We Think Anger Is A Sign Of Guilt — But It May Actually Be A Better Sign Of Innocence

By Emma Young

We’re famously bad at spotting lies (well, most of us are; skilled liars are better). That doesn’t stop us thinking we know when someone’s spinning us a line, of course. Now a new paper in Psychological Science reveals that we take an angry denial to be a sign that the accused is lying. And yet, Katherine A. DeCelles at the University of Toronto and colleagues also report, anger in response to a false accusation is in fact a sign of innocence.

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“Claim Your Dose”: How Text-Message Reminders Can Increase Uptake Of COVID-19 Vaccines

By Emma L. Barratt

Overcoming psychological barriers to vaccination remains a significant hurdle for COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Any given COVID-19 news feature will remind you that vaccine hesitancy is rife, especially in countries such as the United States. Compounding the issue further, even those who fully intend to get their jab can be forgetful or procrastinate, further hampering efforts to get shots in arms.

As such, it’s vital to develop an effective toolbox to make it as effortless and appealing as possible for patients to book and turn up for their appointments. And though they may seem insignificant, one of the most useful behavioural nudges we have at our disposal is the mighty reminder message.

Crafting the wording of a reminder that packs a punch is no easy feat. As with most things in psychology, individual differences can greatly affect the response to any given nudge. But, thanks to research from Hengchen Dai at UCLA and team, we now have a better impression of how text-message reminders can impact vaccine uptake, as well as how to word them.

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Women And Early Career Academics Experience Imposter Syndrome In Fields That Emphasise Natural Brilliance

By Emily Reynolds

Imposter syndrome — the feeling that you don’t belong or aren’t capable at work or in education — can affect anybody. But people from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to experience imposter syndrome: first generation university students, for example, or people of colour.

Imposter syndrome can be particularly acute in academia, where intellectual flair is prized. In fact, a new study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology finds that in fields in which intellectual “brilliance” is perceived to be a prerequisite to success, imposter syndrome is more likely to strike women and early-career academics.

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Ability To Name Unrelated Words Is A Good Test Of Creativity

By Emma L. Barratt

Obtaining a solid measurement of creativity can be hugely time consuming. Well-established tests — such as the Alternative Uses Task (AUT), which asks participants to generate unusual ways to use common objects — require substantial time and effort in order to properly score participant responses. Not only that, but assessment of the creativity of responses varies wildly as a result of both the scorers’ judgements and the qualities of answers relative to the rest of the data. For example, one especially creative response amongst a sea of generic responses may garner extra points; place that same answer amongst other highly creative responses, however, and it is likely to score lower.

But take heart, overstretched researchers — a new paper in PNAS suggests there may be an easier, more reliable way to measure creativity.

In an effort to combat these issues, researchers led by Jay A. Olson from Harvard University have attempted to streamline the process by devising a new task which can be easily analysed by a computer algorithm.

Their research suggests that the newly created measure — the Divergent Association Task (DAT) — may be at least as effective at measuring verbal creativity as other, more widely known creativity measures, with the added bonuses of being both shorter and more enjoyable to participants.

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Study Of Marching Band Shows That Resilience Is A Process, Not A Fixed Trait

By Emily Reynolds

Resilience allows you to bounce back when things get hard, whether that’s something as small as a bad day in the office or more serious adverse events. And while it can be easy to think of resilience as something we either do or don’t have, research suggests that isn’t the case: rather, our level of resilience changes in different contexts.

A new study, published in Group & Organization Management, looks closely at resilience in the workplace. It, too, finds that resilience isn’t a static phenomenon, and that it should be seen as something distinctly more flexible instead.

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Conspiracy Theories Are More “Entertaining” Than The Truth — And This Helps Explain Why People Believe Them

By Emma Young

Conspiracy theories stoke anxiety and uncertainty and can even threaten the health of those who espouse them. Take Covid-19 anti-vaxxers, for example, who put themselves at risk by refusing a vaccine. So given those negative consequences, it’s surprising that conspiracy theories are so prolific.

Research shows that beliefs that other groups are colluding secretly to pursue malevolent goals (the definition of a conspiracy theory) are more common during times of crisis — like a global pandemic. Heightened anxiety is thought to lead people to (erroneously) believe that there are hostile forces at play. But now a paper in the British Journal of Psychology reveals another reason for why conspiracy theories can be appealing. Jan-Willem van Prooijen at the Free University Amsterdam and colleagues found that conspiracy theories provoke a stronger emotional reaction than relatively dull-but-true reality — and this encourages belief in them, especially for people who have the personality trait of being “sensation-seeking”.

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Older People Are More Likely To Avoid Finding Out Information Like Genetic Disease Risk Or Spousal Infidelity

By Emma Young

If proof of the existence or otherwise of a god-like deity was available, would you want to see it? What if you had access to a file that revealed whether your partner had ever been unfaithful? And would you take a new genetic test that would indicate whether you have a mutation linked to an incurable disease?

“All men, by nature, desire to know,” wrote Aristotle, more than 2,000 years ago. In fact, as the authors of a new paper in Psychology and Aging point out, philosophers have long viewed people as having a thirst for knowledge, and a drive to resolve uncertainty. However, as Ralph Hertwig at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany and his colleagues also note, there are times when we prefer not to know the truth, and even bury our heads in the sand. Older people are often seen as being more prone to doing this. And the team’s research now suggests that this is indeed the case: people aged over 51 were more likely than younger people to choose to remain ignorant of information that would have an emotional impact on them — perhaps a positive impact, but perhaps a negative one.

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When Bosses Are Respectful, Young People Are More Resilient At Work And Enjoy Their Jobs More

By Emily Reynolds

From ball pits to free beers, fun job perks have received plenty of press attention over the last few years. For millennials, such benefits should surely be appealing — they are, after all, the generation these perks were ostensibly designed for.

But according to a new study, young people themselves have a different priority in the workplace — respect. Writing in the International Journal of Business Communication, a team led by Danielle LaGree from Kansas State University finds that being valued and respected by managers was the key factor in employees’ ability to positively adapt to the workplace. And, in turn, this impacted how loyal workers were to their employers, how much they engaged in their work, and how happy they felt overall.

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Excessive “Mirroring” Could Explain Why People With Misophonia React Strongly To Sounds Of Chewing Or Drinking

By Emma Young

No one likes the sound of someone else chewing or drinking. But for some people, it’s enough to cause overwhelming feelings of anger or disgust — and in some cases, send them into a violent rage. People with “misophonia” (literally a hatred of sounds) over-react to some common everyday “trigger sounds” — typically, sounds made by another person. Though the phenomenon has been well documented, exactly what causes it hasn’t been clear. Now a new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience provides a compelling explanation: that misophonia isn’t related to hearing so much as to an “over-mirroring” of someone else’s physical actions. The team, led by Sukhbinder Kumar at Newcastle University, thinks that this excessive mirroring causes anger in some sufferers, and anxiety and distress in others.

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Episode 27: The Psychologist Presents… At Latitude Festival 2021 — Child Food Poverty

This is Episode 27 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

At Latitude Festival in Suffolk in July, The Psychologist Editor Dr Jon Sutton hosted a conversation in The Listening Post with Greta Defeyter, Professor of Developmental Psychology and founder and Director of the “Healthy Living” Lab at Northumbria University. An expert on food insecurity, social injustice, school feeding programmes and holiday hunger, Professor Defeyter considered why children go hungry, what we can do about it, and how her own experiences of poverty have shaped her. 

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