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A Taste of Fame for Graduate Students

Arranged by Benjamin N. Johnson, GSC Member-At-Large

Coaxing a publication from preparation, through the gauntlet of reviewers, and into press deserves some congratulations.  Usually this congratulations comes in the form of initial excitement on getting a publication, a sigh of relief, and a high five among colleagues.  However, sometimes a study or two makes its way to “big screen” and gets some time in the limelight on local, regional, or even national news outlets, which is an extra perk for its authors.  Below are some recent studies by SPSP grad students that earned a bit of publicity.

“Situations in 140 Characters: Assessing Real-World Situations on Twitter”

David A. Serfass & Ryne A. Sherman

Social media defines the communication style of our generation: statuses, chats, LOLing, we speak in clips and pieces, an efficient version of our predecessors’ hand-written notes and letters.  I remember when Twitter first hit the web, I honestly thought it was silly, pointless, and no one would use it.  Turns out I was wrong—quite wrong.  Grad student David Serfass, from Florida Atlantic University, and Ryne Sherman reveal in a fascinating study that hit both regional and national news that Tweets from over a million Twitter users can provide new ways of looking at personality and context, what people think and feel throughout the week, and how gender and environment play a role in how we express ourselves in the real-world.  Below is the abstract from the study:

“Over 20 million Tweets were used to study the psychological characteristics of real-world situations over the course of two weeks. Models for automatically and accurately scoring individual Tweets on the DIAMONDS dimensions of situations were developed. Stable daily and weekly fluctuations in the situations that people experience were identified. Predicted temporal trends were found, providing validation for this new method of situation assessment. On weekdays, Duty peaks in the midmorning and declines steadily thereafter while Sociality peeks in the evening. Negativity is highest during the workweek and lowest on the weekends. pOsitivity shows the opposite pattern. Additionally, gender and locational differences in the situations shared on Twitter are explored. Females share both more emotionally charged (pOsitive and Negative) situations, while no differences were found in the amount of Duty experienced by males and females. Differences in the situations shared from Rural and Urban areas were not found. Future applications of assessing situations using social media are discussed.”

“Two Definitions of Waiting Well”

Kate Sweeny, Chandra A. Reynolds, Angelica Falkenstein, Sara E. Andrews, & Michael D. Dooley

For some reason, graduate students always seem to score high on measures of anxiety.  I have no idea why.  But yes, we’re anxious.  And it seems our friends and partners are frequently telling us to relax or take some time for self-care, work-life balance and all that.  Well what if there are some very good reasons for our anxiety?   A Angelica Falkenstein, Sara Andrews, and Michael Dooley and their colleagues at UC Riverside made it into the New York Times recently for a study that pitted waiting calmly for results from the California bar exam against waiting with anxiety, some pessimism, and a whole lot of rumination.  It turned out that law students were quite bad at waiting calmly and contently for the results of the test, while anxiety and worried abounded.  And even though the anxiety may have been difficult and distressing, it paid off in the end, leading to productive responses to bad test results and gleeful responses to good results.  Now we can all go home and tell our friends and significant others that our anxiety comes from a good place.  Here’s the article’s abstract:

“Waiting for uncertain news is often distressing, at times even more distressing than facing bad news. The goal of this article was to investigate strategies for "waiting well" during these periods of uncertainty. Specifically, we propose 2 definitions of waiting well. First, people can wait in such a way as to ease their distress during the waiting period. Second, people could wait in such a way as to ease the pain of bad news or enhance the thrill of good news. We conducted a longitudinal study of law graduates (N = 230) awaiting their result on the California bar exam. Participants completed questionnaires prior to the exam, every 2 weeks during the 4-month waiting period, and shortly after learning whether they passed or failed. Cross-lagged models revealed that participants were quite unsuccessful at waiting well by our first definition. That is, their coping strategies were ineffective for reducing distress associated with uncertainty, apparently even backfiring in some cases. However, multiple regression analyses examining relationships between waiting experiences and responses to good and bad news found that many participants were successful at waiting well according to our second definition: Participants who suffered through a waiting period marked by anxiety, rumination, and pessimism responded more productively to bad news and more joyfully to good news, as compared with participants who suffered little during the wait. These findings substantiate the difficulty of enduring a stressful waiting period but suggest that this difficulty may pay off once the news arrives.”

“Finding a Fit or Developing It: Implicit Theories About Achieving Passion for Work”

Patricia Chen, Phoebe C. Ellsworth, & Norbert Schwarz

Many of us may have struggled with the conflict between “living to work vs. working to live.”  We may have been encouraged by parents or teachers into STEM fields so that we could be financially stable throughout our lives or we may have been concerned about feeling “stuck” in a job and chose psychology for its creativity.  So which makes us happier, finding a way to grow into our job or finding a job that fits us?  A recent study by Patricia Chen and her colleagues, which got picked up by an LA Times article last month, suggests that, while most people believe that finding a job that fits your interests is the way to go, people who believe work passion is a result of time and effort at the job actually develop similar levels of well-being at work.  The abstract for the study is below:

“Passion for work” has become a widespread phrase in popular discourse. Two contradictory lay perspectives have emerged on how passion for work is attained, which we distill into the fit and develop implicit theories. Fit theorists believe that passion for work is achieved through finding the right fit with a line of work; develop theorists believe that passion is cultivated over time. Four studies examined the expectations, priorities, and outcomes that characterize these implicit theories. Our results show that these beliefs elicit different motivational patterns, but both can facilitate vocational well-being and success. This research extends implicit theory scholarship to the work domain and provides a framework that can fruitfully inform career advising, life coaching, mentorship, and employment policies.”

“Individual differences in intuitive processing moderate responses to moral transgressions”

Sarah J. Ward & Laura A. King

Following your instincts can be useful in a lot of situations, like making quick decisions while driving, or in generating relatively accurate first impressions of others.  But they can also get us into trouble, like when my gut is telling me to eat all of the chocolate cake after a stressful day in the lab.  So how does instinct or intuition work when it comes to moral decisions?  Sarah Ward and her mentor Laura King published an article suggesting that people who rely more strongly on their intuition tend to engage in more moral behaviors (e.g., not cheating on tests) after envisioning having done something wrong.  The article made its way to the public eye just a few days ago.  Here is the abstract:

“Despite the widespread recognition that intuitive processing is integral to moral judgment, research has provided minimal support for the role of individual differences in faith in intuition (FI) in moral outcomes. We propose that reliance on intuitive processing is likely to influence moral behavior when people experience internally generated morally-relevant feelings. We conducted two studies to test this proposal, examining whether FI would moderate the effects of moral recall manipulations on morally-relevant outcomes. In Study 1 (N = 120), FI moderated the effects of condition such that after imagining telling a lie in an email, people high in FI gave increased valuations of hand cleansing products. In Study 2 (N = 197), FI moderated the effects of condition such that after recalling a past personally relevant immoral act, FI predicted less cheating on an unsolvable IQ test. Implications for moral psychology and the importance of theoretically informed methods for studying the role of individual differences in intuitive processing are discussed.”