Monthly Archives: February 2010

Women and Men are Guilt Ships Passing in the Night

Only occasionally do studies come out that improve the image of men as more than stubborn, violent and incorrigible beasts with malfunctioning moral compasses. The study I’m about to talk about isn’t one of them.

For this peek into male shortcomings, we turn to the Spanish Journal of Psychology. Researchers wanted to test the hypothesis that women in the West experience an especially high level of guilt as compared to men, and that these elevated guilt levels correlate with high levels of interpersonal sensitivity. 

Three hundred and sixty children, adolescents and adults were recruited and divided into male and female groups. Psychologists then put the groups through a battery of psychological tests to determine what elicits the participants’ feelings of guilt, and to gauge levels of interpersonal sensitivity.

What the research team found is that women in all three age groups experienced significantly higher feelings of habitual guilt than men, with the 40-50 year-old bracket experiencing the most. Female children and teens also experience more guilt than males in their respective age groups.

The correlation with interpersonal sensitivity followed suit for all age groups (women higher, men lower) – but, for men in the 25-33 age bracket the sensitivity score was especially low. The researchers noted that with such low scores, men in this group have a serious empathetic guilt handicap. Safe to say, not an appealing personality trait.

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Filed under About Research

Getting Warmer, Getting Colder: The Chilly Paradox of Familiarity

People are strange when you’re a stranger.

– Jim Morrison

For most of us, familiar surroundings are comforting. Familiar places and faces offer a sense of stability in the maelstrom of everyday life. This seems especially true when we’re going through hard times; perhaps any port in the storm will suffice, but the one you know best is doubtless the one you’d rather find. 

But does familiarity hold the same value if we’re feeling on top of the world?  In other words, does the warm glow of what we know always stay strong despite our mood? 

A  research report in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the warmth of familiarity intensifies or lowers depending on the emotional state-of-mind we bring to it.

In a series of experiments, researchers compared participant reactions to familiarity under happy, sad, and neutral mood conditions. In the first experiment, they found that under general conditions, when the mood variable was not manipulated one way or another, people prefered familiarity. But following experiments showed that sad participants strongly preferred familiarity over the neutral condition (indicated in both self-reports and facial electromyography – EMG). Happiness, however, eliminated this preference.

It’s worth noting that happiness did not in any way reduce the level of familiarity – it simply reduced its value (decreased the “warmth of its glow”).

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Filed under About Perception, About Research