Perfectionism can be a useful trait: striving always to do better, perfectionists may be more likely to thrive academically or accomplish other achievements. But it comes with downsides, too: links with suicidal ideation, burnout, and reduced engagement at work.
One common critique of perfectionism is that it kills creativity, and it’s this question Jean-Christophe Goulet-Pelletier and team from the University of Ottawa, Ontario, explore in a paper in the British Journal of Psychology. They find that shooting for greatness, rather than perfection, can lead to higher creativity and increased openness to experience.
Even the most shallow dater would have to concede that our personalities play a huge role in our romantic lives. How we start relationships, how we behave when we’re in them, and how they end are all intimately related to our personality traits, good and bad.
A new study, published in Acta Psychologica, looks closely at one way a relationship can end: through ghosting. For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the term, ghosting refers to the act of ending a relationship by simply ceasing to respond to the other person, removing them from social media, unmatching them on a dating app, or failing to ever text back. And Peter K. Jonason from the University of Padua and team find that this strategy is considered more acceptable by those high in the Dark Triad traits of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism.
Research has shown many benefits to extraversion. One 2019 study on personality traits in the workplace found that extraverts are more motivated, experience more positive emotions, work harder and have fewer adverse experiences at work, while another found that extraversion was associated with more creative thinking.
If you’re not naturally extraverted, however, these wellbeing benefits are not necessarily out of reach. One intervention suggested that acting like an extravert could bring the benefits of natural extraversion, while another generated similar findings a year later. However, some of this work also suggests that for people who are particularly introverted, acting like an extravert could be exhausting and actually produce negative emotions.
A new study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, looks in more detail at what happens when we deviate from our “baseline” levels of extraversion. The team finds that higher-than-normal levels of extraversion-related behaviours are associated with more positive feelings — even for those who aren’t extraverted to begin with.
Loneliness, then, is highly dependent on personality factors as well as social factors such as discrimination, limited access to transport, and lack of social cohesion. And a new study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, identifies another individual factor: low self-control. According to Olga Stavrova and team from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, failures of self-control can have serious social ramifications — leading to ostracism and, eventually, loneliness.
We could all name groups of people who we know to be suffering right now; some in distant countries, some in our own. Research shows that we feel less empathy for people in other countries — and so are less likely to support them by protesting, say, or donating money. Meital Balmas and Eran Halperin at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem now report a factor that can influence this, however: our feelings about the national leader. The pair’s study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that a leader who is perceived as “good” and popular at home elicits more empathy, and even greater tangible help, for their struggling citizens.
This is Episode 25 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here
Are our personalities set in stone, or can we choose to change them? In this bonus episode, Matthew Warren talks to former Research Digest editor Christian Jarrett about his new book Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change. Christian discusses the evidence-based methods you can use to alter your personality, whether you’re an introvert who wants to become the life of the party, or you simply wish you were a little more open to new experiences. He also explains how our personalities evolve over the course of our lifespans, even when we’re not consciously trying to change them, and ponders how they might be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change is out on May 18th in the United States and May 20th in the United Kingdom.
“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.
Hearing voices is often associated with mental illness. But this belief doesn’t always reflect reality, with muchresearch suggesting that many people who hear voices experience no distress and have never had contact with psychiatric services. Religious hearing of voices also has a tradition outside of what we might consider “pathological”: St. Augustine’s recognition of the voice of God, to use one very famous example.
Why do some of us hear otherworldly voices, while others don’t? According to Stanford University’s Tanya Marie Luhrmann and team, it could be related to two factors: “absorption” and “porosity”, both of which concern our beliefs and experiences about how the mind interacts with the world. In a study in PNAS that spanned a range of faiths and cultures, the team examined exactly how porosity and absorption can facilitate different kinds of spiritual experience.
What — or who — do you think about when you hear the word “atheist”? Someone scientific, rational, and open-minded? Or, instead, someone who lacks morality, or who is less trustworthy than your average religious person? Prior research hasn’t been wholly positive for non-believers, finding serious levels of distrust of atheists — even among atheists themselves.
But the real picture might be slightly more complicated. According to a new study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, positive and negative stereotypes abound when it comes to atheists. And for many, these stereotypes exist at the same time: people can believe atheists to be fun and open-minded just as they find them to be immoral.
We’re all familiar with the “Big Five” model of personality, which measures the traits of conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness. But what drove the evolution of these personality domains? And how do animal personalities compare with ours? Answers to the second question can help to answer the first. And now a major new study of personality in bottlenose dolphins, published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology, has found that in some key ways, dolphin personality is like ours; in others, though, it is not.