Parental Influence on Popularity

Parental Influence on Popularity

Highschool. The place where (for most of us) popularity mattered the most. I remember waking up every morning at 6 AM so I could slap a whole face of makeup on, and thoroughly straighten my hair. Thankfully, those days are over, and now university students stumble around in their pyjamas and unwashed hair without too much judgement being passed unto them by their fellow peers. Regardless of how you might perceive popularity now, you might look back and wonder why you were, or weren’t well liked among your peers. Or perhaps you want to raise children with high peer competency levels, but are unsure about how much influence you as a parent have on their popularity.

There are several factors that influence how well a child is accepted by peers, such as; social behaviour: those more engaging in social interactions with peers are generally more liked. Cognitive skills: those that were more advanced in cognitive development had a higher peer acceptance rate. Temperamental characteristics: those that were more aggressive were excluded from group activities. And while all of these can contribute to a popularity of a child, the most important factor is parental interaction.

In a study done on middle class families, parents were asked about their involvement on initiating peer contacts for their children. The results from the parents that had direct involvement in facilitating their child’s peer contacts were then split into  three “monitoring scores” that the parents could fall into. 1) Directly monitored, 2) Indirectly monitored, and 3) Unsupervised (Golter & Ladd, 1988). Parents were shown to facilitate their child’s peer contacts by initiating friendship, this consists of arranging meetings or ‘play dates’. Parents were assessed on monitoring their child’s peer relations by encouraging their friendship and/or enabling proximity to their friends. It was also discovered that in families with two parents, mothers were significantly more likely to initiate peer contacts than fathers were.

Children at the school in which this study was conducted at were conditioned by sorting pictures of their favorite foods into three categories. 1) A lot, 2) Kinda, and 3) Not much. In the actual study, the children were then expected to perform the same task with pictures of their class mates.

The results of the study concluded that children with parents whose monitoring skills fell into “Directly monitored” had a higher peer competency rating, and were preferred “A lot” by their classmates. Congruently, children whose parents were indirectly monitoring  their child’s peer relations were generally less liked by their classmates, and had “more negative nominations, and lower average group-acceptance scores”(Golter & Ladd, 1988).

These results are supported by Anne Fletcher and Carol Johnston, in which it was observed that children that were less liked by peers exhibited behaviours such as arguing, fighting, lying, rule-breaking, cheating, and destroying others belongings. It was also observed that mothers of children who had these behaviours were less likely to help their child make friends, or support them in making friends. It’s believed that this behaviour is perhaps a snowball effect from prior experience in negative interactions with peers.

Childhood is a delicate time in terms of social cognition development, and while parental involvement isn’t the only influence on peer competency, it’s important to encourage children to make healthy and efficient bonds.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

Ladd, G. W., & Golter, B. S. (1988). Parents’ management of preschooler’s peer relations: Is it related to children’s social competence?. Developmental Psychology, 24(1), 109.

Hollingsworth, H. L., & Buysse, V. (2009). Establishing friendships in early childhood inclusive settings. Journal of Early Intervention, 31(4), 287-307

Johnston, C. A., & Fletcher, A. C. (2014). Prediction of maternal use of friendship facilitation strategies in middle childhood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

Dark Humor Cognition and Intelligence.

Dark Humor Cognition and Intelligence.

Humor processing and production is already considered to be an adaptive quality associated with highly intellectual individuals, and in a study done in 2011, demonstrated that “men were funnier than women on average”, and correlated positively to mating success (Greengross & Miller, 2011). Furthermore, studies have shown that individuals with higher depression scores are unable to use jokes and humor cognition as a way to cope with stressful life events (Deaner & McConatha, 1993).

However, while everyone prefers a comical and smart romantic partner, what about people that find sadistic, dark humor jokes funny? Are these people just as smart as the rest of us, or are they just twisted psychopaths?

In a recent study by the University of Vienna published in the quarterly journal – “Cognitive Processing”  has proven that individuals that were more amused by dark humor, scored higher on verbal and nonverbal IQ tests (Willinger et all., 2017)

The study consisted of 156 participants, 80 men and 76 women, in which they were exposed to cartoons from Uli Steins ‘The Black Book’. Most of the cartoons had topics such as death and physical handicaps, and subjects were asked to rate the cartoons on a four point Likert Scale based on these seven categories; 1.Difficulty to understand, 2. how well the punchline fit the build up, 3. how vulgar the joke was, 4. how surprised you were at the jokes punchline, 5. How novel the joke was in terms of originality 6. how interesting the topic was, and 7. how much do you like the joke.

To evaluate the subjects, participants were also asked to complete a ‘Vocabulary Test’ to assess verbal intelligence (Schmidt & Metzler, 1992), a ‘Number Connection Test’ to assess nonverbal intelligence (Oswald & Roth, 1997), and a culture-free intelligence test to assess cognitive performance and nonverbal IQ. A test on the participants aggressiveness was also issued, along with a mood disturbance test, to test the overall temperament of the participant.

Results found three distinct groups from the tests provided. The first group had rated the highest amusement from the dark humor comics, and also had the highest intelligence scores on the IQ tests. These individuals from this group had a higher average education, and were less aggressive. Those from a second group scored moderately for dark humor preference and aggression, and also had an average IQ score. The third group had the least preference for the dark humor jokes, and an average IQ, but had the highest scoring aggression levels.

The findings from this study correlates with other studies done on IQ and humor, and it’s proven that those who enjoyed these comics the most have a higher cognitive ability to discern between truly appalling jokes, and mischievous dark humor. This experiment proves that those who enjoy sick jokes aren’t just sick, sadistic psychopaths, but are actually highly educated, and relaxed individuals who can have a light hearted chuckle at a silly dark joke, such as this:

The Hangman's Bane: 'Is there a problem?'

Thanks for reading! 🙂



Deaner, S. L., & McConatha, J. T. (1993). The relation of humor to depression and personality. Psychological Reports, 72(3), 755-763.

Greengross, G., & Miller, G. (2011). Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males. Intelligence, 39(4), 188-192.

Oswald, W. D., & Roth, E. (1997). Zahlenverbindungstest (Trail-making-test).

Schmidt, K. H., & Metzler, P. (1992). Wortschatztest: WST. Beltz.

Willinger, U., Hergovich, A., Schmoeger, M., Deckert, M., Stoettner, S., Bunda, I., … & Jaeckle, D. (2017). Cognitive and emotional demands of black humour processing: the role of intelligence, aggressiveness and mood. Cognitive processing, 1-9.

Theodore Gericault and his Controversial ‘Portraits of the Insane’.

Theodore Gericault and his Controversial ‘Portraits of the Insane’.

To most of you, this topic will be very boring, and I don’t blame you for thinking so. Regardless, I find art and art history very fascinating, so here is my attempt to blend art and social cognition together.

In the 1800’s the mentally ill were looked down upon, even by those in the medical profession; deemed insane or lunatics. The clergy was usually involved (often due to the lack of interest in the field), as it was thought that regular church attendance and repentance would help alleviate symptoms. The treatment of individuals within the care of the clergy was considered humane (and effective at the time), however, while the population of the mentally ill seemingly rose the church could no longer harbor patients and thus, mental asylums were favored (Foerschner, 2010).

Those admitted to these asylums were treated like animals, often chained up in cramped cells, starved and forced to sit within their own filth that was never cleaned up (Butcher, Hooley & Mineka, 2007). Staff were often unqualified, and attempts to help the admitted consisted of purging, bloodletting, high dosages of powerful drugs, restraints and other various torturous devices.

It was during this time of abuse that Gericault, a central painter in the romantic style movement, started his work in the Salpêtrière, the womans asylum in Paris with the permission of Étienne-Jean Georget, the chief physician. Gericault was to produce ten of these paintings, however, fifty years after his death, only five of the ten now exist. (Kennedyt9, 2015)

The five portraits include:

Portrait of a Child Snatcher, 1822, oil on canvas.


Portrait of a Kleptomaniac, 1822, oil on canvas.


Portrait of a Man Suffering from Delusions of Military Command, 1822, oil on canvas.


Portrait of a Woman Addicted to Gambling, 1822, oil on canvas.


Portrait of a Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy (The Hyena), 1822, oil on Canvas.


While not confirmed, it’s believed by critics that Georget commissioned these paintings as propaganda for the transfer of patients from the clergy to the asylums. Another reason behind the creation of these painting is possibly the fact that Gericault’s father and grandfather had died ‘insane’ in an asylum, perhaps making this topic relevant to him. It’s also widely believed among the art community that, regardless of Georget’s tie to the portraits, Gericault sympathized with the patients.

It was common for the general populous to just disregard or neglect the mentally ill, and then became increasingly popular to expose these patients to the general public, like circus animals. However; Gericault doesn’t exploit his painting subjects. The painting is relatively dark in composition, and the subjects are not looking at the viewer (done to purposefully create the notion that they’re ‘lost in their own thoughts’), but Gericault keeps their humanity, something often stripped away in asylums.

It’s unknown exactly what circumstances Gericault’s father and grandfather were under, but perhaps Gericault felt what David A. Karp Valaya Tanarugsachock calls “an emotional anomie”, something left-over, like grief or guilt, denial or confusion, a common emotional response to knowing your family member is mentally ill (Tanarugsachock, 2000). This feeling is often lifted as family members/caretakers can come to terms with their mentally ill kin, but in this time period, Gericault never had that option, potentially leaving him to cope with his grief through his true passion; painting. Since this matter was a social-taboo, Gericault’s non-conformity was not received well, and viewers were repulsed more often than not. Unfortunately Theodore Gericault died young from chronic tubercular infection, and his Portraits of the Insane series was never publicly shown during his lifetime.

Throughout his career, Gericault had a tendency to destroy the ‘ideal’ through his scandalous and controversial subject matter, and to this day continues to be an outlier in terms of conventional romantic period artists.


Foerschner, Allison M. 2010. The History of Mental Illness: From Skull Drills to Happy Pills. Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse 2 (09),

Karp, David A., and Valaya Tanarugsachock. “Mental illness, caregiving, and emotion management.” Qualitative Health Research 10, no. 1 (2000): 6-25.

Mineka, S., J. Butcher, and J. Hooley. “Abnormal psychology.” (2007).

Location Dependency and Fear Cognition

Location Dependency and Fear Cognition

Fear is defined as an “unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm” (Oxford Dictionary, 2017). While fear and fear responses are similar across many different populations and cultures, the stimuli are vastly different.

In a study done by Arne Öhman (2009), participants were subject to an object finding task, in which they were required to find fear-relevant objects (snakes and spiders) or fear-irrelevant objects (mushrooms and flowers). The findings concluded that the fear-relevant stimulus has a significantly lower reaction time than the fear-irrelevant; furthermore, participants that were afraid of snakes as opposed to spiders had an even lower reaction time of their feared stimulus (Öhman et al., 2001).

f8tr   Figure 1. An example of finding a fear-relevant object surrounded by fear-irrelevant objects. (Öhman, et al., 2001)

dsnamnfbsamFigure 2. The results from the fear-relevant vs. fear-irrelevant experiment that Karolinska Institute Psychology students participated in.

In the methods of Öhman’s 2001 experiment, the volunteers consisted of Psychology students from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. While this study is highly regarded and I find it very fascinating, I have to wonder if the results will be replicated in other countries. For example, the Bothrops asper pit viper species (commonly known as fer-de-lance) is accountable for 46% of snake bites in Costa Rica (Cisneros-Heredia & Touzet, 2004). Additionally, the Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax Robustus), reported to be very aggressive and highly venomous by Australian residents can produce possibly life-threatening symptoms in less than one hour (Ibister et al., 2005).

This leads me to question the evolutionary premise of these fears and phobias. Perhaps the Costa Rican and Australian citizens would be more predisposed to identifying snakes and spiders in Öhman’s experiment (2001), resulting in a much faster reaction time, despite whether they were feared by individuals or were just fear-relevant. On the other hand, in colder regions (lets say the Arctic) where cold-blooded snakes would not be able to survive, would potential participants from that area even show a fear response to that stimuli?

Öman’s research and experiments have changed the Psychology field, however; I believe for this theory to be fully concluded as fact, more experiments will have to be performed on citizens of different regions.


Cisneros-Heredia, D. F., & Touzet, J. M. (2004). Distribution and conservation status of Bothrops asper (Garman, 1884) in Ecuador. Herpetozoa, 17(3/4), 135-141.

Fear [Def. 1] in Oxford University Press. Oxford Living Dictionaries. From

Isbister, G. K., Gray, M. R., Balit, C. R., Raven, R. J., Stokes, B. J., Porges, K., … & Fisher, M. M. (2005). Funnel-web spider bite: a systematic review of recorded clinical cases. Med J Aust, 182(8), 407-11.
Öhman, A., Flykt, A., & Esteves, F. (2001). Emotion drives attention: detecting the snake in the grass. Journal of experimental psychology: general, 130(3), 466.

Öhman, A. (2009). Of snakes and faces: An evolutionary perspective on the psychology of fear. Scandinavian journal of psychology, 50(6), 543-552.