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Analysis and Comment (29)

Go with the group on trick or treat this Halloween. Sean Locke Photography

Trick or treating this Halloween? Know your group behaviour

Halloween is upon us tonight and it’s all just a bit of harmless fun, right? Or is there truly a dark side to Halloween? What should we make of kids getting together in groups, wearing costumes that hide…
Shy people long for social connections but have to fight through a thicket of fears. Lili Vieira de Carvalho

Shyness isn’t nice, but shyness shouldn’t stop you

Shy people have quite a bit to contend with – not least the word itself. It has a number of different meanings, none of which are flattering. To “shy away” from something implies avoidance; to “shy” can…
Plenty of extreme wrongs are performed by comparatively ordinary people. Danny O'Connor

Does evil exist and, if so, are some people just plain evil?

You would have to be naïve to believe that evil exists, right? If you were asked to come up with examples of evil villains, you might think of the Emperor from Star Wars, Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter…
We shouldn’t need to keep spelling it out. Thinglass ADHD image via Shutterstock

ADHD is real and saying otherwise is damaging

The Observer recently ran an interview with US expert Bruce D Perry who claimed that children’s hyperactivity “is not a real disease”. Perry, senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas…
Milgram concluded that most of us can be induced to torture someone else at the behest of an authority figure – but that’s only part of the story. afromztoa/Flickr

Revisiting Milgram’s shocking obedience experiments

Chances are you’ve heard of Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments. In 1961, Milgram recruited pairs of volunteers to take part in a “memory test”. One volunteer was given the job of teacher, the other…
Will you ever be able to forgive yourself? Psychologists say yes. wlef70

Cheaters use cognitive tricks to feel good about themselves

Most people believe that they are moral and good. They also believe cheating on a partner is wrong. So how do cheaters live with themselves after their infidelity? Understanding how they reconcile their…
Julie with Jack in a film about Applied Behaviour Analysis. BBC/Dartmouth Films/Two Step Films/Fran Robertson

Behavioural method is not an attempt to ‘cure’ autism

Treetops School in Essex is a state school that uses ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) to educate children with autism. ABA has generated controversy and BBC4’s film, Autism: Challenging Behaviour, follows…
‘Hug a hoodie’ as David Cameron would say. ssoosay

Hard Evidence: has life got worse for young people?

Smoking, drinking and hanging around street corners is a common characterisation of a bored, unhealthy, unemployed youth. Life is getting worse for young people, we’re often led to believe, but what do…
When the rage starts to rise, don’t detonate – evaluate. Darwin Bell

Master your anger – or at least try to understand it

Misery is psychology’s stale bread and rancid butter. The field heaps attention on sadness, fear and anxiety, and their psychiatric cousins depression, phobia and neurosis. Anger receives much less scrutiny…
Dark side of the moon: does it hold some power over us? PA/Anthony Devlin

We shouldn’t dismiss the moon’s power to influence

As a teenager I observed a strange phenomenon. On awakening from an unusually vivid dream, I would often find that the moon was full. And as the silvery light prevailed on subsequent nights, my nocturnal…
That skinny latte was awesome? We knew before you tweeted. Matt Biddulph

Algorithms can predict how tweets spread

The deluge of data we are subjected to daily can be a good thing sometimes. It gives us a wide-open window to look at people’s behaviour, say, through their use of social media. The obvious question then…
Our ape relatives respond like human toddlers who are denied a treat or feel frightened. Reflexiste

Do chimps and bonobos go ape when risk goes wrong?

Do chimpanzees and bonobos throw tantrums when their decision-making fails to pay off? That’s the question posed in a new PLoS ONE study by Brian Hare of Duke University and Alexandra Rosati of Yale. It…
Police will interview suspects following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby but how they do it is important. PA/Dominic Lipinski

The psychology of interviewing suspects, from Woolwich to Boston

There are strong parallels to be drawn between last week’s Woolwich murder and the Boston bombings in April, and not just because of the terrorism connection. The subsequent shooting and hospitalisation…
A few minutes of shut-eye considerably enhances short-term memory and mood. Image from shutterstock.com

Want to boost your memory and mood? Take a nap, but keep it short

We’re told to have power naps to keep us safe on the road and improve our alertness if we’ve had insufficient sleep. They even help our surgeons stay awake during long shifts. But siestas and nana naps…
We all know the rules, and yet some of us seem happy to break them. Looking Glass

Seeing red: why cyclists ride through traffic lights

You’ve probably seen it happen. You’re driving your car and you come to a stop at the traffic lights. You’re mindful of traffic infringement fines and public safety, then someone on a bike rides past you…
Some of life’s problems are just not solvable. Sean Dreilinger

Listen up worry warts, ruminating won’t solve your problems

We all do it from time to time – replay scenarios over and over in our minds. Problem is, these repetitive and, at times, uncontrollable thoughts inevitably leave us feeling worse and make us more prone…
Protesters march against the torture at Abu Ghraib; we use social psychology to help understand why people commit such acts. Shrieking Tree

Rethinking long-held beliefs about the psychology of evil

Social psychology addresses many of the important questions that concern us as human beings. It’s also the subject of newspaper editorials on most days: why is there conflict between groups? How can it…
Were we born to work with others or look after number one? Cayusa

On first thought, cooperate; on second thought, be selfish

Are we cooperative or are we selfish? This question goes back as far as the philosophers Rousseau and Hobbes – Rousseau advocated for a “noble savage” model of humanity whereas Hobbes advocated for a “darker…
Getting rid of negative memories is increasingly within our grasp. taylor.a

Remembering to forget: how to erase unwanted memories

Memories influence our behaviour for better or worse. A traumatic incident, experienced once, can darken our lives for ever more. Drug or alcohol addiction – driven by remembered rewards – can render the…
Personal insight can be gained from one’s use – or misuse – of social media. Olga Palma/Wikimedia

Stalking your ex on Facebook is creepy … and bad for you

New research from Dr. Tara Marshall at Brunel University has found that Facebook surveillance of ex-romantic partners may disrupt post-breakup recovery and personal growth. That’s bad news, because earlier…
Don’t want someone sitting next to you? You’re not alone. j.o.h.n. walker

Enjoy the silence: commuters are ‘nonsocial’ for good reason

On public transport, there’s an unspoken rule to not take the seat next to someone if there are other seats available. In especially longer public transport commutes, the entire ride can be done in silence…
Society as we know it may depend on lies more than we realise. ireland :)

Truth is, everyone lies all the time

Recent research in residential aged care by Anthony Tuckett from the University of Queensland has illustrated that, in some instances, lying is not only necessary, it’s actually virtuous. It is a complex…

Columnists (1)

Research and News (3)

Research Briefs (11)

Why we get bored

Boredom arises from our inability to engage one of our brain’s attention networks. Our awareness of this inability to concentrate…

When in doubt, invest in karma

When faced with uncontrollable outcomes, people act as though they can still get on the good side of fate by doing good deeds…

Hyper TV makes for hyper kids

Young children who watch fast-paced television shows may find it difficult to pay attention, solve problems and moderate…

Stress linked to parent’s childhood

Researchers have used rats in a study to discover stress and resilience can be inherited. Rats were used in the study because…