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

Journal: Psychological science


Perceived social support has been hypothesized to protect against the pathogenic effects of stress. How such protection might be conferred, however, is not well understood. Using a sample of 404 healthy adults, we examined the roles of perceived social support and received hugs in buffering against interpersonal stress-induced susceptibility to infectious disease. Perceived support was assessed by questionnaire, and daily interpersonal conflict and receipt of hugs were assessed by telephone interviews on 14 consecutive evenings. Subsequently, participants were exposed to a virus that causes a common cold and were monitored in quarantine to assess infection and illness signs. Perceived support protected against the rise in infection risk associated with increasing frequency of conflict. A similar stress-buffering effect emerged for hugging, which explained 32% of the attenuating effect of support. Among infected participants, greater perceived support and more-frequent hugs each predicted less-severe illness signs. These data suggest that hugging may effectively convey social support.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Infection, Infectious diseases, Influenza, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Protection, Upper respiratory tract infection, Common cold


Two studies examined whether photographing objects impacts what is remembered about them. Participants were led on a guided tour of an art museum and were directed to observe some objects and to photograph others. Results showed a photo-taking-impairment effect: If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects' locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them. However, when participants zoomed in to photograph a specific part of the object, their subsequent recognition and detail memory was not impaired, and, in fact, memory for features that were not zoomed in on was just as strong as memory for features that were zoomed in on. This finding highlights key differences between people’s memory and the camera’s “memory” and suggests that the additional attentional and cognitive processes engaged by this focused activity can eliminate the photo-taking-impairment effect.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Object, Photography, Camera, Photograph


Mind-sets (aka implicit theories) are beliefs about the nature of human attributes (e.g., intelligence). The theory holds that individuals with growth mind-sets (beliefs that attributes are malleable with effort) enjoy many positive outcomes-including higher academic achievement-while their peers who have fixed mind-sets experience negative outcomes. Given this relationship, interventions designed to increase students' growth mind-sets-thereby increasing their academic achievement-have been implemented in schools around the world. In our first meta-analysis ( k = 273, N = 365,915), we examined the strength of the relationship between mind-set and academic achievement and potential moderating factors. In our second meta-analysis ( k = 43, N = 57,155), we examined the effectiveness of mind-set interventions on academic achievement and potential moderating factors. Overall effects were weak for both meta-analyses. However, some results supported specific tenets of the theory, namely, that students with low socioeconomic status or who are academically at risk might benefit from mind-set interventions.

Concepts: Physics, Effect, Socioeconomic status, Greek loanwords, University, Academia, Theory, Meta-analysis


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.


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


Understanding how and when cognitive change occurs over the life span is a prerequisite for understanding normal and abnormal development and aging. Most studies of cognitive change are constrained, however, in their ability to detect subtle, but theoretically informative life-span changes, as they rely on either comparing broad age groups or sparse sampling across the age range. Here, we present convergent evidence from 48,537 online participants and a comprehensive analysis of normative data from standardized IQ and memory tests. Our results reveal considerable heterogeneity in when cognitive abilities peak: Some abilities peak and begin to decline around high school graduation; some abilities plateau in early adulthood, beginning to decline in subjects' 30s; and still others do not peak until subjects reach their 40s or later. These findings motivate a nuanced theory of maturation and age-related decline, in which multiple, dissociable factors differentially affect different domains of cognition.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Perception, Mind, High school, Knowledge


Experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having). Although most research comparing these two types of purchases has focused on their downstream hedonic consequences, the present research investigated hedonic differences that occur before consumption. We argue that waiting for experiences tends to be more positive than waiting for possessions. Four studies demonstrate that people derive more happiness from the anticipation of experiential purchases and that waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good. We found these effects in studies using questionnaires involving a variety of actual planned purchases, in a large-scale experience-sampling study, and in an archival analysis of news stories about people waiting in line to make a purchase. Consumers derive value from anticipation, and that value tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases.

Concepts: Present, Experience, Happiness, Purchasing, Tendency, Tend, Louisiana Purchase, Hedonism


Hostility and chronic stress are known risk factors for heart disease, but they are costly to assess on a large scale. We used language expressed on Twitter to characterize community-level psychological correlates of age-adjusted mortality from atherosclerotic heart disease (AHD). Language patterns reflecting negative social relationships, disengagement, and negative emotions-especially anger-emerged as risk factors; positive emotions and psychological engagement emerged as protective factors. Most correlations remained significant after controlling for income and education. A cross-sectional regression model based only on Twitter language predicted AHD mortality significantly better than did a model that combined 10 common demographic, socioeconomic, and health risk factors, including smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Capturing community psychological characteristics through social media is feasible, and these characteristics are strong markers of cardiovascular mortality at the community level.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Hypertension, Heart, Actuarial science, Sociology, Metabolic syndrome, Emotion, Twitter


Popular belief holds that eye contact increases the success of persuasive communication, and prior research suggests that speakers who direct their gaze more toward their listeners are perceived as more persuasive. In contrast, we demonstrate that more eye contact between the listener and speaker during persuasive communication predicts less attitude change in the direction advocated. In Study 1, participants freely watched videos of speakers expressing various views on controversial sociopolitical issues. Greater direct gaze at the speaker’s eyes was associated with less attitude change in the direction advocated by the speaker. In Study 2, we instructed participants to look at either the eyes or the mouths of speakers presenting arguments counter to participants' own attitudes. Intentionally maintaining direct eye contact led to less persuasion than did gazing at the mouth. These findings suggest that efforts at increasing eye contact may be counterproductive across a variety of persuasion contexts.

Concepts: Eye, Social psychology, Attitude change, Persuasion


Four experiments tested the novel hypothesis that ritualistic behavior potentiates and enhances ensuing consumption-an effect found for chocolates, lemonade, and even carrots. Experiment 1 showed that participants who engaged in ritualized behavior, compared with those who did not, evaluated chocolate as more flavorful, valuable, and deserving of behavioral savoring. Experiment 2 demonstrated that random gestures do not boost consumption as much as ritualistic gestures do. It further showed that a delay between a ritual and the opportunity to consume heightens enjoyment, which attests to the idea that ritual behavior stimulates goal-directed action (to consume). Experiment 3 found that performing a ritual oneself enhances consumption more than watching someone else perform the same ritual, suggesting that personal involvement is crucial for the benefits of rituals to emerge. Finally, Experiment 4 provided direct evidence of the underlying process: Rituals enhance the enjoyment of consumption because of the greater involvement in the experience that they prompt.

Concepts: Human behavior, Religion, Dance, Ritual, Ritualization, Anthropology of religion, Myth and ritual, Ritualism