Category: Personality

These Two Factors Are Linked To The Experience Of Otherworldly Phenomena Across Cultures And Religions

By Emily Reynolds

Hearing voices is often associated with mental illness. But this belief doesn’t always reflect reality, with much research 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.

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Americans Simultaneously Hold Both Positive And Negative Stereotypes About Atheists

By Emily Reynolds

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.

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Dolphins’ Personality Traits Are Surprisingly Similar To Our Own

By Emma Young

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.

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Here’s How Personality Changes In Young Adulthood Can Lead To Greater Career Satisfaction

By Emily Reynolds

Personality traits were once thought to be fairly stable. But recent research has suggested that our personality can alter over time — whether that’s due to ageing or because we decide to change our traits ourselves. And as personality is linked to our behaviour, it follows that we might see different life outcomes as our personality shifts or grows.

In a new study in Psychological Science, Kevin A. Hoff and team look at the personality changes of teenagers as they move into adulthood. And they find that certain shifts in personality can result in real-world benefits during the early years of a career, suggesting that interventions that increase particular traits and skills could make all the difference at work.

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Narcissism Can Have Both A Positive And Negative Impact On New Mothers’ Wellbeing, Longitudinal Study Finds

By Emma Young

What happens to a narcissistic woman when she becomes a mother? Can someone with an unmet desire for attention, love and recognition — which characterises all narcissists — adapt well to having a baby to care for? The answer, according to a new study in Personality Disorders: Theory, Research and Treatment, is that it really depends what type of narcissist the mother is. And even, then, the conclusions were based on self-reports, which should probably be received with caution.

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Narcissistic People Are More Likely To Take Part In Political Activities

By Emily Reynolds

There’s likely to be a diverse set of factors driving any given person’s interest in politics. It could be that their parents had a political affiliation they’ve subsequently inherited; they may have had a personal experience that changed how they see the world; politics could provide a social life or community connections; they might consider political action a civic duty; or they might just be passionate about a particular issue.

According to a recent paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, there may be another motivation, too — namely narcissism. The paper finds that particular kinds of narcissism are related to taking part in political activities, suggesting that deeply rooted individual factors may play a large part in our willingness to engage in politics.

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Viewing Images Of Injuries Can Enhance People’s Sadistic Tendencies

By Emily Reynolds

Psychologists have long discussed the idea that there exists a set of “dark” personality traits alongside the more benign Big Five — so much so, in fact, that one team of researchers argued that too much time had been spent pondering the darker side of human nature and that a “Light Triad” was needed to counteract it.

There is also debate around whether such traits — psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism and sadism — are stable, or whether they can be induced. The most famous exploration of the question is almost certainly Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment, which claimed that being in a powerful position over others — in this case, acting as a prison guard — could induce sadistic behaviour in apparently non-sadistic people. The experiment’s influence is undeniable; it’s even been made into a film. But it has also been subject to criticism, casting some doubt over the extent of its findings.

Now a new paper in Personality and Individual Differences has joined the conversation, examining whether sadistic tendencies can be induced. The study finds that they can — particularly in people who already have some level of sadistic interest — but leaves a question mark over what that might mean for real world behaviour.

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People Who Want To Be More Empathic May Also Develop “Liberal” Moral Values

By Emily Reynolds

No matter how happy you are in yourself, there’s probably something about your personality you’d like to change. Maybe you feel you’re too uptight or want to be more outgoing, or perhaps you’d like to be less moody or more tolerant of other people’s shortcomings.

It’s likely that such a change in personality will have some kind of social consequence, whether that’s in your relationship with your spouse or your ability to get on with your colleagues. But it might also affect which moral values you hold important.

That’s what Ivar R. Hannikainen and colleagues suggest in a new paper in the Journal of Research in Personality. They found that growth in one area, empathy, was associated with a shift in moral foundations to a more classically “liberal” style of morality.

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Selfish And Combative People Don’t Actually Get Ahead At Work

By Emily Reynolds

In popular culture, there’s an idea that lots of successful people are… well, not that nice. From Glengarry Glen Ross to The Apprentice, there’s a litany of bad bosses and aggressive success stories in film and television. The message seems to be that to get ahead you need to ditch the niceties and think about number one.

This stereotype might not reflect what’s really going on, however. In a new longitudinal study published in PNAS, a team from the University of California, Berkeley and Colby College tracked individuals over a fourteen year period, looking to see what became of those who were more disagreeable (not a cohort many of us would particularly long to be in).

They found that selfish, combative, and manipulative people have no real advantage at work — not because there are no benefits to such behaviour, but because its positive and negative impacts cancel each other out.

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More Entitled People Get Angrier After Experiencing Bad Luck

By Matthew Warren

We’ve all had the experience of losing our temper when being treated unfairly by someone else. And while anger isn’t the most pleasant emotion, it can be a useful social tool to signal to another person that we’re not happy with how they’re acting towards us.

But what about when we suffer because of bad luck, rather someone else’s actions? In that case it would seem to make little sense to get mad. And yet, a new study in Personality and Individual Differences finds that a certain group of people are more likely to show anger in such situations: those who feel like they are particularly entitled in the first place.

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