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    Phone: (202) 524-6453

    When, Why, and How: The Questions Psychologists Should Be Asking About Parents’ HappinessOpen in a New Window

    The question of whether or not parents are happy has become a hot topic among popular media, serious academics, and the general public alike. People are seemingly starving for information about whether raising children is really as stressful — or as blissful — as it sometimes seems. Perhaps it’s because 85% of adults become parents by the time they reach age 45 that so many people are interested in the answer. But the question people should be asking is not if parents are happy or unhappy but rather when—and why—that is the case, as Katherine Nelson of the University of California, Riverside explains on the SPSP blog.

    And read more about Nelson's research, as well as about work by Kostadin Kushlev of the University of British Columbia, that shows how money makes parenting less meaningful, in this full press release.


    For Understanding Family Structure to Trauma: New Technology is Yielding Bigger DataOpen in a New Window

    Audience at SPSP 2014 Big Data SymposiumSocial media can do more than just entertain us and keep us connected. It also can help scientists better understand human behavior and social dynamics. The volume of data created through new technology and social media such as Facebook and Twitter is lending insight into everything from mapping modern family dynamics to predicting postpartum depression.

    "By analyzing different types of social media, search terms, or even blogs, we are able to capture people's thinking, communication patterns, health, beliefs, prejudices, group behaviors – essentially everything that has ever been studied in social and personality psychology,” says James Pennebaker, president of SPSP, which kicked off its annual meeting with a symposium on big data. . "We can examine thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people at once or track them over time.” Read the full press release and our blog coverage of the session from Austin.


    Even Fact Will Not Change First ImpressionsOpen in a New Window

    Knowledge is power, yet new research suggests that a person’s appearance alone can trump knowledge. First impressions are so powerful that they can override what we are told about people. A new study found that even when told whether a person was gay or straight, participants generally identified the person's sexual orientation based on how they looked – even if it contradicted the facts presented to them.

    "We judge books by their covers, and we can't help but do it,” says Nicholas Rule of the University of Toronto. "With effort, we can overcome this to some extent, but we are continually tasked with needing to correct ourselves.” The less time we have to make our judgments, the more likely we are to go with our gut, even over fact, he says.

    A series of recent studies, presented today at the SPSP conference in Austin, shows that appearance shapes everything from whether we ultimately end up liking someone to our assessment of their sexual orientation or trustworthiness. Read the full press release.


    Matchmaking, Double Dates and More for Valentine’s DayOpen in a New Window's Valentine’s Day: Try matching up two friends for a date or, better yet, match them and then go with them on a double date. New research being presented in Austin at the SPSP annual conference is shedding light on the social world in which our relationships flourish, as well as the many ways perceptions influence our relationships. Read highlights of these studies on our new blog.

    And check out the full press releases: 
    Keep Romance Alive with Double Dates: And Other Ways Perceptions Influence Relationships
    Matchmaking This Valentine's Day: How It Can Bring You the Most Happiness


    What Comforts Targets of Prejudice the MostOpen in a New Window

    Photo by Warren K. LefflerRare in history are moments like the 1960s civil rights movement, in which members of a majority group vocally support minority groups in their fight against prejudice. New research not only confirms the power of speaking up for those facing prejudice but also underlines the importance of exactly what is communicated. Looking at YouTube video messages, researchers found that homosexual youth found the most comfort in messages that both supported them and advocated social change.

    The new work takes a closer look at the "It Gets Better” YouTube campaign. "Like many people, I was fascinated and inspired when I saw the grassroots online movement that started in late 2010 of people posting video messages to teenagers who faced prejudice and harassment based on their actual or presumed sexual orientation,” says Aneeta Rattan of London Business School. "I was not just moved as an individual, but as a researcher because this behavior – publicly addressing prejudice toward another group and communicating support for members of that group – is so rare that there is not a clear body of psychological science on it.”

    Read the full press release about this new work by Rattan and Nalini Ambady, published today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


    Press: Featured Talks for SPSP 2014 in AustinOpen in a New Window

     Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0Science stories are bigger in Texas...Get your next big story at the SPSP annual meeting in Austin, TX, Feb. 13-15, 2014.

    The SPSP conference will feature 80 symposia and more than 2,000 posters on new research in a range of topics – the link between parenting and happiness, social impacts on health, the environment's effects on creativity, and factors in the academic gender gap.

    Press registration is open. Join 3,500 social scientists in sunny Austin!

    Read the latest Media Advisory for more on featured talks.


    When It Was OK to Laugh About Hurricane SandyOpen in a New Window

    NASA GSFCHow long after a tragedy is it OK to joke about it? New research suggests that there's a comedic sweet spot – when enough time has passed that people no longer feel immediately threatened but not so much time that the event is out of our thoughts. Researchers found a rise and eventual peak in humorous responses to Hurricane Sandy between 1 month and 2 months after the storm, with such humor decreasing between 2 months and 3 months after the fact. The research gives unique insight into what makes things funny and how humor can help with coping. The paper, "The Rise and Fall of Humor: Psychological Distance Modulates Humorous Responses to Tragedy" by Peter McGraw, Lawrence E. Williams, and Caleb Warren, was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, online December 11, 2013.

    Read the full December 2013 tipsheet, for more new research, including about how it's easier than we think to convince others to act unethically.


    Thinking about death affects our views on celebrity endorsementOpen in a New Window

    Ads created with and without celebrity endorsement; from McCabe et al. (2013), PSPBWho 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.


    Babies Named for Fathers But Not Mothers Reflect U.S. Cultural IdeologiesOpen in a New Window

    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


    Why We Can't Accurately Judge Our Friends' BehaviorOpen in a New Window

    JLS Media; 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 Bystander Effect to Political Ideologies: Excellence in Personality & Social PsychologyOpen in a New Window

    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.


    Why Parenting Can Never Have a Rule BookOpen in a New Window

    credit: Michaelee; wikipediaAny 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


    Considering abandoning a goal comes at a costOpen in a New Window

    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


    Video Games Boost Visual Attention But Reduce Impulse ControlOpen in a New Window

    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 Secrets in Emails to Confronting Bias: Personality and Social Psychology at the APA ConventionOpen in a New Window

    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.


    Jealousy Can Drive Us to View Ourselves More Like Our RivalsOpen in a New Window

    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.


    Divorce Early in Childhood Affects Parental Relationships in AdulthoodOpen in a New Window

    credit: wavebreakmedia via ShuttershockDivorce 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


    Link between war support and PTSDOpen in a New Window

    Lipton sale; returning home from combat may be at a heightened risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder if public support for a war effort is low, according to recent research. Social validation or invalidation shapes the level of distress soldiers feel from the act of killing, the researchers say. The study involved two experiments that asked participants to exterminate woodlice in a modified coffee grinder – in one, having an actor show either interest or disgust for the act and in another, asking participants to record who agreed to the extermination and who refused. In both cases, the conditions that socially invalidated the killing of the bugs led to more distress and guilt among the participants. Ironically, the researchers report in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the very anti-war protests meant to show support for troops but disdain for combat may increase the likelihood that returning soldiers experience mental distress.

    Read about this new research and more from our journals in this month's tipsheet for journalists.


    When Women Sell Themselves Short on Team ProjectsOpen in a New Window

    Matthew (Wikimedia Foundation); on a team is always a challenge, but a new study highlights a particular challenge to women: how much they credit themselves in a joint success. Women will devalue their contributions when working with men but not with other women, according to the new research. The study suggests yet another reason why women still tend to be under-represented at the highest echelons of many organizations.

    Michelle Haynes of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, had examined how other people evaluate men and women working together. She decided to build on that work to look at how women view themselves on teams after herself reading glowing group feedback for a conference submission she co-authored. "As I was reading this extraordinary review, I thought: 'Wow! Those other co-contributors must have really written something amazing for us to have gotten this kind of feedback.' And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I do this too,” she says. She did not recognize her own positive contribution to the team endeavor. Read the full press release.


    Living Through a Tornado Does Not Shake OptimismOpen in a New Window

    Tornado in central Oklahoma; credit: NOAAEven in the face of a disaster, we remain optimistic about our chances of injury compared to others, according to a new study. Residents of a town struck by a tornado thought their risk of injury from a future tornado was lower than that of peers, both a month and a year after the destructive twister, as reported today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Such optimism could undermine efforts toward emergency preparedness.

    After an F-2 tornado struck his town in Iowa, Jerry Suls, a psychologist at the University of Iowa who studies social comparison, turned his attention to risk perception. "I had dinner as a guest in a home that was destroyed by the tornado the next evening,” he recalls. "It was hard not to think about future weather disasters while helping with the clean-up in the following weeks.” Read the full press release.


    New Research this Valentine's DayOpen in a New Window

    credit: Amanda; time for Valentine's Day, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is featuring several new studies all about relationships – including the link between income in marriage and health, the role of jealousy in becoming a parent, and how humor affects romantic couples in conflict. Read this month's tipsheet for journalists

    And read A Love Letter for Public Outreach, about why scientists should talk to the media, a follow-up to the recent media training seminar at SPSP 2013. 


    From Bullying to Relationships: Mapping Our Online CommunicationsOpen in a New Window

    When we typically think of kids who are the victims of school bullying, what comes to mind are isolated youth who do not fit in. A new study, however, shows that when that harassment occurs online, the victims tend to be in mainstream social groups – and they are often friends or former friends, not strangers.The research is part of a burgeoning field of study into the effects of social media on everyday relationships and behavior.

    Personality and social psychologists are finding surprising ways in which people's online environments and relationships reflect and influence their real-world ones, as presented today at SPSP annual meeting in New Orleans. Read the full press release


    Surprising Connections Between Our Well-being and Giving, Getting, and GratitudeOpen in a New Window

    We all know that getting a good night's sleep is good for our general health and well-being. But new research is highlighting a more surprising benefit of good sleep: more feelings of gratitude for relationships. It is one of several studies on the benefits of gratitude and giving being presented this week at the SPSP meeting in New Orleans.

    Social psychologists are increasingly finding that "prosocial” behavior – including expressing gratitude and giving to others – is key to our psychological well-being. Even how we choose to spend our money on purchases affects our health and happiness. And children develop specific ways to help others from a very young age. Read the full press release.


    Charting New Routes for Women at Work: Gender Roles in the Home and ClassroomOpen in a New Window

    When mom is the boss at home, she may have a harder time being the boss at work. New research suggests that women, but not men, become less interested in pursuing workplace power when they view that they are in control of decision-making in the home. This shift in thinking affects career choices without women even being aware. 

    "Women don’t know that they are backing off from workplace power because of how they are thinking about their role at home,” says Melissa Williams of Emory University. "As a result, women may make decisions such as not going after a high-status promotion at work, or not seeking to work full time, without realizing why,” explains Williams who will be presenting her findings today at the SPSP annual meeting in New Orleans.

    Her new study is one of several at the SPSP meeting that will explore a continued gender gap in workplace power – from how women versus men view their roles in the home to how gender stereotypes form at a young age to how these attitudes affect women's likelihood of pursuing careers in science and math. Read the full press release.


    Understanding Personality for Decision-Making, Longevity, and Mental HealthOpen in a New Window

    credit: Thomas Bjørkan; does not just explain differences between how people act at social events. How extraverted you are may influence how the brain makes choices – specifically whether you choose an immediate or delayed reward, according to a new study. The work is part of a growing body of research on the vital role of understanding personality in society.

    "Understanding how people differ from each other and how that affects various outcomes is something that we all do on an intuitive basis, but personality psychology attempts to bring scientific rigor to this process,” says Colin DeYoung of the University of Minnesota. "Personality affects academic and job performance, social and political attitudes, the quality and stability of social relationships, physical health and mortality, and risk for mental disorder.” DeYoung is one of several researchers presenting new work in a special session today about personality psychology at the SPSP meeting in New Orleans. Read the full press release.

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