BPS Research Digest

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Cutting-edge reports on the latest psychology research

Christian Jarrett
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  • March 18, 2014
  • 05:17 AM

How thinking in a foreign language makes you more rational in some ways but not others

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Back in 2012, US researchers showed that when people used their second, non-native language, they were less prone to a mental bias known as loss aversion. This bias means we're averse to the same outcome when it's framed in a way that highlights what's to be lost, as compared with when it's framed in a way that emphasises what's to be gained. For example, a vaccine is more appealing if it's stated that it will save 200,000 out of 600,000 people, far less unappealing if it's explained the vaccine........ Read more »

Costa A, Foucart A, Arnon I, Aparici M, & Apesteguia J. (2014) "Piensa" twice: on the foreign language effect in decision making. Cognition, 130(2), 236-54. PMID: 24334107  

  • March 17, 2014
  • 05:06 AM

The amazing durability of infant memory: Three-year-olds show recognition of a person they met once at age one

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

The fate of our earliest memories is something of an enigma. As adults, most of us are unable to recall memories from before we were age three or four. And yet, as toddlers we are perfectly capable of storing and recalling memories from before that age. To solve this mystery, we need to understand more about how infant memory works. Now a clever study has provided a test of just how durable infant memories can be. Osman Kingo and his colleagues in Denmark have demonstrated that three-year-olds d........ Read more »

  • March 14, 2014
  • 05:55 AM

With their hand on their heart, people are seen as more honest, and they really do behave more honestly

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Image: Greg Peverill-Conti / FlickrYou know when you want a friend or partner to tell you, honestly, how you look in a new outfit? A new study offers a way. Daft as it may sound, the findings suggest that if you truly want an honest verdict, it could work to ask your friend to put his hand on his heart before he answers (in British and Polish cultures, at least).In one of several experiments Michal Parzuchowski and Bogdan Wojciszke asked 48 Polish undergrads (eight men) to rate the physical........ Read more »

Parzuchowski M, & Wojciszke B. (2014) Hand over Heart Primes Moral Judgments and Behavior. Journal of nonverbal behavior, 145-165. PMID: 24489423  

  • March 13, 2014
  • 05:32 PM

Why are extraverts happier?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Numerous personality studies have found the same pattern time and again – extraverts tend to be happier than introverts. But why? A popular theory holds that extraverts are happier because they find fun activities more enjoyable, as if they have a more responsive “pleasure system” in their brains than introverts.A new investigation puts this idea to the test, and is one of the first to compare introverts’ and extraverts’ momentary happiness in response to different activities in everyd........ Read more »

Oerlemans, W., & Bakker, A. (2014) Why extravert are happier: A day reconstruction study. Journal of Research in Personality, 11-22. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2014.02.001  

  • March 12, 2014
  • 05:07 AM

Where exactly in your body are YOU?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

From Alsmith & Longo 2014Although you probably consider all of your body is yours, if you're like most people, you also have a feeling that your very essence, your self, is more localised. Past research has turned up mixed findings for where exactly this spot is. In some studies people say they are located in their head, near the eyes. Other research has found that people consider the self to be located in the chest. The varied results are probably partly due to the different methods used. S........ Read more »

  • March 10, 2014
  • 04:43 AM

Does clown therapy really help anxious kids?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Hospitals can be strange, foreboding places for young children. One idea to help reduce their anxiety is to invite clowns onto the ward to foster an atmosphere of light-heartedness and safety. This may seem like a harmless intervention - certainly preferable to anti-anxiety medication - but does it really work?Alberto Dionigi and his team studied 77 children (aged 2 to 12, including 41 boys) at an Italian hospital. The children were awaiting otolaryngological surgery. They were accompanied by th........ Read more »

  • March 6, 2014
  • 03:47 AM

Three-year-olds show greater suspicion of circular arguments than adults

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Children aren't as gullible as you might think. Early in life they display a discernment that psychologists call "epistemic vigilance". They are more likely to trust information from experts compared with novices, from kind people rather than meanies, and from those they are familiar with, as opposed to strangers. Now a study shows that even by age three, children are sceptical about circular arguments; in some cases even more than adults.Hugo Mercier and his team presented 84 children aged 3 to........ Read more »

  • March 4, 2014
  • 04:43 AM

What happens when therapists dream about their clients?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

We often dream about what we've been doing and who we've been with, so it should come as little surprise to discover many psychotherapists dream about their clients. In fact a new study reports that nearly 70 per cent of thirteen participating therapists said that they'd had such dreams.Psychologist Clara Hill and her colleagues asked the 13 student psychotherapists to keep dream journals for the duration of the time they worked at a community clinic - either one or two years. The number of drea........ Read more »

Hill CE, Knox S, Crook-Lyon RE, Hess SA, Miles J, Spangler PT, & Pudasaini S. (2014) Dreaming of you: Client and therapist dreams about each other during psychodynamic psychotherapy. Psychotherapy research : journal of the Society for Psychotherapy Research. PMID: 24387006  

  • March 3, 2014
  • 04:46 AM

Introducing the Youth Bias - how we think (almost) everything happens when we're young

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

The idea that young people might find the world a stranger, more exciting place than older people makes intuitive sense. They've had less time to grow familiar with life. What's irrational is to believe that more significant public events happen when people are young. Of course they're just as likely to happen at any time of life. Nonetheless, a new study suggests that thanks to a phenomenon known as the "Youth Bias" many of us do believe that more major public events happen during a person's yo........ Read more »

Koppel J, & Berntsen D. (2014) Does everything happen when you are young? Introducing the Youth Bias. Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006), 67(3), 417-23. PMID: 24286365  

  • February 27, 2014
  • 04:08 AM

If an artist is eccentric we find their work more enjoyable and assume it's more valuable

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Pop star Lady Gaga appears at theMTV Awards 2010 in a dressmade from raw meat. Van Gogh sliced off his own ear. Truman Capote insisted he could only think in a prostrate position while sipping coffee and puffing on a cigarette. Michael Jackson hung out with a chimp, and posed for photographers while sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber. Lady Gaga attended an awards ceremony wearing a dress made from meat. There's a stereotype that creative people are eccentric and it's easy to find examples lik........ Read more »

  • February 25, 2014
  • 04:02 AM

No need to look at the score - athletes' body language gives away who's winning and losing

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

In a bruising encounter with an aggressor, signalling "I give up!" via your submissive body language can be a life saver. At least that's the case for our primate cousins, and likely too for our human ancestors. For a new study Philip Furley and Geoffrey Schweizer have explored the possibility that this behaviour persists in modern day sporting encounters. Intriguingly, while a loser's automatic submissive signals may be advantageous in real-life violent contexts, in modern sport they likely bac........ Read more »

  • February 24, 2014
  • 04:58 AM

Psychologists use baby-cam to study infants' exposure to faces

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

An infant sporting the baby-cam, worn upside down to ensure the camerawas level with the eyebrows. Image reproduced with permission of N. Sugden.What does the world look like from a baby's perspective? In the first research of its kind, psychologists in Canada have analysed hours of video footage taken from small cameras worn by babies on their heads. Nicole Sugden and her colleagues were particularly interested in the babies' exposure to faces, to find out whether the kind of faces they were ex........ Read more »

  • February 20, 2014
  • 03:51 AM

For many, the dark thoughts of depression are accompanied by perceptual sensations

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

The assessment and treatment of depression usually deals with negative verbal thoughts as if they are distinct from negative mental imagery and perceptual sensations. A new study led by Steffen Moritz at the University of Hamburg suggests this is a mistake - many people with depression report that their negative thoughts have a sensory quality. What's more, experiencing depressive thoughts with perceptual sensations tends to go hand in hand with more serious depressive illness.Recruited via hosp........ Read more »

Moritz S, Hörmann CC, Schröder J, Berger T, Jacob GA, Meyer B, Holmes EA, Späth C, Hautzinger M, Lutz W.... (2013) Beyond words: Sensory properties of depressive thoughts. Cognition . PMID: 24359124  

  • February 18, 2014
  • 09:24 AM

How children's understanding of gravity changes as they grow older

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

What happens if you drop a ball in a falling elevator and why? Your answer will of course depend on the sophistication of your understanding of the laws of physics. Psychologists in France and the Netherlands have used similar questions to test the understanding of 144 children and teenagers aged 5 to 18 years. The results show how children's naive understanding of gravity matures through different stages as a result of their first-hand experience and exposure to formal teaching and cultural exp........ Read more »

  • February 18, 2014
  • 06:14 AM

Student narcissists prefer Twitter; more mature narcissists favour Facebook

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Media headlines frequently link young people's widespread use of Facebook with the narcissism of their generation (e.g. "Facebook's 'dark side': study finds link to socially aggressive narcissism). A new investigation involving hundreds of US college students and hundreds of members of the US public has found that it's actually the older generation for whom this claim is more accurate. However, use of Twitter tells another story.First to challenge those Facebook headlines. Shaun Davenport and hi........ Read more »

  • February 13, 2014
  • 05:57 AM

Very old and very cool - recognising a distinct mental strength of the elderly

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

A pair of researchers in Switzerland say there is an attitude common among the very old that is best described as "senior coolness". Based on detailed analysis of in-depth interviews in German with 15 people aged 77 to 101 (average age 86; 12 women), and also reflected in interviews with a further 60 older people, Harm-Peer Zimmermann and Heinrich Grebe describe a commonly held attitude of "comprehensive composure, indeed nonchalance and indifference, towards old age".They argue that this runs c........ Read more »

  • February 11, 2014
  • 03:53 AM

Open a door for a man and you diminish his self-esteem and self-belief

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

How does a man feel if another man opens a door for him? The researchers Megan McCarty and Janice Kelly conducted a field study to find out.Male research assistants waited near two university building entrances and looked out for men and women approaching. On some trials the research assistant went through a door adjacent to the arriving person (so that the person had to open the door for themselves). On other trials, the research assistant leaped into action, held open the door for the approach........ Read more »

  • February 10, 2014
  • 04:38 AM

Jailed criminals think they are kinder, more trustworthy and honest than the average member of the public

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Many studies have shown that people tend to exaggerate their own positive characteristics and abilities. A popular example is the finding that most drivers think they are a better-than-average driver. This suggests there are many sub-standard drivers cruising our roads in the belief they are unusually gifted at the wheel. Similar findings apply for literally hundreds of traits, all of which supports the idea of a widespread, self-serving "better-than-average effect".However, sceptics have pointe........ Read more »

Sedikides C, Meek R, Alicke MD, & Taylor S. (2013) Behind bars but above the bar: Prisoners consider themselves more prosocial than non-prisoners. The British journal of social psychology / the British Psychological Society. PMID: 24359153  

  • February 8, 2014
  • 09:03 AM

How being happy changes your personality

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Outgoing, conscientious, friendly people who are open to new experiences tend to be happier than those who are more shy, unadventurous, neurotic and unfriendly. It's easy to imagine why this might be so. Barely studied before now, however, is the possibility that being happy could also alter your future personality.Christopher Soto has conducted the first thorough study of this question. He analysed personality and well-being results for 16,367 Australians surveyed repeatedly between 2005 and 20........ Read more »

  • February 4, 2014
  • 04:33 AM

Just because you're tone deaf doesn't mean you aren't musical

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Psychologists estimate that around 4 per cent of the population have a specific impairment affecting their processing of pitch. Tone deafness, or "amusia" to use its technical name, runs in families and it often goes hand in hand with an inability to sing and to recognise and enjoy melodies. No wonder that people with amusia are usually thought of as not being musical.However, in a new paper Jessica Phillips-Silver and her colleagues argue that the musical deficits associated with amusia may hav........ Read more »

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