Category: Social

People Who Identify With Humanity As A Whole Are More Likely To Say They’d Follow Pandemic Guidelines And Help Others

By Emily Reynolds

The ever-changing public health measures rolled out during the coronavirus pandemic haven’t always been crystal clear. But several instructions have remained the same throughout: wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay two metres apart.

Despite the strength and frequency of this messaging, however, the public hasn’t always complied. Though the exact reason for this non-compliance is clearly complex, researchers from the University of Washington have proposed one factor that could influence people’s behaviour: the extent to which they identify with other human beings. Writing in PLOS One, they suggest that a connection with and moral commitment to other humans may be linked to greater willingness to follow COVID-related guidelines.

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We’re Worse At Remembering Exactly What We’ve Given To Friends Than What We’ve Given To Strangers

By Emma Young

Let’s say a friend asks you to help them to move house. When deciding how much time you can offer, you might consider how much you’ve helped that particular friend lately (and perhaps how much they’ve helped you). But a new paper in Social Psychology suggests that if that friend is particularly close, you’re likely to have a poorer memory of just how much time you’ve dedicated to helping them. You might offer more help than you would to an acquaintance not just because this friend is closer, but because your brain’s distinction between a close friend and yourself is blurrier.

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Bullying Between “Frenemies” Is Surprisingly Common

By Emily Reynolds

We already know that bullying can be one way of climbing the social ladder for teenagers. Research published in 2019, for instance, found that teenagers who combine aggressive behaviour with prosociality see the most social success.

But who, exactly, are teenagers bullying? According to Robert Faris from the University of California, Davis and colleagues, writing in the American Journal of Sociology, it might not be who you’d expect. Rather than bullying those more distant from them, the team finds, teens often pick on their own friends.

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Frequent Workplace Interruptions Are Annoying — But May Also Help You Feel That You Belong

By Emma Young

Workplace disturbances during the Covid-19 pandemic aren’t quite what they used to be. Now you’re more likely to be interrupted by a cat jumping on your keyboard or a partner trying to make a cup of tea while you’re in a meeting — but if you can cast your mind back to what it was like to work in an office, perhaps you can recall how annoying it was to be disturbed by colleagues dropping by with questions or comments. These “workplace intrusions” used to be common in offices, and no doubt will be again. There’s certainly plenty of evidence that they interfere with our ability to complete tasks, and that we can find them stressful. However, no one’s really considered potential benefits, note Harshad Puranik at the University of Illinois and colleagues. In their new paper in the Journal of Advanced Psychology, the team reports that though there is a dark side to these interruptions, there’s a bright side, too. 

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Students Who Want To Cut Down On Their Drinking Often Feel Forced To Compromise For Social Connection

By Emily Reynolds

Drinking culture is a huge part of university, with Freshers’ Week events often revolving near-exclusively around getting drunk. A 2018 survey from the National Union of Students found that 76% of respondents feel an expectation for students to “drink to get drunk”; 79% agreed that “drinking and getting drunk” is a key part of university culture.

This isn’t for everyone, however: a quick search of student forums will show many young people, pre-university, anxious about a drinking culture they don’t want to participate in. Now a new study in the British Journal of Health Psychology, authored by Dominic Conroy from the University of East London and team, has taken a closer look at students’ decisions to reduce their alcohol consumption — and what prevents them from doing so.

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The Experience Of Being “Tolerated”, Rather Than Accepted, Leads To Lower Wellbeing Among Ethnic Minority Groups

By Emily Reynolds

Tolerance is often touted as a progressive value, a way of ensuring that society offers equal opportunities to all. But it can also imply “putting up with” something or someone you fundamentally disagree with or dislike — being tolerated isn’t the same as being genuinely valued or respected, for example. As one writer puts it, tolerance has echoes “of at best grudging acceptance, and at worst ill-disguised hostility”.

Now a new study in the British Journal of Psychology has found that the experience of being tolerated takes its toll on the wellbeing of ethnic minorities in the United States. Sara Cvetkovska from Utrecht University and colleagues find that the experience of being tolerated is closer to discrimination than it is to acceptance — impacting overall wellbeing and increasing negative mood.

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If We Don’t Feel Socially Accepted, We Get More Defensive When We’ve Done Something Wrong

By Emily Reynolds

When you’ve done something wrong, big or small, it can be hard to own up to it — particularly if you feel you’ve transgressed a moral or social code. Instead, you might avoid confronting the issue and become defensive. Yet defensiveness often has negative consequences anyway: it can hurt someone else’s feelings, cloud your ability to make a good decision in the moment, or prevent you from changing harmful behaviours.

But why do we get defensive, and what can we do to minimise those negative consequences? A new study from Michael Wenzel and colleagues at Flinders University, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, asks both of these questions — and finds that defensiveness could be reduced by affirming people’s moral and social worth.

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It Turns Out You Can Bullshit A Bullshitter After All

By Emma Young

You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. Well, that’s the saying — but is it true? Shane Littrell and colleagues at the University of Waterloo, Canada, set out to investigate. And in a new paper in the British Journal of Social Psychology they report that, in fact, people who bullshit more often in a bid to impress or persuade others are also more susceptible to bullshit themselves. The reason for this — also uncovered by the team — is truly fascinating.

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Americans Simultaneously Hold Both Positive And Negative Stereotypes About Atheists

By Emily Reynolds

What — or who — do you think about when you hear the word “atheist”? Someone scientific, rational, and open-minded? Or, instead, someone who lacks morality, or who is less trustworthy than your average religious person? Prior research hasn’t been wholly positive for non-believers, finding serious levels of distrust of atheists — even among atheists themselves.

But the real picture might be slightly more complicated. According to a new study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, positive and negative stereotypes abound when it comes to atheists. And for many, these stereotypes exist at the same time: people can believe atheists to be fun and open-minded just as they find them to be immoral.

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Our Brains “See” Beams Of Motion Emanating From People’s Faces Towards The Object Of Their Attention

By guest blogger Sofia Deleniv

Back in the 1970s, the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget discovered that, if you ask young children to explain the mechanics of vision as they understand them, their answers tend to reveal the exact same misconception: that the eyes emit some sort of immaterial substance into the environment and capture the sights of objects much like a projector.

Although this belief declines with age, it is still surprisingly prevalent in adults. What’s more, so-called extramission theories of vision have a long-running history dating all the way back to antiquity. The Greek philosopher Empedocles was amongst the first to suggest in the 5th century BC that our ability to see must stem from an invisible fire beaming out of our eyes to interact with our surroundings. This view was subsequently endorsed by intellectual authorities like Ptolemy and Galen.

Now, a duo of researchers behind a recent publication in PNAS think they might have found an explanation for the intuitive appeal of extramission theories. According to their paper, this worldview might just be a reflection of the mechanisms that play out within our brains when we follow other people’s gazes and track where they pay attention. This is because, to carry out this process, our brains actually conjure illusory beams of motion emanating from other’s faces — a quirk of evolution with interesting consequences.

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