BPS Research Digest

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Cutting-edge reports on the latest psychology research

BPS Research Digest
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  • November 16, 2015
  • 10:27 AM

Being true to yourself may protect against the harmful effects of loneliness

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A lot has been written about the downward spiral of loneliness. People who crave more social contact often develop behaviours and thinking styles that only serve to accentuate their isolation, such as turning to drink and becoming more sensitive to perceived slights and rejections. Less studied is the question of whether some people have personality traits that give them a buffer against these loneliness-related risks. A new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology finds a promising c........ Read more »

  • November 16, 2015
  • 06:33 AM

Careful – a long-running rivalry can make you reckless

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Victory is always gratifying and acquires an even more delicious taste when it involves the defeat of a rival. But new evidence published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that rivalries, as well as spurring us on, also promote a mindset that favours eagerness, even recklessness – a mindset that seeks to achieve a legacy for the history books, but carries a risk to our chances on the day.NYU psychologist Gavin Kilduff defines rivalry as a relationship charac........ Read more »

  • November 12, 2015
  • 05:10 AM

Older people appear to be especially good at remembering things that interest them

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Our memory abilities begin to diminish in some respects as early as our twenties. But the picture isn't entirely bleak. A new study published in Psychology and Aging explores the possibility that an older person's curiosity or interest in a subject can reinforce their powers of memory. Following this view, old age is associated with forgetting more of what you don't care about, but the ability to remember what matters to you is preserved or even enhanced.Shannon McGillivray and her colleagues te........ Read more »

  • November 11, 2015
  • 10:05 AM

Comparing Obama's and Romney's speech styles and the way their audiences react

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

In the run up to the 2012 US election, President Obama visited the undecided swing-states he needed to win in order to hold on to the Presidency. A new study published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology features an analysis of the speeches he gave, together with those of his opponent Mitt Romney, and finds it’s possible to estimate the candidates’ subsequent electoral success by measuring how audiences reacted to their speeches. It also describes how speeches are intentionally ........ Read more »

  • November 10, 2015
  • 04:24 AM

"Super recognisers": more than just clever lab rats

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It's only within the last 10 years that psychologists have realised some people have extremely good face recognition abilities that set them apart from the rest of the population, a group they call "super recognisers". These individuals excel on established lab tests of their abilities, such as the Cambridge Face Memory Test. Understandably, this has led to interest in using these people's skills in real-life settings, such as to help identify rioters whose faces have been captured on CCTV. In f........ Read more »

  • November 9, 2015
  • 11:03 AM

When anticipating their future needs, children can't see past their current state

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

You know how it feels after you've gorged on a large packet of pretzels or crisps – you have a mouth like a salt mine, an unquenchable thirst, and the thought occurs to you that wouldn't mind if you never saw another pretzel again in your life. Except you know that's not really true. That's why you leave the other packets snug in the kitchen cupboard, fully aware that tomorrow evening you'll be delighted to get munching again.In other words, you have "episodic foresight". You are able to look ........ Read more »

  • November 5, 2015
  • 05:10 AM

Why do we feel older on some days than others?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

People who feel young for their age tend to live longer than those who don't. Indeed, it's thought that what psychologists call "subjective age" is likely a pretty accurate marker for a person's actual psychological and physical health. While a lot of past research has looked at the major factors that influence changes in subjective age over a lifetime, such as chronic physical disease and mental health problems, a new study published recently in Psychology and Health has investig........ Read more »

  • November 3, 2015
  • 07:02 AM

Attention training can wire your brain to be less scaredy-cat

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

After the training, participants wereless distracted by scary picturesA simple computer training task, which involves ignoring irrelevant information, can change the brain's wiring to make it less responsive to threatening pictures. That's according to a new study published in Neuroimage. The authors say they are the first to demonstrate that neutral (as in, non emotional) attention training can change the brain's emotional reactivity.Twenty-six healthy participants completed the "executive cont........ Read more »

Cohen N, Margulies DS, Ashkenazi S, Schaefer A, Taubert M, Henik A, Villringer A, & Okon-Singer H. (2015) Using Executive Control Training to Suppress Amygdala Reactivity to Aversive Information. NeuroImage. PMID: 26520770  

  • November 2, 2015
  • 05:52 AM

The ideal therapist doubts their professional skills, but loves themselves as a person

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Given a choice, you might think it better to undertake psychotherapy with a confident therapist than a self-doubting one. After all, you want a firm hand to guide you through a storm. But in fact, there's evidence that therapy clients do better when their therapist has professional self-doubts. In a new paper published in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Helene Nissen-Lie and her colleagues tested their idea that therapist self-doubt might not always be helpful, and specifically that the i........ Read more »

Nissen-Lie, H., Rønnestad, M., Høglend, P., Havik, O., Solbakken, O., Stiles, T., & Monsen, J. (2015) Love Yourself as a Person, Doubt Yourself as a Therapist?. Clinical Psychology . DOI: 10.1002/cpp.1977  

  • October 30, 2015
  • 05:42 AM

Googling stuff can cause us to overestimate our own knowledge

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Simon OxenhamThe internet has changed the way we do many things, from organising a get-together to looking up a recipe. Tasks that little over a decade ago would have involved dozens of phone calls or a trip to the library, can now be completed in a heartbeat. There has been much animated debate about the potential relative harms or benefits of all this, but convincing evidence has not been forthcoming. Now a new study of 119 men and 83 women recruited through Amazon’s Mechani........ Read more »

  • October 29, 2015
  • 03:33 PM

Feeling like you're an expert can make you closed-minded

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"Not listening ..."What happens to us as we accrue knowledge and experience, as we become experts in a field? Competence follows. Effortlessness follows (pdf). But certain downsides can follow too. We reported recently on how experts are vulnerable to an overclaiming error – falsely feeling familiar with things that seem true of a domain but aren’t. Now a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology explores how feelings of expertise can lead us to be more dogmatic towards........ Read more »

  • October 28, 2015
  • 12:05 PM

Survey that revealed widespread iffy research practices in psychology was itself iffy

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Four years ago we were the first to break the disconcerting news that a survey of thousands of US psychologists had found their use of "questionable research practices" was commonplace: that is, their tendency to do things like failing to report all the measures they'd taken, or collecting more data after looking to see if their results were significant.The story went viral, further aggravating the storm cloud sitting over the discipline at that time (it wasn't long since one of social psycholog........ Read more »

Fiedler, K., & Schwarz, N. (2015) Questionable Research Practices Revisited. Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI: 10.1177/1948550615612150  

  • October 27, 2015
  • 01:23 PM

First brain scan study to feature THAT dress

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Figure and caption from Schlaffke et al., 2015.Earlier this year a dress nearly broke the internet. A photo of the striped frock (which is actually blue and black) was posted on Tumblr and it quickly became apparent that it looked very different to different people, spawning furious arguments and lively scientific commentary.Specifically, people disagreed vehemently over whether it was white and gold (that's my perception) or blue and black. Now, writing in the journal Cortex, researchers i........ Read more »

Schlaffke, L., Golisch, A., Haag, L., Lenz, M., Heba, S., Lissek, S., Schmidt-Wilcke, T., Eysel, U., & Tegenthoff, M. (2015) The brain's dress code: How The Dress allows to decode the neuronal pathway of an optical illusion. Cortex, 271-275. DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.08.017  

  • October 26, 2015
  • 08:06 AM

The surprising truth about which personality traits do and don't correlate with computer programming skills

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

What do Lisbeth Salander, Chloe O'Brien and Elliot Alderson have in common? They are all expert computer programmers or hackers, and (like most fictional portrayals of people with their skills), they're all, well, rather odd and socially awkward. In other words, they all conform to the commonly held stereotype of the IT guy (or girl) – which must be one of the most stereotyped occupations in the world – as good with machines and programming code, but lousy with people and emotions......... Read more »

  • October 23, 2015
  • 06:09 AM

The man who saw a stranger in the mirror

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The man was diagnosed with Capgras syndromeMirrors easily call forth the uncanny: the vampire that casts no reflection; the figure who seems to appear in your periphery. Overtired or in an odd mood, I sometimes find myself scrutinising my own reflection, momentarily toying with the idea that it’s something independent, alive in its mirror space. So I was fascinated to read a short account published in the journal Neurocase of a 78-year-old man, referred to as Mr B to protect his privacy, ........ Read more »

  • October 23, 2015
  • 04:51 AM

People prefer food that comes in sexist packaging

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Putting unhealthy food in macho masculine packaging, or healthy food in feminine-themed packaging, makes it taste nicer, and people are willing to pay more for it. That's according to a new study published in Social Psychology which finds that, at least in the US, cultural beliefs about gender and food are so entrenched that people actually prefer food that's packaged in an apparently sexist way.While there is in fact some evidence that men on average do prefer naughtier dinn........ Read more »

Zhu, L., Brescoll, V., Newman, G., & Uhlmann, E. (2015) Macho Nachos. Social Psychology, 46(4), 182-196. DOI: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000226  

  • October 21, 2015
  • 03:04 PM

Life is different for people who think in metaphors

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Some people are literal minded – they think in black and white whereas others colour their worlds with metaphor. A new paper published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports on the first standardised measure of this difference, and it shows that having a proclivity for metaphors has real consequences, affecting how people respond to the world around them and even how they interact with others.A metaphor uses a concrete concept, often sensory (e.g. "light") or loca........ Read more »

  • October 21, 2015
  • 04:38 AM

Mindfulness meditation increases people's susceptibility to false memories

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Mo CostandiMindfulness is a form of meditation that encourages self-awareness by focusing attention on one's thoughts and sensations in a non-judgemental way. The practice is associated with various health benefits, and its popularity has grown enormously in recent years, due largely to endorsement from celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.Today, mindfulness meditation forms the basis of therapeutic interventions for a wide variety of physical and psychological ai........ Read more »

Wilson, B., Mickes, L., Stolarz-Fantino, S., Evrard, M., & Fantino, E. (2015) Increased False-Memory Susceptibility After Mindfulness Meditation. Psychological Science, 26(10), 1567-1573. DOI: 10.1177/0956797615593705  

  • October 17, 2015
  • 08:02 AM

Guilt-prone people are highly skilled at recognising other people's emotions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It's not pleasant to feel perpetually that you're responsible for mishaps and screw-ups, but some people do. Psychologists recognise this as a distinct trait, which they call "guilt-proneness" and now they've discovered that it tends to go hand in hand with an enhanced ability to recognise other people's emotions, at least from their facial expressions.For the new study published in Cognition and Emotion, Matt Treeby and his colleagues asked 363 people (mostly students; average age 27) to s........ Read more »

  • October 16, 2015
  • 04:50 AM

When you're sitting in a car, things appear closer than they really are

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Psychologists have known for some time that how we perceive the world is influenced by our physical capacity to act in it. For example, hills look steeper when you've got a heavy bag on your back. Objects seem nearer when you're holding a tool that allows you to reach further. Now Birte Moeller and her colleagues have extended this line of research to study how sitting in a stationary car affects people's perceptions of distance. Their findings, published recently in Psychonomic Bulletin and Rev........ Read more »

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