Psychology

Political partisanship is rooted in affective, physiological processes that cause partisans to toe the party line on policies and issues, regardless of policy content, according to a new paper.

Social psychologists have said that party identifiers are more inclined to agree with policy proposals that are proposed by their own party, independent of the content of the proposal. If the same proposal is issued by a competing party, they will be inclined to respond negatively to it. In other words, liberals and conservatives don't care about what is best for society, it has to be filtered through their beliefs to be legitimate.


A study of parental age and autism risk including 
5.7 million children in five countries
found increased autism rates among the children of teen moms and among children whose parents have relatively large gaps between their ages. It also confirmed that older parents are at higher risk of having children with autism. 

Though previous studies identified a link between advancing parental age and autism risk, many aspects of the association remained unclear. For example, some studies found increased risk with older dads but not moms. The goal of the new study was to determine whether advancing maternal or paternal ages independently increase autism risk, and to what extent each might do so.


A psychologist and an English professor have written a review of studies and concluded that pigs perform as well as or better than dogs on some tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication, and they compare favorably to chimpanzees.

The review by Emory psychologist Dr. Lori Marino and visiting English Professor Christina M. Colvin, seeks to extrapolate results to deduce what we do and do not know about pigs. The areas they discuss include cognition, emotion, self-awareness, personality and social complexity.

They conclude that “pigs possess complex ethological traits similar … to dogs and chimpanzees.” For example, pigs:

It is believed by the social sciences that all people have bias - and a "bias blind spot," meaning that they are less likely to detect bias in themselves than others.

If so, how blind are we to our own actual degree of bias, and how many of us think we are less biased than others?

A new paper outlines a tool to detect gaps, a kind of implicit association test but for bias blind spots rather than making you feel racist, and it reveals that believing that you are less biased than your peers has detrimental consequences on judgments and behaviors, such as accurately judging whether advice is useful.


Honest behavior is much like sticking to a diet - you have to be ready for temptation and consider the long-term consequences.

A recent paper says it is the first study to test how the two separate factors of identifying an ethical conflict and preemptively exercising self-control interact in shaping ethical decision-making.

In a series of experiments that included common ethical dilemmas, such as calling in sick to work and negotiating a home sale, the researchers found that two factors together promoted ethical behavior: Participants who identified a potential ethical dilemma as connected to other similar incidents and who also anticipated the temptation to act unethically were more likely to behave honestly than participants who did not.


Scientists are beginning to unwrap the biology behind why some people are more prone to major depression and other psychiatric disorders than others when experiencing stressful life events.

The researchers found that cellular activity in response to stress hormone receptor activation differs from individual to individual.

The study, led by Janine Arloth, Ryan Bogdan, and Elisabeth Binder at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Germany, also shows that the genetic variations underlying this difference in stress response correlate with dysfunction in the amygdala, a brain region that is an important part of the stress hormone response.


The impact of scary TV on children's wellbeing has been overstated, according to a new paper. While research has shown that a small minority of children can have extreme reactions to a scary program, overall there is very little sign of increased anxiety, fear, sadness or sleep problems. 


Mindfulness as a psychological aid is very much in fashion. Recent reports on the latest finding suggested that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is as effective as anti-depressants in preventing the relapse of recurrent depression.

While the authors of the paper interpreted their results in a slightly less positive light, stating that (contrary to their hypothesis) mindfulness was no more effective than medication, the meaning inferred by many in the media was that mindfulness was superior to medication.

The buzz in the press and on social media about TV costume dramas Poldark and Outlander has been formidable.

Adapted from hugely popular novels, they have drawn fans of the books (and, in the case of Poldark, of the original TV series) as well as newcomers. The shows aired within months of each other. Both are set within the 18th century and both occupy peripheral, Celtic territories – Cornwall in Poldark and the Scottish highlands in Outlander.

Earlier in the year the world was finally treated to some good news from science: a report was published that claimed to show that eating chocolate could help you lose weight faster.