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 28, 2015
  • 05:10 AM
  • 52 views

Our jumpiness at nighttime is not just because it's dark

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When something goes bump in the night, most of us are little jumpier than we would be in the day. But is that just because it's dark, or is it more to do with our bodies and brains switching to a vigilant nocturnal mode?Yadan Li and her colleagues have attempted to disentangle the influences of darkness and nighttime. They recruited 120 young women to complete a computer task in a windowless cubicle, which involved them looking at neutral pictures (e.g. nature scenes), scary pictures (e.g. spide........ Read more »

Li, Y., Ma, W., Kang, Q., Qiao, L., Tang, D., Qiu, J., Zhang, Q., & Li, H. (2015) Night or darkness, which intensifies the feeling of fear?. International Journal of Psychophysiology. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.04.021  

  • May 27, 2015
  • 04:36 AM
  • 18 views

Help me out – but hands off! How idea territoriality harms creative team work

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you want quality feedback on your creative ideas, don't be too possessive about themPatents, citations, and copyright all indicate how much it matters to people that they can claim an idea as their own. But new research suggests that staking a claim during the early stages of idea development can be counterproductive, as it cools the enthusiasm others have for making it better.Graham Brown and Markus Baer asked their participants – 230 students at a Singaporean university – to provide fee........ Read more »

  • May 26, 2015
  • 04:26 AM
  • 9 views

Happy people have more children

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Lots of research, much of it contradictory, has looked into whether having children brings happiness. There are studies showing marital satisfaction plummets after the kids arrive, but there's other evidence that the bundles of joy really do bring ... joy. A new study turns all this on its head and asks whether being happier makes it more likely that people will have children.Jinhyung Kim and Joshua Hicks first analysed data collected from 559 US lawyers. In 1984, the law men and women rated the........ Read more »

  • May 22, 2015
  • 04:51 AM
  • 9 views

You can now test whether someone is a "Maven"

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Malcolm Gladwell’s influential book The Tipping Point popularised the notion that ideas, products and movements owe popular success to opinion leaders: people who are highly connected via weak ties to others, persuasive in character, and an expert or "Maven" in the field in question. The Maven is the friend you go to when you want to buy a new laptop, but don’t know where to start, or consult when you’ve been feeling sluggish and wondering if your diet has something to do with it.Identifyi........ Read more »

Boster, F., Carpenter, C., & Kotowksi, M. (2014) Validation studies of the maven scale. Social Influence, 10(2), 85-96. DOI: 10.1080/15534510.2014.939224  

  • May 21, 2015
  • 04:46 AM
  • 6 views

Women are better than men at remembering to remember

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Prospective memory is the term psychologists use for when we have to remember to do something in the future – like stopping for milk on the way home from work. It requires not just remembering what to do, but remembering to remember at the right time.There's actually some past research that suggested women, on average, are more prone to forgetting future tasks than men. But crucially, this research was subjective. Women admitted more memory failures of this kind than men did, but of ........ Read more »

Palermo, L., Cinelli, M., Piccardi, L., Ciurli, P., Incoccia, C., Zompanti, L., & Guariglia, C. (2015) Women outperform men in remembering to remember. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1-10. DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1023734  

  • May 20, 2015
  • 04:50 AM
  • 7 views

Poverty shapes how children think about themselves

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"The Culture of Poverty”, published in 1966 (pdf), was hugely influential, persuading many policy makers that children from low-income families are destined for lives of “criminality, joblessness, and poverty” because they exist in enclaves characterised by dysfunctional beliefs and practices. Thankfully, this fatalistic view has since been largely refuted and attention has turned to ways to help poor children, including giving them access to books, good teachers and stable environments.No........ Read more »

  • May 19, 2015
  • 05:53 AM
  • 5 views

A preliminary taxonomy of the voices inside your head

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Psychologists are taking an increasing interest in the way we all speak to ourselves in our heads. Unpleasant, uncontrollable inner voices can be a feature of mental illness, but private self-talk is a mundane part of most healthy people's consciousness.When we talk to ourselves in our heads in this way, it's common for there to be a kind of dialogue. Consider how "You" might say to yourself that you want to stop working, but then a voice in your head takes a different stance and urges you to co........ Read more »

  • May 18, 2015
  • 11:57 AM
  • 89 views

Free will inside the Nazi death camps

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The sign "Arbeit macht Frei" means "Work liberates".Free will is a controversial topic in psychology, thanks in part to studies suggesting that the brain activity associated with making decisions comes before the conscious feeling of making a choice. Other research claims that when people are exposed to arguments against free will, this makes them more prone to cheat. While intriguing, such insights are arguably somewhat removed from ev........ Read more »

  • May 15, 2015
  • 10:46 AM
  • 34 views

Companies are more successful when their employees feel young for their age

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you want a dynamic workforce, seek not the young, but the young at heart. That’s the message of a new study that surveyed over 15,000 employees from 107 companies to determine how subjective age influences workplace performance.Past research has made the case that employee age is important to workplace performance, with younger workers more likely to make breakthrough contributions – but the evidence is patchy, suggesting there is more to the story. The proposed cause for the youth advant........ Read more »

  • May 14, 2015
  • 04:46 AM
  • 40 views

Do we really love our favourite brands the same way we love people?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

People can get awfully attached to their preferred brands. Some tattoo logos on their skin, others camp out overnight to buy the latest products. Late in life, people often still favour and trust brands from their youth. But is brand obsession and attachment really the same as the love we feel for people?The question is pertinent for researchers in the field of consumer psychology where there's a tendency to apply theories and measures from the study of interpersonal love to the study of brand a........ Read more »

  • May 13, 2015
  • 11:43 AM
  • 94 views

The secret to overturning negative first impressions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It can be tough to shift someone’s opinion if you’ve made a bad first impression. They might accept your apology or take on board your good points, but beneath the surface, ill feeling persists. New research from Cornell University suggests that the way to reach those deeper feelings, and earn a second chance, is to get the other person to see your initial actions in an entirely new light.Researchers Thomas Mann and Melissa Ferguson presented 200 participants with a scenario that raised thei........ Read more »

  • May 13, 2015
  • 05:06 AM
  • 78 views

Give up the #OCD jokes on Twitter, they won't make you popular

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

One of the fictional Twitter accountsused in Pavelko & Myrick (2015).Stigma is a problem for all forms of mental illness, but arguably obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – a condition that at its most severe can ruin lives – is subject to a disproportionate amount of trivialisation and ridicule.A brief perusal of the hashtag #OCD on Twitter makes this obvious – the term is used frequently everyday to lampoon fussy, perfectionist behaviours. A new study asks how this Twitter trivialisa........ Read more »

  • May 11, 2015
  • 06:31 AM
  • 118 views

Most students struggle to take effective lecture notes. Here are two ways to help them

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Sit in a university lecture and you'll see most students scribbling away taking notes (or tapping away on laptops). Unfortunately, while note-taking ought to be beneficial in principle – by encouraging reflection on, and systematic organisation of, the material – countless studies have found it to have little to no benefit. It's likely this is in part because of the way students take notes. Many simply record verbatim what the lecturer is saying.Now the US psychologists Dung Bui and Mark McD........ Read more »

  • May 8, 2015
  • 02:23 PM
  • 54 views

Do interviewers really make a hiring decision in the first four minutes?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

There's an urban myth that interviewers make their hiring decisions within the first four minutes of an interview and spend the remaining time seeking information to bolster that gut judgment. The evidence for this is extremely limited and probably originates with a 1954 doctoral thesis. Now Rachel Frieder and her colleagues have conducted a field study involving hundreds of real interviews and they say that claims about snap decisions in interviews are exaggerated.The researchers collected thei........ Read more »

  • May 8, 2015
  • 12:08 PM
  • 65 views

Story envy: When we borrow other people's personal anecdotes

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

In the study, men admitted "borrowing" other people's stories more than womenAdmit it, have you ever told a cracking story to your friends but failed to include the crucial (but perhaps boring) caveat that the amusing events actually happened to someone else? A new survey of hundreds of US undergrads finds that borrowing personal memories in this way is common place.Alan Brown and his colleagues found that nearly half of the 447 undergrads they sampled admitted to having told someone else's pers........ Read more »

Brown, A., Croft Caderao, K., Fields, L., & Marsh, E. (2015) Borrowing Personal Memories. Applied Cognitive Psychology. DOI: 10.1002/acp.3130  

  • May 8, 2015
  • 12:07 PM
  • 50 views

A new questionnaire measures people's "no mobile phone phobia" or nomophobia

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Do you get intensely anxious when your mobile phone runs out of battery or you don't know where it is? If so, researchers in the US believe you could be showing signs of a distinctly modern malaise: "nomophobia", or "no mobile phone phobia".To galvanise more research into the phenomenon, Caglar Yildirim and Ana-Paula Correia have developed a 20-item nomophobia questionnaire. The pair began by interviewing nine undergrads (five women) who were identified as being heavily dependent on their smartp........ Read more »

  • May 5, 2015
  • 10:14 AM
  • 45 views

Mindful eating makes smaller portions more satisfying

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Have you ever been to an exclusive restaurant that serves tiny portions and found that, in spite of the paltry servings, you felt satisfied afterwards and the food seemed unusually tasty? If so, you might have engaged in what psychologists call "savouring" behaviours. Charles Areni and Iain Black have studied savouring under laboratory conditions, and they've found that when we're given smaller portions than normal, we eat differently – more slowly, more mindfully, and we feel more satiated as........ Read more »

  • May 2, 2015
  • 11:37 AM
  • 36 views

Children use time words like "seconds" and "hours" long before they know what they mean

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

For adults, let alone children, time is a tricky concept to comprehend. In our culture, we carve it up into somewhat arbitrary chunks and attribute words to those durations: 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 of those in an hour and so on. We also have a sense of what these durations feel like. Children start using these time-related words at around the age of two or three years, even though they won't master clocks until eight or nine. This raises the question – what do young children really unde........ Read more »

  • April 30, 2015
  • 06:34 AM
  • 31 views

Why the message – that we're all prone to stereotyping others – is so dangerous

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Telling people they are biased in their treatment of others – that they are racist or ageist, for example – can make them defensive and result in backlash. For this reason, change-makers nowadays often spread a different message: that stereotyping others isn’t a personal sin, but near-universal and something we must all aim to resist. However a new paper from researchers Michelle Duguid and Melissa Thomas-Hunt argues that this "Everyone Stereotypes" message, far from reducing bias, may act........ Read more »

  • April 29, 2015
  • 05:02 AM
  • 118 views

People are overly optimistic about the benefits of optimism

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome." The sentiment articulated here by psychology pioneer William James is currently in vogue, if its preponderance in self-help books, motivational posters, and memes is anything to go by. But are we pinning too much on positive thinking?A research team led by Elizabeth Tenney asked participants to guess how much a given task is affected by optimism, then compared this to how........ Read more »

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