Thursday, 31 March 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: How does human behaviour change in response to failure and success? Post-error recklessness and the hot hand

Post-error slowing describes systematic increases in response time (RT) following an error in rapid choice tasks (Laming, 1968). The hot hand originated in sports, and describes an increase in the probability of success after previous success. The hot hand is often considered a fallacy as, despite the strong beliefs of spectators and players, the effect is not often empirically observed (Gilovich, Vallone, & Tversky, 1985).  Even though they are both measured by a difference between post-error and post-correct performance, and even though they both tap similar questions - the literature have not overlapped because post-error slowing (rapid choice experiments) and the hot hand (professional sports) have been studied in vastly different environments.

Paul Williams, a PhD student in the School of Psychology, developed over the last few years dedicated computer game-like tasks (and measures) that allow assesing Post-Error slowing and Hot Hand simultaneously.

In this recently published paper Paul and his colleagues at the Newcastle Cognition Lab present data from their computerized game-like task along with a comparison of several measures of sequential dependency. The results were quite surprising...

SPOILER ALERT -  First and foremost, unpaid players exhibited surprising and strong evidence for the elusive hot hand, with an unprecedented effect size. Furthermore, financial reward to successful performance led to a more cautious approach following errors, whereas unrewarded performance led to recklessness. You can read about these results and other findings in the full paper:

Williams, P., Heatchocte, A., Nesbitt, K., & Eidels, A. (2016). Post error recklessness and the hot hand. Judgment and Decision Making, 11(2), 174-184.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: Cognition and personality in Labradors, sparrows and children is a blog run by University of St Andrews students and staff. Artists and researchers are working hand in hand to increase the outreach and to make it more accessible to everyone. They were taken by a new paper by Dr. Andrea Griffin and her colleagues, which examines personality and behavior in people and animals. The picture capturing their impression is here:

Here is their impression in words:

Members of the same animal species – both human and non-human – vary in their behavior across time and space. Some Labradors bark more than others, some sparrows sing less than others, and some children run frenziedly around as others sit still with their toys. Meanwhile and less visibly, individuals also vary in how they process information – their “cognitive styles”. But charting the causal arrows linking these two is no easy task. Cognitive abilities – such as speed in learning about associations, rewards and categories – are tricky things to measure, because, in order to capture an individual’s true ability hidden beneath day-to-day fluctuations, they need to be tested repeatedly. Unfortunately, every new measurement may be influenced by previous ones, as an individual becomes familiar with the task. And if researchers, despite these practical challenges, were to find that a trait indeed correlates with a cognitive ability, such as shyness with learning difficulties, they will have to find a way to exclude the possibility that they both are caused by a third factor, like stress. Griffin and her colleagues discuss how personality psychology can best overcome these hurdles to illuminate why no two Labradors, sparrows or children are the same.

[reproduced with permission from]

original paper:
Griffin, A. S., Guillette, L. M., & Healy, S. D. (2015). Cognition and personality: an analysis of an emerging field. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 30(4), 207-214.

Friday, 11 March 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: University is a stressful experience for some.

Previous research has demonstrated that university students report significantly higher levels of psychological distress compared to the general population. Two new publications from UoN researchers have replicated this finding but go further by examining potential predictors of distress and well-being in students:

Miles Bore, Chris Pittolo, Dianne Kirby, Teresa Dluzewska and Stuart Marlin (2016). Predictors of psychological distress and well-being in a sample of Australian undergraduate students. Higher Education Research and Development, online. doi 10.1080/07294360.2016.1138452

Miles Bore, Brian Kelly and Kichu Nair. (2016). Potential predictors of psychological distress and well-being in medical students: a cross-sectional pilot study. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 7, 125-135 . doi 10.2147/AMEP.S96802

Both studies found significant correlations between situational variables, such as financial concerns, and student well-being and distress. However, higher emotional resilience vs. emotional reactivity (measured as a personality trait) was found to be the most significant predictor of well-being and lower psychological distress. The conclusion drawn from the findings of each study was that the experience of university for many students might be improved through resilience skills training being embedded in the curriculum.