the latest news from Psychology sites
Thu, 12 Dec 2013 Medical mystery solved
An international team has identified a new disease related to NKH, a finding that resolves previously baffling cases, including the death of a Colorado girl.
Neuroscientists studying the olfactory -- sense of smell -- system in mice have discovered that fear reaction can occur at the sensory level, even before the brain has the opportunity to interpret that the odor could mean trouble.
Researchers have shown that optogenetics -- a technique that uses pulses of visible light to alter the behavior of brain cells -- can be as good as or possibly better than the older technique of using small bursts of electrical current. Optogenetics had been used in small rodent models. Research has shown that optogenetics works effectively in larger, more complex brains.
Thu, 12 Dec 2013 Mitt Romney's face looks different to Republicans and Democrats
A new study suggests that political bias can influence how people perceive the facial characteristics of a presidential candidate -- even after seeing his face on TV thousands of times.
Thu, 12 Dec 2013 Brain structure shows affinity with numbers
The structure of the brain shows the way in which we process numbers. People either do this spatially or non-spatially. A study shows for the first time that these individual differences have a structural basis in the brain.
Vanessa Bohns and her colleagues first asked 52 student participants (31 women) to estimate how many people they'd have to approach on campus in order to get three people to tell a white lie. The lie was to sign a form saying the participant had given them a verbal introduction to a new university course, when really he/she had done no such thing. After making the estimate, the participants went out on campus to test their persuasiveness.
On average, the participants thought they'd have to ask 8.47 people before 3 agreed; in reality they needed on average to ask just 4.39. In all, 91 per cent of the participants overestimated how many people they'd need to approach.
A second study was similar but this time 25 participants estimated how many people they'd need to ask before 3 agreed to vandalise a library book by writing the word "pickle" inside in pen (ostensibly as part of a prank the participant was involved in). The participants' average estimate was that they'd need to ask 10.73 people on campus; in fact they needed only to approach an average of 4.7 people before 3 agreed to this task. Eighty-seven per cent of participants underestimated how compliant people would be.
The final two studies involved hundreds of people recruited via Amazon's Mechanical Turk online survey website. The participants were to imagine they were either the "actor," the "instigator," or a neutral party in a range of hypothetical scenarios involving such things as buying beer for underage kids, illegally downloading a movie, claiming expenses on personal dinners and so on.
The key finding was that people playing the role of actor said they'd feel a lot more uncomfortable if a friend or colleague (the instigator) nudged them toward behaving unethically (e.g. by saying it's stupid to pay for a movie you can get for free), compared with advising them to behave ethically. By contrast, those participants playing the role of instigator, or a neutral party, did not anticipate that the actor would experience this difference in social discomfort depending on the nature of the advice they received.
This result fits the researchers' belief, that the reason we underestimate how willing other people will be to comply with our unethical requests is because of a failure to take their perspective. The "truly startling" finding from this work, the researchers said, is not how many people are willing to lie or vandalise, but rather "the lack of awareness people appear to have of this tendency when they are in a position to influence someone else's ethical behaviour."
Other possible reasons for the results, Bohns and her colleagues suggested, are that recipients of unethical requests reframe them as prosocial acts - after all, they're helping someone out - or maybe their compliance is simply a way to win popularity. Future research could examine these and other possible explanations.
This new research has echoes of Stanley Milgram's classic work. His students and colleagues dramatically underestimated how many participants would be willing to obey a scientist and administer a deadly electric shock. Thankfully there's also a positive twist to the phenomena documented here: similar past research has shown that we also underestimate how willing people will be to comply with our requests that they help in prosocial ways - such as lending their phone, or giving money to charity.
Bohns VK, Roghanizad MM, and Xu AZ (2013). Underestimating Our Influence Over Others' Unethical Behavior and Decisions. Personality and social psychology bulletin PMID: 24327670
The Digest guide to influencing people.
Want people to trust you? Try apologising for the rain
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.
Do you think this simple imagery task will have increased the likelihood you will eat fruit tomorrow? A new study led by Catherine Adams attempted to find out. Over two hundred volunteers were split into three groups. One performed the fruit imagery task, another group did the same thing but for a biscuit bar of their choice (examples they were given included flapjacks, Kellogg's Elevenses and Jaffa Cake bars), and a final group did not perform an imagery task.
Straight after, the participants answered questions about their food preferences, future consumption intentions, and they were offered a reward from a basket of fruits and biscuit bars. Two days later they were also asked by email whether they had any eaten fruit or a biscuit bar the day before (35 per cent of them answered this).
Once the researchers controlled for background factors (such as the possibility there were more fruit lovers in one condition or the other), they found that the fruit imagery task made no difference to participants' intentions to eat fruit, no difference to their choice of fruit as a reward, nor their consumption of fruit the next day, as compared with the control group who didn't perform the imagery. For the biscuit bar group, the imagery task increased their intentions to eat biscuit bars in the future, but didn't actually alter their consumption (as compared against the no-imagery control group).
"These effects suggest different effects for different visualised behaviours," the researchers said. "Further investigation is needed before recommending visualisation for increasing fruit consumption."
As the researchers' acknowledged, there are some issues with the study that mean caution is needed in interpreting the results. For instance, just one brief imagery session may well be inadequate. Also, other research suggests imagery works best when combined with other strategies, such as "if-then" implementation plans (e.g. If I am hungry, then I will snack on some fruit). The response rate to the follow-up email was also disappointing, and bear in mind that participants may have felt the food they chose immediately after the imagery was a form of reward, and therefore this behaviour may not reflect their usual eating choices. These issues show how difficult health behaviour research can be.
Adams C, Rennie L, Uskul AK, and Appleton KM (2013). Visualising future behaviour: Effects for snacking on biscuit bars, but no effects for snacking on fruit. Journal of health psychology PMID: 24217063
The Digest guide to willpower
Less is more when it comes to beating bad habits
If-then plans help protect us from the 'to hell with it' effect
The mindbus technique for resisting chocolate - should we climb aboard?
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.
2013-12-10 The best psychology books of 2013
1. The best non-fiction book of the year as voted by readers at GoodReads was The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek. "Temple Grandin reports from the forefront of autism science, bringing her singular perspective to a thrilling journey into the heart of the autism revolution."
2. On Slate's list of the 10 most crucial books of 2013 was Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. "Love it or hate it," said Slate, "Sandberg and her book will forever be a founding document for a generation of career women who found in its pages advice, sympathy, understanding, provocation—or just a way to start the discussion they’ve been needing to have for years."
3. The winner of the British Psychological Society's 2013 Book Award in the popular category was Claudia Hammond's Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception.
4. Barnes and Noble listed Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath among the year's best new non-fiction. "As usual, his research covers a vast terrain;" said the Barnes and Noble editors, "in this case, from Cold War battlefields to the minutiae of microscopic cancer research; and as usual, his findings [in this case about the effects of obstacles and challenges] are as telling as they are surprising. David and Goliath reminds us again that with the proper guide, almost everything can be seen anew." (not everyone was so impressed).
5. New Scientist chose The Anatomy of Violence: The biological roots of crime by Adrian Raine as one of their favourite science books of 2013. "Apparently, heart rate is a good predictor of criminal tendencies. More about this and other telltale signs from criminologist Adrian Raine as he builds a case that violent criminals differ biologically from the rest of humanity."
6. Foyles of London lists Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed among its science recommendations for Christmas. "Cat Sense offers us for the first time a true picture of one of humanity's closest and most enigmatic companions."
7. For The Guardian, Lisa Appignanesi chose psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz's The Examined Life as among the best psychology books of 2013. She describes it as "a finely honed rendition in some 30 vignettes of what passes in his consulting room." (check out her other choices, including Naoki Higashida's The Reason I Jump and Giovanni Frazzetto's How We Feel).
8. Brain Pickings has published a list of the 13 best psychology and philosophy books of the year, including Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova: "an effort to reverse-engineer Holmes’s methodology into actionable insights that help develop 'habits of thought that will allow you to engage mindfully with yourself and your world as a matter of course.'"
9. James McConnachie for the Sunday Times listed The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to Be Brave by Polly Morland among his pick of the best "thought" books of the year. "... hugely thought-provoking account of encounters with the brave and the formerly frightened: big-wave surfers, armed robbers, firefighters, maimed soldiers and neurotic orchestral musicians. It is a work that feels entertaining, rather than profound, but keeps niggling away afterwards."
10. And the Digest editor's own recommendation: The Happy City by Charles Montgomery. The fascinating psychology and neuroscience of how we're affected by urban design.
--What was your favourite psychology book of 2013? Please share your recommendations via comments.
Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.
Wed, 20 Jan 2010 Cognitive Daily Closes Shop after a Fantastic Five-Year Run
Five years ago today, we made the first post that would eventually make its way onto a blog called Cognitive Daily. We thought we were keeping notes for a book, but in reality we were helping build a network that represented a new way of sharing psychology with the world. Cognitive Daily wasn’t the first…
Wed, 20 Jan 2010 Both musicians and non-musicians can perceive bitonality
Take a listen to this brief audio clip of “Unforgettable.” Aside from the fact that it’s a computer-generated MIDI performance, do you hear anything unusual? If you’re a non-musician like me, you might not have noticed anything. It sounds basically like the familiar song, even though the synthesized sax isn’t nearly as pleasing as the…
Thu, 14 Jan 2010 Synesthesia and the McGurk effect
We’ve discussed synesthesia many times before on Cognitive Daily — it’s the seemingly bizarre phenomenon when one stimulus (e.g. a sight or a sound) is experienced in multiple modalities (e.g. taste, vision, or colors). For example, a person might experience a particular smell whenever a given word or letter is seen or heard. Sometimes particular…