Northeastern Researchers Study Gossip

Northeastern researchers recently published a study on the impact that negative gossip has on the brain’s ability to remember a person or face. According to their research, test subjects were more likely to remember a person if they heard a piece of negative gossip about them when they were shown a picture of that person’s face. If volunteers spent more time hearing positive connotations about a person they were more likely to forget their face. Interestingly, Dr. Lisa Barrett, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, believes that the result of this study directly helps people remember and avoid people who may cause them harm. Snell Library also contains some resources on the subject like the online report, The Relative Effect of Positive and Negative Humorous Gossip on Perceptions of the Gossiper and the Target of the Gossip, which discusses a study on the perceptions and effects of gossip and gossipers. Other related articles can be found by doing a Discovery or NuCat search on the library’s homepage ( for subjects like “gossip”, “psychology of the brain”, “memory”, etc. You can also view Northeastern’s recent interview with Lisa Feldman Barrett discussing her study on YouTube. In addition, you can find more of her work in IRis, Northeastern’s Institutional Repository.

Friday five on the brain

Today’s Friday Five starts with the mind. Specifically, the hottest article in this week’s Times, judging by the number of times emailed, debunked common myths about studying. Based on a review article in Psychological Science, it says there are no “left-brain” and “right-brain” learning styles, we all basically learn the same way!    Furthermore, you should study a mix of different things and not immerse yourself in one thing according to a study of college students and retired people in the Journal of Psychology and Aging.  Other studies say you should study in different rooms not just sit in one place because changes of scene and environment help you to remember.  Finally, spacing your studying, and testing, help you remember better over the long term. Ready to blame the teacher?  Turns out that’s hard, we don’t really know scientifically what makes a teacher successful at getting kids to learn, according to Daniel T. Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of the book “Why Don’t Students Like School?” (available on the 3rd floor of Snell Library!) Finally, an MRI scan can map brain development in children, according to research in the journal Science.  It could allow doctors to place children on a “maturation curve” just like we do with height and weight and perhaps even be alerted to signs of disorders.