Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


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Baby blue eyed boozers get bossed

Mexican faceApparently blue eyed people are seen as less dominant than brown-eyed people – regardless of whether or not they are attractive (see my earlier post; Take me to your (tall and probably attractive) leader).

But it’s not just because of the eye colour. Czech researchers think it might be because people with blue eyes are treated as children longer and become conditioned to being more submissive.

And according to economics writer Chris Dillow in The Times (2/6/10): binge-drinking is more common in northern than southern Europe. Researchers at the Universities  of Oslo and Wyoming say that it’s in the genes and because blue-eyed people, more common in the North, are shyer they drink more to loosen their inhibitions.

Back in December 2010 it was reported that Scientists had discovered a gene, HTR2B, which can make people more susceptible to bouts of sudden aggression when under the influence of alcohol. Research with violent criminals in Finnish prisons found they were three times more likely to carry an abnormal variant of the gene than ordinary people.

Although not the full answer as to why people engage in spontaneous and motiveless violence it explains how it can be triggered by other genetic and environmental factors.

This Q20* gene mutation is only found in Finns, and in only 1% of them, and as most of whom are not violent so there is no point in screening for it.

And it doesn’t explain what happens in the UK. But research at the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published in Nature shows that genetic factors coupled with drug and alcohol abuse can lead to impulsivity and spontaneous violence.

The Finns were chosen for the prison study because they are genetically distinct but they also appear to have problems with depression and drinking, maybe due to the long hours of darkness. The first time I was in Helsinki it was still Winter yet there were a number of people lying in the streets in a drunken stupour in the freezing cold. Passers-by just checked to see if they were OK and moved on as if it were quite normal.

And the last time I was in Helsinki wandering round a supermarket I couldn’t find the section for wines and spirits. I eventually asked a local who pointed me to a separate Alco section (the beer was with the bottled water so it shows their take on what constitutes an alcoholic drink)She explained that it was for their own good as alcohol-related problems are in their genes. Seems like she was right.

Despite that particular problem Finland is one of the most highly rated countries in the world on a range of measures and a popular one for people who want to live elsewhere.

First version posted June 2010


My most consistently read blog

Looking at some of my site stats I noticed that there is one blog that has been read by people every single day since I posted it 12 months ago.

The blog is about blushing  and whether men find it attractive.    

Not sure what it is that makes it so popular but it was one of my very first blogs back in May 2010 when I was still finding my feet in the blogosphere.

So thanks to everyone who has read it and many who have commented.


More (real) school friends = more earning power (maybe)

Did you know that the more friends a child has at school, the more they will probably earn later in life?

A study by Essex University published last year shows that for each extra friend a pupil had at school, their salary 35 years later was 2% higher.

The research adds to growing evidence that social skills – and not simply how well you did at school or university – are vital to success later on in life.

Professor Steve Pudney, of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, who carried out the research, said; “A workplace is a social setting. People have to manage each other and work in teams – you can see why social skills would be helpful”.

He used data from America in which groups of schoolboys were asked to name their three closest friends. The number of nominations received by each pupil was added up. The boys were then interviewed at regular intervals for almost 50 years to measure their earnings and see how they related to the number of friends people had.

Other factors such as intelligence and family income were also taken into account and Pudney accepts that intelligence and length of education have more impact on earning power than social skills (and don’t forget height is important too).

Previous research has shown that each extra year of education later raises earnings by 5%. And other research on the effects on children of poverty and abuse, family  income and education, shows how long-term health is influenced by childhood experiences.


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Male modesty doesn’t pay

Modest men are getting the brush-off from women.

Modest? Shy? Reluctant to tell everyone how brilliant you are? If you’re male, then you can probably add ‘single’ to that list.

‘New men’ beware: research has revealed women don’t like modesty in a man. Instead, cocky types are more likely to win their hearts. Other men also find male modesty an unattractive trait – perhaps because they believe that bashful boys are letting the side down.

Research shows that women prefer cocky types like Simon Cowell rather than Hugh Grant’s bumbling on-screen behaviour. Three female researchers showed more than 200 people videotapes of a man and a woman applying for a job as a computer lab manager. The male and female actors both followed the same script in the mocked-up interview and were equally humble about their achievements. The volunteers were asked to rate them for modesty, likeability and a range of other factors.

Despite the actors being equally qualified for the job, the man was liked less than the woman. Meekness makes men seem less confident and ambitious and more weak, uncertain and insecure, the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity reports. ‘Modest men were not liked as much as modest women because they were viewed as ‘too weak’ for a man and because they were viewed as insufficiently confident and ambitious,’ the U.S. researchers wrote.

They said the results showed that while women had been able to change their roles to become more assertive, men still faced prejudice when they tried to change. Professor Laurie Rudman, of Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: ‘Our findings demonstrate that men encounter prejudice when they behave modestly. They also raise the possibility that men may avoid behaving modestly because they risk backlash when they do”.

Changes in gender roles that have afforded women more financial independence have not yielded relaxed demands for men. ‘Men are still required to uphold masculine ideals that require chronic exhibitions of strength while avoiding signs of weakness.’

Professor Rudman added that pressure to be macho can be bad for men’s health. ‘Men are expected to be successful, powerful, and dominant, show no weaknesses or chinks in the armour, and avoid acting in ways that might be perceived as feminine,’ she said. ‘Men’s mental and physical health can suffer from adhering to masculine ideals.’

Guest blog from Terry G who says; “What does all this mean for us blue eyed modest men????????…………..I am going outside and I may be a while…………..”