Expressing Thanks Can Hurt Disadvantaged Groups By Reinforcing Social Hierarchies

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By Emily Reynolds

For many of us, saying thank you is a simple fact of life: someone does a nice thing, you express your gratitude. A lack of thanks when you feel it is due can certainly leave you feeling irritated, but on the whole we rarely think about the practice beyond the fact that it’s both considered polite and that it feels good to thank or be thanked. Indeed, much research has suggested that expressing gratitude can lead to increased well-being and positive affect, including a rise in happiness, and increased ability to recognise and adapt to various situational demands.

But could giving thanks actually reinforce unequal power dynamics? The authors of a new paper published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin think so. They argue that expressing gratitude towards higher power groups can result in low-power groups ending up “pacified” and discouraged from advocating for their own interests, making saying “thank you” more problematic than we may have first assumed.

Continue reading “Expressing Thanks Can Hurt Disadvantaged Groups By Reinforcing Social Hierarchies”

Five Ways To Boost Resilience In Children

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By Emma Young

While some of us crumble in the face of adversity, and struggle to recover, others quickly bounce back from even serious trauma. Psychological resilience is undeniably important in all kinds of areas of life, so understanding what underpins it, and how to train it – particularly in children — is of intense interest to psychologists. Continue reading “Five Ways To Boost Resilience In Children”

Parents Play Different Roles In Our Health As Adults: Mothers Support Us, While Fathers Are Often “Cautionary Tales”

GettyImages-1145835519.jpgBy Emily Reynolds

Whether we like it or not, our parents play a big part in who we become as adults. From our taste in music to our social values, their imprint often stays with us, good or bad, well past childhood.

Now new research suggests that we still rely on them well into mid-life — at least when it comes to our health, that is. Alexandra Kissling and Corinne Reczek, a team from the Ohio State University, found that while we look to our mothers in much the same way we do when we’re children — asking them for advice and hoping they’ll be there to help us through periods of bad health,  for instance — fathers act more like “cautionary tales”, examples of what not to do.

Continue reading “Parents Play Different Roles In Our Health As Adults: Mothers Support Us, While Fathers Are Often “Cautionary Tales””

Haunted Houses And The Ghosts Of Psychology Past: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

Our weekly round-up of the best psychology coverage from elsewhere on the web

A large review of studies published over the past 40 years has found little evidence that cannabis is helpful in treating mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, Ruby Prosser Scully reports in New Scientist. Researchers say that people should be wary of claims by companies producing medical cannabis, and that there is a need for more large-scale, well-controlled studies into the effects of the drug on different conditions.

Continue reading “Haunted Houses And The Ghosts Of Psychology Past: The Week’s Best Psychology Links”

The Replication Crisis Lowers The Public’s Trust In Psychology — But Can That Trust Be Built Back Up?

Woman's Hand Placing Last Alphabet Of Word Trust

By Matthew Warren

Often when we discuss the replication crisis in psychology, the main focus is on what it means for the research community — how do research practices need to change, for instance, or which sub-disciplines are most affected? These are all important questions, of course. But there’s another that perhaps receives less attention: what do the general public think about the field of psychology when they hear that supposedly key findings are not reproducible?

So a new paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science should make for concerning reading. Across a series of studies involving a total of almost 1,400 participants, the researchers find that not only do low rates of reproducibility decrease public trust in the field, but that it may also be tricky to build that trust up again. Continue reading “The Replication Crisis Lowers The Public’s Trust In Psychology — But Can That Trust Be Built Back Up?”

We’re Not Great At Thinking About The Long-Term Consequences Of Catastrophes That Threaten Our Existence

GettyImages-187023310.jpgBy Matthew Warren

Imagine that tomorrow a catastrophe wipes out 99% of the world’s population. That’s clearly not a desirable scenario — we would all agree that a peaceful, continued existence is preferable. Now imagine that the disaster kills everyone, wiping out the human race. Most of us would rate that as an even worse occurrence.

But how do we see the relative severity of these different possibilities?  Is there a bigger difference between nothing happening and 99% of people dying, or between 99% and 100% of people being wiped out?

This thought-experiment was first posed by the philosopher Derek Parfit, who thought most people would believe the first difference is greater — after all, going from business-as-usual to almost total annihilation is a big step. He, on the other hand, felt the second difference was greater by far: even if just a tiny fraction of humans survive, civilisation could continue for millions of years, but if humanity is wiped from the face of the Earth, then it’s all over.

Now a new study in Scientific Reports has found that, like Parfit predicted, most people don’t seem to share his view of human extinction as a “uniquely bad” catastrophe — until they are forced to go beyond their gut feeling and reflect on what extinction really means in the long term.

Continue reading “We’re Not Great At Thinking About The Long-Term Consequences Of Catastrophes That Threaten Our Existence”

People Who Try To Be Environmentally-Friendly By Buying Less Stuff Are Happier, Study Claims

Woman holds reusable cup and eco bag with fresh food

By Emily Reynolds

With an ever-increasing focus on environmental sustainability, more and more of us are changing how — and what — we consume. We’re encouraged to recycle; charges on plastic mean we take our own shopping bags to the supermarket; and market research suggests that campaigns against fast fashion have been partly responsible for a rising interest in second-hand clothing. But how do these kinds of behaviours relate to our well-being? New research in Young Consumers suggests that buying green may not be the way to personal bliss, and that instead we should be focused on curbing our materialistic urges altogether.

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Here’s Why We Eat More When We’re With Friends And Family

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By Emily Reynolds

Going home from dinner out with a friend or a Sunday family lunch, you may notice you feel slightly more full than you normally do after eating. And while some of this may have to do with how many potatoes your mum insists you eat, new research seems to suggest that there could be something else going on. Researchers analysing dozens of past studies on the “social facilitation” of eating have confirmed that people do tend to eat more when eating in groups than alone — and have come up with several social and psychological mechanisms that could explain our increase in consumption in company.

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Talking Nonsense And Being Humble: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

Keyboard for ideaOur weekly round-up of the best psychology coverage from elsewhere on the web

A recent review has found that there are many good reasons to be humble, writes Benedict Carey in The New York Times. People who score higher on humility are more curious and open-minded, for instance, and less aggressive towards people with different beliefs. Continue reading “Talking Nonsense And Being Humble: The Week’s Best Psychology Links”

When Does The Present Become The Future? It Depends Who You Ask

GettyImages-530941167.jpgBy Emma Young

In 2017, in my first ever post for the Digest, I wrote about a paper that challenged the popular idea that “now” — also known as the “subjective present” — is three seconds long. It’s just not possible to define the present so strictly, this review concluded.

Instead of trying to explore what constitutes “right now”, another way to get at our conceptions of time is to ask: when does the present end and the future begin? And precisely this question has now been explored in a series of studies by Hal Hershfield at UCLA and Sam Maglio at the University of Toronto. In their paper, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the pair report that these perceptions can vary substantially between people — and can affect the kinds of choices that we make, with potentially significant implications for our future lives. Continue reading “When Does The Present Become The Future? It Depends Who You Ask”