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Fri, 22 Jul 2016   Brain activity, response to food cues differ in severely obese women, study shows

The brain’s reward centers in severely obese women continue to respond to food cues even after they’ve eaten and are no longer hungry, in contrast to their lean counterparts, according to a recent study.

Fri, 22 Jul 2016   Lack of sleep increases a child's risk for emotional disorders later

Children who experience inadequate or disrupted sleep are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders later in life according to recent research. The study seeks to determine the precise ways inadequate sleep in childhood produces elevated risk for emotional disorders in later years.

Fri, 22 Jul 2016   Gastrointestinal disorders involve both brain-to-gut and gut-to-brain pathways

New research indicates that in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or indigestion, there is a distinct brain-to-gut pathway, where psychological symptoms begin first, and separately a distinct gut-to-brain pathway, where gut symptoms start first. In the study, higher levels of anxiety and depression were significant predictors of developing IBS or indigestion within 1 year.

Thu, 21 Jul 2016   Neural networks: Why larger brains are more susceptible to mental illnesses

In humans and other mammals, the cerebral cortex is responsible for sensory, motor, and cognitive functions. A new study shows that the global architecture of the cortical networks in large-brained primates and small-brained rodents is organized by common principles. However, primate brains have weaker long-distance connections, which could explain why large brains are more susceptible to mental illnesses including schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.

Thu, 21 Jul 2016   Researchers temporarily turn off brain area to better understand function

Capitalizing on experimental genetic techniques, researchers have demonstrated that temporarily turning off an area of the brain changes patterns of activity across much of the remaining brain.

BPS Research Digest Blog

   Link feast

Our editor's pick of the 10 best psychology and neuroscience links from the last week or so:

The Psychological Tricks Behind Pokemon Go's Success
Nintendo's latest video game has become an overnight sensation. What’s the appeal?

Split Second Responses?
At The Psychologist magazine, Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at the University of Brighton, considers the research on police and guns, and calls for more psychological enquiry.

Mystery of What Sleep Does to Our Brains May Finally Be Solved
It's the brain's equivalent of housekeeping.

The Mystery of Urban Psychosis
Why are paranoia and schizophrenia more common in cities?

The Scientific Reality of the Addictive Personality – Insights From Cocaine-addicted Rats
Evidence from research labs tells us that it is indeed possible to produce rats with what appear to be ‘addictive personalities’ – something that was used in a recently published set of experiments by researchers from the University of Michigan.

Why Small Talk Is So Excruciating
To "talk well" in the social sense, to be adept at sending the correct social signals, is a different skill than "talking well" in the communicative sense.

Unraveling the Mysteries of Personality and Well-Being with Dr. Brian Little
Who am I? Am I just a product of nature and/or nurture? What does it mean to live a life of meaning and happiness? On this episode of The Psychology Podcast, Dr. Brian Little helps us explore these existentially significant questions.

Why You Don't Know Your Own Mind
It is assumed that your experience of your own consciousness clinches the assertion that you “know your own mind” in a way that no one else can. This is a mistake.

Human Brain Mapped in Unprecedented Detail
Nearly 100 previously unidentified brain areas revealed by examination of the cerebral cortex.

The Many Ways to Map the Brain
It takes both science and art to make sense of the organ’s complexities.

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Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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2016-07-22   Altruistic people have more sex

People who perform regular altruistic acts like giving
blood also tend to have more sex.
Viewed through the lens of evolutionary psychology, altruism takes some explaining. In a dog eat dog world, it seems like a risky, indulgent habit. Yet we are only alive today because our distant ancestors were successful at reproducing – and the fact many of us have inherited their altruistic tendencies suggests that being altruistic gave them some kind of survival or reproductive advantage.

One idea is that altruism is advantageous because it is often reciprocated. Another is that altruism is a "costly signal" that tells potential sexual partners you would make a good mate – if you've the freedom to be charitable, this suggests you must be capable and resourceful. Supporting this "costly signal" account, plentiful past research has shown that signs of altruism increase both men's and women's attractiveness to the opposite sex.

Now an article in the British Journal of Psychology has followed through on this logic to find out whether more altruistic people aren't just more attractive, but actually have more sex. This is an important test because as Steven Arnocky and his colleagues explain, "... it is actual mating outcomes which ultimately contribute to the evolution of particular phenotypes". Stated differently, if the more altruistic of our forebears were not only perceived as more attractive, but also had more sex, this would help explain why many modern humans have inherited the inclination to be altruistic.

One of the best indicators we have of whether our more altruistic forebears were likely to have had more sex is to see if, today, more altruistic people continue to have more sex than less altruistic people. That's what Arnocky and his team aimed to discover through two studies involving young adult Canadians.

They first asked 192 unmarried women and 105 unmarried men to describe their own altruistic tendencies, such as whether they give money to charity, donate blood, help people across the street and so on. They also asked them questions about their sexual history and their desirability to the opposite sex.

Men and women who scored higher on altruism said they were more attractive to, and received more interest from the opposite sex. Men, but not women, who scored higher on altruism also tended to report having had more sexual partners in their lifetime, and also more casual sexual partners specifically. Focusing on just those participants in a current long-term relationship, the more altruistic men and women in this group reported having more sex in their relationship over the last 30 days.

Results from Study 1. Green dashed line=male participants; red=female. Figure from Arnocky et al, 2016
Of course this first study was limited by its reliance on participants' descriptions of their own altruism. Perhaps people who have more sex are simply inclined to brag more about being altruistic. To overcome this problem, a second study involving 335 undergrads featured a test of actual altruistic tendencies by giving participants the opportunity to donate to charity their potential $100 winnings for taking part in the study.

The participants also answered questions about their sexual history, and this time there were measures of their narcissism and their tendency to give socially desirable answers (this last scale essentially involved participants rating statements about themselves – e.g. "I never regret any decisions" – as true or not, and it was possible to tell from the answers if someone was painting an unrealistically positive image of themselves).

Even factoring out the narcissists and higher scorers on the social desirability scale, the second study found that actual altruistic tendencies correlated with having more sex. Among men only, this included having had more sexual partners in the past, and among men and women, having had more casual sex partners in their lifetime, and more sex partners in the past year.

The researchers said their findings add to past research on hunter-gatherer tribes that have shown men who hunt and who share more meat among non-relatives also tend to have more sex. The new results also converge with past evidence suggesting that altruistic men and women are seen as more desirable.

"The present study provides the first empirical evidence that altruism may tangibly benefit mating in humans living in Western industrialised society,"  the researchers said,  "and that sex differences might exist with respect to the utility of altruism for mating, whereby it is a more effective signal for men than for women."

One big caveat, acknowledged by the researchers – these results are correlational so it's not clear which way the causal juices are flowing. An alternative interpretation of the results is that having more sex and sexual partners encourages people to feel generous towards others and be more altruistic. We'll have to await longitudinal research that charts people's sexual habits and altruism over time to settle this question, though the idea that altruism leads to more sex is certainly consistent with the past evidence suggesting altruistic behaviour causes increases in a person's desirability.

_________________________________ ResearchBlogging.org

Arnocky, S., Piché, T., Albert, G., Ouellette, D., & Barclay, P. (2016). Altruism predicts mating success in humans British Journal of Psychology DOI: 10.1111/bjop.12208

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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2016-07-21   You're more likely to be (unintentionally) plagiarised by someone who is the same sex as you

Look at some of the most high-profile plagiarism scandals, such as Joe Biden's supposed borrowing from Neil Kinnock, novelist Kaavya Viswanathan's "unintentional" plagiarism of Megan McCafferty and Meg Cabot, science writer Jonah Lehrer's lifting words from this blog, and this week, Melania Trump's echoing of phrases used previously by Michelle Obama (though a speech-writer has taken the blame for this).

Notice a pattern?

In each case, the alleged plagiarists copied others of the same sex. This is anecdotal of course and there are exceptions to the rule – for instance Viswanathan is also alleged to have copied from Salman Rushdie. And yet, maybe there is a psychological phenomenon at work here, especially in instances of unintentional plagiarism – known technically as cryptomnesia – where the plagiarist believes at a conscious level that their words are original, not remembering their true provenance.

For a new study in the journal Memory, Timothy Hollins and his colleagues asked dozens of participants to attend the psych lab and, in pairs, to generate words fitting different subject categories such as Articles of Clothing, Fruit, or Four-Footed Animals. Crucially, some participants did this in same-sex pairs and others in opposite-sex pairs. A week later the participants were recalled to the lab where some of them had to recall just the ideas they'd produced, some had to recall just their partner's ideas, while others attempted to recall both their own and their partner's ideas at the same time under two separate lists.

When asked to recall just their own ideas, or just their partner's, participants were more likely to make errors when their partner was the same sex as them – that is, mistakenly claiming their partner's ideas as their own, or more commonly, their own ideas as their partner's. Presumably having a partner of the same sex made it easier to confuse in memory whose ideas were whose. However, this effect of partner similarity was not present for those participants who were asked to recall separate lists of their own and their partner's ideas at the same time, showing that the confusing effect of partner similarity on memory was surmountable when given a more explicit prompt to make the distinction.

In further, similar experiments with more participants, the researchers looked to see what effect it made at the recall stage whether a participant's partner was present or not. This time, the results showed that participants were more likely to mistakenly recall their partner's memories as their own when their partner was absent, but again only when asked to recall just their own memories, not when asked to list separately their own and their partner's memories. Presumably the presence of a partner made it easier (and more important) to remember whose ideas were whose, although this memory aid had no noticeable benefit when participants were prompted more explicitly to distinguish idea ownership through making separate lists.

Admittedly, these interesting studies are far removed from plagiarism in the real world. As the researchers themselves noted: "Real world interactions, unlike our experiments, rarely involve people taking turns to generate solutions in the knowledge that their memory will be tested later. Additionally, our participants may not have been particularly motivated to claim ownership of generation of a category member in the way that they may care about the genesis of an original scientific idea, a business idea, or a creative output."

Nonetheless, the findings highlight an important, basic memory phenomenon that may play out in the real world – it seems we probably are more likely to confuse our ideas with those of another person when we and they are more similar.

Helpfully, there is also a real-world lesson here in the further finding that partner similarity made no difference to memory mistakes when participants were asked to explicitly recall both their own and partner's ideas at the same time.

As the researchers explained: "When we attempt to reconstruct our memories of past conversations, or of conferences we have attended, the best way to avoid social influences on our source errors is to try to simultaneously recall the contributions from both partners, rather than trying to recall just one source. However, in so doing, we should be aware that we are likely to be attributing our ideas to them than claiming their ideas as our own. But then, as children we are taught that giving is better than receiving."

_________________________________ ResearchBlogging.org

Hollins, T., Lange, N., Dennis, I., & Longmore, C. (2016). Social influences on unconscious plagiarism and anti-plagiarism Memory, 24 (7), 884-902 DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2015.1059857

--further reading--
By what age do children recognise that plagiarism is wrong?

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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