David Myers

Notable News Flashes From Psychological Science

Blog Post created by David Myers Expert on Jan 24, 2019

This  www.TalkPsych.com entry offers three news flashes—samples of research that have captured my attention (and may wend their way into future textbook editions).

 

NEWS FLASH # 1:Intergroup contact makes us “less inward looking and more open to experiences.” As any social psychology student knows, friendly contact with other sorts of folks engenders positive attitudes. For example, as an earlier TalkPsych essay documented, regions with more immigrants have more welcoming, positive attitudes toward immigrants. Places without immigrants fear them the most.

 

But intergroup contact does more than improve our attitudes toward others. Research by Brock University psychologist Gordon Hodson and his British colleagues reveals that intergroup contact  affects our thinking—it loosens us up, promoting cognitive flexibility, novel problem solving, and increased creativity. This observation complements earlier research that demonstrated, after controlling for other factors, that students who studied in another culture became more flexibly adept at creative problem solving (see here and here).

 

NEWS FLASH # 2:

More than we suppose, other people like us. Do you sometimes worry that people you’ve just met don’t like you very much? Actually, recent studies by Cornell University researcher Erica Boothby and her colleagues found that people rate new conversational partners as more enjoyable and likeable than the new partner presumes. Despite our shared self-serving bias (the  tendency to overestimate our own knowledge, abilities, and virtues), we tend to underestimate the impressions we make on others. Moreover, the shyer the person, the bigger the liking gap—the underestimate of others’ liking of us.

 

Ergo, the next time you fret over whether you were too quiet, too chatty, or too wrinkled and rumpled, be reassured: Others probably liked you more than you realize.

 

NEWS FLASH # 3:

The youngest children in a school class are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. The current psychiatric disorder manual broadens the criteria for diagnosing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), thus increasing the number of children so diagnosed. Some say the diagnosis enables helpful treatment and improved functioning. Skeptics say the broadened criteria pathologize immature rambunctiousness, especially among boys—whom evolution has not designed to sit passively at school desks.

 

Support for the skeptics comes from a New England Journal of Medicine study that followed 407,846 U.S. children from birth to elementary school. ADHD diagnoses were a stunning 34 percent higher among those born in August in states with a September 1 cutoff for school entry—but not higher among children in states with other cutoff dates. This massive study confirms earlier reports (here and here) that the youngest children in a class tend to be more fidgety—and more often diagnosed with ADHD—than their older peers.

 

Such findings illustrate why I feel privileged to be gifted with the time, and the responsibility, to learn something new most every day. For me, the primary job of writing is not making words march up a screen, but reading and reading, searching for insights—for gems amid the rocks—that educated people should know about.

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit www.TalkPsych.com.)

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