Category: Social

The “Maybe Favour”: We More Readily Commit To Helping A Stranger If We Might Not Have To Follow Through

By Emma Young

Imagine that a neighbour asks for a favour — to help move some garden furniture at the weekend, say. Now imagine that, instead, they explain that they’d lined up a friend to help, but that friend has become ill, and you’ll only be required if they’re not better in time.

Rather than a firm favour, this second scenario involves what the authors of a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied dub a “maybe favour”. And, Michael K. Zurn at the University of Cologne and colleagues report, we are more likely to agree to grant these favours than ones that we know for sure we’ll have to come good on. This might not be surprising in itself — but the team goes on to show that exploiting the “maybe favour” effect could have big implications for society.

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We’re More Likely To Steal From Large Groups Than From Individuals

By Emma L. Barratt

We’re all aware of the financial disparity that plagues our economic systems. Many of those at the top of large corporations seem content to exploit large groups of people for their own significant financial gain.

Strangely, this is somewhat at odds with previous research in behavioural economics, which tends to find that people are generally quite prosocial, honest, and overall unwilling to steal considerable amounts from others. From results like these, it’s difficult to piece together exactly how we’ve arrived at such levels of financial inequality.

Psychologists have floated a number of potential explanations for this phenomenon. Perhaps those who end up rich have innately higher levels of psychopathy, for example. Or perhaps it’s the case that the cultural norms within certain businesses change the way people make economic decisions. However, new research in Nature Human Behaviour from Carlos Alós-Ferrer and colleagues suggests an alternative explanation: when it comes to acting selfishly, we are much more likely to do it at a grand scale than a small one.

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Only Children Are No More Selfish Than Those With Siblings

By Emma Young

Do you think that an only child behaves differently to a kid with siblings? If you do, you’re hardly alone. Stereotypes about only children being spoiled, self-centred “little emperors” abound. In 2019, though, research in Germany concluded that while the idea that only children are more narcissistic is widespread, it’s wrong. Now a team in China has failed to find any evidence for another of the clichés: that only children are more selfish.

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There’s Surprisingly Little Evidence Behind Common Beliefs About The Best Way For Immigrants To Adapt

By Emma Young

The world is full of migrants — not only refugees from places like Afghanistan and Syria, but also people who have travelled to study, or to work in another country. In fact, 281 million people live outside their country of birth or citizenship. They face all kinds of challenges, and adapting well to life in a new culture is a critical one.

Current thinking holds that what an immigrant does is important for how well they adapt both psychologically and socially. A combination of maintaining one’s own culture while also engaging in the mainstream culture is widely held to be the best strategy. This idea, known as integration or biculturalism, has informed advice and also policy-making. But a major study in Psychological Science now argues that it is wrong. In fact, report Kinga Bierwiaczonek and Jonas Kunst at the University of Oslo, there is only “miniscule” evidence that any culture-oriented strategy adopted by an immigrant affects how well they adapt. As the pair writes, with some understatement: “In a world in which virtually every modern society is culturally diverse, our findings have considerable implications.”

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“Liking” Outraged Posts Encourages People To Express More Outrage In The Future

By Emily Reynolds

It can be hard to know what’s going to go viral — or even what’s going to get you just a few more likes. For many, however, expressing an outraged opinion on politics has been a good way of garnering interactions, even if it doesn’t always have the intended effect.

A new study, published in Science Advances and authored by William Brady and colleagues from Yale University, looks more closely at how outrage spreads on social media. It finds that likes and shares      garnered by outrage act as a reward that “teaches” us to express more of the same.

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Immature Jokes: What Kids’ Humour Can Tell Us About Their Ability To Empathise

By Emma L. Barratt

There’s nothing less funny than explaining a joke. But analysing humour can actually tell us a lot about the development of sympathy and empathy in children.

Having a joke land is a complex task which requires an in-depth understanding of both the situation and mental state of the person on the receiving end. One audience, for example, might find a joke hilarious, whereas another might find that same joke wildly offensive.

Zeroing in on the appropriate joke, therefore, is likely to require a good amount of empathy. This ability to imagine the thoughts and feelings of your audience is pivotal to humour being well-received, but the relationship between humour and empathy has only been addressed in a handful of studies so far. However, new research from Caitlin Halfpenny and Lucy James at Keele University gives us a window into how empathy shapes humour by taking a look at junior schoolchildren’s use of jokes, and the different humour styles that emerge with different levels of empathy and sympathy.

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Negative Media Coverage Of Immigration Leads To Hostility Towards Immigrants And In-Group Favouritism

By Emily Reynolds

The media plays a huge part in shaping our understanding of the world, including how we respond to other people. Coverage of immigration is no different, and previous research has suggested that even subtle changes in language and framing can change the way people think about immigrants.

A new study, published in Scientific Reports, looks at the real life impact of negative media portrayals of immigrants. It finds that negative coverage can increase hostility towards immigrants and favouritism towards members of the non-immigrant in-group — which can have serious financial, emotional and social consequences for communities.

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When Bosses Are Respectful, Young People Are More Resilient At Work And Enjoy Their Jobs More

By Emily Reynolds

From ball pits to free beers, fun job perks have received plenty of press attention over the last few years. For millennials, such benefits should surely be appealing — they are, after all, the generation these perks were ostensibly designed for.

But according to a new study, young people themselves have a different priority in the workplace — respect. Writing in the International Journal of Business Communication, a team led by Danielle LaGree from Kansas State University finds that being valued and respected by managers was the key factor in employees’ ability to positively adapt to the workplace. And, in turn, this impacted how loyal workers were to their employers, how much they engaged in their work, and how happy they felt overall.

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Around The World, People Co-operate More Willingly With Others From Their Own Country

By Matthew Warren

Many of the world’s most pressing problems require global co-operation. If we are to combat climate change or contain the spread of devastating diseases, for instance, we need to work across borders and share resources.

So a new study in Nature Communications doesn’t make for encouraging reading. Using a common paradigm for studying co-operation, Angelo Romano from the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods and colleagues look at how more than 18,000 participants from 42 different countries co-operate with people from their own nation and elsewhere. They find that in every single country, participants show national parochialism: they co-operate more readily with people from their own country than with others.

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We’re More Willing To Engage With Sexists If We Think They Are Intelligent

By Emily Reynolds

For many readers, the idea of interacting with an overtly sexist person probably doesn’t sound particularly appealing — yet in many instances we do continue to engage with those who espouse sexist views. A new study, authored by Elena Agadullina from Russia’s National Research University Higher School of Economics, finds one factor that could determine whether we are likely to want to interact with a perpetrator of sexism: their intelligence. Participants preferred to interact with intelligent people — even those who had engaged in sexist behaviour.

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