Why pink LEGO might be bad for girls (but we ’re not convinced)
By Christian Jarrett While the idea that the lack of women in science and tech is entirely about cultural obstacles is contentious (as demonstrated by the recent Google memo furore), few would argue that social and cultural factors aren’t important. And these social influences may begin early. For example there’s an argument that boys are encouraged to play with toys that are likely to promote skills that will help them in science and maths. Toys aimed at girls, in contrast, are more likely to promote stereotypically feminine skills, such as nurturing. LEGO, say Megan Fulcher and Amy Hayes, the authors of a new...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 10, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational evolutionary psych Gender Source Type: blogs

Why pink LEGO might be bad for girls
By Christian Jarrett While the idea that the lack of women in science and tech is entirely about cultural obstacles is contentious (as demonstrated by the recent Google memo furore), few would argue that social and cultural factors aren’t important. And these social influences may begin early. For example there’s an argument that boys are encouraged to play with toys that are likely to promote skills that will help them in science and maths. Toys aimed at girls, in contrast, are more likely to promote stereotypically feminine skills, such as nurturing. LEGO, say Megan Fulcher and Amy Hayes, the authors of a new...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 10, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational evolutionary psych Gender Source Type: blogs

Researchers are studying psychopathic chimps to better understand the human variety
By Emma Young To understand the drivers of a psychopathic personality (marked by callousness, disinhibition and superficial charm), it’s worth looking at our closest relatives. Some chimps, like some people, score highly on scales designed to evaluate psychopathic tendencies. And new work in Frontiers in Neuroscience reveals a potentially important genetic contributor to psychopathic traits in chimps, which could lead to a better understanding of the traits in people. The team led by Robert Latzman at Georgia State University studied 164 chimpanzees housed at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlan...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 9, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: biological Comparative evolutionary psych Genetics Personality Source Type: blogs

Punishment vs. Negative Reinforcement + 9 More Pairs of Psych Terms You ’re Getting Confused
By Christian Jarrett There are a lot of pairs of terms in psychology that sound as if they refer to the same thing, and can therefore be used interchangeably, when in fact they refer to different concepts that are distinct in important ways. As Emory University professor Scott Lilienfeld and his colleagues point out in their new open-access paper in Frontiers in Education, even experienced psychologists and science communicators sometimes confuse these pairs of terms, which inevitably impedes their understanding of the underlying concepts. Their new paper outlines 50 “frequently confused term pairs in psychology&rdqu...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 8, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Feature Source Type: blogs

The art of not fighting: Martial arts reduce child and teen aggression
By guest blogger Bradley Busch It sounds like a paradox – the idea that participating in aggressive sport can make people less aggressive. Yet this belief forms a core basis of many martial arts dating back thousands of years, and many famous practitioners (real and fictional) have preached the importance of self control. Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee once noted that “emotion can be the enemy. If you give into your emotion, you lose yourself”. Or as Mr Miyagi said in The Karate Kid the “lesson is not just karate only, the lesson is for whole life”. Previous research has demonstrated that ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 7, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Forensic guest blogger Sport Source Type: blogs

We have an ingrained anti-profit bias that blinds us to the social benefits of free markets
By Christian Jarrett “Harnessing the ‘base’ motive of material self-interest to promote the common good is perhaps the most important social invention mankind has yet achieved,” said the American economist Charles Schultz. And you can see why. While acknowledging its problems, many credit free market capitalism for the dramatic reduction over recent decades in the proportion of people in the world living in extreme poverty, not to mention rising health standards and technological advances. Conversely, according to some commentators, one only has to look to modern-day Venezuela to see the dangers of ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 4, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Decision making Money Political Source Type: blogs

The intuition blindspot: just because you like going with your gut doesn ’t mean you’re good at it
By Emma Young In 1750, Benjamin Franklin wrote: “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Since then, plenty of research has proven him right: we’re not much good at knowing ourselves and, sadly, we’re especially bad when it comes to judging traits in ourselves that we care about the most. Now Stefan Leach and Mario Weick at the University of Kent, Canterbury, have added to this sorry picture of human delusion, reporting in Social Psychological and Personality Science that people who believe they’re intuitive are no better than anyone else at task...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 3, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Decision making Thought Source Type: blogs

Against expectations, no evidence that toddlers with older siblings have superior Theory of Mind
By Christian Jarrett When young kids play together there’s often a lot of negotiation involved: “That’s my bunny”, “No, it’s mine”, “OK, you have it”. There’s talk of emotion: “Why are you crying?”, “You took my bunny”. And role-play: “You be baddie”, “No, I’m super-bunny”. Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising then that a recent meta-analysis found that young kids, aged 3 to 7, with more siblings have superior Theory of Mind (understanding other people’s mental states and perspectives – an i...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 2, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Source Type: blogs

Scholars who believe nurture trumps nature also tend to doubt the scientific method
By Christian Jarrett How far has evolutionary thinking permeated through academia? A survey of more than 600 scholars from 22 disciplines, ranging from psychology and economics through to gender studies, sociology and the humanities, finds that there remain two distinct cultures in the academe, at least regarding views on the principal causes of human behaviour and human culture. One group, made up of psychologists, economists, philosophers and political scientists believes more strongly in the genetic influences on behaviour, beliefs and culture. The other group, consisting sociologists, non-evolutionary anthropologists, ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - August 1, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: evolutionary psych Source Type: blogs

Elite female tennis players less prone to choking under pressure than elite male players
By Christian Jarrett While biological differences between the sexes might give men a physical advantage in many sports, it’s possible that they come at a mental cost. Men typically show a greater spike in the stress hormone cortisol when under pressure than women, and, given that high cortisol levels can interfere with mental processing, it’s feasible this could mean men’s performance is more adversely affected in high-stakes contexts than women’s. A new analysis of elite tennis performance in the Journal of Economic Psychology is consistent with this account. Based on the outcome of thousands ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 31, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Gender Occupational Sport Source Type: blogs

We adjust the pitch of our voice based on the status of who we ’re talking to
By guest blogger Lexie Thorpe In most human societies those with a higher social status enjoy privileges beyond the reach of others. Such status can be obtained through dominance, using intimidation or force, or acquiring prestige by demonstrating knowledge and skill. To make best use of the benefits though, other people need to know that you are top dog. On the other hand, if you’re of a lower status, there are probably times when it pays to avoid challenging those higher up the pecking order. In which case, you might want to convey your recognition of their authority. Using body language, such as by taking up more ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 28, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: guest blogger Social Source Type: blogs

Perfectionism as a risk factor for suicide – the most comprehensive test to date
By Christian Jarrett According to the World Health Organisation, someone takes their own life every 45 seconds. To help prevent future tragedies, we need to know more about the factors that make some people especially vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and acting on those thoughts. One candidate is perfectionism: the tendency some people have to hold themselves to consistently impossible standards and/or feeling the need to meet or surpass the lofty expectations of others. In 1995 the late psychologist Sidney Blatt highlighted the apparent link between perfectionism and suicide in an influential article for American Psycholog...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 27, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Suicide/ self-harm Source Type: blogs

Booty more amusing than ass, according to first in-depth study of the funniness of English words
By Christian Jarrett When I was at primary school, we used to type out the word “BOOBIES” using upside-down digits on our electronic calculators and we thought it was hilarious. This was an all-boys school in the late 80s, cut us some slack. And anyway, maybe we weren’t so daft. The word (although spelt differently as “Booby”) was among the top-three most funny words as identified in a new paper in Behaviour Research, which is the first in-depth investigation of the perceived funniness of individual English words. Among the 5000 words that were studied, Booty was rated the funniest of all, sco...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 26, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Language Methods Source Type: blogs

Your face gives clues to your name, suggesting your name has affected your appearance
This study also threw in a control condition – participants had the same menu of names to pick from, but the photos were covered up – the idea was to check whether participants’ were being drawn to the correct names because they were for some reason simply more pickable. In fact, participants in the control condition showed no tendency towards picking the true names, whereas participants who could see the photos managed an average face-name matching accuracy of 25 per cent (again better than you’d expect if they’d just guessed at random). In further studies, the researchers made sure they took...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 25, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Faces Personality Source Type: blogs

Here ’s a clever demonstration of how we simulate the mental experiences of story characters
By Christian Jarrett Avid readers of novels know that they often take the perspective of the characters they read about. But just how far does this mental role-playing go? A new paper in the Journal of Memory and Language has provided a clever demonstration of how readily we simulate the thoughts of fictional characters. Borrowing a method from research into the psychology of deliberate forgetting, the researchers at Binghamton University, USA, show that when a story character needs to focus on remembering one series of words rather than another, the reader simulates this same memory process in their own minds. The charact...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 24, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Memory Reading Source Type: blogs

Critical thinking skills are more important than IQ for making good decisions in life
By Alex Fradera To lead a good life, we need to make good decisions: manage our health and financial affairs, invest in appropriate relationships, and avoid serious lapses like falling for online scams. What equips us to do this? One candidate is IQ: after all, people who score higher on intelligence tests tend to go on to do better academically and in their careers. But many of us know intellectual titans who still make grave errors of judgment in their lives. Book-smart doesn’t necessarily make you life-smart, and a new article in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity examines the utility of IQ in navigat...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 21, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Decision making Educational Intelligence Thought Source Type: blogs

Why some smart people make foolish decisions
By Alex Fradera To lead a good life, we need to make good decisions: manage our health and financial affairs, invest in appropriate relationships, and avoid serious lapses like falling for online scams. What equips us to do this? One candidate is IQ: after all, people who score higher on intelligence tests tend to go on to do better academically and in their careers. But many of us know intellectual titans who still make grave errors of judgment in their lives. Book-smart doesn’t necessarily make you life-smart, and a new article in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity examines the utility of IQ in navigat...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 21, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Decision making Educational Intelligence Thought Source Type: blogs

Oh dear, even people with neuroscience training believe an awful lot of brain myths
By Christian Jarrett Three years ago, the film Lucy came out starring Scarlett Johansson as the eponymous heroine who is implanted with drugs that allow her to use the full capacity of her brain rather than the mere 10 per cent that the rest of us supposedly use. In response I wrote an article for WIRED “All you need to know about the 10 per cent brain myth in 60 seconds“. Soon afterwards I received an angry, acerbic 1,200-word email from a reader: “I am obviously not going to insist you take your article down since that isn’t my place,” she wrote, “but you should certainly not feel...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 20, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Educational Source Type: blogs

For one week these women recorded all the times they were objectified sexually
By Emma Young In a ranking of genuinely important YouTube videos to have gone viral, this one (see above) from 2014 places high: it shows over 100 instances of harassment endured by a woman wearing a hidden camera as she walked around New York City for ten hours, including comments, stares, winks and whistles. The video was posted in 2014 by the domestic violence activist group Hollaback! to highlight the prevalence of this kind of behaviour. As individual testimony, it was powerful. But, critics could argue, it was just one woman, on just one day. This is an argument they cannot use about the results of a new study, publi...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 19, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Forensic Gender Misogyny Sex Source Type: blogs

Hard-core players of violent video games do not have emotionally blunted brains
By Christian Jarrett No sooner had the American Psychological Association released their 2015 task force report supposedly confirming that violent video games make players aggressive than the criticisms of the report started pouring in, of bias and bad practice. On the issue of whether violent games breed real-world aggression, there’s not much that you can say for certain except that there’s a lot of disagreement among experts. So of course, one more study is not going to settle this long-running debate. But what a new paper in Brain Imaging and Behaviour does do is provide a good test of a key argument m...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 18, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Anger Media Technology Source Type: blogs

It ’s not just lack of sleep: why pupils with an “owl” chronotype get lower grades
Pupils with an “owl” chronotype may be at particular disadvantage for science and maths By guest blogger Helge Hasselmann Cognitive performance fluctuates throughout the day. Depending on their “chronotype” some people are sharpest in the morning (“larks”), while others generally prefer the later hours of the day (“owls”). For obvious reasons, this is mirrored in our preferred sleep routines: larks get tired in the evenings earlier and, as a consequence, also wake up earlier, while owls show the opposite pattern. Your chronotype is not something that you’re stuck with f...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 17, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Educational Sleep and dreaming Source Type: blogs

Anxious about a speech? Alcohol may calm your nerves but will harm your performance
By Christian Jarrett I confess, I’ve tried having an alcoholic drink before giving a public speech, telling myself that it will take the edge off my nerves. But I’m going to think twice before doing so again: a new study in Behaviour Research and Therapy carefully monitored the effects of moderate alcohol intake on the speech-giving performance of socially anxious and control participants and while the alcohol made the nervous folk feel more relaxed, it actually harmed their performance. Stephan Stevens and his colleagues recruited 99 young adults who met the criteria for social anxiety disorder and 78 non-anx...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 14, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Alcohol Mental health Source Type: blogs

Eight important neuropsychological syndromes you ’ve probably never heard of
By Christian Jarrett Studying people who have brain damage or illness has been hugely important to progress in psychology. The approach is akin to reverse engineering: study how things go wrong when particular regions of the brain are compromised and it provides useful clues as to how those regions usually contribute to healthy mental function. As a result, some neuropsychological conditions, such as Broca’s aphasia (speech deficits), prosopagnosia (a difficulty recognising faces, also known somewhat misleadingly as “face blindness”) and Alien Hand syndrome (a limb seeming to act of its own volition) have...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 13, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Source Type: blogs

Non-White or female bosses who push diversity are judged negatively by their peers and managers
By Alex Fradera As the first cohort of women leaders began pushing up against the glass ceiling, many hoped it would shatter… but it only cracked. Today fewer than 10 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are led by people from ethnic minority groups and women combined, and although the reasons are manifold, blame has been laid at the feet of the early pioneers themselves. The accusation is that successful people from underrepresented groups act as gatekeepers, keeping out others to maintain their special status and to identify with the dominant majority (the most famous example being the Queen Bee syndrome where a...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 12, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Gender leadership Occupational Race Social Source Type: blogs

Sexual offending by women is surprisingly common, claims US study
“Attention to female sexual perpetration serves important feminist goals,” the researchers said (image is a stock photo of assorted women unrelated to the study) By Christian Jarrett A team of US researchers led by Lara Stemple at the UCLA School of Law has analysed data from several large federal crime victimisation surveys and they say their findings show that sexual offences by women against male and female victims are surprisingly common. Writing in Aggression and Violent Behaviour the researchers stress that they are in no way intending to minimise the human cost of sexual violence perpetrated by men. But ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 11, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Forensic Gender Sex Source Type: blogs

Why autistic people may be less susceptible to marketing tricks
By Emma Young We know from past research that autistic people process the world differently at a perceptual level, including showing reduced sensitivity to context. One consequence is that they’re better than average at finding figures in complex shapes. But does this way of looking at the world also influence their higher-level decision-making? According to a new study in Psychological Science, it does: William Skylark and his University of Cambridge colleagues George Farmer and Simon Baron-Cohen found that people with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) – as well as people in the general population wit...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 10, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Autism Decision making Source Type: blogs

Rural Cameroonian pre-schoolers just aced Mischel ’s iconic Marshmallow Test
It’s the first time that this iconic test of children’s self-control has been used in a traditional non-Western culture By Christian Jarrett Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow Test of self-control is one of psychology’s iconic experimental set-ups. First conducted in the 1960s, Mischel told the kids he tested that if they managed to resist eating the marshmallow in front of them until he returned (usually about 15 minutes later), they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. The children varied greatly in their powers of restraint and those who performed better displayed some cute distraction strategi...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 7, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cross-cultural Developmental Source Type: blogs

New paper provides evidence-backed insights on how not to come across as a jerk
By Alex Fradera Why do we screw up the good impressions we mean to make? In the extensive scientific literature on self-presentation, the most popular theory is that failures are due to a loss of control. We snap at someone, allow our voice to falter, or let our unlikeable side slip out from underneath the managed veneer. According to this theory, we know how we should behave, and only fall short because we’re distracted or drained of self-control. But a new paper in Social and Personality Psychology Compass argues that people often make bad impressions, not because of a lack of self-control, but because they ad...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 6, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Social Source Type: blogs

You don ’t have to climb a mountain for a “peak experience” in nature to be life-changing
By Emma Young We’re all familiar with the idea that nature can be psychologically uplifting. But for some people, a single, brief “peak experience” in a natural setting, lasting mere seconds or minutes, changes their view of themselves or their relationships with others so profoundly that their lives are positively transformed as a result. A new study in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology explores exactly how and why this happens. The researchers LIa Naor and Ofra Mayseless at the University of Haifa, Israel, advertised on the internet for people who felt they’d had a transformative experience in ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 5, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: environmental Personality Qualitative Source Type: blogs

Small acts of kindness at work benefit the giver, the receiver and the whole organisation
By Alex Fradera In the lab, psychologists have shown how generosity propagates and spreads. If someone is kind to us, we tend to “pay it forward” and act more generously to someone else when given the chance. But it’s not clear if these findings are realistic. For example, when we’re juggling priorities on a busy work day, might receiving an act of kindness actually be a nuisance, leaving us feeling indebted to return the favour when we’ve got more important things to do? An uplifting new study in the journal Emotion looks at acts of altruism within a real-life working environment, a...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 4, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Occupational Source Type: blogs

Emotionally competent teens have brains that fire “in tune” with their parents’ brains
By Christian Jarrett Up and down the land parents and teenagers are engaged in tense negotiation and diplomacy in an effort to maintain domestic peace. Some households are finding more success than others. Their secret, according to a new paper in NeuroImage, is a literal meeting of minds – synchronisation of brain cell firing seems to foster emotional harmony. Moreover, when parents and their teenagers display this “neural similarity”, write Tae-Ho Lee and his colleagues, “this promotes youths’ psychological adjustment”. These are intriguing findings – in the fact the researchers ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - July 3, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Methods Source Type: blogs

Soon after giving birth, mothers typically experience a self-esteem dip lasting at least three years
By Emma Young “After decades of debate, a consensus is emerging about the way self-esteem develops across the lifespan.” So wrote a pair of psychologists – one from Kings College London, the other from the University of California Davis – in a paper published back in 2005. That “consensus” is that self-esteem is relatively high in childhood, drops during adolescence, rises gradually through adulthood before dropping sharply in old age. But a new paper suggests that there’s a major blip in this pattern for one huge part of the population. Becoming a mother triggers a decline in self...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 30, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Mental health Source Type: blogs

What is the psychological state underlying “clutch performance” – excelling under pressure?
This study relied on athletes self-reporting their thoughts, feelings and strategies employed under pressure during a competition several days after the event. Although steps were taken within this study to improve accuracy, such as follow-up interviews, there are still obvious limitations with this approach including self-reporting biases and the limitations of memory. Most people need to perform under pressure at some stage in their life, be it in public speaking, academic exams, or working closely to a deadline. How much can these new findings be applied to these settings? The researchers urge a bit of caution, as this ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 29, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: guest blogger Sport Source Type: blogs

Having a personality that ’s different from average may increase teens’ risk of being bullied
By Christian Jarrett Most of us remember kids at school who seemed a little different – less sociable, more introverted and fragile, perhaps – and that they often seemed to be the ones to get picked on or rejected. Maybe you remember because you were one of those kids and you know what is was like to not fit in. Personality psychologists who study these things have partly backed this up: they’ve found that children and teens who score low in the “Big Five” traits of emotional stability, conscientiousness and agreeableness (similar to friendliness) are more likely to be bullied. But of cou...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 28, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: bullying Personality Source Type: blogs

Politicians – when you dodge the question, it makes you look dodgy
This study used an unaffiliated politician as the question-dodger; future work could present partisan figures to whether we turn a blind eye to slipperiness on our own side. The results seem to suggest that observing a politician dodge a question influences our attitude about their trustworthiness. But it’s also possible that our existing attitude affects whether we observe the dodge in the first place – perhaps we’re less likely to spot dodges made by people we trust. This study design can’t answer this for certain, but Clementson conducted some further statistical analysis and based on this he thi...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 27, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: In Brief Political Source Type: blogs

If high self-control has a downside, these psychologists couldn ’t find it
By Emma Young Self-control has been dubbed a “master virtue” – one which enables so many others, such as selflessness and perseverance. Indeed, better control of short-term impulses in conflict with long-term goals is linked to everything from greater health to greater wealth. It’s no surprise, then, that schools are adopting strategies designed to improve their students’ self-control, under the assumption that there is no downside. But is there…? Some researchers have argued that there might be. High levels of self-control might promote obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or a dysfunction...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 26, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Emotion Source Type: blogs

Researchers are figuring out how sense of self develops differently in autistic teens
By guest blogger Dan Carney Our autobiographical memory is fundamental to the development of our sense of self. However, according to past research, it may be compromised in autism, together with other skills that are also vital for self understanding, such as introspection and the ability to attribute mental states to others (known as mentalising). For example, experiments involving autistic children have highlighted retrieval difficulties, “impoverished narratives”, and a greater need for prompting, while also suggesting that semantic recall (facts from the past) may be impaired in younger individuals. Now a ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 23, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Autism guest blogger Memory Thought Source Type: blogs

More than 50 years on, the murder of Kitty Genovese is still throwing up fresh psychological revelations
By Christian Jarrett The horrific killing of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in New York in 1964 inspired research into what’s known in social psychology as the Bystander Phenomenon – our increased disinclination to intervene when in the company of others. That’s because early reports told how 38 witnesses to Genovese’s murder did nothing to help. But in fact it’s now clear that several people did intervene. So the tragedy that inspired research into the Bystander Phenomenon is actually a bad example of that real phenomenon. But it’s not time yet to leave the sad story alone. As p...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 22, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Forensic Social Source Type: blogs

5 Reasons It ’s So Hard To Think Like A Scientist
By Christian Jarrett Thinking like a scientist is really hard, even for scientists. It requires putting aside your own prior beliefs, evaluating the quality and meaning of the evidence before you and weighing it in the context of earlier findings. But parking your own agenda and staying objective is not the human way. Consider that even though scientific evidence overwhelming supports the theory of evolution, a third of Americans think the theory is “absolutely false”. Similarly, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity has contributed to climate change, yet around a third of Americans doubt...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 20, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Decision making Feature Intelligence Thought Source Type: blogs

What is it like to be the partner of someone who is transgender?
By Emma Young The experiences of people who’ve been through a gender transition have been studied and analysed by psychologists – showing, for example, improved psychological wellbeing and self-esteem after hormone treatment. But when it comes to their partners, there’s been much less research. According to a new study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, though, they often go through a kind of life transition of their own, and while there are certainly challenges, there are often positive changes, too. Lisa Platt at West Virginia University, US and Kayla Bolland at New Mexico State Unive...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 20, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Dating Gender Qualitative Sex Source Type: blogs

A new study sheds light on “chemobrain”
By Christian Jarrett After chemotherapy treatment, many patients say their mind has been affected. For example they describe symptoms such as feeling confused, memory problems and difficulty concentrating – a phenomenon that has been dubbed “chemobrain” (Cancer Research UK has more information). The causes are little understood. Are these apparent neuropsychological effects due to a direct physical effect of chemotherapy on the brain? Or could it be the stress and worry involved in chemotherapy that is responsible. Perhaps it’s both. To find out more, Mi Sook Jung at Chungnam National University in ...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 19, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Brain Cancer Cognition Health Source Type: blogs

The idea that humans have a poor sense of smell is an outdated myth, argues new review
It’s estimated that humans may be able to distinguish up to a trillion different smells By Alex Fradera In the early 1950s, while investigating rabbits’ sense of smell by recording the activity of their brain cells, the scientist Lord Adrian noticed something curious. As his team mixed up odours of increasing strength, to see at what point the rabbits’ neurons fired in response, they found the critical threshold appeared around the same point that they were able to smell the odour themselves: in other words, this suggested that the smell had become noticeable to animal and man at the same time. On pu...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 16, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Comparative Perception Source Type: blogs

New findings suggest it might be better to read toddlers an e-book than a print book
By Emma Young Reading with a young child is important for their language development and early literacy skills. But does it matter if you read from an electronic book (e-book) or traditional print? As any parent knows, toddlers are generally keen on screens. So the finding, from a new study in Frontiers in Psychology, that very young children enjoy e-books more than print picture books, may not come as a huge surprise – but these additional findings might: both parents and toddlers behaved differently when reading electronic vs. print picture books. And the toddlers who read the e-books learned more. Studies of...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 15, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Developmental Educational Reading Technology Source Type: blogs

With leader charisma, it ’s possible to have too much of a good thing
By Alex Fradera If there’s one quality you absolutely want in a leader, it’s surely charisma. Celebrated leaders are invariably associated with this magic word, and evidence suggests charismatic people inspire more trust, commitment, and results from their followers. But across a number of other supposedly virtuous traits, such as political ability or assertiveness (pdf), researchers are starting to realise that it’s possible to have “too much of a good thing.” Could charisma fall in that category? That’s the suggestion of new research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psycho...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 14, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: leadership Occupational Personality Source Type: blogs

False economy? Half of “low intensity” CBT clients relapse within 12 months
Low-intensity CBT can include group-guided self-help, computerised CBT and telephone support By Christian Jarrett Heralded as a revolution in mental health care – a cost-effective way to deliver evidence-based psychological help to large numbers – low-intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is recommended by NICE, the independent health advisory body in England and Wales, for mild to moderate depression and anxiety and is a key part of the “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies” programme in those countries. Prior studies into its effectiveness have been promising. However, little r...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 13, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Mental health Therapy Source Type: blogs

“Reverse ego-depletion”: People in India find mental effort energising
By Christian Jarrett Exercising self-control leaves you feeling drained. That’s what many of us in the West believe and it’s what we seem to experience – think of the fatigue after a morning spent dealing with difficult clients or focused on spreadsheets on a computer screen. But in Indian culture, there is a widespread belief that mental effort is energising – that the more concentration and self-control you expend in one situation, the more invigorated you will feel for the next challenge. Psychology has, so far, mostly backed up our Western intuitions. Over 100 studies – nearly all conducte...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 12, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Cognition Cross-cultural Source Type: blogs

The pique persuasion technique plays on our curiosity and it ’s surprisingly effective
By Alex Fradera “Sorry to bother you – I’m just after three pounds sixty-five for a bus ticket to Bromley.” Living in an urban area you frequently hear this kind of request, which showcases a persuasion approach called the “pique technique”, whereby people are more likely to comply with requests for an unusually specific quantity, because it piques their interest. But do people really give more readily, or in higher amounts, when exposed to the technique? A meta-analysis in the journal Social Influence puts pique through its paces. The technique was first investigated in the nineti...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 9, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Social Source Type: blogs

The reasons we stay friends with an ex
Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have remained close since their “conscious uncoupling” in 2014 By Emma Young Why do we sometimes stay friends with ex-partners? There may be many reasons, but according to a new paper in Personality and Individual Differences they fall into seven main categories – and men and women don’t quite see eye-to-eye on them. The research also found that certain personality traits were related to motivations for staying friends after a break-up. Justin Mogilski and Lisa Welling at Oakland University, US, asked a group of 348 volunteers to think of as many reasons as pos...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 8, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Dating Gender Personality Social Source Type: blogs

Scientists ’ facial appearance affects our perception of their work
Participants were more interested in the work of attractive scientists, but assumed it was lower quality By Emma Young Scientists are increasingly encouraged to communicate directly with non-experts, through newspaper and TV interviews, science festivals, online videos, and other channels. But the quality of their research or ideas alone is not enough to guarantee interest or support, suggests a series of new studies in PNAS. The way the general public responds is also influenced by the scientist’s facial appearance, an important finding, say the researchers, because the public communication of scientific findin...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 7, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Faces Social Source Type: blogs

On psychological tests comparing 66 terrorists with controls, one key difference stood out
By Christian Jarrett After a terror attack, amidst the shock and sadness, there is simple incomprehension: how could anyone be so brutal, so inhuman? In Nature Human Behaviour, Sandra Baez and her colleagues offer rare insight based on their tests of 66 incarcerated paramilitary terrorists in Colombia, who had murdered an average of 33 victims each. The terrorists completed measures of their intelligence, aggression, emotion recognition, and crucially, their moral judgments. On most measures, such as intelligence and executive function, there were no differences between the terrorists and 66 non-terrorist control particip...
Source: BPS RESEARCH DIGEST - June 6, 2017 Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Authors: BPS Research Digest Tags: Morality Terrorism Source Type: blogs