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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  • February 26, 2015
  • 11:02 AM

Some student-professor pairings lead to "unusually effective teaching" (and it's possible to predict which ones)

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Video trailers can be used to predict whichlecturers are the best teachers, and whichstudents they are especially suited to.In the near future, students could be presented with a series of video trailers of different professors at their university. Based on their ratings of these videos, the students will be paired with the professors who provide the best fit. The outcome will be superior learning, and greater student satisfaction.That's the promise of a new study that asked 145 psychology under........ Read more »

Gross, J., Lakey, B., Lucas, J., LaCross, R., R. Plotkowski, A., & Winegard, B. (2015) Forecasting the student-professor matches that result in unusually effective teaching. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(1), 19-32. DOI: 10.1111/bjep.12049  

  • February 25, 2015
  • 06:01 AM

The six forms of resistance shown by participants in Milgram's notorious "obedience studies"

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When discussing Milgram's notorious experiments, in which participants were instructed to give increasingly dangerous electric shocks to another person, most commentators take a black or white approach.Participants are categorised as obedient or defiant, and the headline result is taken as the surprising number of people – the majority – who obeyed by going all the way and administering the highest, lethal voltage.A new study takes a different stance by looking at the different acts of resis........ Read more »

  • February 24, 2015
  • 10:31 AM

Recruiters think they can tell your personality from your resume. They can't

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Recruiters are poor at inferring an applicant’s personality from their resume, but that doesn’t stop them from jumping to conclusions on the back of their flawed assumptions. That’s according to a new study that involved over a hundred professional recruiters evaluating pairs of resumes.The US-based recruiters estimated applicant personality from the limited information in short two-page resumes. Their estimates were poorly correlated with the self-ratings made by the MBA students who’d ........ Read more »

Burns, G., Christiansen, N., Morris, M., Periard, D., & Coaster, J. (2014) Effects of Applicant Personality on Resume Evaluations. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29(4), 573-591. DOI: 10.1007/s10869-014-9349-6  

  • February 23, 2015
  • 10:34 AM

The “Backfire Effect”: Correcting false beliefs about vaccines can be surprisingly counterproductive

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Nearly half of the US population wrongly believes the flu vaccine can give you flu,but correcting this error has the opposite of the desired effectBy guest blogger Simon OxenhamAccording to a new study, 43 per cent of the US population wrongly believes that the flu vaccine can give you flu. In actual fact this is not the case – any adverse reaction, besides a temperature and aching muscles for a short time, is rare. It stands to reason that correcting this misconception would be a good move fo........ Read more »

  • February 20, 2015
  • 04:40 AM

Is self-disgust the emotional trigger that leads to self-harm?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

To help people who perform non-lethal self-harm, such as cutting and burning themselves, we need a better understanding of the thoughts and feelings that contribute to them resorting to this behaviour. Risk factors are already known, including depression and a history of sexual abuse. However, Noelle Smith and her colleagues wondered if these factors increase the risk of self-harm because they lead people to experience self-disgust. Viewed this way, the researchers believe "self-disgust may serv........ Read more »

Smith, N., Steele, A., Weitzman, M., Trueba, A., & Meuret, A. (2014) Investigating the Role of Self-Disgust in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury. Archives of Suicide Research, 19(1), 60-74. DOI: 10.1080/13811118.2013.850135  

  • February 19, 2015
  • 11:12 AM

Threat of punishment makes us better judges of our own knowledge

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

People show better understanding oftheir own knowledge when threatenedwith large penalties for wrong answers. There are some walks of life where trying to be right as often as possible is not enough. Just as important is having insight into the likely accuracy of your own knowledge.Think of doctors and surgeons making diagnostic decisions. They can't be right all the time, and neither can they be completely certain over their judgments. What becomes important then, is that they have an accu........ Read more »

  • February 17, 2015
  • 05:15 AM

Jokey team meetings are more productive, as long as people laugh along

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Science suggests a funnier workplace should be a more effective one, encouraging positive mood and a playful, open approach. But much of the evidence to date rests on theoretical argument or lab experiments. Now a new study of genuine team meetings shows that laughter begets laughter and that bouts of humour really can clear the ground for new approaches and better performance.Using videos taken as part of an improvement process run across two German companies, the study was able to determine th........ Read more »

  • February 16, 2015
  • 11:08 AM

Saving information to computer frees your mind to learn new material

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Forgetting information that we save tocomputer could have its advantagesA few years ago, researchers demonstrated that people had poorer memory for information that they were told had been saved to a computer. Technophobes jumped on the finding. "Imagine that in the future people become so used to external access for any form of reference that they have not internalized any facts at all," wrote Susan Greenfield.Of course there are many flaws to this logic, not least that the old fashioned act of........ Read more »

  • February 12, 2015
  • 06:28 AM

How to improve collaboration in virtual teams? Members' avatar style could be key

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When a team rarely gets to be in a room together, it misses out on many of the in-person subtle cues that help members make sense of their relationships. The signals that are available become more important: subtext in email messages, tone of voice on a conference call, or seemingly minor visual features. That’s why researchers have become interested in the humble avatar – the image that’s used to represent each person in a virtual interaction.Sarah van der Land and her colleagues asked 80........ Read more »

  • February 11, 2015
  • 06:01 AM

How women become "super-mothers" after giving birth through IVF

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Millions of women around the world have given birth to children with the help of IVF and related medical procedures. Many of them will have lived through difficult times, first as they struggled to conceive without help, and then as they rode the journey of hope and uncertainty brought by medical intervention.Psychologists have begun to explore how these experiences influence women's feelings about becoming a mother, and the way they relate to their children. In the latest contribution to the fi........ Read more »

Mohammadi, N., Shamshiri, M., Mohammadpour, A., Vehviläinen-Julkunen, K., Abbasi, M., & Sadeghi, T. (2014) ‘Super-mothers’: the meaning of mothering after assisted reproductive technology. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 33(1), 42-53. DOI: 10.1080/02646838.2014.970152  

  • February 10, 2015
  • 11:17 AM

By helping other people, you'll find it easier to accept the help you need

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Receiving help can sting. Admitting that others can do what you can’t and feeling indebted to them can lead to a sense of dependence and incompetence, and even resentment towards the very person who helped you. Luckily, Katherina Alvarez and Esther van Leeuwen have published some helpful research on one way to take the sting away.Their study asked student participants to complete a series of tricky maths puzzles. If a puzzle was stumping them, assistance was available in the form of help cards........ Read more »

  • February 9, 2015
  • 05:06 AM

Want to learn a new skill more effectively? Stop thinking about yourself!

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The human mind can be its own worst enemy. When we want to do well in sports, we often intensify attentional focus on bodily movements that are best off left on automatic pilot. The result, even for elite athletes, can be a dire instance of choking. The muscles stiffen or shake. Fluid, expert movement is lost, and the learning of new skills is impaired.A common assumption is that an internal focus is harmful to performance because it directs unhelpful conscious attention to bodily control. But w........ Read more »

McKay, B., Wulf, G., Lewthwaite, R., & Nordin, A. (2015) The self: Your own worst enemy? A test of the self-invoking trigger hypothesis. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1-10. DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2014.997765  

  • February 6, 2015
  • 04:58 AM

Our brains respond to corporations as if they are people

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Do corporations, like people, have moral rights and responsibilities?The US Supreme Court has recently made a number of rulings that suggest it sees corporations as having similar rights and responsibilities to individual human beings, such as that they have the right to free speech, and can be exempt from laws that contradict their owner’s religious beliefs. Can a new neuroimaging study help us determine whether the Court’s approach is justified?Forty participants viewed written vignettes w........ Read more »

  • February 5, 2015
  • 12:04 PM

Art affects you more powerfully when you view it in a museum

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

These days there's no need to take the trouble of visiting art museums. You can usually view all the exhibits on your computer, in the comfort of your own home. And yet, attendance at art museums has been rising over recent years. A new study helps explain why: people enjoy art more at the museum, they find it more stimulating and understandable, and they remember it better.David Brieber and his colleagues invited 137 psychology students to view 25 artworks from Vienna's Museum Startgalerie Beau........ Read more »

  • February 4, 2015
  • 11:28 AM

The trouble with tDCS? Electrical brain stimulation may not work after all

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger NeuroskepticA widely-used brain stimulation technique may be less effective than previously believed.Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is an increasingly popular neuroscience tool. tDCS involves attaching electrodes to the scalp, through which a weak electrical current flows. The idea is that this current modulates the activity of the brain tissue underneath the electrode - safely and painlessly.Outside of the neuroscience lab, tDCS is also used by hobbyists looking........ Read more »

  • February 3, 2015
  • 05:20 AM

Do gender differences disappear when men and women share the same profession?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

There are gender differences in certain preferences and abilities, on average. Take competition: when running around is described as a race, girls typically run more slowly than usual, while boys start running faster. And whereas women are better at detecting emotions, men tend to score higher at spatial reasoning. Are these average gender differences – in competitiveness, empathy, and systemising - visible even within specific jobs, or do attraction and selection processes smooth out the diff........ Read more »

  • February 2, 2015
  • 07:21 AM

People are quicker to dismiss evidence from psychology than neuroscience

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Imagine a politician from your party is in trouble for alleged misdemeanours. He's been assessed by an expert who says he likely has early-stage Alzheimer's. If this diagnosis is correct, your politician will have to resign, and he'll be replaced by a candidate from an opposing party.This was the scenario presented to participants in a new study by Geoffrey Munro and Cynthia Munro. A vital twist was that half of the 106 student participants read a version of the story in which the dementia exper........ Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 12:04 PM

There are two types of envy; only one is associated with schadenfreude

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

You watch with envy as your long-time colleague gets yet another performance bonus - something you've strived for but never obtained. Not long after, you see him trip over in the office in front of everyone. Do you find this situation pleasingly amusing? In other words, do you experience schadenfreude?According to an international team of research psychologists, your answer will likely depend on the specific kind of envy you feel toward your colleague. Niels van de Ven and his co-workers say the........ Read more »

van de Ven, N., Hoogland, C., Smith, R., van Dijk, W., Breugelmans, S., & Zeelenberg, M. (2014) When envy leads to schadenfreude. Cognition and Emotion, 1-19. DOI: 10.1080/02699931.2014.961903  

  • January 30, 2015
  • 07:11 AM

Why you might want to beware the introvert on your team

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Introverts have received a lot of positive press in recent years thanks to the run-away success of Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Cain tells us these are people who like their own space, but also happen to be empathic and sensitive and deep-thinkers. A new paper on peer appraisals by team-members bucks this hug-an-introvert trend.Amir Erez and his co-authors report that introverts tend to give especially low performance ratings to their team-mates who are extravert and over-be........ Read more »

  • January 28, 2015
  • 04:52 AM

A face that could get away with anything

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

First impressions lead to a multitude of assumptions, and trustworthiness is one of them: faces with v-shaped eyebrows and frowning mouths are consistently judged as less trustworthy than others with ^-shaped brows and mouths with upturned corners (this may be related to the former betraying a hidden anger and the latter having positive undertones). Now a study by Brian Holtz suggests that a person's looks can colour perceptions, not only of how trustworthy their character mi........ Read more »

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