Tag: featured

Watching A Lecture Twice At Double Speed Can Benefit Learning Better Than Watching It Once At Normal Speed

By Emma Young

Watching lecture videos is now a major part of many students’ university experience. Some say they prefer them to live lectures, as they can choose when to study. And, according to a survey of students at the University of California Los Angeles, at least, many students also take advantage of the fact that video playback can be sped up, so cutting the amount of time they spend on lectures. But what impact does sped-up viewing have on learning? The answer, according to a new paper in Applied Cognitive Psychology, is, within some limits, none. In fact, if used strategically, it can actually improve learning. However, what students think is going to be the best strategy isn’t actually what’s most beneficial, Dillon Murphy at UCLA and colleagues also report.

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Once A Meanie, Always A Meanie: Toddlers Are Harsh Judges Of Moral Character

By guest blogger Sofia Deleniv

Over the past ten years, developmental psychologists have been astounded by the young age at which children appear to be aware of the moral qualities of others’ actions. At just four months, babies already react with surprise when others engage in unequal distribution of treats and resources. They also snub these unfair individuals in social interactions by the age of 24 months and expect others to do the same. Other forms of moral judgement may emerge even sooner: as early as 3 months of age, infants show distinct preferences for those who help, as opposed to hinder, others.

In thinking about these nascent moral judgements, researchers have become interested in figuring out their underlying mental “structure”. Do children’s moral rules operate like a loose “‘anthology”, where judgements passed on the basis of one principle have little effect on judgements on the basis of another? Or is there a deeper underpinning mental framework that gives rise to a multitude of connected moral expectations?  

A recent study in PNAS by a duo of American researchers breaks new ground on this fascinating question. It reveals that toddlers are guided by a core mental representation of what it means to be a moral person (albeit with some potentially concerning caveats). Within this moral framework, a single faux pas risks entirely sweeping an individual from a child’s good books.  

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Want To Boost Your Wellbeing In 2022? Here’s What The Research Says

By Emma Young

It’s natural to start a new year with plans to make this one better than the last. But if you are thinking about how to boost your wellbeing, it’s worth knowing that some “good” ways of living have dark sides, too…

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Scared Of Spiders? There’s An App For That

By Emma L. Barratt

Specific phobias are incredibly common. According to estimates, around 3‒15% of people will develop one in their lifetime, the majority of whom won’t seek treatment. Phobias can manifest around a huge number of stimuli, such as lightning, dentists, and — most commonly — animals such as spiders.

Although exposure therapy is well established and is very effective at reducing fear and anxiety in those with specific phobias, not many end up accessing treatment. Unsurprisingly, the certainty of being exposed to terrifying things doesn’t entice many people. Even those who do make it into a therapeutic setting are also quite likely to drop out due to the extreme fear caused by these controlled exposures.

However, modern technology may help us to sidestep these issues entirely. Anja Zimmer and team at the University of Basel and Saarland University believe that the solution may lie in augmented reality.

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Adults Who Played Pokémon Extensively In Childhood Have A Pokémon-Sensitive Region In Their Visual Cortex

By Emma Young

If you have healthy vision, there will be a specific region of your brain (in the visual cortex) that responds most strongly whenever you look at faces, and similar regions that are especially responsive to the sight of words or natural scenes. What’s more, in any two people, these face, word and scene regions are located in pretty much the same spot in the brain. However, there is not a specific region for every possible category of visible stimulus – there are no “car” or “shoe” regions, for example (at least, not that have been identified to date). Is that because childhood experience is critical for training the visual cortex – we spend a lot of time looking at faces, say, but not cars? And, if so, in theory, could a lot of childhood time spent looking at a different type of object generate its own dedicated, individual category region? 

The answer is “yes”, at least according to an ingenious study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, of people who played a Pokémon game for years of their childhood. 

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First Systematic Study Of The Advice People Would Give To Their Younger Selves

By Christian Jarrett

The question is an old favourite – if you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self? Yet despite the popularity of this thought experiment, no one has, until now, actually studied what people would tell themselves.

Reporting their findings in The Journal of Social Psychology Robin Kowalski and Annie McCord at Clemson University have done just that in two surveys of hundreds of participants on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website. Their findings show that people’s advice to their younger selves is overwhelmingly focused on prior relationships, educational opportunities and personal worth, echoing similar results derived from research into people’s most common regrets in life. Moreover, participants who said they had followed the advice they would give to their younger selves were more likely to say that they had become the kind of person that their younger self would admire. “…[W]e should consult ourselves for advice we would offer to our younger selves,” the researchers said. “The data indicate that there is much to be learned that can facilitate wellbeing and bring us more in line with the person that we would like to be should we follow that advice.”

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Researchers Have Investigated “Derailment” (Feeling Disconnected From Your Past Self) As A Cause And Consequence Of Depression

By Christian Jarrett

We move house, change jobs, begin new relationships, yet most of the time, most of us still experience a thread of inner continuity – a constant feeling of me-ness that transcends the various chapters of our lives. Indeed, there’s evidence that having a stable, constant sense of self and identity is important for psychological wellbeing. However, this thread can rupture, leading to an uncomfortable disconnect between who we feel we are today, and the person that we believe we used to be – a state that psychologists recently labelled “derailment”.

Now in a paper in Clinical Psychological Science a group led by Kaylin Ratner at Cornell University has explored the possibility that derailment both precipitates, and is a consequence of, depression. After all, people with depression often struggle with motivation, losing the will to pursue goals they previously held dear. They also frequently withdraw from their relationships and social roles. All of these changes could trigger sensations of derailment. Or perhaps derailment comes first, with the inner disorientation leaving one vulnerable to depression. Surprisingly these questions have been little studied before now. “We nominate derailment as a new feature of the depressive landscape and underscore the need for greater empirical and practical attention at the crossroads of mental health and human development,” Ratner and her team write.

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First Study To Investigate How Attachment Style Changes Through Multiple Decades Of Life

By Christian Jarrett

Attachment theory, which was first proposed in the 1950s by the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby, is one of the most influential in psychology. It argues for the importance of our earliest relationships with our caregivers, and predicts that these formative bonds will shape the nature of our connections with other people for the rest of our lives. Remarkably, however, psychologists still know relatively little about how people’s attachment style – essentially their characteristic style of relating to other people – typically varies through life. “How do attachment orientations change across the life span? Unfortunately … this critical question has eluded researchers,” write William Chopik and colleagues in their recently published paper in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Their research is the first to document how attachment style varies, on average, through decades of the lifespan, from age 13 to 72. The results suggest that, like other aspects of personality, attachment style is relatively stable through life, but that it is not entirely fixed, and in particular that it may be shaped by our relationship experiences, as well as the varied social demands of different life stages. “The current study is one of the first truly longitudinal investigations into life span changes in attachment orientation and the antecedents of these changes,” write Chopik and his team.

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“Shooting The Messenger” Is A Psychological Reality – Share Bad News And People Will Like You Less

By Matthew Warren

We all know the movie scene: a nervous aide has to deliver bad news to his villainous boss, stumbling over his words and incessantly apologising. For a second, it looks like he will be OK – until the boss turns around and summarily executes him.

But it turns out this phenomenon of “shooting the messenger” is not just restricted to fiction. A new paper in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General has demonstrated that we do tend to take a dim view of the bearers of bad news – even when these people are simply innocent messengers. 

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Researchers Say Growing Up With A Troubled Or Harsh Father Can Influence Women’s Expectations Of Men, And, In Turn, Their Sexual Behaviour

By Emma Young

The power (or powerlessness) of parents to shape their children for good or ill continues to preoccupy psychologists and the public alike. Among evolutionary-minded developmental psychologists, one specific idea is that girls’ later attitudes to relationships is influenced by their fathers’ behaviour. For instance, US research has found that girls with disengaged, harsh, and often absent fathers are known to start having sex at a younger age, and to have more sexual partners. However many questions about these findings remain. For example: might other aspects of the girls’ childhoods be involved; what about genetic effects; and which aspects of poor-quality fathering are the most consequential?  

A new study of pairs of sisters, published in Developmental Psychology, provides some specific answers, particularly that it is contact with a poor-quality father, not paternal absence, that affects their daughters’ later relationships, including their expectations of men, and, in turn, their sexual behaviour.  

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