Tag: psychology

Men and Women Have the Same Emotional Turbulence

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

Contrary to widely held gender stereotypes, women are not more emotional than men, say researchers of a new study into emotional differences in gender.

Feelings such as enthusiasm, nervousness or strength are often interpreted differently between the two genders. It’s what being ’emotional’ means to men versus women that is part of a new University of Michigan study that dispels these biases.

For example, a man whose emotions fluctuate in a sporting event is described as “passionate” while a woman whose emotions change in any event, even if provoked, is considered “irrational,” said senior author Adriene Beltz, assistant professor of psychology.

Prof Beltz and colleagues followed 142 men and women over 75 days to learn more about their daily emotions, both positive and negative. The women were divided into four groups: one naturally cycling and three others who used different forms of oral contraceptives.

The researchers detected fluctuations in emotions three different ways, and then compared the sexes. Little to no differences were seen between the men and the various groups of women, suggesting that men’s emotions fluctuate to the same extent as women’s, although likely for different reasons.

“We also didn’t find meaningful differences between the groups of women, making clear that emotional highs and lows are due to many influences – not only hormones,” Prof Beltz said.

These findings could have implications for research, which has historically excluded women partly because ovarian hormone fluctuations result in variation, especially in emotion, which cannot be experimentally controlled, the researchers said.

“Our study uniquely provides psychological data to show that the justifications for excluding women in the first place (because fluctuating ovarian hormones, and consequently emotions, confounded experiments) were misguided,” Prof Beltz said.

Source: University of Michigan

Having No Audience Slows Male Athletes but Boosts Females

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Researchers have found that having no audience present made men run slower, but helped women run faster.

The new study by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) examined the effect of an audience on performance of athletes at the 2020 Biathlon World Cup. According to the new analysis, women also performed better in complex tasks, such as shooting, when an audience was present while men did not.

According to social facilitation theory, a person’s performance is impacted if other people watch them. Merely having an audience improves the performance of simple tasks, especially those requiring stamina: and it is surprisingly hard to circumvent. One study showed that ‘virtual’ bystanders did not have the same effect as having real bystanders in firefighter’s performance in training tasks.

“The studies have been relatively clear so far, but the results are more heterogeneous when it comes to more complex coordinative tasks,” explains Amelie Heinrich from the Institute of Sports Science at MLU. Generally the assumption is that performance tends to drop when an audience is present.

Heinrich is a sports psychology expert who coaches Germany’s junior biathlon squad, and took advantage of the unique conditions created by COVID. “The pandemic offers a unique opportunity to study an audience’s influence outside of experimental conditions in the real world,” said Heinrich, who compared the running times and shooting successes of male and female biathletes from the 2018/2019 season with their performances in the 2020 season in the sprint and mass start events.

“The men’s results were as expected: they ran faster with an audience present, but performed more poorly in shooting,” noted Heinrich. Cross-country skiing mainly requires stamina while shooting is a coordinative task. 

“Interestingly, it was the other way around for women.” With spectators present they ran slower, but on average, it took them an entire second less to make their shot and, at least in the sprint, their scoring performance was five per cent higher. The researchers argue that it is not just due to fluctuation in the athletes’ performance; with 83 (sprint) and 34 (mass start) World Cup biathletes, the study has a good basis for evidence, and the same tendency was seen in both disciplines.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time that a study was able to show a different effect of the audience on men and women,” noted Professor Oliver Stoll, head of the sports psychology section at MLU. Most previous research focused on men. “Our study raises questions about the generalisability of the social facilitation theory and indicates there might be a previously unknown difference between men and women,” said Heinrich, adding that more research in sports with coordination and stamina is needed.

Thus far, the researchers can only speculate about the reasons for the possible gender-specific performance differences in response to audiences or the lack of. “It is possible that gender-specific stereotypes play a role,” said Heinrich. Men have a stereotype that they should be strong, while studies have shown that women are more sensitive to feedback. In any case, Heinrich concluded, this underscores the need to account for gender in studying psychological effects.

Source: Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

Journal information: Heinrich A. et al. Selection bias in social facilitation theory? Audience effects on elite biathletes’ performance are gender-specific. Psychology of Sports and Exercise (2021). Doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2021.101943

Implanting and Erasing False Memories

A technique both to implant and false memories has been described by researchers.

False memories are a source of great confusion for neurologists and psychologists, but interest in them has greatly increased in the past three decades. They are believe to arise from a need for completeness in memory, as well as other factors such as wish fulfillment. Psychologists have demonstrated techniques to instil false memories in subjects, enabling the process to be studied. Such techniques have also been used to influence witnesses in criminal trials.

Functional MRI studies of false memories indicate the involvement of prefrontal cortex, particularly ventromedial and in the right hemisphere.
The method involves planting a suggestion that a plausible event happened, and then using a trusted source to back up the claim. The study used this method with 52 participants, creating plausible stories from their childhood and mixing in real events. The participants’ parents were asked to back up the memories of the false events, and over a number of sessions, many participants gradually began to believe the stories and some also produced false memories.

The researchers found that they could erase these memories by identifying the source of the false memory, then explaining to them how false memories can be created when people are asked to recall a memory several times.  

Interviewing the subjects a year later, the researchers found that 74% of them had either rejected the false memories or forgotten them.

Source: Medical Xpress

Journal information: Aileen Oeberst et al. Rich false memories of autobiographical events can be reversed, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2026447118

Social Cues Impacts on Human Decision-making in Emergencies

Man at the wheel of a car. Photo by why kei on Unsplash.

A study showed that, when participants in a simulated crash of an autonomous vehicle were told that others had chosen to crash into a wall to save pedestrians, their own willingness to do so went up by two-thirds.

As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, and the need to program them for safety emerges, a better understanding of how humans react in such situations is needed. Study author Jonathan Gratch, the principal investigator for this project, and a computer scientist at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, said that current models for humans in life-or-death situations, humans think differently to how they do in reality. There are no moral absolutes, rather ” it is more nuanced”.

Seeking to understand how humans make decisions in life-or-death situations and how to apply them to the programming of autonomous vehicles and robots, researchers presented a modified trolley problem to participants using a modified ‘trolley problem’.

The trolley problem is a classic hypothetical scenario psychologists use to investigate human decision-making. Essentially, it involves the decision to divert a tram to hit one person or to leave it on its track and hit five, and it has a number of variations. In one medical variation of the trolley problem, one person could be killed and their organs harvested to save five terminally ill patients — a choice that is overwhelmingly rejected.  

In three of four simulations presented to them, the participants had to choose whether to tell their autonomous vehicle to hit a wall, risking harm to themselves, or hit five pedestrians. The higher the likelihood of injury to pedestrians, the more likely the participants were to choose hitting the wall and risking self harm. The authors showed that in so doing, people balance the risk of injury to self against the potential of injury to others as a guideline.

In the fourth scenario, a social element was added, where participants were told that their peers had chosen to save the pedestrians. In this case, the proportion of participants electing to save the pedestrian went up from 30% to 50%.

However, Gratch there is a reverse as well: “Technically there are two forces at work. When people realize their peers don’t care, this pulls people down to selfishness. When they realize they care, this pulls them up.”

The researchers showed that using the trolley problem as a basis for decision-making is insufficient, as it fails to capture the complexity of human decision-making. The researchers also concluded that transparency in the programming of autonomous machines was important for the public, as well as human operators assuming control in the event of an emergency.

Source: News-Medical.Net

Journal information: de Melo, C. M., et al. (2021) Risk of Injury in Moral Dilemmas With Autonomous Vehicles. Frontiers in Robotics and AI. doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2020.572529.