Mind Matters — Recent Research in Psychology

Did you know that people who reside in neighborhoods that are racially diverse are “more likely to help friends, neighbors, and strangers?” According to a study reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people in racially diverse urban areas tweet more about pro-social ideas, such as helpfulness and charity. It was also found that those who live in racially diverse neighborhoods are more able to identify with humanity as a whole and “more likely to have helped a stranger ….”

This nugget of information and the others presented below were gleaned from the APA Monitor on Psychology’s “In Brief” column compiled by Lea Winerman (July-August, 2018).

Here are some more nuggets to consider. Take, for example, the finding that to get people to get vaccinated, don’t try to change their opinions, just work on changing behaviors! It was found that behavioral intervention such as automatic reminder postcards were far more successful than attempts at changing opinions. Very interesting!

Another notable finding—soda tax does appear to curb consumption of sugary sodas. A study reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine compared Philadelphia residents whose soda was taxed to residents of other cities with no such tax. Soda consumption significantly decreased where there was tax while there was no decrease where there was none.

A study published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law found that youth, more than adults, are prone to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit. Participants in the research—children, teens, and adults—were given a scenario in which they were informed about how much a sentence would be reduced if they pleaded guilty. Rather than plead not guilty and run the risk of a heavier sentence, 33% of the innocent youth chose to plead guilty, while only 18% of the adults chose the guilty plea. Something to ponder.

Then there’s good news/bad news research. The good news is that it was found that young children today are more likely to have broken from old stereotypes. When asked to draw a picture of a scientist, children now will draw a woman 28% of the time, as compared to fifty years ago when they would draw a woman 1% of the time. The bad news? Teenagers revert back to the stereotype and only draw a woman scientist 1% of the time. Question: what happens in those intervening years to create this regression?

The last gleaning was found in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Comparing the survey answers of several hundred people, it was observed that those who have lived abroad had a “clearer sense of self.” Self-awareness was higher among those who had lived or studied in another country. It was also found that their self-assessments were confirmed by their peers.

If one were to make any connections among all the nuggets presented here, it might be that living with and among people, communities, and cultures that are diverse is a way of learning about yourself and is a way of accepting and caring for others. We may have strong opinions, but our behaviors can change anyway.