Christian Jarrett

937 posts · 712,701 views

Reports on the latest psychology research plus psych gossip and comment. Brought to you by the British Psychological Society.

Sort by Latest Post, Most Popular

View by Condensed, Full

  • July 28, 2014
  • 09:05 AM
  • 34 views

The mistakes that lead therapists to infer psychotherapy was effective, when it wasn't

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

How well can psychotherapists and their clients judge from personal experience whether therapy has been effective? Not well at all, according to a paper by Scott Lilienfeld and his colleagues. The fear is that this can lead to the continued practice of ineffective, or even harmful, treatments.The authors point out that, like the rest of us, clinicians are subject to four main biases that skew their ability to infer the effectiveness of their psychotherapeutic treatments. This includes the mistak........ Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 10:23 AM
  • 85 views

How our judgments about criminals are swayed by disgust, biological explanations and animalistic descriptions

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

We expect of our jurors and judges calm, reasoned evaluation of the evidence. Of course we know the reality is rather different - prejudice and emotional reactions will always play their part. Now two new studies add insight into the ways people's legal judgements depart from cool objectivity.Beatrice Capestany and Lasana Harris focused on two main factors - the disgust level of a crime, and whether or not the perpetrators' personality was described in biological terms. Seventeen participants we........ Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 06:44 AM
  • 103 views

Why job interviewers should focus on the candidates, not selling their organisation

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

It’s hard to find the best person for the job through an interview. New research uncovers part of the problem: judging a candidate’s calibre becomes trickier when we’re also trying to sell them the benefits of joining the organisation.In an initial study, participants were asked to interview a person (another participant) who was acting as an applicant for a fictional position. Half the interviewers were told their priority was to get a good sense of the applicant, while the rest had to pr........ Read more »

  • July 23, 2014
  • 10:22 AM
  • 75 views

What the textbooks don't tell you - one of psychology's most famous experiments was seriously flawed

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Zimbardo speaking in '09Conducted in 1971, the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) has acquired a mythical status and provided the inspiration for at least two feature-length films. You'll recall that several university students allocated to the role of jailor turned brutal and the study had to be aborted prematurely. Philip Zimbardo, the experiment's lead investigator, says the lesson from the research is that in certain situations, good people readily turn bad. "If you put good apples into a bad ........ Read more »

  • July 22, 2014
  • 04:43 AM
  • 36 views

Study of dynamic facial expressions suggests there are four basic emotions, not six

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

New research suggests that humans recognise facial emotional expressions in a dynamic way. We search for urgent signals first, before seeking out more nuanced information. The University of Glasgow researchers also argue their data show there are four basic facial expressions of emotion rather than the widely accepted six.Rachael Jack and her colleagues developed computerised 3-D faces that began neutral and relaxed before transforming over one second into a random expression, created through a ........ Read more »

  • July 21, 2014
  • 05:51 AM
  • 120 views

It's time for Western psychology to recognise that many individuals, and even entire cultures, fear happiness

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

It's become a mantra of the modern Western world that the ultimate aim of life is to achieve happiness. Self-help blog posts on how to be happy are almost guaranteed popularity (the Digest has its own!). Pro-happiness organisations have appeared, such as Action for Happiness, which aims to "create a happier society for everyone." Topping it all, an increasing number of governments, including in the UK, have started measuring national well-being (seen as a proxy for "happiness") - the argument be........ Read more »

  • July 18, 2014
  • 07:52 AM
  • 98 views

Men's sex appeal boosted by taking risks like a cave man

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

A willingness to take risks enhances men's sex appeal. This much we know from past research. What's not clear, is whether this is because of cultural beliefs about traditional gender roles, or if it's an evolutionary hang-over (or perhaps both). John Petraitis and his colleagues have put these two explanations to the test by drawing a distinction between risk-taking behaviours that reflect the challenges faced by our ancestors, and contemporary risks based around modern technology.Over two-hundr........ Read more »

Petraitis, J., Lampman, C., Boeckmann, R., & Falconer, E. (2014) Sex differences in the attractiveness of hunter-gatherer and modern risks. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 44(6), 442-453. DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12237  

  • July 17, 2014
  • 03:59 AM
  • 55 views

How your mood changes your personality

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Participants scored higher on neuroticism & lower on extraversion when they were sadExcept in extreme cases of illness or trauma, we usually expect each other's personalities to remain stable through life. Indeed, central to the definition of personality is that it describes pervasive tendencies in a person's behaviour and ways of relating to the world. However, a new study highlights the reality - your personality is swayed by your current mood, especially when you're feeling down.Jan Quere........ Read more »

  • July 16, 2014
  • 09:54 AM
  • 99 views

What does it feel like to be depressed?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

We're used to reading about depression as a checklist of symptoms. These lists have their uses, but arguably they miss the human story of what depression truly feels like. Now the psychologists Jonathan Smith and John Rhodes have published their analysis of the first-hand accounts of seven therapy clients, (three women and four men) about what it's like to be depressed for the first time. The participants had an average age of 44, and all had been referred for therapy in London.The first theme t........ Read more »

  • July 15, 2014
  • 04:33 AM
  • 84 views

It's possible to "forget" unwanted habits

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

New research shows that we can weaken and even undo practised habits by deliberately deciding to forget them.Gesine Dreisbach and Karl-Heinz Bäuml from Regensburg University first instilled new habits in their participants by presenting them with German words and training them over many trials to make the same response to each word - a left-handed key-press for half of them, a right-hand response for the remainder.Later, participants had to categorise the same words by gender, with key-presses ........ Read more »

Dreisbach, G., & Bauml, K. (2014) Don't Do It Again! Directed Forgetting of Habits. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1242-1248. DOI: 10.1177/0956797614526063  

  • July 14, 2014
  • 10:23 AM
  • 96 views

Young men and women have very different attitudes towards touch in cross-sex friendships

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Friendships between heterosexual men and women can be tricky to navigate, especially when it comes to tactile contact. Is that touch on the arm a gesture of platonic care and affection? Or an unwanted signal of sexual interest? A new survey by US researchers shows the situation is complicated by the contrasting attitudes of young men and women towards touch in cross-sex friendships.Michael Miller and his team quizzed 276 undergrads at an Eastern US University, including 128 women*. The participa........ Read more »

MILLER, M., DENES, A., DIAZ, B., & RANJIT, Y. (2014) Touch attitudes in cross-sex friendships: We're just friends. Personal Relationships, 21(2), 309-323. DOI: 10.1111/pere.12033  

  • July 11, 2014
  • 10:16 AM
  • 109 views

Adults, like children, have a tendency to think vision is more informative than it is

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Among the cute mistakes that children make, one is to overestimate how much information they can garner through vision. For instance, asked to judge whether they can tell apart two identical-looking, but differently weighted (or different sounding) objects, simply by looking at them, five-year-olds tend to say Yes. Now an intriguing new paper suggests this is an error that we adults fail to completely outgrow.In the second and more persuasive of their experiments, Jessica Wang and her colleagues........ Read more »

Wang JJ, Diana Miletich D, Ramsey R, & Samson D. (2014) Adults see vision to be more informative than it is. Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006), 1-14. PMID: 24853581  

  • July 10, 2014
  • 05:00 AM
  • 58 views

By treating depression, do we also treat suicidality? The answer is far from straightforward

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger James Coyne.Edgar Allan Poe’s fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin warns against tackling questions that are too complicated to test, but too fascinating to give up. Whether psychotherapy or medication can reduce suicidality is probably such a question. Particularly if we are really interested in whether treatments can reduce attempted suicides, not whether they change patients’ answers in an interview or on a questionnaire.There is no doubt about the clinical and publi........ Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 12:05 PM
  • 109 views

You can do it! Self-talk is more effective when you refer to yourself as You, rather than I

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

We know self-talk can help people's self-control (e.g. "Don't do it!"), and boost their morale (e.g. "Hang in there!") in sporting situations. However, before now, no-one has investigated whether self-talk is more effective depending on whether you refer to yourself in the grammatical first person (i.e. "I can do it!") or the second person (i.e. "You can do it?").Sanda Dolcos and her team first asked 95 psychology undergrads to imagine they were a character in a short story. The charac........ Read more »

  • July 8, 2014
  • 06:13 PM
  • 67 views

People's happiness at work usually dips mid career - now researchers think they know why

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

If you're in or not far from your thirties, you're part of the age group that previous research shows is most likely to experience lower workplace wellbeing. A new study suggests the reasons for this midlife dip: a double whammy of more demands on time and less support from co-workers. Dr Hannes Zacher's team surveyed nearly 800 mostly male workers in various roles in the Australian construction industry. Participants reported wellbeing in terms of job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion. Cons........ Read more »

  • July 4, 2014
  • 12:52 PM
  • 77 views

Is it the darkness within? Some people would rather shock themselves with electricity than spend time with their own thoughts

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Go people-watching in any Western country and it's rare to come across a person sat alone in quiet contemplation. Most lone individuals are seen playing with their mobile phone, reading, watching a movie on their tablet, or people-watching. Why this need for distraction? Is there something so aversive about spending time immersed in our own thoughts?A team of psychologists led by Timothy Wilson has investigated. Across six initial studies they invited hundreds of undergrads, one at a time, to sp........ Read more »

Timothy D. Wilson, David Reinhard, Erin Westgate, Daniel T. Gilbert, Nicole Ellerbeck, Cheryl Hahn, Casey Brown, & Adi Shaked. (2014) Just Think: The Challenges of the Disengaged Mind. Science. info:/

  • July 2, 2014
  • 08:09 AM
  • 143 views

What happens to the cool kids when they grow up?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

"Cool kids", according to a new study, are those early teens (aged 13 to 15) who want to be popular, and try to impress their peers by acting older than their years. They have precocious romantic relationships, commit relatively minor acts of bad behaviour (such as sneaking into the cinema without paying), and surround themselves with good-looking friends. These teenagers attract respect from their peers at first, but what's the story by the time they reach early adulthood?Joseph Allen and his c........ Read more »

  • July 1, 2014
  • 12:18 PM
  • 77 views

When work conditions are tough, Machiavellians thrive

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

When budgets are cut or time is short, watch out for those who excel at work. Their contribution could be admirable, but a new study suggests you may alternatively be witnessing a “Machiavellian” in action – someone exploiting the situation for their own interests.Daniel Kuyumcu and Jason Dahling assessed the Machiavellianism of 110 psychology students, all of whom worked at least 15 hours part-time. Questionnaire items included: "I am willing to sabotage the efforts of other people if the........ Read more »

  • June 30, 2014
  • 04:03 PM
  • 80 views

Exploding the 10,000 hours myth - it's no guarantee for greatness

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson has studied elite performers in music, chess and sport for decades, and he says the main distinguishing characteristic of experts is the amount of deliberate practice they've invested - typically over 10,000 hours.This is painstaking practice performed for the sole purpose of improving one's skill level. Best-selling authors like Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Matthew Syed and others, have taken Ericsson's results and distilled them into the uplifting message that........ Read more »

Hambrick, D., Oswald, F., Altmann, E., Meinz, E., Gobet, F., & Campitelli, G. (2014) Deliberate practice: Is that all it takes to become an expert?. Intelligence, 34-45. DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2013.04.001  

  • June 27, 2014
  • 07:27 AM
  • 131 views

What is “Cultural IQ” training and does it really work?

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

IQ was once the only game in town. Now it rubs shoulders with a gaggle of human ability measures such as Emotional Intelligence, Empathy Quotient, and Rationality Quotient. The increasingly interconnected and diverse world of work has magnified interest in another newcomer: CQ, or cultural intelligence. With it come courses promising to prepare their students to work with colleagues, partners and customers who have different values and norms. A new paper investigates how effective this training ........ Read more »

join us!

Do you write about peer-reviewed research in your blog? Use ResearchBlogging.org to make it easy for your readers — and others from around the world — to find your serious posts about academic research.

If you don't have a blog, you can still use our site to learn about fascinating developments in cutting-edge research from around the world.

Register Now

Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.

To learn more, visit seedmediagroup.com.