People who are more aware of their own heart-beat have superior time perception skills

What underlies our sense of time? A popular account claims an internal pacemaker emits regular pulses, which are detected by an accumulator. The amount of accumulated pulses represents the amount of time that's passed.

Trouble is, this is all very theoretical and no-one really knows how or where in the brain these functions are enacted. One suggestion is that the pulses are based on bodily feedback and in particular the heart-beat. Consistent with this is a recent brain imaging study that showed activity in the insular (a brain region associated with representing internal bodily states) rose linearly as people paid attention to time intervals (pdf). Now a behavioural study by Karin Meissner and Marc Wittmann has built on these findings by showing that people who are more sensitive to their own heart-beat are also better at judging time intervals.

Thirty-one participants listened to auditory tones of either 8, 14, or 20 seconds duration. After each one, they heard a second tone and had to press a button when they thought its duration matched the first. Counting was forbidden during the task and a secondary, number-based memory task helped enforce this rule. Heart-beat perception accuracy was measured separately and simply involved participants counting silently their own heart-beats over periods of 25, 35, 45 and 60 seconds.

The take away message is that the participants who were more in tune with their heart-beats also tended to perform better at the time estimation task. A further detail is that physiological measures taken during the encoding part of the task showed that as time went on, the participants' heart-rate slowed progressively, and their skin conductance (i.e. amount of sweat on the skin) reduced. Moreover, the rate of change in a participant's heart-rate (but not skin conductance) was linked with the accuracy of their subsequent time estimates.

'These results suggest that the processing of interoceptive signals [i.e. of internal bodily states] in the brain might contribute to our sense of time,' Meissner and Wittmann concluded.

The new findings add to past research showing that patients with cardiac arrhythmia are poorer than controls at time estimation tasks, and that drug-induced speeding or slowing of the autonomic nervous system (including heart-rate) affects people's under- or over-estimation of time intervals.

ResearchBlogging.orgMeissner, K., and Wittmann, M. (2011). Body signals, cardiac awareness, and the perception of time. Biological Psychology, 86 (3), 289-297 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.01.001
You have read this article biological / Brain / Perception / Time with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Sweaty work in the hunt for the brain basis of social anxiety

Anxiety has overtaken depression to become the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorder in the United States, with social anxiety its most frequent manifestation. Part of the cause of extreme social anxiety is thought to be related to bad experiences - being laughed at in class, blushing in front of friends, choking on a first date - so that a person learns to fear social situations. But that's unlikely to be the whole story. Social anxiety runs in families suggesting some people have an innate predisposition for the disorder. The authors of a new study believe they've identified, for the first time, a neural correlate of this vulnerability.

Wen Zhou and colleagues scanned the brains of nineteen women while they were exposed to the smell of two types of men's sweat, a floral scent, and the human steroid (and putative pheromone) androstadienone. One of the male sweat types was sexual, the other was neutral, and they were collected from men's armpits as they watched either a sexual film or an educational documentary. The women weren't told what the different smells were or where they came from.

Human sweat is known to convey social signals. For example, it's been shown that people can tell a person's emotional state purely from the smell of their sweat. The key findings in this new study are that the two types of sweat, compared to the other odours, led to increased activation in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) of the women's brains, and that the level of this activation was related to the women's amount of self-reported trait social anxiety. The women didn't have any psychiatric diagnoses but the higher they scored on a measure of trait social anxiety (e.g. they said they felt uncomfortable in large groups), the less activation they exhibited in their OFC when exposed to the men's sweat.

It's important to emphasise that most of the women (nearly 90 per cent) didn't realise the smells were from humans, and the smells had no effect on their in-the-moment mood or anxiety levels. Consistent with this, the different smells didn't differentially affect the amygdala, a bilateral subcortical structure associated with fear processing. What the study appears to be showing is that subconscious social signals trigger increased OFC activity compared with nonsocial smells, and that the level of this activity is moderated by trait social anxiety.

Why the OFC? The OFC is heavily interconnected with the amygdala and is known to be involved in the learning of rewards and punishments and in decision-making. Another brain imaging study found that public speaking was associated with increased activation in the amygdala and reduced activation in the OFC. So it makes sense that people with a predisposition for social anxiety may have an OFC cortex that functions differently from those without such a disposition.

'Whether such inherent variations can be directly mapped onto genetic differences or personality traits in both normal and clinical populations, is an important open question and this deserves serious studies in the future,' the researchers said.

ResearchBlogging.orgZhou, W., Hou, P., Zhou, Y., and Chen, D. (2010). Reduced recruitment of orbitofrontal cortex to human social chemosensory cues in social anxiety. NeuroImage DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.12.064
You have read this article Brain / Mental health with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

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

The role of touch in marketing (Psychology and Marketing).

International perspectives on stalking (Behavioural Sciences and the Law).

Narrative and psychotherapy (Psychotherapy Research).

Threat-Detection and Precaution: Neuro-physiological, Behavioral, Cognitive and Psychiatric Aspects (Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews).

Executive Function (Journal of Experimental Child Psychology).

Personal relationships in late life (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships).

The Contribution of Systematic Case Study Research to Building an Evidence Base for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Counselling and Psychotherapy).
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Envy is a stronger motivator than admiration

Admiration is happy self-surrender; envy is unhappy self-assertion. Søren Kierkegaard
Mind Hacks, Not Exactly Rocket Science, The Frontal Cortex ... there are so many successful blogs out there for the Digest to admire. Or envy. In fact envy might be better. Although considered a sin, envy rather than admiration, drives us toward self-improvement. That's according to Niels van de Ven and colleagues who provoked envy and admiration in their Dutch participants and then observed the effects this had.

For a preliminary study, 17 undergrads were asked to describe someone they knew who was better at something than they were. The more 'benign envy' (the person's superior achievements are seen as deserved) provoked by this thought, as opposed to malicious envy (their success is seen as undeserved), or admiration, then the more likely participants were to say that they planned to ramp up their study time in the next semester.

It was a similar story when 82 participants were asked to recall a time they'd felt either benign envy, malicious envy or admiration (there was also a control group who didn't do the recall task). Afterwards, those participants who'd recalled an experience of benign envy performed better at a word association task, compared with the other participants.

For a third study, a further 96 participants read about a fellow student called Hans de Groot, who'd just won a prize for his excellent scholarship. Some of the participants were asked to imagine feeling benign envy towards him, the others malicious envy or admiration. To strengthen the effect, they were asked to ponder how they'd feel and react if they met him. Once again, the participants primed to experience benign envy went on to perform better, and spend longer, on a word association task, compared with the other participants.

Having established the contrasting effects of admiration and envy, the researchers turned to the circumstances that tend to elicit one emotion more than the other. Perhaps the effect a successful person has on us depends in part on whether we think their achievements are beyond our reach. In a final study, van de Ven and his colleagues primed half their participants with an 'effort is futile' mindset by having them read a fictional biography of a successful scientist who'd enjoyed good fortune all his life. The other participants read a version in which the scientist's success was all down to effort, not luck. Next, in what they thought was a separate task, the students read about the prize-winning scholar from the previous study, Hans de Groot. The important finding here was that students primed with an 'effort is futile' mindset were more likely to say they felt admiration towards de Groot, whereas those primed with an 'effort pays' mindset were more likely to say they felt benign envy. Moreover, it was the participants who felt more envy, rather than admiration, who said they planned to work harder in the next semester.

'Is benign envy therefore better than admiration?' the researchers asked rhetorically. 'It might be, but although self-assertion increases performance, self-surrender feels better. So, the answer to the question whether to admire or to be envious might depend on what matters most: feeling better or performing better.'

ResearchBlogging.orgvan de Ven, N., Zeelenberg, M., and Pieters, R. (2011). Why Envy Outperforms Admiration. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin DOI: 10.1177/0146167211400421

Want to read more about the psychology of sin? Check out the Digest's Sin Week special feature.
You have read this article Sin Week / Social with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

More serious brain injuries associated with more life satisfaction

Psychologists investigating the well-being of patients with an acquired brain injury (ABI) have documented a curious phenomenon, whereby the more serious a person's brain injury, the higher their self-reported life-satisfaction.

With the help of the charity Headway UK, Janelle Jones and her colleagues recruited 630 people (aged 9 to 81) with an acquired brain injury. Most had sustained their injuries from road accidents, with other causes including stroke and falls. Based on the time they'd spent in a coma, the majority of the participants' injuries were judged to be moderate to severe.

The participants answered a brief, 20-item questionnaire about their sense of identity (e.g. 'I think of myself as someone who has survived a brain injury'), their social support, relationship changes since their injury, and their life-satisfaction.

Having a strong sense of identity, seeing oneself as a survivor, having plenty of social support and improved relationships were all independently related to higher life satisfaction. These different factors also influenced each other. '...[I]t is likely that personal identity and social network support factors operate in a cyclical way,' the researchers said, 'whereby becoming personally stronger from effectively relying on social support also makes individuals more likely to continue to seek out social support and, in that way, to develop social capital.'

Perhaps the most curious finding was that participants who'd sustained more serious injuries tended to report being more satisfied with their lives. This association was mediated by the social and identity factors - that is, participants who'd sustained a more serious injury also tended to identify more strongly as a survivor, and to have more social support and improved relationships.

An obvious suggestion is that the more seriously injured participants might not have complete insight into their lives. Jones and her colleagues doubt this is the case, in part because of the logic of the results, with identity and social support mediating the higher life satisfaction among these participants.

'Sustaining a head injury does not always lead to a deterioration in one's quality of life,' the researchers concluded. '...[D]ata from this study serves to tell a coherent story about the way in which the quality of life of those who experience ABIs can be enhanced by the personal and social "identity work" that these injuries require them to perform. ... Nietzsche, then, was correct to observe that that which does not kill us can make us stronger.'

ResearchBlogging.orgJones, J., Haslam, S., Jetten, J., Williams, W., Morris, R., and Saroyan, S. (2011). That which doesn't kill us can make us stronger (and more satisfied with life): The contribution of personal and social changes to well-being after acquired brain injury. Psychology and Health, 26 (3), 353-369 DOI: 10.1080/08870440903440699
You have read this article Brain / Health with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!


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

Local effects on people's belief in global warming. Can I call this the Daily Express effect? "Respondents who thought that day [they were surveyed] was warmer than usual believed more in and had greater concern about global warming than did respondents who thought that day was colder than usual"

Social relationships get better with age. Here's why.

Can you pay people to remember better? Only if the material is boring.

The experiences of psychologists from different countries in responding to crises, including natural disasters.

Children as young as five show a preference for other children of the same race. This new study shows the same is not true of infants.

Bad smells encourage condom use.

Frequent sex can stop neuroticism from harming marital satisfaction.

How metaphors affect our reasoning. "We find that exposure to even a single metaphor can induce substantial differences in opinion about how to solve social problems ..." Coverage from Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

An analysis of the role that different aspects of executive functioning play in student procrastination.

Believing more in chance or fate helps people cope with the death of a spouse.

The present research examined who tends to experience music-induced chills and why.

Available in all good toy stores (or maybe not) - the Implicit Association Test for kids.

A clinical study of those who utter threats to kill.

Whatever Happened to Counseling in Counseling Psychology?

People primed to feel more socially secure subsequently placed less monetary value on their possessions.

Creative people are judged as less suitable for leadership positions.
You have read this article Extras with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Is God always on the right?

This former Republican President claims to read the bible daily 
Holding conservative values tends to go hand in hand with being more religious, at least in the United States. Indeed, the idea that the US is divided between liberal atheists versus religious conservatives is at the heart of the country's so-called 'Culture Wars'. This has led some psychologists to suggest that there's a deep-seated link between conservatism and religiosity, such that the same innate attitudes and motivations that drive one also drive the other. A new study challenges this claim, providing evidence instead that the conservative/religiosity overlap is created largely by the contemporary political discourse, as peddled in the media. Among people who don't follow political news and commentary, Ariel Malka and his colleagues found that the typical conservative/religiosity link was largely absent.

Malka's team analysed data collected from 7,056 US citizens between 1996 and 2008. The participants answered questions about their degree and denomination of religiosity, their favoured political party (Democrat or Republican), their position on various political issues such as gun control and immigration, and their level of political engagement - for example whether they read the newspaper or followed political news.

The usual link between religiosity and conservatism was found. But crucially, this association was strongly moderated by political engagement. So, for those who were highly politically engaged, religiosity tended to go hand in hand with nearly every conservative characteristic that was measured, including party identification and views on gender roles, gun control and homosexuality. The only exceptions were immigration and the death penalty, for which religiosity predicted a more liberal view. In contrast, for people who weren't politically engaged, the religiosity/conservatism link was profoundly diminished, to just four of the twelve conservative characteristics that were measured.

Malka and his colleagues conceded that the remaining conservatism/religiosity link, even among those low in political engagement, suggests that there may be some truth in the idea of an organic link between the two belief systems. 'However,' they added, 'when considering the full range of preferences and values associated with "conservatism" nowadays, engagement with political communication seems to be the predominant factor that drives the alignment of religiosity and political orientation.'

What this suggests in simple terms is that politically engaged, religious Americans watch the news and listen to political commentaries and this leads them to shift towards more conservative values. Or, alternatively, it means politically engaged, conservative folk watch the news and listen to the commentaries, and this encourages them towards religion. Either way, or both ways, it seems these people are being swayed by the contemporary political discourse in the United States.

One final, alternative interpretation is that political engagement is affected by people's religiosity/political match-up, rather than affecting it. By this account, when people's politics and religion don't match, they choose to disengage from politics. Longitudinal research is needed to test this. 'We hope that the present analyses are supplemented with cross-national, time series, longitudinal, and experimental analyses to enhance understanding of how context of information influences the relation between these two socially significant constructs,' the researchers said.

ResearchBlogging.orgAriel Malka, Yphtach Lelkes, Sanjay Srivastava, Adam Cohen, and Dale Miller (2011). Religiosity, political engagement, and political conservatism. Political Psychology. In Press. pdf via author website.
You have read this article Political with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

An afternoon nap tunes out negative emotions, tunes in positive ones

The perfect excuse for a siesta! People who stay awake throughout the day become progressively more sensitive to negative emotions. In contrast, those who take an afternoon nap are desensitised to negative emotions yet more responsive to positive ones. The new finding builds on past research by showing that not only does sleep deprivation cause emotional problems, a sleep boost can bring emotional advantages.

Ninad Gujar and his colleagues tested 36 participants (half were male; average age 21) on a face processing task, once at 12pm and then again at 5pm. Half the participants were given a 90-minute napping opportunity after the first task, whilst the others just went about their day as usual.

The task involved the participants looking at a computer screen that showed a male face pulling fearful, sad, angry and happy expressions at various intensities. The participants' goal quite simply was to rate each presentation of the face for intensity on a scale from 1 (definitely neutral) to 4 (mostly happy/sad etc).

For participants who stayed awake through the afternoon, their performance at 5pm, compared with at 12pm, demonstrated heightened sensitivity to fearful and angry facial expressions. By contrast, the participants who'd had a nap were less sensitive to fearful expressions at 5pm yet more sensitive to happy expressions. These emotional processing changes were also accompanied by mood differences: the no-nap group reported less positive mood later in the afternoon, compared with earlier, whereas the nap-group reported a decrease in negative mood.

The emotional processing changes observed among the nap-group were related to rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. EEG recordings taken while the nappers slept showed that those who obtained REM sleep were more likely to show the desensitisation to negative emotions and sensitisation to positive ones.

An alternative interpretation of the results is that napping affects visual processing, not emotional sensitivity. But the researchers don't think this stands up to much scrutiny, since any basic visual processing effects ought to have been uniform across the different emotions.

So, assuming the emotional sensitivity account is true, why might the non-napping participants have become more sensitive to negative emotions? One possibility, which is backed up by sleep deprivation research, is that the prefrontal cortex becomes fatigued through the day and therefore less able to dampen down emotional reactivity in the sub-cortex. Alternatively, perhaps heightened sensitivity to fear and anger is adaptive - as we fatigue through the day, it makes sense that we should become more vigilant towards these danger-based signals. Either way, a brief nap appears to give us an emotional recharge, altering the way we respond to other people's facial expressions. The implications for working practices are obvious.

'These data add to a growing collection of findings indicating a regulatory role for sleep in the optimal homeostasis of emotional brain function,' the researchers said, 'which if disrupted may have detrimental contributions to clinical symptomotology in affective disorders.'

ResearchBlogging.orgGujar, N., McDonald, S., Nishida, M., and Walker, M. (2010). A Role for REM Sleep in Recalibrating the Sensitivity of the Human Brain to Specific Emotions. Cerebral Cortex, 21 (1), 115-123 DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhq064

Earlier on the Digest: How to nap
You have read this article Sleep and dreaming with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

New gadget provides fresh insight into goose-bumps

My most recent experience of goose-bumps (aka goose-flesh) was watching the latest episode of Being Human, the BBC's supernatural drama. This rather odd form of emotional reaction, in which a chill is felt and bumps form on the skin and the hairs stand erect, was noted by Darwin and has continued to intrigue scientists. Unfortunately, past research into 'piloerection' (to use its technical name) has been hampered by the lack of an objective measure.

Previous experiments relied on participants indicating when they were experiencing the feeling. This is problematic: the feeling might be illusory; participants' internally-focused vigilance creates an unnatural situation; and the act of indicating how one is feeling can interfere with other physiological measures taken at the same time. Now Mathias Benedek and Christian Kaernbach have taken a fresh look at goose-bumps using a new objective measure - a camera that records the skin of the forearm and uses an algorithm to detect the trade-mark pimpling and raising of the hairs.

Benedek and Kaernbach wired fifty undergrads (seven males) up to their new piece of kit. The students then listened to four music clips and four clips from films (each between 90 seconds and five minutes long). These were from a larger selection picked for their power to provoke goose-bumps. Examples included My Heart Will Go On, performed by Celine Dion; Only Time, performed by Enya; a scene from Armageddon (in which the astronaut says good-bye to his daughter before sacrificing his own life for the good of mankind); and a scene from Braveheart (featuring a stirring speech by William Wallace).

The study threw up a host of new findings. The film clips were a more reliable provoker of goose-bumps than the music clips (24 per cent vs. 11 per cent). The participants had heard of most of the music and film material, but there was a tendency for unfamiliar clips to have more goose-bump power. Overall it was fairly tricky to provoke goose-bumps, with only 40 per cent of the clips doing so. There was also a gender difference - none of the men experienced goose-bumps vs. 47 per cent of the women - but this has to be taken with caution because there were so few men in the sample.

Sometimes there was a mismatch between the objective measure of goose-bumps and participants' self-report. On 34 per cent of the occasions that their hairs stood on end, participants didn't report they had goose-bumps. Contrarily, on 11 per cent of trials, participants said they had goose-bumps when in fact they didn't. These data highlight the risks associated with relying on self-report.

From a theoretical perspective the most important findings relate to the physiological correlates of goose-bumps. One existing theory states that goose-bumps are a marker of peak arousal. The current study found that goose-bumps correlated with increased heart rate and blood pressure. On the other hand, breathing deepened during goose-bumps, and participants reported feeling more 'moved' when they had goose-bumps, not more aroused, neither of which is consistent with the peak arousal account.

Another hypothesis holds that goose-bumps are provoked by sadness, creating a cold sensation which promotes an evolutionary advantageous desire for social reunion. Benedek and Kaernbach said the increased heart rate, deep breathing (non-crying sadness has these effects too) and feeling of 'being moved' are consistent with this account. However, they also acknowledged that previous studies have found that goose-bumps are often pleasurable. Taken altogether, the researchers think goose-bumps probably reflect a distinct emotional state, a kind of awed mixture of fear and joy. In English and French we lack a dedicated word for this, but in German they have 'Rührung' and 'Ergriffenheit', which means something similar.

The researchers' conclusion is that given the low specificity of other physiological measures of emotion, measuring goose-bumps objectively could prove to be a useful new tool in the psychologist's armamentarium when studying emotional responses.

ResearchBlogging.orgBenedek M, and Kaernbach C (2011). Physiological correlates and emotional specificity of human piloerection. Biological psychology PMID: 21276827
You have read this article biological / Emotion with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

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

Raising healthy children (Child Development).

Special Section on Work Engagement (European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology).

Reviews on addiction (Neuron). open access until March 31

Positive Youth Psychology (The Journal of Positive Psychology).

Cardiovascular Reactivity at a Crossroads: Where are we now? (Biological Psychology).

Health promotion interventions (Psychology and Health).

National Identity and Ingroup–Outgroup Attitudes in Children: The Role of Socio-Historical Settings (European Journal of Developmental Psychology).

Metacognitive disturbances amongst individuals with complex mental health problems: Psychopathology and treatment (Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice). open access
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

A preliminary psychology of homework

Older pupils, especially boys, prefer to do homework, at home, alone
The beneficial effect of homework, if they get round to it, on pupils' subsequent academic grades has been shown before. It's somewhat surprising, therefore, how little research has looked at how teenagers feel about homework, where they do it and who they do it with. Hayal Zackar and her team have made a start.

The researchers asked 331 high school and middle school pupils (aged 11 to 18) in the USA to wear for one week a special watch that beeped eight times a day at random intervals. When the watch went off, the teenagers had to fill out a brief form indicating what they were doing, who they were with and how they felt. This process, known as the experience sampling method, captured a total of 1315 homework episodes in various places.

The results suggested a developmental trend in the way teens view their homework. Middle school pupils (average age 13 years) reported similar levels of concentration regardless of where they did their homework, be that at home, in class, at school (not in class), whilst overall they enjoyed doing homework more away from home. By contrast, high school pupils (average age 16) showed a different pattern, experiencing more interest and enjoyment of homework when at home.

Another distinction arose for company. Middle schoolers preferred doing their homework with their peers whereas high schoolers experienced higher concentration and enjoyment when doing homework alone. One caveat to this finding related to parents - older pupils were happier with their parents being involved than were the younger pupils.

There were also some gender differences. Generally, girls found homework at home, alone, more stressful than boys, but found homework less stressful than boys when with their friends. There was also one specific 'age by gender' interaction, with high school girls not liking doing homework alone (whereas the general trend with age was for high-schoolers to prefer working alone).

The study has several limitations and should be seen as a preliminary effort. For example, the sample were mainly middle and upper-middle class and it's not clear that the findings will generalise to other groups. Also, although this is a newly published study, the data were actually collected ten years ago. The explosion in Internet tools and distractions could well have changed how teens do their homework, although the researchers say there's no evidence that pupils are doing less homework today than they were before.

'It is important for educators, parents, and others who work with adolescents to know about probable variations in adolescents' experience of homework so that they can better plan for and help adolescents to structure their homework,' the researchers concluded. 'Given the importance of fostering a homework habit for academic success in high school and beyond, it is necessary to understand adolescents' perspectives about this important activity.'

ResearchBlogging.orgKackar, H., Shumow, L., Schmidt, J., and Grzetich, J. (2011). Age and gender differences in adolescents' homework experiences. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.appdev.2010.12.005
You have read this article Educational with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

A real study of magicians' fake movements

Magicians trick us with their sleights of hand, reaching for objects that aren't there and pretending to drop others that they've really kept hold of. This ability is all the more remarkable because research has shown how poor the rest of us are at faking reaching gestures and other movements. Now Cristiana Cavina-Pratesi and her colleagues have used motion-tracking technology to investigate how the magicians do it.

First off, ten magicians and ten controls reached for and picked up a wooden block, or mimed reaching and picking up an imaginary block situated next to the real one. Just as the participants began reaching, their sight was completely obscured by shutter glasses - this was to simulate the way that magicians often look away from where they're reaching. The participants' grasps were performed either with forefinger and thumb or little-finger and thumb, and markers were worn on these digits so they could be monitored with a motion-tracking system.

Just as has been found in earlier research, the controls' pantomime grasping movements were quite distinct from the real thing - the 'maximum grip aperture' (the maximum gap between thumb and finger) was smaller, as was a metric called the 'grip overshoot', calculated from the position of the thumb and fingers during the actual grasp. In contrast, the magicians' maximum grip aperture and grip overshoot were the same whether they actually grasped a real wooden block, or mimed grasping an imaginary one next to it.

Having confirmed that magicians' fake movements really are like the real thing, a second experiment, involving batteries rather than wooden blocks, made things harder. This time, the miming condition was performed without a real, to-be-grasped object anywhere in sight. The seven magicians and seven controls performed their real grasps as before, but when the miming grasps were performed, the batteries were hidden away. Curiously, under these conditions, the magicians were no better at faking than the controls.

The researchers said this suggests that 'the talent of magicians lies in their ability to use visual input from real objects to calibrate a grasping action toward a separate spatial location (that of the imagined object).'

How do they develop this ability? Cavina-Pratesi's team think it reflects a flexibility in the magicians' occipito-parietal system (located towards the back of the brain). 'This flexibility,' they said, 'might exploit mechanisms similar to those underlying people's ability to adapt to spatially displacing prisms through repeated target-directed movements.' They're referring here to the human ability to adapt to prism glasses that distort the visual world. At first the glasses are disorientating, but most people are able to adapt quickly. The researchers said future brain imaging studies will help reveal exactly what's going on in the magicians' brains as they perform their trickery.

ResearchBlogging.orgCavina-Pratesi, C., Kuhn, G., Ietswaart, M., and Milner, A. (2011). The Magic Grasp: Motor Expertise in Deception. PLoS ONE, 6 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016568
You have read this article Brain / Magic with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!


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

Women's brains change in size across the menstrual cycle.

Do positive children become positive adults?

Reminders of death lead people to want to name their children after themselves.

10- to 13-month-old, but not 8-month-old, infants recognise that when big clashes with small, big usually wins.

Nature feature on the 1946 birth-cohort study (pdf).

The illusion of owning a third arm.

People make less impulsive decisions when they have a full bladder (pdf).

The role of working memory capacity in people's ability to perform mental tasks when in pain.

Tended forests had a larger beneficial effect on well-being than wild forests.

A brain imaging study of deliberate forgetting.

Meat-eaters see animals as less human than vegetarians do.

Cultural differences in the perceived intensity of emotion conveyed by people's facial expressions and body language. Co-author Gary McKeown told me: "... the paper advances studies of the universality of the perception of emotional expressions beyond showing static pictures of posed emotional expressions. Instead we showed people in different countries [Serbia, Peru, Guatemala and N. Ireland] video clips of people being somewhat emotional and got them to continuously rate the changes in positive and negative emotion. We found strong similarities in the pattern of perceived emotions, so the ups and downs of positive and negative valence were very similar, providing evidence for the universality of emotional expression. However, we found differences in the intensity to which these were interpreted. The clips featured mostly people from the UK, and the Northern Irish participants saw the most intense levels of emotion (more strictly emotional valence), the other countries varied in the perceived level of intensity although Serbia usually attributed the lowest levels of intensity."
You have read this article Extras with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

The Hillary Clinton effect - how role models work for some people but not others

The benefits, or not, of reading about Ms Clinton 
Fear of prejudice can adversely affect people's performance. For example, female participants reminded of the stereotype that women are innately inferior at maths compared to men, subsequently perform sub-optimally at a maths task, especially in the company of men. This effect, known as stereotype threat, occurs at least in part because of the anxiety that one's own poor performance will be used by the ignorant to bolster their prejudicial beliefs.

An antidote to stereotype threat is to remind people of high achieving members of their in-group. For example, reminding Black Americans of President Obama's success has been shown to improve their subsequent IQ test performance. Psychologists think this 'Obama effect' occurs because the role-model's salient success takes away the burden people feel of having to represent their group.

A new study by Cheryl Taylor and colleagues has built on this literature by showing that the stereotype-busting effect of a role-model only occurs if that role-model's success is perceived as due to their own innate ability and effort. If the role-model is considered to have been lucky then their stereotype-busting power is lost. Taylor's team call this the Hillary Clinton effect.

Dozens of female undergrads rated the extent to which various successful women deserved their success, including Hillary Clinton, Paris Hilton and Oprah Winfrey. Pilot work had already established that Hillary Clinton tends to divide opinion and that was replicated here. Several months later these same female undergrads were recruited for what they thought was a separate study. Their main task was to complete a maths test. Beforehand, however, some of them were reminded of the 'women are poor at maths' stereotype. And within that stereotype-reminded group, before the maths test, half were asked to read a factual account of Hillary Clinton's life, followed by questions on it, whilst the remainder read about a successful British company (this was intended to be innocuous, just to control for the effect of completing a reading comprehension task). The key question was whether reading about Hillary Clinton would have a protective effect or not.

The classic stereotype effect was replicated. Women reminded of the sexist stereotype (and who read about a successful British company) answered 50.7 per cent of attempted items correctly compared with a success rate of 59.3 per cent achieved by women who just took the test without the stereotype reminder (there was no difference in the number of items attempted). What about the participants who read about Hillary Clinton? It depended. For the women who'd earlier said they judged Clinton's success to be deserved and due to her abilities, reading about her offered protection: they scored 62.3 per cent correct. By contrast, for the women who judged Clinton's success as down to luck and nepotism, she offered no protection: they scored just 48.9 per cent correct.

'Reading a factual biography of Hillary Clinton alleviated the performance deficits associated with mathematics stereotype threat for some women, but not for others,' the researchers said. Now more research is needed to explore this effect. For example, the perceived 'likeability', or many other characteristics of the role model, could be the key factor explaining their protective value, rather than the deservingness of their success. In the meantime, Taylor and her colleagues said the stereotype-busting effects of role-models could be enhanced and preserved by ensuring people are aware of the stable and internal causes of the role-models' successes.

ResearchBlogging.orgTaylor, C., Lord, C., McIntyre, R., and Paulson, R. (2011). The Hillary Clinton effect: When the same role model inspires or fails to inspire improved performance under stereotype threat. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations DOI: 10.1177/1368430210382680
You have read this article Social with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Psychologists who Tweet - first major update

This list was updated again in September 2011. We've updated our list of psychologists (plus a few stray neuroscientists, therapists, students and psych-bloggers) who Tweet. Follower counts were correct as of Friday 4 March 2011. Compare with the previous list compiled in November 2010. The Digest feeds and editorial team are in purple highlight.

Laura Kauffman. Child psychologist. Followers: 86444
Richard Wiseman. Parapsychologist. Followers: 68001
George Huba. Psychologist. Followers: 20628
Aleks Krotoski. Psychologist, tech journalist. Followers: 16043
Marsha Lucas. Neuropsychologist. Followers: 14462
Jonah Lehrer. Writer, blogger. Followers: 11080
Dan Ariely. Behavioural Economist, author. Followers: 10314
Jo Hemmings. Celebrity psychologist. Followers: 9735
Steven Pinker. Psycholinguist, evolutionary psychologist, author. Followers: 8978
David Ballard. Psychologist, Head of APA marketing. Followers: 6737
Graham Jones. Internet (cyber) psychologist. Followers: 6603
BPS Research Digest. The BPS Research Digest! Followers: 5417
Melanie Greenberg. Clinical health psychologist. Followers: 4723
Petra Boynton. Psychologist, sex educator. Followers: 4686
Ciarán O'Keeffe. Parapsychologist. Followers: 4603
Vaughan Bell. Clinical neuropsychologist, blogger. Followers: 4109
Mo Costandi. Writer, blogger. Followers: 4072
Jeremy Dean. Blogger. Followers: 3335
John Grohol. Founder of Psychcentral. Followers: 3182
Bruce Hood. Cognitive scientist. Followers: 2602
Rita Handrich. Psychologist, editor. Followers: 2435
David Eagleman. Neuroscientist, author. Followers: 2422
Daniel Levitin. Psychologist, author. Followers: 2419
Brian MacDonald. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 2371
David Webb. Psychology tutor, blogger. Followers: 2320
Sandeep Gautam. Blogger. Followers: 1952
Jay Watts. Clinical psychologist, Lacanian. Followers: 1567
Maria Panagiotidi. Grad student. Followers: 1562
Wendy Cousins. Psychologist and skeptic. Followers: 1473
Anthony Risser. Neuropsychologist, blogger. Followers: 1416
Chris Atherton. Cognitive psychologist. Followers: 1315
G. Tendayi Viki. Social psychologist. Followers: 1267
Ana Loback. Psychologist. Followers: 1244
Alex Linley. Positive psychologist. Followers: 1237
Mark Changizi. Cognitive psychologist, author. Followers: 1221
Jesse Bering. Psychologist, blogger. Followers: 1214
Rolfe Lindgren. Psychologist, personality expert. Followers: 1187
Cary Cooper. Occupational psychologist. Followers: 1093
Jason Goldman85. Grad student, blogger. Followers: 1082
Joseph LeDoux. Neuroscientist, rocker. Followers: 1033
Sophie Scott. Neuroscientist. Followers: 982
Chris French. Anomalistic psychologist. Followers: 973
Dorothy Bishop. Developmental neuropsychologist. Followers: 882
The Neurocritic. Blogger. Followers: 880
Jon Sutton. Editor of The Psychologist. Followers: 796
Karen Pine. Psychologist, author. Followers: 783
Uta Frith. Developmental neuropsychologist, autism expert. Followers: 730
Claudia Hammond. Radio presenter. Followers: 715
John Cacioppo. Psychologist, social neuroscientist. Followers: 705
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. Cognitive neuroscientist. Followers: 691
Mark Batey. Creativity expert. Followers: 682
Rob Archer. Organisational psychologist. Followers: 680
Ben Hawkes. Psychologist, comedian. Followers: 679
Monica Whitty. Cyberpsychologist. Followers: 663
Charles Fernyhough. Developmental psychologist, author. Followers: 662
Marco Iacoboni. Neuroscientist, mirror neuron expert. Followers: 615
James Neill. Psychology lecturer. Followers: 590
Eran Katz. Grad student (tweets in Hebrew). Followers: 549
Rory O'Connor. Health psychologist, suicide researcher. Followers: 526
Tom Stafford. Psychologist, author. Followers: 494
Christopher H. Ramey. Psychologist. Followers: 485
Bruce Hutchison. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 465
Rachel Robinson. Child psychologist. Followers: 447
Manon Eileen. Clinical psychologist and criminologist. Followers: 442
Rebecca Symes. Sports psychologist. Followers: 427
Wray Herbert. Writer for APS, author. Followers: 417
Hilary Bruffell. Social psychologist. Followers: 412
Atle Dyregrov. Psychologist, expert in crisis psychology. Followers: 405
Steven Brownlow. Clinical and forensic psychologist. Followers: 405
Mike Garth. Sports psychologist. Followers: 402
Victoria Galbraith. Counselling psychologist. Followers: 389
Daniel Simons. Cognitive psychologist, author. Followers: 355
Daryl O’Connor. Health psychologist. Followers: 352
David Matsumoto. Psychologist and judoka. Followers: 326
Karen Franklin. Forensic psychologist. Followers: 299
Patrick Macartney. Psychologist and sociologist. Followers: 297
Caroline Watt. Parapsychologist. Followers: 296
Ciarán Mc Mahon. Psychologist. Followers: 283
Tim Byron. Music psychologist. Followers: 275
Voula Grand. Psychologist and writer. Followers: 273
Lorna Quandt. Grad student. Followers: 267
Alex Fradera. Psychologist and editor. 267
Bex Hewett. PhD student in occupational psychology. Followers: 261
Kevin McGrew. Intelligence expert. Followers: 259
Daniela O'Neill. Developmental psychologist. Followers: 245
Sean Nethercott. Psychologist. Followers: 243
Romeo Vitelli. Psychologist in private practice. Followers: 233
Andy Fugard. Cognitive scientist. Followers: 229
Erika Salomon. Grad student. Followers: 217
CoertVisser. Psychologist. Followers: 217
Jenna Condie. Environmental psychologist. Followers: 216
Astrid Kitti. Grad student. Followers: 203
Margarita Holmes. Psychologist and sex therapist. Followers: 203
BPS Occupational Digest. The BPS Occupational Digest. Followers: 194
Sue Hartley. Psychologist. Followers: 194
Johnrev Guilaran. Clinical psychologist trainee. Followers: 185
Janet Civitelli. Counselling psychologist. Followers: 175
Jon Simons. Cognitive scientist. Followers: 174
Ken Gilhooly. Cognitive psychologist. Followers: 166
Adrian Wale. Cognitive scientist, writer. Followers: 162
Sanja Dutina. Psychologist. Followers: 161
Gareth Morris. Grad student. Followers: 155
Talya Grumberg. Mental health counsellor. Followers: 155
Lila Chrysikou. Psychologist. Followers: 151
Ruthanna Gordon. Psychologist, sustainability expert. Followers: 151
Alex Birch. Business psychologist. Followers: 136
Craig Bertram. Grad student. Followers: 135
Suzanne Conboy-Hill. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 135
Christian Jarrett. Psychologist and writer. Followers: 131
Simon Dymond. Behavioural neuroscientist. Followers: 130
Marc Scully. Social psychologist. Followers: 127
Mark Hoelterhoff. Experimental existential psychologist. Followers: 127
Nancy Hoffman. Neuropsychologist. Followers: 117
Valeschka Guerra. Psychology lecturer. Followers: 116
Emma Dunlop. Grad student. Followers: 115
Deb Halasz. Research psychologist. Followers: 112
Matteo Cantamesse. Social psychologist. Followers: 112
Catriona Morrison. Experimental psychologist. Followers: 107
Dylan Lopich. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 106
John Houser. School psychologist. Followers: 106
Arvid Kappas. Emotion researcher. Followers: 89
Andrew and Sabrina. Psychological scientists. Followers: 84
Simon Knight. Psychologist. Followers: 84
Peter Kinderman. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 83
Paul Hanges. Organisational psychologist. Followers: 83
John Hyland. Experimental psychologist. Followers: 82
Chelsea Walsh. Family and marriage therapist. Followers: 81
Kevin Friery. Psychologist, psychotherapist. Followers: 80
Gerald Guild. Psychologist, autism specialist. Followers: 78
Gillian Smith. Alcohol and drug researcher. Followers: 75
Jen Lewis. Grad student. Followers: 74
Scott Kaufman. Cognitive psychologist. Followers: 69
Jui Bhagwat. Child psychologist. Followers: 63
Tom Walton. Grad student. Followers: 61
Chris Brand. Cognitive psychologist in training. Followers: 59
Odette Beris. Psychologist and coach. Followers: 59
David Hughes. Psychologist. Followers: 53
Barry McGuinness. Psychologist, writer. Followers: 47
Caitlin Allison. Trainee counselling psychologist. Followers: 47
Philip Collier. Sport and positive psychologist. Followers: 40
David Yates. Grad student. Followers: 36
Alison Price. Occupational psychologist. Followers: 35
Sian Jones. Grad student. Followers: 31
Helen Jones. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 29
John Taylor. Cognitive psychologist. Followers: 23
Kathryn Newns. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 21
Lorraine Hope. Cognitive psychologist. Followers: 10
Victoria Mason. Psychology lecturer. Followers: 9

Thanks to Ben Watson for updating the follower counts. If you'd like to be added to future iterations of the list please add your full name and Twitter tag to comments. Future additions to the list must be fully-qualified psychologists. Also, we're restricting the list to individuals, so no organisations please. 
You have read this article Announcements with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

How anger can make us more rational

Anger can de-bias our thinking
Imagine you're in a room with four people, one is lip-snarling angry, the others are calm. Who among them would you consider the most likely to think rationally? A surprising new study suggests that in at least one important respect it's actually the angry individual who will be the more rational decision maker. How come? Because they'll be less prone to the confirmation bias - our tendency to seek out information that supports our existing views.

Maia Young and her colleagues had 97 undergrads take part in what they thought were two separate experiments. The first involved them either recalling and writing about a time they'd been exceptionally angry (this was designed to make them angry), or a time they'd been sad, or about mundane events.

Next, all the participants read an introduction to the debate about whether hands-free kits make speaking on a mobile phone while driving any safer. All participants had been chosen because pre-study they believed that they do. The most important part came next, as the participants were presented with one-sentence summaries of eight articles, either in favour, or against, the idea that hands-free kits make driving safer. The participants had to choose five of these articles to read in full.

Which participants tended to choose to read more articles critical of hands-free kits and therefore contrary to their own position? It was the participants who'd earlier been made to feel angry. What's more, when the participants' attitudes were re-tested at the study end, it was the angry participants who'd shifted more from their original position on the debate.

These findings were supported in a follow-up involving 89 adults, with the controversial issue pertaining to who should be the next US president, in what was then the upcoming 2008 election. Once again, participants provoked into feeling angry tended to choose to read articles that ran counter to their original position (be that favouring Obama or McCain). Another detail was that this effect of anger was entirely explained by what the researchers called a 'moving against' tendency, measured by participants' agreement, after the anger induction, with statements like 'I wanted to assault something or someone'.

Young and her team said their results provided an example of anger leading to a cognitive pattern characterised by less bias. 'Although the hypothesis disconfirming behaviour that anger produces may well be an aggressive act, meant to move or fight against the opposition's opinion,' they said, 'its result is to provide those who feel angry with better information.'

What are the real-life implications of this result? The researchers conceded that it's unrealistic to make people angry as a way to improve their decision making. However, they said that in a work meeting, if someone is angry, they might be the one best placed to play the role of devil's advocate on behalf of the group. 'By encouraging angry group members to select information necessary for group discussion,' the researchers explained, 'the group as a whole may get the benefit of being exposed to diverse views and, as a result, achieve a more balanced perspective.'

ResearchBlogging.orgYoung, M., Tiedens, L., Jung, H., and Tsai, M. (2011). Mad enough to see the other side: Anger and the search for disconfirming information. Cognition and Emotion, 25 (1), 10-21 DOI: 10.1080/02699930903534105
You have read this article Decision making / Emotion with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Beauty and its neural reward are in the eye of the crowd

Following the crowd really can change the value we see in things
Let's be honest, most of us do it, at least some of the time. We modify our own opinions in line with what other people think, especially our friends and peers.

A problem for psychologists investigating the effect of peer influence is that it can be tricky to tell whether people are simply acquiescing in public, for show, or if their attitudes really have changed. A new study by a team of psychologists at Harvard University has used an innovative mix of behavioural and brain-scan methods to show that peer influence really can change how people value something, in this case the attractiveness of a face.

Fourteen male participants performed a series of 'hot-or-not' style ratings of pictures of 180 women's faces. For the majority of the faces, after they'd made their own rating, the students were shown the average rating given to that face by hundreds of previous participants. This was actually fixed by the researchers and was sometimes higher than the participant's own rating and sometimes lower.

About half an hour later, the participants rated the same faces again, but this time had their brains scanned whilst they did so. The revelation here was that the effect of the faces on reward-related regions in the participants' brains depended on the feedback the participants had received earlier about how their peers had rated those faces.

Let's focus on those faces that a participant had earlier given equal attractiveness ratings to, and which you'd therefore think they'd find equally rewarding to look at. In fact, among these faces, those that they'd been told earlier were rated as more attractive by previous participants, triggered more reward-related brain activity (the participants also increased the attractiveness ratings they gave to these faces). In contrast, the faces they'd earlier been told were rated as less attractive by peers, triggered less reward activity, and were now rated as less attractive by the participants.

A financial game played during the same scanning session allowed the reearchers to pin-point the brain areas involved in receiving monetary reward - the orbitofrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. It was these same brain regions that were more active when the participants looked at female faces which they'd earlier been told were rated as more attractive by other men.

This isn't the first time that brain imaging has been used to show how social factors can alter the value we place on things. For example, a wine-tasting study tricked participants into drinking the same wine twice, once thinking it was an expensive bottle and another time thinking it was a cheap one. The participants' reward pathways were activated more when they thought the wine was expensive. In a similar fashion this new study suggests that the pleasure we find in looking at a face is dependent not just on what we think of it, but on what we think other people think of it.

'Rather than the result of individual weakness and faulty character, conformity appears to arise from the same neural systems that guide behaviour towards highly-valued outcomes, including such basic needs as food, water, and opportunities for reproduction,' wrote the team, led by Jamil Zaki. 'This emerging understanding of the neural basis of social influence suggests that members of our species are not only remarkable in their willingness to adopt the opinions and norms of others, but equally remarkable in their fundamental motivation for doing so.'

ResearchBlogging.orgJamil Zeki, Jason Mitchell, and Jessica Schirmer (2011). Social influence modulates the neural computation of valuePsychological Science, In Press.
You have read this article Brain / Social with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Does a murderer's crime-scene behaviour echo his criminal history?

In the old days of criminal profiling, a psychologist would study the idiosyncrasies of a crime scene with the expert-eye of an art collector inspecting a painting of unknown provenance. They'd draw on their clinical and forensic knowledge to help the police narrow their search, describing to them the kind of person who would likely commit a crime in this way. It wasn't particularly scientific and there were some high profile blunders, such as the misguided entrapment of Colin Stagg during the hunt for the killer of Rachel Nickell.

By contrast, contemporary criminal profiling is more data-driven. More about number crunching and less about the judgment of a single expert. Thousands of criminal records are pored over to look for factual correlations that could usefully inform investigations. It's been shown for example, that two burglaries closer together geographically, or closer together in time, are more likely to have been committed by the same person.

This empirical approach is also being brought to bear on more psychological aspects of crime scenes. In a new study, Carrie Trojan and Gabrielle Salfati studied a set of criminal records to see if there were links between the crime scene behaviour of murderers and the general theme of their offending history. The majority of murderers in the USA, where this research was conducted, have an existing criminal record, so if such a link could be established it could help guide future murder hunts.

The researchers' prediction was that murder scenes betraying signs of uncontrolled violence and impulsivity, which they labelled as 'hostile', will be more likely to have been perpetrated by a person with a record of committing crimes bearing that same hall-mark, such as assault, domestic violence and vandalism. By contrast, they predicted that murder scenes betraying signs of calculation and an ulterior motive, which they labelled 'cognitive', such as hiding the body, and involving acts of a sexual nature or robbery, will be more likely to have been committed by someone with a criminal record involving more considered, 'instrumental' crimes, such as theft or evasion of arrest.

Trojan and Salfati obtained records from the Cincinnati Police Department of 122 murders committed by someone who'd only ever killed once (between 1997 and 2006), and records of nine serial killers from across the USA. The latter had killed between three and six people each, but only ever one person at a time. The researchers first established that it was possible to classify the majority of murder scenes as either hostile or cognitive based on a scene having twice as many signs of one theme, in proportionate terms, than the other. On this basis, 87 per cent of the murder scenes were considered to have a dominant theme.

Next, the researchers showed that the vast majority (95 per cent) of murders by a one-victim killer were associated with hostile murder scenes. This chimes with the fact that nearly half of all murders in the USA occur during arguments. In contrast, the murder scenes left by serial killers were approximately half the time (51 per cent) hostile themed, and half the time (49 per cent) cognitive themed.

Turning to the key question of whether murder scene behaviour echoes the murderer's criminal history, the results unfortunately became far messier. For murderers with one victim, the most common pattern (26 per cent) was for a hostile crime scene to be left by a person with a history of more instrumental crimes. In other words, there was most often actually a mismatch between murder scene behaviour and offending history. For 24 per cent of single-victim murderers, their was a hostile/hostile match in the murder scene and offending history. For the remainder, the classifications were mixed or unidentifiable.

What about the serial killers? Although the largest category (33 per cent) did show a murder scene/ offending history match - being more cognitive and instrumental in each case - other patterns were also found, with 22 per cent tending to leave a mixture of cognitive and hostile murder scenes, but with an instrumental offending background, and another 22 per cent leaving a mixture of murder scenes and having a mixed background of offending.

'When linking criminal history to crime scene behaviour, thematic consistency was not evident in most cases,' the researchers concluded. 'Essentially, the results show that most single-victim homicide crime scenes display the same theme and that offenders are equally likely to have a pattern of either violence or instrumentality in their criminal background and a decent number have no pattern in their criminal history …' And here's the rub, Trojan and Salfati added: 'It would be difficult to apply this information in investigations.'

The study had its limitations. Not only was the number of serial killers woefully small, but as the researchers themselves concede, they didn't look at the time-line of murderers' past offences. This could have revealed useful patterns, such as that it is a murderer's recent style of offending that is linked to his or her murder scene behaviour, rather than his or her overall career pattern of offending. 'However,' the researchers said, 'because this study was the first to directly focus on the link between criminal history and crime scene actions, it provides an important first step for more in-depth examinations.'

ResearchBlogging.orgTrojan, C., and Salfati, C. (2011). Linking Criminal History to Crime Scene Behavior in Single-Victim and Serial Homicide: Implications for Offender Profiling Research. Homicide Studies, 15 (1), 3-31 DOI: 10.1177/1088767910397281
You have read this article Forensic with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!


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

Why pop-up ads on the computer don't work and just annoy.

Do people use reverse psychology in everyday life?

Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused.

Men say they're less likely to use aggression towards women than men, regardless of whether that woman is an intimate partner or a friend. In contrast, women say they're more likely to use aggression against a male intimate partner, than either a male or female friend. 'We argued that men’s aggression towards women is lowered because of strong social norms in the West which prohibit male aggression towards women,' lead author Kate Cross told me. 'Women are usually unlikely to use direct aggression, but they become relatively uninhibited about using aggression because of the intimate bond they have with a partner.'

Incorporation of another person's limb into body image relieves phantom limb pain: A case study.

Stress Strengthens Memory of First Impressions of Others' Positive Personality Traits.

Mending broken hearts with a throw of the dice.

It's easier to mentally rotate clockwise than anticlockwise.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not . . . ” Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction.

'Unexpectedly, the analyses yielded an inverse gender gap with higher values for social dominance orientation in women than in men'. Evidence for gender stereotype reversal in a German sample.

Was he happy? Cultural difference in conceptions of Jesus.

Finally, here's one for Andy Gray and Richard Keys: Establishing and Challenging Masculinity: The Influence of Gendered Discourses in Organized Sport.
You have read this article Extras with the title March 2011. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!