Season's Greetings

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there

'A visit from St Nicholas' (Dec 1823) by Clement C. Moore
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers around the world. Normal service will be resumed after the festive break.
You have read this article Announcements with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Better than sex! US college students value self-esteem boosts more than bodily pleasures

'Because you're worth it!' L'Oreal's catchphrase taps into the narcissistic zeitgeist. But it also begs the question: Are we at risk of becoming obsessed with feeling good about ourselves? According to new research by Brad Bushman and his co-workers, not only do US college students have higher self-esteem than previous generations, they now value self-esteem boosts more than sex, food, receiving a salary payment, seeing a friend or having an alcoholic drink.

Bushman's team made their finding by asking dozens of US college students to imagine their favourite food, sexual activity, self-esteem boosting activity (e.g. receiving a compliment, getting a good grade) etc, and in each case to say how much they wanted it and how much they liked it. The key finding was that self-esteem boosting activities came out on top.

Some validity was lent to these thought-experiments by offering the students a real chance to boost their self-esteem. For example, in the first study, as well as answering questions about food, sex and so on, the students were scored on a simple verbal intelligence test. They were then given the opportunity to wait around for an extra ten minutes to receive a score based on a different algorithm that usually produces higher scores. The students who said earlier that they wanted self-esteem more than they liked it (taken as a sign of being addicted to self-esteem) tended to be the ones who stayed behind for the chance to receive a higher intelligence score.

Other personality factors that the researchers looked at were 'entitlement', and trying to get other people to recognise how good you are, otherwise known as 'pursuing self-image goals'. Higher scores on entitlement, as measured by agreement with statements like 'If I ruled the world it would be a much better place,' tended to correlate with wanting the rewards - that's the imagined self-esteem boosts, sex, food etc - but not the liking of them. Predictably enough, pursuing self-image goals tended to correlate with placing a high value on self-esteem boosts.

What does all this mean? Bushman's team think the new results confirm that self-esteem is an essential human need, as claimed by humanistic psychology pioneer Abraham Maslow and others. 'Overall, our findings shed new and interesting light on just how important it is for people to feel worthy and valuable,' the researchers said. But their write-up is tinged with anxiety. Valuing self-esteem can encourage the pursuit of self-image goals, which they warned can lead to conflict with others. 'Of course we should enjoy the good things in life, but not so much that we want them more than we like them,' Bushman's team concluded. 'We do not want to become addicted to self-esteem or other rewards, or we will become "slaves" to them, to borrow the words of Fritz Perls [the founder of Gestalt therapy].'

ResearchBlogging.orgBushman, B., Moeller, S., and Crocker, J. (2010). Sweets, Sex, or Self-Esteem? Comparing the Value of Self-Esteem Boosts with Other Pleasant Rewards. Journal of Personality DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00712.x
You have read this article Personality with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Paralysis deniers have subconscious insight into their disability

Anosognosia is an intriguing neuropsychological syndrome in which a patient with one or more paralysed limbs denies they have anything wrong with them. In a new investigation, Aikaterini Fotopoulou and her colleagues have shown that some patients fitting this description have a residual, subconscious awareness of their disability.

The researchers recruited 14 brain-damaged patients with a completely paralysed left arm, half of whom denied their paralysis (ie they had anosognosia). Next, all the patients were presented with a series of sentences for which they had to provide the final word. The twist to the task is that the word had to be completely unrelated in meaning to its adjoining sentence.

Some of the sentences were emotionally neutral (about cars), some were negatively emotional (about violence), and finally some pertained to stroke and physical disabilities. The patients with anosognosia performed no differently from the paralysed controls on the neutral and negative sentences, but they took longer to complete the sentences about stroke and disabilities. This was taken as a sign of competition between subconscious self-threatening information about disability and the task requirement to find an unrelated word. It suggests the anosognosic patients had a subconscious awareness of their own disability.

The patients were also asked to rate the same set of sentences for their self-relevance - this was an explicit test of their awareness. Again, the anosognosic patients differed from controls on precisely the sentences that pertained to stroke and disability. This time, as you might expect, they tended to say such sentences were less relevant to them than did the controls.

A final component of the study involved scanning the brains of all fourteen of the patients. This showed that the patients with anosognosia had damage in brain regions involved in motor control (including the basal ganglia) and body representation (including the anterior insula) that were unaffected in patients without anosognosia.

Fotopoulou's theory is that patients with anosognosia have a subconscious awareness of their deficits but that the brain circuits responsible for creating an up-to-date representation of self are compromised. Consistent with this, in previous research, patients with anosnognosia have shown greater insight when describing their impairments from a third-person perspective and also after viewing themselves on video. A related theory is that patients with anosognosia have intact motor planning brain circuits but that their feedback circuits are damaged. So, when asked to move, they feel that they've sent a successful motor command to their limb but are left unaware that the command wasn't enacted.

One reason anosognosia is so intriguing is that it has both neurobiological and psychological components. Some experts have interpreted it as a form of Freudian defence against the emotional trauma of paralysis. Consistent with this, when insight into their paralysis has been achieved, previously anosognosic patients have subsequently suffered from an increase in depressive symptoms.

'The combination of our behavioural and neural findings suggest that an explicit, affectively personalised sensorimotor awareness requires the re-representation of sensorimotor information in the insular cortex, with possible involvement of limbic areas and basal ganglia circuits,' the researchers said. 'The delusional features of anosognosia for hemiplegia can be explained as a failure of this re-representation.'

ResearchBlogging.orgFotopoulou, A., Pernigo, S., Maeda, R., Rudd, A., and Kopelman, M. (2010). Implicit awareness in anosognosia for hemiplegia: unconscious interference without conscious re-representation. Brain, 133 (12), 3564-3577 DOI: 10.1093/brain/awq233
You have read this article Brain with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

The benefits of thinking about our ancestors

Psychologists have shown previously that thinking about our own mortality - 'where we're going' - prompts us to shore up our cultural world view and engage in self-esteem boosting activities. Little researched until now, by contrast, are the psychological effects of thinking about where we came from - our ancestors.

Anecdotally, there's reason to believe that such thoughts are beneficial. Why else the public fascination with genealogy and programmes like the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? Now Peter Fischer and his colleagues at the Universities of Graz, Berlin and Munich have shown that thinking about our ancestors boosts our performance on intelligence tests - what they've dubbed 'the ancestor effect'.

'Normally, our ancestors managed to overcome a multitude of personal and society problems, such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines,' the researchers said. 'So, when we think about them, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities.'

An initial study involved 80 undergrads spending five minutes thinking about either their fifteenth century ancestors, their great-grandparents or a recent shopping trip. Afterwards, those students in the two ancestor conditions were more confident about their likely performance in future exams, an effect that seemed to be mediated by their feeling more in control of their lives.

Three further studies showed that thinking or writing about their recent or distant ancestors led students to actually perform better on a range of intelligence tests, including verbal and spatial tasks (in one test, students who thought about their distant ancestors scored an average of 14 out of 16, compared with an average of 10 out of 16 among controls). The ancestor benefit was mediated partly by students attempting more answers - what the researchers called having a 'promotion orientation'.

These benefits weren't displayed by students in control conditions that involved writing about themselves or about close friends. Moreover, the ancestor effect exerted its benefit even when students were asked to think about negative aspects of their ancestors.

'We showed that an easy reminder about our ancestors can significantly increase intellectual performance,' the researchers said. 'Hence, whenever people are in a situation where intellectual performance is extraordinarily important, for example in exams or job interviews, they have an easy technique to increase their success.'

Fischer and his colleagues emphasised their research is at an exploratory phase. Future work is needed to find out what other benefits thinking of ancestors might have, and also to uncover other possible mediating factors, which they speculated might have to do with 'processes of social identity, family cohesion, self-regulation or norm activation elicited by increased ancestor salience.'

ResearchBlogging.orgFischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C., and Weisweiler, S. (2010). The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance. European Journal of Social Psychology DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.778

Related article from The Psychologist magazine: What factors drive a person to research a family tree, or an adoptee to search for their biological parents?
You have read this article Intelligence with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Harder-to-read fonts boost student learning

Making learning materials more difficult to read can significantly improve student performance. Yes, you read that correctly. Connor Diemand-Yauman and his colleagues think the effect occurs because fonts that are more awkward to read encourage deeper processing of the to-be-learned material.

Diemand-Yauman first tested this principal in the lab with 28 participants (aged 18 to 40) who spent 90 seconds learning the seven features associated with three alien species. Half the students learned from materials written in clear 16-point Arial font, whereas the other half learned from materials written either in 12-point Comic Sans or 12-point Bodoni. As the researchers explained, these last two fonts are obviously more difficult to read when considered side-by-side with the Arial font, but viewed on their own few people would notice anything amiss. Fifteen minutes later the participants were tested and the key finding was that those who learned from the harder-to-read fonts answered 86.5 per cent of questions correctly, compared with the 72.8 per cent success rate achieved by the participants who learned from the clearer font.

For a follow-up study the researchers collaborated with a high school in Ohio. Teachers sent in their work-sheets and power-point slides and the researchers made them more difficult to read. They did this either by switching the fonts to Comic Sans Italicised, Haettenschweiler or Monotype Corsiva, or, if the materials were hand-written, simply by shaking them about in a photo-copier to make them blurry. The history, English and science teachers used the manipulated materials for one of their classes but not the other, which acted as a control. You guessed it, of the 220 participating pupils, those who learned from the harder-to-read materials subsequently performed better in the relevant class assessments than did the pupils who learned from the unadulterated materials (for more statistically minded readers, the effect size was d=.45).

When people find something easy to read, they take that as a sign that they've mastered it. Conversely, the researchers believe harder-to-read fonts provoke a feeling of lack of mastery and encourage deeper processing. However, there's obviously a balance to be struck. If material becomes too difficult to read, some students may simply give up. Another possible mechanism is that the less legible fonts are somehow more distinctive, rendering them more memorable. Diemand-Yauman's team doubt this explanation because distinctiveness should wear off over time, and anyway they didn't use any fonts that pupils wouldn't have seen before.

The researchers think their finding could be the tip of the ice-berg as regards using cognitive findings to boost educational practice. 'If a simple change of font can significantly increase student performance, one can only imagine the number of beneficial cognitive interventions waiting to be discovered,' they said. 'Fluency demonstrates how small interventions have the potential to make big improvements in the performance of our students and education system as a whole.'

ResearchBlogging.orgDiemand-Yauman, C., Oppenheimer, D., and Vaughan, E. (2011). Fortune favors the Bold (and the Italicized): Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes. Cognition, 118 (1), 111-115 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.09.012
You have read this article Cognition / Educational with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!


Eye-catching studies that didn't make the final cut:

Don't tell Sarkozy: popular politicians are perceived to be taller.

Can you see OK in there? Analysis of uterine conditions suggests that at least some fetuses have enough light to see by. 'This finding could have intriguing implications for the ontogeny of early visuo-motor abilities in newborns and infants.'

People respond to threat warnings differently depending on whether they refer to natural disasters, terrorism or criminal violence. 'It appears that the mechanisms for perception, decision-making, and action in response to threats cannot be generalized in a straightforward way across these domains of threat.'

Pull the other one - overly short or long legs are perceived as less attractive, according to a poll of people across no fewer than 27 nations.

Despite what you might think, jurors weren't biased by the label 'psychopath'.

English and Mandarin speakers think about time differently.

The dark side of emotional intelligence (EI). 'We suggest that high-EI people ... are likely to benefit from several strategic behaviors in organizations including: focusing emotion detection on important others, disguising and expressing emotions for personal gain, using misattribution to stir and shape emotions, and controlling the flow of emotion-laden communication.'

Smoking affects language lateralisation in the brain, and does so differently for men and women.

Distracting the mind improves performance.

Review of when people get violent during sleep.
You have read this article Extras with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

How male oil rig staff learned to lose their machismo

Psychologists investigating two (non-BP) deep-water, offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have applauded the working-practices they observed, claiming they allowed the predominantly male workforce to 'undo' gender - that is, to stop pursuing a counter-productive, masculine ideal.

Setting the scene in their new paper, Robin Ely and Debra Meyerson argue that dangerous work-places have traditionally encouraged male staff to 'do gender' by demonstrating physical prowess, taking risks, concealing technical incompetence and coming across as fearless and unflappable. Such behaviours detrimentally affect staff training, lead to accidents and poor decision making, human rights violations, and the marginalisation of female colleagues.  Oil rigs would normally be the classic example of such a work culture, but during several visits to two Gulf of Mexico rigs, the researchers and their colleagues found that a strong corporate focus on safety had led the staff to acknowledge their physical limitations, to be open about their skill shortcomings and freely express their feelings.

Ely and Meyerson highlight three specific work-place factors that they say led the workers to 'undo gender': having collectivist goals (especially putting safety first); defining competence according to task requirements rather than masculine ideals; and having a learning orientation towards work. Regarding the last factor, it was widely accepted on the rigs that people make mistakes and that the important thing is to learn from them. One rig had even established a 'Millionaire Club' to 'honour' workers whose mistakes had cost the company a million dollars (an ironic nod to the IBM sales club that recognised successful salespeople). 'To become a member was not a source of shame,' the researchers explained, 'but rather, a mark of being human.'

Ely and Meyerson think their research has implications beyond dangerous workplaces, including for 'white-collar jobs, such as manager, scientist and lawyer,' which they said can all serve as proving grounds for masculinity. 'In short,' they concluded, 'dangerous workplaces provide a window on how processes associated with masculinity unfold in organisations, and highly effective dangerous workplaces provide a window on how these processes could be different. Indeed, if men can "undo gender" on offshore oil platforms - arguably one of the most macho work environments in the modern world - then they should be able to undo it anywhere.'

ResearchBlogging.orgEly, R., and Meyerson, D. (2010). An organizational approach to undoing gender: The unlikely case of offshore oil platforms. Research in Organizational Behavior, 30, 3-34 DOI: 10.1016/j.riob.2010.09.002
You have read this article Gender / Occupational with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

When and how psychological data is collected affects the kind of students who volunteer

Psychology has a serious problem. You may have heard about its over-dependence on WEIRD participants - that is, those from Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich Democracies. More specifically, as regular readers will be aware, countless psychology studies involve undergraduate students, particularly psych undergrads. Apart from the obvious fact that this limits the generalisability of the findings, Edward Witt and his colleagues provide evidence in a new paper for two further problems, this time involving self-selection biases.

Just over 500 Michigan State University undergrads (75 per cent were female) had the option, at a time of their choosing during the Spring 2010 semester, to volunteer either for an on-line personality study, or a face-to-face version. The data collection was always arranged for Wednesdays at 12.30pm to control for time of day/week effects. Also, the same personality survey was administered by computer in the same way in both experiment types, it's just that in the face-to-face version it was made clear that the students had to attend the research lab, and an experimenter would be present.

Just 30 per cent of the sample opted for the face-to-face version. Predictably enough, these folk tended to score more highly on extraversion. The effect size was small (d=-.26) but statistically significant. Regards more specific personality traits, the students who chose the face-to-face version were also more altruistic and less cautious.

What about choice of semester week? As you might expect, it was the more conscientious students who opted for dates earlier in the semester (r=.-.20). What's more, men were far more likely to volunteer later in the semester, even after controlling for average personality difference between the sexes. For example, 18 per cent of week one participants were male compared with 52 per cent in the final, 13th week.

In other words, the kind of people who volunteer for research will likely vary according to the time of semester and the mode of data collection. Imagine you used false negative feedback on a cognitive task to explore effects on confidence and performance. Participants tested at the start of semester, who are typically more conscientious and motivated, are likely to be affected in a different way than participants who volunteer later in the semester.

This isn't the first time that self-selection biases have been reported in psychology. A 2007 study, for example, suggested that people who volunteer for a 'prison study' are likely to score higher than average on aggressiveness and social dominance, thus challenging the generalisability of Zimbardo's seminal work. However, despite the occasional study highlighting these effects, there seems to be little enthusiasm in the social psychological community to do much about it.

So what to do? The specific issues raised in the current study could be addressed by sampling throughout a semester and replicating effects using different data collection methods. 'Many papers based on college students make reference to the real world implications of their findings for phenomena like aggression, basic cognitive processes, prejudice, and mental health,' the researchers said. 'Nonetheless, the use of convenience samples place limitations on the kinds of inferences drawn from research. In the end, we strongly endorse the idea that psychological science will be improved as researchers pay increased attention to the attributes of the participants in their studies.'

ResearchBlogging.orgWitt, E., Donnellan, M., and Orlando, M. (2011). Timing and selection effects within a psychology subject pool: Personality and sex matter. Personality and Individual Differences, 50 (3), 355-359 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.10.019

Previously on the Digest: Just how non-clinical are so-called non-clinical community samples?
Just how representative are the people who volunteer for psychology experiments?
You have read this article Methodological / Personality with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Do political scandals really distract us from important issues?

Barely a day goes by without some political scandal or other splashed across the papers. Critics argue this obsession with tittle-tattle distracts the electorate from more important policy issues. '...a fiercely independent media is the guarantor of democracy,' Will Hutton wrote in 2000, before warning that the British media's obsession with scandal 'paradoxically, may be beginning to endanger it [democracy]'.

A new study by Beth Miller at the University of Missouri-Kansas City challenges the assumption that scandal is a distraction. Every two days, she presented 413 undergrads with a newspaper article containing information about a policy position held by a mayoral candidate. Then, 1 to 14 days later, she tested the students' memory for the candidate's policies. The important twist was that for half the participants, the fourth of five newspaper articles, rather than being about a policy, was about a scandal involving the candidate - in particular, his confession to an extra-marital affair.

The assumption of many would be that this story would distract participants from the drier, but arguably more important, detail of the politician's policies. Similarly, in psychological terms, it might be argued that the scandalous information would displace the earlier memory traces associated with policies, especially since negative information is known to be particularly memorable and attention-grabbing.

An alternative prediction, however, is that the salience of the scandal would actually benefit all other memories associated with the politician. This is consistent with the idea that memory is an 'associative network' made up of interconnected nodes. By this account, activation of one node - the one representing scandal - will spill over and raise the activation in all related nodes, thus benefiting participants' memory for the mayoral candidate's policies.

Miller found that more policy-related information was recalled by participants who read about the scandal, consistent with the associative-memory account. Moreover, compared with participants in the scandal condition who forgot about it (the scandal), those who remembered it were also more likely to remember policy information - reinforcing the idea that the scandal memory had benefited policy memories. As you might expect, although the scandal benefited participants' memory for policies, it also negatively affected the participants' evaluation of the candidate.

'While these results do not suggest that candidates can engage in scandalous activities without consequence, they do suggest that the depiction of the public as blind to anything but scandalous information seems to be an exaggeration,' Miller said. 'The results ... suggest that exposure to scandalous information ... may have beneficial side-effects not previously explored.'

ResearchBlogging.orgMiller, B. (2010). The Effects of Scandalous Information on Recall of Policy-Related Information. Political Psychology, 31 (6), 887-914 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9221.2010.00786.x
You have read this article Political with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Provoking paranoid interpretations in a 'healthy' sample

Traditionally, psychiatrists saw the paranoia exhibited by patients with schizophrenia as qualitatively different from the feelings of mistrust and suspicion expressed by 'healthy' people. Today that view is changing. New research, much of it by psychologists, is demonstrating that clinical paranoia is on a continuum with the experiences of the general public (see earlier). Much of this has involved use of questionnaires or interviews to gauge rates of paranoid feeling in non-clinical samples. Better than this, though, would be observing people's actual paranoid interpretations unfolding in response to real events. Catherine Green and her team think they've found a way.

The researchers had 58 healthy participants sit in a room with a male experimenter and write about their journey to the lab that day (ostensibly as part of research into people's 'understanding of the causes of events'). Next, a male colleague knocked on the door and asked the experimenter if he could come outside for a moment. After the experimenter exited, the sound of male laughter was played for 35 seconds on speakers in the corridor.

What would you think if an experimenter left the room to talk to a colleague and then you heard laughter outside? Asked to explain these events, two of the participants thought the experimenter's departure had something to do with them; five of them thought the laughter was about them; and two participants thought both events were somehow connected to themselves. 'They laughed at something they read in my questionnaires,' one participant said. In all, 15.5 per cent of the healthy sample showed evidence of mild paranoia - what's known as 'an idea of reference' in which they misattributed self-relevance to the events. None of the participants showed more severe persecutory paranoia, and in fact 28 participants failed to notice the laughter.

'The current study illustrates that paranoid explanations for events can be elicited and assessed in a real life situation,' Green and her colleagues said. Questionnaires completed before and after the main part of the study showed that those participants who came up with more paranoid explanations also tended to score higher on 'trait' paranoia. However, they scored no higher on a measure of social avoidance and distress, which suggests their paranoid explanations were not merely a consequence of social anxiety. They did however score higher on interpersonal sensitivity and negative self-regard.

'The current data suggest that some of the processes considered central to clinical paranoia ... may also be operating at the milder end of the spectrum,' the researchers concluded, 'but the data raise questions as to what processes might be responsible for transition across the spectrum from ideas of reference to persecutory ideation.'

ResearchBlogging.orgGreen CE, Freeman D, Kuipers E, Bebbington P, Fowler D, Dunn G, and Garety PA (2011). Paranoid explanations of experience: a novel experimental study. Behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy, 39 (1), 21-34 PMID: 20846468

Further reading: Is paranoia increasing? Free Psychologist magazine article.
You have read this article Mental health with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

We trawl the world's journals so you don't have to:

Special section on fMRI (Perspectives on Psychological Science).

The Content and Context of Early Media Exposure (Infant and Child Development).

The psychology of political leadership (Political Psychology).

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Diagnosis and Intervention (Alcohol).

Space, Time and Number (Trends in Cognitive Sciences).

Clinical psychology special issue (Psychology Learning and Teaching).
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Trying to create an impression can alter your perception of others

When we’re socialising and we try to make a certain impression – to appear confident, say, or smart – doing so affects our perception of the person we’re talking to, leading us to think they have less of the same trait that we’re trying to demonstrate in ourselves. Bryan Gibson and Elizabeth Poposki showed this in five experiments involving hundreds of undergrads.

In each experiment participants watched a short film before discussing it with another student (actually a stooge working for the researchers) in two brief (15 and 8 second) exchanges over a webcam. Crucially, half the participants were given a specific ‘impression management’ goal. This was either to appear introverted, extraverted, smart, confident or happy, depending on the experiment. Afterwards the participants rated themselves and the student they’d conversed with.

The central finding was that, compared with the control participants, students given an impression management goal tended to rate their conversation partner lower on whichever trait they’d tried to demonstrate in themselves, but not on other traits.

Gibson and Poposki’s theory is that this effect occurs via two mechanisms. Striving to make a particular impression causes us to adopt a comparison mindset, they say. And by shifting our own self-construct on a given trait, our conversation partner appears as a consequence to have less of that trait in comparison with ourselves.

This explanation was borne out by the various experiments. For example, the effect still occurred even when participants were given an impression management goal, but no chance to act on it – they were tricked into thinking their webcam was broken, so they could see and hear their partner but their partner couldn't see or hear them. This suggests the mere formation of an impression management goal is enough to shift the self-concept and affect our perception of others. On the other hand, this study's central effect didn’t occur when the researchers recruited participants who reported having a particularly fixed self-construct with regards to the relevant trait. In other words, when a person’s self-construct wasn’t shifted by an impression management attempt, their perception of their conversation partner wasn’t altered.

Gibson and Poposki said their findings raise many interesting questions for future research. One of these concerns narcissists, who have an ongoing desire to come across as highly intelligent. This could cause them to chronically underestimate other people’s intelligence, which might well contribute to their social difficulties.

‘Our research highlights the notion that the impressions we form of others are not made in a social vacuum,’ the researchers concluded. ‘By selecting particular impression management goals to guide our social interactions, we may unwittingly influence how we come to view others as much as we influence how they come to view us.’

ResearchBlogging.orgGibson B and Poposki EM (2010). How the adoption of impression management goals alters impression formation. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 36 (11), 1543-54 PMID: 20921279
You have read this article Social with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!


Eye-catching studies that didn't make the final cut:

Is exposure therapy appropriate for use with older adults? 'The current case study details a course of prolonged exposure (PE) therapy in an 88-year-old, World War II veteran, diagnosed with PTSD'.

Do Babies Learn From Baby Media?

Psychological aspects of the integration of women into combat roles.

Investigating the subtly different facial expressions associated with the positive emotions of interest, pride, pleasure, and joy.

Fathers, like mothers, show a bias for holding babies on the left side of their bodies.

Playing Tetris, but not a pub quiz, helped reduce traumatic flash backs.

Women apologise more than men because they have a lower threshold for what constitutes an offensive act.

A systematic review of the benefits of giving babies a daily massage.

Evidence for a weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - language properties affect children's number processing.

A 'values affirmation' task helped boost female college students' performance in a physics class, especially those who endorsed the stereotype that men are typically better at physics than women.
You have read this article Extras with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Shy students who use Facebook have better quality friendships

A lot of nonsense is written about the psychological effects of technology, and the Internet in particular. All that time staring at screens must reduce good ol' fashioned face-to-face contact, the scare-mongers say. A new study takes a different view. Levi Baker and Debra Oswald at Marquette University argue that "computer-mediated communication" could be just what shy people need.

Through sites like Facebook, shy people have more control over how they present themselves, the psychologists argue, and shared interests for discussion are immediately obvious - something shy people can struggle to identify in the flesh. There are also no non-verbal cues to be misinterpreted (past research shows that shy people tend to interpret such cues in an overly negative way). To test whether shy people really do benefit from Internet use, Baker and Oswald surveyed 207 undergrads (138 girls) about their shyness, Facebook usage and the quality of their friendships.

The encouraging finding was that among the more shy students, greater use of Facebook was associated with feeling closer to and more satisfied with friends (although this didn't apply to face-to-face friends who weren't on Facebook). Shy students who used Facebook more also had a greater sense of social support. In contrast, for non-shy students, Facebook usage wasn't associated with perceptions of friendship quality.

'Our findings refute warnings that computer-mediated communication use might cause shy individuals to become even more socially withdrawn and isolated,' the researchers said. 'The current data clearly demonstrate that shy individuals' use of Facebook is associated with better quality friendships.'

There are two related caveats. Regrettably, as with so much psychology research, this was a cross-sectional study, so it's unable to make any claims about whether Facebook usage actually causes friendship benefits for shy students. Also, shy students who were heavier users of Facebook reported the same levels of loneliness as their shy peers who didn't use the service so much. There are many possible reasons for this - for example, despite their superior online-supported friendships, perhaps they still struggled with purely face-to-face relationships. Baker and Oswald are more optimistic. They think that if their data had been collected over time, it would likely have shown that greater Facebook use led to reduced loneliness. 'Clearly future work needs to identify how, and under what conditions, online communication facilitates off-line communication among shy individuals,' they said.

ResearchBlogging.orgBaker, L., and Oswald, D. (2010). Shyness and online social networking services. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27 (7), 873-889 DOI: 10.1177/0265407510375261
You have read this article Social with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Which is worse: your partner having a heterosexual or homosexual affair?

Assuming you're in a heterosexual relationship, which is worse: for your partner to be unfaithful with a person of the opposite or the same sex? According to a pair of US psychologists, the answer depends on whether you're a man or woman. Men, they've found, are less likely to continue a relationship with an unfaithful partner who's had a heterosexual affair, as opposed to a homosexual affair. For women, it's the other way around - they're more troubled by their male partner going off with another man.

Jaime Confer and Mark Cloud made their finding after asking 718 undergrads (324 men) to imagine their partners had been unfaithful and to predict whether, having received an apology, they'd continue the relationship. The participants were not recruited explicitly on the basis of being heterosexual, but were told the study would involve imagining themselves in a heterosexual relationship.

The difference between the men and women was robust - it remained in place regardless of how many instances of infidelity they were asked to imagine their partner had had, and regardless of the number of infidelity partners involved. The participants' own real life experiences of infidelity, as either the betrayer or betrayed, also made no difference to the main finding that men are less likely to persevere with a relationship after a female partner has a heterosexual affair, whereas women are less likely to continue a relationship after a male partner has a homosexual affair.

The new finding builds on another key sex difference that's emerged in jealousy research: that is, men tend to be more troubled by sexual infidelity whereas women tend to be more troubled by emotional infidelity. That difference, and the one uncovered in this new research, both make sense in terms of evolutionary theory whereby men are more concerned by the risk of sexual infidelity because they can never know for sure if a child is theirs. Women, by contrast, have no doubt that a child they give birth to is their own. Instead their anxiety is focused more on the the father's commitment.

In this evolutionary context, men are more troubled by a female partner going off with a man because of the risk that he may impregnate her. Women are more troubled by a male partner going off with a man because, in the researchers' words: 'homosexual affairs are more reflective of ensuing abandonment as they evince a more complete absence of emotional intimacy and satisfaction with one's partner.'

ResearchBlogging.orgConfer, J., and Cloud, M. (2011). Sex differences in response to imagining a partner’s heterosexual or homosexual affair. Personality and Individual Differences, 50 (2), 129-134 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.09.007
You have read this article evolutionary psych with the title December 2010. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!