Moral Panics And Poor Sleep: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

A neural implant has allowed a paralysed individual to type by imagining writing letters. The implant of 200 electrodes in the premotor cortex picks up on the person’s intentions to perform the movements associated with writing a given letter, translating these into a character on a screen. The individual was able to type 90 characters per minute with minimal errors, reports John Timmer at Ars Technica.


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Stressful Days At Work Leave Us Less Likely To Exercise

By Emily Reynolds

After an incredibly stressful day of work, which are you more likely to do: walk several miles home, or get on a bus straight to your door? While the first option certainly comes with increased health benefits — including, potentially, decreased stress — many of us would choose the second anyway.

A new study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, seeks to understand why, even when we know how positive exercise can be, we often fail to be active after work. It could come down to how high-pressure your job is, according to Sascha Abdel Hadi from Justus-Liebig-University Giessen and team — and how much control you have over your work.

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Want To Know Whether A Movie Or Book Will Be A Hit? Look At How Emotional The Reviews Are

By Emma Young

You want to choose a new vacuum cleaner, or book, or hotel, or kids’ toy, or movie to watch — so what do you do? No doubt, you go online and check the star ratings for various options on sites such as Amazon or TripAdvisor, and so benefit from the wisdom of crowds.

However, there are problems with this star-based system, as a new paper in Nature Human Behaviour makes clear. Firstly, most ratings are positive — so how do you choose between two, or potentially many more, products with high ratings, or even the same top rating? Secondly, star ratings aren’t a great predictor of the success (and so actual general appeal and approval) of a movie, book, and so on, note Matthew D. Rocklage at the University of Massachusetts and his colleagues. The team presents an alternative method for picking the best product and also predicting success, which focuses on the emotional responses of the reviewers.

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Self-Reflection Can Make You A Better Leader At Work

By Emily Reynolds

What does being a good leader mean to you? Having tonnes of charisma? Being intelligent? Encouraging fairness and participation in the workplace? Whatever combination of qualities you value, it’s likely that your vision of good leadership is different from your colleague’s or your manager’s, who themselves will have a highly personal vision of who they want to be at work.

A new study from Remy E. Jennings at the University of Florida and colleagues, published in Personnel Psychology, looks closely at this individualised idea of leadership — our “best possible leader self”. If we focus and reflect on this best possible self every morning, they find, it could help us behave more like a leader in the here and now.

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In English, Round And Spiky Objects Tend To Have “Round” And “Spiky” Sounds

By Emma Young

Many of us are familiar with the “bouba/kiki”, or “maluma/takete” effect — that we tend to pair round, blobby shapes with the words “bouba” or “maluma” and spiky shapes with “kiki” or “takete”. These findings hold for speakers of many different languages and ages, and various explanations for the effect have been proposed.

But these studies have almost exclusively used made-up words (like these four), note the authors of a new paper in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, who have found that the effect is also at play in the English language. That is, the components of made-up words that we commonly pair with a round shape tend also to be found in nouns that refer to actual round objects, and the same for spiky sounds and objects.

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Flags And Phrenology: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

“Grumpy” dogs may be better learners than their more agreeable counterparts, reports James Gorman at The New York Times. Researchers found that grumpier canines were better at learning how to reach an object placed behind a fence by observing a stranger. But other scientists suggest that something more specific than “grumpiness” is responsible for the animals’ superior performance, such as increased aggression, reduced inhibition, or hyperactivity.

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Humans Aren’t The Only Animals To Experience Jealousy — Dogs Do, Too

By Emily Reynolds

Jealousy is a fairly common human emotion — and for a long time, it was presumed it truly was only human. Some have argued that jealousy, with its focus on social threat, requires a concept of “self” and a theory of mind — being jealous of someone flirting with your partner, for example, requires a level of threat (real or imagined) to your relationship. This element of jealousy has been used to argue that animals, without such a sense of self, are therefore unable to experience it.

However a new study, published in Psychological Science, suggests this might not be the case. Amalia P. M. Bastos and team from the University of Auckland find evidence that dogs may, in fact, be able to mentally represent the threatening social interactions that give rise to jealousy.

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Mindfulness Can Make Independent-Minded People Less Likely To Help Others

By Emily Reynolds

Mindfulness — in basic terms, the practice of being “present” in the moment and paying attention to one’s own thoughts and feelings — has seen something of a boom over the last few years. In the United States, the mindfulness business is set to reach a value of $2 billion by next year, while in the United Kingdom, lockdown saw a spike in downloads for digital meditation offerings such as Headspace and Calm. 

But is mindfulness all it’s cracked up to be? While it certainly has its benefits, some argue that it encourages blind acceptance of the status quo, taking us so far into ourselves that we forget the rest of the world. In a new preprint on PsyArxiv, Michael Poulin and colleagues from New York’s University at Buffalo also find that mindfulness can decrease prosocial behaviours — at least for those who see themselves as independent from others.

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Here’s The Best Way To Forgive And Forget

By Emma Young

If somebody else has treated you badly, what are the best strategies for overcoming this, and moving on?

There has been, of course, an enormous amount of research in this field, in relation to everything from getting over a romantic break-up to coping with the after-effects of civil war. Now a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, led by Saima Noreen at De Montfort University, specifically investigates how different types of forgiveness towards an offender can help people who are intentionally trying to forget an unpleasant incident.  

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Free Will And Facial Expressions: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

It’s not possible to reliably predict the emotions someone is experiencing based just on their facial expressions. And yet tech companies are trying to do just that. At The Atlantic, Kate Crawford explores some of these attempts — and the contested research on which they are based.


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