We Are Motivated by the Prospect of Missing Out on Rewards

The most motivating way to get things done is to enjoy the work itself. When the work is not so enjoyable, then rewards can help. A fascinating new paper suggests that the way the rewards are grouped can have a profound influence on your motivation.

When Is It Good to Have a Few Close Friends?

Look at your life. Do you have friends? What kind of friends do you have? Have you got a few people in your life that you spend a lot of time with? Have you got a larger number of acquaintances that you see on occasion? Which is better?

Disgust and Perception

A fascinating paper in the December, 2012 issue of Psychological Science by Gary Sherman, Jonathan Haidt, and Gerald Clore explores the influence of disgust on the ability to see potential impurities.

What Do Young Kids Know About Animals and Objects?

The world is made up of many different kinds of things, and in order to get around the world successfully, we have to learn about both the individual items we encounter and the information that will help us to deal with new things. At what age do kids learn about this difference between animals and artifacts?

Why Does the Past Seem Happy?

It is a common stereotype that older adults assume the world is now in irrevocable decline. The conversation starts with, “When I was young…” and goes on to describe some idyllic aspect of the world free from some demon that plagues the modern era.

Who Grows Up to Be Conservative or Liberal?

Psychologists have been interested in whether there are broader psychological factors that predict whether someone is likely to hold conservative or liberal political views. How does early experience influence these views?

Oxytocin and Conformity

Oxytocin has been the focus of a lot of research, because it is supposed to influence whether people trust those around them. New research adds a twist to how the trust hormone works.

Does Regifting Have to Be a Bad Thing?

The holiday season is upon us, and many people are spending time, effort, and money to find gifts for friends, family, and co-workers. Why is it a problem to regift something you received from someone else?

Improving Eyewitness Identification

Countless courtroom dramas culminate with a witness pointing to the defendant and identifying him (or her) as the perpetrator of some awful crime. The jury gasps, shaken. They retire to the jury room, and later return with a guilty verdict. An interesting paper in the October, 2012 issue of Psychological Science explores the lineup procedure in more detail.

Mind-Body Beliefs Affect Health Behavior

Are there aspects of the way people live their lives that are influenced by their beliefs about the relationship between mind and body?

Creating Attitude Change By Influencing Values

When trying to influence people’s opinion about particular policies, is it better to talk about the specific policy or is it more effective to focus on the values related to that policy?

Choices You Make Today Affect You For Years

People are often creatures of habit in the choices they make. A brand of toothpaste that you start to buy as a college student can easily become the brand you purchase most often for the rest of your adult life.

Is Willpower Energy or Motivation?

Anyone who has tried to break a bad habit has experienced the trouble with willpower. You want to stick to your diet, but you find yourself standing at a buffet filled with tempting desserts. Before you know it, there is a beautiful piece of cake on your plate.

When Potential Beats Actual Performance

We evaluate how people will act in the future all the time. Hiring someone to do a job involves determining how well they will carry out that task. What kind of information do we use to make the decision about future performance?

What Do (Linguistic) Hedges Do?

A hedge is a marker of uncertainty in language. A new study shows that while hedges lead to better memory for the information they're connected to—they call attention to it—listeners won't retell the information—because they also mark it as unreliable.

Multicultural Experiences Decrease Prejudice

Because prejudice is so pervasive, there has been a lot of interest in understanding factors that might reduce it. A fascinating paper that comes out next month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that having a multicultural experience can decrease prejudice.

Staving Off Boredom by Focusing On It

You probably have a complex relationship with new things. The first time you hear a new song, it is unfamiliar, and you are not sure whether you like it. After that first listen, the song begins to grow on you. Eventually, though, you get bored with it. Can you slow this process down?

Knowing More About a Charity Is Not Always Better

The idea behind mailings is that the more we learn about a particular charity, the more likely we might be to give money to it—but sometimes the more we think we know about a cause the less generous we are.

Shooter Bias and Stereotypes

Police called to the scene of a crime often face a difficult situation. There may be one or more potential perpetrators. In this situation, the police are asked to make split-second decisions about how to proceed. Failing to shoot an armed suspect could lead a police officer to get shot. Shooting an unarmed or potentially innocent person can lead to tragedy.

What Kinds of People Take Care of Themselves?

There are two kinds of questions that you can ask people to assess their concern for the future. One focuses on how much people care about what is going to happen to them in the future. The other is the degree to which they are focused on the benefit they will get from an action right now.

Can You Be Unconsciously Creative?

In the movies, creativity often involves moments of insight. A character struggles with an idea. There is a montage of pained faces and crumpled sheets of paper. Then, suddenly, the light comes on. A choir sings. A new creative moment has happened.

Kids Learn About Ownership Early On

Ownership is an interesting concept. Unlike many other aspects of objects, ownership depends on the history of the object rather than its features. What do young kids know about ownership?

What Is Boredom?

We have all experienced boredom. Sitting in a class where the teacher is droning on about a topic you don’t care about, you may find yourself daydreaming or staring at a clock that doesn’t seem to be moving. Waiting for a delayed flight to take off at the airport, you may search in vain for something to distract you. So, how does it work?

Why Did You Know It All Along?

The world is full of uncertainty.

Disgust, Morality, and Attention

Our sense of morality helps us to do the right thing even in situations where there is a temptation to do something wrong. An interesting observation from this research is that people’s moral judgments are also related to disgust.

Those Pesky Unconscious Goals

Have you ever had one of those days where you just find it hard to get anything done? You sit at your desk trying to work, and your mind keeps wandering off. Eventually, you may just give up and do something else for a while.

Becoming Bi-Cultural Makes You More Creative

Because of the key role of innovation in generating new business, companies are on the lookout for people who are likely to bring a creative spirit to their work. New work suggests why living abroad can make people more creative.

How Can We Get Students Interested in Math and Science?

High school is interesting, because it is the first time that students have the chance to start picking their own classes. They have the change to determine the difficulty of the classes they want to take and they have some flexibility in the number of classes that they take in different subject areas.

Treating Yourself with Compassion Helps You Change for the Better

Self-compassion is the degree to which people treat themselves with warmth and understanding. How can that help you to overcome failure?

Social Drinking Helps People Get Along

On Sunday nights, I play saxophone in the backing band for a blues jam that is held at a local club. Most of the people who come are musicians or other folks from the neighborhood who wandered in for a drink. As I look around the room, most people have a drink in front of them. They are talking and laughing. Everybody seems to be having a good time.

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