Simply Changing The Order Of Fast Food Menus Nudges Customers Towards Healthier Soft Drink Choices

Fast food and unhealthy eating concept - close up of fast food snacks and cold drink on yellow background

By guest blogger Freddy Parker

Fast food chains are not exactly renowned for encouraging healthy eating. But in a new study a team of psychologists, eager to turn that assumption on its head, chose McDonald’s as their target for a somewhat unconventional, psychologically-informed health intervention. Writing in Psychology & Marketing, the researchers report successfully “nudging” a group of Coca-Cola-guzzling customers into opting for its sugar-free counterpart, Coke Zero — simply by changing the order of options on the menu.

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Taking A Placebo Can Reduce Anxiety Before An Exam — Even When You Know The Pills Are Inert

Four plastic spoons each containing a different pill

By Matthew Warren

The placebo effect is a curious phenomenon. A wealth of literature has shown that inert treatments can not only produce medical benefits like pain relief, but also have cognitive effects like boosting creativity and learning. And while many of those studies involve misleading people into thinking that they are receiving an effective intervention, a new study in Scientific Reports shows that this deception is not always necessary. Researchers have found that taking a placebo can reduce people’s anxiety before a test — even when they know they are taking an inactive pill. 

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How To Cope Under Pressure, According To Psychology

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By Emma Young

You’re preparing for an important meeting, and the pressure’s on. If it’s bad now, how will you cope when you actually have to perform? Will you fly? Or will you sink? 

Psychologists have a lot to say about how to cope under pressure… both the chronic kind, which might involve ongoing high expectations at work, for example; and the acute, single-event variety such as a vital meeting, a make-or-break presentation, or a sports match. Continue reading “How To Cope Under Pressure, According To Psychology”

Instagrammers Who Post Lots Of Selfies Are Judged As Less Likeable And More Insecure

Funny nerdy athlete showing off while taking a selfie in a gym.

By Emma Young

What kind of person posts a lot of selfies on their Instagram account? It has been suggested that such people are more narcissistic, but the research results on this are inconclusive. However, a new study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, has found that whatever the actual personality traits of those who post plenty of selfies, other people have a clear opinion about them — and it’s not good.

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When False Claims Are Repeated, We Start To Believe They Are True — Here’s How Behaving Like A Fact-Checker Can Help

Magnifier And Fact Text On Yellow Background

By Matthew Warren

If you hear an unfounded statement often enough, you might just start believing that it’s true. This phenomenon, known as the “illusory truth effect”, is exploited by politicians and advertisers — and if you think you are immune to it, you’re probably wrong. In fact, earlier this year we reported on a study that found people are prone to the effect regardless of their particular cognitive profile.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to protect ourselves against the illusion. A study in Cognition has found that using our own knowledge to fact-check a false claim can prevent us from believing it is true when it is later repeated. But we might need a bit of a nudge to get there.

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“Politically Incorrect” Speakers Are Seen As More Authentic — Especially If The Audience Already Shares Their Views

Vector illustration of a businessman or politician speaking to a large crowd of people

By Emma Young

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.”

So said then-candidate Donald J Trump during a US presidential debate in 2015. Trump may have strong feelings on the matter, but he’s not alone. “Dozens of articles are written about political correctness every month in [US-based] media outlets spanning the political spectrum,” note the authors of a new paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. However, surprisingly little psychological research has looked at the consequences of using politically incorrect versus correct language — does it make a real difference to a listener or reader’s perceptions of that person, and if so, in what way?

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Episode 18: How To Boost Your Creativity

Boy draws with a brush a big light bulb. Concept of innovation and creativity

This is Episode 18 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

 

Can psychology help us become more creative? Our presenter Ginny Smith learns how we can develop our creativity with practice, and discovers that our best “Eureka” moments often come when we step away from the task at hand. She also investigates how members of the public fare with the riddles psychologists use to study creative problem solving — see how you get on at home.

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People’s Responses To News Clips Suggest There Is A Greater Market For Happy Stories Than Journalists Realise

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By Matthew Warren

Turn on the news tonight and you’ll be bombarded with gloomy stories. You’ll hear about disasters and human suffering, political scandals and environmental destruction. Maybe there will be some good news sandwiched in there — a piece on an exciting new scientific discovery, perhaps, or a profile of a talented young musician. But overall, news coverage is predominantly negative.

Why is that the case? Ultimately, of course, journalists decide what stories and issues receive coverage. But they are also catering to the demands of their audience — and it seems that we respond most to negative stories.

But not all of us. A recent international study in PNAS looking at people’s physiological responses to news reports has found that overall we do seem to have greater reactions to negative stories. However, there is so much variation in how different people respond, say the researchers, that there may be a bigger market for positive stories than journalists often realise.

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How People Judge Your Personality Based On Your Name

Blue Collar,Name Tags,Tags,badges,identificarion,workers,employment,By Matthew Warren

Extraversion, thy name is Katie. And Jack. And Carter. But not, it turns out, Joanna, Owen, or Lauren: these individuals instead embody different traits, like emotionality and agreeableness.

At least, that’s how people rated the personalities of those names in a recent paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. According to the study, we associate the sounds in names with certain traits: names containing k and t sounds are judged as having quite different profiles than those with the more resonant n or l sounds. It will come as no surprise, however, that in the real world Katies are not actually any more likely to be extraverted than Laurens. Continue reading “How People Judge Your Personality Based On Your Name”

Giving People Simple “Moral Nudges” Encourages Them To Donate Much More To Charity

Woman collecting money for charity and holds jar with coins.

By Emma Young

How do you persuade people to do the “right thing” when there’s a personal price to pay? What convinces someone to spend time and effort on a task like recycling batteries, for example — or literally spend cash by giving to people in desperate need?

It’s an important question. “Finding mechanisms to promote pro-social behaviour is fundamental for the wellbeing of our societies and is more urgent than ever in a time of key global challenges such as resource conservation, climate change and social inequalities,” write the authors of a new paper, published in Scientific Reports. Across a series of five online studies involving a total of more than 3,000 participants, Valerio Capraro at Middlesex University of London and colleagues provide evidence for a cheap, effective method: simply “nudging” people to reflect on what is the morally right thing to do. This simple intervention had some impressive effects, even increasing actual charitable donations by close to half.

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