Category: Social

We Prefer To Experience Good — And Bad — Events On The Same Day As A Friend

By Emma Young

You rub off the panels on a scratch card and find that you’re the lucky winner of £100. If you could choose when the same thing should happen to a good friend, would you rather it was the same day as your win — or a different day? And what if we’re talking negative, rather than positive, experiences — when you’ve both been issued with parking tickets, say, or both suffered a bereavement?

Earlier work shows that we tend to prefer to get through a series of negative experiences as quickly as possible, while we like to space out multiple personal positive experiences, so as to receive the most pleasure from each joy. A new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science finds that when we’re thinking about shared experiences, though, this doesn’t hold. The participants in this study preferred to experience both negative and positive events on the same day as a friend, rather than on different days — as long as those events weren’t powerfully emotional. Franklin Shaddy at the University of California, Los Angeles and his colleagues think we have this “preference for integration” because it increases our feelings of connection with others. This could have implications for how we arrange our lives during lockdown.

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Psychological Impact Of A Relationship Ending Is Reflected In Language Of Reddit Users Going Through Break-Ups

By Emily Reynolds

While some relationships are ended in the heat of the moment, for many the decision to break up with a partner involves several long, agonising weeks of weighing up various options. During that time, your attitudes and behaviours towards your partner may change — you might become colder or more distant, for example.

But what about your language? According to a new study, published in PNAS, the language we use on social media just prior to a break-up can offer a key insight into the emotional and cognitive impacts of a relationship ending. Looking at over a million posts from 6,803 Reddit users who had posted on r/BreakUps, the University of Texas at Austin team found changes in language that were so consistent they could even be found in posts completely unrelated to relationships at all.

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Grateful People Are More Likely To Obey Commands To Commit Ethically Dubious Acts

By Emma Young

Gratitude is widely regarded as a positive emotion. When we feel grateful, we are more helpful, generous and fair to others — findings that were supported by a 2017 meta-analysis, which concluded that gratitude is important for building relationships. But now a new study in Emotion suggests that gratitude has a dark side. Specifically, people who felt more grateful were more willing to accede to an instruction to prepare as many worms as possible for grinding to their death. As Eddie M. W. Tong at the National University of Singapore and his colleagues write: “The findings suggest that gratitude can make a person more vulnerable to social influence, including obeying commands to perform a questionable act.” 

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Students Enjoy Classes More And Get Better Grades If They Feel Their Professor Has Faith In Their Ability To Change And Improve

By Emily Reynolds

As anyone who’s ever flunked a test will tell you, doing well at school or university isn’t just a simple matter of intelligence, ability, or even of how hard you’ve worked. In fact, there are plenty of things that can affect the way we perform, from the way we take notes to how we revise to how much sleep we get while we’re studying.

And according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, something else might have an impact on our educational achievements: our assumptions about our professors. If we believe they have faith in our ability to change and improve, suggest Katherine Muenks from the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues, we’re likely to enjoy classes more, as well as achieve higher grades.

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How To Be A Good Negotiator, According To Psychology

By Emma Young

Good negotiators are more likely to secure a pay rise, get the house or job they want, and keep the peace at home. No end of psychological studies have explored which attitudes, behaviours, and settings will help a negotiation go your way. Here, we take a look at some of the key findings:

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“Psychological Flexibility” May Be Key To Good Relationships Between Couples And Within Families

By Emma Young

What makes for a happy family? The answer — whether you’re talking about a couple or a family with kids — is psychological “flexibility”, according to a new paper in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science. Based on a meta-analysis of 174 separate studies, Jennifer S. Daks and Ronald Rogge at the University of Rochester conclude that flexibility helps — and inflexibility hinders — our most important relationships.

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Film Soundtracks Shape Our Impressions Of A Character’s Personality And Thoughts

By Emma Young

If you sit down to watch TV or a film these holidays, you might want to pay a little extra attention to how the soundtrack makes you feel. We all know that background music influences the tone of a scene but what, exactly, soundtracks do to our understanding of a character has not been studied in detail. In a new paper, in Frontiers in Psychology, Alessandro Ansani at Roma Tre University, Italy, and colleagues report work aimed at filling in some of the gaps.

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Here’s How Parents’ Reactions To School Performance Influence Their Children’s Wellbeing

By Emma Young

What do you do if your child comes home with a lower score on a test than you both expected? Do you praise their efforts and focus on what they got right? Or do you home in on the answers that they got wrong, hoping this will help them to do better in future?

Research shows that the first, “success-oriented” response is more common in the US than in China, where parents more often opt for “failure-oriented” responses instead. Recent studies in both countries have found that success-oriented responses tend to encourage psychological wellbeing but not necessarily academic success, whereas failure-oriented responses can foster academic performance, but with a cost to the child’s wellbeing.

Jun Wei at Tsinghua University, China, and colleagues wondered what might drive these observed relationships: do different response styles lead children to form different concepts about what their parents want for them — and is this what produces the opposing impacts on wellbeing? In a new paper, published in Developmental Psychology, the team report some intriguing answers to these questions.

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Our Feelings Towards People Expressing Empathy Depend On Who They’re Empathising With

By Emily Reynolds

We tend to think of empathy as a wholly positive thing, a trait that’s not only favourable to possess but that we should actively foster. Books and courses promise to reveal secret wells of empathy and ways to channel them; some people even charge for “empathy readings”, a service that seems to sit somewhere between a psychic reading and a therapy session.

It would be easy to assume, therefore, that people who express empathy are generally well-liked. But a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that our feelings towards “empathisers” depends on who they are empathising with. While empathisers were considered warmer overall, participants judged people who expressed empathy for those with troubling political views more harshly — suggesting that we don’t always interpret empathy as a pure moral virtue.

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Being More Authentic On Social Media Could Improve Your Wellbeing

By Emily Reynolds

It’s become somewhat of a truism that you shouldn’t believe everything you see on social media. Where someone’s life looks perfect, we’re often reminded, there are probably a handful of problems silently situated away from the camera. Nobody’s life is as shiny, flawless, or enviable as it might appear in their carefully curated feed.

But presenting ourselves more authentically on social media — ditching those things we want to believe are true about ourselves in favour of those that are — could be good for our wellbeing, according to a new paper in Nature Communications by Erica R. Bailey from Columbia University and colleagues.

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