The Quality Of The Relationship Between Parents Can Shape Their Children’s Life Paths

By Emily Reynolds

Our relationship with our parents can have a big impact on our life trajectory. Research has found that those of us lied to by caregivers often end up less well-adjusted, that hard workers are more likely to produce children with good work ethics, that cognitive skills can be improved by having talkative parents, and that positive parenting can impact cortisol levels even years later.

But though we might pay less attention to it, how parents relate to one another is also important for children’s long-term development. A new study, published in Demography, has taken a look at affection within parental relationships, finding that loving spousal relationships can have a positive long-term impact on children’s life paths.

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Musicians And Their Audiences Show Synchronised Patterns Of Brain Activity

By Emma Young

When a musician is playing a piece, and the audience is enjoying it, they can develop physical synchronies. Both might tap their feet, sway their bodies, or clap their hands. “Through music, the producer and the perceiver connect emotionally and behaviourally,” note the authors of a new paper, published in NeuroImage. And now this team, led by Yingying Hou at East China Normal University, has uncovered a connection right down at the neural level. The team has observed “inter-brain coherence” (IBC) — a synchronisation in brain activity — between a musician and the audience. What’s more, the strength of this coherence could be used to predict how much the audience enjoyed a piece.

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World Happiness And Psychedelic Placebos: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

The 2020 World Happiness Report has been published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, with Finland ranking as the world’s happiest country. “Happiness” in the report doesn’t refer to the expression of emotion per se, writes Maria Cramer at the New York Times, but is rather about a sense of satisfaction in life and belief that members of one’s community care for each other — a particularly poignant definition given present circumstances. Continue reading “World Happiness And Psychedelic Placebos: The Week’s Best Psychology Links”

This Weird, Sound-Induced Illusion Makes You Feel That Your Finger Has Grown Longer

By Emma Young

Adults are vulnerable to all kinds of body illusions. We can be made to feel that a fake hand, or even a fake body, is our own; that we’ve left our body; even that we’re the size of a doll. These illusions work because our brains use information from various senses to create mental representations of our bodies. Mess with some of these sensory signals, and you can alter those representations, sometimes drastically.

Work to date suggests that young children don’t show the same susceptibilities to body illusions, presumably because the systems that underpin them are still developing. Now a new study, published in Scientific Reports, has found that a bizarre auditory-induced illusion that affects adults doesn’t work in quite the same way in young kids, either.

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Trouble Sleeping? The Scent Of Your Lover Might Help

By Emily Reynolds

Though some research has challenged the common conception that scent is the most evocative of all the senses, it can be undeniably powerful when you catch a whiff of something that jogs a memory. We also know that scent plays a part in sexual attraction: people with a keener sense of smell often find sex more pleasant and may even have more orgasms during sex, and the scent of a partner can reduce stress and increase feelings of safety.

So new research findings from a team at the University of British Columbia may not come as a complete surprise. In a paper published in Psychological Science, Marlise Hofer and Frances Chen suggest that the scent of your lover may not just be comforting but can also help you drift off to sleep. Continue reading “Trouble Sleeping? The Scent Of Your Lover Might Help”

Looking At Your Phone At Work Might Make You Even More Bored

By Emily Reynolds

There are plenty of things you can do in a five minute break at work — talk to a colleague, make a cup of tea or coffee, or even go outside for some fresh air. But with the advent of digital technology, many of us now spend the short lulls in our day doing something else: looking at our phones.

Previous research has already suggested (fairly unsurprisingly) that smartphone use increases as we get more bored or fatigued. It makes sense: if you’re doing a particularly tedious task at work, you’re much more likely to want to spend a few minutes scrolling on your phone than if you’re doing something deeply engaging.

But does looking at your phone actually relieve boredom? A new study from Jonas Dora and colleagues at Radboud University, available as a preprint at PsyArXiv, seems to suggest not.

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Anxious Dogs And Testosterone Myths: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Despite tantalising headlines and claims from tech companies, we’re a long way from having computers that can read our minds. At WIRED, Nicole Kobie looks at the more immediate potential of brain-computer interfaces: giving a voice to paralysed people.


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Taking Selfies Is Probably Fine For Your Self-Esteem. Editing Them Might Not Be

By Emily Reynolds

There’s been a lot of back and forth about the psychological effects of taking and sharing selfies. Some research suggests that taking pictures of yourself can dent your self-esteem and increase anxiety, while other studies have found that selfies can be a source of empowerment; one 2017 paper even found a combination of the two, suggesting that sharing selfies online can mitigate the damage to self-image often inflicted when a selfie is actually taken.

The hundreds of op-eds, articles and TV features that continue to focus on the issue also suggest that our interest in the phenomenon is unlikely to abate any time soon. And now a new study published in the Journal of Children and Media has added to the debate.

It suggests that taking selfies may not be as damaging as other research has claimed. Instead, it’s what you do after you’ve taken the photo that matters: it’s editing images that really hurts our self-esteem.

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Gender Prejudice Is More Common In Languages With Grammatical Genders

By Emma Young

Does the language that you speak influence what you think? And do languages that assign a gender to most nouns — such as French and Spanish — lead speakers to feel differently about women versus men, compared with languages that don’t — such as Chinese? Both questions have been hotly debated. But now a major new study, involving an analysis of millions of pages of text in 45 different languages from all over the world, concludes that gendered languages shape prejudice against women.

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