Category: Social

Mindfulness Can Make Independent-Minded People Less Likely To Help Others

By Emily Reynolds

Mindfulness — in basic terms, the practice of being “present” in the moment and paying attention to one’s own thoughts and feelings — has seen something of a boom over the last few years. In the United States, the mindfulness business is set to reach a value of $2 billion by next year, while in the United Kingdom, lockdown saw a spike in downloads for digital meditation offerings such as Headspace and Calm. 

But is mindfulness all it’s cracked up to be? While it certainly has its benefits, some argue that it encourages blind acceptance of the status quo, taking us so far into ourselves that we forget the rest of the world. In a new preprint on PsyArxiv, Michael Poulin and colleagues from New York’s University at Buffalo also find that mindfulness can decrease prosocial behaviours — at least for those who see themselves as independent from others.

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Here’s The Best Way To Forgive And Forget

By Emma Young

If somebody else has treated you badly, what are the best strategies for overcoming this, and moving on?

There has been, of course, an enormous amount of research in this field, in relation to everything from getting over a romantic break-up to coping with the after-effects of civil war. Now a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, led by Saima Noreen at De Montfort University, specifically investigates how different types of forgiveness towards an offender can help people who are intentionally trying to forget an unpleasant incident.  

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Resolving Arguments Can Prevent Bad Feelings From Lingering — And We Get Better At It As We Age

By Emily Reynolds

“Don’t go to bed on an argument” is an adage we’ve all heard and, at some point, probably ignored. Hackneyed as it is, the phrase does have some truth: resolving arguments, rather than letting them simmer away, can make us feel calmer and happier the next day (and also makes it easier to actually get to sleep).

Now a new study from Oregon State University’s Dakota D. Witzel and Robert S. Stawski has looked at the benefits of resolving arguments — and the team finds that not only can resolution almost erase the emotional stress associated with a big argument altogether, but that individual differences can affect how well we do it. The older we get, they find, the less we argue and the better we are at dealing with argument-related stress when it happens.

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Unmet Sexual Needs Can Leave People Less Satisfied With Their Relationship — But Having A Responsive Partner Mitigates This Effect

By Emma Young

“For better or worse, romantic partners usually have to rely heavily on each other to fulfil their sexual needs.” So begins a new paper that attempts to plug a gap in understanding sexual ideals — and what might buffer against dissatisfaction if reality doesn’t quite match.

Sexual incompatibilities are not only common, but are difficult to resolve even with couples therapy, note Rhonda N. Balzarini at York University and colleagues in their paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes. Despite this, there’s been only limited work to understand precisely what constitutes an individual’s ideal sex life. Earlier work has generally focused on narrow aspects, such as how often a person would ideally like to have sex, or on levels of sexual desire. For this new research, the team developed a broader, 30-item Sexual Ideals Scale, which asks about specific behaviours (“My partner engages in oral sex with me as much as I want my ideal partner to”, for example) but also about the importance of feeling safe and in love, or of dirty talk, for instance. 

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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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