Stretched Words And Imaginary Beasts: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Researchers have finalllyyyyyy studied the ways we elongate words on social media, reports Matt Simon at Wired. The team developed a program that searched through 100 billion tweets for stretched words, finding some interesting patterns. Some words, for example, tend to be “unbalanced” (think “thaaaanks”), while others are balanced (think “hahahahaha”). The Wired story has some cool charts that show how common different stretched variations were for particular words.


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“Visual-Verbal Prompting” Could Make Interviews More Manageable For Autistic People

By guest blogger Dan Carney

A key feature of interviews is open-ended questioning inviting the recall of past experiences and memories — what psychologists call “autobiographical” memory. Having to provide this information accurately and coherently, combined with the stress of the situation, can often make being interviewed a demanding and uncomfortable experience.

That is especially true of autistic people, who may have difficulties with both autobiographical memory and open-ended questioning. Many autistic people report job interviews as a major barrier to employment, and it’s possible that interview difficulties may also be compounding, or partially causing, problems in legal and healthcare contexts where open-ended interviews requiring autobiographical recall are a common feature. Autistic people are more likely to be involved in criminal investigations, for instance, and to experience physical and mental health difficulties.

Now, in a paper published in Autism, a team led by Jade Norris from the University of Bath has examined techniques that may help autistic people in these situations. Continue reading ““Visual-Verbal Prompting” Could Make Interviews More Manageable For Autistic People”

Gradual Hearing Loss “Reorganises” Brain’s Sensory Areas And Impairs Memory (In Mice)

By Emma Young

In 2011, a US-based study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia. This alarming result prompted a number of follow-up studies, which have substantiated the link and further explored the risk. But the mechanism of how hearing loss raises this risk has not been clear.

Now a new study, by a team at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, offers an explanation. The researchers found that gradual hearing loss (the sort commonly experienced into older age) “profoundly” alters normal processes in the brain’s cortex and hippocampus, and that this impairs memory. This work was conducted on mice, not humans. But it provides useful new insights into what might happen in people.

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We’re Less Likely To Spread Alarming Information While Experiencing Physiological Stress

By Emily Reynolds

The spread of bad news — fake or otherwise — is likely to be on everybody’s minds at the moment. Whether it’s legitimate updates on the spread or symptoms of coronavirus, or sensationalism more to do with page clicks than scientific fact, it can be hard to tune out of the news cycle — and to know what information you should be passing on to friends and family.

Past research has found that alarming information is likely to spread further than positive information; we’re also more likely to share news that confirms our own beliefs and biases. But what impact does the experience of stress have on the sharing of negative or alarming news? A new study published in Scientific Reports suggests a complex relationship between the two.

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Flashing Lights And Near-Death Experiences: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

Keyboard for ideaOur weekly round-up of the best psychology coverage from elsewhere on the web

Researchers are investigating whether flashing lights could be used to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease, David Robson writes at BBC Future. People with Alzheimer’s seem to have weak gamma brainwaves, and animal studies suggest that directly inducing brain activity at these frequencies can kick-start the brain’s immune cells. Now researchers are looking at whether inducing these waves non-invasively, through flickering lights or sounds, could help patients. Continue reading “Flashing Lights And Near-Death Experiences: The Week’s Best Psychology Links”

Memory Complaints Are More Common Among Older Adults With Particular Personality Traits

By Emma Young

Memory complaints are fairly common among elderly people. Together with low participation in cognitively demanding activities, such as reading or doing crosswords, they can predict future declines — including the risk of developing dementia.

It might seem likely, then, that people with poorer cognitive functioning may report more problems, and may be less able to engage in (and so benefit from) reading or other stimulating activities. However, a new paper, published in Psychology and Aging, suggests that another factor is more important in predicting both these complaints and engagement in stimulating activities: personality. Continue reading “Memory Complaints Are More Common Among Older Adults With Particular Personality Traits”

Feeling Sleepy? Six Findings That Reveal The Nuanced Effects Of Poor Sleep

By Emma Young

We all know that too little sleep is bad for us. Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley sleep scientist and author of the best-selling Why We Sleep, has gone so far as to declare: “The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life.” However, some researchers fear that our concerns about not getting enough sleep are becoming overblown — and that, ironically, they could be making the problem worse. In this feature, we take a look at evidence that “too little” sleep isn’t always the disaster that it’s held up to be. Continue reading “Feeling Sleepy? Six Findings That Reveal The Nuanced Effects Of Poor Sleep”

We Think We’re Better Than Others At Avoiding Online Scams

By Emily Reynolds

Some attempted online scams are pretty obvious: those of us who are internet savvy, for example, are unlikely to reply to emails promising us millions of pounds worth of Bitcoin, no matter how often they land in our inbox.

Others, however, are harder to detect — and we may be overestimating our ability to do so, according to a new study in Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology from E. Blair Cox and colleagues at New York University. It finds that people tend to believe they are less likely to fall for such scams than others, and that this assumption can actually put them at more risk.

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New Norms And Difficult Dogs: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Sharing the content of your dreams with others can improve your relationships and increase your empathy levels, write Mark Blagrove and Julia Lockheart at The Conversation. Listening to someone discuss their dreams can help you enter their world and better understand their perspective, the pair write, while the act of story-telling can strengthen social bonds. Continue reading “New Norms And Difficult Dogs: The Week’s Best Psychology Links”

Private Good Deeds That Appear To Compensate For Bad Public Behaviour Make People Seem Hypocritical

By Emma Young

It’s hard to find a clearer example of moral hypocrisy than this: in 2015, Josh Duggar, a family values activist and director of a lobby group set up “to champion marriage and family as the foundation of civilisation, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society” was outed as holding an account with a dating service for people who are married or in relationships.

As Kieran O’Connor at the University of Virginia and colleagues point out in a new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition, Duggar’s apparently virtuous public image was in stark contrast to his private behaviour. This was a classic case, then, of hypocrisy. But as the team now reveal through a compelling series of seven studies, another type of discrepancy is seen as being hypocritical too. That’s when individuals are perceived to use private good deeds to assuage their guilt over morally dubious public works.

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