By Emily Reynolds

From the very beginning of the pandemic, activists and charities raised concerns that lockdown could be having an impact on domestic violence. Women’s Aid noted that home is often an unsafe environment for those experiencing abuse, while earlier this year Refuge stated that they’d seen a 60% increase in monthly calls to their National Domestic Abuse helpline.

A new study, published in Psychology of Violence, looks at rates of intimate partner violence during the pandemic in the United States. Like data from the UK, it suggests that domestic violence increased during lockdown — and that this was particularly linked to stress.

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By Emma Young

What is it that makes someone feel that theirs is a “good life”? Of all the ideas put forward over the past few millennia, two are most often extolled and researched today. The first is hedonistic wellbeing, often called simply “happiness”, which is characterised by plenty of positive emotions and general life satisfaction. The other is “eudaimonia” — feeling that your life has meaning and that you are realising your potential. Now in a new paper in Psychological Review, Shigehiro Oishi at the University of Virginia and Erin Westgate at the University of Florida suggest that we’ve been missing something: “psychological richness”.

Continue reading “We’ve Neglected The Role Of “Psychological Richness” When Considering What Makes A Good Life, Study Argues”

By Emma L. Barratt

When thinking about homelessness, we don’t often consider where to draw the line between housed and homeless. Couchsurfers — homeless individuals who put a roof over their head by staying with friends, relatives, or strangers found on couchsurfing sites — may not spring to mind when considering homelessness.

However, it’s far from a rare arrangement. Though exact numbers are lacking, studies from the last five years found that a shocking 22% of young people in the UK had slept rough at some point, and that 35% had couchsurfed in the absence of having a stable home.

The lack of stability, security, and sense of belonging that comes with having a home are all recognised factors in adverse psychological outcomes in those who are homeless. But, with couchsurfing being such a prevalent living situation, yet so different from sleeping rough, the psychological effects of this specific type of homelessness are well worth investigating. Now a new study from researchers led by Katie Hail-Jares at Griffith University, Australia has uncovered a strong relationship between couchsurfing and psychological distress.

Continue reading “Young Australians Who Couchsurf Experience High Levels Of Psychological Distress”

By Emma Young

Much has been written about the downsides of home-working. “Zoom fatigue”, in particular, is now a term, and an experience, that many of us are familiar with. But the tiring effect of video chat could represent only one of its dangers, according to new work in PNAS. It finds that we ascribe less “mind” to people we see in image form, vs in the flesh, and even less again to images of images of people. There could be serious implications, write Paris Will at the University of British Columbia and colleagues: “Given that mind perception underpins moral judgement, our findings suggest that depicted persons will receive greater or lesser ethical consideration, depending on the level of abstraction.”

Continue reading “The Medusa Effect: We Ascribe Less “Mind” To People We See In Pictures”

By Emma L. Barratt

Around one in five of those who have recovered from Covid-19 report ongoing symptoms, also known as long Covid. Experiences with this new condition are varied, and several symptoms are neuropsychological in nature.

One such symptom is brain fog. Though not a medical diagnosis in itself, this term is recognised by many health professionals, and refers to a fluctuating and varied set of symptoms which severely affect the sufferer’s ability to think clearly, or conduct their lives as they previously have.

Brain fog is often thought of as a benign, non-specific symptom, and in some circles is even dismissed as malingering. But in fact, it’s a symptom widely associated with chemotherapy, an issue for 40% of those with HIV, and source of frustration for many during pregnancy, amongst other medical conditions. Several neurological mechanisms have been proposed, but as of yet scientists don’t agree on the exact physical cause. As such, research looking into this after-effect of Covid is likely to garner a wide array of responses.

At this stage, understanding the experience of brain fog in long Covid is important — in order to tackle a new condition, researchers must first obtain a thorough description of the problem. This is the starting point from which further research can truly begin. To this end, researchers based at Oxford University recruited 50 participants from previous long Covid studies and online long Covid support groups to participate in remotely-held focus groups.

Continue reading “First-Hand Reports Of “Brain Fog” Highlight Struggles Of Those Living With Long Covid  “

By Emily Reynolds

The media plays a huge part in shaping our understanding of the world, including how we respond to other people. Coverage of immigration is no different, and previous research has suggested that even subtle changes in language and framing can change the way people think about immigrants.

A new study, published in Scientific Reports, looks at the real life impact of negative media portrayals of immigrants. It finds that negative coverage can increase hostility towards immigrants and favouritism towards members of the non-immigrant in-group — which can have serious financial, emotional and social consequences for communities.

Continue reading “Negative Media Coverage Of Immigration Leads To Hostility Towards Immigrants And In-Group Favouritism”

By Emma L. Barratt

Retaining new information can be tricky, especially with topics far outside of what we’re familiar with. A good teacher can make a huge difference, but effective teaching techniques can add new dimensions to our ability to really take on what we’re being told.

A new study by academics from the University of California and University of Georgia identifies one such technique, and it turns out to be incredibly simple: hand gestures.

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By Emily Reynolds

Research has found significant racial biases when judging the emotions of others. Black people are more likely to be misjudged as angry, for example, and recent research has suggested that even children are victims of this “anger bias”. Black children are also frequently subject to “adultification” — being perceived as older and more mature than White peers.

A new study explores the links between these two phenomena, finding that the older adults believe Black children to be, the more likely they are to (incorrectly) judge them to be angry too. Writing in Cognition and Emotion, Alison N. Cooke and Amy G. Halberstadt from North Carolina State University argue that such judgements could have serious consequences for Black children.

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By Emma L. Barratt

It’s no secret that marginalised groups face barriers in educational settings that the able-bodied, male, and racially privileged largely do not. Issues pertaining to access, sense of belonging, potential discrimination, and financial difficulties can add often insurmountable layers of complexity to applying for further education.

Efforts to address this in recent years have crystallised into a number of measures, including the wide adoption of diversity and inclusion grants. These provide financial support specifically for selected individuals from marginalised groups, in order to give them a more equal footing with applicants from privileged backgrounds.

However, recent research from Adriana L. Germano and colleagues at The University of Washington has illustrated some unintended flaws with this approach. In stark contrast with the ethos behind diversity and inclusion initiatives, these grants may be serving to make applications to prestigious scholarships even less diverse than before.

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By Emily Reynolds

In 1995, a seminal book was published suggesting that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were exposed to 30 million fewer words than richer children by the age of 4 — the so-called “word gap”. The idea is now widespread and has informed early childhood policy in the United States (though the findings are more contentious than this ubiquity might suggest).

But why might these kids be exposed to fewer words? A new study from a team at the University of California, Berkeley, finds that worries about financial insecurity reduced the amount that caregivers spoke to their small children, suggesting that these concerns themselves could be at least partly responsible for the word gap.

Continue reading “Tackling Income Inequality Could Boost Children’s Vocabulary”