Category: Social

Psychological Study Of “Moral Grandstanding” Helps Explain Why Social Media Is So Toxic

GettyImages-529194971.jpgBy Emma Young

What is it about social media that makes discussions about controversial topics so caustic and unpleasant? A variety of reasons have been put forward — such as the tendency for outrage to self-perpetuate, as we reported earlier this week. But now a new study, published in PLoS One, implicates a concept so far explored in philosophy rather than psychology. This is “moral grandstanding” — publicly opining on morality and politics to impress others, and so to seek social status.

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The Paradox Of Viral Outrage: Public Shaming Inspires Further Outrage — But Also Increases Sympathy For The Offender

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By Emily Reynolds

Spend any amount of time online and you’re likely to see the same patterns repeat themselves over and over again: somebody says something offensive or controversial on social media, they’re met with anger and disgust, and they either apologise or double down.

For some, this cycle has become somewhat of a career, with the garnering of outrage forming the backbone of their (often incredibly tedious) public personas. But does responding to such toxic or offensive remarks, especially en masse, actually work? Or does it simply increase sympathy for the offender, no matter how bigoted their remarks were to begin with?

According to research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, the latter is more likely. The paper looked at the impact of viral outrage on convincing observers that an offender is blameworthy — and found that as outrage increased, observers believed it was “more normative” to express condemnation, but simultaneously believed that outrage was excessive and felt more sympathy for the offender.

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When We’re Hungry, We Remain Surprisingly Helpful And Co-operative

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By Emily Reynolds

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”: for the more mild-mannered among us, Bruce Banner’s famous catchphrase may not resonate. But add some hunger — “you wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry” — and many of us can start to relate.

Being hungry, whilst a daily occurrence, can have multiple negative psychological impacts. For one, and most obviously, it simply doesn’t feel good, often leading us to the aforementioned rattiness of “hanger”. But acute hunger has also been linked to an increase in self-interest and a decrease in helping behaviour, too. If your resources are low, the theory goes, you’re much less likely to cooperate with others as you want to keep food for yourself and are unwilling to expend valuable resources like time and energy on helping others.

But this isn’t always the case — at least not according to a new piece of research from Nature Communications. The team argues that acute hunger doesn’t always have an impact on prosociality, even though people strongly believe it does.

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So Grateful For My Ex: Men Hold More Positive Views Of Former Partners Than Women Do

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By Matthew Warren

Break-ups are always hard, with love and companionship giving way to feelings of resentment and the souring of once treasured memories. Yet people often continue to harbour positive feelings towards their exes long after the relationship is over. And that may be particularly the case if you’re a man, according to a recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Researchers have found that, in heterosexual relationships at least, men tend to view their exes more positively than do women.

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Expressing Thanks Can Hurt Disadvantaged Groups By Reinforcing Social Hierarchies

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By Emily Reynolds

For many of us, saying thank you is a simple fact of life: someone does a nice thing, you express your gratitude. A lack of thanks when you feel it is due can certainly leave you feeling irritated, but on the whole we rarely think about the practice beyond the fact that it’s both considered polite and that it feels good to thank or be thanked. Indeed, much research has suggested that expressing gratitude can lead to increased well-being and positive affect, including a rise in happiness, and increased ability to recognise and adapt to various situational demands.

But could giving thanks actually reinforce unequal power dynamics? The authors of a new paper published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin think so. They argue that expressing gratitude towards higher power groups can result in low-power groups ending up “pacified” and discouraged from advocating for their own interests, making saying “thank you” more problematic than we may have first assumed.

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Here’s Why We Eat More When We’re With Friends And Family

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By Emily Reynolds

Going home from dinner out with a friend or a Sunday family lunch, you may notice you feel slightly more full than you normally do after eating. And while some of this may have to do with how many potatoes your mum insists you eat, new research seems to suggest that there could be something else going on. Researchers analysing dozens of past studies on the “social facilitation” of eating have confirmed that people do tend to eat more when eating in groups than alone — and have come up with several social and psychological mechanisms that could explain our increase in consumption in company.

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The Most Popular Teens Gain Status Through A Combination Of Aggression And Kindness

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By Emily Reynolds

For many teenagers, being popular is the ultimate form of success. But how to get there is not always so clear. Past research has identified two types of popular teens: the aggressive and the prosocial. Aggressively popular teens are more likely to be coercive or hostile whilst seeking popularity; the prosocial are co-operative and more likely to be stereotypically “nice”.

But in new research from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Montreal, published in Child Development, a third group has emerged: the “bistrategic” teen. This group is neither stereotypically aggressive nor stereotypically nice: instead, they walk the line, using aggression when needed but also being able to smooth things over with strategies usually seen in a more prosocial teen. And this seems to be such a successful tactic that these teens are the most popular of the lot.

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People Think About Breaking Up More When They Look Outside Their Relationship For Psychological Fulfilment

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By Matthew Warren

As humans we all have psychological needs that we are driven to fulfil, be they companionship or safety, a sense of belonging or personal growth. And we often meet these needs through our relationships with others: they care for us, make us feel secure, and help us develop as individuals.

When we are in romantic relationships, our partners are commonly the main source for fulfilling those needs. But sometimes they are away, or are simply not equipped to meet our particular needs. In those cases we turn elsewhere, to friends, family and others in our lives. This may benefit us personally — but how does it affect our relationship?

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How Cutting Down On Meat Affects Your Social Identity

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By Emily Reynolds

With increased concern about the impact of meat on our health and the environment, and an ever-expanding selection of meat-free products available to buy, popular interest in vegetarianism and veganism has steadily grown.

But for those who want to cut down but aren’t quite ready to give up their burgers, there is a third way: flexitarianism. As a 2019 study from the University of Nottingham on red meat and heart health put it, you “don’t have to go cold turkey on red meat to see health benefits”, finding that halving the amount of red and processed meat eaten can have significant health benefits.

A flexitarian tries to cut down their consumption as much as they can, but still eats the occasional meal or snack containing meat. One recent piece of market research found that 14% of the UK consider themselves flexitarian, and though more formal research would clearly be needed to paint a more critical and comprehensive picture, these figures do seem to suggest something of a cultural preoccupation with how much meat we’re eating.

Now new research, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, has taken a look at how such an approach impacts identity as well as health. The choice to be vegetarian can be a significant source of social identity — but how do flexitarians see themselves?

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Crying Or Kneeling Can Help You Make A Public Apology — But Don’t Expect Faster Forgiveness

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Representatives from Tokyo Electric Power Co. apologise to evacuees after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Credit: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

By Emma Young

Public apologies for misdeeds can be tricky. The usual advice to companies, politicians or celebrities is to acknowledge what you’ve done wrong, express regret, and promise never to do it again. However, the public can still often be sceptical and not particularly forgiving. Matthew Hornsey at the University of Queensland and colleagues wondered if it makes a difference if remorse is also conveyed non-verbally — by dropping to the knees, perhaps, or wiping away tears, as for example when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a “tearful” apology to indigenous Canadians in 2017.

The team’s set of six studies, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes, shows that such “embodied remorse” can go down quite well — at least, among some groups. However, a consistent finding across the studies was that such gestures don’t actually improve levels of public forgiveness.

These results are important in part because while some public apologies are minor — of the “TV star admits drug use” type — they are also considered to be an essential part of the process of reconciliation after gross violations of human rights, and even genocide. The public response to such apologies can clearly have huge ongoing implications.

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