Author Archives: tomstafford

Research Digest #3: Getting to grips with implicit bias

My third and final post at the BPS Research Digest is now up: Getting to grips with implicit bias. Here’s the intro: Implicit attitudes are one of the hottest topics in social psychology. Now a massive new study directly compares methods for changing them. The results are both good and bad for those who believe […]

Research Digest post #2

My time in the BPS Research Digest hotseat continues. Today’s post is about a lovely study by Stuart Ritchie and colleagues which uses a unique dataset to look at the effect of alcohol on cognitive function across the lifespan. Here’s the intro: The cognitive cost or benefit of booze depends on your genes, suggests a […]

Research Digest posts, #1: A self-fulfilling fallacy?

This week I will be blogging over at the BPS Research Digest. The Digest was written for over ten years by psychology-writer extraordinaire Christian Jarrett, and I’m one of a series of guest editors during the transition period to a new permanent editor. My first piece is now up, and here is the opening: Lady […]

Why all babies love peekaboo

Peekaboo is a game played over the world, crossing language and cultural barriers. Why is it so universal? Perhaps because it’s such a powerful learning tool. One of us hides our eyes and then slowly reveals them. This causes peals of laughter from a baby, which causes us to laugh in turn. Then we do […]

Does the unconscious know when you’re being lied to?

The headlines BBC: Truth or lie – trust your instinct, says research British Psychological Society: Our subconscious mind may detect liars Daily Mail: Why you SHOULD go with your gut: Instinct is better at detecting lies than our conscious mind The Story Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that we have the […]

What’s the evidence for the power of reason to change minds?

Last month I proposed an article for Contributoria, titled What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?. Unfortunately, I had such fun reading about the topic that I missed the end-of-month deadline and now need to get backers for my proposal again. So, here’s something from my proposal, please consider backing it […]

What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?

Contributoria is an experiment in community funded, collaborative journalism. What that means is that you can propose an article you’d like to write, and back proposals by others that you’d like to see written. There’s an article I’d like to write: What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?. Here’s something from […]

noob 2 l33t: now with graphs

Myself and Mike Dewar have just had a paper published in the journal Psychological Science. In it we present an analysis of what affects how fast people learn, using data from over 850,000 people who played an online game called Axon (designed by our friends Preloaded. This is from the abstract: In the present study, […]

Why Christmas rituals make tasty food

All of us carry out rituals in our daily lives, whether it is shaking hands or clinking glasses before we drink. At this time of year, the performance of customs and traditions is widespread – from sharing crackers, to pulling the wishbone on the turkey and lighting the Christmas pudding. These rituals might seem like […]

How sleep makes your mind more creative

It’s a tried and tested technique used by writers and poets, but can psychology explain why first moments after waking can be among our most imaginative? It is 6.06am and I’m typing this in my pyjamas. I awoke at 6.04am, walked from the bedroom to the study, switched on my computer and got to work […]

Are men better wired to read maps or is it a tired cliché?

By Tom Stafford The headlines The Guardian: Male and female brains wired differently, scans reveal The Atlantic: Male and female brains really are built differently The Independent: The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are ‘better at map reading The Story An analysis of 949 brain scans shows significant sex […]

Why the stupid think they’re smart

Psychologists have shown humans are poor judges of their own abilities, from sense of humour to grammar. Those worst at it are the worst judges of all. You’re pretty smart right? Clever, and funny too. Of course you are, just like me. But wouldn’t it be terrible if we were mistaken? Psychologists have shown that […]

Do violent video games make teens ‘eat and cheat’ more?

By Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield The Headlines Business Standard: Violent video games make teens eat more, cheat more Scienceblog.com: Teens ‘Eat more, cheat more’ after playing violent video games The Times of India: Violent video games make teens cheat more The story Playing the violent video game Grand Theft Auto made teenagers more aggressive, […]

How muggers size up your walk

The way people move can influence the likelihood of an attack by a stranger. The good news, though, is that altering this can reduce the chances of being targeted. How you move gives a lot away. Maybe too much, if the wrong person is watching. We think, for instance, that the way people walk can […]

Does studying economics make you more selfish?

When economics students learn about what makes fellow humans tick it affects the way they treat others. Not necessarily in a good way, as Tom Stafford explains. Studying human behaviour can be like a dog trying to catch its own tail. As we learn more about ourselves, our new beliefs change how we behave. Research […]

The effect of diminished belief in free will

Studies have shown that people who believe things happen randomly and not through our own choice often behave much worse than those who believe the opposite. Are you reading this because you chose to? Or are you doing so as a result of forces beyond your control? After thousands of years of philosophy, theology, argument […]

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