1. Study suggests talking about the highs and lows of job hunting can aid a job search

    December 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American University press release:

    If you’re a job seeker driving your friends and family crazy with job search conversations, a new study finds you’re doing something right. New research co-authored by Serge da Motta Veiga, an assistant professor of management in the American University Kogod School of Business, found that people who talk about their job search with family and friends were more likely to stick to it.

    “Should we talk? Co-rumination and conversation avoidance in job search,” co-authored with Missouri State professors Dana L. Haggard and Melody W. LaPreze, and published in Career Development International, surveyed 196 graduating students preparing to enter the labor market. The researchers found that job seekers who engaged in repeated and excessive talk about job search issues with friends and family were more likely to engage in job search activities including revising resumes, applying for jobs and seeking job leads from their network.

    Survey participants who avoided talking about their job searches were more likely to procrastinate.

    “Our findings suggest that some positive behaviors might result from an increased amount of sharing and talking about one’s job search,” the researchers write. “It might be that any sense of urgency created by the repetitive discussions is overridden by the focus on understanding all about the job search and, as a result, potentially generating new ideas about the types of job search activities to be executed.”

    For da Motta Veiga, the findings illustrate that talking about a job search with close friends and family has a way of keeping the job seeker accountable.

    “It is important to understand that searching for a job, albeit an individual process, can benefit from some level of experience sharing with one another,” he said. “Indeed, simply talking about one’s job search experiences seems to help maintain a level of intensity in job search activities.”

    He also recommends career counselors take notice of the study to help job seekers reach career goals.

    “Career centers, at universities and elsewhere, could put together some job search mentoring or peer group programs to help job seekers navigate the ups and downs that come with the territory of searching for a job.”

  2. Study suggests perceptions of company being harmful may make consumers feel justified in unethical behaviour aimed at it

    December 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Consumer Psychology press release:

    While many people consider themselves generally moral and honest, even the most upstanding citizens will likely become willing to lie, cheat and steal under certain circumstances, according to evidence from a new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

    If consumers believe that a company is harmful in some way — to the environment or to people — then they feel justified participating in illegal activities, such as shoplifting, piracy or hacking, according to findings in the study.

    “People are much more willing to do something that risks their own integrity if they believe a company is unethical,” says Jeffrey Rotman, a professor in the business school at Deakin University in Australia. “And this desire to punish a harmful brand occurs even when the consumer has not personally had a bad experience with the company.”

    Rotman’s team discovered this effect in one study in which participants were introduced to a fictitious pharmaceutical company that produced drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease and a bacterial infection called Brucellosis. Some of the participants learned that the company planned to increase the price of the drug by 300 percent to generate considerably more profit, even if it meant that certain customers could no longer afford the medication. Other participants learned that the company would not raise prices despite the profit benefits.

    The researchers discovered that the participants who were told that the company was raising prices were significantly more willing to punish the company via unethical means, such as lying, cheating or stealing. To better understand why consumers violate their personal code of ethics in these situations, the researchers conducted another experiment in which participants read a report stating that on average, Internet speeds in the United States are consistently below advertised speeds. The federal report explained that this occurs because many ISPs intentionally cap speeds at 20 percent lower than advertised speeds. One group of participants was told that their Internet speeds had in fact underperformed, and they were asked to sign a letter to the ISP asking for a 10 percent discount on monthly fees. The other group was told that their Internet speeds were as advertised, but they should still sign the letter based on the findings in the federal report. Even though their Internet speeds were good, they were encouraged to lie to justify the discount and capture the company’s attention.

    Typically, people feel emotional consequences when they engage in unethical behavior, but the researchers found that negative feelings, such as guilt, were absent because people felt that the company was cheating customers. “People felt morally justified lying to the ISP because the report claimed that the company was not delivering promised speeds,” Rotman says.

    The researchers discovered that this desire to punish companies perceived as harmful is also reflected in the real world. Participants rated how harmful they perceived a variety of different industries, such as pharmacies, supermarkets and home improvement stores. On average, the more harmful the ratings, the greater the rates of theft were in these industries.

    “There is growing distrust among the public of certain aspects of business and government, and these findings suggest that if people perceive these entities as harmful, they might feel justified in being unethical,” Rotman says. “My hope is that organizations will make it a priority to build a reputation that allows consumers and businesses to be on the same side.”

  3. Under stress, newborn babies show greater brain response to pain

    by Ashley

    From the Cell Press press release:

    When newborn babies are under stress, their brains show a heightened response to pain, a new study has found. However, you’d never know it from the way those infants act. The findings reported in Current Biology on November 30 show that stress leads to an apparent disconnect between babies’ brain activity and their behavior.

    “When newborn babies experience a painful procedure, there is a reasonably well coordinated increase in their brain activity and their behavioral responses, such as crying and grimacing,” says Laura Jones of the University College London. “Babies who are stressed have a larger response in the brain following a painful procedure. But, for these babies, this greater brain activity is no longer matched by their behavior.”

    Because newborns cannot tell us when they’re in pain, doctors and researchers use indirect measures of pain based on behavior. Those measures are sometimes used in the hospital to assess whether a baby needs to be made more comfortable or to be given painkillers.

    Jones and her colleagues led by Maria Fitzgerald knew that adults under stress frequently report feeling more pain. They wanted to find out in the new study whether that’s also true in infants.

    The researchers enrolled 56 healthy, newborn infant boys and girls from the postnatal ward and special care baby unit at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Obstetric Wing, University College Hospital. The researchers measured the babies’ stress levels based on salivary levels of cortisol stress hormone and heartbeat patterns, both before and after a clinically necessary heel lance. At the same time, they measured the babies’ pain response using EEG brain activity and facial expression.

    The data showed that babies with higher levels of background stress showed a bigger brain reaction to the heel lance procedure. However, that heightened activity in the brain didn’t correspond to a change in the babies’ behavior.

    Jones says that the effects of stress on the brain response didn’t come as a surprise. But they hadn’t expected that the babies’ behavior wouldn’t follow the same trend. In retrospect, however, the Fitzgerald lab had found before that behavior and brain activity in infants aren’t always related.

    “Now we have a greater understanding of what may cause this dissociation,” Jones says.

    Jones says that the findings offer yet another reason to treat and care for babies in ways that minimize both pain and stress. Stressed babies may not seem to respond to pain, even as their brain is still processing it.

    “This means that caregivers may underestimate a baby’s pain experience,” Jones says.

    In fact, neonatal doctors and nurses know that preterm babies sometimes “tune out” and become unresponsive when they are overwhelmed. The new findings seem to confirm those clinical observations in full-term infants.

    The researchers say they plan to explore in future studies how other environmental factors and previous experiences, such as interactions between mother and baby, influence the way newborns process and experience pain.

  4. Study suggests sadism may be factor in why people seek vengeance

    December 9, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Virginia Commonwealth University press release:

    People who enjoy hurting others and seeing them in pain are more likely to seek revenge against those who have wronged them, according to a new study led by a Virginia Commonwealth University psychology professor.

    The study, “Personality Correlates of Revenge-Seeking: Multidimensional Links to Physical Aggression, Impulsivity, and Aggressive Pleasure,” found that sadism is the dominant personality trait that explains why certain people are more likely than others to seek vengeance.

    “We wanted to paint a picture of the personality of the type of person who seeks revenge. We’re all slighted in our daily lives, but some of us seek revenge and some of us do not. So what kind of person is the person who seeks vengeance?” said David Chester, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU. “The core of what we found is that the person who seeks revenge is a person who tends to enjoy it.”

    The study, which will appear in a forthcoming edition of the journal Aggressive Behavior, was conducted by Chester and C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.

    The researchers conducted three studies involving 673 students at the University of Kentucky in which participants filled out questionnaires that have been validated to predict a person’s real-life behavior. They were asked to say whether they agree or disagree to a variety of statements, such as “Anyone who provokes me deserves the punishment that I give” and “If I’m wronged, I can’t live with myself until I revenge.”

    “A lot of people don’t want to admit to having certain traits or tendencies that aren’t really savory or socially acceptable, so you have to ask questions in a very specific way,” Chester said. “You’re not asking outright, ‘Are you a vengeful person?’ No one would say that they are. But instead you can use a little bit of subterfuge and get some insight.”

    By gaining a deeper understanding of what drives certain people to seek revenge, researchers will be able to create profiles that could be used to identify those who are most likely to commit violence in the future and intervene.

    “Not everyone when they’re wronged goes out and shoots up a school. Not everyone when they’re wronged starts a bar fight. But some people do. So identifying who is most at risk for seeking revenge is really important to do in order to intervene before they engage in harmful acts and start to hurt other people in retaliation,” Chester said.

    “This type of information [revealed in the study] can be used to build a profile of the type of person to look out for,” he said. “If you know which individuals are most at risk of seeking vengeance against others, maybe you could intervene beforehand and prevent the acts of violence from ever happening in the first place.”

    Chester, a leading scholar in the field of aggression research, runs the Social Psychology and Neuroscience Lab in VCU’s Department of Psychology, which aims to further our understanding of violent behavior, exploring the role of the brain and human psychology behind topics such as revenge, domestic abuse, psychopaths and related topics.

    “Our real world goal is to reduce violence and to reduce aggressive behavior. The most common form of that is revenge,” Chester said. “When you ask murderers and terrorists and others who commit violence why they did what they did, the answer is frequently that they were seeking retribution for something that someone had done to them.”

    “So if we’re trying to reduce aggression, we should start by trying to reduce revenge,” he said. “And one of the best ways to reduce revenge is to figure out who is most likely to do it.”

  5. Study looks at what gives poetry its aesthetic appeal

    by Ashley

    From the New York University press release:

    New psychology research points to the factors that explain why we find particular poems aesthetically pleasing — results that enhance our understanding of “why we like what we like.”

    “People disagree on what they like, of course,” explains Amy Belfi, a postdoctoral fellow in New York University’s Department of Psychology at the time of the study and the study’s lead author. “While it may seem obvious that individual taste matters in judgments of poetry, we found that despite individual disagreement, it seems that certain factors consistently influence how much a poem will be enjoyed.”

    The study, which appears in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, also included G. Gabrielle Starr, president of Pomona College and dean of NYU’s College of Arts and Science at the time of the research, and Edward Vessel, a research scientist in the Department of Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany. Belfi is now an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Science at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

    Aesthetics, the underpinnings of what we find appealing or not, play an important role in our everyday lives — from deciding what to wear in the morning to choosing what to listen to during your commute. However, little is known about how we make these judgments.

    The researchers sought to answer an age-old question — “Why do we like what we like?” — by gauging what we find aesthetically pleasing in poetry.

    To do this, the team had more than 400 participants read and rate poems of two genres — haiku and sonnet — with the aim of understanding the factors that best predicted the aesthetic appeal of the poems. After reading each poem, participants answered questions about the poem’s vividness (“How vivid is the imagery evoked from this poem?”), emotional arousal (“How relaxing or stimulating is this poem?”), emotional valence (“How positive or negative is the content of this poem?” — e.g, a poem about death might be negative, while a poem about beautiful flowers might be positive), and aesthetic appeal (“How enjoyable or aesthetically appealing did you find this poem?”).

    Their results showed that vividness of mental imagery was the best predictor of aesthetic appeal — poems that evoked greater imagery were more pleasing. Emotional valence also predicted aesthetic appeal, though to a lesser extent; specifically, poems that were found to be more positive were generally found to be more appealing. By contrast, emotional arousal did not have a clear relationship to aesthetic appeal.

    Notably, readers did not at all agree on what poems they found appealing, an outcome that supports the notion that people have different tastes; nonetheless, there is common ground — vividness of imagery and emotional valence — in what explains these tastes, even if they vary.

    “The vividness of a poem consistently predicted its aesthetic appeal,” notes Starr, author of Feeling Beauty: The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience (MIT Press). “Therefore, it seems that vividness of mental imagery may be a key component influencing what we like more broadly.”

    “While limited to poetry,” she adds, “our work sheds light into which components most influence our aesthetic judgments and paves the way for future research investigating how we make such judgments in other domains.”

    The verses (111 haiku and 16 sonnets) were drawn from The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, translated by Robert Haas (Ecco Press), and Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon, by Richard Wright (Arcade). The sonnets are American and English works by a diverse range of poets, from John Davies (“The hardness of her heart and truth of mine”) to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (“The Tides”), Claude McKay (“Dawn in New York”), Catherine Chandler (“Henslow’s Sparrow”), and others; they range from the 16th century to the current decade.

  6. Study suggests a fear of getting dumped kills romance and commitment

    December 7, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Springer press release:

    Can the fear of a relationship ending actually lessen love and cause a break-up? If yes, how does it happen? These were the questions that Simona Sciara and Giuseppe Pantaleo of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Italy set out to answer in an article published in Springer’s journal Motivation and Emotion. Their research complements what is already known about how obstacles to a romantic relationship affect attraction and commitment towards a partner.

    Study participants provided basic information about themselves and the state and dynamics of their relationship. The researchers then manipulated the participants’ perception that their relationship could end. Manipulation techniques included providing statistics about the failure of relationships to one group, and giving false feedback to some participants about the chances of their romantic affiliations ending. Participants were then asked how committed they were to their relationship, and how they felt towards their partner.

    Sciara and Pantaleo found that participants’ romantic feelings and levels of commitment towards their partners were more intense when no mention was made about the possibility that their relationships could end. Romance and commitment diminished when they heard that there could be either a high or low risk of a break-up. When participants were told that there was only a moderate chance the relationship would end, commitment was stronger. The researchers also established that the influence of such manipulated risk on romantic commitment was fully mediated by feelings of romantic affect.

    “This shows that, when faced with a ‘too high’ risk of ending the relationship, participants clearly reduced the intensity of their positive feelings towards the romantic partner,” explains Sciara.

    Pantaleo believes it is important for psychologists, clinicians and counsellors to understand the causal role that perceived risk plays in the outcomes of their clients’ romantic relationships.

    “Reduced relationship commitment, for instance, leads to dissolution considerations and, thereby, to actual relationship breakup. Relationship breakup, in turn, plays a critical role in the onset of depression, psychological distress, and reduced life satisfaction,” he adds.

  7. Study suggests preschool program helps boost skills necessary for academic achievement

    December 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Penn State press release:

    Children growing up in poverty face many challenges, but a preschool program that aims to improve social and emotional skills may help increase their focus and improve learning in the classroom, according to researchers.

    Researchers observed two groups of children from preschool through third grade. One group participated in the Head Start REDI (Research-based, Developmentally Informed) program and the other did not. Each year, the researchers measured the students’ executive function (EF) — skills that help children focus, control their impulses, remember details, and other skills essential in the classroom.

    Karen Bierman, Penn State Evan Pugh Professor of Psychology, said that while most children seemed to benefit from the REDI program, it was the children that started out with the lowest executive function that benefited the most.

    “We saw a bit of an improvement in EF skills after REDI ended at the end of preschool, but the bigger effects emerged over time in the children that started out with lower EF,” Bierman said. “We think that the social and emotional skills they built in the program boosted the EF in this group of kids, which in turn helped them engage in the classroom and benefit cognitively.”

    The researchers — who published their findings in the journal Psychological Science — said executive function skills are critical for all students, but they tend to be lower in children that grow up in poverty. Bierman said that if students are low in executive function and can’t regulate their behavior in the classroom and focus on their schoolwork, it’s hard for them to learn.

    “Some people describe executive functions as the neural architecture for learning,” Bierman said. “They help you organize and focus your attention, support your working memory, and promote your self-control. They help you stop and think through something. EF is governed by the prefrontal cortex, which grows very rapidly during the preschool years. So preschool is a great opportunity to work on these skills.”

    The REDI program was developed at Penn State as a way to build upon the existing Head Start program, which provides preschool education to low-income children. The REDI program aims to improve social and emotional skills, as well as early literacy and listening skills, by incorporating stories, puppets and other activities that introduce concepts like understanding feelings, cooperation, friendship skills and self-control skills.

    The researchers suggested that REDI’s focus on these skills would also help strengthen executive function. They recruited 356 children for the study, with 192 participating in the REDI program and 164 participating in a traditional Head Start curriculum.

    As the children moved from preschool through third grade, the researchers checked in each year and measured executive function and academic performance. In addition to comparing the REDI students to the control group, they also noted the differences in children that started with high, medium and low executive function within the REDI program.

    After analyzing the data from all five years and across all groups, the researchers found that the children in the low executive function group showed more growth in EF than the control group. The researchers also saw better reading fluency and language arts and math performance in the third grade in the lower executive function group compared to the control group.

    “We saw that this enriched preschool intervention can really have long-term academic benefits, especially, in this case, for kids who were at highest risk for having school difficulties because of their low executive function,” Bierman said. “The greatest benefits for the larger group of children were in the area of social and behavioral adjustment when they moved into elementary school. And for the kids with lower executive function, we also saw improved academic skills.”

    Bierman said she believes that boosting executive function in the kids that needed it most, gave them the skills to participate and focus in the classroom.

    In the future, the researchers said they want to continue following the children in the study as they move into middle and high school to continue measuring the lasting effects of the REDI program.


  8. Study suggests farm to school program boosts fruit, veggie intake

    by Ashley

    From the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences press release:

    It’s one thing to offer students fruits and vegetables for school lunch; it’s another for them to actually eat them. Children who attend schools with Farm to School programs eat more fruits and vegetables, new University of Florida research shows.

  9. Study suggests food cues entice consumers to overeat

    December 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Michigan press release:

    The mouth-watering aroma of juicy burgers and crispy fries, and the eye-catching menu signs with delicious food pictures can tempt many hungry patrons to stop at fast-food restaurants.

    But these food cues, which stimulate brain activity, can nudge some customers to overeat due to increased cravings and hunger, a new University of Michigan study suggests.

    “Food-related cues can make people want or crave food more, but don’t have as much of an impact on their liking, or the pleasure they get from eating the food,” said Michelle Joyner, a U-M psychology graduate student and study’s lead author.

    The study involved 112 college participants, who disclosed their weight, race, gender and other demographics. All were randomly assigned to a fast-food laboratory — designed like an actual restaurant with tables/chairs, booths and low background music — or a neutral lab.

    Participants, who ate lunch one hour before the study’s trial, could receive tokens to acquire foods typically available at fast-food restaurants, such as a cheeseburger, French fries, milkshake and soft drink. Tokens could also buy time for an alternate activity, such as playing video games on a tablet. Both the food and game choices appeared on large TV screens.

    The study questions focused on wanting, liking and hunger. Wanting is a strong motivation while liking involves pleasure.

    When exposed to food-related cues, participants felt more hungry in the fast-food lab than the neutral environment. The cues, however, did not make a difference in participants liking the food’s taste in either environment.

    People consumed 220 more calories in fast-food environments that have food-related cues than those who ate in non-cue locations, the study indicated. Joyner said food cues did not impact wanting or liking for games, suggesting the effect is specific to food.

    Joyner and colleagues said it’s important for people to arm themselves with knowledge about how food cues can trick them into thinking they are hungry and increasing their desire for food.

    “It is hard it is to avoid food cues in our current environment, but people can try some strategies to minimize their exposure by not going into restaurants and using technology to skip food advertisements in TV shows,” Joyner said.

  10. Study looks at how emancipation contributes to trust in strangers

    December 1, 2017 by Ashley

    From the National Research University Higher School of Economics press release:

    In many countries, human empowerment – including freedom of expression and action – tends to increase people’s generalised trust in other people, particularly strangers. However, such an increase is usually gradual, reaching its peak in affluent, modernised democracies. In contrast, in countries with below-average levels of development, people, especially educated ones, often demonstrate a lack of trust in strangers, according to researchers of the Higher School of Economics.


    It is generally accepted that the more prosperous a country, the higher the level of generalised trust among its population. This is largely due to emancipation, i.e. human empowerment in various spheres, such as civil rights, material freedom, freedom of expression, and others. These are the findings made by Christian Welzel, Chief Research Fellow of the HSE Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR), and Jan Delhey, Professor at the University of Magdeburg. However, the researchers’ previous studies of factors contributing to generalised trust gave contradictory results for different countries.

    Generalised trust, considered as a key component of social capital, has been a major research focus in the last three decades. There is consensus among researchers that trust in strangers – i. e. people seen for the first time – is the main indicator of generalised trust. It is a type of out-group trust, alongside trust in people of a different religion or ethnicity. According to the World Values Survey (WVS) waves 5 and 6, this type of trust, compared to other types, is the lowest in most countries.

    Anna Almakaeva, Christian Welzel and Eduard Ponarin, researchers with the HSE LCSR, examined the relationship between trust and emancipation, using data from WVS waves 5 and 6 for 63 countries.

    The WVS determines the level of generalised trust based on the answer to the question, ‘Do you trust people you meet for the first time?’ To measure the level of human emancipation, an index developed by Christian Welzel was used, comprising three dimensions of emancipation: existential, characterised by the GDP at purchasing power parity; psychological, characterised by the emancipative values such as equality, freedom, autonomy and self-expression; and institutional, measured by the civil rights index.

    Their findings confirm that generalised trust and human empowerment are positively related, but this relationship is nonlinear. Trust does not arise immediately with emancipation, but begins to grow after a certain level of emancipation is attained. Therefore, people tend to trust strangers only in highly developed and modernised countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Finland and Canada.

    Human empowerment contributes to higher levels of subjective wellbeing, civic participation, emancipative values, ethnic tolerance, and education. These factors, according to the authors, are significant contributors to trust in highly emancipated countries. However, the study revealed a curious relationship between trust and education.

    In countries with low levels of emancipation, such as Yemen, education can have an opposite effect, i.e. the lower a person’s education, the more they tend towards generalised trust, while highly educated people tend to have lower trust in those who are not in their close circle. According to the authors, this phenomenon can be partly explained by Japanese researcher Toshio Yamagishi’s idea that trust is a form of social intelligence. Where living standards are low and security is not guaranteed, education enhances people’s ability to see potential problems in their social environment.

    There is an idea that civic participation and generalised trust are parts of the same ‘social syndrome’. However, this may also be true only of highly developed countries.

    The authors conclude that societies with medium and high levels of human empowerment tend to develop a specific form of generalised trust as a civic virtue and a moral value.