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

Journal: Psychological science


Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students' capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers' tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

Concepts: Present, Writing, Laptop, Note, Promissory note


People with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) show reduced sensitivity to contextual stimuli in many perceptual and cognitive tasks. We investigated whether this also applies to decision making by examining adult participants' choices between pairs of consumer products that were presented with a third, less desirable “decoy” option. Participants' preferences between the items in a given pair frequently switched when the third item in the set was changed, but this tendency was reduced among individuals with ASC, which indicated that their choices were more consistent and conventionally rational than those of control participants. A comparison of people who were drawn from the general population and who varied in their levels of autistic traits revealed a weaker version of the same effect. The reduced context sensitivity was not due to differences in noisy responding, and although the ASC group took longer to make their decisions, this did not account for the enhanced consistency of their choices. The results extend the characterization of autistic cognition as relatively context insensitive to a new domain, and have practical implications for socioeconomic behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Decision making, Cognition, Autism, Pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, PDD-NOS


Are people more moral in the morning than in the afternoon? We propose that the normal, unremarkable experiences associated with everyday living can deplete one’s capacity to resist moral temptations. In a series of four experiments, both undergraduate students and a sample of U.S. adults engaged in less unethical behavior (e.g., less lying and cheating) on tasks performed in the morning than on the same tasks performed in the afternoon. This morning morality effect was mediated by decreases in moral awareness and self-control in the afternoon. Furthermore, the effect of time of day on unethical behavior was found to be stronger for people with a lower propensity to morally disengage. These findings highlight a simple yet pervasive factor (i.e., the time of day) that has important implications for moral behavior.

Concepts: Ethics, Morality, Immanuel Kant, Moral, Moral psychology


The underrepresentation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is a continual concern for social scientists and policymakers. Using an international database on adolescent achievement in science, mathematics, and reading ( N = 472,242), we showed that girls performed similarly to or better than boys in science in two of every three countries, and in nearly all countries, more girls appeared capable of college-level STEM study than had enrolled. Paradoxically, the sex differences in the magnitude of relative academic strengths and pursuit of STEM degrees rose with increases in national gender equality. The gap between boys' science achievement and girls' reading achievement relative to their mean academic performance was near universal. These sex differences in academic strengths and attitudes toward science correlated with the STEM graduation gap. A mediation analysis suggested that life-quality pressures in less gender-equal countries promote girls' and women’s engagement with STEM subjects.

Concepts: Female, Mathematics, Gender, Science, Engineering, Woman, Social sciences, Scientist


More than 20 years ago, researchers proposed that individual differences in performance in such domains as music, sports, and games largely reflect individual differences in amount of deliberate practice, which was defined as engagement in structured activities created specifically to improve performance in a domain. This view is a frequent topic of popular-science writing-but is it supported by empirical evidence? To answer this question, we conducted a meta-analysis covering all major domains in which deliberate practice has been investigated. We found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions. We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued.

Concepts: Scientific method, Empirical research


Although the time adolescents spend with digital technologies has sparked widespread concerns that their use might be negatively associated with mental well-being, these potential deleterious influences have not been rigorously studied. Using a preregistered plan for analyzing data collected from a representative sample of English adolescents ( n = 120,115), we obtained evidence that the links between digital-screen time and mental well-being are described by quadratic functions. Further, our results showed that these links vary as a function of when digital technologies are used (i.e., weekday vs. weekend), suggesting that a full understanding of the impact of these recreational activities will require examining their functionality among other daily pursuits. Overall, the evidence indicated that moderate use of digital technology is not intrinsically harmful and may be advantageous in a connected world. The findings inform recommendations for limiting adolescents' technology use and provide a template for conducting rigorous investigations into the relations between digital technology and children’s and adolescents' health.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Function, Technology, Function model, Digital, Recreation, Quadratic function


Many studies have investigated factors that affect susceptibility to false memories. However, few have investigated the role of sleep deprivation in the formation of false memories, despite overwhelming evidence that sleep deprivation impairs cognitive function. We examined the relationship between self-reported sleep duration and false memories and the effect of 24 hr of total sleep deprivation on susceptibility to false memories. We found that under certain conditions, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing false memories. Specifically, sleep deprivation increased false memories in a misinformation task when participants were sleep deprived during event encoding, but did not have a significant effect when the deprivation occurred after event encoding. These experiments are the first to investigate the effect of sleep deprivation on susceptibility to false memories, which can have dire consequences.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Sleep, Sleep deprivation, Cognition, Memory, Sleep medicine


Order and disorder are prevalent in both nature and culture, which suggests that each environ confers advantages for different outcomes. Three experiments tested the novel hypotheses that orderly environments lead people toward tradition and convention, whereas disorderly environments encourage breaking with tradition and convention-and that both settings can alter preferences, choice, and behavior. Experiment 1 showed that relative to participants in a disorderly room, participants in an orderly room chose healthier snacks and donated more money. Experiment 2 showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room. Experiment 3 showed a predicted crossover effect: Participants in an orderly room preferred an option labeled as classic, but those in a disorderly room preferred an option labeled as new. Whereas prior research on physical settings has shown that orderly settings encourage better behavior than disorderly ones, the current research tells a nuanced story of how different environments suit different outcomes.

Concepts: Experiment, Hypothesis, Motivation, Choice, Preference


Although nearly all domain experts agree that carbon dioxide emissions are altering the world’s climate, segments of the public remain unconvinced by the scientific evidence. Internet blogs have become a platform for denial of climate change, and bloggers have taken a prominent role in questioning climate science. We report a survey of climate-blog visitors to identify the variables underlying acceptance and rejection of climate science. Our findings parallel those of previous work and show that endorsement of free-market economics predicted rejection of climate science. Endorsement of free markets also predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer. We additionally show that, above and beyond endorsement of free markets, endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the Federal Bureau of Investigation killed Martin Luther King, Jr.) predicted rejection of climate science as well as other scientific findings. Our results provide empirical support for previous suggestions that conspiratorial thinking contributes to the rejection of science. Acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with the perception of a consensus among scientists.

Concepts: Scientific method, Carbon dioxide, Science, Global warming, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Conspiracy theory, Free market, Martin Luther King, Jr.


Researchers have shown that people often miss the occurrence of an unexpected yet salient event if they are engaged in a different task, a phenomenon known as inattentional blindness. However, demonstrations of inattentional blindness have typically involved naive observers engaged in an unfamiliar task. What about expert searchers who have spent years honing their ability to detect small abnormalities in specific types of images? We asked 24 radiologists to perform a familiar lung-nodule detection task. A gorilla, 48 times the size of the average nodule, was inserted in the last case that was presented. Eighty-three percent of the radiologists did not see the gorilla. Eye tracking revealed that the majority of those who missed the gorilla looked directly at its location. Thus, even expert searchers, operating in their domain of expertise, are vulnerable to inattentional blindness.

Concepts: Observation, Expert, Blindness, Expert witness, Miss