Smile makes us happy and 9 psychological discoveries that have failed to prove

We used to think that all this is true. It is actually more complicated, argues Christian Jarrett of the British psychological society.

Periodically psychologists published a study which instantly attracts the attention of the world on how to live more peacefully and happily, or about what is actually human nature. Then this find fixed in the public consciousness and constantly chewed in popular books and articles.

But when other researchers try to replicate those results, they can not.

This problem concerns not only the well-known research and not only psychology. And sometimes this is due to differences in methodology or cultural difference. Nevertheless, it is useful to understand which of known to the public of the discoveries actually are not so reliable.

Note that this is not a list of denied discovery is only a slice of the difficulties faced by the science of behavior.


 "Postures of power" make you bolder

Put your hands on your hips, spread your legs a little wider. Feel bolder? Psychologist Amy Cuddy of Harvard and other scientists have published several studies that posture affects emotional state. These studies had a huge impact, largely due to the performance Cuddy's TED talk that was viewed by millions of people. In the 2010 study, Cuddy and her colleagues Andy YAP and Dana Carney showed that the participants who took one of the two "postures of power" (feet on Desk, hands behind his head and his legs splayed, and you lean against the Desk) just a minute, was more inclined to risk, they had higher testosterone levels and lower cortisol levels compared with participants taking the "position of weakness" (sitting with hands on knees or standing, holding himself).

But last year, Eva Rainhill and other researchers at the University of Zurich tried to reproduce these findings in a new study with 200 participants (Cuddy was only 42), and although those who are taking positions of power, saying that they feel more powerful, there was no difference in the levels of cortisol or testosterone compared to those who took a posture of weakness, and the first was not inclined to more risky decisions.

Cuddy and her colleagues responded review of 33 studies showing the psychological and physiological effects of force posture. But Joseph Simons and Yuri simonsohn of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a statistical analysis of these 33 studies and concluded that "the available evidence is too weak to be on this basis to advise people to take the posture of power to improve life."


Smile and become happier

We know that when we are happy, you want to smile. But does smile happier? In 1988, the psychologists reported that the cartoons seem funnier to people when they are holding between the teeth a pencil (this forces as if to smirk). These findings seems to be consistent with the hypothesis of a "return" — that facial expression not only reflects emotions and influence on them.

However, this summer 17 independent laboratories attempted to repeat this result on two thousand participants and found no evidence that facial expression affects the perception of cartoons.

However, one of the authors of the original study drew attention to some problems in the new study — in particular, the participants were recorded on video that could affect their emotions.


Self-control is a limited resource

One of the most influential psychological theories of our time — that willpower is akin to the fuel: the more you use it in one situation, the less remains for others. One such study was published in the journal Psychological Science in 2014 and showed that the results in tasks that require self-monitoring, was worse, if before these people were given other tasks also requiring self-control.

23 laboratory tried to repeat this result but found that if the effect is, it is close to zero. Further analysis of hundreds of studies on the subject have also shown that evidence of this theory quite a bit. Roy Baumeister, one of the authors of the idea of "exhaustion of willpower" contended that it was necessary to check not a new study, and older.


 Repeat after exam can improve previous results

If I told you that you are going to prepare for the exam after you pass it, you would think that I had something wrong with his head. But a series of studies in the prestigious journal of Personality and Social Psychology seem to have shown that this opposite effect is possible: when people post memory test teach words, in this test they perform better.

But when several researchers tried to replicate this result, using the original computer program and materials did not. The dispute is not resolved before the end: the authors of the original studies collected data 90 scientific experiments, this study tried to repeat and say that the majority of them speak in favor of the existence of the phenomenon.


Hearing the words about old age, you move slower

Is the concept of "priming": our thoughts and behavior are influenced by the words we speak, symbols and objects around us, even if we don't pay attention to them. The research in this area is exciting, but these results are very difficult to repeat. Classic study of priming was published in 1996, it was dismantled participants encoded in the pile of letters words and made of them a coherent sentence. When these lists were words related to age and aging, after leaving the laboratory, participants were slower. It was believed that these words evoke certain ideas in the mind of the participants and make them behave like stereotypical old people.

The story is great, but with the repetition of results was the problem. In 2012, researchers from the free University of Brussels and Cambridge University attempted to reproduce them, but failed. To obtain the same effect as in the original study came out, but when they specifically impact on the expectations of the experimenters working with the participants. The study's author, 1996 John Bar criticized the attempt to check his work and named several reasons due to which it could be unsuccessful (for example, researchers could include too many "age" words).


Washing your hands helps to wash away the guilt

Many studies claim that between moral and physical purity there is a connection. Psychologists Chen-Bo Jung and Cathy Liljenquist asked participants in his experiment to rewrite his story about the ethical or unethical deed (helping a colleague, or harmful interference with his work), and then asked them to rate the attractiveness of different products. Those who wrote about the unethical actions, valued the products related to hygiene like soap and toothpaste.

But in 2013, the Oxford scientists tried to reproduce this phenomenon on the participants from the UK, USA and India, and never failed. They claim that between moral and physical purity is no connection, but notice that the understanding of this phenomenon should carefully reconsider. Another study in 2011 also failed to reproduce these results.


Babies have an innate ability to imitate

Take almost any introduction to psychology, and you will find a story about the research of the 1970-ies, proving that people are born with the skill of imitation, accompanied by black-and-white photos of a man darting out her tongue, and the baby meet the same. But this year, a very carefully conducted study found no evidence to support this hypothesis.

Janine Osterbrock and her colleagues four times tested 106 infants aged from one week to two months. The researchers depicted various facial expressions for a minute and recorded the response of the child. This study was more comprehensive than the previous one, since it was used about a dozen different expressions and sounds. But no evidence of the hypothesis was not found. Psychologists Richard cook and Daniel Yon for this reason notice that it is more likely that people are not born with the ability to simulate, and learn it gradually.


External observation leads us to behave honestly

Highly influential 2006 study showed that if the wall hangs a poster with someone's eyes, people begin to behave honestly. In particular, they invested in a box to collect donations much larger amount. The police in one of the British cities then hung around the city posters with the attentive eyes, and the caption: "We are watching the criminals."

Unfortunately, to confirm the study was difficult. For example, in 2011, scientists from the University of Bamberg tested the same posters on a large group of participants (138 instead of the 48 in the original) and figured out how people promise to behave in certain social situations. No effects of "observation" they found. This year two works have compared more than 50 studies on this subject and did not find reliable evidence that someone's watchful gaze increases generosity.



 The smell of oxytocin inspires trust

Oxytocin is a neurohormone produced in the brain when we hug or have sex. There is some evidence that when we smell it, we trust more people and more empathy. In the journal Nature, a study was published that after inhaling oxytocin, the participants more willing to give money to a stranger in a financial game.

However, the effect of the hormone was harder than it seemed at first. In some contexts it can inspire jealousy, and also to increase the aggression towards the partner.

And the positive effects of oxytocin has proven difficult to confirm. In 2015 researchers at Louvain University tried to replicate their own result is that the inhalation of oxytocin increases participant trust in the researcher (which he did not open the envelope containing their confidential information). The researchers concluded that about oxytocin yet, you can never be sure.


Reminders of money inspire selfishness

Money symbolizes materialism and monetary competition. These connotations so strong that when we begin to think about money, we become more selfish we are less interested in equality. So say several studies, including the work of Eugene Caruso and Kathleen Vos 2003, in which participants were asked to complete two versions of the questionnaire; one version in the background I saw vaguely a hundred dollar bill. Those who have seen the bill, subsequently more supportive of the existing political system and less sympathetic to victims or vulnerable groups.

However, in the framework of the project Many Labs Replication Project 36 laboratories in different countries have tried to reproduce this effect and found it only in one case. But another group of scientists tried to replicate the findings of Caruso and Vos on a larger number of participants, and again it did not work. Kathleen Vos in his reply stressed that for ten years 165 studies have shown the psychological effect of reminders of money, and that the result may depend on the recruitment of participants. "They say that democracy is valuable because it does not consider itself complete and perfect — and science, too, says Vos. — We need the efforts of many researchers and numerous attempts to understand how actually the world works".published


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