Category: Social

Social Media Posts That Are Hostile Towards Political Opponents Get More Shares

By Matthew Warren

What makes something go viral online? A lot of work has highlighted the role of emotion: social media posts that express strong emotions — and particularly negative emotions — tend to spread further.

Now a study in PNAS has identified another factor which seems to have an even greater effect on how often posts are shared. Steve Rathje from the University of Cambridge and colleagues find that tweets and Facebook posts that contain more language referring to political opponents get more shares. These posts may be so popular, the team finds, because they appeal to feelings of anger and outrage towards the political out-group.

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During Lockdown, Couples Were Happier When They Blamed The Pandemic For Their Stress

By Emily Reynolds

During the pandemic, many of us were locked down with little face-to-face contact with anybody other than our partners. Considering the stress of the time and the intensely close quarters we were in, you would be forgiven for thinking this was a recipe for serious tension.

A new study, however, suggests the reality might not be so cut and dry. Writing in Social Psychological and Personality Science, a team led by Lisa A. Neff from The University of Texas at Austin found that the pandemic actually played an important part in people’s ability to deal with stress. When couples blamed their levels of stress on the pandemic, the team found, they were happier in their relationship.

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People In Positions Of Power Are More Likely To Blame And Punish Others For Poor Performance

By Emily Reynolds

Having a “choice mindset” — believing, in short, that people’s behaviours are “choices”, or deliberate actions driven by their own motives and preferences — has multiple benefits. Those with a choice mindset feel as if they have control over their own destiny, for example, and see better outcomes in negotiations.

There are some drawbacks, however. Choice mindsets can lead to victim blaming, a lack of care about inequality, and a reduced interest in acts of social good. A new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science takes a closer look at these more troublesome impacts. Yidan Yin from UC San Diego and colleagues find that people in positions of power tend to adopt a choice mindset, which makes them more likely to blame others for mistakes.

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Kids As Young As Five Underestimate How Much Their Peers Like Them

By Emma Young

A striking paper in Psychological Science in 2018 revealed consistent evidence for the “liking gap” — that other people like us more than we think. Now, for the first time, researchers have looked at how this phenomenon arises during childhood. The study, led by Wouter Wolf at Duke University, US, on children aged 4 to 11, found that the liking gap emerged by around 5, and then grew wider with age. The findings have theoretical but also practical implications: parents and teachers can reassure kids that their judgements about what their peers think of them are likely to be overly negative, which could be of particular help to those who are worried about their relationships with classmates.

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How Should You Talk To A Loved One Who Believes In Conspiracy Theories?

By Emily Reynolds

Conspiracy theories have surged over the last few years, as we’ve frequently reported. One 2018 study, for example, found that 60% of British people believed in a conspiracy theory. Meanwhile, the rise of QAnon in America has been particularly alarming.

It’s easy to dismiss conspiracy theorists — but this is not a productive way to tackle the issue. Instead, researchers are exploring why people get sucked into such belief systems, even at the expense of personal relationships. This work can help us understand why conspiracies spread, and provide some useful guidance for talking to loved ones who may have fallen for a conspiracy theory.

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The Pain Of Social Rejection Is Similar Whether We Are Being Excluded By A Partner Or A Stranger

By Emma Young

Imagine that you’re with your partner at a party and you both get chatting to a stranger. Your partner and the stranger get on really well. Before long, they’re laughing away and ignoring you. Which would hurt most: rejection by the stranger, or by your partner?

The answer, according to new research in Social Psychology is that — in the moment, at least — they would hurt the same. It seems that we have such a deep need for affiliation that any form of ostracism triggers similar levels of immediate pain.

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Revenge Is Sweet – But Also Bitter

By Matthew Warren

Psychology is great at confirming — or challenging — all the old sayings. We’ve previously looked at studies examining whether it’s true that “you shouldn’t go to bed on an argument”, that “time flies when you’re having fun”, and that “ignorance is bliss”.

Now a paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science has investigated whether “revenge is sweet”. Andreas B. Eder and colleagues at Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg find that people do seem to get something positive out of exacting revenge — but it can leave a bitter aftertaste too.

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Childfree Adults Are Just As Satisfied With Their Lives As Parents

By Emily Reynolds

Across the world, birth rates are dropping. The global fertility rate has halved since 1950, with indications that this will continue to fall. There are a number of suggestions as to why this is the case: women may stay in education or the workforce rather than have multiple children, for instance, and many people across the world now have much greater access to contraception.

But many adults are also explicitly deciding not to have children, instead choosing to be “childfree”. The childfree movement has grown rapidly over the last few years: the ‘r/Childfree’ subreddit has over 1.4 million subscribers, whilst media coverage has proliferated in the UK and US.

But are the childfree missing out on the joys that come from parenthood? According to a new study published in PLOS One, that isn’t the case: childfree adults are just as satisfied with their lives as parents.

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At Just 16 Months Old, Toddlers Will Reward Someone For Acting Fairly

By Matthew Warren

Although we often think of young children as rather selfish, research has shown that babies and toddlers have a surprisingly strong sense of what is fair. At one year old, kids already expect resources to be divided fairly and for people to be helpful towards others. By two, they themselves tend to distribute resources equally, and would rather play with a fair adult than an unfair one.

But at what point do young kids actually intervene when they see someone else acting fairly or unfairly? According to a series of studies in Cognition, before they’re even one and a half years old children will reward someone for being fair — though they don’t yet punish unfair behaviour.

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We’re Worse At Recognising Faces From Races Other Than Our Own — And That Can Be A Major Barrier To Socialising

By Emma Young

Elinor McKone admits that as a junior postdoctoral student, she was unable to recognise her other-race senior professor “by anything other than his coat”. McKone was, then, a perpetrator of the “other-race effect” (ORE) — the (well-documented) fact that we are generally poorer at recognising the faces of people of races other than our own. Now at the Australian National University, McKone has led the first formal investigation into how this phenomenon affects everyday social interactions. The study of students of mostly Chinese heritage, who had recently moved to study in Australia, reveals that both being a victim and a perpetrator makes social interactions more difficult. In fact, the students found it to be as big of a hurdle to successful socialising as the language barrier.

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