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.

Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiments on ABC’s Radio National

25 02 2013

Courtesy ABC

The blog Advances in the History of Psychology pointed me toward an Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio show covering the now-famous Robbers Cave experiments conducted by Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues. It includes fascinating audio from the experiments, interviews with adults who were the boys at the camps, interviews with one of the experimenters (OJ Harvey), etc. It raises some significant ethical issues, as well as some methodological issues. Highly recommended if you’re into social psychology.

Link to the ABC show web page to listen to it.

New meta-analysis on cognitive training programs

14 02 2013

The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog covers a new meta-analysis of cognitive training programs, which finds no evidence for lasting effects on working memory or generalizable effects.

Link to the BPS blog post.

How to woo a scientist

14 02 2013

The Guardian (UK) has a hilarious article about how to find and pluck the heart strings of your nearest scientist. Here’s the link.

My favorite quotes:

“Scientists can be hard to locate. They rarely frequent sporting events, popular music concerts, fairgrounds, organised cockfights or wherever it is non-scientists choose to congregate. A typical scientist is usually found in the laboratory.”

“There are instances where you will encounter a scientist outside of the laboratory environment. They may be giving a lecture, or possibly standing in an exotic location looking wistful. In both of these instances, engaging in conversation is impractical, given the context. … If you’re lucky, you may encounter one in a pub or similar establishment. … if you see someone who is clearly under the influence of alcohol but still using words of 5 syllables or more, then they’re likely to be a scientist.”

“When attempting to talk to a scientist, be sure you don’t say anything that might be interpreted as a claim unless you are certain it has been peer-reviewed or subjected to rigorous statistical assessment.”

“Should the conversation falter or hit a lull, try asking the question “How is your grant application going?” This is likely to result in a very long rant about the problems, frustrations and possible illegitimate birth origins of those involved with the grant approval process.”

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.

Mechanical Turk and Clinical Populations

7 02 2013

Last night in Intro to Psychogical Testing, we discussed the use of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk system for recruiting participants for reliability studies. The new APS journal Clinical Psychological Science just published an article on the quality and characteristics of Mechanical Turk workers in relation to clinincal variables. Specifically, there was a much higher prevalence of social anxiety, unemployment, and potential substance use disorder. This is good for people studying these areas, but for those studying factors that might intercorrelate with those, it may be a suspect source of participants. Overall though, the reliability between the first wave and second wave of data collection was high, which means that Mturk might be a good place to run reliability and validity studies.

Here’s a link to the article at Clinical Psychological Science.

Social Priming, Failed Replications, and Egos

2 02 2013

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a good article on social priming—the effects on our behavior from subtle cues in our social environment. It reviews some of the key studies such as the famous elderly prime makes people walk more slowly finding. There is an appropriately strong focus on John Bargh, whose studies made the effect well known, as well as some of the individuals who have had trouble replicating his results. As it remains today, there is serious doubt about whether the effect is very robust. Instead, there might be some moderators that enhance or weaken the effect that are unknown. If there is anything good coming out of this, it may be that we start begin respecting the publication of failed replications. That will be good for the entire discipline.

Link to the article at the Chronicle.

Image courtesy Flickr user sunnydelishgirl. Licensed under Creative Commons

Obituary for Susan Nolen-Hoeksema

14 01 2013

Today’s NY Times has an obituary for the author of the textbook I used for Abnormal Psychology, Susan Nolen-Hoeksema. I considered it one of the best of the abnormal psych books. Here’s a link to the obit. She was only 53.

David Brooks on using psychological research for public policy

11 01 2013

Today’s NY Times has an op-ed by David Brooks that points out that much of public policy is derived from “common sense” or “folk psychology” that has no scientific basis. Instead, he argues for public policy created by using research findings to enact behavioral changes in the population. I agree. There are some interesting comments to the article as well, but many of them amount to “David Brooks is on his agenda” and do not offer much of a criticism that is useful to the discussion.

Link to the article at the NY Times.