A Social Psychology Lesson from 'The Dress'

Last Saturday, my sister asked if I’d heard about the dress that was making its way across the internet like wildfire. Apparently people saw it as one of two different sets of colors, and scientists were weighing in on why people would see the same dress differently. I realized that this dress is not only entertaining, it is a lesson in social psychology.

My 1 Tip For Making Your New Year's Resolutions Stick

Do you make New Year’s resolutions each January only to find them a distant memory come February? This year, instead of focusing on what you want to change, try focusing on HOW you are going to change it. Instead of making a vague resolution (“get in shape”), make a concrete plan that specifies where, when, and in what way you are going to implement your resolution.

Which Will Take You Farther, Brains or Hard Work?

Which do you think is more predictive of success: innate ability or hard work? Do you think anyone can rise up to meet a challenge with enough effort, or are some people just more intelligent and able than others? It seems like there should be a true answer to these questions, but according to Dr. Carol Dweck, the truth is all in your head.

Why Halloween Makes Us Act Antisocial

As the children take to the streets tonight in search of a trick-or-treat, you might be wondering the best way to protect your house from some heavy candy-looting. In 1976, Ed Diener and his colleagues asked a similar question, though they were more interested in the conditions that prompted trick-or-treaters to overindulge and take more than they should.

How Do You React to Someone Else's Good News?

A job offer. A great haircut. A promotion. Good things happen to us, and when we share them with others, those good things can feel even better. But recent research suggests that how much better we feel depends on just how people respond to our good news.

What an IKEA ad and your Teddy Bear have in Common

I watched this IKEA commercial in my intro social psychology class, and eight plus years later, it is still seared in my memory. Take the minute to turn on your volume and watch this commercial, and then after I'll tell you how Spike Jonze used psychology to render me near tears, and what this has to do with naming your cars and holding onto your childhood teddy bear.

Why You Might Not Take Your Partner's Perspective

First comes love, then comes the realization that we are navigating life’s journey with another person who may have different thoughts, feelings, and beliefs than us. Perspective-taking is a fundamental social skill that helps us smoothly steer through the many bumps in the road, unfortunately not everyone is good at perspective-taking.

5 Tips for Avoiding Conflict in Your Relationship

My husband and I got into a fight over a pillowcase. It was one of those times where it was clearly his fault, and I was sure he would apologize. He didn't. Instead he seemed surprised that I wasn't apologizing to him. How could we have such different views of the same conflict? Which one of us was right? It turns out that we were both right, in our own ways.

Is It Love, or Just a Scary Movie?

Can you imagine watching a scary movie and falling in love with the first attractive person you see as you leave the movie theater? Likely not. But in fact, classic social psychology experiments have shown that sometimes people do misattribute feelings of fear and anxiety to sexual attraction.

Are You a Good "Mind-Reader?"

Do you think this guy is: (a) playful (b) comforting (c) irritated (d) bored. Being able to "mind-read" is a unique and important human trait. Being high in emotional intelligence and empathy helps us smoothly navigate our social world and communicate effectively with other people. Not everyone, however, is an emotion-decoding master.

The Price of Parenthood: Part 2

On New Year’s Day I became a parent, sparking my curiosity about the research on parenting and well-being and inspiring a four-part series on parenthood and happiness. In this post I look at the type of research being done on whether or not parents are happier than non-parents. What different approaches have researchers taken to answer this deceptively simple question?

What Is the Price of Parenthood?

On New Year's Day I celebrated not only the start of a new year, but a new phase in my life. I became a parent and my life was irrevocably changed. On the journey to parenthood I knew one thing to be true—that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. What did parenthood have in store for me? Would I experience greater joy or pain than I had previously known?

The Psychology of Nutrition

Imagine you are alone on a desert island for one year and you can have water and one other food. Your options: corn, alfalfa sprouts, hot dogs, spinach, peaches, bananas, milk chocolate. When asked this question, only 7% of people chose a food that could actually offer them the calories and nutrients they needed for survival.

A New Year Goal: Approach Your Relationships the Healthy Way

The last time you went to a party, what thoughts were going through your mind? Were you thinking things like “I hope I have a great time tonight!” or were your thoughts more along the lines of “I hope I don’t make a fool out of myself”? These different types of thoughts represent your social goals and have a lot to say about your relationships.

Tips for Surviving the Holidays

As many of us head home on the busiest travel day of the year, we can look forward to relaxation, family, good food, and good presents. But many of us may also be anxiously anticipating terrible traffic, long travels, time with family, guilt-inducing meals, and awkward gift exchanges. So I've compiled a few scientifically-based tips to make your holidays a little brighter.

Have You Fallen Prey to the "Spotlight Effect?"

Being embarrassed is part of the human condition, but do we really need to hide at home on a bad hair day? Perhaps not. In a series of clever studies, psychologists show that we overestimate how much our actions and appearance are noticed by others, a bias termed the “spotlight effect.”

Couples and Sleep: It’s Not Just About Who Hogs the Bed

Often in college I’d find myself inexplicably picking fights with my boyfriend (now husband) in the wee hours of the night. “You’re tired, go to bed,” my wise boyfriend would tell me. “No I’m not! This is a real issue!” sleepy me would argue back. Now, older and wiser, I’ve put my husband’s advice to the test by conducting research on how lack of sleep affects couples.

Up All Night: The Effects of Sleep Loss on Mood

Last night you were up until the wee hours of the morning and today, when you’re already running low on sleep, it seems as if the whole world is out to get you. Why is everyone so irritating? Why is the traffic so bad? Why is your kid so whiny? Or wait… could it just be you? Research shows that a night of sleep loss affects mood, so how is your poor sleep affecting you?

Your Sleep Cycle Revealed

Today, in an effort to better understand the role of sleep in our lives, I ask the question: what happens when our heads hit the pillow at night? The answer is more complicated than you might think, as we delve into a typical 90 minute sleep cycle, examine changes across a night of sleep and the life span, and consider the ideal sleep pattern.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleep is a basic need we can't escape. But that doesn't mean we're planning our days to make sure we get our requisite hours of sleep each night. In our society, we're expected to burn the candle at both ends, and even our best attempts at sleeping well can fail. Find out how well-rested you are and learn about how sleep affects our daily lives and relationships.

The Science of Flourishing - It's in the Numbers

When it comes to human flourishing, science is getting pretty specific. I think most of us would agree that we are likely to be happiest when we maximize the positive and minimize the negative. But researchers suggest that it is not just about having more positive and less negative – it is the ratio of positive to negative that matters.

What Is the Secret to a Happy and Meaningful Life?

Recently I’ve been contemplating giving up on the modern world and moving to a cabin in the woods. Maybe I'd find more meaning and happiness living the simple life. But research says I should think twice before giving it all up, because how I feel inside may be a bigger determinant of my happiness than any external factor such as the view from my window. Here's why...

5 "Don'ts" of Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude is good. Good for your health and well-being. Good for your relationships. But gratitude is gratitude always good? Research says no. Although a focus on appreciating what you have instead of lamenting what you have-not is generally good advice, there are times when gratitude can backfire. In this post I list 5 "don'ts" when practicing the attitude of gratitude.

Is Gratitude the Antidote to Relationship Failure?

I had one goal when I started graduate school five years ago – to understand why some romantic relationships thrive while others fail. I also had one primary hypothesis – relationships fail when partners begin to take each other for granted. And I thought: if taking each other for granted is the poison, maybe gratitude is the antidote.

4 Ways to Boost Gratitude on Valentine's Day

Whether February 14th is your first Valentine’s Day together or your 35th, it is a great excuse to show gratitude for the one you love. This Valentine’s Day, try these science-based tips to make sure you get the most out of your acts of kindness.

Sour in the Sun? 3 Unexpected Ways Weather Affects Your Mood

I just returned from the tropics to find myself basically barefoot in 40 degree weather. As I stood there shivering in disbelief, the shock to my system made me wonder about the effect of the weather on my mood and well-being. Turns out it is not all sunshine and good times. Here are three unexpected ways in which the weather may be affecting your mood.

Tips for Making your Holidays Brighter

The holidays are upon us, which can mean family, fun, food, and cheer. But also, stress, anxiety, conflict, and caloric guilt. Psychology has a lot to say about how to promote the former and avoid the latter, so I've compiled tips on everything from gift-giving to staying healthy to navigating family relationship in the hopes of making your holidays a little brighter.

Giving the Gift of Gratitude

As Christmas approaches, I want to ask you: When someone does something nice for you, how does it make you feel? Do you experience gratitude in response to their act of kindness? Or does it leave you with a sense of indebtedness? When you do notice acts of kindness, and feel grateful for them, both you and your partner benefit. Here's how.

In a Fight, Who's Right? You Both May Be

Once my husband and I got into a fight over a pillowcase. It was one of those times where it was clearly his fault, and I was sure he would apologize the next day. He didn't. Instead he seemed surprised that I wasn't apologizing to him. How could we have such different views of the same conflict? Which one of us was right?

You Be the Judge: Are You Making Bad Attributions?

Your partner surprises you with flowers. Do you think “how sweet and thoughtful!” or do your thoughts tend toward the dark side, such as “What did he do this time?” People who interpret their partner’s behaviors in a more positive light have happier, more trusting relationships. But what exactly does it mean to interpret someone’s behavior in a more" positive light?"