This week, from my psychology notebook...
Can group therapy work over the internet? A new study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics suggests it can be useful in some circumstances. Golkaramnay et al. (2007) examined its effectiveness on those who had been discharged after receiving inpatient care. The research aimed to find out if gains made during intensive inpatient care could be maintained once patients had been discharged.
The controlled study, carried out over 15 weeks, had a group meeting online for 90 minutes each week to participate in group internet chat therapy. Twelve months after discharge, patients were at a lower risk of a negative outcome compared to the control group (24.7% versus 38.5%).
This looks like an extremely cost-effective way of improving outpatient care. However, it does mean that patients need to be familiar and comfortable with internet chat, which may not be for everybody.
Studies on the nonverbal aspects of conversations are fascinating. I recently reported how achieving rapport with another person is affected by expressivity, flow and co-ordination.
Another study tells us that women see macho men as dominant, but as a bad choice for long-term relationships. Published in Personality and Individual Differences, the study looked at the personality characteristics associated with masculine and feminine male faces.
I'm not confident these types of studies really tell us much, if anything. How often do you choose a partner or make a judgement about their suitability based solely on looking at their face? Yes, people do make judgements on the basis of appearance, but these are surely rapidly adjusted with more experience of that person. I'd be more interested to find out to what extent judgements about faces are open to later revision.
The psychology of product packaging had me intrigued this week. Packaging can't help but set up expectations about the contents - much like the research I reported on how expectations about wine affect food consumption. The packaging of alcohol, in particular, has important effects on people's subjective ratings of palatability. Gates et al. (2007) found that young people found a drink more palatable when its packaging revealed it to be a Bacardi Breezer than when it was an anonymous drink.
Rather than buy a phone with bigger buttons, a man had his thumbs surgically 'whittled' down so he could use his iPhone.
Now, that really shows you the power of marketing and packaging!
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