New Year's Resolutions: Why Do Them Now and Publicly?

We often hear about why New Year's Resolutions fail, but why do we make them in January? We can leverage lessons from them to make our goal pursuit better for the rest of the year!

Hugs and Warm Touches Benefit Health and Well-Being

Need a hug? Research shows positive interpersonal touching fights illness, increases happiness and well-being, and supports social connectedness with others.

Does Warmer Weather Really Make You Happier?

Now that warmer weather is here, people assume greater happiness and new love will follow. However, the data indicate many of these assumptions are iffy and often simply wrong.

The Psychology of Why Climate Change Efforts Typically Fail

Psychological principles help explain our apathy toward climate change.
Allen McConnell

The Psychology of Sports Fandom

Sports fan allegiances illustrate basic properties of the self, including bolstering our self-esteem, improving our belongingness with others, and justifying our belief systems. These processes reflect broader human motives that can explain a considerable amount of behavior, ranging from nationalism to vigorously defending economic and religious systems.

Why the New College Playoff System Won't Make Fans Happy

Tonight, the College Football Playoff Committee will unveil its top 25, and college football fans can celebrate the brilliance and improvement the playoff system promises. Yet in the end, most people will be unhappy with this new system because of the same motivated biases that drove their discontent with previous approaches to determine the best team in college football.

New Media Reshapes Scientific Discourse: Promise, Pitfalls

Social media can play a considerable new role in scientific discourse and debate. As psychologists, we understand the pitfalls of catharsis, the importance of empathetic concern, and how egos are inherent in progress. Yet, social media introduces new blind spots related to these themes that we must consider to make progress in a civil, respectful, and effective fashion.

The King Holiday: Broader Reflections for Us All

On a day where we should all reflect on King's legacy, I am struck by how much of his vision reflected important, core principles of the psychology of the self. King's transformational leadership style and his focus on collectiveness in reducing prejudice and increasing concern for others are triumphs for us all, and these are lessons people should embrace every day.

Denying the Self Increases Happiness

Having more (e.g., money, material goods) often does not lead to greater happiness and well-being. As people grow accustomed to "the good life," they often experience hedonic adaptation (they get used to the finer things and savor daily pleasures less). New research shows that self-denial fights hedonic adaptation, increasing happiness, positive feelings, and savoring.

Belongingness: Essential Bridges that Support the Self

Belongingness improves health and well-being, regardless of whether social connection is with people or even one's pets. Giving to others (vs. the self) improves happiness, while affirming important values increases academic belonging, improving grades and health outcomes. The self functions best when focused on social connection than on establishing one's distinctiveness.

How Could a Terrorist Seem So Normal?

Research on self-complexity shows that people can act in very inconsistent ways in different contexts. When we are unaware of this context-dependence of human actions, we end up with lots of questions (e.g., how could a quiet student be caught up in a terrorist plot) that reflect relatively simplistic assumptions about human nature.

Petraeus's Fall: Illusion of the "Good Man"

Petraeus' behavior is not as shocking as we think. Social psychological principles involving the self explain that personality is not consistent (and often context-specific) and that effective people are skilled in the art of self-presentation.

Two Different Debates Seen: Spin Unavoidable

For most people, last night's debate was an exercise in self-validation rather than open-minded consideration.

Aurora Aftermath: Trying to Understand Dastardly Acts

Last week's shootings in Aurora have people asking "Why?" Although normal, this can be futile because people try to restore control to a chaotic world and focus on what makes a person "evil." Knee-jerk responses can result from "asking the why question," resulting in bad policy decisions that reflect impetuous responses to horrible human tragedies.

Gambling and The Self: A Sure Bet (To Lose Money)

With gambling growing to a $100 billion industry annually, what factors about the self and the situation increase its appeal?

What Exactly Is the Self? Insights from Neuroscience

What is the self? Although my stock answer to this question of "the self is memory" may be correct, recent neuroscience evidence suggests that our self-concept is the product of multiple, complex memory systems. Evidence from patients ranging from amnesiacs to those suffering from Alzheimer's dementia is shedding new, important light on this age-old question.

Paterno Surprise Reflects Ignoring the Power of the Situation

How could Joe Paterno, viewed as one of the few shining examples of a man who "did things right" get it so wrong and not respond better to sexual assault allegations by his own assistant coach? Repeatedly, social psychology has shown the importance of the power of the situation. In short, good people can do bad things when placed in particular circumstances.

Steve Jobs's Success: Not Just Technological, but Psychological

The resignation of Apple CEO Steve Jobs provides an opportunity to reflect on the psychology underlying his success. During a speech at Stanford, Jobs demonstrated a clear and compelling understanding of human nature and how to live life. We all may not be able to be billionaires who change the world, but we can take stock in the lessons learned by those who are.

Friends with Benefits: Pets Make Us Happier, Healthier

Social support is essential for well-being, but are people our only source for a sense of belongingness? Lonely people are often advised to get a dog or a cat to quell their social isolation, but do pets really can fulfill one's social needs, improving owners’ happiness, well-being, and even their physical health? A new study suggests the answer is a resounding yes!

Royal Wedding: A story about ourselves as well as love

With the Royal Wedding between William and Kate later this week, many people have become enthralled with soaking up every piece of news about the nuptials and purchasing official Royal Wedding Memorabilia. As a social psychologist and someone who does not spend my free time reading checkout-line tabloids, I find myself asking "Why?"

Romantic promise or problems? Clues from ourselves and others

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, people are interested in love and its assessment. What indicators in ourselves and others provide insight into issues ranging from "is my infatuation really into me?" to "should I dump this person?" Here are four phenomena that provide insights about how to identify promise or problems in our love lives.

Giving really is better than receiving

During the holiday season, one custom that is shared across many religious and cultural traditions ranging from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa is the act of giving to others. Recent scientific evidence and many influential transcendental leaders support the notion that "it is better to give than to receive."

Post-election depression or elation? Don't get too distraught or jubilant!

Tuesday's midterm elections triggered a seismic shift not only in Congress but in the emotions of so many voters throughout the country as well. However, the forecasts of protracted "doom and gloom" among Democrats or "happy days are here again" among Republicans are probably too strong.

Reflection critical for self-improvement

As Jews throughout the world observe Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, it is notable that many other traditions emphasize the important function of self-reflection. People involved in other traditions, such as those involved in 12-step programs at Alcoholics Anonymous or Buddhists who engage in meditation, also understand what psychological research has established: change requires self-awareness.

The King made The Decision: Let The Hating begin

Once viewed with considerable admiration by a region and even by many professional basketball fans in opposing cities, LeBron James may soon discover a world not full of love. Indeed, psychological principles suggest that "LeBron Hating" may not only become a new sport in Northeast Ohio (certainly to be expected), but perhaps across the entire nation.

LeBron Mania Fueled by Self-ish Concerns

With the National Basketball Association Finals in the limelight, the other intriguing NBA story has been "Will LeBron James leave the Cleveland Cavaliers?" Recently, I considered the social psychological features of why LeBron's decision is so powerful. Interestingly, this analysis implicated "the self" quite heavily.

Olympic Happiness: Better to win Bronze than Silver Medals?

Much of the world's attention is glued to the Olympic games in Canada this month. Invariably, every event ends with a clock or judges' score determining who makes a trip to the podium for the playing of a national anthem. Yet often, it seems the bronze medal winner is happier than the silver medalist. Why might the 3rd place contestant be happier than someone who objectively did better? Psychological processes involving the self and how we think about the causes of our circumstances can help to explain this interesting effect.

Harness Yourself to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

January 1st typically brings a number of requisite events, including hangovers, football bowl games, and new year's resolutions. And every year, people with the very best of intentions plan to exercise more, quit smoking, save money, and lose weight. Unfortunately, most fall short. Yet, despair not. 

Managing stress during the holidays: Psychologist, heal thyself

I found myself stressed, increasingly irritable, and becoming more and more unhappy as my life felt like a rickety wagon being held together by duct tape stretched to the breaking point. How did things get so crazy? Suddenly, I accepted the call of "psychologist, heal thyself."

Sportsfans seek self-esteem

This weekend saw football move into high gear, as the NFL regular season began and several big college games took place. As fans don their favorite team's uniforms, paint their faces, and affix team flags to houses and cars alike, it's a good time to ask "Why do people do these things?"