“Insomnia identity” – misbelieving you’ve got sleep problems can be more harmful than actual lack of sleep
By Alex Fradera “In the dark, in the quiet, in the lonely stillness, the aggrieved struggle to rescue sleep from vigilance.” This arresting sentence introduces a new review of insomnia in Behaviour Research and Therapy that addresses a troubling fact observed in sleep labs across the world: poor sleep is not sufficient to make people consider themselves to have the condition… and poor sleep may not even be necessary. The paper, by Kenneth Lichstein at the University of Alabama, explores the implications of “Insomnia Identity”: how it contributes to health problems, and may be an obstacle...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 26, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Sleep and dreaming Source Type: blogs

Ten-year study finds loneliness and self-centeredness appear to be mutually reinforcing
The findings suggest targeting self-centeredness may help reduce loneliness By Emma Young We usually think of loneliness as a condition with no redeeming features. Certainly, chronic loneliness is linked to poorer physical and psychological health, as well as unfavourable effects on personality. But an evolutionary model of loneliness, pioneered by John Cacioppo at the University of Chicago, US, proposes that it has an adaptive function, in that it: makes people want to do something about absent or unsatisfactory social relationships, and encourages people to focus on their own interests and welfare The second proposed m...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 25, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Social Source Type: blogs

The psychology behind why we value physical objects over digital
By Christian Jarrett When technological advances paved the way for digital books, films and music, many commentators predicted the demise of their physical equivalents. It hasn’t happened, so far at least. For instance, while there is a huge market in e-books, print books remain dominant. A large part of the reason comes down to psychology – we value things that we own, or anticipate owning, in large part because we see them as an extension of ourselves. And, stated simply, it’s easier to develop meaningful feelings of ownership over a physical entity than a digital one. A new paper in the Journal of Cons...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 24, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Technology Source Type: blogs

We know intuitively how many lay opinions outweigh an expert
“People in this country have had enough of experts” claimed Michael Gove last year. New findings suggest we weigh popular and expert opinion intuitively By Alex Fradera Imagine contemplating which treatment to undertake for a health problem. Your specialist explains there are two possibilities, and strongly endorses one as right for you. But when you discuss it with a friend, she suggests that based on what she’s heard, the other would be better. Another friend, the same. And another. Does there come a point where the friends outweigh the expert? Given enough information – the accuracy of the e...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 23, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Decision making Political Source Type: blogs

The effect of emotions on your behaviour depends partly on your expectations
By Emma Young Will you get a better result from a business negotiation if you get angry or remain calm? What about a creative task – will you come up with more solutions to a problem if you’re excited, or relaxed? The answer, according a new study in Emotion, is that it depends at least in part on what you expect the impacts of emotions to be. Some theories linking emotion and behaviour hold that emotions activate fixed behavioural “programmes” (anger activates aggressive actions, for example). Others hold that while emotions do influence behaviour, how they do so depends upon the individual&rs...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 20, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Source Type: blogs

Reverse “stereotype threat” – women chess players perform better against men than against other women
By Alex Fradera Stereotype threat is one of those social psychology concepts that has managed to break out of the academic world and into everyday conversation: the idea that a fear of conforming to stereotypes – for example, that girls struggle at maths – can make those stereotypes self-fulfilling, thanks to the adverse effect of anxiety and excessive self-consciousness on performance. A recent review suggested that stereotype threat has a robust but small-to-medium sized effect on performance, but a meta-analysis suggests that publication bias may be a problem in this literature, inflating the apparent s...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 19, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Gender Social Source Type: blogs

Reverse “stereotype threat” – women chess players perform better against men
By Alex Fradera Stereotype threat is one of those social psychology concepts that has managed to break out of the academic world and into everyday conversation: the idea that a fear of conforming to stereotypes – for example, that girls struggle at maths – can make those stereotypes self-fulfilling, thanks to the adverse effect of anxiety and excessive self-consciousness on performance. A recent review suggested that stereotype threat has a robust but small-to-medium sized effect on performance, but a meta-analysis suggests that publication bias may be a problem in this literature, inflating the apparent s...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 19, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Gender Social Source Type: blogs

The concept of “compensation” makes sense of several autism puzzles
On British television last night, naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham described how he hid his autistic traits for most of his life By Alex Fradera A process involved in neurodevelopmental disorders that we are only just beginning to understand is “compensation” – the way that a deficit can be partially or wholly masked by automatic mental processes and/or deliberate behavioural strategies. For instance, a person with dyslexia may achieve typical levels of reading ability after an earlier diagnosis, not because the disorder has gone away (subtle tests might show continuing problems in phonologi...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 18, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Autism Brain Cognition Source Type: blogs

Believers in conspiracy theories and the paranormal are more likely to see “illusory patterns”
By Emma Young Democratic bankers caused the global financial crisis to get Barack Obama elected.  Horoscopes are right too often for it to be a coincidence.  Irrational beliefs – unfounded, unscientific and illogical assumptions about the world – are widespread among “the population of normal, mentally sane adults” note the authors of a new study in European Journal of Social Psychology. It’s been proposed that they arise from a mistaken perception of patterns in the world. But though this idea is popular among psychologists, there’s been surprisingly little direct evidence in ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 17, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Illusions Perception Source Type: blogs

Find a gym buddy – not letting them down can be a powerful incentive
By guest blogger Juliet Hodges Spreading information about the benefits of exercise – including how it reduces the risk of chronic diseases and improves mental health and wellbeing, from sleep quality to self-esteem – hasn’t been enough to change people’s behaviour. Only 30 to 40 per cent of adults in the UK say they get the recommended amount of physical activity per week, and this figure drops to just 5 per cent when using accelerometers to measure movement. It’s a similar story even for people who have made the effort to join a gym – in a recent poll, a third of members reported ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 16, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: guest blogger Health Teams Source Type: blogs

Find a gym buddy – not letting them down may be the most powerful incentive to get exercising
By guest blogger Juliet Hodges Spreading information about the benefits of exercise – including how it reduces the risk of chronic diseases and improves mental health and wellbeing, from sleep quality to self-esteem – hasn’t been enough to change people’s behaviour. Only 30 to 40 per cent of adults in the UK say they get the recommended amount of physical activity per week, and this figure drops to just 5 per cent when using accelerometers to measure movement. It’s a similar story even for people who have made the effort to join a gym – in a recent poll, a third of members reported ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 16, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: guest blogger Health Teams Source Type: blogs

Introverts may miss leadership chances because they overestimate how stressful it will be
By Christian Jarrett There are certain situations where it’s advantageous for an introvert to take charge. For instance, perhaps they are better qualified than their extroverted peers. The trouble is, most introverts tend to shy away from seizing informal leadership opportunities when they arise (psychologists call this “emergent leadership” – when someone takes charge in a team without a formal hierarchy). A new study in Personality and Individual Differences suggests this might be because introverts expect to find group tasks and situations unpleasant, which inhibits them from displaying the kind ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 6, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: leadership Occupational Personality Source Type: blogs

Pretending to be Batman helps kids stay on task
By Christian Jarrett Do their homework or reach over there for the iPad and dive into a world of games? It’s the ever-present dilemma facing young children today. Here’s a simple technique that could tip the balance a little in favour of the homework. Psychologists have reported in Child Development that when four- to six-year-olds pretended to be Batman while they were doing a boring but important task, it helped them to resist distraction and stay more focused. The challenge now is to nail down exactly why the technique works, and to see if over time it could improve children’s self-regulation skil...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 5, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Educational Source Type: blogs

In or out – how brain activity can predict your vote on Brexit 
People’s brain responses to statements about the EU were a more accurate predictor of how they voted than their stated intentions By guest blogger Helge Hasselmann Surveys and opinion polls are notoriously bad at predicting election results, as a chain of rather unexpected events last year demonstrated. These instruments usually ask people about their explicit attitudes and opinions. Often, however, these “external” proxies are not entirely representative of what a person is really thinking. For example, several studies have shown that implicit attitudes – that is, subtle preferences or biases outsi...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 4, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Decision making guest blogger Political Source Type: blogs

The Psychology of Sex Differences – 5 Revealing Insights From Our Primate Cousins
By Christian Jarrett There are behavioural differences, on average, between the sexes – few would dispute that. Where the debate rages is over how much these differences are the result of social pressures versus being rooted in our biology (the answer often is that there is a complex interaction between the two). For example, when differences are observed between girls and boys, such as in different preferences for play, one possibility is that this is partly or wholly because of the contrasting ways that girls and boys are influenced by their peers, parents and other adults (because of the ideas they have about how ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 3, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Comparative evolutionary psych Feature Gender Sex Source Type: blogs

Could language analysis tools detect lone wolf terrorists before they act?
Nidal Hasan, the US army psychiatrist turned lone wolf terrorist By Alex Fradera By the time a terrorist attack has begun, the security services have already failed. But the challenge they face in detecting potential attacks is substantial, especially since the tactic of terrorism has increasingly been taken up by individual attackers inspired by, but not directly beholden to, formal movements. Spotting a lone wolf among the flock is no easy task, especially when it relies on a bottleneck of human analysis. A new paper in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior uses a test case of a real lone wolf attack to explor...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - October 2, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Language Technology Terrorism Source Type: blogs

Mock jury study – will behavioral genetic evidence get defendants off the hook?
By Christian Jarrett Around the world, neuroscience evidence is being introduced into courtrooms at an increasing rate, including findings from behavioural genetics. Specifically, some legal teams for the defence have been allowed to argue that the defendant has a low activity version of the MAOA gene, which codes for an enzyme that regulates the levels of several neurotransmitters. In combination with experiencing child abuse or maltreatment, having this low activity gene has been linked with increased impulsivity, including aggression. Defense lawyers presumably hope that jurors will interpret this as meaning the defenda...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 29, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Forensic Genetics Source Type: blogs

Psychologists went to war-torn Northern Iraq to find out why some fighters will sacrifice everything for their cause
This study finds that commitment to a value “can trump group loyalty in willingness to fight”. As such, the researchers hope their findings will help policymakers wrangling with how best to deal with the threat posed by groups like IS. They add that an important subject for further study is why some groups are better able to inspire loyalty to an abstract cause than others. Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest —The devoted actor’s will to fight and the spiritual dimension of human conflict (Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST)
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 28, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Political Race Religion Terrorism Source Type: blogs

How US kids ’ problems with fractions reveal the fascinating link between language and maths
By guest blogger David Robson Cast your mind back to your teenage maths lessons. Without a calculator, would you have been able to estimate the answer to the following sum?  12/13 + 7/8 Don’t worry about giving the precise number; just say whether it lies closest to 1, 2, 19, or 21*. By the end of middle school, most American pupils have been studying fractions for a few years; these questions should be embarrassingly easy. But when Robert Siegler, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University posed the problem to a group of 8th graders (13 to 14 year olds), he found that they performed little better than if...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 27, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational guest blogger Language Source Type: blogs

Perhaps teens are too cynical to benefit from mindfulness, say authors of latest negative school trial
By Christian Jarrett In the UK, more and more of our children are learning mindfulness at school. The Mindfulness in Schools project claims that over 4000 of our teachers are now trained in the practice. However, some experts are concerned that the roll-out of mindfulness has raced ahead of the evidence base, which paints a mixed picture. Following their recent failure to find any benefits of a school mindfulness programme for teenagers (contrary to some earlier more positive findings), a research team led by Catherine Johnson at Flinders University has now reported in Behaviour Research and Therapy the results o...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 26, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Source Type: blogs

“Animal hoarding” may provide comfort to people who struggle to form relationships
Consistent with the cultural archetype of a “cat lady”, two thirds of the animal hoarders were women By Alex Fradera The latest version of psychiatry’s principal diagnostic manual (the DSM-V) defines Hoarding Disorder as a psychopathology where the collection of items significantly impacts the person’s functioning, as they find it difficult and indeed painful to discard the items, creating congestion within the home and encouraging poor hygiene and accidents. However not only objects, but also living things can be collected pathologically, popularly enshrined in the notion of a “cat lady&...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 25, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Source Type: blogs

For people in Japan, happiness isn ’t associated with better health
In the USA but not Japan, more positive emotions correlated with a healthier cholesterol profile (low ratio of total cholesterol to “good”/HDC cholesterol); from Yoo et al 2017 By Emma Young Feeling positive emotions is good for your physical health, right? There’s certainly evidence in support of the idea. But it’s mostly come from studies of people living in Western countries. Now a study published in Psychological Science, concludes that for people in Japan, it may not be the case. While positive emotions, like happiness, are seen as a good thing in the US, UK, and elsewhere in Europe, the p...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 22, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cross-cultural Emotion Health Source Type: blogs

Conspirators in their own memory loss – findings from 53 patients with “psychogenic amnesia”
By Christian Jarrett A person diagnosed with psychogenic amnesia complains of serious memory problems, sometimes even forgetting who they are, without there being any apparent physical reason for their symptoms – in other words, their condition seems to be purely psychological. It’s a fascinating, controversial diagnosis with roots dating back to Freud’s, Breuer’s and Charcot’s ideas about hysteria and how emotional problems sometimes manifest in dramatic physical ways. Today, some experts doubt that psychogenic amnesia is a real phenomenon, reasoning that there is either an undetected physica...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 21, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Memory Mental health Source Type: blogs

Children of today are better at delaying gratification than previous generations
From Protzko / OSF, 2017By Christian Jarrett If you believed the copious alarmist commentary in the newspapers, you’d fear for the future of our species. Today’s children, we’re told, are more hyperactive and technology addicted than ever before. They’ve lost any ability to sit still, instead craving constant stimulation from digital devices and exhausted parents. What might this mean for their performance on the most famous psychological measure of childhood self-control, Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow Test? Surely, kids of today will struggle far more than previous generations to resist t...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 20, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Source Type: blogs

Contrary to media hype, new review says learning a second language won ’t protect you from dementia
Neurons with amyloid plaques – a pathological feature of Alzheimer’s disease By Alex Fradera Some brains struck by pathology seem to stave off its effects thanks to a “cognitive reserve”: a superior use of mental resources that may be related to the way we use our brains over a lifetime, for instance through high levels of education or, possibly, learning a second language. Bilingual people certainly seem to use their brains differently. For example, practice at switching languages has been associated with enhanced mental control. It’s even been claimed that being bilingual can stave off ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 19, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Cognition Language Source Type: blogs

Women know better than men what other women are thinking and feeling
In this study, the researchers found that the female volunteers got significantly better scores than the men. This didn’t come as a huge surprise, as other work has found that, on average, women are better at inferring other people’s mental states and identifying facial expressions. But the analysis also revealed that women were better at mind-reading other women than they were at reading men. Men were also slightly better at reading women than men, but they still scored lower than the female participants. Part of the explanation for women being easier to read could be that they are more emotionally expressive ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 18, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Gender Social Source Type: blogs

Let ’s dial down the hype about grit – new paper finds no association with creative achievement
Duckworth’s book is a best-seller By Alex Fradera In 2007, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth authored a paper on a trait she called “grit” which went on to arrest the attention of anyone interested in the secrets of success. TED talks and a 2016 book followed, wherein Duckworth explained how a combination of passion for a topic, and perseverance in the face of difficulties – the two facets of grit – were the recipe for achievement, a claim borne out by studies within schools and across the lifespan. In recent years, however, researchers have become more critical...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 15, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Creativity Source Type: blogs

Autistic boys and girls found to have “hypermasculinised” faces – supporting the Extreme Male Brain theory
3D image annotated with 21 facial landmarks, from Tan et al, 2017 By Christian Jarrett According to the Extreme Male Brain theory of autism, there are certain cognitive and behavioural characteristics that manifest more often in men than women, on average, such as a bias for systematic rather than empathic thinking. Autism can be seen as as extreme version of that typical male profile, the theory proposes, possibly caused by prenatal exposure to higher than usual amounts of testosterone in the womb. A related observation is that exposure to high concentrations of prenatal testosterone leads to the development of &ldqu...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 14, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Autism biological Source Type: blogs

New research reveals the long-term toll of keeping secrets
It is mind-wandering about our secrets that most seems to take a toll, rather than the job of concealing them By Alex Fradera Secrets burden minds. To understand how, researchers have previously focused on the act of concealment during one-off social interactions, showing that keeping a secret is draining and can increase anxiety. But what about the longer-term toll? A new paper in Attitudes and Social Cognition describes ten studies on the impact of secrecy day-on-day, showing how the burden of a secret peppers our waking life with reminders and periods of brooding. The Columbia University team – Michael Slepi...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 13, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Mental health Source Type: blogs

Mentally well voice-hearers have a heightened ability to detect real speech
In this study, being explicitly primed to listen for speech didn’t benefit the voice-hearers any more than the controls, so something different seems to be going on compared with the detection of visual patterns in psychosis. The fMRI scans showed that, like the controls, the voice-hearers’ brains responded differently to potentially intelligible versus unintelligible sine-wave-speech. This suggests that voice-hearers aren’t biased to hear speech in any sound, but only when there is the possibility of a meaningful signal being present. The scans also revealed a key difference between the brain activity of...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 12, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Mental health Perception Source Type: blogs

Children as young as four believe in karma – good things happen to those who do good
By Christian Jarrett Even the most scientifically trained among us have an instinct for mystical thinking – seeing purpose in nature, for example, or reading meaning in random coincidences. Psychologists think this is to do with the way our minds work at a fundamental level. We have evolved to be highly attuned to concepts relevant to our social lives, things like intentions and fairness. And we just can’t switch off this way of thinking, even when we’re contemplating the physical world. Among other things, this may explain the intuitive appeal of the Buddhist and Hindu notion of karmic justice – th...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 11, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Morality Religion Source Type: blogs

Learning more about yourself could help you better understand others
The intervention used in this research was based on the Internal Family Systems model that sees an individual’s personality as made up of different sub-personalities By guest blogger Marianne Cezza As social creatures, accurately recognising and understanding the mental states of others (their intentions, knowledge, beliefs, etc.) is crucial to our social bonds and interactions. In fact, in today’s multi-cultural world and strongly divided political climate, this skill – known as Theory of Mind – is perhaps more important than ever. A recent study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhanceme...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 8, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion guest blogger Personality Social Source Type: blogs

How short-term increases in testosterone change men ’s thinking style
Competitive situations or the presence of attractive potential mates can lead to the short-term testosterone increases that were the focus of the new research By Emma Young The hot-headed “macho man”, who acts first and thinks later, has long been popular in movies.  Now there’s psychological evidence to support it. A new study in the Psychological Science finds that a short-term rise in testosterone – as might occur when in the presence of an attractive potential mate, or during competition – shifts the way men think, encouraging them to rely on quick, intuitive, and generally ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 7, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: biological Cognition Gender Sex Thought Source Type: blogs

Researchers asked these British mothers which personality traits they would most wish for their babies – extraversion came out on top
Ambitious and self-disciplined or affable and fun-loving? If you could choose the personality profile for your children, what would you prioritise? Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, put this question to 142 British mothers with a baby aged 0 to 12 months. Reporting their findings in Personality and Individual Differences, Rachel Latham and Sophie von Stumm say there was a clear preference among the mothers for most of all wanting their infants to grow up to be extraverted, especially friendly and cheerful, more so than conscientious or intelligent, even though these latter attributes are more likely to contr...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 6, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Personality Source Type: blogs

Increase the meaningfulness of your work by considering how it helps others
You will be happier and more productive in your work if you find it meaningful By Christian Jarrett When we find our work meaningful and worthwhile, we are more likely to enjoy it, to be more productive, and feel committed to our employers and satisfied with our jobs. For obvious reasons, then, work psychologists have been trying to find out what factors contribute to people finding more meaning in their work. Top of the list is what they call “task significance”, which in plain English means believing that the work you do is of benefit to others. However, to date, most of the evidence for the importance of tas...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 5, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Occupational Source Type: blogs

Watching box sets with your partner can benefit your relationship, claim researchers
By Christian Jarrett My wife and I were ridiculously excited about watching the recent season finale of Game of Thrones together – we’d watched all the previous 66 episodes together too, and the characters almost feel a part of our lives. Spending our time this way has always seemed like a guilty pleasure, but a team of psychologists led by Sarah Gomillion at the University of Aberdeen say that couples’ shared enjoyment of TV, movies and books can help foster feelings of closeness and a shared social identity. They add that the benefits of consuming films and TV together may be especially apparent for cou...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 4, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Media Social Source Type: blogs

Believing widely doubted conspiracy theories satisfies some people ’s need to feel special
For conspiracy theorists, the more obscure a theory, the more appealing it becomes, satisfying their “need for uniqueness” By guest blogger Simon Oxenham Unrelenting faith in the face of insurmountable contradictory evidence is a trait of believers in conspiracy theories that has long confounded researchers. For instance, past research has demonstrated how attempting to use evidence to sway believers of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories can backfire, increasing their certainty in the conspiracy. Could it also be the case that knowing that most people doubt a conspiracy actually makes believing in it more appeali...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - September 1, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Decision making Emotion guest blogger Social Source Type: blogs

How keeping a dream diary could boost your creativity
By Alex Fradera For me, dreams and creativity have always been wound tightly together. As a teenager leafing through my dad’s Heavy Metal comic strip anthologies, it was Little Nemo in Slumberland (about a character who has fantastic dreams) that stunned me the most. When I became a psychology researcher, I was fascinated with altered states and formed a short-lived dream research group with my fellow PhD students – somnambulant life seemed so mysterious, and the then-received wisdom that dreams were just brain static was becoming untenable. Today, outside of my science hours, I perform improvisational the...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 31, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Sleep and dreaming Source Type: blogs

Coffee cravings can play havoc with your memory
By Christian Jarrett Skipping your morning coffee before a lecture or an important meeting is probably a bad idea, according to new research. Of course you will be less alert, but more than that, the research team at the University of Tasmania say that the cravings you experience will impair your ability to memorise new information. Reporting their results in the journal Memory, the researchers also found that their participants were unaware of how caffeine cravings had affected them – suggesting that if we try to learn things when desperate for a coffee we are at risk of being overconfident about what we’ve ta...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 30, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Memory Source Type: blogs

Better educated parents have children who are more relaxed, outgoing and explorative
This study doesn’t indicate a single definitive mechanism to explain why parental education is linked with children’s personality, and it’s likely that there are even more processes at that the researchers didn’t look into, such as the known association between lower Neuroticism / higher Openness and breastfeeding, an activity more common in more educated mothers. It seems likely that greater parental education provides their children with a constellation of benefits. And while there may be a genetic contribution, the adoption data suggests that the environment provided by educated parents may itsel...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 25, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Genetics Personality Source Type: blogs

Lazy bees and clean hyenas: Review finds that animals vary in trait conscientiousness
By Emma Young Conscientiousness is a fundamental aspect of human personality, with higher levels associated with all kinds of benefits, from greater academic achievement and relationship stability to living for longer.  Yet it’s the only major human personality dimension not to have been widely identified in animals, which poses an evolutionary puzzle – if animals don’t show signs of conscientiousness, where did the human variety come from? But now a major review of hundreds of relevant papers, published in Psychological Bulletin, concludes that in fact, “there are many documented exa...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 24, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Comparative evolutionary psych Personality Source Type: blogs

Whether you snack or not is more about the presence of temptation than your willpower
By Christian Jarrett When you’re in the coffee shop and you watch your hand pick up the muffin and place it on your tray, how much of this was down to the situation, and how much to do with your (lack of) willpower or your long-term intentions? A new study in the British Journal of Health Psychology compared these influences and found that momentary cues, such as seeing someone else snacking, were more strongly associated with how much people snacked than their own baseline psychological traits and intentions. Setting the scene for their research, Katherine Elliston at the University of Tasmania and her colleagues s...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 23, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Eating Health Source Type: blogs

There is no such thing as the true self, but it ’s still a useful psychological concept
By Christian Jarrett “I don’t think you are truly mean, you have sad eyes” Tormund Giantsbane ponders the true self of Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane in Game of Thrones, Beyond The Wall. Who are you really? Is there a “true you” beneath the masquerade? According to a trio of psychologists and philosophers writing in Perspectives on Psychological Science, the idea that we each have a hidden true or authentic self is an incredibly common folk belief, and moreover, the way most of us think about these true selves is remarkably consistent, even across different cultures, from Wes...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 22, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Morality Personality Source Type: blogs

Trans men show unusual connectivity patterns in brain networks involved in self perception
Photographic stimuli from the “body morph” task that was used in the new research By Christian Jarrett Most brain imaging studies involving transexuals or people with gender dysphoria have focused on whether their brains look more like what’s typical for the gender they identify with, rather than the gender they were born with. For example, whether trans men have “masculine” brains, and trans women have more “feminine” brains. The results have been mixed and if anything point towards trans people having brains with distinct features that are neither stereotypically male or female. ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 21, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: biological Brain Gender Sex Source Type: blogs

Hate sport? Maybe it ’s because you have the genes that make exercise feel awful
This study has uncovered a point of principle – that whether we experience exercise as pleasant or unpleasant is to a significant degree influenced by our genes. Establishing what those specific genes are, and what their other functions might be, is for the future. One candidate gene that the researchers mention is the gene that codes for brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a peptide that has been shown to moderate the influence of exercise on mood. Perhaps most interesting is the practical implications this line of research could have for interventions to help people take up more exercise. If some of us are genetical...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 18, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Genetics Sport Source Type: blogs

MDMA/Ecstasy may boost psychotherapy by increasing clients ’ openness
By Christian Jarrett Researchers reported recently that MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine; also known as Ecstasy) can act as a catalyst for psychotherapy, apparently improving outcomes for clients with previously intractable PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Now a study from the same group in Journal of Psychopharmacology has uncovered what may be the key psychological mechanism: lasting positive personality change, especially increased trait Openness to Experience and reduced trait Neuroticism. Speculating as to how MDMA might facilitate these trait changes, the research team, led by Mark Wagner ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 17, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Therapy Source Type: blogs

More intelligent people are quicker to learn (and unlearn) social stereotypes
By Emma Young Smart people tend to perform better at work, earn more money, be physically healthier, and be less likely to subscribe to authoritarian beliefs. But a new paper reveals that a key aspect of intelligence – a strong “pattern-matching” ability, which helps someone readily learn a language, understand how another person is feeling or spot a stock market trend to exploit – has a darker side: it also makes that person more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes. Previous studies exploring how a person’s cognitive abilities may affect their attitudes to other people have produced ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 16, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Intelligence Race Social Source Type: blogs

Psychologists have developed the first scientific test of everyday charisma
By Christian Jarrett “Figures such as Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Mahatma Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, and Adolf Hitler share this triumphant, mysterious, and fascinating descriptor”, write the authors of a new paper on charisma. And yet, they add, “the empirical study of charisma is relatively young and sparse, and no unifying conceptualization of charisma currently exists”. The research and theorizing that has been done has focused on charismatic leadership, they explain, neglecting the everyday variety. In their paper in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology the University of Toronto research...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 15, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Methods Personality Source Type: blogs

Positive “emodiversity” – experiencing a variety of positive emotions – plays an important role in bodily health
By Emma Young Your body’s immune system normally fights illness or injury, but when it’s overactive over a prolonged period of time, the consequences can be harmful. “Chronic systemic inflammation” (marked by raised levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines through the body) has been linked to a wide range of physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and depression. One cause is a poor lifestyle, involving little exercise and an unhealthy diet. Anthony Ong, at Cornell University, US, and his team were interested in whether our emotional lives might play a role too. Their new ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 14, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: biological Health Source Type: blogs

The first study to see if fussy-eating children grow into fussy-eating adults
By Christian Jarrett Fussy eating – also referred to as “selective eating” in scholarly research – is incredibly common among children, with upper estimates placing the prevalence at 50 per cent. Despite this, many parents understandably fret when their kids avoid a lot of foods, won’t try new things and/or will only eat certain meals. They worry whether their child is getting enough vitamins and if their child’s fussiness is some kind of precursor to later more serious eating problems. A new, small study in Eating Behaviors is the first to document how fussy eating develops in the same ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 11, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Eating Mental health Source Type: blogs