Diane Halpern on Hyperpartisanship

1 09 2013

One of the authors of the book we are using in Introduction to Psychology this semester is Diane Halpern. She recently won an award from the Association for Psychological Science, and gave a talk on cognitive psychology research on hyperpartisanship. Here’s a link: Link

A cognitive scientist, Halpern called on American citizens to adopt several practices that can ease the ideological divisions that plague the country today. She pointed to 70 years’ worth of research showing that cooperation and interaction are key ways to minimize prejudice and improve intergroup relations.


19 03 2013

In General Psychology, we are covering personality. One measure of personality is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). We watched Chris Ladd’s excellent film “i” (previously covered here) in class today which briefly mentioned the MBTI.

The Guardian (UK) has an interesting piece about the MBTI and its use in business and industry, and the fanatical following it has developed, despite its scientifically unsound development and its weak psychometrics.

There are many possible reasons why the MBTI is so entrenched in workplaces and promoted so enthusiastically. There’s the expense and training involved, mentioned above. It may be because everyone uses it, so people conclude it must be reliable, and thus its success becomes self perpetuating. Also, any personality type you get assigned is invariably positive. There is no combination of answers you could give on the MBTI which says ‘you’re an arsehole’.

Link to the article at the Guardian.

Intelligence and feedback from the environment

5 03 2013

Here is a link to an interesting piece by Tom Stafford on the ever-excellent Mind Hacks blog about intelligence. In General Psychology and Introduction to Psychological Testing, we are/have been studying intelligence. Tom’s take on this is that the essence of intelligence – in humans, the ability to adaptively respond to our environment is gathering and interpreting feedback from the environment about our actions and the actions of others. Interesting stuff, especially the mechanical animals artist Tim Lewis constructs that seem to have some intelligence. It also bears on the measurement of intelligence and what that means.

I/O Psychologist John Karlin’s Obituary

9 02 2013

There is an obituary for industrial psychologist John Karlin in the NY Times. His research team at Bell Labs was responsible for how telephones were designed around the capabilities of humans.

It is not so much that Mr. Karlin trained midcentury Americans how to use the telephone. It is, rather, that by studying the psychological capabilities and limitations of ordinary people, he trained the telephone, then a rapidly proliferating but still fairly novel technology, to assume optimal form for use by midcentury Americans.

Link to the article.

DSM-V, medicalization of bereavement, and bias

30 12 2012

courtesy Flickr user focus2capture

The ever-excellent Mind Hacks blog has a good post covering a Washington Post story on the elimination of the bereavement exemption from the diagnosis of major depressive disorder. The DSM-V panel has significant ties to big pharma, making it easier for normal sadness to be medicalized and treated with drugs. It also points out the importance of understanding implicit bias. Check it out here.

On Consciousness

15 04 2012

Consciousness is a very difficult concept to define, let alone study scientifically. It is often overlooked in introductory psychology classes, I think because discussing it quickly becomes a tangled briar of contradictions and confusion. It’s a shame because it is one of the most important concepts in human experience.

See this recent article in the New York TImes about consciousness and some scientific studies on it. One vexing thing about these studies is the questions of why, when the neocortical regions are inactivated, can participants understand the language used as commands to perform some function? If Wernicke’s area is inactivated by anesthetics, how is the language comprehended? The article does not provide any explanation of this.

The Romance of Neuroticism

1 04 2012

THis week in class we’ll be talking about the Big Five trait model of personality, and one trait is “neuroticism.” An article in today’s NY Times talks about neurosis and the decline of the use of the word neurotic. Check it out here.

Over all, scores on those kinds of questionnaires have not changed much in adults in the United States since the 1950s. But recent studies have found that, among college students, neuroticism levels have increased by as much as 20 percent over the same period.

Amnesia in cinema

14 02 2012

We discussed amnesia in class last week. There is a good article today in Neurophilosophy, a blog hosted by the Guardian newspaper, about the portrayal of amnesia in films. It discusses the excellent film Memento, which I also mentioned in class.

Check the article out here.

One Milgram participant who did not continue

7 05 2008

In class, we have been discussing conformity and obedience. The always great Mind Hacks blog pointed me toward a first-person account of participation in the Stanley Milgram obedience experiments:

Jewish Currents: Resisting Authority: A Personal Account of the Milgram Obedience Experiments :

With some trepidation on my part, we began the experiment. After a few shocks, the learner let out an “Ouch!” and I asked if he was okay. He said he was, but after the next shock, his complaint became louder. I said I would stop. The “professor” told me to continue, and the learner said he was ready to go on, too. I went on for two or three more shocks. With each, the learner’s cry of pain became louder — and then he asked to stop, and I refused to go any further. The professor became very authoritative. He said that I was costing them valuable time, it was essential for me to continue, I was ruining the experiment. He asserted that he was in charge, not me. He reminded me that I had been paid and insisted that I continue. I refused, offered to give him back the five dollars, and told him that I believed the experiment to be really about how far I would go, that the learner was an accomplice, and that I was determined not to continue.

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Happiness Q & A with Daniel Gilbert

22 04 2008

We were discussing subjective well-being in class last week. The New York Times has a Q&A with a prominent psychologist in studying happiness.

Daniel Gilbert – Happiness Researcher – New York Times:


A. I’m not Dr. Phil.

We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends.

We know that it’s significantly more important than money and somewhat more important than health. That’s what the data shows. The interesting thing is that people will sacrifice social relationships to get other things that won’t make them as happy — money. That’s what I mean when I say people should do “wise shopping” for happiness.

Another thing we know from studies is that people tend to take more pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x” amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t.

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