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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  • January 26, 2015
  • 06:27 AM
  • 32 views

We're more likely to cheat when we're anxious

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When we’re stressed out and feeling threatened, our priority becomes self-preservation. According to new research, this defensive mode even affects our morality, making us more likely to cheat and excuse our own unethical behaviour.Maryam Kouchaki and Sreedhari Desai demonstrated this through six experiments. In the clearest example, 63 student participants spent three minutes listening to either calm music, or in the anxiety condition, to Bernard Herrmann's Psycho score. Those freaked out by ........ Read more »

  • January 23, 2015
  • 11:53 AM
  • 23 views

Why the risk of losing is more fun than an easy win

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

I've started playing in a higher division in my local table-tennis league. I'm winning games less, but enjoying the experience more. I'm far from alone in preferring the danger of possible defeat to the comfort of easy wins. Psychologically this is curious because, at whatever level, virtually everyone who plays competitive games finds winning more pleasurable than losing, and most people like to feel good at what they do. In a new study, Sami Abuhamdeh and his colleagues have shone a light on t........ Read more »

  • January 22, 2015
  • 05:52 AM
  • 8 views

Testing the American Dream - can the right mix of personality and IQ compensate for poverty?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

We know that possessing certain personal traits can help people do better in life – by knuckling down, making the right connections or having the best ideas. A new study goes further and asks whether a person’s traits and their background interact, with personal qualities being more important for people of lower socio-economic status. If true, this would provide intellectual support for the “American Dream” – being smart or diligent might make some difference for the rich, but for the ........ Read more »

  • January 21, 2015
  • 04:49 AM
  • 8 views

What do confident people say to themselves before giving a speech?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Before you speak to an audience, can you first talk yourself out of feeling nervous? One step towards this strategy is to find out how confident people speak to themselves in their heads (their internal "self-talk"), compared with others who are more anxious.Xiaowei Shi and his colleagues surveyed nearly 200 students on a public speaking course. The researchers approached the students after they'd given two public presentations on the course and were soon to give their third. The students answer........ Read more »

  • January 20, 2015
  • 05:37 AM
  • 6 views

When our beliefs are threatened by facts, we turn to unfalsifiable justifications

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

On being told physics could underminereligious claims, believers said faithwas more about living a moral lifeIt's great to have facts on your side. The fundamentalist is delighted by the archaeological find that tallies with scripture, just as the atheist seizes on the evidence that contradicts it. But when the evidence goes against us, we're less likely to change a belief than to criticise the validity or provenance of the evidence. Now, research suggests that the mere prospect of a factua........ Read more »

  • January 16, 2015
  • 04:24 AM
  • 8 views

Reverse psychology: How bad managers inspire team camaraderie

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

An unfair, uncaring manager makes for an uncertain working life, one characterised by stress, absenteeism and poor performance. But new research suggests a silver lining: when the boss is unjust, team members come together.A multi-institution collaboration led by Adam Stoverink presented teams of students with an awkward event. The students thought they’d been recruited to solve tasks for a cash prize, but they were left twiddling their thumbs while waiting for an assigned supervisor to show u........ Read more »

  • January 15, 2015
  • 07:40 AM
  • 8 views

How to get kids to tell the truth? It's not all about carrot or stick

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

By guest blogger Dan JonesAll parents have to come to terms with the fact that their little angels will, from time to time, act like little devils. They’ll throw tantrums over trivial issues, or they’ll push, hit, bite or scratch other kids. And at some point they’ll start lying about what they’ve done.Lying is perfectly normal among children, not a sign of a sociopath in the making. Many kids start telling the odd fib around their second birthday, and by the time they’re 4 or 5 they........ Read more »

  • January 14, 2015
  • 10:02 AM
  • 100 views

Imagining walking through a doorway triggers increased forgetting

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

We've all had that experience of going purposefully from one room to another, only to get there and forget why we made the journey. Four years ago, researcher Gabriel Radvansky and his colleagues stripped this effect down, showing that the simple act of passing through a doorway induces forgetting. Now psychologists at Knox College, USA, have taken things further, demonstrating that merely imagining walking through a doorway is enough to trigger increased forgetfulness. Zachary Lawrence and Dani........ Read more »

  • January 13, 2015
  • 06:04 AM
  • 78 views

People may be happier when their neighbourhood fits their personality

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Levels of trait "openness to experience"are higher in central London than otherareas of the city. Image from PNAS. It is surely easier to be happy in some neighbourhoods than others. But a new study suggests one size does not fit all. Based on data from 56,000 Londoners collected by a BBC initiative, Markus Jokela and his colleagues report that the correlations between different personality dimensions and life satisfaction vary across the capital. The researchers say this shows "finding the........ Read more »

  • January 12, 2015
  • 09:44 AM
  • 54 views

Psychologists and psychiatrists feel less empathy for patients when their problems are explained biologically

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The idea that mental illness is related to brain abnormalities or other biological factors is popular among some patients; they say it demystifies their experiences and lends legitimacy to their symptoms. However, studies show that biological explanations can increase mental health stigma, encouraging the public perception that people with mental illness are essentially different, and that their problems are permanent. Now Matthew Lebowitz and Woo-young Ahn have published new evidence that sugge........ Read more »

  • January 9, 2015
  • 10:59 AM
  • 106 views

One in ten student research participants don't make an effort

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

It's near the end of your university semester, you're tired and now you've got to sit through 90 minutes of monotonous psychology tests to fulfil the requirements for your course. This is a familiar situation for psychology undergrads, many of whom form the sample pools for thousands of psychology studies.Concerns have been raised before that psychology findings are being skewed by the (lack of) effort students put into their performance as research participants. Last year, for example, research........ Read more »

  • January 8, 2015
  • 04:56 AM
  • 93 views

Cheating bosses stain the reputation of their organisations and their junior staff

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling (left) and his attorney leave the courthouse in 2006When high-ranking members of an organisation break the rules, it's not just their own reputation on the line. New research from Stanford University shows that the stain of transgression sends its fingers out to every organisational member.In a series of online studies, Takuya Sawaoka and Benoît Monin presented participants with information about a hypothetical company employee involved in unethical activity such ........ Read more »

Sawaoka, T., & Monin, B. (2014) Moral Suspicion Trickles Down. Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI: 10.1177/1948550614555027  

  • January 7, 2015
  • 11:49 AM
  • 154 views

Some people think they know themselves well, but do they really?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Some people will tell you that they have a clear sense of who they are, and that their sense of self is stable over time. Psychologists refer to this as having high "self-concept clarity". In a new study, Jean Guerrettaz and Robert Arkin shine a spotlight on these self-proclaimed self-knowers. The researchers find that their confidence is often fragile, and that somewhat paradoxically, it is people confident in their sense of self whose self-esteem is most undermined by challenging questions abo........ Read more »

  • January 6, 2015
  • 05:11 AM
  • 117 views

Could violent video games make people more moral in the real world?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Video games allow players to indulge in simulated behaviours that in the real world would be highly antisocial or unethical, and many people are concerned how this might spill over from the screen to the street. A new study, however, suggests that such activities can elicit a moral response in players, reinforcing the potential of the medium as a means of civic development.In the study developed by Matthew Grizzard and colleagues, players of a first-person shooter game reported higher levels of ........ Read more »

Grizzard, M., Tamborini, R., Lewis, R., Wang, L., & Prabhu, S. (2014) Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us Morally Sensitive. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(8), 499-504. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2013.0658  

  • January 5, 2015
  • 06:02 AM
  • 88 views

British first-time fathers describe their experiences of separation and helplessness

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Ante-natal classes only serve to increase fathers' feelings of separation from their pregnant partners, according to a series of in-depth interviews with ten White British fathers.Anja Wittkowski and her colleagues interviewed the men to help increase our understanding of what it's like for men to become a father for the first time - a neglected area of research. All the participants, aged 27 to 47, were married to their partners, they were middle-class, employed, and the pregnancies were all pl........ Read more »

Kowlessar, O., Fox, J., & Wittkowski, A. (2014) First-time fathers’ experiences of parenting during the first year. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 1-11. DOI: 10.1080/02646838.2014.971404  

  • January 2, 2015
  • 06:43 AM
  • 51 views

Psychologists explore a new reason why quitting smoking is so difficult

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When a cigarette smoker attempts to quit, not only do they crave their usual nicotine hit, they also experience an unpleasant inability to enjoy other pleasures in life - a state known as "anhedonia".Jessica Cook and her colleagues studied over a thousand smokers enrolled on a quitting programme in the US. The participants (mostly White, 58.3 per cent were female) were placed on a range of nicotine replacement therapies or they were given placebo. The participants also kept an evening diary from........ Read more »

Cook, J., Piper, M., Leventhal, A., Schlam, T., Fiore, M., & Baker, T. (2014) Anhedonia as a Component of the Tobacco Withdrawal Syndrome. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. DOI: 10.1037/abn0000016  

  • December 22, 2014
  • 02:42 PM
  • 70 views

Everyone is attracted to creativity. But which creative acts are the sexiest?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Who finds Bill Gates' creativity sexy?By guest blogger Sam McNerneyEver since the Sirens seduced Odyssey’s crew, Sophocles entertained ancient Athens, and our Paleolithic ancestors decorated cave walls in Lascaux, individuals have been drawn to acts of creativity. Today, the allure of creativity is all the more apparent. After Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web in 1991, we’ve witnessed a proliferation of creative expression on YouTube channels, blogs, and even Twitter. Given the........ Read more »

  • December 19, 2014
  • 03:15 PM
  • 63 views

Is being a worrier a sign of intelligence?

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

We usually see worry as a bad thing. It feels unpleasant, like a snake coiling in the pit of your stomach. And worriers are often considered weak links in a team - negative influences who lack confidence. But of course, anxiety has a useful function. It's about anticipating and preparing for threats, and learning from past mistakes.Increasingly psychologists are recognising the strengths of anxious people. For example, there's research showing that people more prone to anxiety are quicker to det........ Read more »

  • December 18, 2014
  • 06:00 AM
  • 64 views

A child's popularity is related to where the teacher seats them in the classroom

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Teacher training doesn't usually include a module on how to arrange the seating of pupils. Perhaps it should - a new study by psychologists finds that where children are placed in the classroom is associated with how well-liked they are by their classmates.Yvonne van den Berg and Antonius Cillessen studied 34 classrooms at 27 elementary schools in The Netherlands. The 336 participating pupils had an average age of 11, and 47 per cent of them were boys. In all classrooms, it was the school policy........ Read more »

  • December 15, 2014
  • 07:49 AM
  • 165 views

Want to learn something better? Draw it

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

When you're trying to learn, do something with your new knowledge, such as summarising it or explaining it to someone else. This deepens your memories and helps integrate what you've learned with what you already knew. A new study has tested the benefits of another beneficial learning activity - drawing.Annett Schmeck and her team asked 48 German school-kids (average age 14) to read a 850-word passage about the biology of influenza, broken down into seven paragraphs. This was an unfamiliar topic........ Read more »

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