Thursday, 20 December 2012

Our ten most popular posts of 2012

1. Why do children hide by covering their eyes? 

"Together with the fact that it was the concealment of the eyes that seemed to be the crucial factor for feeling hidden, the researchers wondered if the children's invisibility beliefs were based around the idea that there must be eye contact between two people - a meeting of gazes - for them to see each other (or at least, to see their "selves")."

2. Why do humans walk in circles?

"Bestaven's team said this suggests that our propensity to walk in circles is related in some way to slight irregularities in the vestibular system. Located in inner ear, the vestibular system guides our balance and minor disturbances here could skew our sense of the direction of "straight ahead" just enough to make us go around in circles."

3. Pop music is getting sadder and more emotionally ambiguous

"Schellenberg and von Scheve found that the proportion of songs recorded in minor-mode has increased, doubling over the last fifty years. The proportion of slow tempo hits has also increased linearly, reaching a peak in the 90s."

4. You're most creative when you're at your groggiest

"Here's the headline result: the students were much more successful at solving the insight problems when the time of testing coincided with their least optimal time of functioning."

5. Introducing "enclothed cognition" - how what we wear affects how we think

"Participants who donned a lab coat performed significantly better than others who merely saw a lab coat on the desk (thus suggesting the enclothed effect is more powerful than mere priming) or others who wore the same kind of coat but were told it belonged to a painter."

6. Made it! An uncanny number of psychology findings manage to scrape into statistical significance

"The pattern of results could be indicative of dubious research practices, in which researchers nudge their results towards significance, for example by excluding troublesome outliers or adding new participants. Or it could reflect a selective publication bias in the discipline - an obsession with reporting results that have the magic stamp of statistical significance. Most likely it reflects a combination of both these influences."

7. Why you should watch a horror film before going to the art gallery

Feeling afraid enhances the sublime power of art. "The capacity for a work of art to grab our interest and attention, to remove us from daily life, may stem from its ability to trigger our evolved mechanisms for coping with danger," the researchers said.

8. What your Facebook picture says about your cultural background

"Regardless of their current location, there was a significant association between cultural background and style of Facebook picture. Facebook users originally hailing from Taiwan were more likely to have a zoomed-out picture in which they were seen against a background context. Users from the USA, by contrast, were more likely to have a close-up picture in which their face filled up more of the frame."

9. Total recall: The man who can remember every day of his life in detail

"For most of us, it's tricky enough to remember what we were doing this time last week, let alone on some random day years ago. But for a blind 20-year-old man referred to by researchers as HK, every day of his life since the age of about eleven is recorded in his memory in detail."

10. Facebook or Twitter: What does your choice of social networking site say about you?

"The researchers interpreted these patterns as suggesting that Facebook users seek and share information as a way of avoiding more cognitively demanding sources such as journal articles and newspaper reports. Twitter users, by contrast, use the site for its cognitive stimulation - as a way of uncovering useful information and material without socialising (this was particularly true for older participants)."

Also, check out our at-a-glance guide to psychology in 2012 and The best psychology books of 2012.
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Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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