We’re More Willing To Engage With Sexists If We Think They Are Intelligent

By Emily Reynolds

For many readers, the idea of interacting with an overtly sexist person probably doesn’t sound particularly appealing — yet in many instances we do continue to engage with those who espouse sexist views. A new study, authored by Elena Agadullina from Russia’s National Research University Higher School of Economics, finds one factor that could determine whether we are likely to want to interact with a perpetrator of sexism: their intelligence. Participants preferred to interact with intelligent people — even those who had engaged in sexist behaviour.

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Memes And Medals: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Olympic athletes have always been under intense pressure, but this year the pandemic has added to the challenges they face. At Wired, Amit Katwala explores the impact that competing at the Olympics has on athletes’ mental health.

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Social Media Posts That Are Hostile Towards Political Opponents Get More Shares

By Matthew Warren

What makes something go viral online? A lot of work has highlighted the role of emotion: social media posts that express strong emotions — and particularly negative emotions — tend to spread further.

Now a study in PNAS has identified another factor which seems to have an even greater effect on how often posts are shared. Steve Rathje from the University of Cambridge and colleagues find that tweets and Facebook posts that contain more language referring to political opponents get more shares. These posts may be so popular, the team finds, because they appeal to feelings of anger and outrage towards the political out-group.

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Some Teenagers At Risk Of Self-Harming Can Be Identified A Decade In Advance

By Emily Reynolds

There are multiple risk factors for self-harm, including a history of abuse, trauma, physical and mental illness, and bullying. Identifying these factors is a key part of prevention, ensuring that those at risk receive appropriate support as early as possible — but despite this, predicting who may end up engaging in self-harming behaviour is still tricky.     

But we may be able to identify these risks earlier than we thought, a new study from a University of Cambridge team suggests. Stepheni Uh and colleagues report that some at-risk adolescents could be identified ten years before they self-harm — offering what the team says is an “extended window” during which help and support can be offered.

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During Lockdown, Couples Were Happier When They Blamed The Pandemic For Their Stress

By Emily Reynolds

During the pandemic, many of us were locked down with little face-to-face contact with anybody other than our partners. Considering the stress of the time and the intensely close quarters we were in, you would be forgiven for thinking this was a recipe for serious tension.

A new study, however, suggests the reality might not be so cut and dry. Writing in Social Psychological and Personality Science, a team led by Lisa A. Neff from The University of Texas at Austin found that the pandemic actually played an important part in people’s ability to deal with stress. When couples blamed their levels of stress on the pandemic, the team found, they were happier in their relationship.

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Burnout And Bullshit: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Menopause involves the brain, not just the ovaries and more research is needed to understand these neurological effects. This work could help doctors improve treatment for the symptoms of menopause, and even aid in our understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s, explains Kim Tingley at The New York Times.

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People In Positions Of Power Are More Likely To Blame And Punish Others For Poor Performance

By Emily Reynolds

Having a “choice mindset” — believing, in short, that people’s behaviours are “choices”, or deliberate actions driven by their own motives and preferences — has multiple benefits. Those with a choice mindset feel as if they have control over their own destiny, for example, and see better outcomes in negotiations.

There are some drawbacks, however. Choice mindsets can lead to victim blaming, a lack of care about inequality, and a reduced interest in acts of social good. A new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science takes a closer look at these more troublesome impacts. Yidan Yin from UC San Diego and colleagues find that people in positions of power tend to adopt a choice mindset, which makes them more likely to blame others for mistakes.

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People Tend To Believe That Psychology Is A “Feminine” Discipline

By Emily Reynolds

Despite the fact that psychology students are more likely to be women than men, and that women outnumber men in the clinical psychology workforce, women in psychology publish less, receive fewer citations, and are underrepresented at senior positions within university departments. This juxtaposition of over and underrepresentation poses an interesting question about how people perceive gender roles within the field.

It’s this question Guy A. Boysen and team explore in a new study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology. They find that people associate psychology more strongly with femininity than masculinity — and that this may affect how men and women feel about working or studying within the field.

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Why Do Some People Without Mental Health Problems Experience Hallucinations? Replication Study Casts Doubt On Previous Theories

By Emma Young

Hallucinations are a common symptom of schizophrenia and related disorders, but mentally well people experience them, too. In fact, work suggests that 6-7% of the general population hear voices that don’t exist. However, exactly what predisposes well people to experience them has not been clear. Now a major new study of 1,394 people native to 46 different countries, led by Peter Moseley at Northumbria University, provides support for two hypotheses from earlier, smaller studies — namely, that a history of childhood trauma and a propensity to hear non-existent speech among background noise are both associated with experiencing hallucinations — but does not support three others.

“In terms of reproducibility, these results may be a cause for concern in hallucinations research (and cognitive and clinical psychology more broadly),” writes the team in their paper in Psychological Science. In firming up a few ideas, the work does, though, help to clarify what aspects of cognition as well as past experience are — and are not — linked to being more prone to hallucinations.

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Children Who Enjoy School Aged Six Tend To Get Better Grades Ten Years Later

By Emily Reynolds

Multiple factors influence how we perform educationally: the way we’re taught, our particular needs and how they’re met, our parents, and our socio-economic background to name a few. Gaps in attainment can start from very early on: some children have already fallen behind before the age of seven.

But what about how much we enjoy school? A new study in npj Science of Learning, led by the University of Bristol’s Tim Morris, looks at this relatively under-explored factor. And the team finds that enjoyment at the age of six has a significant impact on achievement, which was visible even years later when participants took their GCSEs.

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