BPS Research Digest

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

BPS Research Digest
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  • September 2, 2015
  • 02:41 PM

A supposedly memory-enhancing commercial brain-stimulation device actually impairs memory

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It's easy to understand why so many people have been tempted by the futuristic-looking foc.us brain stimulation headset. The manufacturers promise their product will increase brain speed and plasticity and improve mental abilities such as working memory. What's more, the device uses a technology that's usually described as "non-invasive" – transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS for short – to send currents apparently safely into your prefrontal cortex.There is ample lab r........ Read more »

Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., Hommel, B., Lindenberger, U., Kühn, S., & Colzato, L. (2015) “Unfocus” on foc.us: commercial tDCS headset impairs working memory. Experimental Brain Research. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-015-4391-9  

  • August 28, 2015
  • 08:59 AM

This is what happened when psychologists tried to replicate 100 previously published findings

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

While 97 per cent of the original results showed a statistically significanteffect, this was reproduced in only 36 per cent of the replications After some high-profile and at times acrimonious failures to replicate past landmark findings, psychology as a discipline and scientific community has led the way in trying to find out more about why some scientific findings reproduce and others don't, including instituting reporting practices to improve the reliability of future results. Much ........ Read more »

Open Science Collaboration. (2015) Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science . Science . info:/

  • August 27, 2015
  • 06:11 AM

Hiding negative emotions may take more of a toll on your relationship than faking positive ones, especially if you're extravert

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Handling your emotions in a close relationship is often a balancing act. You want to be true to yourself and open with your partner, but there are also times when it seems necessary to exert some emotional control – to hide your frustration, for example, or to feign happiness at their news (perhaps your partner is thrilled about a work trip, which in truth you'd rather they didn't take).A new study, published recently in the Journal of Psychology, is among the first the explore the toll of the........ Read more »

  • August 26, 2015
  • 04:51 AM

Having a brain scan changed how these children think about minds and brains

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The link between the mind and brain is tricky enough for expert psychologists and neuroscientists to grapple with, let alone young children. Nonetheless, they grow up with their own naive understanding. For example, there's some cute research from the 90s that found, somewhere between age 7 and 9, most children come to see the brain as containing thoughts and memories – they'll say that a skunk with a brain transplant from a rabbit will have memories of being a rabbit. Younger kids, by co........ Read more »

  • August 25, 2015
  • 11:33 AM

How do lying skill and frequency change through life, from childhood to old age?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Young adults – defined here as people aged 18 to 29 – are the most skilled liars, while teens are the most prolific. That's according to a new study published in Acta Psychologica that claims to be the first ever to investigate lying behaviour across the entire lifespan.The research involved members of the public who were visitors at the Science Centre NEMO in Amsterdam. In all, 1005 people took part, aged from 6 to 77. To test lying ability, Evelyne Debey and her colleagues presented the pa........ Read more »

  • August 24, 2015
  • 06:44 AM

People's "coming out" experiences are related to their psychological wellbeing years later

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Last year, the US psychologists Clayton Critcher and Melissa Ferguson reported interesting research showing that fatigue from concealing sexual identity can actually hinder cognitive performance. This cost stacks upon others: complications in forming close relationships, concerns about inauthenticity, and damage to psychological and physical health in the longer term all suggest that concealment is not a great position to stay in. And yet "coming out" can also be challenging, and in some cases l........ Read more »

  • August 21, 2015
  • 05:56 AM

Free personality tests are more reliable and efficient than the paid variety

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

In most areas of life, we expect the free versions of products to be sub-standard compared with the "premium" paid-for versions. After all, why would anyone pay for something if the free equivalent were better? However, a new study of personality tests boots this logic off the park – psychologists at the University of Texas report in the Journal of Psychology that free tests are more reliable and efficient than their paid-for, proprietary counterparts.To measure test reliability, Tyler Ha........ Read more »

  • August 20, 2015
  • 09:09 AM

Why do more intelligent people live longer?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Stuart RitchieIt’s always gratifying, as a psychologist, to feel like you’re studying something important. So you can imagine the excitement when it was discovered that intelligence predicts life expectancy. This finding is now supported by a large literature including systematic reviews, the most recent of which estimated that a difference of one standard deviation in childhood or youth intelligence (that’s 15 IQ points on a standardised scale) is linked to a 24 per cent ........ Read more »

Arden, R., Luciano, M., Deary, I., Reynolds, C., Pedersen, N., Plassman, B., McGue, M., Christensen, K., & Visscher, P. (2015) The association between intelligence and lifespan is mostly genetic. International Journal of Epidemiology. DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyv112  

  • August 19, 2015
  • 02:46 PM

The powerful motivating effect of a near win

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you while away time in a games arcade – play some coin pushers here, a few fruit machines there – you will soon be familiar with that frustrating and enlivening sensation of the near win that follows getting four cherries out of five. New research from INSEAD suggests that these tantalising near wins produce high levels of motivational arousal, that encourage us to chase whatever alternative rewards are then available.In one fascinating experiment, Monica Wadhwa and JeeHye Christine Kim g........ Read more »

  • August 18, 2015
  • 11:01 AM

Weird things start to happen when you stare into someone's eyes for 10 minutes

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A psychologist based in Italy says he has found a simple way to induce in healthy people an altered state of consciousness – simply get two individuals to look into each other's eyes for 10 minutes while they are sitting in a dimly lit room. The sensations that ensue resemble mild "dissociation" – a rather vague psychological term for when people lose their normal connection with reality. It can include feeling like the world is unreal, memory loss and odd perceptual experiences, such as see........ Read more »

  • August 17, 2015
  • 04:58 AM

Having strong political skills can be a handicap in the workplace

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you overheard someone at work refer to you as "a real political operator", would you feel complimented, or alarmed? The latter turns out to be a sensible reaction, as new research suggests that supervisors and colleagues have less faith in the performance of the highly politically skilled.Study authors Ingo Zettler and Jonas Lang noted a conundrum in their field: researchers treat political skill as a uniform good, the more the better, yet a meta-analysis of relevant research (pdf) found a sp........ Read more »

  • August 14, 2015
  • 07:34 AM

Surprising or contradictory health news stories encourage readers to be sceptical about science

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The Kill or Cure website monitors the Daily Mail's attempt to "classify every inanimate object into those that cause cancer and those that prevent it". Like many other media outlets, the Mail is drawn to health news that is contradictory and/or surprising and a perusal of the Kill or Cure website shows that the paper has frequently reported that the same items, such as aspirin or beer, both cause and prevent cancer.Now a study published recently in Science Communication examines t........ Read more »

  • August 14, 2015
  • 04:35 AM

Study uncovers dramatic cross-cultural differences in babies' sitting ability

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Paediatricians' offices are often adorned with a developmental milestone chart for infants, and they always show the same "normal" age-typical progression, from sitting to crawling to walking. But these expectations (e.g. 25 per cent of infants achieve independent sitting by 5.5 months) are rather misleading because they're derived solely from research on Western babies conducted back in the 1930s and 1940s. A new study, published recently in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, aimed to br........ Read more »

Karasik, L., Tamis-LeMonda, C., Adolph, K., & Bornstein, M. (2015) Places and Postures: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Sitting in 5-Month-Olds. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 46(8), 1023-1038. DOI: 10.1177/0022022115593803  

  • August 12, 2015
  • 05:04 AM

Experts are especially prone to claiming they know more than they do

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Experts often exhibit "overclaiming" –believing they know things that they don't.If you consider yourself a science buff, see if any of these terms seem familiar: meta-toxin, bio-sexual, retroplex. Ringing any bells? If so, you may be surprised to hear that these terms are entirely made-up. They are “trap items” invented to study overclaiming, the claiming of knowledge you could not possibly possess. If you overclaimed, you’re not alone; one early study showed as many as one in five........ Read more »

  • August 11, 2015
  • 06:47 AM

What does your selfie reveal about your personality?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

People who pull selfie "duck faces" are seenas lazy and emotionally unstableThe rise of the selfie (and its widespread use on social media) has given people more control than ever over the impression they present to the world. But to date, without any scientific testing, the choices people make about how to present themselves are presumably based on instinct. Now that can change (maybe).Lin Qiu and his colleagues recruited 123 users of the popular Chinese Sina Weibo microblogging website (simila........ Read more »

Qiu, L., Lu, J., Yang, S., Qu, W., & Zhu, T. (2015) What does your selfie say about you?. Computers in Human Behavior, 443-449. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.06.032  

  • August 10, 2015
  • 09:59 AM

What is it like to be a refugee with psychosis?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Refugees awaiting identification at Catania Harbor, April 2015We're in the midst of a "migrant crisis" as tens of thousands of brave, desperate people seek new lives in Europe, risking life and limb to get here. Amidst the tragedy and controversy, the continued plight of those people who actually make it to relative safety is often forgotten. Unsurprisingly, given all they've endured, refugees often have serious mental health problems, including hallucinations. As an indicator, research publishe........ Read more »

  • August 7, 2015
  • 11:55 AM

What do long-distance runners think about?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Marathon runners are on the road for hours at a time, what on earth goes through their minds all that time? Past investigations have relied on asking runners to remember what they were thinking about, but of course that is an unreliable method. Now Ashley Samson and her team have conducted the first ever "think aloud" investigation of long-distance runners, which involves them verbalising "everything that passes through your head", so that their thoughts can be recorded and analysed. The researc........ Read more »

Samson, A., Simpson, D., Kamphoff, C., & Langlier, A. (2015) Think aloud: An examination of distance runners’ thought processes. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-14. DOI: 10.1080/1612197X.2015.1069877  

  • August 6, 2015
  • 05:02 AM

What does a person's writing style say about their risk of suicide?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Suicidal thoughts are relatively common whereas acts of suicide are, thankfully, far more rare. But this creates a dilemma – how to judge the risk of thoughts turning into action? A new study claims that an objective way is to use a computer programme to analyse a person's writing style. People who are having suicidal thoughts and who use more pronouns relating to the self (I, me, myself) than pronouns relating to others, are likely to take more time to recover, meaning they will be at risk fo........ Read more »

  • August 5, 2015
  • 07:36 AM

Why it's so important that team members believe they're on the same page

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

One of the most important characteristics of successful teams is that team members believe in their collective potential – also known as team potency. But what can be done to foster this shared belief? A new study suggests that teams feel more potent when their members believe they share a common vision of how to work and what to achieve.Caroline Aubé and her colleagues surveyed employees at a large Canadian public-sector organisation, including team members and managers. Within 101 teams, me........ Read more »

  • August 4, 2015
  • 05:59 PM

Researchers say they've found a way to combat anti-vaccine attitudes, but is it premature to celebrate?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Simon OxenhamOver recent years, measles has once again become a public health crisis in the western world as a result of growing anti-vaccination movements in the UK and the US. This is an enormous problem because the success of vaccination depends on herd immunity: unless the vast majority of the population is protected, vaccines cannot halt the rapid spread of infectious diseases, leaving vulnerable people at risk, such as those with immune disorders, the elderly and newborn b........ Read more »

Horne, Z., Powell, D., Hummel, J., & Holyoak, K. (2015) Countering antivaccination attitudes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201504019. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1504019112  

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