BPS Research Digest

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Cutting-edge reports on the latest psychology research

BPS Research Digest
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  • July 3, 2015
  • 11:47 AM
  • 43 views

Smile at a party and people are more likely to remember seeing your face there

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When you smile at a party, your facial expression is emotionally consistent with the happy context and as a consequence other guests will in future be more likely to remember that they've seen your face before, and where you were when they saw you. That's according to a team of Italian researchers led by Stefania Righi who have explored how memory for a face is affected by the emotion shown on that face and the congruence between that emotional expression and its surrounding context.The research........ Read more »

  • July 2, 2015
  • 05:36 AM
  • 29 views

How social anxiety manifests on Facebook

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

For many shy people, online social networking sites have an obvious appeal – a way to socialise without the unpredictable immediacy of a face-to-face encounter. However, a new study finds that people who are socially anxious betray their awkwardness on Facebook, much as they do in the offline world. The researchers Aaron Weidman and Cheri Levinson said their findings could hint at ways for socially anxious people to conceal their nervousness and attract more online friends.Seventy-seven studen........ Read more »

  • July 1, 2015
  • 04:45 AM
  • 11 views

What kind of a person volunteers for a free brain scan?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When psychologists scan the brains of a group of people, they usually do so in the hope that the findings will generalise more widely. For example, if they find that there are correlations between localised brain shrinkage and mental performance in a group of healthy older participants, they will usually infer that such correlations apply in healthy older people more generally. But there's an important problem with this logic (one that applies to other fields of psychology): what if the people w........ Read more »

  • June 30, 2015
  • 10:43 AM
  • 10 views

What the textbooks don't tell you about psychology's most famous case study

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Image: Photograph by Jack Wilgus ofa daguerreotype of Phineas Gagein the collection of Jack and Beverly Wilgus.It's a remarkable, mythical tale with lashings of gore – no wonder it's a favourite of psychology students the world over. I'm talking about Phineas Gage, the nineteenth century railway worker who somehow survived the passing of a three-foot long tamping iron through the front of his brain and out the top of his head. What happened to him next?If you turn to many of the leading introd........ Read more »

  • June 29, 2015
  • 04:35 AM
  • 7 views

We're more likely to cheat when we think it's our last chance to do so

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Imagine spending your school half-term week with a forgetful relative who always leaves money scattered around the house. Would you pinch any? If so, when, and why? A new paper suggests that we are most likely to “cheat at the end”, and uses a neat method to find out why.A number of theories predict we are likelier to cheat later than earlier. Perhaps we award ourselves moral credits for being good earlier, and later spend them like Catholic indulgences for guilt-free sin. Or maybe the strug........ Read more »

Effron, D., Bryan, C., & Murnighan, J. (2015) Cheating at the End to Avoid Regret. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000026  

  • June 26, 2015
  • 07:06 AM
  • 6 views

Is dyslexia associated with exceptional visual-spatial abilities?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Image: Jose.Stuefer / FlickrChildren and adults with dyslexia have reading skills that are weak relative to their overall intelligence. That's why it is often referred to as "specific learning disability". But what if such a profile also tended to be associated with exceptional strengths in other areas, such as visual skills? That's certainly what some experts have proposed, for example based on the observation that people with dyslexia are over-represented in fields that involve visual-spatial ........ Read more »

Duranovic, M., Dedeic, M., & Gavrić, M. (2014) Dyslexia and Visual-Spatial Talents. Current Psychology, 34(2), 207-222. DOI: 10.1007/s12144-014-9252-3  

  • June 26, 2015
  • 07:03 AM
  • 5 views

Here's a technique that helps self-critical people build confidence from a taste of success

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The directed abstraction technique acts a springboard,allowing the timid to gain confidence from initial successLast week Kathleen finally put aside her fears about public speaking to give a presentation… and it went pretty well! But when you caught her at lunch today and asked if she wanted future opportunities to present, you found she was as pessimistic about her ability as ever.This story reflects an unfortunate truth: people with low self-belief are liable to hold onto negative assumption........ Read more »

  • June 24, 2015
  • 05:09 AM
  • 5 views

New research challenges the idea that willpower is a "limited resource"

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A popular psychological theory says that your willpower isa "limited resource" like the fuel in your car, but is it wrong?When we use willpower to concentrate or to resist temptation, does it leave us depleted so that we have less self-control left over to tackle new challenges? This is a question fundamental to our understanding of human nature and yet a newly published investigation reveals that psychologists are in open disagreement as to the answer.The idea that willpower is a limited resour........ Read more »

  • June 23, 2015
  • 07:16 AM
  • 4 views

The curious psychology of verbal mimicry

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A surprising result: In the study, open-minded participantswere especially likely to adopt their partner's speech-rate When deep in conversation, I sometimes catch myself mimicking my companion; mirroring their body language, echoing their speech. Research suggests there are likely even more of these moments to which I’m oblivious. Luckily, mimicry is a useful habit: for instance, we prefer conversation partners whose speech rates mimic our own to those whose speech is jarringly different........ Read more »

Kurzius, E. (2015) The Extraverted Chameleon. Journal of Individual Differences, 36(2), 80-86. DOI: 10.1027/1614-0001/a000159  

  • June 22, 2015
  • 07:27 AM
  • 5 views

Expert philosophers are just as irrational as the rest of us

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Dan JonesIf you want to improve your tennis swing, learn how to repair your car, or master the piano, you’re likely to seek the help of an expert tutor. Similarly, many people who want to sharpen up their critical thinking skills turn to one of the many books written by philosophers to help lay people identify and avoid the biases and failures of logic that cause us to be, in the words of psychologist Dan Ariely, "predictably irrational".But what if philosophers are just as su........ Read more »

  • June 16, 2015
  • 04:02 AM
  • 7 views

What your favourite Harry Potter House says about your personality

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Harry Potter fans strongly self-identify with the different Houses within Hogwarts, the story’s magical school. Now new research shows that a fan’s preferred House tells us something about their personality.Laura Crysel and colleagues used an online Harry Potter community to get access to the more committed fans found there, and asked them to complete a personality test. Each fan reported their favoured House, and the results showed that significant average personality differences existed be........ Read more »

  • June 15, 2015
  • 07:24 AM
  • 115 views

When these people look in the mirror they see a monster staring back

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

One of the participants in an upsetting series of new interviews says she once stared into the mirror for eleven hours straight. She was looking, searching, trying to find a perspective where she felt good enough about herself to be able to go outside.The woman in question, Louise, has Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which is defined by psychiatrists as a disabling and distressing preoccupation with what she sees as her perceived physical flaw or flaws.For their study, Joanna Silver and Jacqui F........ Read more »

  • June 10, 2015
  • 05:42 AM
  • 85 views

Toddlers learn better when you make them giggle

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

There is probably nothing more fun than making a baby or toddler laugh. And now there's news that it could even help with learning – the toddler's not the adult's.In the first study to look at the effects of humour on learning at such a young age, Rana Esseily and her colleagues began by showing 53 18-month-olds how to reach a toy duck with a cardboard rake (other toddlers who'd spontaneously used the rake as a reaching tool were excluded). Crucially, half the participating toddlers were given........ Read more »

  • June 8, 2015
  • 04:48 AM
  • 73 views

Baboons like to hang out with other baboons who are similar

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Mary BatesThe saying "birds of a feather flock together" might apply to non-human primates, as well. A new study shows chacma baboons within a troop spend more of their time with baboons that they resemble, choosing to associate with those of a similar age, status, and even personality. This is known as homophily, or "love of the same."The researchers, led by the University of Cambridge and the Zoological Society of London, discuss these findings in light of the evolution of cul........ Read more »

  • June 5, 2015
  • 12:10 PM
  • 194 views

Researchers say: Don't worry what other people think, going out on your own can be fun

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

In our part of the world, more people are living on their own than ever before. People also say they have fewer close friends. Yet it's still rare, especially at the weekend, to see someone eating alone in a busy restaurant, or rolling up solo to the cinema to watch the latest blockbuster.According to a pair of US researchers, Rebecca Ratner and Rebecca Hamilton, this reluctance to partake in leisure activities on our own means many of us are missing out unnecessarily – not just on the fun exp........ Read more »

RK Ratner, & Rebecca Hamilton. (2015) Inhibited from bowling alone. Journal of Consumer Research . info:/

  • June 4, 2015
  • 11:31 AM
  • 163 views

The scaremongers were wrong: Metalheads from the 80s are thriving

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you sell your soul to heavy metal do you pay for it later in life? During the 1980s, waves of adolescents found solace in this most notorious of extreme music subcultures, alarming their parents as well as authority figures including the US surgeon general and the campaigner and Second Lady Tipper Gore. But a new survey suggests that in 2015, the teenage metalheads from the 80s are doing alright.This matters because early research seemed to back the prevailing panic: metalheads were fatalisti........ Read more »

  • June 3, 2015
  • 05:03 AM
  • 116 views

Is CBT for depression losing its efficacy?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has many advantages for treating depression. Among them, the fact that it's easy to standardise, it's intuitive and it can deliver results relatively quickly (think weeks, not years as some other therapies demand). For many people with depression, it's also far more acceptable than the prospect of taking mind-altering drugs. But now the bad news: CBT's efficacy seems to be declining.That's the suggestion of a new meta-analysis (pdf) that's looked at outcome da........ Read more »

  • June 2, 2015
  • 04:55 AM
  • 92 views

Why do children stick their tongues out when they're concentrating?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Have you ever watched a young child perform a delicate task with their hands and noticed how they stick out their tongue at the same time? A new study is the first to systematically investigate this behaviour in four-year-olds. This isn't just a cute quirk of childhood, the findings suggest, rather the behaviour fits the theory that spoken language originally evolved from gestures.Gillian Forrester and Alina Rodriguez videoed fourteen 4-year-olds (8 boys), all right-handed, as they completed a n........ Read more »

  • June 1, 2015
  • 07:38 AM
  • 164 views

Some perfectly healthy people can't remember their own lives

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Psychologists in Canada think they've identified an entirely new memory syndrome in healthy people characterised by a specific inability to re-live their past. This may sound like a form of amnesia, but the three individuals currently described have no history of brain damage or illness and have experienced no known recent psychological trauma or disturbance.In light of the recent discovery that some people have an uncanny ability to recall their lives in extreme detail, known as hyperthymesia o........ Read more »

  • May 29, 2015
  • 07:12 AM
  • 88 views

Why it's a mistake to seek control of your life through solitude

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Many seek freedom in solitude, but newresearch suggests feelings of controlcome from social belonging. The true story of Christopher McCandless, dramatised in the 2007 film Into the Wild, is a search for radical independence that culminates in McCandless’ solitary existence in the wilds of Alaska. It speaks to a powerful belief: to feel you control your life, stand alone. But new research suggests otherwise: to feel control, stand together.If committing to a group feels like surrendering ........ Read more »

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