Psychology

As someone who occasionally (or sometimes more than occasionally) says the wrong thing in an attempt to be helpful or comforting of "fix" the situation, I was particularly terrified by a recent article in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Beehr, Bowling, and Bennett's article titled "Occupational stress and failures of social support: When helping hurts" appears in this month's JOHP. In the interest of full disclosure (my personal motto), I'll admit that my university does not yet have full access to the article and my own personal hard copy has not arrived in the mail yet (one of the pitfalls of living in rural America), thus I can only provide a link to the abstract.
Whether prayer is supernatural or not, the common religious practice may generally benefit the Nine out of 10 Americans who say they pray. In a recent study appearing in Psychological Science, researchers found that when people's prayers are directed at those who have wronged them they're more likely to forgive and move on.

The conclusion is based on two experiments. In the first, researchers had a group of men and women pray one single prayer for their romantic partner's well being. Others—the experimental controls—simply described their partner, speaking into a tape recorder.
Research has documented that most men become much more jealous about sexual infidelity than they do about emotional infidelity. Women are the opposite. The prevailing theory is that the difference has evolutionary origins: Men learned over eons to be hyper-vigilant about sex because they can never be absolutely certain they are the father of a child, while women are much more concerned about having a partner who is committed to raising a family.
Research conducted at the University of Chicago shows that female elementary school teachers who are anxious about math often pass the phobia on to female students. Published in a recent edition of PNAS, the findings are the product of a year-long study on 17 first- and second-grade teachers and 52 boys and 65 girls who were their students. The researchers found that boys' math performance was not related to their teacher's math anxiety while girls' math achievement was affected.

To determine the impact of teachers' mathematics anxiety on students, the team assessed teachers' anxiety about math. Then, at both the beginning and end of the school year, the research team also tested the students' level of mathematics achievement and the gender stereotypes the students held.
A new study published in the Spanish Journal of Psychology indicates that in the West women experience much more guilt than men, and the primary reason is not that women feel too much guilt, but rather that many males feel too little. The authors say more needs to be done to "reduce the trend towards anxious-aggressive guilt among women and to strengthen interpersonal sensitivity among men."
A new study conducted by University of Virginia psychologists suggests that well-adapted youth with positive friendships will use social networking sites like facebook and myspace to enhance the positive relationships they already have. The study also indicates, however, that teens who have behavioral problems and difficulty making friends, or who are depressed, may be more inclined to use social media in negative and sometimes aggressive ways, or not to use such sites at all.

The study appears in the January issue of Developmental Psychology.
It's strange how quickly the image conjured up of a place can change so quickly for so many. If I'd used "Haiti" in the subject line two weeks ago, I'd guess most of you wouldn't quickly think of how it's the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Maybe you'd remember that they speak French or that it's on an island. But now... the very name of the country is synonymous with damage, destruction, and heartbreak for many Americans who have caught glimpses of stories on CNN, the radio, Twitter badges and ribbons, facebook statuses and even text messaging donation campaigns. But more than that, I think there are some important lessons worth examining in the middle of this...
In a new Cerebral Cortex study, researchers say they can predict a person's performance on a video game simply by measuring the volume of specific structures in their brain. The authors found that nearly a quarter of the variability in achievement seen among men and women trained on a new video game could be predicted by measuring the volume of three structures in their brains.

The study adds to the evidence that specific parts of the striatum, a collection of distinctive tissues tucked deep inside the cerebral cortex, profoundly influence a person's ability to refine his or her motor skills, learn new procedures, develop useful strategies and adapt to a quickly changing environment.
Some pyschologists suggests that too many choices can negatively impact our health. But a meta-analysis of 50 published and unpublished experiments that investigated choice overload  found that consumers generally respond positively to having many choices.

Across the 50 experiments, which depict the choices of 5,036 individual participants, the authors found that the overall effect of choice overload was virtually zero. "This suggests that adverse consequences do not necessarily follow from increases in the number of options," the authors write. "In fact, contrary to the notion of choice overload, these results suggest that having many options to choose from will, on average, not lead to a decrease in satisfaction or motivation to make a choice."
Hard workers who are motivated to achieve generally excel on specific tasks when they are reminded of the benefits of their hard work. But when a task is presented as fun, researchers report in a new Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study, the same hard-working individuals are often outperformed by those less motivated to achieve.

The findings suggest that two students may respond quite differently to a teacher's exhortation that they strive for excellence, said University of Illinois psychology professor Dolores Albarracín, who conducted the research with William Hart, of the University of Florida. One may be spurred to try harder, while another may become less motivated.