Category: Cognition

Overconfidence Can Be Transmitted From Person To Person

By Emma Young

There will always be some people within a group who are more confident than others. But some groups as a whole tend towards modesty — as with the !Kung hunters of the Kalahari Desert, for example, who deliberately downplay their own achievements and efforts. However, the opposite can also occur — and widespread overconfidence can of course become a problem, as with the US energy company Enron, whose “culture of arrogance” ultimately led to its downfall.

These two examples are highlighted in a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, which reveals a route by which a bias towards overconfidence can develop. In their paper, Joey T Cheng at York University and colleagues first propose and then provide evidence for the idea that if we’re exposed to people who are overconfident, this rubs off on us. In other words, we calibrate our self-assessments based on the confidence level of those around us. Overconfidence can, then, be transmitted socially — and this could help to explain how groups, teams and organisations form their own, sometimes drastically different, confidence norms.

Continue reading “Overconfidence Can Be Transmitted From Person To Person”

Plant “Cognition” Deserves Greater Attention In Comparative Psychology, Paper Argues

By Emma Young

Comparative psychology is the study of animal behaviour, and its psychological underpinnings. But the term wasn’t always this restrictive. Until about 1935, plant behaviour also featured in texts in the field. Now Umberto Castiello at the University of Padua argues that it’s high time that plants regained their rightful place in the study of the psychology of non-human organisms.

In a paper published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology, Castiello gathers together a selection of recent evidence that plants can communicate, remember, recognise kin, decide and even count — “all abilities that one would normally call cognitive if they were observed in animals”. Far from being hard-wired, inflexible respondents to a changing world, they can adapt to change, benefit from classical conditioning, and even come to make predictions about the future.

There’s more than an improved understanding of plants at stake, writes Castiello: “As plants should be considered cognitive agents, as such, they offer us a unique opportunity for a comparative approach, which can potentially lead us to the ‘roots’ of cognition.”

Continue reading “Plant “Cognition” Deserves Greater Attention In Comparative Psychology, Paper Argues”

Why Do We Overestimate The Importance Of The Country We Live In?

By Matthew Warren

What proportion of world history is the United Kingdom responsible for? While it’s clearly hard to put an exact number on it, you might be surprised by the answers participants gave in a 2018 study: on average, Brits believed that the country has contributed a whopping 55% of the total history of the world. And they weren’t alone: participants from 34 other countries all rated their own nations as having outsized contributions, from 11% in Switzerland to 61% in Russia.

Other work has found that people make similar claims about the regions they live in: one study found that Americans believe their own state is responsible for 18% of the nation’s history, despite just being one of 50 in the country. Now a series of studies in Memory & Cognition has looked at exactly why people make these judgements, known as “collective overclaiming”.

Continue reading “Why Do We Overestimate The Importance Of The Country We Live In?”

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”

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.

Continue reading “We Think We’re Better Than Others At Avoiding Online Scams”

Here’s How Long-Distance Runners Are Different From The Rest Of Us

By Emily Reynolds

For many, running a marathon is seen as the ultimate amateur athletic achievement; for others, it’s just the start. Ultramarathon runners often take on courses of incredibly impressive length, running 50 or 100 kilometres at one time or over several days.

Clearly this is physically demanding, and only those in seriously good shape will be able to take on such challenges — ultramarathon running involves stress on muscles and bones, blisters, dehydration, sleep deprivation and mental and physical fatigue, so it’s really not for the faint of heart.

But what about the psychological traits that make someone suitable for long-distance running? What kind of person can withstand this kind of physical stress, and how? A new study in the Australian Journal of Psychology takes a look. Continue reading “Here’s How Long-Distance Runners Are Different From The Rest Of Us”

Hard Workers Are More Inspiring Than Geniuses

By Emily Reynolds

Albert Einstein is often used as the ultimate inspirational figure in science: an untamed genius with an abundance of innate brilliance. The proliferation of memes and inspirational quotes about his allegedly underwhelming school performance only serves to highlight exactly how naturally brilliant he really was, succeeding against the odds.

But, it turns out, he might not be quite as inspiring as you think: according to a study published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, it may in fact be hard work, not innate genius, that really inspires people to get into STEM. Continue reading “Hard Workers Are More Inspiring Than Geniuses”

Looking At Your Phone At Work Might Make You Even More Bored

By Emily Reynolds

There are plenty of things you can do in a five minute break at work — talk to a colleague, make a cup of tea or coffee, or even go outside for some fresh air. But with the advent of digital technology, many of us now spend the short lulls in our day doing something else: looking at our phones.

Previous research has already suggested (fairly unsurprisingly) that smartphone use increases as we get more bored or fatigued. It makes sense: if you’re doing a particularly tedious task at work, you’re much more likely to want to spend a few minutes scrolling on your phone than if you’re doing something deeply engaging.

But does looking at your phone actually relieve boredom? A new study from Jonas Dora and colleagues at Radboud University, available as a preprint at PsyArXiv, seems to suggest not.

Continue reading “Looking At Your Phone At Work Might Make You Even More Bored”

Knowing When A Task Is Going To End Makes Us Better At It

By Emily Reynolds

Deadlines, though stressful, can be a pretty good motivator. Knowing you have to submit some work by a particular date can make it easier to get things done; you simply have to get on with it. This also goes for non-professional deadlines — trying to get in shape by the time you run a specific race, for example, can be a lot more motivating than a more vague and nebulous desire to get fit.

But why is this the case? Maayan Katzir and colleagues at Tel Aviv University have investigated the phenomenon in a new paper, recently published in Cognition — and they suggest it may be down to how we conserve and use effort. Continue reading “Knowing When A Task Is Going To End Makes Us Better At It”

Why Some People Find It Harder To Drag Themselves To Bed At Night

By Emily Reynolds

You’re exhausted. You’ve had a long day at work before coming home to make dinner, do some chores and relax, and now it’s time for bed. But for some reason — despite the fact you’ve been struggling to stay awake all day — you can’t quite bring yourself to stop what you’re doing and go to sleep.

If this sounds familiar, you’ll be pleased to hear that you’re not the only one who lacks willpower when it’s time to go to bed. It’s so widespread, in fact, that Katharina Bernecker from the Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien and Veronika Job at the Technical University of Dresden have investigated what could be driving the phenomenon in a new paper published in the British Journal of Psychology.

Continue reading “Why Some People Find It Harder To Drag Themselves To Bed At Night”