Story-listening shows promise as an intervention for people living with dementia
By Emma Young Listening to a story is known to be cognitively demanding, in part because the listener has to pay close attention to, and remember, plot and character detail in order to understand what’s going on. Attention and memory are both diminished in people living with dementia. Might regularly reading aloud to such patients help, then, to train their attention and memory, and function as a treatment? A new study of people with various kinds of dementia, published in Psychology and Neuroscience, suggests that it could.  A total of 43 patients with Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia or general cognitive ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 18, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Memory Source Type: blogs

Encouraging self-compassion may help people with chronic pain lead more active, happier lives
This study suggests mindfulness (which was not linked with greater activity) may also be useful in decreasing depression, but by other means, possibly through creating distance from unhelpful thoughts that may arise around pain or the experience of disability.  As cross-sectional research, we can’t draw clear causal conclusions from the new findings, but they do help us refine our understanding of which mechanisms are more likely to increase pain acceptance. The findings may also help pain management professionals focus their methods, providing people with the ground from which they can build and sustain a life ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 17, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Health Source Type: blogs

Encouraging self-compassion may help people with chronic pain live more active, happier lives
This study suggests mindfulness (which was not linked with greater activity) may also be useful in decreasing depression, but by other means, possibly through creating distance from unhelpful thoughts that may arise around pain or the experience of disability.  As cross-sectional research, we can’t draw clear causal conclusions from the new findings, but they do help us refine our understanding of which mechanisms are more likely to increase pain acceptance. The findings may also help pain management professionals focus their methods, providing people with the ground from which they can build and sustain a life ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 17, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Health Source Type: blogs

Many undergrad psych textbooks do a poor job of describing science and exploring psychology ’s place in it
By guest blogger Tomasz Witkowski Psychology as a scientific field enjoys a tremendous level of popularity throughout society, a fascination that could even be described as religious. This is likely the reason why it is one of the most popular undergraduate majors in American and European universities. At the same time, it is not uncommon to encounter the firm opinion that psychology in no way qualifies for consideration as a science. Such extremely critical opinions about psychology are often borrowed from authorities – after all, it was none other than the renowned physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 16, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational guest blogger Methods Textbooks Source Type: blogs

Growth mindset doesn ’t only apply to learning – it’s better to encourage your child to help, than to be “a helper”
Children primed to think of themselves as “helpers” were more discouraged when things didn’t go to plan By Emma Young According to the Mindset Theory, if you tell a child repeatedly that they’re smart, it makes them less willing to push themselves when they get stuck on an intellectual challenge, presumably because failure would threaten their self-image of being a “smart kid”. For this reason, effort-based praise – rewarding kids for “working hard” rather than “being smart” – is widely recommended (though it’s not the same for adults). But does ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 15, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Source Type: blogs

What Are We Like? 10 Psychology Findings That Reveal The Worst Of Human Nature
By Christian Jarrett It’s a question that’s reverberated through the ages – are we humans, though imperfect, essentially kind, sensible, good-natured creatures? Or deep down are we wired to be bad, blinkered, idle, vain, vengeful and selfish? There are no easy answers and there’s clearly a lot of variation between individuals, but this feature post aims to shine some evidence-based light on the matter. Here in the first part of a two-part feature – and deliberately side-stepping the obviously relevant but controversial and already much-discussed Milgram, Zimbardo and Asch studies – we di...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 12, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Feature Source Type: blogs

There ’s a fascinating psychological story behind why your favourite film baddies all have a truly evil laugh
By guest blogger David Robson Towards the end of the Disney film Aladdin, our hero’s love rival, the evil Jafar, discovers Aladdin’s secret identity and steals his magic lamp. Jafar’s wish to become the world’s most powerful sorcerer is soon granted and he then uses his powers to banish Aladdin to the ends of the Earth.  What follows next is a lingering, close-up of Jafar’s body. He leans forward, fists clenched, with an almost constipated look on his face. He then explodes in uncontrollable cackles that echo across the landscape. For many millennials growing up in the 1990s, it is a...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 11, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: evolutionary psych guest blogger Laughter Media Source Type: blogs

There ’s a fascinating psychological story behind why your favourite fictional baddies all have a truly evil laugh
By guest blogger David Robson Towards the end of the Disney film Aladdin, our hero’s love rival, the evil Jafar, discovers Aladdin’s secret identity and steals his magic lamp. Jafar’s wish to become the world’s most powerful sorcerer is soon granted and he then uses his powers to banish Aladdin to the ends of the Earth.  What follows next is a lingering, close-up of Jafar’s body. He leans forward, fists clenched, with an almost constipated look on his face. He then explodes in uncontrollable cackles that echo across the landscape. For many millennials growing up in the 1990s, it is a...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 11, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: evolutionary psych guest blogger Laughter Media Source Type: blogs

Shame may feel awful but new cross-cultural evidence shows it is fundamental to our survival
The 15 sites the researchers visited to study shame, from Sznycer et al 2018 By Emma Young Shame feels so awful it’s hard to see how it could have an upside, especially when you consider specific triggers of the emotion – such as body-shaming, which involves criticising someone for how their body looks. But is shame always an ugly emotion that we should try to do away with? Or can it be helpful?  The answer, according to a new study published in PNAS of 899 people from all over the world is that, as an emotion, shame can not only be useful but is fundamental to our ability to survive and thrive in a g...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 10, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cross-cultural Emotion evolutionary psych Source Type: blogs

“My-side bias” makes it difficult for us to see the logic in arguments we disagree with
By Christian Jarrett In what feels like an increasingly polarised world, trying to convince the “other side” to see things differently often feels futile. Psychology has done a great job outlining some of the reasons why, including showing that, regardless of political leanings, most people are highly motivated to protect their existing views. However a problem with some of this research is that it is very difficult to concoct opposing real-life arguments of equal validity, so as to make a fair comparison of people’s treatment of arguments they agree and disagree with. To get around this problem...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 9, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Thought Source Type: blogs

A cartography of consciousness – researchers map where subjective feelings are located in the body
Bodily feeling maps, from Nummenmaa et al, 2018 By guest blogger Mo Costandi “How do you feel?” is a simple and commonly asked question that belies the complex nature of our conscious experiences. The feelings and emotions we experience daily consist of bodily sensations, often accompanied by some kind of thought process, yet we still know very little about exactly how these different aspects relate to one another, or about how such experiences are organised in the brain.   Now, reporting their results in PNAS, a team of researchers in Finland, led by neuroscientist Lauri Nummenmaa of the University o...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 8, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: biological Emotion guest blogger Source Type: blogs

Students ’ mistaken beliefs about how much their peers study could be harming their exam performance
By Christian Jarrett A lot of us use what we consider normal behaviour – based on how we think most other people like us behave – to guide our own judgments and decisions. When these perceptions are wide of the mark (known as “pluralistic ignorance”), this can affect our behaviour in detrimental ways. The most famous example concerns students’ widespread overestimation of how much their peers drink alcohol, which influences them to drink more themselves. Now a team led by Steven Buzinksi at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has investigated whether students’ pluralisti...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 5, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Source Type: blogs

Students ’ mistaken beliefs about how much their peers typically study could be harming their exam performance in some surprising ways
By Christian Jarrett A lot of us use what we consider normal behaviour – based on how we think most other people like us behave – to guide our own judgments and decisions. When these perceptions are wide of the mark (known as “pluralistic ignorance”), this can affect our behaviour in detrimental ways. The most famous example concerns students’ widespread overestimation of how much their peers drink alcohol, which influences them to drink more themselves. Now a team led by Steven Buzinksi at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has investigated whether students’ pluralisti...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 5, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Source Type: blogs

A brief jog sharpens the mind, boosting attentional control and perceptual speed. Now researchers are figuring out why
By Christian Jarrett If you wanted to ensure your mind was in top gear, which do you think would provide the better preparation – 15 minutes of calm relaxation, or a 15 minute jog? A study involving 101 undergrad students suggests you’d be better off plumping for the latter. Evidence had already accumulated showing that relatively brief, moderate aerobic exercise – like going for a brisk walk or a jog – has immediate benefits for mental functioning, especially speed and attentional control. A parallel literature has also documented how brief, aerobic exercise has beneficial effects on your mood, inc...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 4, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition In Brief Sport Source Type: blogs

Most of us have some insight into our personality traits, but how self-aware are we in the moment?
Correlations between momentary self-views and observed behaviour, from Sun and Vazire, 2018. By guest blogger Jesse Singal Your ability to accurately understand your own thoughts and behaviour in a given moment can have rather profound consequences. If you don’t realise you’re growing loud and domineering during a heated company meeting, that could affect your standing at work. If you react in an oversensitive manner to a fair and measured criticism levelled at you by your romantic partner, it could spark a fight. It’s no wonder, then, that psychology researchers are interested in the question of how...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 3, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: guest blogger Personality The self Source Type: blogs

Researchers find the most plausible cause of wellbeing decline in youth is increased screen time
A new paper analyses wellbeing and lifestyle data from over a million US youth By Alex Fradera Have young people never had it so good, or do they face more challenges than any generation? Our current era in the West is one of high wealth and relatively free of deprivation, meaning minors enjoy material benefits and legal protections that would be the envy of those living in the past. But there is an increasing suspicion that all is not well for our youth, and one of the most popular explanations, among some experts and the popular media, is that excessive “screen time” is to blame (all the attention young ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 2, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Technology Source Type: blogs

Resolving “He said/She said” – Researchers outline a method for verifying the accuracy of eye-witness memories
This study also found that asking a participant how confident they were in the accuracy of a particular memory provided no additionally useful information, on top of the hedge, delay and filler data.) These studies do have some limitations. The number of participants was small. And they were interviewed immediately after viewing the events they were asked to describe, which would rarely happen in real life eye-witness situations. Might delays in interviewing make it harder to use effort cues to predict statement accuracy? Only further research will tell.  Also, while use of a greater use of filler words and hedges was...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 1, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Forensic Memory Source Type: blogs

This is what happened to fathers ’ hormone levels when they watched their kids play football
By Christian Jarrett The effect of playing sport on men’s testosterone levels is well documented. Generally speaking, the winner enjoys a testosterone boost, while the loser experiences the opposite (though far less studied, competition unsurprisingly also affects women’s hormonal levels, though not in the same ways as men’s). The evolutionary-based explanation for the hormonal effects seen in men is that the winner’s testosterone rise acts to increase their aggression and the likelihood that they will seek out more contests, while the loser skulks off to lick their wounds. When it comes to vicariou...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 28, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: biological evolutionary psych Sport Source Type: blogs

How to give up your cake – and eat it, too
By Emma Young You’re in a packed food court, searching for somewhere to sit. Just as you spot a communal table with two free spaces, one much bigger and more comfortable-looking than the other, you realise there’s a person standing beside you with a tray and they are looking for somewhere to sit, too. What do you do? Rush to take the better seat – but appear selfish? Or let them have it, so seem generous – but eat your lunch in cramped discomfort?  A new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that you should do neither. Instead, you should say something like, “...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 27, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Language Social featured Source Type: blogs

Dutch study finds minorities are more prone to belief in conspiracies
By Alex Fradera Psychologists have already established that minority groups are particularly likely to endorse conspiracy theories that involve them. For instance, the idea that AIDS was concocted in a lab to plague black people or that birth control is black genocide have been shown to have particular traction within African-American communities. It’s thought this is because members of disadvantaged groups find comfort in explanatory frameworks that appear to account for the various factors that beleaguer them. But new research from VU Amsterdam and published in Applied Cognitive Psychology suggests that b...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 26, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Race Religion Social Source Type: blogs

The in-vogue psychological construct “Grit” is an example of redundant labelling in personality psychology, claims new paper
By Christian Jarrett Part of the strength of the widely endorsed Big Five model of personality is its efficient explanatory power – in the traits of Extraversion, Neuroticism, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, it removes the redundancy of more fine-grained approaches and manages to capture the most meaningful variance in our habits of thought and behaviour. So what to make then of the popular proposal that what marks out high achievers from the rest is that they rank highly on another trait labelled as “Grit”? Is the recognition of Grit, and the development of a scale to measure it, a breakth...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 25, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Methods Personality Source Type: blogs

The “liking gap” – we tend to underestimate the positive first impression we make on strangers
This study also revealed an “enjoyment gap”: regardless of the length of the conversation, the participants under-estimated how much their partner enjoyed it.  The fourth and fifth studies moved the investigation out of the lab, into real-world settings: workshops for entrepreneurs and members of the British public on “how to talk to strangers”, and into first-year dormitory suites at Yale University.   The workshop data (involving 100 people) showed that participants tended to predict that their conversation partner would find them less interesting than they would find their partner to be...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 24, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Social Source Type: blogs

Are emos, goths and rockers at increased risk of self-harm and suicide?
By Alex Fradera Every year three quarters of a million people take their own lives, and suicide is the leading cause of death in adolescents. Non-lethal self-harm is also prolific, leading annually to around 300,000 UK hospital visits, with even more going unreported. Knowing who is at most risk can inform support and prevention efforts. The higher rates of self-harm in LGBT and minority groups are well-established, and now a new review article in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology identifies other groups, including goths, emos and metalheads, who may also be at increased risk. The British team, led by Mairea...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 21, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Suicide/ self-harm Source Type: blogs

International survey finds over 40 per cent of men have experienced “post-coital dysphoria”
By Emma Young Immediately after consensual and satisfactory sex, most people report feeling positive, content and psychologically close to their partner. But for some, it has the opposite effect, leaving them tearful and irritable for anything from a few minutes to a few hours. Commonly known as the “post-sex blues”, psychologists call it “post-coital dysphoria” (PCD) and until recently they had only studied it in women. For example, in 2015, Robert D Schweitzer at the Queensland University of Technology led a study of 230 Australian female students, in which 46 per cent reported experiencing PCD at...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 20, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Sex Source Type: blogs

Can attachment theory help explain the relationship some people have with their “anorexia voice”?
By Alex Fradera A new paper in Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice argues that the relationship a person has with their eating disorder is shaped by that person’s understanding of what meaningful relationships should look like – and, in turn, this can have important consequences for the severity of their disorder. In particular, Emma Forsén Mantilla and her team from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden wanted to better understand eating disorders through “attachment theory”. This is the idea that relationships with primary caregivers become scripts that we lea...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 19, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Eating Mental health Source Type: blogs

UK study finds children with maths difficulties (SLDM/dyscalculia) far less likely to receive an official diagnosis than their peers with dyslexia
By Christian Jarrett Given how important maths skills are in everyday life, it is vital that we develop ways to reliably identify those children with particular learning difficulties related to maths (known as “specific learning disorder in mathematics”/SLDM or dyscalculia) so that they can be provided with appropriate support. Unfortunately, maths-related learning problems are far less understood and recognised compared with similar problems related to reading and language. A recent study in the British Journal of Psychology highlights this issue, being the first to estimate the prevalence of SLDM/dyscalc...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 18, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Source Type: blogs

UK study finds the likelihood of children with maths difficulties (SLDM/dyscalculia) receiving an official diagnosis is substantially lower than for their peers with dyslexia
By Christian Jarrett Given how important maths skills are in everyday life, it is vital that we develop ways to reliably identify those children with particular learning difficulties related to maths (known as “specific learning disorder in mathematics”/SLDM or dyscalculia) so that they can be provided with appropriate support. Unfortunately, maths-related learning problems are far less understood and recognised compared with similar problems related to reading and language. A recent study in the British Journal of Psychology highlights this issue, being the first to estimate the prevalence of SLDM/dyscalc...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 18, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Source Type: blogs

UK study finds children with maths difficulties (SLDM/dyscalculia) are 100 times less likely to receive an official diagnosis than peers with dyslexia
By Christian Jarrett Given how important maths skills are in everyday life, it is vital that we develop ways to reliably identify those children with particular learning difficulties related to maths (known as “specific learning disorder in mathematics”/SLDM or dyscalculia) so that they can be provided with appropriate support. Unfortunately, maths-related learning problems are far less understood and recognised compared with similar problems related to reading and language. A recent study in the British Journal of Psychology highlights this issue, being the first to estimate the prevalence of SLDM/dyscalc...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 18, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Source Type: blogs

Who likes to be alone? Not introverts, according to a new paper on personality and the experience of solitude
By Christian Jarrett Why do some people go to great lengths to have the chance to spend time by themselves, while others find solitude painful and forever crave company? The most obvious answer would seem to be that it relates to differences in social aspects of personality, and specifically that extraverts will find solitude painful while introverts will enjoy their own company more than anyone else’s. However, a new paper, published as a pre-print at PsyArXiv (not yet peer-reviewed), and involving three diary studies with hundreds of undergrad volunteers, suggests the truth is more complicated. In fact, there was n...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 17, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Personality Source Type: blogs

New study of trash talking in sport highlights that it is more than a physical contest
BERLIN – JULY 06: Zinedine Zidane (L) of France exchanges words with Andrea Pirlo of Italy, after headbutting Marco Materazzi of Italy in the chest during the FIFA World Cup Final in Germany. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images) By Christian Jarrett Alongside the physical jostle, thrust and tug of sport there is a parallel contest involving words. This trash talking between players before, during and after games is well known, yet surprisingly unstudied by psychologists. Yet these exchanges play a major role,  arguably swinging the outcome of games. Consider an infamous example: the 2006 football world cup fin...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 14, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: evolutionary psych Language Sport Source Type: blogs

Women who practice submissive BDSM displayed reduced empathy and an atypical neural response to other people ’s pain
This study is limited to one subgroup of people who practice BDSM, and doesn’t implicate the wider field. The fact that the effects were initially discovered for women, not men, may reflect the fact that men tend to be less empathic to begin with. And the online study’s identification of submissive practitioners, rather than dominant ones, as having lower than normal empathy and an atypical response to pain, could reflect that this is the subset of people who willingly expose themselves to pain experience, which could be densensitising, or because this group is made up of individuals started out less sensitised...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 13, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Sex Source Type: blogs

Women who practice submissive BDSM have reduced empathy and an atypical neural response to other people ’s pain
This study is limited to one subgroup of people who practice BDSM, and doesn’t implicate the wider field. The fact that the effects were initially discovered for women, not men, may reflect the fact that men tend to be less empathic to begin with. And the online study’s identification of submissive practitioners, rather than dominant ones, as having lower than normal empathy and an atypical response to pain, could reflect that this is the subset of people who willingly expose themselves to pain experience, which could be densensitising, or because this group is made up of individuals started out less sensitised...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 13, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Sex Source Type: blogs

Are educational neuromyths actually harmful? Award-winning teachers believe in nearly as many of them as trainees
The researchers said the idea that neuromyths harm teaching may itself be a neuromyth By Christian Jarrett Educational neuromyths include the idea that we learn more effectively when taught via our preferred “learning style”, such as auditory or visual or kinesthetic (hear more about this in our recent podcast); the claim that we use only 10 per cent of our brains; and the idea we can be categorised into left-brain and right-brain learners. Belief in such myths is rife among teachers around the world, according to several surveys published over the last ten years. But does this matter? Are the myths actually ha...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 12, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Educational Source Type: blogs

Virtual reality research finds large sex difference in navigational efficiency
This study goes a little further, in that it investigates the kinds of strategies that men and women tend to choose themselves. (Interestingly, the strategies that the participants actually used didn’t match up well with the kinds of strategies they reported generally taking.) Still, the findings do tally with those suggesting that men tend to be superior navigators in situations in which: a). It’s possible to create a mental map, and b). that map can be useful (in an environment where shortcuts aren’t possible, it’s not likely to help). The researchers do stress, however, that some women in their s...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 11, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Gender Source Type: blogs

The first study to explore what cisgender kids think of their transgender peers
Cisgender kids who categorised their transgender peers by natal sex also showed less liking of them, mirroring similar findings with adults By Christian Jarrett With an increasing number of young children transitioning socially to the gender opposite to their birth sex, and with rates of bullying and discrimination against transgender youth known to be high, researchers say it is important that we begin to understand more about how cisgender children (those whose gender identity matches their biological sex at birth) view their transgender peers. A new paper in the Journal of Cognition and Development is the first to explo...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 7, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Gender Source Type: blogs

Can hallucinations lead to post-traumatic growth?
By Alex Fradera If you contemplate how a person’s life would be changed by starting to hear or see things others can’t, can you imagine it could offer anything good? A research team from Hull university and the surrounding NHS trusts suggest that among the tumult, hallucinations can also offer opportunities for growth. Writing in the Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy, lead author Lily Dixon and her team detail the experiences of seven people who have lived with verbal or auditory hallucinations and how, amid the struggles, their journeys have taken them to some positive places. The five men and two ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 6, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Qualitative Source Type: blogs

Super altruists (who ’ve donated a kidney to a stranger) show heightened empathic brain activity when witnessing strangers in pain
By Christian Jarrett From an evolutionary perspective, altruistic behaviour is still a bit of mystery to psychologists, especially when it comes with a hefty cost to the self and is aimed at complete strangers. One explanation is that altruism is driven by empathy – experiencing other people’s distress the same way as, or similar to, how we experience our own. However, others have criticized this account – most notably psychologist Paul Bloom, author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion. Their reasons are many, but among them is the fact that our empathy tends to be greatest for people who...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 5, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Morality Social Source Type: blogs

The “experiential advantage” is not universal – the less well-off get equal or more happiness from buying things
By guest blogger Juliet Hodges Being rich(er) may not guarantee happiness, as shown by ample evidence from the social sciences, but there are ways of spending money that will make you happier than others. Recent research has uncovered the “experiential advantage”: greater happiness from spending money on experiences (holidays, meals, theatre tickets) instead of material things (gadgets, clothes, jewellery). This could be for a number of reasons, such as experiences being more closely aligned with our values and being less likely to produce rumination and regret. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Stu...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 4, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion guest blogger Money Source Type: blogs

Study of 8000 workers finds that gender differences in “achievement motivation” may explain part of the gender pay gap
This study wasn’t trying to provide us with all the answers. What it does show is clear: that, in aggregate, confidence in success and less fear of failure have real effects on wages, and that this may be relevant to the gender pay gap. One might expect that in certain roles and situations, gender differences in confidence could matter even more.  Based on their findings, Risse and her team suggest it may help reduce the gender pay gap for some women to undertake motivational and confidence training (although, as they note, personality is not infinitely malleable). The researchers also question whether there is ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 2, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Gender Occupational Personality Source Type: blogs

While your deliberate “monogamy maintenance strategies” probably won’t keep you faithful, your automatic psychological biases just might
By Alex Fradera Half of us have been unfaithful in our lifetime, and one in five people within their current relationship. As sexual infidelity is the primary cause of divorce and one of the hardest issues to address in couples therapy, identifying any useful defences could make a huge difference to people’s happiness. In a recent paper in Personal Relationships Brenda Lee and Lucia O’Sullivan from the University of New Brunswick investigated what strategies people in relationships use to reduce the chances they will cheat – so-called “monogomy maintainance strategies” – and lo...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 31, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Dating Sex Source Type: blogs

Beyond the invisible gorilla – inattention can also render us numb and anosmic (without smell)
This study investigated touch awareness when the brain was already focusing on a touch task. But there’s evidence from earlier work that, for inattentional effects to occur, the two stimuli do not have to involve the same senses, and the new paper in Psychological Science on inattentional anosmia also finds this.  Charles Spence, head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford, and Sophie Forster at the University of Sussex, looked at the effects of performing a high vs. low attentional-load visual task on scent awareness.  Across a series of experiments, groups of participants had to...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 30, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Perception Source Type: blogs

Episode 13: How To Study And Learn More Effectively
This is Episode 13 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here. http://traffic.libsyn.com/psychcrunch/20160829_PsychCrunch_Ep13_Mx1.mp3 Can psychology help us to learn better? Our presenter Christian Jarrett discovers the best evidence-backed strategies for learning, including the principle of spacing, the benefits of testing yourself and teaching others. He also hears about the perils of overconfidence and the lack of evidence for popular educational ideas like “learning styles” and “brain gym&rdqu...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 29, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Podcast Source Type: blogs

“Act more like an extravert” intervention has “wholly positive” benefits for many, but there are drawbacks for introverts
By Christian Jarrett For decades, personality psychologists have noticed a striking, consistent pattern: extraverts are happier more of the time than introverts. For anyone interested in promoting wellbeing, this has raised the question of whether it might be beneficial to encourage people to act more extraverted. Evidence to date has suggested it might. For example, regardless of their usual disposition, people tend to report feeling happier and more authentic whenever they are behaving more like an extravert (that is, more sociable, active and assertive). That’s a mere correlation that could be interpreted in diffe...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 24, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Mental health Personality Source Type: blogs

First randomised-controlled trial of an employee “Wellness Programme” suggests they are a waste of money
This study can’t speak to why certain individuals are deterred from signing up, but perhaps it has to do with their other commitments and dependents, and their perceptions of the programmes as somehow not for them. To increase up-take among these groups will therefore likely require addressing these perceptions and providing additional support to help overcome any obstacles to taking part.  For now, the impression of a positive impact given by wellness programmes looks largely a mirage. —What Do Workplace Wellness Programs Do? Evidence from the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study Alex Fradera (@alexfrad...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 23, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Occupational Source Type: blogs

For some, experiencing trauma may act as a form of cognitive training that increases their mental control
By Emma Young That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… It’s an adage that’s backed up in part by studies of people who’ve been through a trauma, such as a car accident or a robbery. While it’s true that around 7-8 per cent of trauma survivors develop chronic PTSD and experience persistent intrusive, unwanted memories of the event, most people recover quickly, and some even report better mental health than they had before (generally when the trauma has been moderate, rather than severe). But what underpins so-called “post-traumatic growth?” A new paper in the Jour...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 22, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Source Type: blogs

New findings explain why, if you ’re sensitive to alcohol, you’re probably sensitive to sleep deprivation too
This study therefore provides evidence that alcohol and sleep deprivation affect the adenosine system in very similar ways, and that personal differences in this system likely contribute to the way our sensitivity or resilience to both manifests as an individual trait (although the full picture is more complicated – sensitivity to alcohol, for example, is known to depend on a number of factors and has been linked to several genetic variations). Though these results are important, they have several limitations. The volunteers underwent more experimental conditions than included in the key analysis of the effects ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 21, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Alcohol biological Brain Cognition guest blogger Sleep and dreaming Source Type: blogs

Contrary to popular psychological theory, believers in free will were no more generous or honest
By Christian Jarrett There’s a popular idea in psychology that among the important factors shaping our honesty and generosity is our belief in the concept of free will. Believe more strongly in free will, so the theory goes, and you will be more inclined to prosocial behavior. Supporting this, studies that have momentarily undermined people’s belief in free will – for instance, by giving them a text to read about genetic determinism, or about how neuroscience shows our decisions are out of conscious control – have found that this increases people’s propensity for cheating and selfishness. Such...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 20, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Morality Replications Source Type: blogs

Brainwave study suggests sexual posing, but not bare skin, leads to automatic objectification
This study relies on the discovery first made nearly 50 years ago that when human faces and bodies are presented upside-down, it is particularly hard for us to perceive them in the same holistic way we do when we look at them the right-way up (a phenomenon known as the “inversion effect”). Supporting the concept of objectification, evidence from this decade shows that inverted sexualised bodies (for example, wearing scant clothing in a provocative pose) do not trigger the inversion effect, suggesting that we process them more like we process objects – by scrutinising their individual parts, rather than ho...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 17, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Sex Social Source Type: blogs

Pilot study finds “smart drug” Aderall has limited benefits for healthy students, and may harm working memory
By Emma Young Stimulants available on prescription such as Adderall improve cognitive functioning as well as attention in people with ADHD, but many students without this condition also take them, believing that they will act as “smart drugs” and boost their cognition, and so their academic performance. The limited research to date into whether this is actually the case has produced mixed results. A new double-blind pilot study of healthy US college students, published in Pharmacy, found that though Adderall led to minor improvements in attention, it actually impaired working memory.  The researchers, fro...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 16, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Educational Source Type: blogs

Updated: A re-replication of a psychological classic provides a cautionary tale about overhyped science
via Strack et al, 1988 By guest blogger Jesse Singal “Update: On Twitter, some researchers argued, reasonably in my view, that I wasn’t quite sceptical enough in relating these findings. See the update at the end of this post for more details.” If you wanted a poster child for the replication crisis and the controversy it has unleashed within the field of psychology, it would be hard to do much better than Fritz Strack’s findings. In 1988, the German psychologist and his colleagues published research that appeared to show that if your mouth is forced into a smile, you become a bit happier, and ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 15, 2018 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Faces guest blogger Replications Source Type: blogs