrett The hippocampus is a structure found on both sides of the brain in the temporal lobes, near the ears. It plays an important role in memory and thinking about the past and future. This led a team of researchers, led by Cornelia McCormick at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, to wonder if people with damage to both hippocampi are still capable of mind-wandering – after all, when we mind wander or day-dream, a lot of the time it is about things we’ve done or plan to do. And if these patients can mind wander, will the content of their mind-wandering thoughts be different from heal...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 27, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Cognition Memory Source Type: blogs

Sorry, but imagining you ’re a professor won’t make you smarter (an unsuccessful mass replication of the Professor Prime effect)
It’s another blow for “social priming” but a success for non-adversarial science By Alex Fradera A pre-registered mass replication attempt published in Perspectives on Psychological Science has raised doubts about another celebrated psychology finding. The collaboration between 40 laboratories found scant evidence for the so-called “Professor Prime”, undermining the famous finding that when people imagined themselves as a professor rather than a football hooligan it led them to perform better on a trivia quiz. In the original study, published in 1998, the Dutch researchers Ap Dijksterhui...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 26, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Intelligence Replications Social Source Type: blogs

This cheap, brief “growth mindset” intervention shifted struggling students onto a more successful trajectory
By guest blogger Bradley Busch Can a brief video telling students that it’s possible to improve their intelligence and abilities make much difference to their educational outcomes? And if fostering a “growth mindset” in this way does make a difference, does it benefit all students and schools equally? Research on growth mindset over the past twenty years has progressed from experiments in a laboratory into real world settings, such as classrooms. This has shown that having a growth mindset leads to a small but positive improvement in grades and better mental health. But to date, little work has examined w...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 23, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational guest blogger Source Type: blogs

Can excessive small talk really make us miserable?
By Emma Young If you want to feel happier, avoid small talk and aim instead for profound conversations. That was the message the mainstream media took from a well-publicised paper published in Psychological Science in 2010 (e.g. Talk Deeply, Be Happy? asked the New York Times). But now an extension of that study, in press at the same journal (available as a pre-print), and involving two of the psychologists behind the original work, has found no evidence that how much – or little – time  you spend chatting about the weather or what you’re having for dinner will affect your life satisfaction...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 22, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Replications Social Source Type: blogs

New findings contradict headline-grabbing paper that suggested excessive small talk makes us miserable
By Emma Young If you want to feel happier, avoid small talk and aim instead for profound conversations. That was the message the mainstream media took from a well-publicised paper published in Psychological Science in 2010 (e.g. Talk Deeply, Be Happy? asked the New York Times). But now an extension of that study, in press at the same journal (available as a pre-print), and involving two of the psychologists behind the original work, has found no evidence that how much – or little – time  you spend chatting about the weather or what you’re having for dinner will affect your life satisfaction...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 22, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Replications Social Source Type: blogs

Why do we think of the future as being in front? New clues from study of people born blind
By Alex Fradera Where is the future? The tendency in our culture – and most, but not all, others – is to compare the body’s movement through space with its passage through time: ahead are the things we are on our way to encounter. We intuit that the past is linked to the space behind and the future to that in front. But research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General has found that some Western people buck this tendency: those born blind. A team led by Luca Rinaldi of the University of Pavia recruited 17 normally sighted local participants and 17 participants of similar age who had early...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - March 21, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Perception Time Source Type: blogs