Green Spaces And Phone Scams: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Have you noticed an increase in scam texts recently? I certainly have — and so has David Robson, writing at BBC Future.  These scammers often make it seem like we are facing some immediate threat like legal trouble or loss of money, capitalising on the fact that in this kind of situation we are less likely to think and act rationally. And the pandemic has provided just the right conditions for these scams to flourish, Robson writes.

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Regular Gamblers Turned To Online Gambling During The Pandemic

By Emily Reynolds

Gambling is big business in the UK. According to NHS Digital, 57% of men and 54% of women reported gambling in 2018, while the Gambling Commission suggests that online gambling grew by 8.1% from 2019 to 2020.

During the pandemic, gambling changed quite significantly: while consumers could still buy scratchcards and lottery tickets in supermarkets and off licenses, betting shops were closed and sports matches cancelled, leading many activities to move entirely online. And according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bristol, although the British public gambled less overall during lockdown, among regular gamblers, rates of online gambling increased substantially. 

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At Just 16 Months Old, Toddlers Will Reward Someone For Acting Fairly

By Matthew Warren

Although we often think of young children as rather selfish, research has shown that babies and toddlers have a surprisingly strong sense of what is fair. At one year old, kids already expect resources to be divided fairly and for people to be helpful towards others. By two, they themselves tend to distribute resources equally, and would rather play with a fair adult than an unfair one.

But at what point do young kids actually intervene when they see someone else acting fairly or unfairly? According to a series of studies in Cognition, before they’re even one and a half years old children will reward someone for being fair — though they don’t yet punish unfair behaviour.

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We’re Worse At Recognising Faces From Races Other Than Our Own — And That Can Be A Major Barrier To Socialising

By Emma Young

Elinor McKone admits that as a junior postdoctoral student, she was unable to recognise her other-race senior professor “by anything other than his coat”. McKone was, then, a perpetrator of the “other-race effect” (ORE) — the (well-documented) fact that we are generally poorer at recognising the faces of people of races other than our own. Now at the Australian National University, McKone has led the first formal investigation into how this phenomenon affects everyday social interactions. The study of students of mostly Chinese heritage, who had recently moved to study in Australia, reveals that both being a victim and a perpetrator makes social interactions more difficult. In fact, the students found it to be as big of a hurdle to successful socialising as the language barrier.

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Cow Brains And Aphantasia: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

New work is providing fascinating insights into aphantasia, a condition where you are unable to see images with your mind’s eye. There even appears to be a flip side to the condition, hyperphantasia, where mental imagery is particularly powerful. Carl Zimmer examines the new findings at The New York Times (and see also our podcast on aphantasia from 2019).

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How To Navigate Moving Back In With Your Parents As An Adult

By Emily Reynolds

For many, moving out of the family home is a rite of passage, a sign that adulthood is just about to begin. Equally, however, there are plenty of reasons why somebody might move back in with their parents: after a break-up, to save money, for health reasons, or to care for ageing or unwell relatives. Anecdotally, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have been another reason for such a move, with articles proliferating on children once more living with their parents and offering advice on how to deal with it.

But how do such “boomerang kids” frame their decision to move back home, and how do they ensure it goes well? A new study published in Emerging Adulthood finds four strategies young people use to make the transition back into the family home as positive as possible.

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People Prefer More Attractive Financial Partners — Even Ones Who Lose Them Money

By Emma Young

Physically attractive people are routinely judged to be “superior” in other ways — to be more trustworthy, for example, and honest, and intelligent. However, evidence for the unwarranted “attractiveness halo” effect has tended to come from studies that have involved snap-judgements with no feedback or repercussions for the people doing the judging. Gayathri Pandey and Vivian Zayas at Cornell University, US, wanted to explore how this bias plays out in the longer term, when contradicted by actual data. If, say, we’re given information that an attractive investor is actually losing us money, while an unattractive investor is securing profits, surely we’ll quickly drop that bias in relation to these individual people at least? Alarmingly, the pair’s new paper in the British Journal of Psychology suggests not.

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Rates Of Postnatal Depression Among New Mothers Rose Sharply During Lockdown

By Emily Reynolds

Having a new baby is never easy: it’s difficult to manage the stress of birth, sleepless nights, and juggling of childcare and domestic responsibilities, especially for first-time parents. Some also experience postnatal depression, which is estimated to affect 23% of women in Europe after the birth of a child (men also experience postnatal depression, though the numbers are not so clear).

Add to new parenting the impact of lockdown, and that figure could rise sharply, a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests. Working with women with babies aged six months or younger in the UK during the first COVID-19 lockdown, UCL’s Sarah Myers and Emily H. Emmott found that almost half met the threshold for postnatal depression — double the average European rates.

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It’s Surprisingly Common To Misremember Where You Were On A Specific Time And Date

By Emma Young

Where were you at 8am two Tuesdays ago? If it’s a little tricky to recall, what if I presented you with a map with four location flags to choose from, each about 3-4 km apart, with one marking your actual location on that time and date?  Are you confident that you’d pick the right one?

If you are confident, the good news from a new paper in Psychological Science is that you’re more likely to be right than if you’re not too sure. The bad news is that when a group of students in Melbourne, Australia was tested in this way, they picked the wrong location 36% of the time. The study shows that this type of memory is pretty fallible — and yet it’s the type, of course, that’s needed for a criminal alibi. Failures in recalling where you were have no doubt contributed to serious miscarriages of justice, write Elizabeth Laliberte at the University of Melbourne and her colleagues.

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Magic Tricks And Media Literacy: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Sleep researchers often takes a “brain-centric” approach to their work, measuring sleep stages using EEG, for instance, or examining how sleep affects learning and memory. Yet rudimentary creatures also sleep — including the hydra, an aquatic organism which has a basic nervous system but no brain at all.  The findings suggest that our primitive ancestors slept before they even evolved brains, writes Veronique Greenwood at Wired

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