Can Video Games Make You Smart (Or At Least More Flexible)?

The potential ills of video game play have been broadcast all over the media. Not all effects of video games are bad, though. Can playing video games actually improve your cognitive flexibility?

Having a Hot Hand Increases Confidence, But Not Success

One of the great things about doing research is that you can actually test the beliefs that people take for granted. And sometimes, those beliefs are shown to be false. A classic example of this approach comes in the belief in a hot hand in basketball.

Anger, Fear, and Terrorism

High profile terrorist attacks have had an enormous impact on the modern world. In the wake of 9/11, the US government increased its investment in the “War on Terror” by giving Special Forces the responsibility to combat terrorism around the world. Events like the Boston Marathon bombing remind people of the potential danger of seemingly random violence.

Are the Youngest Children in Families the Most Rebellious?

There is a popular belief that the behavior of children in a family depends a lot on their birth order. First-born children are supposed to be fairly conformist, because they do not have to compete for their parents’ attention and resources at the start of their lives. Middle children have to fight hard for attention, and so they may rebel as a way of getting noticed.

Self-Compassion and Health

Self-compassion is the degree to which you treat yourself with kindness. It differs from related concepts like self-esteem, which is how good you feel about yourself. How does self-compassion influence your ability to deal with illness?

Self-Control and Success

Most of us believe that a certain amount of self-control is crucial for success. In order to succeed in the modern world, you need expertise in some area. Gaining that expertise requires work and practice. The discipline to work or practice at something means that you have to give up things that might be fun right now to enhance your future.

What Does the Brain Reveal About You?

Over the years, we have learned a lot from the study of brain damage as well as from brain imaging of normally functioning brains. Like a number of my colleagues, I have been concerned about the growing desire to capitalize on our understanding of the brain for financial gain.

What Kinds of People Start Businesses?

I live in Austin, Texas, which prides itself as a center for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are people who start their own businesses. In Austin, we have many different kinds of new businesses ranging from high-tech companies that want to be the next Dell or Facebook to food-truck restaurants where someone just wants to follow their dream of cooking for others.

People Who Lack Self-Control Value Others Who Have It

Willpower is a notoriously fickle thing. Some days, you can withstand even the fiercest temptation. On other days, you can be distracted from your goals by almost anything.

Do Parks Make People Happier?

I have been lucky enough to live in Austin, Texas for the past 15 years. One of the things that strikes people who visit here for the first time is how green it is. There are lots of small parks, greenbelts, and hills with woods. If you live in a place with lots of parks like this, does it affect your life satisfaction?

Do You Overearn?

In the 1980s, there was a bumper sticker that made the rounds that said, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That phrase always made me pause. On the one hand, toys are fun, and so if you work hard to accumulate lots of fun things to do and to enjoy, then perhaps that is true. But, what if you die with a lot of toys that you never play with?

Can You Make Teens Less Aggressive?

Over the past several years, I got to experience high school again through the eyes of my kids. Though I have enjoyed going to band concerts and choir concerts and plays, I am glad that I am beyond my high school years. Kids can be flat-out mean to each other.

Both Good and Bad Habits Are Boosted in Times of Stress

The effects of stress on willpower are a staple of romantic comedies. A character goes through a difficult romantic breakup, and in the next scene, she is sitting on the couch smeared in ice cream with empty wrappers strewn on the couch. Because these breakdowns of willpower are so clear, you might think that stressful situations bring out your worst behavior.

Distance Increases the Use of Statistics in Decisions

There is a real tension in decision making between using a broad sample of information and focusing on a compelling individual case. Presumably, a decision based on a lot of evidence is better than one that is based only on a specific case.

Culture Affects Attention to Goals and Processes

When you want to guide your behavior, you have to pay attention to two different things—the goal and the process. The goal is the outcome you want to have happen, while the process is the set of steps that will allow you to achieve that goal. Do people tend to focus on goals or processes?

Familiar Sequences Attract Attention

When you look around the world, lots of different things may capture your attention. The loud backfire of a car nearby may cause you to look in that direction. A bright flash of light from a window can get you to look up. A familiar face in a crowd can lead you to focus on it. An object that suddenly starts moving can grab your attention.

Improving Concentration Improves Performance

There are times when it is just hard to get work done. You want to read a book, but you can’t stop thinking about a comment a friend made earlier in the day. Think of how productive you could be if you could just focus on what you are doing rather than having your mind wander all over.

Does Early Academic Prowess Predict Later Success?

As you probably know, I am interested in smart thinking. I spend a lot of time writing about how to improve your thinking skills. I also argue that anyone can get smarter by learning more about the mind and how it works.

Who Rejects Evidence of Global Climate Change?

There is scientific consensus about the basic tenets relating to global climate change... Scientists agree that human activity is influencing global temperatures.

Do Sunny Days Make You Feel Good About Life?

I have a soft spot in my heart for the song “Sunny Side of the Street,” and that song has helped me get through some tough times in my life. The lyric “Life can be so sweet/On the sunny side of the street” captures our general belief that rainy days are sad, while sunny days are happy.

Your Ethical Mindset

People’s ethical behavior is complicated. Sometimes, we act consistently. Other times, we do not. What factors drive us to maintain consistency in our ethical behavior?

What Does It Mean to Be Happy?

Happiness is almost a national obsession these days. The self-help shelves of bookstores are filled with entries that promise to help you find or achieve happiness. In this context, we rarely think about what the word happy really means.

Memory, Aging, and Distraction

The population in the United States is aging. That has created a lot of anxiety about the cognitive effects of getting older. Lots of research suggests that older adults are worse than younger adults on a variety of different thinking tasks.

Frustration and Violent Video Games

If you talk to people who enjoy violent video games, they give many reasons for playing. Some just like the chance to do things that they would never do in real life. Others enjoy the chance to get together with friends and play. Still others see violent video games as a chance to escape the stresses of daily life and blow off a little steam.

Is That Extra Hour of Study Time Worth It?

It is no surprise that teens and young adults are a pretty sleep-deprived group. Yesterday morning at 9am, for example, I taught a small class here at the University of Texas. The students staggered into class looking like they could use a nap.

Mood and Persuasion

We live in a world of persuasion. Advertisements try to convince us to buy products. Stories on television and radio attempt to influence our opinion on a variety of topics. Politicians seek to influence our beliefs about laws and society.

Conservative Politics and Well-Being

For many years, psychologists have posited a relationship between political views and well-being. How strong is that relationship?

Power Makes People Happy

There is a popular image that people who are in positions of power are really unfulfilled. Is that really true? Or does power make you happy?

Conservatism and Product Purchase

When you meet new people, there are a few things you can find out about them that seem to say a lot about them. The music people listen to, for example, seems to say a lot about their outlook on life. Political affiliation is another big dimension. In the US, knowing that someone is a Democrat or a Republication seems to tell you a lot about who they are.

Distance From an Event Affects How You Deal With It

Imagine that you have been having a stressful time at work. Your boss has been angry about the performance of your group, and you are afraid you might lose your job. Losing your job would affect all aspects of your life including whether you can keep your home. As a result, you start having trouble sleeping. What do you do?