Psychology in Brief: 5 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week (28 June 2013)

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Meeting online = longer marriages–Internet banging–Suicides peak in spring–The power of cutlery–When uncertain we choose narcissistic leaders.

Five things we didn’t know last week from the world of psychology:

Meeting online = (slightly) longer marriages

Did you know that one-third of people who get married in the US originally met online? And it seems these marriages are slightly less likely to fail. In this sample of almost 20,000 people in the US:

“…marriages that began on-line, when compared with those that began through traditional off-line venues, were slightly less likely to result in a marital break-up (separation or divorce) and were associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction among those respondents who remained married.”

See: the internet isn’t all bad…

Internet banging

…although, since all human life is online, a lot of stuff is quite bad. Just like everyone else, gang members now do a lot of their ‘business’ online. As a new paper entitled “Internet Banging: New trends in social media, gang violence, masculinity and hip hop” puts it: gang members now carry guns and Twitter accounts.

“Gang members now occupy two spaces: the “streets” and the internet. Data from the National Gang Threat Assessment suggest that gang members uses social medial to conduct drug sales, market their activities, communicate with other members, coordinate gang actions, recruit new members and to brag about acts of violence or make threats.”

Suicides peak in spring

Very counter-intuitive this one because spring is the season of new life and new hope. Except it turns out that suicides peak in spring.

Although it’s an established finding from around the world, going back centuries in some cases, we still don’t really know why. Here are a couple of candidate explanations:

“One traditional candidate [..] is the “broken promise effect” — the sometimes crushing disappointment that spring fails to bring the relief the sufferer has hoped for. In addition, psychiatrists have long observed that for patients with bipolar disorder and depression, spring can create a manic agitation that amplifies the risk of suicide.”

If you need emotional support, try Befrienders Wordwide.

The power of cutlery

There’s too much emphasis on food nowadays and not enough on cutlery. Something as simple as cutlery has quite noticeable effects on taste perceptions:

“…when the weight of the cutlery confirms expectations (e.g. a plastic spoon is light), yoghurt seemed denser and more expensive. Color contrast is also an important factor: white yoghurt when eaten from a white spoon was rated sweeter, more liked, and more expensive than pink-colored yoghurt. Similarly, when offered cheese on a knife, spoon, fork or toothpick, the cheese from a knife tasted saltiest.”

Throw away all those stupid cook-books and instead try experimenting with different coloured plates.

When uncertain we choose narcissistic leaders

As I’ve covered here before, narcissists seem to have a strange attraction for us. For a while at least we find ourselves drawn to their charm, their self-obsession and their entitled behaviour. Just the same effect is seen when people are looking for a leader, especially during times of uncertainty:

“…individuals were shown to be aware of the negative features of narcissistic leaders, such as arrogance and exploitativeness, but chose them as leaders in times of uncertainty, regardless. Thus, a narcissistic leader is perceived as someone who can help reduce individual uncertainty.”

Image credit: dierk schaefer



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About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 28 June 2013

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Images: Creative Commons License