Category: Health

Struggling To Stick To A Workout Routine? Copying Your Friends Might Help

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.

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“Visual-Verbal Prompting” Could Make Interviews More Manageable For Autistic People

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”

How Psychology Researchers Are Responding To The COVID-19 Pandemic

By Matthew Warren

The world is currently in an unprecedented state of upheaval and uncertainty. As countries fight to minimise the spread of COVID-19, everyone is adjusting to the “new normal”, remaining at home and practising social distancing. And the same is true of the psychologists whose work we report on every day at Research Digest: labs have been shut and experiments have suddenly been put on hold in the wake of the pandemic.

But many psychologists have also begun launching new research to understand how the present crisis is affecting us, and to inform our response to it. So this week, I’ve been talking to some of these researchers to find out more about their work. Continue reading “How Psychology Researchers Are Responding To The COVID-19 Pandemic”

Episode 20: How To Cope With Pain

This is Episode 20 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

What can psychology teach us about dealing with pain? Our presenter Ginny Smith learns that swearing can have a pain-reducing effect, and puts the theory to the test with an experiment on editor Matthew Warren. Ginny also hears about how virtual reality could provide a welcome distraction to patients suffering from chronic pain. Continue reading “Episode 20: How To Cope With Pain”

Parents Play Different Roles In Our Health As Adults: Mothers Support Us, While Fathers Are Often “Cautionary Tales”

GettyImages-1145835519.jpgBy Emily Reynolds

Whether we like it or not, our parents play a big part in who we become as adults. From our taste in music to our social values, their imprint often stays with us, good or bad, well past childhood.

Now new research suggests that we still rely on them well into mid-life — at least when it comes to our health, that is. Alexandra Kissling and Corinne Reczek, a team from the Ohio State University, found that while we look to our mothers in much the same way we do when we’re children — asking them for advice and hoping they’ll be there to help us through periods of bad health,  for instance — fathers act more like “cautionary tales”, examples of what not to do.

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Our Golden Years? Research Into The Ups And Downs Of Retirement, Digested

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By Emma Young

If you ever daydream about retirement, what do you picture? Lie-ins, instead of being woken by an alarm? Walks on a beach, in place of the morning commute? More time for beloved hobbies? Or perhaps endless open, solitary days, with nothing much to do…?

Retirement is what psychologists term a “major life transition”. As such, it’s regarded as a stressor that carries risks as well as potential rewards. Now that the number of retirees in many countries is soaring, so too is the number of studies into whether retirement is good for your mental and physical health — or not. This work certainly suggests that it can be, but there are a few warnings lurking in the results, too.

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Simply Changing The Order Of Fast Food Menus Nudges Customers Towards Healthier Soft Drink Choices

Fast food and unhealthy eating concept - close up of fast food snacks and cold drink on yellow background

By guest blogger Freddy Parker

Fast food chains are not exactly renowned for encouraging healthy eating. But in a new study a team of psychologists, eager to turn that assumption on its head, chose McDonald’s as their target for a somewhat unconventional, psychologically-informed health intervention. Writing in Psychology & Marketing, the researchers report successfully “nudging” a group of Coca-Cola-guzzling customers into opting for its sugar-free counterpart, Coke Zero — simply by changing the order of options on the menu.

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Researchers Conducted Six Studies To Investigate How Best To Challenge Science Deniers

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via James Mathurin/Flickr

By Jesse Singal

When responding to science denialism (or, for that matter, any sort of false or harmful information), such as claims that vaccines are ineffective and harmful, it can be difficult to establish the right strategy. Because of the fast-paced way in which information spreads these days, there is a risk that responding to a given inaccurate claim can give it further oxygen, leading the falsehood to reach more people who are vulnerable to being misled, and so forth. There’s also the possibility of the “backfire effect” – people who already endorse the false claims reacting to the debunking information by digging into their beliefs further (though there’s now evidence such fears were overhyped, and that the backfire effect may not be a regular occurrence overall).

To better understand when science-denialism debunking does and doesn’t work, Philipp Schmid and Cornelia Betsch, both of the University of Erfurt in Germany, ran a series of studies that involved online respondents being exposed to various sorts of science debates. The results, published in Nature Human Behavior, offer some useful insights about how to best stem the tide of science denialism.

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The Human Impact Of Having Too Few Nurses

GettyImages-620954482.jpgBy guest blogger Lucy Maddox

The UK population continues to grow, while nursing numbers have remained static for several decades. Compounding matters, The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust have reported a 25 per cent increase in nurses and midwives leaving the NHS from 2012 to 2018, from 27,300 to 34,100. In short, in the UK, we now have far fewer nurses relative to the general population than we used to.

What does this mean for patients’ care experience? The situation sounds bad, but how bad? Common sense would suggest that patients will experience poorer care when nurses are overstretched, and there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support that interpretation. But there are also positive stories, and claims about greater efficiency compensating for fewer staff. 

Now a study in BMJ Quality & Safety provides direct observational evidence suggesting that lower nurse-patient ratios really do result in poorer health-care interactions. 

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Decades-Long Surveys Suggest The “Deleterious Effects of Smoking May Extend to Detrimental Personality Changes”

GettyImages-157197321.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

There is increasing recognition that while our personality traits are stable enough to shape our lives profoundly, they are also partly malleable, so that our choices and experiences can feedback and influence the kind of people we become. A new study in the Journal of Research in Personality shines a light on a highly consequential behaviour that captures this dynamic – smoking cigarettes.

The results add “… to existing knowledge on the implications of smoking by showing that this behaviour is also likely to alter individuals’ characteristic ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving over time,” the researchers said.

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