Dogs Know When We’re Happy or Sad, Even in Photos

From across the room, both dogs seem to suspect when we’re angry or happy. All they need is a peek at our body language and facial expressions. If you have a dog, you’ve likely noticed the same thing. But did you know that dogs also can tell the difference between happy and angry faces in photographs? 

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I’m Happy, But What If I’m Supposed to Be Miserable?

This morning my wife, our one-month-old daughter, and I went to a local diner. It was a snow day, my workplace was closed, and we were enjoying a rare morning together. Before our food arrived, I took a sip of coffee, looked outside, and said, “I’m so happy.” The story should end there, with our tiny family devouring pancakes and running errands. But then I returned to my house, opened my email, and received some bad news. I was supposed to be miserable.

Or so suggested the latest Gallup Report, “The State of American Well-Being: 2014 State Well-Being Rankings.”

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Feeling depressed? Turn off that television!

Did you watch all five seasons of “Breaking Bad” over a long weekend? Have you ever longed for the weekend so that you can watch episode after episode of your new favorite television show? Are you counting down until Netflix releases Season 3 of “House of Cards” later this month? You’re not alone.

Binge-watching seems harmless—I’ve been known to veg out occasionally after a long week, watching hours of “The Wire”—but is it really? New research says maybe not.

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“Lyin’ Brian”? Or a Victim of the False Memory Phenomenon?

After falsely reporting being grounded by rocket fire while on a military helicopter in Iraq, and subsequently having his reported experiences during Hurricane Katrina challenged, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been grounded by pundit fire.

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Is My Professor “Smart” or “Sweet”? The Answer Depends on . . .

Northeastern University history professor Benjamin Schmidt is making waves, after harvesting 14 million student reviews from “Rate My Professor.”  He offers a simple interactive tool that can allow you—perhaps as an in-class demonstration—to compare words that students use to describe male and female professors. 

You can give it a try, here.  I entered some intelligence-related words (“smart,” “brilliant,” “genius”) and some emotion-related words (“sweet,” “nasty”).  Even as one who writes about gender stereotypes, I was stunned by the gender effect.

Worst Coaching Call Ever? Hindsight Bias and the Super Bowl

Carroll made two end-of-half decisions in Sunday’s Super Bowl, both questioned by the NBC announcers.  Their differing outcomes, and the resulting pundit and fan reactions, offer potent examples of a mental pitfall that has been the subject of 800 psychological science publications.

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Are Smartphones Making Our Thumbs Smarter?

Even though the smartphone has only been around for the past seven or eight years, it’s sometimes difficult to remember what life was like before we had so much information at our fingertips. You could argue with a friend about what year “Back to the Future, Part 2” came out, or in what year the “future” was set. (It was released in 1989. The future, filled with flying cars and floating skateboards, was set in 2015.) 

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Fans Cheering Their Ears Out?

Friday my focus was hearing research and care—at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, where I sit on the Advisory Council (assessing federal support for hearing research and hearing health).  Days later, I was cheering on my ill-fated hometown Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

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What’s Your Resolution? 3 Keys to Success

At the beginning of each year, millions of people reflect on the previous year and find things they could have done better. Exercised more, eaten healthier, watched less television, drank less alcohol. They vow—most knowing they won’t keep their promise—to make more of the new year, to become their best selves.

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New in the APS Observer: Nathan on “How Mindfulness Works,” David on “Happy Marriages and Healthy Bodies”

In the January Observer (here), Nathan digests—and suggests how to teach—David Creswell and Emily Lindsay’s explanations of how mindfulness improves health.  David (here) notes that marriage predicts happiness.  Does it also predict physical health?  

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Why Do We Care Who Wins?

Last night’s national championship college football game, today’s New York Times article on America’s greatest small college rivalry (involving my own Hope College), and the upcoming Super Bowl all bring an interesting psychological question to mind:  Why do we care who wins? What psychological dynamics energize rabid fans?

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Can Therapy Save Lives? Yes!

Self-preservation is a core instinct, but sometimes people reach an emotional valley in their lives and the best way out seems to be self-harm. Unfortunately, a history of self-harm is one of the best predictors of future self-harm and death by suicide. Can psychotherapy weaken the cycle of self-harm and its relationship to death by suicide?

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The Test Results Are In: Testing Works!

Even the most pleasant activities have low spots. I enjoy teaching as much as anything, but there are certain parts I like more than others. Course planning ranks as one of my least favorite parts of teaching. There are numerous questions that lack clear answers.

But as I built my online course shell today, I felt more confident than ever about how often I should test my students. Quite a bit.

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How Much Inequality is Ideal?

Economic inequality is a fact of life.  Moreover, most folks presume some inequality is inescapable and even desirable, assuming that achievement deserves financial reward and that the possibility of making more money motivates effort.   But how much inequality is good? 

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The Greatest-Ever Study of Human Development?

As I explain in a recent APS Observer essay (here), my short list of psychology’s greatest research programs includes the 250+ scientific publications that have followed Scottish lives from childhood to later life.  The studies began with all Scottish 11-year-olds taking intelligence tests in 1932 and in 1947 (the results of which Ian Deary and his team discovered many years later).  After meeting Deary at an Edinburgh conference in 2006 and hearing him describe his tracking these lives through time, I have followed his team’s reports of their cognitive and physical well-being with great fascination. 

 

Last April, some 400 alums of the testing—now 93 or 78 years old (including those shown with Deary below)—gathered at the Church of Scotland’s Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, where Deary regaled them with the fruits of their participation. One of his conclusions, as reported by the October 31st Science, is that “participants’ scores at age 11 can predict about 50% of the variance in their IQs at age 77.”  

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