1. Study debunks claim of “narcissism epidemic” among college students

    October 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign press release:

    Today’s college students are slightly less narcissistic than their counterparts were in the 1990s, researchers report in a new study — not significantly more, as some have proposed.

    The study, reported in the journal Psychological Science, analyzed data from 1,166 students at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1990s, and from tens of thousands of students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of California, Davis in the 2000s and 2010s. All of the students completed the Narcissism Personal Inventory, the oldest and most widely used measure of narcissism.

    According to some researchers and observers, recent generations of young people are suffering through an ‘epidemic of narcissism’ characterized by an exaggerated sense of their own gifts and accomplishments and by the expectation that others recognize their greatness. The rise in narcissism is believed to be the result of permissive parenting, unregulated access to the internet and an overuse of social media platforms that reward self-aggrandizement, said University of Illinois psychology professor Brent Roberts, who led the new analysis.

    But there is no compelling evidence that recent generations are more narcissistic than previous ones, he said.

    The Narcissism Personality Inventory is designed to measure an individual’s narcissistic tendencies. Each of its 40 questions asks participants to choose between two statements that define their attitudes and beliefs. One of each pair of answers is more consistent with a narcissistic outlook. For example:

    • I just want to be reasonably happy.
    • I want to amount to something in the eyes of the world.

    AND

    • I insist on getting the respect that is due me.
    • I usually get the respect that I deserve.

    Roberts and his colleagues first focused on whether the NPI reliably measured the same traits over time and among different constituencies.

    “For the most part, the measure worked pretty well, but we found a few items that didn’t work consistently across different groups,” Roberts said. “When you adjust for that, you see decreases in narcissism from the 1990s to the 2000s to the 2010s.”

    The team next looked at specific aspects of narcissism, such as leadership, vanity and entitlement, and saw a similar downward trend in each of these traits between 1992 and 2015. The declines were small but significant, and occurred gradually over time. Males and females, Asians, African-Americans and Caucasians all saw decreases in narcissism, but to differing degrees, Roberts said.

    “The average college student scores 15 to 16 on the NPI scale, out of a possible 40,” Roberts said. “The average grandparent scores about 12. Based on that, if you use that as a natural metric, most people are not narcissists. And, perhaps most interestingly, narcissism declines with age.”

    Roberts and his colleagues believe that older adults like the idea of a narcissism epidemic among the young because young people tend to be more narcissistic than they are.

    “We have faulty memories, so we don’t remember that we were rather self-centered when we were that age,” Roberts said.

    The denigration of millennials and even younger generations paints them as lacking in values or as having bad personality characteristics, he said.

    “But that’s just wrong,” he said. “The kids are all right. There never was a narcissism epidemic, despite what has been claimed.”


  2. Study looks at how disliked classes affect incidence of college student cheating

    October 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    One of the tactics that discourages student cheating may not work as well in courses that college students particularly dislike, a new study has found.

    Previous research suggests instructors who emphasize mastering the content in their classes encounter less student cheating than those who push students to get good grades.

    But this new study found emphasizing mastery isn’t related as strongly to lower rates of cheating in classes that students list as their most disliked. Students in disliked classes were equally as likely to cheat, regardless of whether the instructors emphasized mastery or good grades.

    The factor that best predicted whether a student would cheat in a disliked class was a personality trait: a high need for sensation, said Eric Anderman, co-author of the study and professor of educational psychology at The Ohio State University.

    People with a high need for sensation are risk-takers, Anderman said.

    “If you enjoy taking risks, and you don’t like the class, you may think ‘why not cheat.’ You don’t feel you have as much to lose,” he said.

    Anderman conducted the study with Sungjun Won, a graduate student in educational psychology at Ohio State. It appears online in the journal Ethics & Behavior and will be published in a future print edition.

    The study is the first to look at how academic misconduct might differ in classes that students particularly dislike.

    “You could understand why students might be less motivated in classes they don’t like and that could affect whether they were willing to cheat,” Anderman said.

    The researchers surveyed 409 students from two large research universities in different parts of the country.

    The students were asked to answer questions about the class in college that they liked the least.

    Participants were asked if they took part in any of 22 cheating behaviors in that class, including plagiarism and copying test answers from another student. The survey also asked students their beliefs about the ethics of cheating, their perceptions of how much the instructor emphasized mastery and test scores, and a variety of demographic questions, as well as a measure of sensation-seeking.

    A majority of the students (57 percent) reported a math or science course as their most disliked. Large classes were not popular: Nearly half (45 percent) said their least favorite class had more than 50 students enrolled, while two-thirds (65 percent) said the course they disliked was required for their major.

    The most interesting finding was that an emphasis on mastery or on test scores did not predict cheating in disliked classes, Anderman said.

    In 20 years of research on cheating, Anderman said he and his colleagues have consistently found that students cheated less — and believed cheating was less acceptable — in classes where the goals were intrinsic: learning and mastering the content. They were more likely to cheat in classes where they felt the emphasis was on extrinsic goals, such as successful test-taking and getting good grades.

    This study was different, Anderman said.

    In classes that emphasized mastery, some students still believed cheating was wrong, even in their most-disliked class. But when classes are disliked, the new findings suggest a focus on mastery no longer directly protects against cheating behaviors. Nevertheless, there is still a positive relation between actual cheating and the belief that cheating is morally acceptable in those classes.

    “When you have students who are risk-takers in classes that they dislike, the benefits of a class that emphasizes learning over grades seems to disappear,” he said.

    But Anderman noted that this study reinforced results from earlier studies that refute many of the common beliefs about student cheating.

    “All of the things that people think are linked to cheating don’t really matter,” he said.

    “We examined gender, age, the size of classes, whether it was a required class, whether it was graded on a curve — and none of those were related to cheating once you took into account the need for sensation in this study,” he said. “And in other studies, the classroom goals were also important.”

    The good news is that the factors that cause cheating are controllable in some measure, Anderman said. Classes can be designed to emphasize mastery and interventions could be developed to help risk-taking students.

    “We can find ways to help minimize cheating,” he said.


  3. Study suggests doing homework is associated with change in students’ personality

    October 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Universität Tübingen press release:

    Homework may have a positive influence on students’ conscientiousness. As results of a study conducted by University of Tübingen researchers suggest, students who do more homework than their peers show positive changes in conscientiousness. Thus, schools may be doing more than contributing to students’ learning, but they may also be effecting changes of their students’ personality. The study results were published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

    Previous research finds that homework effort is consistently related to student achievement. Also, conscientiousness appears to be the most important personality trait for predicting homework effort. With this connection in mind, proponents of homework have argued that the effort which students invest in their homework may have positive effects on students by influencing their conscientiousness. In their study, the Tübingen scientists investigated whether this claim holds true.

    They analyzed data from a longitudinal study with 2,760 students from two different school tracks in the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Saxony. Students were initially assessed right after their transition from primary to secondary school in Grade 5. For the next three years, students were assessed annually between six and eight weeks after the start of each school year. They answered questions such as how many of their last 10 homework assignments in mathematics and German they did as well as possible. Also, they were asked how conscientious they thought they were including whether they would describe themselves as tidy or rather as messy and negligent. In addition to students’ self-reports, parents were asked to assess their children’s conscientiousness as well.

    Results show that those students who invested a lot of effort in their homework between Grades 5 and 8 also profited in terms of their conscientiousness. Previous research has shown that conscientiousness tends to undergo a temporary dip in late childhood and early adolescence. As the results found by the Tübingen scientists suggest, doing your homework thoroughly and meticulously appeared to counterbalance this dip. Indeed, researchers found a substantial decrease in conscientiousness for students who reported that they had not made an effort with their homework. Those results were also backed by parents, whose reports matched those of their children.

    “Our results show that homework is not only relevant for school performance, but also for personality development — provided that students put a lot of effort into their assignments,” says Richard Göllner, first author of the study. “The question whether doing your homework can also influence the development of conscientiousness has been mostly neglected in previous discussions of the role of homework,” criticizes Ulrich Trautwein, director of the Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and Psychology. “We need to define more precisely what expectations we have of the potential of homework and how those expectations can be fulfilled.”


  4. Study suggests personality changes don’t precede clinical onset of Alzheimer’s

    October 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Florida State University press release:

    For years, scientists and physicians have been debating whether personality and behavior changes might appear prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

    Now, the findings of a new and comprehensive study from FSU College of Medicine Associate Professor Antonio Terracciano and colleagues, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, has found no evidence to support the idea that personality changes begin before the clinical onset of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia.

    “We further found that personality remained stable even within the last few years before the onset of mild cognitive impairment,” Terracciano said.

    Terracciano, College of Medicine Associate Professor Angelina Sutin and co-authors from the National Institute on Aging examined data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The study looked at personality and clinical assessments obtained between 1980 and July 2016 from more than 2,000 individuals who initially showed no cognitive impairment.

    About 18 percent of study participants later developed MCI or dementia.

    “We compared whether personality change in people who later developed dementia differed from those who remained cognitively normal,” Terracciano said. “Unlike previous research, this study examined multiple waves of self-rated personality data collected up to 36 years before participants developed any sign of dementia.”

    What the researchers found is that the trajectory of personality traits did not differ between those who would later develop dementia and those who did not.

    While personality change was not an early sign of dementia, Terracciano’s study provides further support that personality traits (including high levels of neuroticism and low levels of conscientiousness) are risk factors for dementia.

    For physicians and loved ones, personality changes remain an important consideration in the care of those who have already experienced the clinical onset of MCI or dementia. Increasing apathy, irritability, mood changes and other behavioral symptoms impact quality of life for both patients and their caregivers.

     


  5. Study suggests personality may drive purchasing of luxury goods

    September 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University College London press release:

    People who are extraverted and on low incomes buy more luxury goods than their introverted peers to compensate for the experience of low financial status, finds new UCL research.

    The study, published today in Psychological Science, used real life spending data from UK bank accounts to investigate the spending habits of richer and poorer people with different personality types.

    People living on a low income often feel low status in society and spend a higher percentage of their money on goods and services that are perceived to have a high status.

    “We’ve shown that personality looks to be an important factor in how people respond to living with limited resources. We hope this new association will help us better understand which people may be likely to engage in behaviour that perpetuates the conditions of financial hardship,” explained Joe Gladstone, study co-author from UCL School of Management.

    Previous research has found that people who are sociable and outgoing care more about their social status than others. The new research shows that when extraverted people have a lower income, they spend proportionately more on status goods than introverts on the same income. At higher incomes, the difference in spending lessens as introverted people buy more luxury goods.

    “It’s clear from our study that an extraverted personality is a driver for low-income individuals purchasing more luxury goods, and this is most likely to compensate for a perceived low social status that isn’t as keenly felt by introverts. We saw very little difference in the spending habits of introverts and extraverts with high incomes,” said Blaine Landis, study co-author from UCL School of Management.

    The study was conducted in collaboration with a UK-based multinational bank. Customers were asked whether they would complete a standard personality questionnaire, and to consent to their responses being matched anonymously for research purposes with their bank transaction data.

    The study analysed thousands of transactions from 718 customers over 12 months. The results took into account other factors that could influence spending habits, such as age, sex, employment status and whether the customers had children. Cash spending was also taken into account.

    Each person’s spending data were sorted into a number of spending categories from one (very low status) to five (very high status). High-status categories (i.e., those with average scores of four or five) included foreign air travel, golf, electronics and art institutions, whereas low-status categories (i.e., those with average scores of two or one) included pawnbrokers, salvage yards and discount stores.

    The team found the interaction between income and extraversion in predicting spending on luxury goods is significant and emphasize that while this useful in understanding the relationship, further research is needed to see whether the relationship is causal and whether the results are representative of the UK population as a whole.


  6. When hoping to be seen as powerful, consumers prefer wider faces on watches, cars

    September 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Kansas press release:

    People are typically averse to wider human faces because they elicit fears of being dominated. However, consumers might like wider faces on some products they buy, such as watches or cars, when they want to be seen in a position of power in certain situations, according to a new study led by a University of Kansas marketing researcher.

    “When consumers are motivated to dominate others, or when they use the product in public, their liking will be heightened toward high-ratio product faces,” said Ahreum Maeng, assistant professor in marketing at the KU School of Business.

    Maeng’s study she co-authored with Pankaj Aggarwal, professor of marketing at the university of Toronto, was published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research, one of the leading journals on marketing academic research.

    In five experiments, respondents examined photos of human faces that varied from low width-to-height ratio (narrow) to ones with a higher ratio (wider) to establish the perception of dominance when seeing higher-ratio faces. The researchers also had respondents view photos of products that might have a design resembling a human face, such as watch and clock faces and automobiles, from low to high width-to-height ratios.

    “These kinds of things are automatically going on in people’s brains,” Maeng said. “When we see those shapes resembling a human face in the product design, we can’t help but perceive it that way.”

    Researchers have established that people are evolutionarily adapted to read facial cues, especially those signaling dominance, and the width-to-height ratio of face is a cue to attribute dominance to the face. In the notion of anthropomorphism, scholars have found people often attribute human traits to non-human entities, such as products.

    In addition, the researchers had participants view the images while they thought about different scenarios, such as preparing to encounter either an old high school bully or a former sweetheart at a 10-year-old high school reunion or a business trip that might require a difficult negotiation.

    Their main finding was that when people felt they were in a situation where they might want to be perceived as dominant — such as that business negotiation or when seeing an old bully at a high-school reunion — people were inclined to select the wider product design for a watch or car they might be renting for the trip.

    Maeng said this differs from how people tend to see dominance in the human face. They typically become averse to a higher width-to-height ratio because they feel threatened or intimated.

    “But when it comes to a dominant-looking product face, they really like it,” she said. “It’s probably because people view the product as part of themselves and they would think, ‘it’s my possession. I have control over it when I need it, and I can demonstrate my dominance through the product.”

    In scenarios where participants did not feel the need to project any dominance, such as a more laid-back time with their children or family, the width-to-height ratio of the products became less important, the researchers found.

    Maeng said the findings have important implications for marketers of products that might resemble a human face, such as watches with a circular face and cars. They found consumers’ preferences for dominant-looking product faces is not the same as people’s preference simply for luxury or expensive items.

    Also, typically, product-design efforts have focused on visual aesthetics and ergonomics, an assumption that beauty and functionality covers the entire canvas of product design. However, more recent contrary findings by marketing researchers suggest that product design can signal a specific personality trait about the product.

    Maeng said this type of preference means that manufacturers and marketers would be able to charge higher prices for products that have wider faces. They have already found a positive relationship in examining 2013 prices of automobiles based on the width-to-height ratio, and their study likely supports those types of decisions.

    “Brand managers and product designers may be particularly interested in these findings,” the researchers said, “because a simple design feature, namely product face ratio, can have marketplace impact — by significantly improving the company’s bottom line.”


  7. Personifying places can boost travel intentions

    September 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Queensland University of Technology press release:

    People who see animals as people and assign human traits to non-human objects are more likely to travel to destinations that are presented as being human-like, according to Queensland University of Technology (QUT) research.

    Dr Kate Letheren, Professor Brett Martin and Dr Hyun Seung Jin, from QUT Business School, found that writing about a destination as if it were human could boost its appeal as a travel destination.

    The research, published in Tourism Management, looked at personality dimensions and the impact on destination choices.

    Participants were shown a travel advertisement for either Paris or Rome. Half of the participants saw an ad where the destination was personified, referring to the city as “she,” while the other half saw an ad that referred to the city as “it.”

    “One of the ads used typical copy for a travel destination advertisement, for example, facts about the city and its attractions. The other used language that humanised the destination, like ‘Paris welcomes you’,” Dr Letheren said.

    “We found people higher in anthropomorphic traits were more likely to respond with feel-good emotions and have a positive view of the destination after reading the personified ad.

    “This suggests people with this trait who see human characteristics in tourism destinations are more likely to want to visit those destinations.”

    The researchers said that levels of anthropomorphic traits varied by person, but some common examples of anthropomorphism at work include people assigning human emotions to a pet dog or referring to a car or ship as “she.”

    Professor Martin said it was a normal tactic for destination and major event marketers to try to make a connection with consumers.

    “Humanising a destination or event can help place it in a positive light and give the audience a warm, fuzzy feeling. This is why cute cartoon animals are often chosen as mascots for the Olympics, for example.

    “Large sums of money are spent on campaigns to try to attract tourists and destinations need to appear warm and welcoming.

    “Tourism campaigns often focus on attracting specific demographics, for example Chinese tourists or luxury holiday-makers, and our research shows that if you have a tourist who naturally humanises, you can tailor the message to appeal to this aspect of their personality.

    “If you can successfully identify what traits people have, you can send them customised messages. Ten to 20 years ago that wasn’t possible, but now it is.”


  8. Who learns foreign language better, introverts or extroverts?

    July 31, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) press release:

    Extrovert Chinese students learning English as a second language are likely to perform better in speaking and reading, but less proficient in listening than their introvert counterparts, according to a study published in Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (JSSH).

    In Chinese culture, students are expected to listen to their teachers attentively, as opposed to Western culture where class participation is encouraged. The Chinese culture is influenced by Confucian values, including collectivism, socialisation for achievement, and high acceptance of power and authority. Some studies have suggested that such introversion hinders Chinese students’ ability to learn English as a second language.

    However, it is unclear if a relationship exists between extroversion-introversion traits and English language proficiency for nonnative speakers. In an ongoing debate, psychologists argue introverts are less susceptible to distraction and have better long-term memory, while linguists claim the extroverts’ sociable and outgoing attitudes, as well as their high tolerance to risk, help with learning a foreign language.

    Study of this topic that involves Chinese students based in Asia is lacking, explains Assistant Professor Shahcla Zarfar at the University of Central Punjab, India.

    Zarfar and colleagues examined whether Chinese students are introverted by nature, whether extrovert-introvert tendencies affected English language proficiency among Chinese students in India, and how these traits influenced language learning.

    The researchers analysed the data from 145 Chinese exchange students aged between 18 and 21 at VIT University, Vellore, India. The data comprised of English language test scores and two types of questionnaires — one asked about personality and linguistic information, and the other only about their personality.

    They found the majority of the students were introverts (47%), followed by extroverts (35%), and ‘no tendency towards the extroversion-introversion traits’ (18%). The team confirmed a significant relationship between the two personality traits and English language proficiency, with higher scores in speaking, reading and overall language proficiency for extrovert students. There was little difference in writing between the two groups.

    However, surprisingly, the researchers found introvert students were better listeners than extrovert students, contradicting some claims that academic excellence relies solely on the extrovert tendency. They speculate that this might indicate introverts’ ability to focus more effectively on listening than extroverts.

    The researchers suggest that instructors should adjust their teaching strategies depending on different personality traits among students learning English as a second language. Further studies should involve a bigger sample group, and investigate why introvert students perform better than their peers in some conditions.


  9. Study suggests people whose minds wander are less likely to stick to long-term goals

    June 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Waterloo press release:

    People whose minds tend to wander are less likely to stick to their long-term goals, according to new research led by the University of Waterloo.

    The research found that those who could sustain focus in day-to-day life were more likely to report maintaining perseverance and passion in their long-term objectives.

    “Those who often can’t keep their minds on their tasks — such as thinking about weekend plans instead of listening to the lecturer in class — tend to have more fleeting aspirations,” said Brandon Ralph, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate in psychology at Waterloo. “We’ve shown that maintaining concentration over hours and days predicts passion over longer periods.”

    The researchers’ findings resulted from three separate studies. In the first two studies, surveys measured the mind wandering, inattention and grittiness of 280 participants. In the third study, 105 post-secondary students were asked to report on their mind-wandering habits during class and then fill out questionnaires to measure their grittiness.

    Grit is a personality trait involving sustained interest and effort toward long-term goals and is purported to predict success in careers and education independent of other traits, including intelligence.

    Next steps in the research involve determining if people who would like to mitigate the impacts of mind wandering can do so with mindfulness training exercises, such as meditation.

    “It’s clear that mind wandering is related to the ability to focus in the moment as well as on long-term goals,” said Ralph. “As we move forward in this work, we’d like to see if practices such as meditation can assist people in achieving their goals.”

    The study, done in cooperation with researchers at Sheridan College, appears in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology.


  10. Study tests value of perspective-taking training in understanding other people’s mental states

    May 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    Through targeted training, people can be guided to develop a better inner awareness about their own mental states, and to have a better understanding of the mental state of others. This is because the better people understand themselves, the more easily they can think themselves in other people’s shoes. Such training therefore ultimately helps us deal with current global challenges, says Anne Böckler of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science and Julius Maximilians University Würzburg in Germany. She is the lead author of a study in Springer’s Journal of Cognitive Enhancement which looked at the influence a three-month contemplative training course had on a group of adults.

    During the three months, various methods were used to teach two groups of 80 and 81 participants, aged between20 and 55 years, how to develop their perspective taking skills. The training was inspired by the Internal Family Systems model which views the self as being composed of different complex inner parts or subpersonalities, each with their own defining set of behaviours, thoughts and emotions. Participants were taught to identify and classify their own inner parts, as well as those of others. They explored how being identified with different inner parts such as their caring, managing or pleasure parts affects their everyday experiences.

    The results revealed that after the training, the participants could easily identify prototypical inner parts such as “the inner manager” or “the inner child” in their own personalities. The degree to which participants improved their understanding of themselves — as reflected in the number of different inner parts they could identify — went hand in hand with how much participants improved in terms of their own flexibility and being able to accurately infer and understand the mental state of others. The more negative inner parts they could identify, the better their awareness of other people’s frame of mind became thanks to the training.

    “There is a close link between getting better in understanding oneself and improvement in social intelligence,” says Böckler.

    The realisation that people who learn to better identify negative aspects of themselves are better able to understand others has interesting implications for the ever-changing world we live in. “This insight could prove important in an increasingly complex and interconnected world where taking the view of others, especially those from different cultures or with different religious backgrounds, becomes ever more difficult — and ever more necessary,” adds Böckler.

    The study suggests that work on inner parts and training to flexibly take perspective on self-related inner mental states holds promise in therapeutic as well as non-clinical settings aiming to foster psychological health and social intelligence. It also has value for fundamental research in the fields of personality and social psychology and social neurosciences.