Psychology Is Starting to Police Itself

I have been in the field of cognitive science for about 25 years now. There are three significant changes that I have seen in the kinds of research that get done in that span. Not all of those changes have been positive.

Rejection and Discrimination Have Different Effects

If you decide to start blogging, you have to develop a thick skin. Not everyone is going to like what you have to say, and the internet comments people give you are not always phrased in the nicest way. Still, the negative comments can sting. And that leads to an immediate sense of rejection.

Can Waiting For Something Make You More Patient?

My dog is not very patient. If she senses that I might feed her a treat, she comes bounding over and sits begging. Once she is convinced that there is food for her, it is hard to get her to wait to eat something. But, people have a remarkable capacity to wait for good outcomes.

Pain and Your Brain

Everyone is familiar with placebo effects. Just taking a pill can reduce pain you are feeling, even if that pill has no active ingredients in it. Indeed, placebo effects help even when you are taking an active ingredient. It is hard to study pain and placebo effects, because pain is subjective

Positive Fantasies Can Reduce Future Effort

It is important to visualize what is going to happen in the future. When you are making plans to accomplish a goal, it is valuable to think through all of the things that can go wrong. That simulation of the future can help you to figure out what you are going to do to overcome the obstacles that may keep you from achieving your aims.

The Pain of Positive Stereotypes

When we think of the problems that stereotypes cause, we typically focus on negative characteristics associated with groups. Over the years, I have been part of conversations where someone uses the term “Jew” to refer to someone who is being cheap. I leave those interactions frustrated and angry. Presumably, though, there are positive stereotypes as well.

I Want What Is Best for You, But What Is Easy for Me

At the end of a long week, we often order takeout food from a local restaurant rather than cooking. There are a lot of restaurants in Austin, and many of them serve really excellent food. Yet, we tend to order from the same small list of places. There are better restaurants, but by the time we get down to ordering, we are most interested in doing what is easiest.

Do You Prefer More Choice or Less? It Depends on Distance

The appeal of big box retailers has always been a mystery to me. On those rare occasions when I have to go to a place like Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I often find it frustrating. There were so many options, that I am not at all sure that I got the best one. So, why are these stores so crowded?

When You’re Sad, You Want Things NOW!

You have probably seen cases where your mood influences your choices. You watch different movies when you are sad than when you are not. You listen to different music. You engage in different activities. Is it possible, though, that being sad could cost you money?

Language Changes Distance and Mood

We all know that thinking about happy memories can make you happy, while thinking about sad events from the past can make you sad. This relationship is so well-established that it is often used as a manipulation of people’s mood in experiments.

Thinking About the Actions of People and Groups

We often make generalizations about the behavior of groups of people. We might say that college students are prone to binge drink or that older people tend to go to sleep early. Do our beliefs about the individuals who come from these groups match our beliefs about the group as a whole?

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.