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

Voodoo correlations are everywhere, not just in neuroscience. [Background].

More stats controversy. "There are four major problems with using p as a measure of evidence and these problems are often overlooked in the domain of psychology." Read more.

Differences in how men and women compete. "In two studies, adult human females, compared with males, were more likely to react to the possibility of social exclusion by socially excluding a third party." Read more.

Implicit measures in psychology may be sexy but they're often unreliable. Read more.

Nerves hinder negotiation. "...negotiators who feel anxious expect lower outcomes, make lower first offers, respond more quickly to offers, exit bargaining situations earlier, and ultimately obtain worse outcomes." Read more.

OTOH, mimicking others' language online aids negotiation. "...negotiators who actively mimicked their counterpart's language in the first 10 min of the negotiation obtained higher individual gain compared to those mimicking during the last 10 min, as well as compared to control participants." Read more.

Bi-directional links between semantic memory and sense of identity in older adults. "...autobiographical memory for all time periods (childhood, early adulthood, and recent life) in the semantic domain was associated with greater strength in personal identity. ... However, there was also support for a reverse mediation model indicating that a strong sense of identity is associated with semantic self-knowledge and through this may enhance self-relevant recollection." Read more.

Depth cues in paintings cause people to sway. Read more.

US study finds women are more fearful than men of having their intellectual capabilities tested in public. "...women must overcome fears about doing poorly in public and fears of criticism from others. They must learn to handle criticism without letting it affect the way they feel about themselves. The challenge is to adopt a positive view of their ability as continuously developing and to approach public performances as opportunities to welcome, rather than threats to avoid." Read more.

Praying for a stranger led provoked participants to react with less anger and aggression. Read more.

Don't pick on Dawkins! Reminders of atheist prevalence reduced distrust and prejudice towards atheists. Read more.
You have read this article Extras with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/extras.html. Thanks!

When gay men reveal their homosexuality later in an interaction, prejudice toward them is reduced

Unlike other stigmatised groups, such as ethnic minorities or the elderly, people who are homosexual usually have the option of concealing their sexual identity when they interact with others. This raises an obvious question - does it make any difference to the risk of a negative reception, whether a gay person discloses their gay status early or late in an interaction?

David Buck and Ashby Plant investigated this issue in relation to gay men. Forty-five heterosexual male and female undergrad students and non-students took part in what they thought was a study of first-time social interactions. Tested alone, they listened to a pre-recorded interview with a man who they thought they were going to meet soon afterwards. The taped interview lasted eight minutes and the man was asked about his life and his interests. Crucially, he was asked about his romantic situation either at the start (the second question) or right at the end of the interview, and it was in his answer to this question that he disclosed his sexual orientation as gay. Half the participants heard the early disclosure version, half heard the late version.

Among the male participants only, the timing of the disclosure made a big difference. Those who heard the early disclosure subsequently reported more frustration at having to meet the man, more negative expectations for how the meeting would go, and more negative prejudice towards gay people generally, than did the male participants who heard the late disclosure recording.

It was a similar story in a second study involving a further 85 participants, with the following changes: the interview was shown on video, not just audio; there was an additional comparison condition in which the interviewed man disclosed that he was heterosexual; the participants chose traits that they felt best described the man, thus revealing how much they had stereotyped him (e.g. as 'feminine', 'artsy', 'melodramatic'); and the participants also chose letters for the man to use to compile a word (choosing difficult letters for him was taken as a sign of hostility).

Once again, for the male participants only, the timing of the man's disclosure about his gay status made a big difference - an early disclosure led the male participants to feel more negative about the man, to show more hostility toward him and to attribute him with more gay stereotype traits. In fact, the stereotyping mediated the effect of early/late disclosure on all the other factors. The message is clear - an early disclosure coloured the male participants' perception of the remainder of the interview, rousing their prejudices towards the man. By contrast, male participants who heard the late disclosure appeared to form a non-stereotyped view of the man, thus reducing their prejudice and hostility even after he disclosed his gay status. In contrast to these effects, timing of disclosure made no difference to perceptions of the man in the condition in which he revealed himself to be heterosexual.

So, what are the lessons from this research? A 'grim interpretation' Buck and Plant said, would be for gay men to hold back on revealing their homosexuality, so as to reduce the likelihood they will be the victims of prejudice. However, they noted that that would be to focus solely on the implications for the victims of prejudice - what about the perpetrators? 'By understanding these issues we may be better equipped to identify situations in which bias might be more likely to occur and, thus, have the opportunity to more effectively reduce discrimination,' the researchers said. 'Our hope is that rather than encourage people to conceal their sexual orientation, this research will help to advance a culture in which people will not feel the need to hide.'

Further research is needed to establish whether similar processes occur for lesbians and for other stigmatised groups where it's possible to control the timing of disclosure (e.g. people diagnosed with a mental illness). Another issue ripe for investigation is whether the effect of disclosure timing varies according to the timescale - a disclosure after weeks, rather than eight minutes, might well have a different outcome.

ResearchBlogging.orgBuck, D., and Plant, E. (2011). Interorientation interactions and impressions: Does the timing of disclosure of sexual orientation matter? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47 (2), 333-342 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.10.016
You have read this article Social with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/when-gay-men-reveal-their-homosexuality.html. Thanks!

Athletes are more skilled at crossing the road than non-athletes

They impress on the sports field with their rapid reactions and fancy footwork, but do athletes' abilities translate to the real world? Past research on this topic, nearly all of it lab-based, has demonstrated superior performance by athletes on sport-specific and basic psychological tests, such as of attention and processing speed. Now Laura Chaddock and her colleagues have shown that the athletic advantage translates to an everyday task - crossing a busy road, albeit that this was tested using an immersive virtual reality treadmill.

Eighteen male and female athletes (including football players, swimmers and tennis players; all Division 1 performers at university) and 18 non-athletic, healthy controls, all donned virtual reality goggles and walked on a treadmill to cross a simulated eight-metre wide, two-lane road - a multi-faceted task requiring skilled attentional processing and coordination. The two participant groups were matched for academic ability, age, height, weight and video-game experience.

The cars on the road travelled with a simulated speed of 40 to 55 miles an hour. There was no safe zone to stop in the middle and no opportunity to walk backwards or sideways, so once participants had made a decision to cross, they had to go through with it. Their challenge was to get to the other side within thirty seconds, without being hit. To spice things up, two distraction conditions required the participants to conduct a conversation on a hands-free kit or listen to their favoured music on an ipod as they crossed the road. The participants also had their reaction times tested in a basic computer task.

The take-home finding is that overall the athletes out-performed the non-athletes: they crossed successfully on 72 per cent of trials compared with the non-athletes' success rate of 55 per cent. However, this superiority didn't apply when only the distraction conditions were considered - the researchers think this is because the distraction of a complex conversation isn't a part of most sports. The athletes were also faster at the simple reaction time task and statistical analysis suggested this factor accounted for their superiority at road crossing.

'Our results suggest that cognitive skills trained in sport may engender transfer to performance on everyday challenges,' the researchers said. 'To provide a sport-specific example, it is plausible that an elite soccer player not only shows an ability to multitask and process incoming information quickly on a fast-paced soccer field ... he or she also shows these skills in the context of real world tasks.' However, Chaddock's team conceded that their cross-sectional design means they have yet to demonstrate that playing a sport causes these advantages - it could plausibly be that people with these skills are more likely to take up a sport.

ResearchBlogging.orgChaddock, L., Neider, M., Voss, M., Gaspar, J., and Kramer, A. (2011). Do Athletes Excel At Everyday Tasks? Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318218ca74
You have read this article Cognition / Sport with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/athletes-are-more-skilled-at-crossing.html. Thanks!

The books and journal articles all psychologists should read

Every month since January 2008 The Psychologist has featured a One-On-One interview page in which leading psychologists are asked, among other things, to name one book or journal article, either contemporary or historical, that all psychologists should read. Here's a handy link-filled list of the answers so far (please use comments to mention any must-read books or articles you think they missed)

Making up the Mind by Chris Frith (Oxford: Blackwell). "My husband’s new book," said Uta Frith, Jan 08.

David Marr’s Vision. "Twenty-five years later, it is still a breathtaking synthesis," said Steven Pinker, Feb 08.

"Well, nepotism aside, my husband’s Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (Mark Johnson: Blackwell, 2005). Even those studying adults should read it; it will make them think more dynamically," said Annette Karmiloff–Smith, Mar 08.

"Phil Johnson-Laird’s Mental Models (1983, Cambridge University Press) was a catalyst that changed a whole field’s way of thinking about the mind and how we make inferences," said Ruth Byrne, Apr 08.

William James’s The Principles of Psychology (1890). "He shares his thinking and questioning with his reader so that one can enter his mind, and live with him as a friend. He combines being a superb communicator with insights of philosophy and science really worth communicating. Iwas struck by his breadth of mind, respecting the arts from the past as well as technologies for creating future science,"  said Richard Gregory, Jun 08.

"The Principles of Psychology by William James, of course. Not only is it brilliant and prescient, but the quality of the writing is humbling," said Daniel Gilbert, Jul 08.

"Having referred to it for many years in the context of social facilitation, I was intrigued when I finally read Norman Triplett’s original 1898 paper and realised how psychologists have misreported his methods, results and conclusions regarding the effects of coactors on performance," said Sandy Wolfson, Aug 08.

"Working Memory, Thought and Action: The book I have just published!" said Alan Baddeley Sep 08.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. "You’ll get to understand why hypocrites never see their own hypocrisy, why couples so often misremember their shared history, why many people persist in courses of action that lead straight into quicksand. It’s lucid and witty, and a delightful read," said Elizabeth Loftus, Oct 08.

"Philip Jackson’s (1968) Life in Classrooms was – and still is – an amazing read. Jackson sat in the back of primary school classrooms for over two years, observing, before putting together his notion of ‘the hidden curriculum’ – what children learn in addition to the academic content. At primary school, children learn to cope with crowds, delays, denial, power, praise and constant peer and teacher evaluation. They learn how to protect their self-worth and how to beat the system. University students do this too. We all do," said James Hartley, Nov 08.

"The series of studies by Chase and Ericsson on an individual who, during the course of the study, improved from a digit memory span of average (7) to world’s best (80). The careful long-term documentation (and explanation) of how the ordinary can develop into the extraordinary was an exemplary breakthrough for a subdiscipline (cognitive psychology) dominated by the study of static short-term processes revealed through the statistical collation of results from many closely similar individuals," said John Sloboda, Dec 08.

"Muriel Dimen’s Sexuality, Intimacy, Power, which offers one feminist’s journey from dualism to multiplicity, questioning and making more complex all the accounts we have of how you grow up to become a sexed person," said Lynne Segal, Jan 09.

"Impossible question. William James’s Principles of Psychology for writing style, prescience and insight; Elliot Aronson’s The Social Animal for its passionate, personal prose and introduction to the major concerns of social psychology; and Judith Rich Harris’s The Nurture Assumption for its brilliant, creative reassessment of the basic but incorrect assumptions of developmental psychology. Her book is a model of how psychologists need to let data supersede ideology and vested intellectual convictions, and change direction when the evidence demands," said Carol Tavris, Mar 09.

"Julian Jaynes’s 1976 cult classic The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which makes the startling claim that subjective consciousness (in the sense of internalised mind space) arose a mere 3000 years ago through the development of metaphorical language, a process itself driven by increasing social and cultural complexity. Some of the historical and classical scholarship may be dubious and the neuropsychology is sketchy, but the book is a wonderful imaginative achievement, a pioneering attempt to fuse ancient history, psychology and neuroscience," said Pauls Broks, Apr 09.

"This has to be The Perception of People and Events (1968) by Peter Warr and Christopher Knapper. They showed how rigorous notions developed from basic research on the perception of objects could be applied to the much more difficult and challenging topic of the perception of people/events," said Ray Bull, May 09.

Chris Frith’s Making Up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World. (said Dorothy Rowe, Jun 09)

Donald Hebb’s 1949 book, Organization of Behavior. (said Bill McKeachie, Jul 09)

Attachment by John Bowlby. "We are much more likely to read critiques of Bowlby’s theories than the original work. Although his views had a negative impact on the lives of women after the Second World War by putting pressure on mothers to stay at home with their children, he writes beautifully and compellingly about the interactions between infants and their mother. This aspect of his work has been lost to those not closely involved with the study of attachment relationships," said Susan Golombok, Aug 09.

Alice Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. "This is not a children’s book; it contains a large number of the paradoxes about meaning, perception, consciousness, logic and language that we confront in our field. Most psychologists don’t study either philosophy or the history of ideas, which is a great pity, but this book is an entertaining and painless way into asking rather fundamental questions. I used it as a core text for a final-year course; students would discuss some event in the book in relation to current theory and research. It produced some very original work," said Helen Haste, Sep 09. "Within psychology itself, I think one of the most important and brilliant recent books at least in social psychology, is Michael Billig’s Arguing and Thinking, which both demonstrates the real social nature of language and thought, and shows us how modern concepts are deeply rooted in the history of ideas. Compulsory reading for all my students." 

The Extended Phenotype, by Richard Dawkins (said David Buss, Nov 09).

How Musical is Man by John Blacking. "Concise, accessible and way ahead of its time in terms of the assertions regarding the innate capacities of humans for musical communication and the stifling influence of Western constructions of musical ability. We now have the evidence he lacked to support his assertions," said Raymond MacDonald, Dec 09.

"Margaret Donaldson’s Children’s Minds, which I read in the late 1970s. I was bowled over by the creative approach of her team within the experimental tradition. The book is so respectful of the child’s perspective. It fuelled my passion for watching what children actually do and listening to what they want to say," said Jennie Lindon, Feb 10.

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin by David Nobbs. "If there was one book that made me fascinated by the psychology of the workplace (and not necessarily in a good way), that was the one," said George Sik, Mar 10.

"I would recommend Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution by Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch (New York: Norton, 1974)," said James Bray, Apr 10.

"One I have returned to many times is Young and Cullen’s 1996 book A Good Death: Conversations with East Londoners, a richly evocative account of narratives of loss and death from traditional East Enders. It shows that we are not all equal in death. Instead our deaths are largely determined by how and where we have lived, and that end-of-life rituals and mourning behaviours are socially constructed," said  Sheila Payne, May 10.

Semrad: The Heart of a Therapist. "This book is a collection of quotes and anecdotes from Elvin Semrad, a psychiatrist who practised in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. He consistently emphasised that the first and most important task of the trainee practitioner is to learn to sit with the patient, listen to and hear them, and help to stand the pain they could not bear alone. Semrad wouldn’t have agreed with my choice here as he believed ‘the patient is the only textbook we need’," said David Lavallee, Jun 10.

Beyond Counselling and Therapy by Carkhuff and Berenson (1969). "It showed me that it was possible to draw upon a range of traditions in working with clients and pointed the way to my own development of approaches to individualised case formulation," said David Lane, Jul 10.

"I am currently reading Beyond Happiness: Deepening the Dialogue between Buddhism, Psychotherapy and the Mind Sciences (Gay Watson, 2008). It encourages us to integrate and synthesise mind–body approaches, drawing on Eastern contemplative approaches. As Watson argues, psychological and psychotherapy theories and models can be traced back as variants of Buddhist psychology dating back 2500 years: I find that phenomenal," said Gill Aitken, Aug 10.

Joseph Heller’s Something Happened. "It’s fiction, but it describes in psychological detail, with wonderful humour, how people behave in the workplace. It is frighteningly close to what the science of occupational psychology tells us about work," said Cary Cooper, Sep 10.

Howitt and Owusu-Bempah’s 1994 book The Racism of Psychology: Time for a Change (said Jeune Guishard-Pine, Oct 10).

Stephen Pinker’s How the Mind Works (said Anne Treisman, Nov 10).

"Kurt Danziger’s Naming the Mind shows us how modern psychology’s basic vocabulary of intelligence, behaviour, attitude, motivation, etc does not represent timeless ‘natural kinds’ but are, instead, categories that were constructed for particular purposes at certain points in our history. Taking that message to heart, we can see that these older aims eventually fail to serve our present needs, and the categories we created in their wake may become obstacles to future progress. Be open to the possibility of radical change (but be wary of most individual radical proposals)," said Christopher Green, Dec 10.

"Milner and Goodale’s The Visual Brain in Action shows that much can still be learnt from single cases in neuropsychology when viewed with a fresh eye. It also illustrates how progress can be greatly accelerated when human neuropsychology is placed within the much wider context of cognitive neuroscience, neuroanatomy, and related animal work. Although one can quibble with details of their particular theory, I think that the more general point about combining different strands
of evidence will serve neuropsychology well for many decades," said Jon Driver, Jan 11.

The Republic, Plato. "It covers so many aspects of social organisation, reminding us that the fundamental questions have been addressed, just as we go on addressing them," said Margaret McAllister, Feb 11.

The SPSS Survival Manual by Julie Pallant. "The author is a genius at explaining how to analyse data. I am living proof of the fact that you can do publishable research simply by following her advice," said Ruth Mann, Mar 11.

"B.F. Skinner’s The operational analysis of psychological terms (Psychological Review 52, 270–277, 1945) is rarely read and even less often understood. Contrary to some misrepresentations of his position, Skinner never doubted that we can describe internal states such as thoughts or emotions, but he wondered how we are able to do this. His answer was surprising, relevant to the practice of psychotherapy, and a challenge to all those who (like some unsophisticated therapists) assume that we can know our own feelings by a simple process of self-inspection," said Richard Bentall, Apr 11

(Please use comments to mention any must-read books or articles you think they missed).
You have read this article with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/the-books-and-journal-articles-all.html. Thanks!

How feeling socially connected can make strangers' hearts beat together

We find it easier to empathise with people who are socially and emotionally close to us, of course we do. Research has even shown how the sight of a loved one in pain triggers a kind of simulation of their agony in the pain network of our own brain. A new study builds on this, showing that superficial feelings of connectedness with a stranger are enough to lead to a mirroring of their emotions and even their heart rate.

In two studies, David Cwir and his collaborators had dozens of undergrads reveal their cultural interests and favourite places to visit. One to ten weeks later, for what they thought was a completely separate study, these same undergrads took part in what was described to them either as a personality and cognition experiment (study one) or an experiment on the physiological effects of exercise (study two).

The general format was the same for both studies: each participant was paired with another student who, unbeknown to them, was an accomplice working for the researchers. The proceedings kicked off casually enough with an experimenter asking the participant and the other student about themselves. Using the survey answers garnered weeks earlier, the researchers contrived things craftily so that the other student either did or didn't share the majority of the participant's own interests. This set-up was designed to provoke feelings of social connectedness with the other student. Based on later questions about how close they felt to the other student and how much they wanted to know them, the manipulation worked.

In the first study, the get-to-know you interview stage was followed by a random task allocation - either the participant would have to give a short presentation or the other student would. In truth, this was fixed and the other student had to do the talk. She acted out the process of preparing to give the talk, and showed every sign of being very stressed and anxious about it. The participants, meanwhile, answered a personality questionnaire, buried in which were questions about their current mood and emotions. The key finding here was that participants who'd been led to feel socially connected to their partner, reported mirroring her emotions - they felt more stressed than the participants who hadn't been prompted to feel socially connected. Empathy, it seems, had been stirred between strangers by the slightest of bonds.

The procedure was similar for the second study, but this time instead of preparing for a presentation, the other student was allocated the task of running on the spot vigorously for three minutes. This time, the sight of their partner running apparently caused the socially connected participants to experience increased heart rate and blood pressure, as compared with the participants who hadn't been prompted to feel socially connected. A weak bond had led the strangers' hearts to beat together.

'The present research suggests that psychologically, the self and the other can blur,' the researchers said. 'Even minimally instantiated social relationships can lead people to experience common psychological and physiological states. If brief social ties can have such effects, the degree to which individuals' psychological experiences arise in tandem with the psychological experiences of others may be more pervasive than now understood.'

ResearchBlogging.orgCwir, D., Carr, P., Walton, G., and Spencer, S. (2011). Your heart makes my heart move: Cues of social connectedness cause shared emotions and physiological states among strangers. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.01.009 [pdf via author website]
You have read this article biological / Social with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-feeling-socially-connected-can-make.html. Thanks!

Psychologists like to cite themselves

In a striking case of the experts falling foul of a phenomenon studied by themselves and their colleagues - the self-serving bias - it turns out that psychologists have a tendency to over-cite their own research papers.

Marc Brysbaert and Sinead Smyth analysed one recent issue of Psychological Science and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition and two recent issues of the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology and the European Journal of Cognitive Psychology.

For each of the articles in these journals, Brysbaert and Smyth used the 'find related records' function on the ISI Web of Science to find the article out there in the wider literature with the greatest overlap in the references it cited, but which was written by a different set of authors. This way the researchers ended up with a list of original target articles, each one paired with a second comparison paper by a different research group, presumably on the same or a highly similar topic (hence the overlap in the reference lists).

To check for a self-citation bias, Brysbaert and Smyth simply looked to see how many times the authors of a target article cited themselves compared with how many times they cited the authors of the comparison paper (and vice versa). For target articles, the average number of self-citations was 4.1 (11 per cent) compared with 2.3 citations of the comparison paper's authors. For the comparison papers, the average number of self-citations was 9 (10 per cent), compared with 1.8 citations of the authors of the target article.

The researchers summed up: 'A typical psychology article contains 3 to 9 self-citations, depending on the length of the reference list ... In contrast, cited colleagues in general receive 1 to 3 citations. This is what we call the self-citation bias: the preference researchers have to refer to their own work when they [supposedly] guide readers to the relevant literature.' The finding adds to past research that's shown academics are biased towards citing other researchers from their own country, and towards citing the work of the editor of the journal their research is published in.

Brysbaert and Smyth believe that psychology researchers indulge in biased self-citation practices not because their own past papers are always necessarily useful to the reader, but because it's 'good for the researchers' esteem, by means of self-enhancement and self-promotion.'

If that's the case, does it work? The evidence for this is mixed. A 2006 study in the field of economics found that papers with more self-citations were no more likely to end up being cited by other research groups. However, another study published in 2007 (pdf), which involved the analysis of over 64,000 Norwegian journal articles, found that authors who self-cited more also tended to receive more citations from others. 'So, although self-citations may not increase the likelihood that a particular article is cited, they do increase the chances that a particular author is cited,' Brysbaert and Smyth explained.

So, what to do about this self-citation bias? One option proposed by Brysbaert and Smyth is for journals editors to impose a cap on self-citations, particularly for journals, like Psychological Science, that have a cap on the total number of references allowed per paper - articles in this journal tended to have the highest proportion of self-citations. What do you think?

ResearchBlogging.orgMarc Brysbaert, and Sinead Smyth (2011). Self-enhancement in scientific research: The self-citation bias, Psychologica Belgica. In Press. [pdf via author website].
You have read this article Methodological with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/psychologists-like-to-cite-themselves.html. Thanks!

Out of the lab and into the waiting room - research on where we look gets real

You know how when you're in an elevator or an underground train, everybody seems to try their darnedest not to look anyone else in the eye. This everyday experience completely contradicts hundreds of psychology studies conducted in the lab, which show how rapidly our attention is drawn to other people's faces and especially their eyes.

Why the contradiction? Because psychologists have used pared down, highly controlled situations to study where people look, often involving faces and social scenes presented on a computer screen. And crucially, when participants look at a monitor, they generally know that the other person can't look back. In real life, things get more complicated - we might not want to engage in eye contact for all the social messages that can send.

Now psychologists are realising it's time to step out of the lab to see how social attention operates in the real world. One step at a time though - they've still kept things fairly basic. Kaitlin Laidlaw and her colleagues rigged 26 student participants up with a mobile eye-tracking head-set and had them sit in a waiting room for a short time.

There was some minor trickery. The participants thought they were waiting for a navigation task, in which their eye movements would be recorded as they went from room to room. That really did happen, but first, for two minutes, whilst an experimenter went to fetch an instruction sheet, the participants' eye movements were recorded for the purposes of the current study.

For half the participants, another student (female, aged 24, and actually an assistant working for the researchers) was sat nearby, fifty inches to the left and 40 inches in front. She was filling in a questionnaire quietly and looked directly at them, with a neutral expression, three times during the two-minute wait. For the other participants, no other person was physically present, but there was a TV monitor located a similar distance away to the right, on which was shown a student filling in a questionnaire (this was the same person as in the other condition, behaving in exactly the same way). The question - how would the participants' head and eye movements differ between the groups?

The participants in the video condition looked at the other student (shown on the monitor) far more often than they looked at a blank computer monitor located elsewhere in the room, and far more often than the participants in the physical presence condition looked at the student sat near them. In fact, the participants in the latter condition didn't look at the physically present student any more than they looked at a blank computer monitor in the room. 'Through the simple act of introducing the potential for social interaction, visual behaviour changed dramatically,' the researchers said.

A further detail was that participants who scored lower on a self-report measure of social skills tended to look more at the other student in the physically present condition. The researchers said this association could be because of their reduced awareness of social etiquette, and could help explain why studies of people diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders have identified anomalies in social attention in real world scenarios, but have often failed to find them in the lab (looking behaviour was unrelated to self-reported social skills in the video monitor condition).

This study is just the start - all sorts of questions remain unanswered, from the effect of wearing sunglasses, so your gaze can't be seen, to cross-cultural comparisons. 'It is important to note that our results do not imply that humans do not possess a bias in real life to attend to other people, as the video-taped confederate condition clearly demonstrates that we do,' the researchers said. 'However, our live-confederate condition provides strong evidence that this behaviour is malleable, and can be influenced by the opportunity for an interaction with the other individual.'

ResearchBlogging.orgLaidlaw, K., Foulsham, T., Kuhn, G., and Kingstone, A. (2011). Potential social interactions are important to social attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108 (14), 5548-5553 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1017022108 [Hat tip: Sarcastic_f]
You have read this article Methodological / Social with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/out-of-lab-and-into-waiting-room.html. Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

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

Brain and Self: Bridging the Gap (Consciousness and Cognition).

Special Issue on Anxiety, dedicated to the memory of Professor Blazej Szymura (Personality and Individual Differences).

The Human Amygdala and Emotional Function (Neuropsychologia).

Behavioral Epigenetics (Hormones and Behaviour).

Female sexual offenders (Journal of Sexual Aggression).

Adult Neurogenesis (European Journal of Neuroscience).
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/the-special-issue-spotter.html. Thanks!


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

Is there a crisis in moral psychology?

Stigma against the fat body shape is spreading round the world.

We're more likely to take the stairs (rather than the escalator) if the person before us does. Effect is more modest between strangers.

Experienced therapists' strategies when facing difficult therapeutic impasses.

Listening to music you don't like interferes with reading comprehension.

Can eating disorders become ‘contagious’ in group therapy and specialized inpatient care?

Recalling their past immoral behaviours leads people to compensate by behaving more morally.

A new scale for measuring boredom at school.

Early birds flock together - 'morning' people are more likely to form a relationship with other morning people (ditto for night owls). '...[T]wo extreme chronotypes are unlikely to meet each other because they have the smallest overlap in their preferred active time during the day due to the circadian rhythmicity.'

Bitter tastes make people more likely to feel disgust at moral transgressions.

A forbidden fruit effect: 'implicitly preventing people from attending to desirable relationship alternatives may undermine, rather than bolster, the strength of that person's romantic relationship ...'

One-year follow-up analysis of cognitive and psychological consequences among survivors of the Wenchuan earthquake.

An examination of the influence of routine behaviour on people's feelings of safety, confidence, and well-being.

Becoming ‘whole’ again: A qualitative study of women's views of recovering from anorexia nervosa.

An intergroup investigation of disparaging humor. 'The findings revealed that both men and women exhibited in-group bias by rating jokes about the opposite gender funnier and more typical than jokes about their own gender...'.

'...the breastfeeding confederate was rated significantly less competent in general, in math and work specifically, and was less likely to be hired ... Results suggest that although breastfeeding may be economical and healthy, the social cost is potentially great'.
You have read this article Extras with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/extras_13.html. Thanks!

Your brain unscrambles words in the mirror but then switches them back again

We humans can recognise things from different angles and orientations. As Jon Duñabeitia and his colleagues observe in their new paper, a tiger is still a tiger whether you see it facing rightwards or leftwards. When it comes to words, though, this skill largely vanishes - mirror-reversed words are especially tricky to read. It makes sense that the brain becomes sensitive to orientation in this way because, unlike the tiger, a 'd' isn't a 'd' when it faces the other way: 'b' (and the same is true for other letters).

The question that Duñabeitia set out to answer is what happens, in the case of letters, to the brain's usual ability to recognise things regardless of their orientation? Is the automatic reversal process somehow unlearned for letters, or is it merely suppressed at a later stage of processing? Given how recently in our evolutionary history we started reading and writing, the latter seems more likely.

However, a recent brain imaging study using fMRI, led by Stanislas Dehaene, suggested that the automatic reversal process was completely blocked when dealing with letters. Dehaene's team found that mirror-reversed words failed to produce a priming effect, either in terms of brain activity or behavioural performance. That is, the subliminal flash of a mirror-reversed word didn't speed up participants' recognition of that same word when it subsequently re-appeared the right way around. This suggests the mirror-reversed words weren't switched around and processed normally by the brain.

But what if the temporal resolution of fMRI is too poor to detect early mirror reversal processes? Duñabeitia's team performed an experiment in which normal and mirror-reversed words were flashed up subliminally prior to repeated presentations of those same words, but they used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure their participants' brain activity. Unlike fMRI, EEG can measure changes in brain activity over sub-second periods (although its spatial resolution is much poorer).

In contrast with Dehaene, Duñabeitia did observe a priming effect for mirror-reversed words. Although at 150ms after a prime, brain activity was different between mirror-reversed and normally oriented prime words, by 250ms the brain's response to these two kinds of prime was the same. In other words, the brain detects the mirror-reversed orientation but by 250ms it has switched it around the right way. By 400ms (still less than half a second) after the prime, the pattern had changed again, so that now the mirror-reversed prime and normally oriented prime provoked different patterns of activity (located towards the back of the brain). This could be the postulated suppression process in action.

The intriguing implication of this research is that when reading mirror-reversed words your brain automatically flips them the right way around - for an imperceptible instant you have a mirror-reading ability - but then it suppresses that effect, putting the mirror reversal back in place again, hence the words appear as awkward to read. This interpretation is consistent with the finding that many young children are capable of spontaneous mirror-writing and reading, perhaps because they have yet to develop the suppression of the automatic reversal process. There are also reports of brain injury prompting the onset of mirror reading.

This new research is more than just curiosity, it could help further our understanding of dyslexia, which in some cases is associated with the unwelcome automatic rotation of letters and words. 'Now we know that rotating letters is not a problem that is exclusive to some dyslexics, since everybody does this in a natural and unconscious way,' said Duñabeitia. 'But what we need to understand is why people who can read normally can inhibit this, while others with difficulties in reading and writing cannot.'

ResearchBlogging.orgDuñabeitia, J., Molinaro, N., and Carreiras, M. (2011). Through the looking-glass: Mirror reading. NeuroImage, 54 (4), 3004-3009 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.10.079 [Article pdf via author website].
You have read this article Brain / Language / Perception with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/your-brain-unscrambles-words-in-mirror.html. Thanks!

Organisations, are your citizens impulsive and your deviants emotionally intelligent?

The following is written by Dr Alex Fradera and is being cross-posted here and over at the new BPS Occupational Digest - a 'child' blog of the Research Digest with a focus on psychology at work.

How would you feel about having someone impulsive join your team? It's possible you'd be concerned: all reckless decisions and blurting out sensitive information, they'll hardly help. How about someone high in emotional intelligence (EI)? A better prospect, surely: mindful of others and pretty decent all round.

In a recent study, Doan Winkel of Illinois State University and his collaborators found a different picture. Impulsivity, the degree to which we act spontaneously, was found to lead to more organisational citizenship behaviours (OCBs), discretionary behaviours that promote the organisation. Meanwhile emotional intelligence, as measured using an ability-based assessment (a credible research strategy we've noted before), was associated with deviant behaviours that harm the organisation. These findings are based on 234 participants who rated themselves on a series of questionnaire instruments; the participants came from a range of industries, suggesting the effect may be fairly generalisable.

The findings actually aren't so surprising. EI is a useful resource that helps develop networks, figure out hierarchy, and influence others. But the capacity for action that this provides can be put to many uses. The emotionally intelligent may figure out that they can get away with self-interested behaviours such as falsifying receipts, or calculate when a well-timed put-down will serve their interests. By rating items on these and other deviant behaviours, participants with higher EI reported more of these activities.

How can we make sense of the impulsivity finding? Well, OCBs are discretionary and can take time away from assigned responsibilities. “In an ideal world, sure I'd keep on top of organisational developments and help out my struggling colleagues, but now, with this deadline?” reasons the cautious employee. Meanwhile, the rating data suggests that their impulsive colleagues jump in to help more often, less mindful of downsides to doing the right thing. In a sense, impulsivity reflects a 'can-do' spirit, full of motivational energy to act.

The researchers expected to also find more intuitive effects of impulsivity being associated with deviant behaviours and EI relating to organisational citizenship. Surprisingly, these previously reported effects weren't found here, leading the authors to call for a greater understanding of what is needed for them to arise.

This study is not the first to find these kinds of incongruous effects. There's evidence that optimism and cognitive ability, both sought by employers everywhere, also predict deviant behaviour. These counter-intuitive findings are useful; they caution us against viewing individual qualities as forever good or bad, turning organisational people strategy into a game of Top Trumps where we try to collect the 'best'. It's clear instead that a characteristic represents both benefit and risk, is a potential rather than given, and that potential depends on many factors, including the workplace situation itself.

ResearchBlogging.orgWinkel, D., Wyland, R., Shaffer, M., and Clason, P. (2011). A new perspective on psychological resources: Unanticipated consequences of impulsivity and emotional intelligence Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84 (1), 78-94 DOI: 10.1348/2044-8325.002001

If you enjoyed this post, check out the BPS Occupational Digest blog where you can find plenty of similar material, and also sign up for the monthly email.
You have read this article Occupational with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/organisations-are-your-citizens.html. Thanks!

Online ostracism affects young children differently from teenagers and adults

Social ostracism on a computer hurts, just like face-to-face rejection. That much we know from past studies using a game called 'Cyberball', in which players pass a virtual ball to eachother on-screen. For the first time, a new study has extended this line of research to children as young as eight. It finds that online ostracism hurts them too but in a different way from teenagers and adults.

A team led by Dominic Abrams invited 41 8- to 9-year-olds, 79 13- to 14-year-olds and 46 adults to play a version of Cyberball adapted so that it was suitable for young children. The participants were led to believe that they were playing a game of catch online with two other real people who were using computers located elsewhere, out of sight. The players all appeared onscreen as generic figures, with names underneath showing who is who. In reality the other players were computer controlled and the game was fixed so that on one of the three rounds played, the participant was ignored and left out by the other two players.

After each round, the participants rated their agreement with three statements regarding the game: 'I felt good about myself' (a measure of self-esteem); 'I felt like the odd one out' (a measure of belongingness); 'I felt invisible' (a measure of what the researchers called 'meaningful existence'); and 'I felt in charge during the game' (a measure of control) . The participants also said how much they enjoyed playing, which was taken as a measure of mood.

The key finding is that being ostracised by other players had adverse effects for all age groups, but that the exact nature of these effects varied according to age group. That is, the young children particularly took a self-esteem hit whereas the adolescents mostly suffered a loss of belonging. The adults' suffered across the board, except for their self-esteem, which was relatively unaffected. Finally, being ostracised had an adverse effect on participants' mood in the same way regardless of age group. From an ethical point of view, the researchers said it was reassuring to note that a final game round, in which participants were not rejected, led to a complete restoration on all of the measures taken.

Abrams and his team believe their study has provided an important proof of principle - that Cyberball can be used with young children, and that future research can now explore in more detail the psychological effects of ostracism in early childhood and how these can be ameliorated. A major shortcoming of the study, acknowledged by the researchers, is the one-item measures used. 'It would be ideal to have more extensive measures of the need threats, and to employ non-self-report measures,' they said.

ResearchBlogging.orgAbrams, D., Weick, M., Thomas, D., Colbe, H., and Franklin, K. (2011). On-line ostracism affects children differently from adolescents and adults. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29 (1), 110-123 DOI: 10.1348/026151010X494089
You have read this article Developmental / Rejection / Social with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/online-ostracism-affects-young-children.html. Thanks!

Win a signed copy of The Rough Guide to Psychology

This competition has closed. Thanks for all your entries. The correct answer was William James. The winners are James Hegarty in New Zealand and Libby Berry in Canada. 

The competition

Who is the famous psychologist from psychology's past pictured on the back of the book? Email your answer to christianjarrett [at] gmail.com, placing "Rough Guide Competition" in the subject line. Entries will be picked at random on Monday 18 April and the first two correct entrants will receive a free, signed copy of The Rough Guide to Psychology.

The book

The Rough Guide to Psychology takes you on a tour of the latest psychological science. Starting with you, your development, your memories, emotions and relationships, it broadens out to consider intelligence, personality, morality, politics, sport, crime, shopping, mental illness and much more. Lavishly illustrated, the accessible approach makes it suitable for beginners, while the coverage of cutting-edge studies and contemporary controversies will appeal to those already expert in the subject.

The reception

The eminent psychologist and Royal Society Fellow Professor Uta Frith called it "frighteningly up-to-date" and said it dealt with the subject with "due wonder" and also "healthy scepticism". Books Monthly said it was a "wonderful treatise" written "in a language anyone can understand". Human Givens magazine said it was a "readable romp" with new findings presented "simply and with humour". The Times said "Dr Jarrett delves inside our grey matter to explain what makes us who we are". Oliver Burkeman, author of a self-help column for The Guardian said: "Lonely Planet, the gauntlet is thrown!" Mo Costandi, author of the Neurophilosophy book said "it's produced beautifully". Claudia Hammond, presenter of BBC Radio Four's All in the Mind, said "you don't half cover a lot".

The author

Christian Jarrett edits the British Psychological Society's Research Digest and is staff writer on their house magazine The Psychologist. With a PhD in cognitive neuroscience and several writing awards under his belt, Jarrett has published in a host of magazines and newspapers including New Scientist, Psychologies, The Times, Wired, and BBC Focus. In 2008 he co-authored This Book Has Issues, Adventures in Popular Psychology. He also contributed to Mind Hacks and 30-Second Theories. He is editor and contributing author for 30-Second Psychology due later this year.

The Rough Guide to Psychology is available from Amazon and all good book stores.
You have read this article Announcements / Competitions with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/win-signed-copy-of-rough-guide-to.html. Thanks!

Live worm during political TV debates could be a threat to democracy

It seems like sports pundits and political commentators are engaged in a private competition to see who can make the most use of the latest graphical wizardry. Whilst the former 'draw' in white pen over video stills of matches, a recent political toy is to present a live 'worm' during election debates, depicting the fluctuating average emotional ratings recorded by a group of undecided voters. The horizontal squiggle, which appears on-screen during the debate, veers upwards when the group like what they hear and slopes downwards when they don't.

The gizmo was deployed in the UK during the three live TV Prime Ministerial Debates shown prior to the 2010 general election, and has been used in many other countries including the US and Australia. It may seem like fun, but a new study by psychologists claims it's a threat to a healthy democracy.

Colin Davis and colleagues recruited 150 undergrads to watch the third and final Prime Ministerial debate live, which was broadcast on BBC One and, like the others, featured the Labour incumbent Gordon Brown, Conservative party leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. Unbeknown to the participants, the researchers doctored the broadcast, overlaying their own version of the worm. Half the participants saw a version in which the worm was biased in favour of Brown, the other half saw a version in which it was biased in favour of Clegg.

The killer finding is that the participants' own subsequent perception of the debate was influenced by the manipulated worm. In the Brown-biased group, 47 per cent felt Brown had won (vs. 35 per cent who thought Clegg and 13 per cent who thought Cameron). In contrast, in the Clegg-biased group, 79 per cent felt he'd won (vs. 9 per cent for Brown and 4 per cent for Cameron).

The participants' own prior candidate preference was the strongest factor affecting their judgements but crucially, even after this was taken into account, the worm still played a strong part in participants' judgments of who won the debate. This was true even when participants said they disagreed with the verdict of the worm.

Perhaps most worryingly, the biased worm also affected participants' subsequent claims about who was their preferred prime minister. A related further detail is that the worm's influence exceeded participants' perceptions of the worm's movement (based on their answer to the question: 'Based on the movements of the worm, which leader do you think did best?') This suggests it could be difficult for viewers of political debates to deliberately discount the influence of the worm.

It's worth remembering too, that in real life, the movement of the worm is based on the live ratings given by a small sample of just 20 to 30 people, often recruited from nearby the television studio - hardly a representative group. 'In sum,' the researchers said, 'our data indicate that viewers exposed to the worm are subject to social influence processes which later form the basis of their opinions. Thus, the responses of a small group of individuals could, via the worm, influence millions of voters. This possibility is not conducive to a healthy democracy.'

ResearchBlogging.orgDavis, C., Bowers, J., and Memon, A. (2011). Social Influence in Televised Election Debates: A Potential Distortion of Democracy PLoS ONE, 6 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018154 

[The image is a detail taken from a figure in the journal article].
You have read this article Political; Social with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/live-worm-during-political-tv-debates.html. Thanks!

Psychologists destroy money for the sake of science

When the British acid house band The KLF videoed the burning of a million pounds in 1994 on the Isle of Jura, they might not have realised it, but they were likely activating the left hemisphere tool network of anyone who watched.

In a splendid case of science imitating one of the quirkier corners of life, Cristina Becchio and her colleagues, including the British husband and wife team Chris and Uta Frith, scanned the brains of twenty people as they watched brief video clips of 100 or 500 Danish Kroner bank notes (worth ten or fifty pounds, respectively) being torn or cut in half*. For comparison, the participants also viewed the same value notes being folded or looked at, and they also viewed valueless notes with scrambled imagery on them being destroyed or folded.

Compared with the other video clips, the sight of bank notes being destroyed led to increased activation in brain regions previously associated with looking at, identifying and using tools - that is, the left fusiform gyrus and the left posterior precuneus. This activation was greater when it was higher value notes being destroyed. Participants also said they felt more aroused and less comfortable when watching the money being destroyed than when watching the other videos.

Why wasn't the inferior parietal lobule, the final part of the so-called left hemisphere tool network, activated? Perhaps because activity here is associated with specific motor skills and hand movements involved in tool use, and the use of money isn't dependent on any particular skilled movements.

The researchers' interpretation of their finding is that the videos showing the cutting and tearing of money prompted participants to focus on the usual function of money as a tool for representing the value of goods and services. '... [T]he fact that the brain does treat money as a tool for tracking exchange on a precise scale suggests that a tool explanation of money is more than just a useful metaphor,' they said.

An alternative explanation for the results is simply that the extra activation during the destructive clips was caused by the emotional effect of seeing money destroyed, in line with the participants' subjective accounts of how they felt. But Becchio and her team doubt this is the true cause of their results - they found no activation in brain regions usually associated with financial loss and there were no correlations between levels of brain activity and the arousal and comfort ratings.

The KLF were unavailable for comment.

ResearchBlogging.orgBecchio, C., Skewes, J., Lund, T., Frith, U., Frith, C., and Roepstorff, A. (2011). How the brain responds to the destruction of money. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 4 (1), 1-10 DOI: 10.1037/a0022835

*Prior agreement for this was obtained from the Danske Bank of Denmark, to whom damaged notes were returned after the study was completed.
You have read this article Brain / Cognition with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/psychologists-destroy-money-for-sake-of.html. Thanks!

Why you should fill your rooms with rounded, curvy furniture

The principle of Feng shui - to arrange rooms and buildings in ways that are pleasing and health-giving - has popular appeal. Unfortunately, Feng shui's scientific credentials are lacking, being based as it is on the ancient Chinese concept of Ch'i or life-force. The good news is that psychologically informed, evidence-based design is on the increase. Consider this new study by Sibel Dazkir and Marilyn Read, which has compared the effects of curvilinear (rounded) and rectilinear (straight-edged) furniture on people's emotions.

Over one-hundred undergrad participants viewed four computer-generated room interiors via an online survey, and provided ratings about how each one made them feel in terms of pleasure (e.g. how happy, hopeful) and approach (how much time they'd like to spend in the room; how sociable the room made them feel). Two of the rooms contained curvy, rounded furniture arranged in two different ways, whilst in the other two rooms all the furniture had straight edges and sharp angles, arranged in the same two different formations. To control for other influences, the rooms were in grey-scale and devoid of any patterned decor or artwork.

Overall, the students rated the rooms negatively because they found them boring - no surprise given their simplistic form and lack of colour. Crucially, however, the two room versions full of curvilinear furniture provoked significantly higher pleasure and approach ratings from the students. In open-ended questions afterwards the students made comments like 'I like the rounded shapes. They make the furniture look comfortable and inviting.' Another said: 'The rounded furniture seems to give off that calming feel.'

Obviously this is just a preliminary result - future research needs to test cross-cultural samples, check whether the effects apply when people actually enter rooms furnished in these different ways, and check whether or not influences of colour and patterns drown out the effects of furniture shape. It's also worth considering whether rectilinear-themed rooms may have their own benefits for purposes other than relaxing and socialising. In the meantime, the researchers said their results 'can guide designers to design more welcoming and pleasant environments with the use of curvilinear lines in their designs.'

ResearchBlogging.orgDazkir, S. and Read, M. (2011). Furniture Forms and Their Influence on Our Emotional Responses Toward Interior Environments. Environment and Behavior DOI: 10.1177/0013916511402063. Image is taken from the paper. 
You have read this article environmental with the title April 2011. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-you-should-fill-your-rooms-with.html. Thanks!