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Reports on the latest psychology research plus psych gossip and comment. Brought to you by the British Psychological Society.
Brainstorming sessions are popular but surprisingly ineffective. Research shows that people actually come up with more ideas working on their own than they do brainstorming together. According to business psychologist Peter Heslin, an alternative way for groups to generate ideas is called "Brainwriting", and early evidence suggests that it, unlike brainstorming, helps groups to spawn more ideas than the same number of people working alone.There are several reasons brainstorming is thought to be ........ Read more »
Peter A. Heslin. (2009) Better than brainstorming? Potential contextual boundary conditions to brainwriting for idea generation in organizations. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82(1), 129-145. DOI: 10.1348/096317908X285642
Wouldn't it be marvellous if brain-damaged stroke patients could use mental practice to rehabilitate their weakened limbs? This isn't as far fetched as it sounds. Merely imagining performing a movement, or watching someone else execute a movement, provokes activity in the same brain areas that are involved when carrying out that movement with your own body. This suggests imagery exercises could help forge new connections in damaged neural networks involved in actual bodily movement. Indeed, seve........ Read more »
Ietswaart, M., Johnston, M., Dijkerman, H., Joice, S., Scott, C., MacWalter, R., & Hamilton, S. (2011) Mental practice with motor imagery in stroke recovery: randomized controlled trial of efficacy. Brain, 134(5), 1373-1386. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awr077
When marvelling at the world's great talents, whether in music, sport or literature, it's easy to conclude that these characters are simply born gifted. But that's unfair. Take a closer look and you'll see these people practice. A lot. In fact, the Swedish expertise expert Anders Ericsson has argued that the difference between an average and an elite musician is entirely down to practice, nothing else. Put the time in and you could be Mozart too, so the logic goes.Is Ericsson........ Read more »
J RUTHSATZ, D DETTERMAN, W GRISCOM, & B CIRULLO. (2008) Becoming an expert in the musical domain: It takes more than just practice. Intelligence, 36(4), 330-338. DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2007.08.003
Cognitive neuroscience explores how our mental faculties emerge from, and are organised in, the slimy tissue of our brains, and it's currently a thriving field. But some critics argue it's a dead-end, that biology is irrelevant to psychological accounts of how our minds work. In the words of philosopher Jerry Fodor, "If the mind happens in space at all, it happens somewhere north of the neck. What exactly turns on knowing how far north?"Now, writing in a special journal issue........ Read more »
Peter Hagoort. (2008) Should Psychology Ignore the Language of the Brain?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(2), 96-101. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00556.x
Many studies in clinical psychology and psychiatry are making the mistake of using healthy controls who are too healthy. That's according to a thought-provoking opinion piece by Sharon Schwartz and Ezra Susser - experts in the epidemiology of mental health.
Schwartz and Susser invite readers to consider a hypothetical study that samples participants from a wider group made up of people exposed to a virus prenatally and people not exposed to that virus. Imagine that a psychiatric registry is use........ Read more »
Schwartz, S., & Susser, E. (2010) The use of well controls: an unhealthy practice in psychiatric research. Psychological Medicine, 41(06), 1127-1131. DOI: 10.1017/S0033291710001595
Plenty of research has been conducted into the ability of people, including police officers, to judge whether people are lying: most of us are useless, while new research suggests the police may be better. However, little research has been conducted into whether, deliberate deception aside, people can judge the accuracy of eye-witness statements. This is an important issue given how unreliable eye-witnesses can be, even when they think they're telling the truth.Now Torun Lindholm has made a star........ Read more »
Torun Lindholm. (2008) Who can judge the accuracy of eyewitness statements? A comparison of professionals and lay-persons. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22(9), 1301-1314. DOI: 10.1002/acp.1439
The following is written by Dr Alex Fradera and is being cross-posted here and over at the new BPS Occupational Digest - a 'child' blog of the Research Digest with a focus on psychology at work.
When impropriety or corruption emerges in an organisation, some cry “bad apple!” where others reply “more like bad barrel!” Yet between individuals and organisations we have teams, the context in which decisions are increasingly made. A new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology sheds some ........ Read more »
Pearsall, M., & Ellis, A. (2011) Thick as thieves: The effects of ethical orientation and psychological safety on unethical team behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(2), 401-411. DOI: 10.1037/a0021503
You've probably been tormented by a catchy song playing over and over in your head. Spare a thought then for those people for whom this phenomenon is taken to the next level: the song or songs sound real and they play round the clock. They have what's called 'musical hallucinosis'. Besides hearing music that isn't there, such people often have no other psychological complaints. Now Ramon Mocellin and colleagues have described three typical cases and proposed a tentative ........ Read more »
Ramon Mocellin, Mark Walterfang, & Dennis Velakoulis. (2008) Musical hallucinosis: case reports and possible neurobiological models. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 20(2), 91-95. DOI: 10.1111/j.1601-5215.2007.00255.x
The brain imaging community is about to experience another shockwave, just days after the online leak of a paper that challenged many of the brain-behaviour correlations reported in respected social neuroscience journals.Now Yevgeniy Sirotin and Aniruddha Das have reported that blood flow changes in the brain - the signal measured by brain scanners - are not always linked to changes in neuronal activity. Experts have known for some time that the relationship between blood flow and neuronal activ........ Read more »
Yevgeniy B. Sirotin, & Aniruddha Das. (2009) Anticipatory haemodynamic signals in sensory cortex not predicted by local neuronal activity. Nature.
People of either sex who throw things in anger are more likely to be perceived as male, whilst those who throw in sadness are more likely to be judged as female. The finding, by Kerri Johnson and her team, builds on face research showing that people hold stereotyped beliefs about gender and emotion - seeing anger as a more male emotion and sadness as more female.
For example, a woman with an ambiguous facial expression is more likely to be judged as sad, whilst a man with an ambiguous expressi........ Read more »
Johnson, K., McKay, L., & Pollick, F. (2011) He throws like a girl (but only when he’s sad): Emotion affects sex-decoding of biological motion displays. Cognition. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.01.016
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can sometimes lead to an identity crisis so severe it is akin to dying. That's one message derived from comments made by fourteen people with the condition who were interviewed in-depth by health psychologists in Scotland.CFS, also known as ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), is a poorly understood condition characterised by long-term tiredness that persists even after sleep and rest. The organic cause is unknown.Using a qualitative technique called interpretative........ Read more »
Adele Dickson, Christina Knussen, & Paul Flowers. (2008) 'That was my old life; it's almost like a past-life now': Identity crisis, loss and adjustment amongst people living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Psychology , 23(4), 459-476. DOI: 10.1080/08870440701757393
Research on group creativity shows consistently that the same people come up with more ideas working on their own than they do when brainstorming together. But perhaps it's time to move beyond this striking yet superficial discovery. After all, having a list of initial ideas is not the end of the creative process. A new study by Nicholas Kohn and colleagues has focused on the creative task of idea combination, finding that in this context groups do have advantages over individuals working alone......... Read more »
Kohn, N., Paulus, P., & Choi, Y. (2011) Building on the ideas of others: An examination of the idea combination process. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.01.004
Without fanfare or formal announcement, human civilisation has passed a momentous milestone. For the first time, more of us now live in cities than in rural communities. The benefits are numerous: more jobs, better access to educational and health services, more potential friends, and on the list goes. Yet city living has its dark side. Crime, deprivation and inequality are usually higher and so are rates of mental illness, including more anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. A new paper has ma........ Read more »
F Lederbogen, P Kirsch, L Haddad, F Streit, H Tost, & and six others. (2011) City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans. Nature. info:/10.1038/nature10190
A fascinating study has shown that we're unable to read insights into ourselves from watching a video of our own body language. It's as if we have an egocentric blind spot. Outside observers, by contrast, can watch the same video and make revealing insights into our personality.The premise of the new study is the tip-of-the-iceberg idea that what we know about ourselves is fairly limited, with many of our impulses, traits and beliefs residing below the level of conscious access. The researchers ........ Read more »
Hofmann, W., Gschwendner, T., & Schmitt, M. (2009) The road to the unconscious self not taken: Discrepancies between self- and observer-inferences about implicit dispositions from nonverbal behavioural cues. European Journal of Personality, 23(4), 343-366. DOI: 10.1002/per.722
The benefits, or not, of reading about Ms Clinton
Fear of prejudice can adversely affect people's performance. For example, female participants reminded of the stereotype that women are innately inferior at maths compared to men, subsequently perform sub-optimally at a maths task, especially in the company of men. This effect, known as stereotype threat, occurs at least in part because of the anxiety that one's own poor performance will be used by the ignorant to bolster their prejudicia........ Read more »
Taylor, C., Lord, C., McIntyre, R., & Paulson, R. (2011) The Hillary Clinton effect: When the same role model inspires or fails to inspire improved performance under stereotype threat. Group Processes . DOI: 10.1177/1368430210382680
A longitudinal study has identified a link between people's belief in age stereotypes when they're younger and their likelihood of suffering a cardiovascular illness when they get older.Becca Levy and colleagues used data collected from 1968 onwards from 386 people regarding their belief in age stereotypes. The participants, who were aged 36.5 years on average when first approached, had stated their agreement with views like "old people are helpless".Levy's team then looked to see which particip........ Read more »
Levy, B., Zonderman, A., Slade, M., & Ferrucci, L. (2009) Age Stereotypes Held Earlier in Life Predict Cardiovascular Events in Later Life. Psychological Science, 20(3), 296-298. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02298.x
Much of psychology's efforts over the last few decades have been spent on understanding the nature of memory. Increasingly, though, psychologists are beginning to apply what we've learned about memory, so as to help enhance people's performance. In 2007, the Digest reported on a study that investigated the optimal interval to leave between study periods if you want to remember material long term. Now Claudia Meltzer-Baddeley and Roland Baddeley have tested a related approach to study, known as a........ Read more »
Still life with guitar by Picasso [c. www.pablo-ruiz-picasso.net]
Psychologists who study art appreciation have their work cut out. How does one begin to untangle cultural influences from more basic perceptual factors - the cache from the contours? Well one way is to study babies, because they're obviously too young to know about cultural fads and artistic reputations.
Trix Cacchione and her team at the University of Zurich presented nine-month old babies with paintings by the cubist pai........ Read more »
Cacchione, T., Möhring, W., & Bertin, E. (2011) What is it about Picasso? Infants' categorical and discriminatory abilities in the visual arts. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. DOI: 10.1037/a0024129
In the first study of its kind, psychologists have used an economic game to investigate the behaviour and brain processes of people diagnosed with a personality disorder.Brooks King-Casas and colleagues recruited dozens of people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) to play the role of trustee in an economic game. People with this disorder tend to have unstable personal relationships and difficulty regulating their emotions. Healthy participants were recruited to play the part of investor........ Read more »
B. King-Casas, C. Sharp, L. Lomax-Bream, T. Lohrenz, P. Fonagy, & P. R. Montague. (2008) The Rupture and Repair of Cooperation in Borderline Personality Disorder. Science, 321(5890), 806-810. DOI: 10.1126/science.1156902
Youngsters tend to live for the moment whilst older folks are more concerned about their futures. But when in a person's life does this change in perspective usually occur? A new study identifies a period between the ages of thirteen and sixteen as being critical. Laurence Steinberg and colleagues asked 935 people between the ages of ten and thirty years to answer questions regarding how much they think about the future, and to complete a time-discounting task. Briefly, this required them to mak........ Read more »
Steinberg, L., Graham, S., O’Brien, L., Woolard, J., Cauffman, E., & Banich, M. (2009) Age Differences in Future Orientation and Delay Discounting. Child Development, 80(1), 28-44. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01244.x
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