New in the APS Observer: Nathan on Self-Control and Grit, David on The Psychology of Extremism

The November APS Observer is out with an essay by Nathan, “Why Self-Control and Grit matter—and Why It Pays to Know the Difference.” It describes Angela Duckworth’s and James Gross’s research on laser-focused achievement drive (grit) and on self-control over distracting temptations. . .

Read More

‘You’re So Cute, I Could Just Eat You Up.’ Say What?

Have you ever seen a baby so cute you wanted to snuggle it and take a bite out of it at the same time? Ever said to a new niece or nephew, “You’re so cute, I could just eat you up?”

Read More

Why Failure is the Best Teacher

Success is mystery. What is it? How do we achieve it? And why does it often fail to live up our expectations? Success puzzles us because we don’t appreciate failure.

In “What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars,” University of Kentucky alum and multimillionaire Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan suggest that there are a million ways to succeed.

Read More

From Beijing: Academic Enthusiasm!

A recent Beijing visit left me marveling at students’ academic enthusiasm.  In explaining Asian students’ outperformance of North American students, researchers have documented cultural differences in conscientiousness. Asian students spend more time in school and much more time studying (and see here for one recent study of the academic diligence of Asian-Americans).

Read More

Who are the 100 Extremely Eminent Modern Psychologists?

Tis’ the season for professional recognition. The world is abuzz with announcements of who won this year’s Nobel Prizes. Psychology doesn’t have a Nobel Prize (though one of our own, Daniel Kahneman, won one in 2002). But psychologists like to make lists. Recently, three researchers compiled a list of the 100 most eminent psychologists 

Read More

Why Might Pacifiers Get in the Way of Understanding Your Child?

No matter how many babies I meet, I’m always left wondering what they want. Does a short squeak followed by a shrill squeal signal that the baby is hungry? That I left the dog outside by accident again? Or is the baby simply testing out her developing vocal chords? Driven by confusion and frustration, I might insert a pacifier into the baby’s mouth. The baby seems soothed, and I can take a breather.

But according to one recent study, pacifiers disrupt our ability to understand a baby’s emotional state.

Read More

The Power of a High Five

One of my earliest memories is my dad giving me a high five. He was training for a marathon and agreed to take me, his talkative four year-old, on a run. I ran an entire mile. When I finished, red-faced and smiling, he said, “Give me five, son.” It was my first high five.  According to a new study, high fives go a long way in motivating children. 

Read More

Psychology’s Most Controversial Studies

What would you consider psychology’s ten most provocative and controversial studies?  Christian Jarrett, a great communicator of psychological science via the British Psychological Society’s free Research Digest, offers his top ten list here.  A quick recap:

1)     The Stanford Prison Experiment (aka the Stanford Prison Simulation)

Read More

Can Electricity Improve Your Memory? A Shocking Finding

Have you ever just met someone, learned his name, and immediately forgotten it? This happens all of the time. People try all sorts of tricks to remember names, driving routes, or the location of your favorite Hong Kong noodle house. But we might be looking in the wrong spot. All we need is a healthy dose of electricity.

Read More

New in the APS Observer: Nathan on the Stability of Psychopathy, David on the Stability of Intelligence

The October APS Observer is out with an essay by Nathan, “Once a Psychopath, Always a Psychopath?” on people who “commit horrific crimes, experience little guilt or remorse, and then commit similar crimes again.” What is their potential for change, and how can we teach students about them?

In the same issue, I offer “The Story of My Life and Yours: Stability and Change.” It’s a celebration 

Read More

Do Look-Alikes Act Alike?

Behavior geneticists have gifted us with two stunning findings—discoveries that overturned what I used to believe about the environment’s power to shape personality.  One, dramatically illustrated by the studies of identical twins separated near birth, is the heritability of personality and intelligence.  

Read More

Why We Evolved to Size Up Angry Faces

Most of our daily lives hum along effortlessly. We automatically rise when we wake, speak when we wish to communicate, and eat when our empty bellies grumble. These behaviors helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. But we also need to size up situations and people that might threaten us. How well do we do this?

Read More

How to Be Productive: Preserve Your Energy for What Matters

My wife loves me, despite smirking that I am “boringly predictable.”  Every day, I go to bed at pretty much the same time, rise at the same time, pull on my khaki pants and brown shoes, frequent the same coffee shops, ride the same old bicycle, and exercise every weekday noon hour.  As I walk into my Monday-Wednesday-Friday breakfast spot, the staff order up my oatmeal and tea.  I’ll admit to boring.  But there is an upside to mindless predictability.  

Read More

Another Big Round Number: Did Masters and Johnson Really Observe 10,000 Sexual Cycles?

Every once in a while I reread something that I’ve reported across editions of my texts, scratch my head, and ask myself: Is this really true?

Such was the case as I reread my reporting that “With the help of 382 female and 312 male volunteers. . . Masters and Johnson monitored or filmed more than 10,000 ‘sexual cycles.’”

Really?  

Read More

How Do We Know Ourselves? If You Said One Thing and Heard Yourself Saying Another, What Would You Think You Said?

How do we know ourselves?  It’s partly by observing our own actions, proposed Daryl Bem’s self-perception theory.  Hearing ourselves talk can give us clues to our own attitudes.  Witnessing our actions gives us insight into the strength of our convictions (much as we observe others’ behavior and make inferences).  Our behavior is often self-revealing.

Read More