The Hidden Psychology Of Colours: What They Say About Your Health, IQ, Attractiveness And Emotions (P)

Discover the surprising colour that makes you look more attractive, the role of colour in sleep and creativity and how our emotional responses are reflected in the colours we perceive.

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Colours are not just a feast for the eyes—psychologists have found they are powerful influencers of our health, intelligence, emotions and attractiveness.

From the subtle hues we choose to wear to the bright shades that fill our environment, colours hold a fascinating sway over our psychological and physiological states.

This article reveals the hidden psychology behind colours, exploring how shades like red, black, cyan, amber, and blue impact various aspects of our lives.

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I have introduced a new Premium Membership level, which gives you access to regular, longer and more in-depth articles, marked with a (P).

Dear PsyBlog reader, I have introduced a Premium Membership level, which gives you access to regular, longer and more in-depth articles, marked with a (P). As usual these will focus on areas of psychological research that are highly applicable to everyday life. The first eight Premium articles are now live, with many more to follow: The Premium Membership also includes courses, the first of which is now live: Premium members will naturally be able to read all the current members-only articles marked with an (M) in the title. I have a variety of other exciting plans for the Premium Membership which will be revealed in due course. A word to current paying members: please be aware that there is no obligation to upgrade to a Premium Membership. You can stay on your current membership plan and you will still have access to the members-only articles you have been enjoying. Nevertheless, PsyBlog is funded by its readers and relies on you to continue — your support is highly valued. Any questions or comments, feel free to email me. Best wishes, Dr Jeremy Dean

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Why Psychology Is Not Just Common Sense

Psychology it not just common sense, but do psychologists go too far in denying similarities?

Psychology it not just common sense, but do psychologists go too far in denying similarities?

If you want to see a psychologist’s head explode, tell them psychology is just common sense.

It’s not that surprising as it’s like saying that they’ve been wasting their time all these years and needn’t have bothered studying all that claptrap in the textbooks.

While psychology is, of course, more than common sense, there is certainly an intersection between the two, and anyone denying it should have their head examined.

Because psychologists are so sensitive when told their discipline is nothing more than self-evident, they’ve often gone out of their way to prove how different psychology is from common sense, sometimes with disastrous results.

Two straw men

An oft-cited argument against common sense pits two common sayings against each other.

For example, how is it possible to reconcile, ‘birds of a feather flock together’, with ‘opposites attract’.

Clearly these are mutually incompatible, it is argued, so common sense is (apparently) proved wrong.

Psychology to the rescue!

But the problem with this argument is pretty fundamental: it assumes that these well-known sayings are a good proxy for common sense.

In reality, they’re not.

Common sense is something much more subtle than just hackneyed old sayings.

Rather it is our intuitive sense of the way people think and behave based on all we know, both consciously and unconsciously.

Assuming common sense is just cliché is doing it a disservice.

The second argument you’ll get about the problem with common sense refers to a study carried out by Houston (1985).

Houston asked 50 random people in a local park 25 questions about psychology.

The questions had all the psychological jargon removed so that they were easily understood, but the psychological principles remained.

He found that out of 25 questions, 16 were answered correctly more often than would be expected by chance.

So, what’s your interpretation of this finding?

Does that support the idea that psychology is just common sense or not?

Well, it can just as easily be interpreted both ways.

The fact that people score above chance means they have some intuitive understanding of psychology’s findings.

On the other hand the fact that people don’t score 100% shows that people don’t know everything.

Perhaps even this is just common sense!

Counter-intuitive findings

No, rather than attacking common sense, psychologists are much better off defending their science by explaining the multitude of counter-intuitive findings.

This blog is filled with them.

Start with, say, choice blindness, and work on from there.

These types of findings are the best evidence for how much more psychology is than just common sense.

Ultimately what really sets psychology apart from common sense is the scientific method.

Psychology tests common sense ideas about people (along with some nonsensical ideas) to try and find out the truth.

Sometimes common sense is proved right, other times not.

But, again, let’s not be too down on common sense.

While psychologists are usually sensitive and therefore defensive about the role common sense plays, they don’t need to be: in fact common sense is very important to them.

The reason for that lies at the interface between psychology and common sense.

Crossing boundaries

Academic psychologists are generally pretty coy about the role common sense plays in coming up with ideas for their research.

They will talk about theory and hypotheses a lot, without really acknowledging that they just had a hunch.

What most people would call common sense plays a huge part in the early phases of psychological research.

When psychologists first consider a new area of research, there’s little else to go on other than guesswork or common sense.

And sometimes the results are exactly as we would expect and so common sense becomes science.

Of course many experiments don’t return common sense answers and often these are the most fascinating.

They can reveal the most to us about what it means to be human as well as setting up a whole line of further studies to try and hunt the answer down.

When common sense is proved wrong, though, this begs the question of how, and whether, psychological knowledge can creep across the line to become common sense.

Perhaps once psychological findings become well-known, people incorporate them into their intuitive thoughts and behaviour.

People, such as myself, who are interested in disseminating psychological research, would hope the answer is yes.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if just understanding Milgram’s experiment on conformity really did allow us to avoid it’s more depressing consequences?

This may be far-fetched but it doesn’t hurt to consider the interaction between common sense and psychology.

After all what used to be ‘just’ psychology, can become ‘common sense’ and similarly what used to be ‘just’ common sense can become psychology.

Each should inform the other.

But, please, don’t try to tell a psychologist that psychology is just common sense.

It’s safer for all concerned.


This Personality Trait Raises Parkinson’s Disease Risk

Parkinson’s disease causes problems with walking, balance and coordination — along with a characteristic tremor.

Parkinson’s disease causes problems with walking, balance and coordination — along with a characteristic tremor.

Anxious or pessimistic people are at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, research finds.

Parkinson’s disease affects the brain cells that control movement.

It is linked to problems with walking, balance and coordination — along with a characteristic tremor.

Dr James Bower, who led the study, said:

“This is the first study that took a group of people with documented personality characteristics but no symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and showed that those with high levels of an anxious or pessimistic personality are at higher risk for developing Parkinson’s disease up to several decades later.”

The reason for the link between the personality trait and Parkinson’s, though, is not clear, said Dr Bower:

“What we have shown in this study is that there’s a link between an anxious or pessimistic personality and the future development of Parkinson’s.

What we didn’t find is the explanation for that link.

It remains unclear whether anxiety and pessimism are risk factors for Parkinson’s disease, or linked to Parkinson’s disease via common risk factors or a common genetic predisposition.”

The conclusions come from a group of 7,216 people who were followed over more than 50 years.

Those ranked in the top 25% for anxiety had a moderately increased risk of developing Parkinson’s decades later.

The increase in risk for anxious and pessimistic people was not that great, said Dr Bower:

“We found a significant and definite link between anxious and pessimistic personalities and the future development of Parkinson’s disease.

But, the increased risk was relatively small. Just to give you an idea of numbers, if you take 1,000 40-year-olds, about 17 of them will eventually develop Parkinson’s disease.

If you take 1,000 anxious 40-year-olds, about 27 of them will develop Parkinson’s disease.”

Normal worrying in response to stressful events was not examined by the research, Dr Bower explained:

“I think it’s important to understand that what our study looked at is people with anxious personalities.

These are the chronic worriers — the people who worry about things that most people don’t seem to worry about.

Those are the people we’re saying have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

We did not look at people who are undergoing some acute, stressful life event or people who have very stressful jobs.”

The study was published in the journal Movement Disorders (Bower et al., 2005).

The Common Drink That Halves Liver Cancer Risk

People who like this drink can lower their odds of having liver cancer by 50 percent.

People who like this drink can lower their odds of having liver cancer by 50 percent.

Coffee is not just a wake-up call in the morning, now it has been found to cut the risk of liver cancer by half.

A study reveals that coffee drinkers are 50 percent less likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common type of liver cancer) than those who don’t drink coffee.

One important factor is that coffee shows antioxidant activity, preventing cancer cells from dividing and reproducing themselves.

Coffee is rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols, chlorogenic acid, diterpenes like cafestol, kahweol and tocopherols.

Phenolic acids and caffeine have been shown to have anti-cancer properties, helping to decreasing the size and number of tumours.

Coffee is one the most popular beverages in the world: half of American adults drink coffee every day.

Drinking coffee has been associated with several health benefits, such as lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

This study focused on the effect of different types of coffee on liver cancer in 471,779 middle-aged UK participants.

In the UK over the past decade, liver cancer rates have increased by 60 percent.

Dr Úna McMenamin, study co-author, said:

“This is one of the first studies to investigate the risk of digestive cancers according to different types of coffee and we found that the risk of HCC was just as low in people who drank mostly instant coffee, the type most commonly drank in the UK.

We need much more research to determine the possible biological reasons behind this association.”

Ms Kim Tu Tran, the study’s first author, said:

“People with a coffee-drinking habit could find keeping that habit going is good for their health.

That is because coffee contains antioxidants and caffeine, which may protect against cancer.

However, drinking coffee is not as protective against liver cancer as stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol or losing weight.”

The study was published in British Journal of Cancer (Tran et al., 2019).

The Talking Therapy That Boosts The Immune System

The best psychological therapy to reduce bodily inflammation.

The best psychological therapy to reduce bodily inflammation.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is the best psychological therapy to boost the immune system, a review finds.

CBT is superior to other types of therapies at reducing disease-causing inflammation in the body.

While CBT is best known as a treatment for psychological problems like depression and anxiety, it also boosts biological processes.

Dr George Slavich, study co-author, said:

“People automatically go to medication first to reduce chronic inflammation, but medications can be expensive and sometimes have adverse side effects.

In this review, we wanted to know whether psychotherapies can also affect the immune system and, if so, which ones have the most beneficial effects over the long term.”

Researchers reviewed 56 separate randomised controlled trials that tested how various non-drug therapies affect the immune system.

The results showed that CBT was particularly effective at reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body.

If cytokines remain at high levels in the body, they can cause a range of physical problems, such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Mental health problems like depression, anxiety and schizophrenia are also linked to high levels of inflammation.

Dr Slavich said:

“This seems to be a case of mind over matter.

Psychotherapies like CBT can change how we think about ourselves and the world, and changing these perceptions can in turn affect our biology.

The results of this study take this idea one step further and suggest that psychotherapy may be an effective and relatively affordable strategy for reducing individuals’ risk for chronic diseases that involve inflammation.”

The findings are a boost for those who prefer a non-drug approach, said Dr Slavich:

“There are many people who would prefer to use non-drug interventions for improving their immune system function.

In some cases, they can’t take certain medications because of medical reasons, and in other instances the medications they need are too expensive.

And then there are people who simply prefer a more holistic approach to improving their health.”

Psychotherapy emerged as the best non-drug approach, said Dr Slavich:

“Out of all of the interventions we examined, CBT was the most effective for reducing inflammation, followed by multiple or combined interventions.

Moreover, we found that the benefits of CBT on the immune system last for at least six months following treatment.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a well-tested, non-drug intervention for improving immune-related health, CBT is probably your best choice.”

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry (Shields et al., 2020).

An Unusual Early Warning Sign Of Depression

Researchers predicted who was depressed with 90 percent accuracy from this one sign.

Researchers predicted who was depressed with 90 percent accuracy from this one sign.

Changes in heart rate can predict depression, new research finds.

Heart rate could provide an early warning sign of depression and indicate when it has resolved.

People who are depressed have a heart rate that is roughly 10 to 15 beats per minute higher than the non-depressed, the study demonstrated.

Depressed people also show less variation in their heart rate and do not experience the normal drop in heart rate during the night.

By wearing a heart rate monitor for 24 hours, researchers were able to predict who was depressed.

Dr Carmen Schiweck, the study’s first author, said:

“Put simply, our pilot study suggests that by just measuring your heart rate for 24 hours, we can tell with 90% accuracy if a person is currently depressed or not”.

The small pilot study included 32 people, half of whom were depressed.

Depressed people were given the rapid anti-depressant ketamine, an anaesthetic recently licensed for use in this way.

Dr Schiweck explained:

“Two innovative elements in this study were the continuous registration of heart rate for several days and nights, and the use of the new antidepressant ketamine, which can lift depression more or less instantly.

This allowed us to see that average resting heart rate may change quite suddenly to reflect the change in mood.”

Ketamine can take effect in just minutes, which helped researchers spot the link between heart rate and depression.

Dr Schiweck said:

“We knew that something was going on to link heart rate to psychiatric disorders, but we didn’t know what it was, and whether it would have any clinical relevance.

In the past researchers had shown that depressed patients had consistently higher heart rates and lower heart rate variability, but because of the time it takes to treat depression it had been difficult to follow up and relate any improvement to heart rate.

But when we realized that ketamine leads to a rapid improvement in mood, we knew that we might be able to use it to understand the link between depression and heart rate”.

The study measured people’s heart rate across 4 days and 3 nights.

Dr Schiweck explained the results:

“We found that those with depression had both a higher baseline heart rate, and a lower heart rate variation, as we expected.

On average we saw that depressed patients had a heart rate which was roughly 10 to 15 beats per minutes higher than in controls.

After treatment, we again measured the heart rates and found that both the rate and the heartrate fluctuation of the previously depressed patients had changed to be closer to those found in the controls.”

Among the depressed, heart rates did not drop during the night as is normal, said Dr Schiweck:

“Normally heart rates are higher during the day and lower during the night.

Interestingly, it seems that the drop in heart rate during the night is impaired in depression.

This seems to be a way of identifying patients who are at risk to develop depression or to relapse.”

The next stage for the researchers is to carry out a larger study, said Dr Schiweck:

“We need to remember that this is a small proof-of-concept study: 6 of our of our 16 initial patients responded to treatment with at least a 30% reduction on the Hamilton Rating scale for depression, so we need to repeat the work with a larger, anti-depressant free sample.

Our next step is to follow up depressed patients and patients who are in remission, to confirm that the changes we see can be used as an early warning system”.

The study was presented at the ECNP virtual congress (Schiweck et al., 2020).

How To Deal With Negative Thoughts And Anxiety (M)

People in the study were asked to journal about their most stressful experiences.

People in the study were asked to journal about their most stressful experiences.

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