Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Psychological research


In two studies, the SCRABBLE skill of male and female participants at the National SCRABBLE Championship was analyzed and revealed superior performance for males. By collecting increasingly detailed information about the participants' engagement in practice-related activities, we found that over half of the variance in SCRABBLE performance was accounted for by measures of starting ages and the amount of different types of practice activities. Males and females did not differ significantly in the benefits to their performance derived from engagement in SCRABBLE-specific practice alone (purposeful practice). However, gender differences in performance were fully mediated by lower engagement in purposeful practice by females and by their rated preference for playing games of SCRABBLE-an activity where more extended engagement is not associated with increased SCRABBLE performance. General implications from our account of gender differences in skill acquisition are discussed, and future research is proposed for how the duration of engagement in effective deliberate practice can be experimentally manipulated.

Concepts: Human, Male, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Gamete, National Scrabble Championship


To pin down the processing characteristics of symmetry and closure in contour processing, we investigated their ability to activate rapid motor responses in a primed flanker task. In three experiments, participants selected as quickly and accurately as possible the one of two target contours possessing symmetry or closure. Target pairs were preceded by prime pairs whose spatial arrangement was consistent or inconsistent with respect to the required response. We tested for the efficiency and automaticity of symmetry and closure processing. For both cues, priming effects were present in full magnitude in the fastest motor responses consistent with a simple feedforward model. Priming effects from symmetry cues were independent of skewing and the orientation of their symmetry axis but sometimes failed to increase with increasing prime-target interval. We conclude that closure and (possibly) viewpoint-independent symmetry cues are extracted rapidly during the first feedforward wave of neuronal processing.

Concepts: Time, Vector space, First-order logic, Metalogic, Consistency, Gödel's incompleteness theorems


Cognitive flexibility is operationalized in the neuropsychological literature as the ability to shift between modes of thinking and adapt to novel or changing environments. Religious belief systems consist of strict rules and rituals that offer adherents certainty, consistency, and stability. Consequently, we hypothesized that religious adherence and practice of repetitive religious rituals may be related to the persistence versus flexibility of one’s cognition. The present study investigated the extent to which tendencies towards cognitive flexibility versus persistence are related to three facets of religious life: religious affiliation, religious practice, and religious upbringing. In a large sample (N = 744), we found that religious disbelief was related to cognitive flexibility across three independent behavioural measures: the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Remote Associates Test, and Alternative Uses Test. Furthermore, lower frequency of religious service attendance was related to cognitive flexibility. When analysing participants' religious upbringing in relation to their current religious affiliation, it was manifest that current affiliation was more influential than religious upbringing in all the measured facets of cognitive flexibility. The findings indicate that religious affiliation and engagement may shape and be shaped by cognitive control styles towards flexibility versus persistence, highlighting the tight links between flexibility of thought and religious ideologies.


The ego depletion effect is one of the most famous phenomena in social psychology. A recent meta-analysis showed that after accounting for small-studies effects by using a newly developed method called PET-PEESE, the ego depletion effect was indistinguishable from zero. However, it is too early to draw such rushing conclusion because of the inappropriate usage of PET-PEESE. The current paper reported a stricter and updated meta-analysis of ego depletion by carefully inspecting problems in the previous meta-analysis, including new studies not covered by it, and testing the effectiveness of each depleting task. The results suggest that attention video should be an ineffective depleting task, whereas emotion video should be the most effective one. Future studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of each depletion task revealed by the current meta-analysis.

Concepts: Psychology, Clinical trial, Effect, Effectiveness, Efficacy, Effects unit, The Current, Social neuroscience


Humans are highly social animals that show a wide variety of verbal and non-verbal behaviours to communicate social intent. One of the most frequently used non-verbal social behaviours is embracing, commonly used as an expression of love and affection. However, it can also occur in a large variety of social situations entailing negative (fear or sadness) or neutral emotionality (formal greetings). Embracing is also experienced from birth onwards in mother-infant interactions and is thus accompanying human social interaction across the whole lifespan. Despite the importance of embraces for human social interactions, their underlying neurophysiology is unknown. Here, we demonstrated in a well-powered sample of more than 2500 adults that humans show a significant rightward bias during embracing. Additionally, we showed that this general motor preference is strongly modulated by emotional contexts: the induction of positive or negative affect shifted the rightward bias significantly to the left, indicating a stronger involvement of right-hemispheric neural networks during emotional embraces. In a second laboratory study, we were able to replicate both of these findings and furthermore demonstrated that the motor preferences during embracing correlate with handedness. Our studies therefore not only show that embracing is controlled by an interaction of motor and affective networks, they also demonstrate that emotional factors seem to activate right-hemispheric systems in valence-invariant ways.

Concepts: Sociology, Affect, Behavior, Emotion, Social relation, Affective neuroscience, Love, Affect display


It is often claimed that negative events carry a larger weight than positive events. Loss aversion is the manifestation of this argument in monetary outcomes. In this review, we examine early studies of the utility function of gains and losses, and in particular the original evidence for loss aversion reported by Kahneman and Tversky (Econometrica  47:263-291, 1979). We suggest that loss aversion proponents have over-interpreted these findings. Specifically, the early studies of utility functions have shown that while very large losses are overweighted, smaller losses are often not. In addition, the findings of some of these studies have been systematically misrepresented to reflect loss aversion, though they did not find it. These findings shed light both on the inability of modern studies to reproduce loss aversion as well as a second literature arguing strongly for it.

Concepts: Game theory, Economics, Decision theory, Utility, Prospect theory, Risk aversion, Amos Tversky, Daniel Kahneman


According to popular beliefs and anecdotes, females best males when handling multiple tasks at the same time. However, there is relatively little empirical evidence as to whether there truly is a sex difference in multitasking and the few available studies yield inconsistent findings. We present data from a paradigm that was specifically designed to test multitasking abilities in an everyday scenario, the computerized meeting preparation task (CMPT), which requires participants to prepare a room for a meeting and handling various tasks and distractors in the process. Eighty-two males and 66 females with a wide age range (18-60 years) and a wide educational background completed the CMPT. Results revealed that none of the multitasking measures (accuracy, total time, total distance covered by the avatar, a prospective memory score, and a distractor management score) showed any sex differences. All effect sizes were d ≤ 0.18 and thus not even considered “small” by conventional standards. The findings are in line with other studies that found no or only small gender differences in everyday multitasking abilities. However, there is still too little data available to conclude if, and in which multitasking paradigms, gender differences arise.


Previous research has shown that dehydration and water supplementation affect mood and cognitive performance in both adults and children on a variety of tasks that assess memory, attention, executive function, and speeded responses. Given the varied effects of water on cognition, this study explored potential effects of water supplementation, hydration status, and thirst on thinking and decision-making tasks. 29 adult participants undertook a battery of cognitive tests on two separate occasions after having fasted from the previous night. On one occasion, they were offered 500 ml of water to drink prior to testing. Measures of urine osmolality confirmed the group-level effectiveness of the dehydration manipulation. Water supplementation was found to improve performance on tasks measuring cognitive reflection in judgement and decision-making. This increase in performance was associated with differences in tasks implicated in inhibition processes. Drinking water after a 12-h dehydration period increased performance in judgement and decision-making tasks, and this was not explained by differences in subjective thirst or attentiveness.


The effect of physical temperature on cognition and behavior has been the focus of extensive research in recent years, demonstrating that embodied concepts are grounded in, and shaped by, sensorimotor physical experiences. Nevertheless, less is known about how experienced and perceived temperatures affect cognitive control, one of humans core executive functions. In the present work, we primed participants with cool versus warm temperature using a between participants manipulation of physical touch experience (Experiment 1), and a within participants manipulation of seeing landscape views associated with cool vs. warm temperatures (Experiment 2). In both experiments, cool compared to warm temperatures lead to improved performance on an anti-saccade task, an established cognitive control measure. Implications are discussed.

Concepts: Psychology, Temperature, Cognition, Cognitive science, Perception, Empiricism, Experience, Knowledge


Anecdotal reports suggest that blind people might develop supra-normal olfactory abilities. However, scientific evidence shows a mixed pattern of findings. Inconsistent observations are reported for both sensory-driven olfactory tasks (e.g., odor threshold) and higher-order olfactory functions (e.g., odor identification). To quantify the evidence systematically, we conducted a review and meta-analysis. Studies were included if they examined olfactory function (i.e., odor threshold, odor discrimination, free odor identification, or cued odor identification) in blind compared with a sighted control group. Articles were identified through computerized literature search. A total of 18 studies focused on olfactory threshold (n = 1227: 590 blind and 637 sighted individuals), 14 studies targeted discrimination (n = 940: 455 blind and 485 sighted), 14 studies measured cued identification (n = 968: 468 blind and 500 sighted), and 7 studies (n = 443: 224 blind and 219 sighted individuals) assessed free identification. Overall, there were no differences in effect sizes between the blind and sighted individuals after correcting the results for publication bias. We additionally conducted an exploratory analysis targeting the role played by three moderators of interests: participants' age, the proportion of women versus men in each of the studies included into meta-analysis and onset of blindness (early blind vs. late-blind). However, none of the moderators affected the observed results. To conclude, blindness seems not to affect cued/free odor identification, odor discrimination or odor thresholds.