Psych Stuff – December 2020

As we near the end of tumultuous 2020, now’s a good time to look at how psychology can help us make sense of it all – and explore ways to handle what’s happening now. As ever with my ‘Psych stuff’ posts, it comes down to which sources and resources I think will best support readers. I hope you find them useful; if there’s an aspect of psychology you’d like to see here, please let me know.

Are we becoming more polarised and divided?
This post from SPSP’s Character & Context blog, ‘How feeling understood can help us trust people with whom we disagree’ looks at the concept of ‘felt understanding’. This is vital for groups with different viewpoints, beliefs and values; otherwise mistrust and hostility soon set in. As the author says, “fostering the feeling of being understood may play a crucial role as we seek to heal social divisions.”

Did you sleep well?
It seems that “sleep problems can lead to changes in mental health, but mental health conditions can also worsen problems with sleep.” More in ‘How Does Sleep Affect Mental Health?’ from Verywellmind.

Is your biggest risk of burnout…you?
Well, maybe, according to Kandi Wiens for HBR. We can do a great job of making life harder than it need be, by falling into some obvious-when-you-know-them traps. Step forward, perfectionism and friends…

Could WFH be impacting your mental health?
‘5 research studies on the impact of WFH on our mental health’, neatly summarised by BPS Research Digest. Includes ‘Keys to coping at home’ and overcoming “presence privilege”.

Does your personality change when you take on a leadership role?
If you’ve been promoted to a new leadership role, notice if and how your personality traits show up. The researchers’ hypothesis that two of ‘the big five’ traits, conscientiousness and emotional stability, would increase. But only one trait showed growth. Find out more in this short report: ‘Personalities Can Change After Taking on Leadership Roles’ from I/O At Work. 

Are we biased about others’ motives?
Indeed: negativity bias can quickly creep in – about others, but not ourselves. It’s called the ‘worst-motive fallacy’ and recent research suggests we can be blinded by this bias. Having read vignettes of different options that characters could choose, research participants decided the characters would choose worse options than they themselves would. Beware our biases! Find out more in APS’ latest update.

What most helps you to do your best work?
Intriguingly, football teams playing to empty stadiums have scored more goals (including penalties), made more mistakes (leading to goals conceded), and enjoyed more away wins. Whilst some players may say it’s better without the crowd, others need the audience. But does that really matter? And is there anything the rest of us can learn from this to improve our own performance? Seems it comes down to practice and mindset. More in this S+B post (no, you don’t need to be a footballer/footie fan to get something from this!).

How can we be resilient when we don’t know what’s next?
Practice is also a theme in this superb guide on resilience, from Psyche. We need to experiment to find what works for us, then practise so that we’re more ready and resourceful when the going gets tough.

Time to clear out comparing?
Comparing ourselves to other people is a surefire way to feel wretched. Whether it’s someone’s career, salary, children or holiday photos, comparing can be deeply destructive. Here’s the Positivity Blog with some no-nonsense steps to take so that others stay OK and you are OK too.


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’.





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