Arts and Entertainment

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Three years ago, a pair of psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York attracted worldwide interest and controversy when they reported that reading just a few pages of literary fiction boosted research participants’ recognition of other people’s emotions, but that reading pop fiction (also known as genre fiction) did not.

Now the same researchers have returned with a new paper that’s used a different approach to arrive at the same conclusion – reading literary fiction, but not genre fiction, appears to be associated with superior emotion recognition skills.

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Have you ever wondered why the titular Big Friendly Giant of Roald Dahl’s story is so quick to snatch Sophie from her orphanage bed in the dead of night? And so dismissive of the idea of taking her back? Steven Spielberg’s dreamy adaptation plumps squarely for a fairly psychological explanation: loneliness.

Read Jon Sutton's review on The Psychologist website.

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Based on their series of nine studies, a team of US psychologists has concluded that taking photographs enhances our enjoyment of events, likely because it increases our sense of immersion.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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Look at some of the most high-profile plagiarism scandals, such as Joe Biden's supposed borrowing from Neil Kinnock, novelist Kaavya Viswanathan's "unintentional" plagiarism of Megan McCafferty and, this week, Melania Trump's echoing of phrases used previously by Michelle Obama (though a speech-writer has taken the blame for this).

Notice a pattern? In each case, the alleged plagiarists copied others of the same sex.

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It's a vexing First World problem – how to avoid people giving away, on Twitter or at the water cooler, the events of the latest Game of Thrones episode before you've caught it.

Psychologists are beginning to study this modern scourge, albeit in the context of written stories rather than TV shows, but so far their findings have been contradictory – one study suggested that spoiled stories were more enjoyable (possibly because they're easier to process), while a later investigation found the opposite.

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Listening to songs about death and dressing yourself in t-shirts featuring skulls and demons might seem like a strange way to combat existential angst.

Nonetheless, a new study discussed on our Research Digest blog shows that listening to heavy metal helps fans of the genre deal with their own mortality. This is likely because to fans, heavy metal represents so much more than a genre, it embodies a way of life and a sense of identity.

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If you're after chills down the spine, you might find that watching professional ballet dancers does the trick just as much as listening to music.

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The fascinating history of a British artist and spiritualist medium Georgina Houghton will be examined in a free British Pyschological Society supported seminar from 6pm to 7:30pm, Tuesday 14 June at University College London.

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Discussions of visual art as a method to advance observation, critical thinking and communication skills.

Timetable

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If you've got some revision to do, get yourself a sketch pad and start drawing out the words or concepts that you want to remember.

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If you have, you may want to encourage the publishers to nominate them for a BPS Book Award.

This year the Society’s three Boards are inviting nominations in four categories:

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Saturday 2 April is World Autism Awareness Day. To mark the occasion, Professor Sir Michael Rutter has written an article asking 'What should we be aware of on World Autism Awareness Day?' for a special electronic edition of our magazine The Psychologist.

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Some pieces of music you can’t escape knowing, and for children in 1960s Britain, God Save the Queen would qualify, according to research published back then.

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Six psychologists from the University of Bath, whose research primarily looks into stress and pain, have collaborated on creating an art exhibition in Bath featuring works based around themes in their research.

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Unfortunately this workshop is cancelled

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This is a joint post from Professor Peter Kinderman, President Elect, and Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes

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Tales of Steve Jobs' 'jerkiness' are legendary. Other iconic creative visionaries have similarly been known for their difficult personalities, from 'Sopranos' creator David Chase to Thomas Edison.

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Couples where one partner is suffering from dementia can benefit from taking part in group singing. That is the conclusion of research presented last week at the annual conference of the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology in London.

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Darth Vader. Hannibal Lecter. Lord Voldemort. In literature and in film, it's often the villains who steal the show. In John Milton's 'Paradise Lost', the beautiful, charming Satan even manages to upstage God.

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When you're trying to understand a complex phenomenon, a sensible approach is to pare things back as far as possible.

Psychologists have applied that very principle to test a popular theory of humour.

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The Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction has been won for the first time by a science writer, with Steve Silberman picking up the award for 'Neurotribes', a book on autism and its history.

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Slot machines are the great cash cow of the gambling industry. They are exquisitely designed with one purpose in mind: to encourage gamblers to play until they are penniless.

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A new study published in the Psychology of Music tests whether positive music increases people's willingness to do bad things to others.

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