Category: Social

Using the truth to mislead (paltering) feels less bad than lying, but will cost you in the long run

Sneaky scheming young man plotting somethingBy Alex Fradera

Work is getting stale, and you’ve recently been courted by an exciting new company for a great role, the one drawback being a slight pay cut. Before you’ve made up your mind, your manager asks you whether you have plans to go elsewhere. If you wanted to avoid showing your hand, you could lie blatantly. You could change the topic. Or, you could palter: use a truthful statement to create a misleading impression.

“Financially, you’re treating me really well and I don’t think there’s anything out there that could match that.”

Paltering is the topic of a new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The authors, Todd Rogers and others at Harvard University, focused on negotiation situations, where access to accurate information had concrete consequences. They found that paltering is fairly common – real-life negotiators reported doing it more frequently then telling a lie, and as commonly as neglecting to share information – and that one reason for this is that they believed it wasn’t such a big deal as lying. In this, they were sadly mistaken.

Continue reading “Using the truth to mislead (paltering) feels less bad than lying, but will cost you in the long run”

Revenge really is sweet: study shows the mood-enhancing effect of retaliation

A white voodoo doll with five red pins in itBy Alex Fradera

When we feel ostracised, we’re more likely to behave aggressively. Previous research suggests that vengeance on those who we think have wronged us can be driven by a sense of justice, and may activate neural reward centres. But being ostracised can also lead to generalised aggression, even lashing out at unrelated people, so there seems to be more going on. In new research in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, David Chester and C. Nathan DeWall tested the idea that social rejection, by making us feel wounded and unwanted, triggers a need to repair our mood by whatever means available, including through the satisfaction of causing harm to those who have made us suffer. They found that aggression can indeed be a viable method of mood repair.

Continue reading “Revenge really is sweet: study shows the mood-enhancing effect of retaliation”

Joining a crowd transforms us psychologically, with serious health implications

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Image: AlGraChe/Flickr

By guest blogger Laura Spinney

Glastonbury 1997, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2008: what do they have in common? All three were the backdrop to outbreaks of communicable disease, and so of interest to doctors working in mass gathering medicine. The goal of this relatively young field is to address the specific health problems associated with mass events, but two British psychologists now claim that this can only be done effectively by understanding the psychological transformation that people undergo when they join a crowd.

Continue reading “Joining a crowd transforms us psychologically, with serious health implications”

This one specific brain area was smaller in participants who were in love

A happy couple runs through waves on sunlit beachBy Christian Jarrett

Poets have long described the mind-altering effects of a passionate relationship – “my love’s a noble madness” wrote John Dryden. “Of all the emotions,” said Cicero, “there is none more violent than love. Love is a madness.” Psychology research is beginning to back this up. A recent study found that students in the early days of a passionate relationship exhibited reduced cognitive control in basic psychological tests. Now brain researchers in Japan have started to look for the neural correlates of these effects. Writing in Frontiers in Psychology, Hiroaki Kawamichi and his colleagues report the results of their brain imaging experiment showing that participants in the relatively early stages of a romantic relationship had reduced grey matter in a region of the brain involved in processing reward, which might suggest their brains had adjusted to the intensity of their love affair.

Continue reading “This one specific brain area was smaller in participants who were in love”

Why do left-handers earn less than right-handers?

Reaching Out Of MoneyBy Alex Fradera

It’s popularly believed that left-handers are uncommonly blessed with talents like high intelligence or an artistic temperament, but this is a myth. In fact, some studies even show cognitive deficits in lefties (though other research has failed to confirm this) and in terms of their take-home salaries, surveys suggest that left-handers lag behind the right-handed by as much as ten per cent, possibly indicating a difficulty in competing under commercial conditions. In a recent study in PLOS One, Marcello Sartarelli from the Universidad de Alicante attempted to replicate this deficit under controlled laboratory conditions using a simulated labour market. Lefties actually competed more strongly than expected, but they also exhibited some intriguing performance quirks linked with personality that set them apart from the right-handed majority.

Continue reading “Why do left-handers earn less than right-handers?”

There’s such a thing as collective narcissism (and it might explain a lot that’s going on at the moment)

By Christian Jarrett

It feels like this year there has been a big increase in people’s tendency to make a show of their political allegiance, to believe passionately in the superiority of their chosen group’s position, and to be ultra-vigilant to any potential incoming slight or insult toward the group. This kind of behaviour shows signs of “collective narcissism”, which like individual narcissism, is characterised by outward confidence compensating for deep-rooted insecurity.

Collective narcissists say they believe that their group is special and superior, yet when asked what others think of their group, or when tested on implicit measures, such as how quickly they associate in-group symbols with positive words, there is evidence of collective doubt. Worryingly, a series of new studies in the European Journal of Personality shows how collective narcissism can foster inter-group conflict. The results suggest it is important that responsible politicians and journalists do what they can to prevent rather than encourage this dangerous group mentality.

Continue reading “There’s such a thing as collective narcissism (and it might explain a lot that’s going on at the moment)”

Researchers chucked litter on the streets of New York and Bern to see if anyone would intervene

Trash can in New York CityBy Alex Fradera

To maintain pleasant public spaces requires that we all implicitly agree to certain civil behaviours, like pocketing our chocolate wrappers rather than leaving them strewn on the pavement, or turning the stereo down after eleven. But when these implicit agreements are too frequently ignored they can lose their force entirely, jeopardising the social order. To keep things together, one or more of us need to hold any miscreants to account… but who wants that hassle? A new paper in the journal Rationality and Society explores real-life littering norm enforcers, taking us from the streets of Switzerland to the New York underground.

Continue reading “Researchers chucked litter on the streets of New York and Bern to see if anyone would intervene”

Why do we enjoy reality TV? Researchers say it’s more about empathy than humiliation

10060586965_48caa648e4_kBy guest blogger Tomasz Witkowski

Television programs portraying ordinary people in unexpected situations are almost as old as the medium of television itself. First aired in 1984, Candid Camera is often seen as a prototype of the reality show. Its premise was simple – unsuspecting people were confronted with unusual, funny situations and filmed with hidden cameras. However, the genre exploded as a phenomenon in the late 1990s and 2000s with the global success of such series as Survivor, Idol, and Big Brother, and to this day many people continue to abandon their own activities for the voyeuristic other.

Reality shows have not only amassed incredible popularity but have also become an object of severe, wide-ranging criticism. Among the most serious complaints is the allegation that the shows rely on viewers’ enjoyment of the humiliation and degradation of participants. It is quite difficult to find an individual who is indifferent to such programmes. We either hate reality shows or we watch them, quite often without considering why.

Up until now, scholarly opinion on the subject has been divided. Some maintain that the shows’ appeal constitutes an extension of fictional drama, and is thus driven by positive feelings like empathy and compassion. Others claim that reality TV viewers are driven by a voyeuristic desire to intrude on others and to see them in their most private and embarrassing moments. Michal Hershman Shitrit and Jonathan Cohen from University of Haifa in Israel recently tested these contrasting perspectives for a study in the Journal of Media Psychology. Continue reading “Why do we enjoy reality TV? Researchers say it’s more about empathy than humiliation”

By age three, children are already adept at figuring out who’s boss

Young boy, counting money and taking notesBy Christian Jarrett

Social power may be an abstract concept, but it has serious, concrete consequences. Certainly for our ancestors, and also for many people today, the ability to identify who is in charge might literally be considered a survival skill, as the boss is often the person controlling the distribution of food and other resources.

It’s already known that even infants expect smaller characters to give way to larger ones – in effect, social power based on physical dominance. A new paper in Child Development has explored the related question of when and how young children are able to discern social power from more subtle social dynamics between two parties, finding that already by age three children can interpret various forms of social power – resource control, goal achievement, and permission giving – to identify who’s in charge. The setting of social norms (such as what clothing ought to be worn) is recognised as a sign of social power at age 5-6, while perhaps surprisingly, actually giving orders was not recognised as marking social power until age 7–9.  Continue reading “By age three, children are already adept at figuring out who’s boss”

A cute mistake kids make about social reciprocity is bigger than we realised

Two little girls seem surprisedBy Christian Jarrett

If you’ve spent any time playing hide and seek with a young child you’ll know they make a cute mistake, which is to think that if they can’t see you, then you can’t see them. It works the other way too. If a person is blindfolded, children aged up to about four will say that they cannot see this person.

Psychologists explain the mistake as having to do with the significance kids place on mutual gaze, which reflects a special meeting of minds. To an extent, they’re right about this, but they take things a little too literally, mistakenly thinking that without reciprocity of gaze, neither party can see the other. Now a paper in the Journal of Cognition and Development has shown that this error is more far-reaching than previously documented. Preschoolers are also prone to thinking that if you can’t hear or speak to them, because your ears or mouth are covered, then they in turn can’t hear you or speak to you.  Continue reading “A cute mistake kids make about social reciprocity is bigger than we realised”