Sussex Psychology in the media: May 2019

May was a really productive month for the School of Psychology in terms of media coverage, from local publications to interviews on international tv channels.

“We are drawn towards equality” – Jo Cutler told The i. The newspaper asked Jo about altruism and what moves people to donate, in relation to MacKenzie Bezos’ announcement that she would give half her multi-billion dollar divorce settlement to charity. Jo Cutler is a PhD student in the Social Decision Lab, where she studies the neuroscience of charitable giving, altruism and decision making under the supervision of Dr Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn. Jo also researches how our brains process good and bad news, which was mentioned in the May issue of Brighton’s Viva Magazine.

Why do we love some animals, but loathe others? Emeritus Professor Graham Davies says that disgust is a learned emotion, probably transmitted socially, culturally and within families. Graham’s research into phobias received international coverage in May, including the Manila Times, the Inquirer and Yahoo News.

“Koala” by abigella is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Dr Sophie Forster explained why parents believe their babies have the most delicious smell in the world in The Phoenix Newspaper and Bounce Magazine. Sophie was asked to comment on the scientific evidence of the new market research by eco-cleaning brand Ecover that showed that 70 per cent of respondents preferred their baby’s natural fragrance to their favourite perfume or aftershave.

Research carried out by Prof Anna Franklin’s Baby Lab inspired a theatre play for babies aged 6 – 18 months called Kaleidoscope, which was performed at the Northern Stage in Newcastle Upon Tyne on 18 May. And Alice Skelton, who researches infant colour perception and colour categorisation in Prof Anna Franklin’s Colour Lab, spoke with The Daily Telegraph about how brands like McDonald’s use bold primary colours to influence consumers.

Amidst the controversy of the cancellation of the Jeremy Kyle show, the New Scientist published an article on the accuracy of lie detectors. Polygraph machines have long been discredited as reliable lie detectors, and professionals use alternative methods focusing on behavioural and linguistic cues. The article mentions an experiment carried by Prof Tom Ormerod (who is stepping down as Head of School in August), and Dr Carol Dando (from the University of Westminster), where they asked 200 people to pose as passengers and lie at airport security. Officers looking for behavioural signs detected less than 5 per cent, whereas those agents using Ormerod and Dando’s interviewing method identified 60 per cent of the lying passengers. You can read more about the experiment in their research paper: “Finding a needle in a haystack: towards a psychological informed method for aviation security screening.”

Dr Darya Gaysina’s study into the link between anxiety, depression and Alzheimers was included in a feature in Turkey’s Daily Sabah. You can read more about Darya’s research in the post on Psychology in the Media from March 2019.

Prof John Drury was interviewed live on air by Kay Burley on Sky News on 7 May to explain why passengers stopped to collect their luggage when escaping from a burning plane in Russia. In the five minute interview, he explained that public transport operators need to rethink how they instruct people in emergency situations, to address them as a group with responsibility to others and not as a collection of individuals. His research into crowd behaviour was also quoted in this thoughtful blog, How a crowd crush occurs (and 10 tips to survive one) published on Scroll.in and originally written for The Conversation.

Prof Drury was also interviewed by Indus News in Pakistan regarding the increasing number of lynching incidents against minorities in South East Asia. John challenged the term ‘mob mentality’ and the idea that people become more emotional and irrational in crowds, which leads them to do things that they would not do on their own. Rather, John explained, being in a group empowers individuals to enact beliefs that they already had as they feel supported by other like-minded people.

Posted in Psychology in the Media

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