The first study to explore what cisgender kids think of their transgender peers

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Cisgender kids who categorised their transgender peers by natal sex also showed less liking of them, mirroring similar findings with adults

By Christian Jarrett

With an increasing number of young children transitioning socially to the gender opposite to their birth sex, and with rates of bullying and discrimination against transgender youth known to be high, researchers say it is important that we begin to understand more about how cisgender children (those whose gender identity matches their biological sex at birth) view their transgender peers. A new paper in the Journal of Cognition and Development is the first to explore the issue.

Continue reading “The first study to explore what cisgender kids think of their transgender peers”

Can hallucinations lead to post-traumatic growth?

GettyImages-586368522.jpgBy Alex Fradera

If you contemplate how a person’s life would be changed by starting to hear or see things others can’t, can you imagine it could offer anything good? A research team from Hull university and the surrounding NHS trusts suggest that among the tumult, hallucinations can also offer opportunities for growth. Writing in the Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy, lead author Lily Dixon and her team detail the experiences of seven people who have lived with verbal or auditory hallucinations and how, amid the struggles, their journeys have taken them to some positive places.

Continue reading “Can hallucinations lead to post-traumatic growth?”

Super altruists (who’ve donated a kidney to a stranger) show heightened empathic brain activity when witnessing strangers in pain

GettyImages-160194832.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

From an evolutionary perspective, altruistic behaviour is still a bit of mystery to psychologists, especially when it comes with a hefty cost to the self and is aimed at complete strangers.

One explanation is that altruism is driven by empathy – experiencing other people’s distress the same way as, or similar to, how we experience our own. However, others have criticized this account – most notably psychologist Paul Bloom, author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion. Their reasons are many, but among them is the fact that our empathy tends to be greatest for people who are most similar to us, which would argue against empathy driving the kind of altruism that involves the giver making personal sacrifices for strangers.

Hindering research into this topic is the challenge of measuring empathy objectively and devising a reliable laboratory measure of altruism (including one that overcomes most volunteers’ natural inclination to want to present themselves as morally good).

A new study in Psychological Science overcomes these obstacles by using a neural measure of empathy and by testing a rare group of people whose altruistic credentials are second to none: individuals who have donated one of their kidneys to a complete stranger.

Continue reading “Super altruists (who’ve donated a kidney to a stranger) show heightened empathic brain activity when witnessing strangers in pain”

The “experiential advantage” is not universal – the less well-off get equal or more happiness from buying things

Two vector golden cinema, movie, theatre, concert, performance, party, event, festival ticketsBy guest blogger Juliet Hodges

Being rich(er) may not guarantee happiness, as shown by ample evidence from the social sciences, but there are ways of spending money that will make you happier than others. Recent research has uncovered the “experiential advantage”: greater happiness from spending money on experiences (holidays, meals, theatre tickets) instead of material things (gadgets, clothes, jewellery). This could be for a number of reasons, such as experiences being more closely aligned with our values and being less likely to produce rumination and regret. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Studies have found that personality traits can influence whether experiences or things make a person happiest; for example, introverts are made much happier by spending vouchers in a bookshop than a bar.

Another likely exception, that hasn’t previously been studied, is how social class, and specifically access to resources, affects this experiential advantage. Indeed, most research in this area has been performed with college students, who are typically more affluent than the general population, and there are reasons to believe that those who are less well-off might prefer material goods. For them, buying things as opposed to experiences could be more practical: they last longer, can be used multiple times and potentially resold in the future. To put this reasoning to the test, a recent paper in Psychological Science investigated whether the experiential advantage is diminished or absent for people who can afford very little compared with those who can afford a lot.

Continue reading “The “experiential advantage” is not universal – the less well-off get equal or more happiness from buying things”

Study of 8000 workers finds that gender differences in “achievement motivation” may explain part of the gender pay gap

GettyImages-925713268.jpgBy Alex Fradera

In the UK, this has been a year of action on the gender pay gap (the, on average, lower pay for women compared with men), with cross-party MPs launching campaigns like #PayMeToo and the government taking steps to investigate and hold organisations to account on the issue. This has also attracted pushback from those that argue that the gender difference in average pay has many causes, including the different interests of, and life choices taken by, men and women. Now a study published in Oxford Economic Papers has examined another complicating factor, namely whether the gender pay gap is influenced partly by an on-average difference between the genders in a trait not previously taken into account – the motivation to achieve.

Continue reading “Study of 8000 workers finds that gender differences in “achievement motivation” may explain part of the gender pay gap”

While your deliberate “monogamy maintenance strategies” probably won’t keep you faithful, your automatic psychological biases just might

GettyImages-493656728.jpgBy Alex Fradera

Half of us have been unfaithful in our lifetime, and one in five people within their current relationship. As sexual infidelity is the primary cause of divorce and one of the hardest issues to address in couples therapy, identifying any useful defences could make a huge difference to people’s happiness. In a recent paper in Personal Relationships Brenda Lee and Lucia O’Sullivan from the University of New Brunswick investigated what strategies people in relationships use to reduce the chances they will cheat – so-called “monogomy maintainance strategies” – and looked into whether or not they are actually effective. 

Continue reading “While your deliberate “monogamy maintenance strategies” probably won’t keep you faithful, your automatic psychological biases just might”

Beyond the invisible gorilla – inattention can also render us numb and anosmic (without smell)

GettyImages-598817398-2.jpgBy Emma Young

It’s well-known that we can miss apparently obvious objects in our visual field if other events are hogging our limited attention. The same has been shown for sounds: in a nod to Daniel Simons’ and Christopher Chabris’ famous gorilla/basketball study that demonstrated “inattentional blindness”, distracted participants in the first “inattentional deafness” study failed to hear a man walking through an auditory scene for 19 seconds saying repeatedly “I am a gorilla”. Now, two new studies separately show that a very similar effect occurs in relation to touch (inattentional numbness) and to smell  (inattentional anosmia). 

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Episode 13: How To Study And Learn More Effectively

GettyImages-520045027.jpgThis is Episode 13 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.


Can psychology help us to learn better? Our presenter Christian Jarrett discovers the best evidence-backed strategies for learning, including the principle of spacing, the benefits of testing yourself and teaching others. He also hears about the perils of overconfidence and the lack of evidence for popular educational ideas like “learning styles” and “brain gym”.

Our guests, in order of appearance, are: Nate Kornell, associate professor at Williams College; Paul Howard-Jones, author of Evolution of the Learning Brain (find out more) and professor of neuroscience and education at the University of Bristol; and Abby Knoll, doctoral student at Central Michigan University.

Background reading for this episode:

Episode credits: Presented and produced by Christian Jarrett. Mixing and editing Jeff Knowler. PsychCrunch theme music Catherine Loveday and Jeff Knowler. Art work Tim Grimshaw.

Check out this episode!

Subscribe and download via iTunes.
Subscribe and download via Stitcher.
Subscribe and listen on Spotify.

Past episodes:

Episode one: Dating and Attraction
Episode two: Breaking Bad Habits
Episode three: How to Win an Argument
Episode four: The Psychology of Gift Giving
Episode five: How To Learn a New Language
Episode six: How To Be Sarcastic 😉
Episode seven: Use Psychology To Compete Like an Olympian.
Episode eight: Can We Trust Psychological Studies?
Episode nine: How To Get The Best From Your Team
Episode ten: How To Stop Procrastinating
Episode eleven: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Episode twelve: How To Be Funnier

PsychCrunch is sponsored by Routledge Psychology.

PsychCrunch Banner April 16

Routledge interviewed PsychCrunch presenter Christian Jarrett about the aims of the podcast and engaging with the public about psychology research.

“Act more like an extravert” intervention has “wholly positive” benefits for many, but there are drawbacks for introverts

GettyImages-865386082.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

For decades, personality psychologists have noticed a striking, consistent pattern: extraverts are happier more of the time than introverts. For anyone interested in promoting wellbeing, this has raised the question of whether it might be beneficial to encourage people to act more extraverted. Evidence to date has suggested it might.

For example, regardless of their usual disposition, people tend to report feeling happier and more authentic whenever they are behaving more like an extravert (that is, more sociable, active and assertive). That’s a mere correlation that could be interpreted in different ways. But lab studies have similarly found that prompting people, including introverts, to act more like an extravert makes them feel happier and truer to themselves.

Before we all start doing our best extravert impressions in pursuit of greater happiness, though, a team of researchers led by Rowan Jacques-Hamilton at the University of Melbourne urge caution, writing in their new pre-print at PsyArXiv :

“Until we have a well-rounded understanding of both the positive and negative consequences of extraverted behaviour, advocating any real-world applications of acting extraverted could be premature and potentially hazardous.”

To help, these researchers have conducted the first ever randomised-controlled trial of an “act more extraverted” intervention, and unlike in previous research, they looked beyond the lab at the positive and negative effects of such an intervention on people’s feelings in daily life.

Continue reading ““Act more like an extravert” intervention has “wholly positive” benefits for many, but there are drawbacks for introverts”

First randomised-controlled trial of an employee “Wellness Programme” suggests they are a waste of money

GettyImages-77276589.jpgBy Alex Fradera

Workplace wellness programmes are an assemblage of wellbeing activities like yoga or cycling clubs, packaged together with diagnostic activities like biometric screenings; their aim is to reduce sickness, increase productivity and cut insurance costs for an organisation’s members. This is big business – in the USA, the market is around $8 billion – with a return-on-investment claim, thanks to a plethora of studies that tout the benefits of these programmes (for example, see this meta-analysis from 2010). But whether staff enter these kind of initiatives in the first place is usually up to them, making it hard to evaluate their effectiveness, as those who choose to participate may differ in key ways from those who do not. To assess the benefits of the programmes accurately therefore requires a randomised-controlled study. This is what the National Bureau of Economic Research published recently, and it leaves these programmes looking sickly.

Continue reading “First randomised-controlled trial of an employee “Wellness Programme” suggests they are a waste of money”