Category: Social

It Turns Out You Can Bullshit A Bullshitter After All

You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. Well, that’s the saying — but is it true? Shane Littrell and colleagues at the University of Waterloo, Canada, set out to investigate. And in a new paper in the British Journal of Social Psychology they report that, in fact, people who bullshit more often in a bid to impress or persuade others are also more susceptible to bullshit themselves. The reason for this — also uncovered by the team — is truly fascinating.

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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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Our Brains “See” Beams Of Motion Emanating From People’s Faces Towards The Object Of Their Attention

By guest blogger Sofia Deleniv

Back in the 1970s, the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget discovered that, if you ask young children to explain the mechanics of vision as they understand them, their answers tend to reveal the exact same misconception: that the eyes emit some sort of immaterial substance into the environment and capture the sights of objects much like a projector.

Although this belief declines with age, it is still surprisingly prevalent in adults. What’s more, so-called extramission theories of vision have a long-running history dating all the way back to antiquity. The Greek philosopher Empedocles was amongst the first to suggest in the 5th century BC that our ability to see must stem from an invisible fire beaming out of our eyes to interact with our surroundings. This view was subsequently endorsed by intellectual authorities like Ptolemy and Galen.

Now, a duo of researchers behind a recent publication in PNAS think they might have found an explanation for the intuitive appeal of extramission theories. According to their paper, this worldview might just be a reflection of the mechanisms that play out within our brains when we follow other people’s gazes and track where they pay attention. This is because, to carry out this process, our brains actually conjure illusory beams of motion emanating from other’s faces — a quirk of evolution with interesting consequences.

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We Prefer To Experience Good — And Bad — Events On The Same Day As A Friend

By Emma Young

You rub off the panels on a scratch card and find that you’re the lucky winner of £100. If you could choose when the same thing should happen to a good friend, would you rather it was the same day as your win — or a different day? And what if we’re talking negative, rather than positive, experiences — when you’ve both been issued with parking tickets, say, or both suffered a bereavement?

Earlier work shows that we tend to prefer to get through a series of negative experiences as quickly as possible, while we like to space out multiple personal positive experiences, so as to receive the most pleasure from each joy. A new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science finds that when we’re thinking about shared experiences, though, this doesn’t hold. The participants in this study preferred to experience both negative and positive events on the same day as a friend, rather than on different days — as long as those events weren’t powerfully emotional. Franklin Shaddy at the University of California, Los Angeles and his colleagues think we have this “preference for integration” because it increases our feelings of connection with others. This could have implications for how we arrange our lives during lockdown.

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Psychological Impact Of A Relationship Ending Is Reflected In Language Of Reddit Users Going Through Break-Ups

By Emily Reynolds

While some relationships are ended in the heat of the moment, for many the decision to break up with a partner involves several long, agonising weeks of weighing up various options. During that time, your attitudes and behaviours towards your partner may change — you might become colder or more distant, for example.

But what about your language? According to a new study, published in PNAS, the language we use on social media just prior to a break-up can offer a key insight into the emotional and cognitive impacts of a relationship ending. Looking at over a million posts from 6,803 Reddit users who had posted on r/BreakUps, the University of Texas at Austin team found changes in language that were so consistent they could even be found in posts completely unrelated to relationships at all.

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Grateful People Are More Likely To Obey Commands To Commit Ethically Dubious Acts

By Emma Young

Gratitude is widely regarded as a positive emotion. When we feel grateful, we are more helpful, generous and fair to others — findings that were supported by a 2017 meta-analysis, which concluded that gratitude is important for building relationships. But now a new study in Emotion suggests that gratitude has a dark side. Specifically, people who felt more grateful were more willing to accede to an instruction to prepare as many worms as possible for grinding to their death. As Eddie M. W. Tong at the National University of Singapore and his colleagues write: “The findings suggest that gratitude can make a person more vulnerable to social influence, including obeying commands to perform a questionable act.” 

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Students Enjoy Classes More And Get Better Grades If They Feel Their Professor Has Faith In Their Ability To Change And Improve

By Emily Reynolds

As anyone who’s ever flunked a test will tell you, doing well at school or university isn’t just a simple matter of intelligence, ability, or even of how hard you’ve worked. In fact, there are plenty of things that can affect the way we perform, from the way we take notes to how we revise to how much sleep we get while we’re studying.

And according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, something else might have an impact on our educational achievements: our assumptions about our professors. If we believe they have faith in our ability to change and improve, suggest Katherine Muenks from the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues, we’re likely to enjoy classes more, as well as achieve higher grades.

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How To Be A Good Negotiator, According To Psychology

By Emma Young

Good negotiators are more likely to secure a pay rise, get the house or job they want, and keep the peace at home. No end of psychological studies have explored which attitudes, behaviours, and settings will help a negotiation go your way. Here, we take a look at some of the key findings:

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“Psychological Flexibility” May Be Key To Good Relationships Between Couples And Within Families

By Emma Young

What makes for a happy family? The answer — whether you’re talking about a couple or a family with kids — is psychological “flexibility”, according to a new paper in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science. Based on a meta-analysis of 174 separate studies, Jennifer S. Daks and Ronald Rogge at the University of Rochester conclude that flexibility helps — and inflexibility hinders — our most important relationships.

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Film Soundtracks Shape Our Impressions Of A Character’s Personality And Thoughts

By Emma Young

If you sit down to watch TV or a film these holidays, you might want to pay a little extra attention to how the soundtrack makes you feel. We all know that background music influences the tone of a scene but what, exactly, soundtracks do to our understanding of a character has not been studied in detail. In a new paper, in Frontiers in Psychology, Alessandro Ansani at Roma Tre University, Italy, and colleagues report work aimed at filling in some of the gaps.

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