Oliver James: The mental block

A meta-analysis of relevant studies (Psychological Bulletin) reveals that there is a self-serving, positive attributional bias ('Good things are done by me, bad things by outside forces') everywhere the phenomenon has been studied: that people in all societies strive to protect themselves from harsh reality by blowing a rose-tinted bubble of positive illusions. The bias is most pronounced in childhood, declines through to middle adulthood, rising after 55. It's strongest by far in Americans (sometimes to the point of delusion) and least visible in citizens of Asiatic nations. During adolescence and young adulthood, women are much less rose-tinted than men. Most mentally ill people do not have it as much as the mentally healthy, with depressed people liable to have little.

The conscious and unconscious motivations of 82 managers (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin) were assessed regarding their ambitions for power, achievement and popularity. Where there were contradictions between a conscious, stated aspiration and an unconscious one, such as believing that popularity with peers was not important but deep down it did matter, the manager was least likely to be happy. Implication: New Labour politicians who are secretly Old Labour must be pretty miserable.

Surprisingly, a study of superstitions in 600 Americans (Psychology and Marketing) finds that neither gender nor level of education predicted it. A positive view of science does not affect how superstitious you are, either. Implication: it's a spooky old world.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.