Category: Feature

How well do you know what you look like? Research on self-perception, digested

By Emma Young

In 2020, we looked at the mistakes we make in seeing ourselves psychologically. But how well do you know what you physically look like? Given that you probably see yourself in a mirror every day, you might imagine that your judgements about your face and body should be pretty accurate. But it turns out that we make some often surprising mistakes about our physical appearance, too.

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Understanding bad character: Research into the Dark Triad, digested

By Emma Young

Twenty years ago, two Canadian psychologists published a paper that instantly captured the imagination of researchers — and reporters. Del Paulhus and Kevin Williams argued that a “Dark Triad” of “overlapping but distinct” toxic traits — subclinical psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism — explained much of what we might otherwise call a “bad” character. Research into the Dark Triad shows no signs of slowing. But the concept is being challenged. And other psychologists are proposing different ways to get to grips with the darker side of human nature…

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How to master the art of conversation, according to psychology

By Emma Young

Every time we catch up with a friend, we share the stories of our lives, from the mundane to the profound. Swapping stories — and especially secrets — helps to create friendships in the first place. Now new research is providing some intriguing insights into how to get that process going, and keep it going — on how best to handle conversations, to turn acquaintances or even strangers into new friends, and new friends into life-long confidantes.

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Want To Boost Your Wellbeing In 2022? Here’s What The Research Says

By Emma Young

It’s natural to start a new year with plans to make this one better than the last. But if you are thinking about how to boost your wellbeing, it’s worth knowing that some “good” ways of living have dark sides, too…

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“A Sad Kind Of Happiness”: The Role Of Mixed Emotions In Our Lives

By Emma Young

Sometimes, our emotions are one-dimensional. This morning, for example, when both my kids and my dog jumped into bed, I felt happy. During the Halloween party that my husband and I organised for our boys, though, happiness at their pleasure was definitely tinged with anxiety/stress at managing a houseful of rampaging kids. And here we get into murkier emotional territory. While so much research has been done on individual, “basic” emotions, more complex emotional experiences have been neglected. But recent studies have revealed some surprising and special roles for mixed emotions in our lives.

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Developments In Psychology’s Covid Research

By Emma L. Barratt

Early in the pandemic, there was a rapid shift in the pace of research. With the situation evolving quickly, lockdowns coming into effect, and the massive loss of life that followed, researchers across academia were racing against the clock to produce papers.

This haste was unusual for most scientists, more used to detailed scrutiny, further investigations, and collaboration. As a result, some were concerned about the rigour of papers that would ultimately see the light of day. Early on, psychologist Vaughan Bell tweeted with regards to Covid research, “If it’s urgent, the urgency is to do it right”. Now, almost two years into the pandemic, we can begin to assess how robust our efforts were, and see where developments are leading us.

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Let The Children Play: Research On The Importance Of Play, Digested

By Emma Young

As children head back to school, teachers and parents will of course be concerned about kids catching up on their education after the Covid-19 lockdowns. But, as many psychologists have pointed out, they need to catch up on play, too. So what does the research tell us about the need for and the importance of play?

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How Should You Talk To A Loved One Who Believes In Conspiracy Theories?

By Emily Reynolds

Conspiracy theories have surged over the last few years, as we’ve frequently reported. One 2018 study, for example, found that 60% of British people believed in a conspiracy theory. Meanwhile, the rise of QAnon in America has been particularly alarming.

It’s easy to dismiss conspiracy theorists — but this is not a productive way to tackle the issue. Instead, researchers are exploring why people get sucked into such belief systems, even at the expense of personal relationships. This work can help us understand why conspiracies spread, and provide some useful guidance for talking to loved ones who may have fallen for a conspiracy theory.

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We Have Many More Than Five Senses — Here’s How To Make The Most Of Them

By Emma Young

We’re all familiar with the phrase “healthy body, healthy mind”. But this doesn’t just refer to physical fitness and muscle strength: for a healthy mind, we need healthy senses, too. Fortunately, there’s now a wealth of evidence that we can train our many senses, to improve not only how we use our bodies, but how we think and behave, as well as how we feel. Trapped as we are in our own “perceptual bubbles”, it can be hard to appreciate not only that other people sense things differently — but that so can we, if we only put in a little effort.

But if we’re going to make the most of using and improving our senses to enhance our wellbeing, we have to consider more than sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Aristotle’s desperately outdated five sense model may still be popular, but it vastly under-estimates our extraordinary human capacity for sensing.

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How To Deal With Boredom, Digested

By Emily Reynolds

One year into lockdown, and it’s safe to say a lot of us are very, very bored. We’ve watched all the boxsets we can stomach, developed (and subsequently ditched) a long list of increasingly esoteric hobbies, and have quite probably exhausted every possible walking route within several miles of our home. Yet the boredom persists.

Lockdown is, for most of us, an unusually boredom-inducing situation to be in, unable as we are to engage in many of the outside activities we would usually pass the time with. But boredom itself is common: as Camus rather pessimistically put it, “the truth is that everyone is bored”.

So how do you deal with boredom? And does being bored even come with some benefits? Here’s the research on boredom, digested.

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