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.
Continue reading “People Who Identify With Humanity As A Whole Are More Likely To Say They’d Follow Pandemic Guidelines And Help Others”
By Emily Reynolds
At the start of a new year it’s customary to look forward, imagining what we might want to achieve in the months to come. It’s what lies at the heart of New Year’s resolutions: they may be maligned for their persistent failure to stick, but do at least represent a great degree of hope for the future — a hope to become fitter or more productive, or to learn something new.
In the current circumstances hope is certainly in short supply. But if you can manage to stay hopeful you might be able to avoid risk-taking behaviours like drinking, taking drugs, gambling or overeating, argues a new study in the Journal of Gambling Studies from Shahriar Keshavarz and team at the University of East Anglia.
The study focuses specifically on “relative deprivation” — the belief that your lot in life is somehow worse than other people’s. Previous research has suggested that those who score highly on feelings of relative deprivation are more likely to engage in “maladaptive escape behaviours” including risk-taking. But hope could ameliorate such behaviour, the team argues, protecting people from potential harm.
Continue reading “Having Hope For the Future Could Protect Against Risky Behaviours”
By Emma Young
What’s your view on feelings of sadness, nervousness or hopelessness? Are they harmful emotions that we should strive to avoid feeling — an opinion that is widely held in the West? Or is natural, even helpful, to feel them from time to time — a perspective commonly found in Japan?
Previous studies have found that cultural attitudes to our emotions affect our health. In Japan, for example, greater reported happiness isn’t associated with better health, in contrast to findings from the US. Also, regular experience of high-energy, high-arousal states is associated with better health in the US, but not Japan, where calm, quiet states are highly valued.
Now a study published in the journal Emotion reveals that our attitudes to negative emotions, such as sadness and hopelessness, matter, too. Previous studies have linked experience of these emotions to increased inflammation and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and even death among Americans, but not Japanese people. So Jiyoung Park at the University of Texas at Dallas and her colleagues set out to explore whether differences in stress might explain this. If, in contrast to Japanese people, Americans view the experience of negative emotions as a failure of self-control, and feel stress as a result, this could explain the links between these kinds of emotions and poorer health.
Continue reading “People From Japan May Be Less Prone Than Americans To Some Of The Harmful Health-Related Effects Of Negative Emotions”
By Matthew Warren
Recent years have seen the government take measures to try and limit people’s consumption of sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods. Take the so-called “sugar tax” placed on soft drinks, for instance, or the proposal to ban adverts for junk food before the 9pm watershed.
Some psychologists hope that small changes in design can also help “nudge” people into healthier behaviours. For example, a study from last year found that the order in which drinks are presented on the McDonald’s menu could encourage people to choose the sugar-free options more often.
Now a new paper in Scientific Reports suggests that the shape of a glass could also subtly influence people’s drinking behaviours.
Continue reading “The Shape Of A Glass Can Influence How Much We Drink”
By guest blogger Ananya Ak
The concept of weight bias or “fatphobia”, the social stigma around obesity, has been around for quite a while. Studies have shown that such stigma is present even among medical professionals, which negatively impacts quality of care for patients with obesity. Over the years, there have been several instances of doctors attributing medical symptoms to obesity when the symptoms were actually caused by something more serious, like a tumour.
But what about social stigma towards obese pets? Over 50% of cats and dogs in the USA are obese and, like humans, pets with obesity have a higher risk of metabolic, respiratory and other diseases. A new paper in the International Journal of Obesity examines whether the same weight bias that affects the delivery of healthcare in humans is prevalent among pet doctors as well.
Continue reading “Vets Show “Weight Bias” Against Obese Dogs And Their Owners”
By Emma Young
What happens if you grow up with a grandparent living in your home? Does the prolonged contact counter prejudices, biases and stereotypes of the elderly? Or might it instead encourage negative perceptions of older people as being slow, angry or sickly, for example?
These are important questions, partly because in some countries, though not all, an increasing number of elderly people are moving in with family members. In the US, for example, 15% of older adults are now living in someone else’s household, up from 7% in 1995.
Now a new paper, published in Social Psychology, by Brian T Smith and Kelly Charlton at the University of North Carolina, suggests that this trend could be causing undesirable outcomes: people in the study who had grown up with an elderly person had significantly lower opinions of the elderly than those who had not. However, these respondents did at least report less anxiety around their own ageing process. Continue reading “Growing Up With Grandparents In The House Can Lead To More Negative Attitudes Towards The Elderly”
By Matthew Warren
As the reality of the coronavirus pandemic set in in March, we looked at the work of psychologists attempting to understand how the crisis is affecting us, and to inform our response to it. A few months later, and hundreds of studies have been conducted or are in progress, examining everything from the spread of conspiracy theories to the characteristics that make people more likely to obey lockdown measures.
However, some researchers have raised alarm. They’re worried that many of these rapid new studies are falling prey to methodological issues which could lead to false results and misleading advice. Of course, these aren’t new problems: the pandemic comes at the end of a decade in which the field’s methodological crises have really been thrust under the spotlight. But is the coronavirus pandemic causing researchers to fall back on bad habits — or could it lead to positive change for the field? Continue reading “Psychology Research In The Coronavirus Era: A “High Stakes Version Of Groundhog Day”?”
By Emily Reynolds
At the moment, most of us are on red alert when it comes to sounds of illness, with sniffling in the supermarket or coughing behind us in a queue the cause of significant alarm.
And while we might like to think we’re able to tell the difference between someone clearing their throat and somebody who is genuinely unwell, new research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests we’re less good at identifying threats than we think.
Continue reading “We’re Not Very Good At Identifying Illness From Sounds of Coughs and Sneezes”
By Emily Reynolds
Keeping to goals or new habits is not easy — so much so that there’s a cottage industry of life coaches, motivational speakers and stationery companies offering you tricks, hints, motivational journals and other products apparently designed to keep you on the straight and narrow.
But there might be an easier — and considerably cheaper — way of doing things. Rather than trying to motivate ourselves alone, Katie S. Mehr and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania argue in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, copying the strategies that our friends use may provide us with some much needed drive.
Continue reading “Struggling To Stick To A Workout Routine? Copying Your Friends Might Help”
By guest blogger Dan Carney
A key feature of interviews is open-ended questioning inviting the recall of past experiences and memories — what psychologists call “autobiographical” memory. Having to provide this information accurately and coherently, combined with the stress of the situation, can often make being interviewed a demanding and uncomfortable experience.
That is especially true of autistic people, who may have difficulties with both autobiographical memory and open-ended questioning. Many autistic people report job interviews as a major barrier to employment, and it’s possible that interview difficulties may also be compounding, or partially causing, problems in legal and healthcare contexts where open-ended interviews requiring autobiographical recall are a common feature. Autistic people are more likely to be involved in criminal investigations, for instance, and to experience physical and mental health difficulties.
Now, in a paper published in Autism, a team led by Jade Norris from the University of Bath has examined techniques that may help autistic people in these situations. Continue reading ““Visual-Verbal Prompting” Could Make Interviews More Manageable For Autistic People”