How To Be A Good Negotiator, According To Psychology

By Emma Young

Good negotiators are more likely to secure a pay rise, get the house or job they want, and keep the peace at home. No end of psychological studies have explored which attitudes, behaviours, and settings will help a negotiation go your way. Here, we take a look at some of the key findings:

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Revisiting The “Brain Drain” Effect: Having A Phone On The Desk Doesn’t Always Impair Our Memory

By Emma Young

We all know that using a smartphone interferes with our ability to focus on other things — like driving. But in 2017, a surprising result made international headlines: the mere presence of a switched off smartphone on the desk can impair working memory. Now a new study in Consciousness and Cognition, which has partially replicated and extended this investigation, has not found evidence to support the “brain drain” effect. However, the researchers, led by Matthias Hartmann at University of Bern, Switzerland, say that we shouldn’t start putting our phones back on our desks just yet.

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Our Ten Most Popular Posts Of 2020

By Matthew Warren

This year has been like no other. The coronavirus pandemic has affected pretty much all aspects of our lives — so it’s no surprise that psychological research looked a bit different in 2020. At Research Digest, we’ve examined much of this emerging work on the effects of the pandemic, from studies exploring the process of psychological recovery to those looking at how to cope with the new reality of home working.

But we’ve also tried to continue providing the broad coverage of psychology research that our readers have come to enjoy. And as we look back at our most popular posts of the year, it’s clear these stories about the human experience continue to educate and entertain, even in the midst of this annus horribilis.

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“Psychological Flexibility” May Be Key To Good Relationships Between Couples And Within Families

By Emma Young

What makes for a happy family? The answer — whether you’re talking about a couple or a family with kids — is psychological “flexibility”, according to a new paper in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science. Based on a meta-analysis of 174 separate studies, Jennifer S. Daks and Ronald Rogge at the University of Rochester conclude that flexibility helps — and inflexibility hinders — our most important relationships.

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Film Soundtracks Shape Our Impressions Of A Character’s Personality And Thoughts

By Emma Young

If you sit down to watch TV or a film these holidays, you might want to pay a little extra attention to how the soundtrack makes you feel. We all know that background music influences the tone of a scene but what, exactly, soundtracks do to our understanding of a character has not been studied in detail. In a new paper, in Frontiers in Psychology, Alessandro Ansani at Roma Tre University, Italy, and colleagues report work aimed at filling in some of the gaps.

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People Take Better Care Of Public Parks If They Feel A Greater Sense Of Ownership Over Them

By Emily Reynolds

The “tragedy of the commons” was popularised in the 1960s as a way of explaining how public or shared resources which we’re incentivised to use can become depleted or ruined by individual self-interest. And because we have shared ownership of public resources we feel we have less responsibility for them and therefore less of an impetus to contribute time, energy or money to keeping them going.

As we become more aware (and more concerned) about threats to the environment, the tragedy of the commons seems even more pertinent. How do we keep parks, rivers, lakes and other local resources well-maintained? According to a new study, published in the Journal of Marketing, it might come down to a sense of ownership — the more we feel a property or resource is ours, the better we’ll take care of it.

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How Many Different Positive Emotions Do We Experience?

By Emma Young

Awe, compassion, love, gratitude… research papers and media stories about these emotions abound. Indeed, the past decade has seen an explosion in work on positive emotions — essentially, emotions that involve pleasant rather than unpleasant feelings. However, very little has been done to explore which distinct feelings, thoughts and motivations characterise each one, argue Aaron Weidman and Jessica Tracy at the University of British Columbia. In a new paper in Emotion, they report their detailed investigation into these subjective experiences — an investigation that has led them to drop some commonly accepted positive emotions from their master list.

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Here’s How Parents’ Reactions To School Performance Influence Their Children’s Wellbeing

By Emma Young

What do you do if your child comes home with a lower score on a test than you both expected? Do you praise their efforts and focus on what they got right? Or do you home in on the answers that they got wrong, hoping this will help them to do better in future?

Research shows that the first, “success-oriented” response is more common in the US than in China, where parents more often opt for “failure-oriented” responses instead. Recent studies in both countries have found that success-oriented responses tend to encourage psychological wellbeing but not necessarily academic success, whereas failure-oriented responses can foster academic performance, but with a cost to the child’s wellbeing.

Jun Wei at Tsinghua University, China, and colleagues wondered what might drive these observed relationships: do different response styles lead children to form different concepts about what their parents want for them — and is this what produces the opposing impacts on wellbeing? In a new paper, published in Developmental Psychology, the team report some intriguing answers to these questions.

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Gloomy Evenings And Dark Traits: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

Our weekly round-up of the best psychology coverage from elsewhere on the web

Psychology is arguably the poster child for the replication crisis, but other fields suffer from similar issues too. At Science, Cathleen O’Grady examines the efforts by ecologists to tackle their own field’s reproducibility problems, and how they are learning from the experience of psychologists.

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Liberal Americans’ Distress At 2016 Election Result Shouldn’t Be Labelled “Depression”, Study Argues

Photo: Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react during election night 2016. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

By Emily Reynolds

Anyone who’s been invested in an election result will understand the close relationship between politics and emotion — something that is perhaps even more affecting when that result is disappointing. After the 2016 presidential election, for example, articles appeared in the US press describing a “national nervous breakdown” and offering tips to deal with so-called “political depression”, and empirical studies indicated that the same event had caused psychological distress.

But while it would be hard to deny that politics can have a serious impact on our mood, is it correct to call that “depression”? Almog Simchon at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and team ask this question in a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology — and while they find self-reported “Trump depression” in liberal Americans post-election, the empirical data suggests this isn’t an enduring or even clinically significant experience.

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