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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People Hold Negative Views About Those Who Believe Life Is Meaningless

By Emily Reynolds

“The only absolute knowledge attainable by man is that life is meaningless,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in A Confession, a succinct summing up of the nihilist worldview. Depressing as it may be, nihilism seems to be on the rise, with the importance of finding a meaningful worldview steadily decreasing over the last decade or so.

But how do other people view nihilists? This is the question posed by Matthew J. Scott and Adam B. Cohen of Arizona State University in a new paper published in The Journal of Social Psychology. They find that stereotypes of nihilists are overwhelmingly negative — and unlike stereotypes about atheists, people don’t seem to have any positive views about nihilists at all.

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Passion Is Linked To Greater Academic Achievement — But In Some Cultures More Than Others

By Emily Reynolds

“Passion” is a word that often crops up on job descriptions and in interviews; articles proliferate online explaining how to adequately express your passion to potential employers. On the whole, passionate people — those who have a strong interest in a particular topic, who are confident in themselves and who dedicate themselves to what they’re doing — are thought of in a positive light, and considered likely to achieve their goals.

But when it comes to predicting achievement, how important is passion really? According to Xingyu Li from Stanford University and colleagues, writing in PNAS, passion may be less important in certain cultures — and the fact that passion is often seen as the key to achievement may reflect a “distinctly Western model of motivation”.

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Students With ADHD Aren’t Always Given The Support They Need To Thrive At University

By Emily Reynolds

Doing well in educational settings can have huge advantages — better job prospects, higher wages, greater life satisfaction and more. Achievement at university isn’t always to do with how hard you work or how intelligent you are, however — first generation university students are more at risk of impostor syndrome, for example, reducing their engagement in class, their attendance, and their overall performance.

And for those with extra needs, university can offer all kinds of extra challenges, as a new study in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology makes clear. It finds that students with ADHD obtained significantly lower grades than those without the diagnosis, suggesting that academic and pastoral services are not going far enough to support neurodiverse students.

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How Much Do You Want To Exercise Right Now? Researchers Are Studying People’s In-The-Moment Motivation To Be Active

By Emma Young

Think back to the last time that you did some exercise. What exactly prompted you to get up and do it? Was it because it was scheduled? Or because you felt a strong urge to engage in some physical activity (or maybe a bit of both)?

Traditionally, researchers have explored a person’s general disposition to exercise, and looked at strategies to increase their exercise levels over a week, a month, or longer. However, a team led by Matt Stults-Kolehmainen at Yale University, Yale-New Haven Hospital and Columbia University argues in new work in Frontiers in Psychology that it’s also crucial to consider transient changes in in-the-moment wants, desires and urges for physical activity and also rest. “Typically, we understand motivation as a more stable construct – e.g. ‘I am not motivated today’ — or a trait — ‘I am not a motivated person’. This new perspective views motivation right now,” Stults-Kolehmainen says. And the team believes that by influencing these feelings, people can be encouraged to exercise more often.

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Talking Dogs And Ending Conversations: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

A recent study has found that about two-thirds of conversations don’t end when we want them to. Researchers who monitored over 900 conversations found that most people wanted them to finish sooner, though a minority wanted them to continue for longer. This was true whether participants were talking to someone they had just met or a loved one, Adam Mastroianni tells Sean Illing at Vox.


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Resolving Arguments Can Prevent Bad Feelings From Lingering — And We Get Better At It As We Age

By Emily Reynolds

“Don’t go to bed on an argument” is an adage we’ve all heard and, at some point, probably ignored. Hackneyed as it is, the phrase does have some truth: resolving arguments, rather than letting them simmer away, can make us feel calmer and happier the next day (and also makes it easier to actually get to sleep).

Now a new study from Oregon State University’s Dakota D. Witzel and Robert S. Stawski has looked at the benefits of resolving arguments — and the team finds that not only can resolution almost erase the emotional stress associated with a big argument altogether, but that individual differences can affect how well we do it. The older we get, they find, the less we argue and the better we are at dealing with argument-related stress when it happens.

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