Unmet Sexual Needs Can Leave People Less Satisfied With Their Relationship — But Having A Responsive Partner Mitigates This Effect

By Emma Young

“For better or worse, romantic partners usually have to rely heavily on each other to fulfil their sexual needs.” So begins a new paper that attempts to plug a gap in understanding sexual ideals — and what might buffer against dissatisfaction if reality doesn’t quite match.

Sexual incompatibilities are not only common, but are difficult to resolve even with couples therapy, note Rhonda N. Balzarini at York University and colleagues in their paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes. Despite this, there’s been only limited work to understand precisely what constitutes an individual’s ideal sex life. Earlier work has generally focused on narrow aspects, such as how often a person would ideally like to have sex, or on levels of sexual desire. For this new research, the team developed a broader, 30-item Sexual Ideals Scale, which asks about specific behaviours (“My partner engages in oral sex with me as much as I want my ideal partner to”, for example) but also about the importance of feeling safe and in love, or of dirty talk, for instance. 

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Describing Groups To Children Using Generic Language Can Accidentally Teach Them Social Stereotypes

By Matthew Warren

When we talk to children about the characteristics of boys and girls, our word choice and syntax can profoundly shape what they take away from the conversation. Even attempts to dispel stereotypes can backfire: as we recently reported, telling kids that girls are “as good as” boys at maths can actually leave them believing that boys are naturally better at the subject and that girls have to work harder.

Other work has shown that “generic” language can also perpetuate stereotypes: saying that boys “like to play football”, for instance, can make children believe that all boys like to play football, or that liking football is a fundamental part of being a boy.

Now a study in Psychological Science shows that when kids hear this kind of generic language, they don’t just make assumptions about the group that is mentioned — they also make inferences about unmentioned groups. That is, if children hear that boys like to play football, they might deduce that girls do not.

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Opinions Based On Feelings Are Surprisingly Stable

By Emily Reynolds

Emotional states can be fleeting and somewhat inexplicable — you can feel great one minute and down in the dumps the next, sometimes for no apparent reason. It follows, then, that opinions based on emotion are likely to be equally fleeting: if you’re in a bad mood when you take part in a survey or review a product, then surely the attitudes measured and recorded will be just as transient too.

But according to a series of studies by Matthew D. Rocklage from the University of Massachusetts Boston and Andrew Luttrell from Ball State University, this isn’t actually the case. Instead, they report in Psychological Science, attitudes based in emotion are actually more stable: the more emotional an opinion, the less it changes over time.

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Hand Gestures And Sexist Language: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

It’s wrong to say that introverts have fared better during the pandemic, writes Lis Ku at The Conversation. Instead, studies have shown that in many ways introverts’ wellbeing has suffered more than that of extraverts. This could be because extraverts may have more social support, for instance, or because extraversion is related to superior coping strategies — although Ku emphasises that there are likely many other traits, beliefs and values that are also important in determining people’s response to lockdown.

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Good Time Management Seems To Have A Bigger Impact On Wellbeing Than Work Performance

By Emily Reynolds

As our lives have become busier, desire to do things quickly and efficiently has grown — something the rise of speed reading apps, lack of break-taking at work, and a general focus on “productivity” has shown. Good time management skills, therefore, are now highly prized both at work and at home.

But do such techniques actually work? In a meta-analysis published in PLOS One, Brad Aeon from Concordia University and colleagues find that they do — but perhaps not for the reasons you’d expect. While time management skills have become more important in evaluations of job performance since the 1990s, their biggest impact lies elsewhere: in personal wellbeing.

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People Who Identify With Humanity As A Whole Are More Likely To Say They’d Follow Pandemic Guidelines And Help Others

By Emily Reynolds

The ever-changing public health measures rolled out during the coronavirus pandemic haven’t always been crystal clear. But several instructions have remained the same throughout: wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay two metres apart.

Despite the strength and frequency of this messaging, however, the public hasn’t always complied. Though the exact reason for this non-compliance is clearly complex, researchers from the University of Washington have proposed one factor that could influence people’s behaviour: the extent to which they identify with other human beings. Writing in PLOS One, they suggest that a connection with and moral commitment to other humans may be linked to greater willingness to follow COVID-related guidelines.

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Episode 24: How Children Learn Through Play

This is Episode 24 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

What role does play have in child development? In this episode, our presenter Ginny Smith talks to some top play researchers to find out how children learn new skills and concepts through play, and explores what teachers and parents can do to encourage this kind of learning. Ginny also discovers how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way kids play and learn.

Our guests, in order of appearance, are Professor Marilyn Fleer and Dr Prabhat Rai from Monash University, and Dr Suzanne Egan from the University of Limerick.

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We’re Worse At Remembering Exactly What We’ve Given To Friends Than What We’ve Given To Strangers

By Emma Young

Let’s say a friend asks you to help them to move house. When deciding how much time you can offer, you might consider how much you’ve helped that particular friend lately (and perhaps how much they’ve helped you). But a new paper in Social Psychology suggests that if that friend is particularly close, you’re likely to have a poorer memory of just how much time you’ve dedicated to helping them. You might offer more help than you would to an acquaintance not just because this friend is closer, but because your brain’s distinction between a close friend and yourself is blurrier.

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Spotting Liars And Fixing Things: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

You might have heard of the “Mozart effect”, the idea that playing babies classical music can boost their intelligence. But is there any truth to that claim? In a word, no — but check out this nice video from Claudia Hammond at BBC Reel to learn more about where the myth came from.


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We Have A Strong Urge To Find Out What Might Have Been — Even When This Leads To Feelings Of Regret

By guest blogger Anna Greenburgh

Regret seems to be a fundamental part of the human experience. As James Baldwin wrote, “Though we would like to live without regrets, and sometimes proudly insist that we have none, this is not really possible, if only because we are mortal.” Expressions of regret are easy to find throughout the history of thought, and, as indicated in the Old Testament, intrinsic to regret is a sense of emotional pain: “God regretted making humans on earth; God’s heart was saddened”.

Given the aversive experience of regret, traditional models of decision-making predict that people should to try to avoid it. But of course, the picture is more complex — we all have experienced the desire to know what might have been, even if it leads to regret. Now a study in Psychological Science, led by Lily FitzGibbon at the University of Reading, finds that the lure of finding out what might have been is surprisingly enticing.

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