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SPSP 2016

The Forces that Divide Us

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By Tessa Thwaites

As young children we are told that “hate” is a strong and loaded word; that we shouldn’t use the word unless we are absolutely sure that we mean it; and that we probably actually mean just intense “dislike.” But is “hate” not simply equivalent to an experience of intense dislike?


Embrace the Data

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By Alex Danvers

What words can classify a movie review as positive? What words classify it as negative?

In the symposium Big Data: Vast Opportunities for Psychological Insight from Mining Enormous Datasets at the SPSP Annual Convention, Harvard economist Sendil Mullainathan threw up some obvious candidates, like “dazzling” or “gripping”—words that researchers brainstormed would do a good job. Using these “theory-grounded” words, a team of computer scientists was able to classify reviews with 60% accuracy—not much of an improvement over 50/50 guessing.

The Psychological Importance of Bacon-Scented Candles

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By Tessa Thwaites

Novelty items and male-targeted branding abound to protect fragile masculinity: from tumblr’s “menswear dog” to grenade-shaped bath bombs to bacon-scented candles. Although these items superficially appear to be simple jokes, they may actually reflect insidious experiences of what Joseph Vandello from the University of Southern Florida describes as a culture of “precarious manhood”.

Honor Is The Original Enforcer

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By Alexander Danvers

“My name is my name.” –Marlo Stanfield, The Wire

Honor is stubborn. It compels people to respond to aggression in kind—even when responding to a provocation will lead to losing a fight. It seems out of date, even irrational. But if honor is so problematic, why is it so common across the U.S.?

A Secret to Healthy Aging May Be What You Do for Others

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By Lauren Howe

There’s a common saying: “Like a fine wine, we only get better with age.” And thinking about the best way to grow old is increasingly important. Americans are expected to live for longer than ever, with adults age 65 expected to live on average for 20 more years. How can we age happily and healthily?

Variability is the Future: Modeling Change in Social Psychology

By Alexander Danvers

The sheep are lose, and the sheepdogs—two players in a psychology experiment developed by researchers Michael Richardson and Patrick Nalepka—must get them back into the herd! How they solve this problem appears to be governed by a relatively simply mathematical model representing a few different state variables.

New Technological Advances Provide Valuable Data for Personality Social Psychological Research

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By Vivian P. Ta

Smartphones, Fitbits, apps, social networks: New technological advances allow us to be more connected with each other than ever before. Not only can it provide us with a wealth of information about others—it can also teach us a lot about ourselves.

At the New Methods Preconference held at the SPSP Annual Convention, social and personality psychologists discussed different ways that every day technology can provide valuable data for psychological research. Speakers included