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 25, 2016
  • 04:43 AM
  • 11 views

Minimalist, anonymous rooms are probably not a good place to do teamwork

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

According to the philosophy of "lean space management", a minimalist workspace shorn of clutter is distraction-free and ideal for productivity. But this philosophy turns out to have slim empirical foundations, and as promoting a sense of identity at work, including personalising the work space, generally leads to better outcomes, there’s reason to expect richer, characterful workplaces to be more beneficial. A new article in the Journal of Personnel Psychology builds on this past work, showing........ Read more »

Greenaway, K., Thai, H., Haslam, S., & Murphy, S. (2016) Spaces That Signal Identity Improve Workplace Productivity. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 15(1), 35-43. DOI: 10.1027/1866-5888/a000148  

  • May 24, 2016
  • 02:38 AM
  • 10 views

Study of firefighters shows our flexible body schema doesn't always adjust as we need it to

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The results could help explain some of the many injuriesincurred by firefighters each yearYour brain has a representation of where your body extends in space. It's how you know whether you can fit through a doorway or not, among other things. This representation – the "body schema" as some scientists call it – is flexible. For example if you're using a grabbing tool or swinging a tennis raquet, your sense of how far you can reach is updated accordingly. But there are limits to the accuracy a........ Read more »

  • May 20, 2016
  • 04:00 AM
  • 2 views

A classic finding about newborn babies' imitation skills is probably wrong

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Pick up any introductory psychology textbook and under the "developmental" chapter you're bound to find a description of "groundbreaking" research into newborn babies' imitation skills. The work, conducted in the 1970s, will typically be shown alongside black and white images of a man sticking his tongue out at a baby, and the tiny baby duly sticking out her tongue in response.The research was revolutionary because it appeared to show that humans are born with the power to imitate – a skill cr........ Read more »

Oostenbroek, J., Suddendorf, T., Nielsen, M., Redshaw, J., Kennedy-Costantini, S., Davis, J., Clark, S., & Slaughter, V. (2016) Comprehensive Longitudinal Study Challenges the Existence of Neonatal Imitation in Humans. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.03.047  

  • May 18, 2016
  • 04:00 AM
  • 1 view

Why do so many people dislike the word "moist"?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Richard StephensA few years ago the New Yorker ran a social media campaign asking what word should be deleted from the English language. Nominations ranged from the political (Obama) to the superfluous (actually) and from the expression of hyperbole (awesome) to an outdated word for trousers (slacks). Intriguingly, the most popular suggestion – the so-called “runaway un-favourite” – might surprise a few people and especially those who enjoy baking. Psychologist Paul H. T........ Read more »

  • May 16, 2016
  • 04:00 AM
  • 1 view

Sorry to say, but your pilot's decisions are probably just as irrational as yours and mine

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Flying a plane is no trivial task, but adverse weather conditions are where things get seriously challenging. Tragically, a contributing factor to many fatal accidents is when the pilot has misjudged the appropriateness of the flying conditions. Now in a somewhat worrying paper in Applied Cognitive Psychology Stephen Walmsley and Andrew Gilbey of Massey University have shown that pilots’ judgment of weather conditions, and their decisions on how to respond to them, are coloured by three classi........ Read more »

  • May 13, 2016
  • 12:03 PM
  • 2 views

We all differ in our ability to cope with contradictions and paradoxes. Introducing the "aintegration" test

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Life is full of paradoxes and uncertainty – good people who do bad things, and questions with no right or wrong answer. But the human mind abhors doubt and contradictions, which provoke an uncomfortable state of "cognitive dissonance". In turn, this motivates us to see the world in neat, black and white terms. For example, we'll decide the good person must really have been bad all along, or conversely that the bad thing they did wasn't really too bad after all. But a pair of researchers in Isr........ Read more »

  • May 12, 2016
  • 03:30 AM
  • 2 views

After learning to identify with someone else's face, do people think their appearance has changed?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Past research has shown that it’s possible to hack our sense of our own bodies in bewildering ways, such as perceiving another person’s face as our own by stroking both in synchrony. These body illusions can alter our sense of self at a psychological level too. For example, embodying a child-sized body in a virtual reality environment leads people to associate themselves with child-like concepts. Can such effects also operate in the opposite direction, from the psychological to the physical?........ Read more »

  • May 11, 2016
  • 04:16 AM
  • 1 view

Why do women do so much better at university than their school test scores predict?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Picture an American high school staff-room, late in the academic year, where a teacher called Alice is listening to her colleagues ride their favourite hobby horse: picking out which students have the most promise.Eventually Alice leans forward and taps her laptop. “Less talk, guys, more data. If you want to know how a student will do when they get to college, look at their aptitude test scores.” Betty throws her a look. “That won’t work,” she says, ”girls go on to do better than the........ Read more »

  • May 10, 2016
  • 05:29 AM
  • 1 view

Men who can tell a good story are seen as more attractive and higher status

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The results fit with evolutionary theoryStories can change how we think about the world, about the people they describe, and even ourselves. According to new research, they also influence our attitude to the storyteller. An article published in the journal Personal Relationships suggests that people portrayed as stronger storytellers are considered as higher status than those that aren’t – and this status can make them more romantically attractive, at least in the eyes of women. Cue editing ........ Read more »

  • May 6, 2016
  • 07:22 AM
  • 0 views

Literally "knowing by heart": Signals from heart to brain prompt feelings of familiarity

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The idea that the body affects the mind is not new. The eminent American psychologist William James famously proposed that it is actually the physical sensation of fear that causes us to feel afraid. In more recent years, researchers have extended this principle, exploring the possibility that physical sensations play an important role in moral decisions and other processes usually seen as more purely cognitive or cerebral, such as memory.It's already known that physical markers of arousal such ........ Read more »

Fiacconi, C., Peter, E., Owais, S., & Köhler, S. (2016) Knowing by heart: Visceral feedback shapes recognition memory judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145(5), 559-572. DOI: 10.1037/xge0000164  

  • May 4, 2016
  • 08:18 AM
  • 152 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
  • 143 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
  • 63 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
  • 197 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
  • 83 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
  • 80 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
  • 71 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
  • 220 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
  • 269 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
  • 242 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 »

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