Teachers Show Biases Against Overweight Kids, Including Giving Them Lower Grades

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By Emily Reynolds

Body image can be a tricky enough thing to navigate in adulthood: for young people, it can be even more difficult. Research suggests that adolescence is a “pivotal time” for the development of positive or negative body image — and that poor body image can in turn have a devastating impact on overall self-esteem.

But how someone looks doesn’t just change how they feel about themselves — it can change the way other people treat them, too. One 2013 study found that weight was a factor in graduate school admissions, with overweight applicants less likely to receive an offer. And now research published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology suggests this bias can start before students are even in their teens.

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Proficient Pigs And Political Polarisation: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Could greater empathy help heal our current political divisions? Not according to this Wired article by Robert Wright. Researchers have found that more empathy for an “in group” may actually relate to greater hostility towards the “out group”. People with higher levels of empathy were more likely to be support no-platforming a speaker from an opposing party, for instance, and even showed more amusement when they read that a bystander in favour of that speaker had been hurt.

Continue reading “Proficient Pigs And Political Polarisation: The Week’s Best Psychology Links”

Psychological Study Of “Moral Grandstanding” Helps Explain Why Social Media Is So Toxic

GettyImages-529194971.jpgBy Emma Young

What is it about social media that makes discussions about controversial topics so caustic and unpleasant? A variety of reasons have been put forward — such as the tendency for outrage to self-perpetuate, as we reported earlier this week. But now a new study, published in PLoS One, implicates a concept so far explored in philosophy rather than psychology. This is “moral grandstanding” — publicly opining on morality and politics to impress others, and so to seek social status.

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The Paradox Of Viral Outrage: Public Shaming Inspires Further Outrage — But Also Increases Sympathy For The Offender

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By Emily Reynolds

Spend any amount of time online and you’re likely to see the same patterns repeat themselves over and over again: somebody says something offensive or controversial on social media, they’re met with anger and disgust, and they either apologise or double down.

For some, this cycle has become somewhat of a career, with the garnering of outrage forming the backbone of their (often incredibly tedious) public personas. But does responding to such toxic or offensive remarks, especially en masse, actually work? Or does it simply increase sympathy for the offender, no matter how bigoted their remarks were to begin with?

According to research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, the latter is more likely. The paper looked at the impact of viral outrage on convincing observers that an offender is blameworthy — and found that as outrage increased, observers believed it was “more normative” to express condemnation, but simultaneously believed that outrage was excessive and felt more sympathy for the offender.

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Why We Continue to Believe False Information Even After We’ve Learned It’s Not True

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By guest blogger Rhi Willmot

Is your mental library a haven of accurate and well-informed facts, or are there mistruths hiding on the shelves? It’s natural to assume that we update our beliefs in line with the most recent and well-established evidence. But what really happens to our views when a celebrity endorses a product that becomes discredited by science, or when a newspaper publishes a story which is later retracted?

A recent paper from the Journal of Consumer Psychology presents a novel take on this topic, by investigating the continued influence effect. Anne Hamby and colleagues suggest that our likelihood of continuing to believe retracted information depends on whether or not it helps us to understand the cause-and-effect structure of an event. Crucially, the team proposes, we would rather have a complete understanding of why things happen than a perspective which is more accurate, but less complete.

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When We’re Hungry, We Remain Surprisingly Helpful And Co-operative

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By Emily Reynolds

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”: for the more mild-mannered among us, Bruce Banner’s famous catchphrase may not resonate. But add some hunger — “you wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry” — and many of us can start to relate.

Being hungry, whilst a daily occurrence, can have multiple negative psychological impacts. For one, and most obviously, it simply doesn’t feel good, often leading us to the aforementioned rattiness of “hanger”. But acute hunger has also been linked to an increase in self-interest and a decrease in helping behaviour, too. If your resources are low, the theory goes, you’re much less likely to cooperate with others as you want to keep food for yourself and are unwilling to expend valuable resources like time and energy on helping others.

But this isn’t always the case — at least not according to a new piece of research from Nature Communications. The team argues that acute hunger doesn’t always have an impact on prosociality, even though people strongly believe it does.

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Pet Placebos And A Brain Scanner For Kids: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Getting kids to sit still during brain scans is notoriously difficult — but now researchers have developed an MEG scanner that is essentially a modified bike helmet. The device could make it easier to measure brain activity in young children, as well as scan older participants as they perform activities they wouldn’t be able to do in a standard MEG scanner, writes Jennifer Walter at Discover Magazine’s “D-Brief” blog.

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So Grateful For My Ex: Men Hold More Positive Views Of Former Partners Than Women Do

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By Matthew Warren

Break-ups are always hard, with love and companionship giving way to feelings of resentment and the souring of once treasured memories. Yet people often continue to harbour positive feelings towards their exes long after the relationship is over. And that may be particularly the case if you’re a man, according to a recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Researchers have found that, in heterosexual relationships at least, men tend to view their exes more positively than do women.

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Expressing Thanks Can Hurt Disadvantaged Groups By Reinforcing Social Hierarchies

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By Emily Reynolds

For many of us, saying thank you is a simple fact of life: someone does a nice thing, you express your gratitude. A lack of thanks when you feel it is due can certainly leave you feeling irritated, but on the whole we rarely think about the practice beyond the fact that it’s both considered polite and that it feels good to thank or be thanked. Indeed, much research has suggested that expressing gratitude can lead to increased well-being and positive affect, including a rise in happiness, and increased ability to recognise and adapt to various situational demands.

But could giving thanks actually reinforce unequal power dynamics? The authors of a new paper published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin think so. They argue that expressing gratitude towards higher power groups can result in low-power groups ending up “pacified” and discouraged from advocating for their own interests, making saying “thank you” more problematic than we may have first assumed.

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Five Ways To Boost Resilience In Children

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By Emma Young

While some of us crumble in the face of adversity, and struggle to recover, others quickly bounce back from even serious trauma. Psychological resilience is undeniably important in all kinds of areas of life, so understanding what underpins it, and how to train it – particularly in children — is of intense interest to psychologists. Continue reading “Five Ways To Boost Resilience In Children”