Not All Happiness Is the Same

If you were to stop people randomly on the street and ask them if they were happy, chances are most of them would say, “Yes.” Most of us are happy most of the time. What exactly does it mean to be happy, though?

Getting Stuck in Trivial Choices

If you watch people shopping, you'll find that they often spend a lot of time on decisions that don't really matter. What causes us to get sucked into trivial choices?

Persuasion Is Local

How can an advertisement reach a diverse mix of people? Perhaps an ad needs to be tailored to the personality characteristics of the viewer.

The Value of Experiencing Through Someone Else’s Eyes

Here at the University of Texas, we have started a new program called the Human Dimensions of Organizations that uses the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences to teach people in business how to think like leaders. Why would a business leader need any training in literature? A new set of studies suggests an answer.

To Take People’s Advice, Take Their Perspective Too

You may have noticed that there are two kinds of advice-giving situations. Sometimes, people come to you for advice, because they really don’t know what to do, and they are asking for your opinion or expertise. Other times, though, people already have an opinion. How you can get people to pay more attention to the advice they receive?

How Do You Decide Who Owns Something?

Ownership is an important part of our daily lives, but most of us do not spend much time thinking about how we make decisions about who owns things. We care about ownership, because the owner of an object gets to decide what is done with it. Owners also benefit from the value of the object.

Specific Plans Do Not Always Help

A lot of research over the last several years has focused on how to help people to achieve their goals. One of the results that has emerged from this work is that it is useful to form specific plans. Are these specific plans always helpful?

Young Kids Know Who to Learn From

Much of what we know is learned from other people. As young children, our parents and caregivers teach us about the world by talking with us, playing with us, and letting us watch what they do. As we get older, we learn from teachers in school settings, and our peers as well.

You Are What You Have Done—Not What You Own

The experiences you have and the things you own both influence your sense of self. Which plays a larger role?

Why Is Advice so Rarely Followed?

It is fascinating that the advice people are most prone to give is different from the actions that people typically take. Why is that?

What Makes Us Think Rituals Work?

One of the biggest difficulties that we have to deal with is that most of the things that happen to us are utterly out of our control. Cultures have developed many strategies for dealing with this fact. One of the most fascinating of these strategies is the creation of rituals.

The Downside of Planning

For most of us, life is just too busy. It is hard to do everything you want and need to do in a day. What can you do to help yourself reach your goals without getting overwhelmed by the details?

Why Empathy Makes You More Helpful

Charities often tug at your heartstrings when looking for donations. Why is that strategy so effective?

Why We Create Moral Issues

When Barack Obama announced that he was supporting same-sex marriage, he cast the discussion in moral terms. Why are discussions of this issue usually cast in moral terms?

Creativity, Persistence and Working Memory

On Sunday nights, I play in the horn section of a blues band. Each week, musicians come from all over town to play with us. So, over the course of the night, I get many opportunities to hear people play solos on a variety of instruments. And sometimes, I am just blown away by the quality and creativity of people’s solos.

What Does Guilt Do?

If you do something wrong that hurts someone else, you feel guilty. Guilt is a valuable emotion, because it helps to maintain your ties to the people in your community. It provides a painful consequence for actions that would weaken the groups that you belong to.

Changing Your Own Mind

The old joke says that you only need one psychologist to change a light bulb, but the light bulb has to want to change. What can you do to change your mind about something?

Size Does Matter—When You’re Putting

It is tempting to think of our eyes as video cameras that take in information about the world and try to give us a reasonably accurate picture of what is going on in the outside world. The reality is that what we see relates to what we can do.

Thinking Fast Promotes Risky Behavior

We’re approaching the playoffs in hockey and basketball. An exciting win by a team creates a lot of excitement, and in that excitement people often engage in behaviors that carry some risk. What factors promote this kind of risky behavior?

Respect and Status Are Not the Same

In any group, some people emerge as the leaders. Those leaders have high status within the group, because others end up following what they decide. What factors determine whether people want leadership roles?

When Do You Practice What You Preach?

Philosophers and observers of human behavior have noticed that people often make moral claims that they cannot live up to. But, people's behavior often does not live up to these standards. These observations have spurred a number of lines of psychological research.

Why Are People More Forgiving When They Get Older?

Forgiveness can be difficult. When someone does something wrong to you, it often takes time and effort to get beyond what they did and to forgive. A common observation, though, is that older people (in their 70s and 80s) are much more forgiving than young and middle-aged adults.

You Can Overcome Fixations and Achieve Insight

There are many different roads to innovation. One of them requires overcoming functional fixedness. How can you learn to do that better?

Motivation Affects What You See, Which Affects What You Do

I’m sure that you have had the experience of hopping into the grocery store when you are hungry. As you walk through the aisles, all kinds of snacks and chips seem to leap from the shelves into your cart. Why does this happen?

White Lies Affect Your Behavior

Some social situations lead people to tell little white lies. How do those lies affect the way you treat the person you lied to in the future?

Credit Cards Make You Pay Attention to Benefits

Most people have had the experience that paying for something with a credit card seems less painful than paying for it with cash. New research sheds light on why this happens.

It Is Motivating to Belong to a Group

There are lots of benefits to being a member of a community. People feel more secure when they know that they have others around them who share their goals and care about their progress.

What Do You Enjoy Doing?

Often, I hear people repeat the phrase, “Life is a journey, you have to enjoy the ride.” If you want to set up your life so that you can enjoy as many of the moments as possible, though, are there particular experiences you ought to strive for?

Developing Good Study Habits Really Works

Knowledge is the essence of smart thinking. No matter how much raw intelligence you have, you are not going to succeed at solving complex problems without knowing a lot.

Even for Young Kids, Explanation Guides Exploration

It is generally a positive characteristic to be curious. When you are curious, you spend a lot of time trying to understand the way the world around you works.

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