11 Most Popular Psychology Studies of 2016

Foods that psychopaths like, new view of depression, memory tricks, surprising psychological effects of common drugs, and more…

Foods that psychopaths like, new view of depression, memory tricks, surprising psychological effects of common drugs, and more…

Below are the most popular studies from PsyBlog published in 2016, in reverse order.

Click the links for more on each study:

11. Psychopaths and narcissists like bitter tasting foods

Having a preference for bitter tastes is linked to psychopathy, narcissism and everyday sadism.

A predilection for tonic water or coffee, therefore, could indicated some psychopathic tendencies in a person’s personality.

In contrast, people who dislike bitter tastes tend to be more agreeable, the researchers discovered.

Bitter tastes may be particularly attractive to those with darker personalities because they enjoy sensation-seeking.

Darker personality types have a greater preference for the ups and downs of life.

10. A whole-body view of depression

Depression is more than a mental disorder, it affects the body’s ability to detoxify itself.

It should be seen as a systematic disease that affects the whole body, argues a new study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Accepting that depression affects the whole body could help explain why people experiencing depression are more likely to suffer from cancer, cardiovascular disease and to die younger.

All of these problems can be combated, however, by the usual treatments for depression: talk therapy and/or medication.

9. Why intense exercise is so good for depression

Intense exercise increases the levels of two common neurotransmitters that are linked to depression.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate are both involved in depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

The study’s results are encouraging, concluded Professor Maddock:

“We are offering another view on why regular physical activity may be important to prevent or treat depression.

Not every depressed person who exercises will improve, but many will.”

8. Millennials are the most narcissistic generation ever

People born between 1988 and 1994 — so-called “millennials” — are the most narcissistic generation ever.

At least that is their view and the view of both their parents and grandparents.

Not that the label sits well with them, new research finds.

Mr Joshua Grubbs, a millennial himself who led the research, said:

“Millennials and older generations agree that millennials are the most narcissistic.

They just disagree to the extent of the narcissism.”

7. Underweight women most attractive to men

Women who are almost underweight are most attractive to men, a recent study finds.

Dr Lobke Vaanholt, one of the study’s authors, said:

“Although most people will not be surprised that extreme thinness was perceived as the most attractive body type, since this prevails so heavily in media, culture and fashion, the important advance is that now we have an evolutionary understanding of why this is the case.”

From Texas to Tehran and from Dakar to Beijing, the results were the same.

As a woman’s BMI increased, they become progressively less attractive.

The simple reason men find a low BMI attractive is that it signals youth.

6. One question to instantly reveal someone’s personality

Asking someone what they think about other people reveals much about their own personality.

The reason is that people tend to see more of their own qualities in others.

The generous person sees others as generous and the selfish person sees others as selfish.

Dr Dustin Wood, the study’s first author, said:

“A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively.

The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.”

5. The most reassuring thing you can say to the anxious

Dr Suma Chand, a clinical psychologist who helps people with phobias, says:

“The most reassuring thing I can say to anyone about fear is this: All emotions change.

You will never stay in a panicky state for the rest of your life.

Persevere, and the fear will dissolve.”

Fear and anxiety are emotions that can trap you, says Dr Chand:

“The more you feed it, the stronger it grows.

Fear traps people.

Fear puts you in a box.

Your world gets smaller and smaller.

After a while, you’re avoiding the discomfort of the fear itself, rather than the thing you fear.

Read on —>

4. Emotional responses most heritable from mother to daughter

The brain system governing the emotional response is most heritable from mother to daughter, but less so from mother to son, a new study finds.

Fathers, though, are less likely to pass on their emotional brain circuitry to either boys or girls.

The ‘corticolimbic system’ plays an important role in mood disorders, such as depression.

The corticolimbic system is made up of the amydala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

The research could explain why depression is strongly heritable from mother to daughter.

3. Drawing pictures helps your memory

Drawing pictures of words helps build stronger and more reliable memories, new research finds.

The quality of the drawings themselves does not matter, the study also found.

This suggests everyone can benefit from the technique, whatever their artistic talent.

Mr Jeffrey Wammes, the study’s first author, said:

“Importantly, the quality of the drawings people made did not seem to matter, suggesting that everyone could benefit from this memory strategy, regardless of their artistic talent.

In line with this, we showed that people still gained a huge advantage in later memory, even when they had just 4 seconds to draw their picture.”

2. Why smart people tend to be loners

The more that intelligent people socialise with their friends, the less satisfied they are with life, new research finds.

The finding challenges the accepted idea that socialising generally makes people happier.

It may be that for some people — especially those with high intelligence — socialising does not increase life satisfaction.


With intelligence comes more of a focus on long-term projects and goals.

Socialising may provide a distraction from these types of long-term satisfying projects.

1. Acetaminophen kills empathy

Acetaminophen — commonly known as Tylenol in the US and paracetamol elsewhere — reduces people’s empathy for the pain of others.

Acetaminophen is an ingredient in over 600 different medications, including being the main constituent of Tylenol.

The ubiquitous painkiller does not just kill pain, it also kills our fellow-feeling.

Dr Dominik Mischkowski, the study’s first author, said:

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“These findings suggest other people’s pain doesn’t seem as big of a deal to you when you’ve taken acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen can reduce empathy as well as serve as a painkiller.”

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.