Category: Social

Psychopathic Prisoners With Higher Levels Of Emotional Impairment Make Less Eye Contact

By Emma Young

Imagine going to sit in a room with a violent, imprisoned psychopath and having a chat about what you both like to eat. (It’s impossible not to think of liver, fava beans and Chianti, isn’t it….?)

This is exactly what one researcher did recently in Germany. But the purpose of the study, reported in Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment wasn’t to gather data on criminal psychopaths’ dining preferences, but rather on how they make — or don’t make — eye contact during a conversation.

This was the first study to explore psychopaths’ eye movements in a naturalistic setting. And it reveals that prisoners who scored highly on one aspect of psychopathy, in particular, were much less likely to look at the interviewer’s eyes. This finding not only helps with understanding how psychopathy develops, but also suggests that finding ways to encourage at-risk children to make more eye contact might be a useful intervention, argue Nina Gehrer at the University of Tübingen and her colleagues.

Continue reading “Psychopathic Prisoners With Higher Levels Of Emotional Impairment Make Less Eye Contact”

When Deciding How To Improve Our Personalities, Moral Character Is Not A Priority

By Emily Reynolds

No matter how high your self-confidence, it’s likely that you have certain traits you’d change given the opportunity: maybe you’d turn down your anxiety, feel more outgoing in company, or be a bit less lazy. One 2016 study found that 78% of people wanted to better embody at least one of the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, emotional stability, conscientiousness, agreeableness, or openness to experience), so the desire to change who you are is not uncommon.

But are we so keen to change how moral we are? That is, how concerned are we really about being a good or bad person? A new study published in Psychological Science suggests that we’d rather spend time improving those parts of us that aren’t morally relevant, with traits like honesty, compassion and fairness taking a back seat.

Continue reading “When Deciding How To Improve Our Personalities, Moral Character Is Not A Priority”

The Quality Of The Relationship Between Parents Can Shape Their Children’s Life Paths

By Emily Reynolds

Our relationship with our parents can have a big impact on our life trajectory. Research has found that those of us lied to by caregivers often end up less well-adjusted, that hard workers are more likely to produce children with good work ethics, that cognitive skills can be improved by having talkative parents, and that positive parenting can impact cortisol levels even years later.

But though we might pay less attention to it, how parents relate to one another is also important for children’s long-term development. A new study, published in Demography, has taken a look at affection within parental relationships, finding that loving spousal relationships can have a positive long-term impact on children’s life paths.

Continue reading “The Quality Of The Relationship Between Parents Can Shape Their Children’s Life Paths”

When We Think Our Online Friends Eat Healthy Foods, We Also Eat Better

By Emily Reynolds

Scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, it can be easy to feel drawn in by the people you follow. Whether it’s the brands they’re buying, the things they’re doing or what they’re wearing, it’s not uncommon to want to follow suit — they’re called “influencers” for a reason, after all.

This isn’t only true of those who are paid to influence, however: those we know in “real life” and follow on social media can also impact the decisions we make. In a new study published in Appetite, Lily Hawkins and colleagues at Aston University find that what we think our online friends are eating can influence how healthy (or not) our own diets are. Continue reading “When We Think Our Online Friends Eat Healthy Foods, We Also Eat Better”

Siblings Who Believe Their Family Has A Lower Social Standing Are More Likely To Experience Mental Health Difficulties

By guest blogger Sofia Deleniv

Most of us are not surprised to hear that a child’s chances of achieving success, physical health, and mental well-being depend heavily on the socioeconomic status of the family into which they are born. A large-scale global study commissioned by the World Health Organisation found that the lower the income of a family, the more likely their child is to suffer physical and mental health issues later in life, run into problems with the legal system, and die early.

But a physical lack of resources may not be the only factor driving poor outcomes. Last month, a study published in PNAS revealed that children’s perceptions of their family’s socioeconomic standing might matter more than how well their families are actually doing — at least when it comes to their mental health.

Continue reading “Siblings Who Believe Their Family Has A Lower Social Standing Are More Likely To Experience Mental Health Difficulties”

Leaders Show Distinct Body Language Depending On Whether They Gain Authority Through Prestige Or Dominance

I've always been confident in the success of this companyBy Emma Young

All kinds of animals use their bodies to signal a high social rank — humans included. But a growing body of research suggests that, for us at least, there are two distinct routes to becoming a leader. One entails earning respect and followers by demonstrating your knowledge and expertise, which confers prestige. An alternative strategy is to use aggression and intimidation to scare people into deference — that is, to use dominance instead.

These two ways to the top are very different. And, to get on with their leader, an inferior-status individual would have to respond to these two types of leadership differently, too. So, reasoned, Zachary Witkower and Jessica Tracy at the University of British Columbia, and colleagues, rather than a single human high rank, “power” display, perhaps there are two distinct patterns of non-verbal behaviour that communicate to other individuals exactly what kind of leader someone is.

Their new paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reveals that this is indeed the case. This is important for understanding how we display rank, and perceive and respond to it. It could also explain why studies into “power posing” have produced conflicting results.

Continue reading “Leaders Show Distinct Body Language Depending On Whether They Gain Authority Through Prestige Or Dominance”

Even Preschoolers Associate Positions Of Power With Being A Man

Gender inequality ConceptBy Emily Reynolds

An imbalance in power — personal and political — is at the heart of many of the conversations we have around gender. #MeToo sparked a global conversation on the topic, and issues around the gender pay gap and women in leadership roles also deal with matters of unequal power.

But our assumptions about how gender and power interact may start far before we even reach the workplace, new research suggests. In a paper published in Sex Roles, Rawan Charafeddine from the CNRS in Paris and colleagues conclude that associations between power and masculinity start when we’re barely out of nappies, with children as young as four making the link.

Continue reading “Even Preschoolers Associate Positions Of Power With Being A Man”

Researchers Asked Older Adults About The Strategies They Use For Combatting Loneliness. Here’s What They Said

Seniors hiking through the foerstBy Emily Reynolds

In an ever-more connected world, it would be easy to assume that loneliness was on its way out — after all, we now have unlimited opportunity to communicate with almost anyone we want at any time we please.

But, in fact, it’s still rife: according to the Campaign To End Loneliness, over nine million people in the UK describe themselves as “always or often lonely”. Age has an impact here, too: an Age UK report suggested that the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness will reach two million by 2025 — a 49% increase from 2016.

And with researchers suggesting that loneliness can be seen as a disease that changes the brain’s structure and function, this is a significant public health issue, too. You are more likely to have high blood pressure, depression and even face an early death if you’re lonely, so finding strategies with which to combat the experience is vital.

Continue reading “Researchers Asked Older Adults About The Strategies They Use For Combatting Loneliness. Here’s What They Said”

Cold Days Can Make Us Long For Social Contact — But Warming Up Our Bodies Eliminates This Desire

Woman drinking hot tea, heating feet at home.

By Emma Young

From our earliest moments, our awareness of being physically close to someone else is tied up with perceptions of actual warmth. It’s been suggested that this relationship becomes deeply ingrained, with temperature in turn affecting our social perceptions on into adulthood. However, some of the most-publicised results in this field have failed to replicate, leading critics to query whether the relationship really exists.

Now a new paper, published in Social Psychology, provides an apparently compelling explanation for at least some inconsistencies in the results, and supports the idea that our temperature does indeed affect our social judgements.

Continue reading “Cold Days Can Make Us Long For Social Contact — But Warming Up Our Bodies Eliminates This Desire”

Most Of Us Think We’re More Environmentally Friendly Than Our Peers

Father riding bicycleBy Emily Reynolds

How environmentally friendly am I really? It’s a question we ask ourselves more and more frequently as the climate emergency remains firmly at the top of the political agenda. So we dutifully eschew single-use purchases, lug our tote bags to the supermarket instead of using plastic bags, and take part in Veganuary, safe in the knowledge we’re doing our bit.

But, as it turns out, we may be overestimating how well we’re actually doing at being green. According to new research published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, most of us tend to magnify our own environmental efforts, believing we’re doing more than others even when that isn’t the case. The finding is the latest in a number of studies to demonstrate the “better-than-average” effect: we also believe we are more intelligent than others, for example, and that we work harder.

Continue reading “Most Of Us Think We’re More Environmentally Friendly Than Our Peers”