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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  • May 4, 2016
  • 08:18 AM
  • 53 views

Genetic research can promote peace or conflict, depending on how it's used

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It's becoming easier than ever to research the genetic roots of different ethnic groups and these findings can be framed differently to either emphasise that groups are similar or different. For example, a BBC headline from 2000 stated "Jews and Arabs are 'genetic brothers'" while a 2013 Medical Daily headline claimed "Genes of most Ashkenazi Jews trace back to indigenous Europe, not Middle East". As political leaders have started citing this kind of evidence to promote their particular agenda, ........ Read more »

  • May 3, 2016
  • 04:28 AM
  • 65 views

A laughing crowd changes the way your brain processes insults

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

We usually think of laughter as a sound of joy and mirth, but in certain contexts, such as when it accompanies an insult, it takes on a negative meaning, signaling contempt and derision, especially in a group situation. Most of us probably know from experience that this makes insults sting more, now a study in Social Neuroscience has shown the neural correlates of this effect. Within a fraction of a second, the presence of a laughing crowd changes the way that the brain processes an insult.Marte........ Read more »

  • April 29, 2016
  • 04:54 AM
  • 13 views

Looking back on your past can make you less likely to suffer depression in the future

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Is spending time looking back on our lives good for our mental health? A lot of research suggests it is, but these studies have been cross-sectional, making it hard to form a clear causal story – for example, perhaps being happier makes it more likely that people will reminisce. On the other hand, there are therapeutic trials that show purposeful reminiscence can bring about clinically meaningful decreases in depression. Now, a longitudinal investigation in Applied Cognitive Psychology provide........ Read more »

  • April 29, 2016
  • 04:34 AM
  • 135 views

Why organisations should encourage their staff to become friends

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

They say you should never mix business and pleasure but in reality many of us find that we become friends with the people who we work with. No wonder, when you consider the hours spent together and the deep bonds formed through collaboration and sharing the highs and lows of the job.A new study in Personnel Psychology is among the first to examine the effects on job performance of having more "multiplex relationships" – colleagues you work with directly who are also your friends outside of wor........ Read more »

  • April 27, 2016
  • 03:00 AM
  • 45 views

Are certain groups of people more likely to leave suicide notes?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It is a sad fact that we can never ask of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who take their own lives each year – why did you do it? Instead, psychologists talk to people who attempted, but failed, to kill themselves, and they also look into the minds' of suicide victims through the notes that they leave. But in fact only a minority of suicide victims leave notes, and the validity of studying these notes depends in part of the assumption that victims who leave notes are the s........ Read more »

  • April 26, 2016
  • 05:06 AM
  • 35 views

Teaching children the ancient "mental abacus" technique boosted their maths abilities more than normal extra tuition

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Seeing an expert abacus user in action is a sight to behold. Their hands are a blur as they perform arithmetic operations far quicker than anyone using an electronic calculator. The mental abacus technique is even more impressive – it works just the same as a real abacus, except that you visualise moving the beads in your mind's eye (check out this video of people using mental abacus to perform amazing feats of arithmetic).Surprisingly, there is little research on the benefits of teaching the ........ Read more »

  • April 25, 2016
  • 04:20 AM
  • 33 views

Neuro Milgram – Your brain takes less ownership of actions that you perform under coercion

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The new findings help explain why many people can be coerced so easilyBy guest blogger Mo CostandiIn a series of classic experiments performed in the early 1960s, Stanley Milgram created a situation in which a scientist instructed volunteers to deliver what they believed to be painful and deadly electric shocks to other people. Although this now infamous research has been criticised at length, people continue to be unsettled by its main finding – that most of the participants were quite willin........ Read more »

Caspar, E., Christensen, J., Cleeremans, A., & Haggard, P. (2016) Coercion Changes the Sense of Agency in the Human Brain. Current Biology, 26(5), 585-592. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.067  

  • April 22, 2016
  • 03:37 AM
  • 161 views

One woman's deradicalisation: from right-wing extremist to preacher of tolerance

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

An in-depth interview with a formerly violent right-wing extremist has provided psychologists with rare insights into the processes of disengagement and deradicalisation. John Horgan at Georgia State University and his colleagues interviewed "Sarah" face-to-face for several hours, and also followed up with telephone calls. Their account is published in Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression. The woman had previously been a member of various Neo-Nazi right-wing groups and was u........ Read more »

Horgan, J., Altier, M., Shortland, N., & Taylor, M. (2016) Walking away: the disengagement and de-radicalization of a violent right-wing extremist. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/19434472.2016.1156722  

  • April 21, 2016
  • 09:29 AM
  • 198 views

This is why the research on creativity and mental illness is so contradictory

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

From Van Gogh to Poe, history is littered with famous cases of creative geniuses plagued by inner turmoil. But going beyond the anecdotal, are creative people really more prone to mental health difficulties?Past studies have led to conflicting results – for every one that uncovered a link, another has come along with the opposite result. In a new paper in Psychological Bulletin, a Netherlands-based team led by Matthijs Baas takes us through a tour of this earlier work and they propose a brain-........ Read more »

  • April 20, 2016
  • 10:24 AM
  • 173 views

We think scientists are more likely than others to engage in necrobestiality (and other "impure" activities)

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

For hundreds of years, scientists were just one fixture in the firmament of the intellectual class, as colourful and strident in their own way as the philosophers and poets. But come the 20th Century and the public began to regard scientists with fear and awe, thanks to the advent of immense technologies such as the atomic bomb. In response, the profession consciously rebranded as anonymous public servants in white coats: dutiful, considered and above all, safe. But new research published in PLO........ Read more »

  • April 19, 2016
  • 12:27 PM
  • 159 views

How well can we detect each other's loneliness?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Experts have likened loneliness to a disease that changes the brain. Sadly, these changes often affect people in ways that further isolates them – for example, lonely people are more sensitive to negative facial expressions. If we're to break this cycle and provide friendship to the lonely, a starting point is to recognise that a person is feeling isolated. A new study in Journal of Research in Personality tests whether and how well we can do this.Maike Luhmann and his colleagues ask........ Read more »

  • April 18, 2016
  • 07:20 AM
  • 144 views

Good news! Planning naughty lapses can help you achieve your goals

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It's OK: I planned this! There's a school of thought that says if you want to reach your goals, your commitment must be total. To save more money, you must never go on a splurge. To lose weight, you must never indulge. But this path is joyless and risky, say the authors of a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. If you follow the total approach, then one lapse and you fee like a failure, your motivation dips and before you know it, your goal is in tatters. Much better, they ........ Read more »

  • April 15, 2016
  • 07:34 AM
  • 190 views

Are the police better than us at spotting thieves before they commit a crime?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Are professionals better than the rest of us at spotting wrong-doing? The historical evidence is gloomy: one study suggested job interviewers perform no better than novices at spotting cheaters. Several reviews have concluded that police officers and detectives have less than stellar abilities to catch lies in interrogations, with some research even suggesting chance levels of performance. However recent research has begun to rehabilitate expert abilities at interview lie detection. And now a st........ Read more »

  • April 14, 2016
  • 02:11 AM
  • 163 views

Psychologist who experiences mania without depression says "madness" can be enriching

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A US-based clinical psychologist has published an extraordinary essay in the journal Psychosis in which he claims to have experienced 17 bouts of mania or "mood elevation" between 1997 and 2015 without any intervening instances of depression.Mania is usually experienced alongside alternating episodes of depression, in which case it is described by psychiatrists as bipolar disorder. David Ho, who has taught and practised in the USA and Hong Kong, says his experience of "unipolar mood elevation" s........ Read more »

  • April 13, 2016
  • 06:42 AM
  • 185 views

What does an ambivalent mood do to your problem-solving skills?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Psychologists have got a pretty good picture of how we’re influenced by the big emotional states. Feeling positive encourages an explorative cognitive style that is risk-tolerant and well suited to the open aspects of creativity, whereas negative emotions make us sensitive to threat and prone to vigilant, focused thinking. But what happens when our emotional states are a mix of the two – when we’re in an ambivalent mood? Appropriately, research to date has been inconsistent, with some work........ Read more »

  • April 12, 2016
  • 07:40 AM
  • 164 views

The most effective leaders clash with their company culture

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Anyone will tell you that the most successful organisations have leaders who match the company culture. A CEO fixated on getting things done should lead somewhere driven by outcomes, a “mission culture”, whereas a people-focused leader suits a place focused on involvement and participation. This way everything is neat, tidy and aligned, with messages presented consistently, providing staff with reliable guides as to how to behave. But this is not what the data says in a new study published i........ Read more »

  • April 12, 2016
  • 07:13 AM
  • 152 views

Hanging out with virtual reality spiders helps arachnophobes see real spiders as smaller and less scary

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Melissa HogenboomA little fear can be a good thing but when it develops into a phobia, it can become debilitating. One way therapists treat fear disorders is using a technique called exposure therapy. As its name suggests, it involves gradually exposing a person to the very thing they are afraid of.The problem is that in the comfort of a therapist's office, recreating the fearful event is not always straightforward. This means patients may not be able to realistically confront w........ Read more »

Shiban, Y., Fruth, M., Pauli, P., Kinateder, M., Reichenberger, J., & Mühlberger, A. (2016) Treatment effect on biases in size estimation in spider phobia. Biological Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2016.03.005  

  • April 8, 2016
  • 04:35 AM
  • 104 views

More time in day nursery before age two is associated with higher cognitive scores at age four

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Many working parents experience guilt about sending their young children off to day nursery, especially in light of research published in the 2000s that suggested that too much early childcare is associated with later behavioural problems. However, a new study in the International Journal of Behavioural Development paints a more positive picture – the more time children spent in day nursery before the age of two (defined as group-based childcare outside the home), the better their cognitive pe........ Read more »

  • April 7, 2016
  • 07:45 AM
  • 226 views

How does the next generation of clinical psychologists think about mental disorders?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

UK trainee clinical psychologists favour social and cognitive approaches to mental health rather than biological To stereotype the mental health professions, psychiatrists tend to see mental health problems as being predominantly biological in nature, while clinical psychologists see them as caused more by social circumstances. This is a generalisation, of course, because individuals in each camp hold a variety of perspectives. But surveys do usually reveal average differences in perspectiv........ Read more »

  • April 6, 2016
  • 04:09 AM
  • 176 views

It's important to respect the different ways that young women feel after mastectomy

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

One woman said she was proud of herscars – the "war wounds of life".In the UK, nearly 10,000 young women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and the treatment for many is mastectomy – the surgical removal of one or more of their breasts. It's easy to assume that the effect on their body image will be negative, and UK guidelines currently state that all mastectomy patients should be told about options for reconstructive surgery. However, a key message to emerge from a new survey of yo........ Read more »

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