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Psychological Science

Feeling the 'Rocky' in Relationships

Wray Herbert | Posted 04.17.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

In 2008, a massive earthquake shook the Chinese province of Sichuan. The immediate devastation was followed by a dramatic spike in the divorce rate, a phenomenon that captured international attention -- and sparked widespread speculation -- at the time. Did the deadly earthquake actually cause the jump in marital breakups?

Mental Health for the Masses

Wray Herbert | Posted 04.09.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

MOOIs (Massive Open Online Interventions) are mental health and substance abuse interventions, scientifically validated and available online to unlimited numbers of consumers. As with MOOCs, most of these consumers can be expected to drop out, but some will stay -- and get well.

Choosing Sadness: The Irony of Depression

Wray Herbert | Posted 04.08.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

My depressed friend wanted relief from his misery, sometimes desperately. He struggled, yet ironically, he often acted in ways that maintained -- rather than alleviated -- his misery. Apparently he's not alone in this sad choice.

Word Gap? How About Conversation Gap?

Wray Herbert | Posted 04.01.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

It's estimated that poor children, by the time they hit kindergarten, have heard 30 million fewer words than their more fortunate classmates. The Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail initiative is just one of the national efforts to increase the quantity of language that underprivileged preschoolers are exposed to. But is quantity enough?

Psychopath. Successful Psychopath.

Wray Herbert | Posted 03.27.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

The successful psychopath remains something of a scientific enigma. This provisional evidence points to some tantalizing possibilities, but we still do not know for sure why one person with pronounced psychopathic traits ends up as a habitual and cold-blooded criminal while another ends up as the prototype for Agent 007.

Hungry? Maybe Don't Go Shopping

Wray Herbert | Posted 02.19.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

A team of psychological scientists wondered if hunger might spill over into other behavioral domains, sometimes in irrational ways. Is it possible, that is, that hunger triggers an acquisitive mindset generally, one that piques our desire even for non-food? The scientists explored this provocative idea in several experiments.

Hold the Phone! You Might Miss a Whale, or Even a Whale of a Bright Idea Like the Laser

Ben Hellwarth | Posted 04.15.2015 | Science
Ben Hellwarth

What if Dr. Townes, instead of taking that timeout, had sent a text or played Angry Birds? Might we be in the dark about the laser? As research and Townes' example suggest, the unpredictable sparks of our own mental machinations should be something we don't want to miss any more than the majestic sight of a passing whale.

Health and Marriage: The Cortisol Connection

Wray Herbert | Posted 04.14.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Bad marriages can be sickening. Most people don't have to be convinced of this, but for those who do, several decades of studies offer plenty of proof. Even so, very little is known about exactly how marriage quality affects health.

Itchy Trigger Finger? How About Itchy Brain?

Wray Herbert | Posted 04.12.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Response-inhibition training shows exciting potential as a training method for police and the military. The findings might also lead to more insights into cognition and firearms, insights with the potential to reduce society's death toll.

Sound of Intellect: The Psychology of the Elevator Pitch

Wray Herbert | Posted 04.07.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Scientists Nick Epley and Juliana Schroeder believe there is something about speech that conveys not just the content of a person's mind but the capacity for reasoning, thoughtfulness and intellect. If they are right, job seekers should appear more thoughtful and intelligent when given the opportunity to speak, rather than write, about themselves. That's what they set out to test.

Why Are People So Annoying?

Wray Herbert | Posted 03.31.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

The fact is that modesty, or even self-effacement, can be more effective than bragging in creating a good first impression. Most of us know this from being on the receiving end, yet we still err on the side of self-aggrandizement. But why do we get it wrong so much of the time? Here's where some new research may be illuminating.

To Thine Own Self: The Psychology of Authenticity

Wray Herbert | Posted 03.25.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Some philosophers have argued that the desire to act in a way that is consistent with one's values and sense of self is linked to well-being. But others have argued that learning to express thoughts and feelings that obscure one's true inner state is an important adaptation for successful living. A team of psychological scientists has been working to resolve this issue empirically.

Hard Work, Hard Times: Self-control and Joblessness

Wray Herbert | Posted 03.23.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Does self-discipline today really pay off later in life -- in jobs, paychecks, promotions and bonuses, professional prestige and wealth? Surprisingly, given the importance of employment to well-being and the global economy, the link between self-control and job success has not been thoroughly studied. Until now.

Two Strikes and You're Out (But Only If You're Black)

Wray Herbert | Posted 03.16.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

According to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, black students are more than three times as likely as white students to be suspended or expelled from school. Surprisingly, there has been little scientific study of the psychological processes underlying this discipline gap.

Is Obesity a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Wray Herbert | Posted 03.08.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Do some teens, because they embody the caricature of a fat person, literally grow into that caricature?

Revisiting the Land of Opportunity

Wray Herbert | Posted 02.03.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Fewer and fewer Americans, including many middle-class Americans, believe that they can even preserve their existing standard of living -- or that their children will do any better. But how accurate are these perceptions?

Mothers and Lovers: From Parenting to Romance

Wray Herbert | Posted 02.01.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Scientists wanted to see if children's experiences with their parents shape their nervous system responses much later on, when they are in romantic relationships. They wanted to see if children's experiences with their parents shape their nervous system responses much later on, when they are in romantic relationships.

Hard to Think Straight: Processing Prejudice

Wray Herbert | Posted 01.21.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

It seems that when we perceive and process other people with ease, we judge them favorably. When we have difficulty -- for whatever reason -- we judge them negatively.

The National Sadness of Sandy Hook

Wray Herbert | Posted 01.13.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

While thinking about the Sandy Hook shooting evokes more sadness than anxiety in general, focusing on explanations leads to a shift in emotional tone from sadness to anxiety. Importantly, it appears that this emotional shift -- especially the growing anxiety -- is tied to people's lingering worry that a similar tragedy might occur in the future.

Nervous Laughter, Tears of Joy

Wray Herbert | Posted 01.06.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

Everyone has witnessed or experienced discordant expressions -- crying at a wedding, growling at the sight of a newborn baby, screaming in the presence of a teen idol. Are these inappropriate emotional expressions simply embarrassing aberrations? What psychological purpose could they serve?

Are You a Political Extremist?

Wray Herbert | Posted 01.04.2015 | Science
Wray Herbert

The results taken together are consistent with a view of the political extremist as thoughtful and confident, not unthinking. This does not mean of course that extreme political positions are necessarily sound or that they are not biased in other ways, but it does raise doubts about the mindless ideologue stereotype.

Holy Safety Net! Religion and Recklessness

Wray Herbert | Posted 12.30.2014 | Science
Wray Herbert

Psychological scientists suggest that belief in God could actually increase the tendency to take certain risks -- specifically, risks with no moral overlay. Their reasoning is that God is for most believers a source of security and protection, and feeling safe in God's care could diminish fear and boost bravery and daring.

Is Powerlessness the Key to Successful Negotiation?

Wray Herbert | Posted 12.23.2014 | Science
Wray Herbert

Leigh Steinberg, the inspiration for the title character in the film Jerry Maguire, is one of the most successful agents in the history of American sports. He is also a master negotiator. Psychological scientists believe they may have an explanation for Steinberg's seemingly irrational behavior and for its ironic success.

Troubled #hearts -- in 140 Characters

Wray Herbert | Posted 12.20.2014 | Science
Wray Herbert

Is it possible that aggregate Twitter patterns might also be revealing in some useful way? Could Twitter offer snapshots of communities as well as individuals? A team of scientists has been exploring this possibility.

Remember Me: Personal Legacy and Global Warming

Wray Herbert | Posted 12.15.2014 | Science
Wray Herbert

Many people have a need to be remembered well, even if that motivation is hidden, so sparking it can shift the focus to future others. Public policies that encourage futuristic contemplation might be one tool for stemming the ravages of climate change before it's too late.