On this Thanksgiving, personality and social psychologists have a few lessons to share:
1) Thinking before eating may actually make us eat more - featuring work by Jessie De Witt Huberts and others in Personality and Social Psychology Review
2) Being grateful is good for your health - featuring David DeSteno, Naomi Eisenberger, and Sara Algoe
3) Paying it forward is good for consumers and businesses - featuring Minah Jung, Leif Nelson, and Ayelet and Uri Gneezy
So you just read an article about the climate change talks this week in Warsaw. Will you discuss it with your co-workers or over Thanksgiving dinner? Even if climate change is a topic you care about, you may stay silent if you sense that others disagree with you. You can add it to the list of taboo topics: politics, religion, and now, climate change. But the reason why people keep quiet about climate change may surprise you. According to new research, it's not for fear of others not liking you but for fear of being perceived as incompetent.
Janet Swim of Penn State University compares it to the Emperor’s New Clothes, where our planet is the Emperor. "We know there is a problem with the planet but we are not willing to be the one who says something because we don't know why others are not saying anything,” she says. "We may even assume that others don't think there is a problem but in truth we all know there is a problem.”
Read a special feature story about this new work and other research being presented at the SPSP conference in Austin this February on powerful psychological phenomena underlie climate skepticism.
Who would get you to buy more of a
particular brand of water – Jennifer Aniston or a medical doctor?
In a new set of studies that look at the effectiveness of medical
versus celebrity endorsements, researchers found that a doctor's
product endorsement is more effective than a celebrity's when we are
directly thinking about our own mortality. Part of a growing body of
research on terror-management theory – how thinking about death
affects our behavior – the researchers tested different scenarios
involving celebrity endorsement. In one study, people only distantly
thinking about their mortality were less likely to engage in risky
drinking behavior when a PSA was endorsed by Sandra Bullock, if they
read articles first about her career successes versus failures.
The paper, "Hails from the crypt: A terror management health model
investigation of the effectiveness of health-oriented vs.
celebrity-oriented endorsements,” Simon McCabe et al., was published online in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on Nov. 7, 2013. Read more about more new research in this month's tipsheet.
From Cal Ripkin, Jr., to MLK to Robert Downey, Jr., finding men named after their fathers is easy. Children named after men in the family – with so-called patronyms – are common around the world. But what about matronymns – names for a mother or grandmother? New research shows that matronymns are rare and that family naming trends follow a regional pattern in the United States: People in states with a relatively high emphasis on honor are more likely to use patronyms, especially in the face of a terrorist threat.
"Studying naming trends can be a subtle means of peering into a society’s beliefs and values without ever having to ask people to report directly about their beliefs and values,” says Ryan Brown of the University of Oklahoma. Read the full press release about this new work published today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
From happiness and well-being, evolutionary psychology and social psychology and the law to tips for job success and workflow tools, the SPSP 2014 pre-conferences have something for everyone.
Details are now available for the 30 pre-conferences, which offer in-depth looks at the latest research in various sub-disciplines of personality and social psychology, as well as practical training.
All pre-conferences will take place Thursday, February 13, 2014, from 8am-4:30pm, except the media training workshop, from 1:30-4:00pm. Book your travel now to join us for these popular events.
Halloween folklore, rituals and superstitions may be dismissed as child’s play, but researchers say the tendency to turn to supernatural explanations actually increases with age. Furthermore, this kind of magical thinking has been proven to make food taste better, reduce feelings of grief, influence purchase decisions and even improve a person’s golf game – not through any mystic mojo but rather the power of the mind. ... Read the full story on canada.com, featuring Michael Norton and Cristine Legare and their recent research.
And also read a recent column in the New York Times by Jane Risen and David Nussbaum about superstitions.
Plans for the newly structured Executive Office are well under way, with the first important step in the process now complete: the hiring of a new Executive Director, Chad Rummel. Chad will be the first full-time Executive Director of SPSP in our history.
Chad currently manages a portfolio of Division Services for the American Psychological Association (APA), a job that includes strategic planning, meeting management, budgeting, and coordinating large numbers of volunteers in the service of an organization of psychologists. One of Chad's first tasks will be to set up a permanent office in the Washington, D.C., area, with additional support staff. Read the full announcement from SPSP President David Funder.
In many parts of the world, belief in witchcraft and magic is alive and well, with people relying on rituals for everything from treating asthma to curbing infidelity. Even if you don't believe in witchcraft outside of Halloween, chances are you believe in some form of the supernatural, even if just the power of the ritual – whether wearing a lucky jersey to bestow luck on your favorite sports team or praying for a sick friend.
From a young age, many people develop beliefs in the supernatural, often through participation in rituals, to influence events in the natural world. By studying real-life Brazilian rituals, Cristine Legare and André Souza of the University of Texas at Austin were able to create their own rituals to examine why people think they work. They are now finding that rituals help people gain a sense of control over their environment. Read the full story.
See the October 2013 tipsheet for Halloween-related experts.
In honor of Dan Wegner, a pioneer in social psychology, the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology and SPSP have renamed the annual Theoretical Innovation Prize. Wegner, who passed away in 2013, was a consummate theoretical innovator who prized creative thought.
Now called the Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize, the award is granted annually for a new theoretical contribution to personality and social psychology. This year's recipients will be honored at a ceremony at the SPSP annual convention in Austin (Feb. 13-15, 2014).The dedication of this award to the memory of Dan Wegner is made possible by a generous donation from Worth Publishers. Read the full announcement.
Would you obey commands to shock an innocent person to death? Would almost anybody? For years, many people, including some psychologists, have taken the answers to these questions to be "yes," based on experiments conducted by the late Stanley Milgram during the 1960s.
But even though most psychologists now know better, misunderstandings persist about what Milgram's studies really said about human obedience and the power of the situation — and that needs to change. Read the full Op-ed by David Funder on LiveScience.
Congratulations to the Sage Young Scholar Award recipients: Paul Eastwick (University of Texas), Jochen Gebauer (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Edward Lemay (University of Maryland), Kristina Olson (University of Washington), and Tessa West (New York University). The Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology presents these awards annually to five young scholars to recognize their outstanding contributions to personality and
social psychology. Supported by a generous donation from Sage Publications, the awards carry with them a grant of $5,000 for research, study, or career development. Read more in our Forum announcements.
There is no such thing as objectivity when it comes to your friends: According to a new study, people evaluate their friends' behavior more positively than do strangers, regardless of actual performance on a series of tasks. Researchers say that we should then think twice before allowing people who know each other to be in positions to judge each other – from job interviews to legal settings.
"In judging people we already know, we are more or less unable to ignore our previously established images of those people,” says Daniel Leising of Technische Universität Dresden. The new study, published Wednesday in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, examines how real people evaluate the behavior of themselves, their friends, and strangers. Psychologists know that people hold a number of biases when evaluating others, but most studies to date on this issue have used written descriptions of the behavior of hypothetical persons. "This is one of the few studies that investigated judgments of people's actual behavior,” Leising says. Read the full press release.
From the journals and into the headlines, help bring your research to the public. Join us at the SPSP media training preconference on Feb. 13, 2014, from 1:30-4pm in Austin. Learn tips and tools for talking with the press, and then try your hand at some interactive exercises to sharpen your media skills. This workshop will be a unique opportunity to work on your media skills with science communications experts and journalists, including from WIRED and Discover magazines. Register now for this half-day preconference.
From childhood, many people have been culturally ingrained with the idea that they must fight vigorously against evil. People embrace and often celebrate this message — whether cheering at seeing Dorothy melt the Wicked Witch or superheroes eradicating villains.
This notion is deeply difficult to challenge and can color people's opinions on policy issues. Recent research suggests that a person's belief in evil plays a factor in how they view violent conflict and could offer another reason why the question of whether or not to bomb Syria is so contentious. Read the full Op-Ed by Maggie Campbell, based on new research in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
When you pass by a stranger in need of help, do you stop to lend a hand? Maybe not... A landmark 1973 study found that seminary students in a hurry were less likely to help someone in distress, even when they were on their way to deliver a talk on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A co-author of that study and several other distinguished researchers are the recipients of the SPSP 2013 annual awards. The contributions of these scientists to personality and social psychology include furthering our understanding of how personality shapes health and well-being across adulthood, why it's so hard to evaluate ourselves, and the virtues that divide political ideologies. Read the full press release.
Any parent will tell you that there is no simple recipe for raising a child. Being a parent means getting hefty doses of advice – often unsolicited – from others. But such advice often fails to consider a critical factor: the child. A new review of dozens of studies involving more than 14,600 pairs of twins shows that children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented.
"There is a lot of pressure on parents these days to produce children that excel in everything, socially and academically,” says Reut Avinun of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Since children are not born tabula rasa, I felt it was important to explore their side of the story, to show how they can affect their environment, and specifically parental behavior.” Most studies of parenting look at only the reverse, how parents affect their children's experiences. Read the full press release about this new research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Most of us reach a critical juncture when we consider giving up on a tough personal goal — whether weight loss or kicking a tough habit. Three longitudinal field studies found that experiencing that point — when we feel set back in our goal pursuit and are not sure whether to continue — has strong psychological and physiological effects. In one study of runners in a Swiss marathon, those considering no longer running the marathon showed a stronger secretion of the stress hormone cortisol and a lower performance in the race 2 weeks later. The paper, "The Struggle of Giving Up Personal Goals: Affective, Physiological, and Cognitive Consequences of an Action Crisis" by Veronika Brandstätter et al., was published online today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
For more new research in our journals — including about how hostile sexism affects
relationships and society's role in creative genius — read the full August 2013 tipsheet.
Registration is now open for the SPSP annual meeting! Join us Feb. 13-15, 2014, in Austin, TX, for science-packed meeting surrounded by live music, food, and fun
A full day of pre-conferences is scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 13, and the SPSP meeting will officially open on Thursday evening with the Presidential Symposium, followed by a welcome reception. On Friday evening, the winners of the Campbell Award, the Block Award, and the SPSP Distinguished Scholar Award will deliver their award addresses. Back by popular demand is the "Data Blitz" session, in which selected up-and-coming speakers will have five minutes each to present their research findings. Register now. Program information will be available in September.
A person playing a first-person shooter video game like Halo or Unreal Tournament must make decisions quickly. That fast-paced decision-making, it turns out, boosts the player's visual skills but comes at a cost, according to new research: reducing the person's ability to inhibit impulsive behavior. This reduction in what is called "proactive executive control" appears to be yet another way that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior.
"We believe that any game that requires the same type of rapid responding as in most first-person shooters may produce similar effects on proactive executive control, regardless of violent content,” says Craig Anderson, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University. "However, this is quite speculative,” he warns. But what is not so speculative is the growing body of research that links violent video games – and to a certain extent, total screen time – to attention-related problems and, ultimately, to aggression. Read the full press release.
From how secret-keeping influences our personal emails to personality traits that increase the risk of obesity to the benefits of confronting bias – SPSP members are presenting new research in personality and social psychology at the APA Convention in Honolulu, July 31 – August 4, 2013. Read our full tipsheet.
Traditionally, the Executive Committee met twice a year, once for one-and-half days following our annual winter meeting, and again following the summer APA meeting. This year, to allow more extended discussion, the Executive Committee met in hot, humid, but always-interesting Chicago, from July 17-19, 2013. Many issues were discussed, including the restructuring of the Executive Office, recommendations from the Research Practices Task Force, and updates on the annual convention, to be held in Austin in February. Read the full report.
Scientific practice is under intense scrutiny these days, including in research psychology. Due to some high-profile cases of scientific fraud, and concern by some about shoddy research practices, there is a lot of hand-wringing going on.
This is ironic, because this should be a time for hand clapping, not hand-wringing. In recent years, research psychologists — particularly in my subdiscipline, social psychology — have made great strides in addressing social and behavioral problems. Drawing on years of meticulous laboratory research on how the mind works, social psychologists have developed simple, inexpensive interventions that alter people's thinking with long-term beneficial effects ... Some of the greatest successes are projects that have targeted educational problems, including closing the gap between minority and white students' academic achievement, increasing interest in science and helping people overcome math anxiety. Read this full Op-ed by Timothy Wilson on LiveScience.
If you see your partner flirt with someone else, you may feel hurt, angry, and jealous. The last thing you might expect is to start thinking of yourself more like your rival. New research suggests just that: that jealousy can prompt people to change how they view themselves relative to competitors for their partners' attention.
Previous research has shown that individuals often will change their self-views to be more similar to someone to whom they want to get closer, such as a romantic partner. "However, a rival isn't someone that individuals should like, let alone want to affiliate with,” Erica Slotter of Villanova University. "This work was really novel in that we were looking at whether individuals would be willing to shift their self-views to be more similar to a romantic rival.” Read the full press release.
Daniel M. Wegner, a pioneering social psychologist at Harvard University, died on July 5 as a result of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Wegner, who was the recipient of the SPSP 2012 Donald T. Campbell award, was best known for his work on thought suppression, showing that people who are asked not to think about something become preoccupied with thinking about that very thing.
"A creative and generative theoretician," he also has "broken new conceptual ground in exploring: transactive memory, or how people in groups and relationships remember things cooperatively; action identification, or what it is that people think they are doing; and conscious will and apparent mental causation, or how we are sometimes misled into thinking that we are the authors of our actions," wrote the SPSP award committee last year. "In each of these research areas, he has identified a topic that had been neglected by previous researchers and conducted highly original and provocative experiments to demonstrate both the importance of the phenomenon and the value of the theoretical ideas he offered to account for it."
A memorial service will be held for him on Saturday, July 13, in Massachusetts. Read more on Wegner in the Boston Globe.
Divorce has a bigger impact on child-parent relationships if it occurs in the first few years of the child's life, according to new research. Those who experience parental divorce early in their childhood tend to have more insecure relationships with their parents as adults than those who experience divorce later, researchers say.
"By studying variation in parental divorce, we are hoping to learn more about how early experiences predict the quality of people's close relationships later in life,” says R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. ...
In two studies published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Fraley and graduate student Marie Heffernan examined the timing and effects of divorce on both parental and romantic relationships, as well as differences in how divorce affects relationships with mothers versus fathers. Read the full press release.
And read about more new research in our journals – including about motivations for gambling and
impulsive shoppers – in this month's tipsheet.