Sunday, January 29, 2012

SPSP 2012: Poster Highlights

Not actually SPSP but the closest I could find
As Amie said in a previous post, SPSP poster sessions are like your "elementary school science fair, but all grown up and on steroids." With over 2,000 posters spanning topics ranging from the psychology of political ideology to the link between rejection and health to the dynamics of cheating behavior, it's easy to become overwhelmed. In recent years, posters in a given subject area (e.g., "Emotion") are grouped together within each session, which helps people peruse more efficiently. Though sometimes it's nice just to wander through the aisles and see what jumps out. Here are ten findings that stood out to me in this weekend's poster sessions:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

SPSP 2012: Social Relationships Round-up

Here at SPSP 2012 I’ve been enjoying the sunny, warm weather, eating more than I should and sleeping less, and gathering interesting tidbits of information about social relationships from across the talks and posters that I’ve seen. Here are a few of the findings that stood out to me:

SPSP 2012: How does culture change over time?

Today's "Cultural Change Over Time" symposium was a perfect example of why I enjoy SPSP so much: The talks involved (1) compelling research questions answered using (2) innovative methods. Anyway, the general question the researchers of this symposium attempted to answer was "How can we tell if culture is changing across time?" The answers might surprise you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

SPSP 2012: Watchdogs, Witch-hunts, and What to do about False-Positive Findings

In a recent trend, the field of social-personality psychology has become sensitive to the data reporting and analytic strategies that go into the publication of a research paper. Today at the “False Positive Findings are Frequent Findable and Fixable” symposium at SPSP the three speakers presented some very polarizing observations about this trend in our field.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

SPSP 2012: Oxytocin, Threat, and the “Mama Bear Effect”

“Oxytocin may be critically involved in both ethnocentrism and parochial altruism.”
-Carsten de Dreu, University of Amsterdam

Long called the “Love Hormone,” the hormone oxytocin has been implicated for more than a decade in such prosocial activities as empathy, trust, and generosity (with both human and animal models). At the social neuroendocrinology pre-conference at this year’s SPSP conference, some influential researchers in the field of social psychology laid out why oxytocin might also have another side that is less fuzzy, and more defensive.

Monday, January 23, 2012

SPSP Conference: Where social and personality psychologists come to gather

Sunny San Diego
In just a few days Anna, Juli, Michael and I, as well as thousands of other social and personality psychologists, will descend on San Diego, California for the festivities known as the annual conference for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). For two full days we will be fully steeped in the world of social and personality psychology. What exactly does fully steeped mean? Well, from 8:15am until 7:45pm there will be approximately 11 symposia per hour (each symposium is composed of four 15 minute talks on a particular topic) for a total of 9 hours across the two days, in addition to special speeches scattered throughout the days and seven poster sessions with several hundred posters on display at each session (picture your elementary school science fair, but all grown up and on steroids). If that's not enough, there are meetings with mentors, evening networking sessions, and on the day before the conference begins, there is a full day of "preconferences" on particular topics in the field. For example, I know people attending preconferences on topics as varied as close relationships, emotion, humor, and the self and identity.

This annual conference is a bit of a whirlwind but its a chance to hear about recent research in the field, catch up with old friends, network with new ones, and share your own research findings. Although this conference focuses on social and personality psychology, the talks are still on a wide variety of topics. For example, here are a few random symposia titles selected from the schedule:
  • "Moral Ironies"
  • "Every Rose has its Thorns: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Relationships"
  • "Menstrual Cycle Effects on Women's Mate Preferences? Critical Perspectives"
  •  "'A Christian Nation' Facing the 21st Century: How Religion Shapes Modern America, and its Role in a Changing Society"
  • "The Consequences of Being Low on the Totem Pole: Deprivation, Status, and Resource Choices"
  • "Latino Culture and the Shaping of Social and Personality Processes"
  • "Money as a Motivator: From Brain to Behavior"
 Although I haven't counted each and every talk, some simple multiplication leads me to conclude that are probably more than 500 individual talks being given during the conference. This means that many talks are going at once and you can't possibly see all of them (unless of course you were Hermione Granger and had a time-turner). Most people sit down with the conference schedule ahead of time and map out their own personal schedule for the weekend, picking which talks and posters are must-attends in each session. And when all of your favorite talks are at the same time? Well you just hope you wore comfortable shoes so you can run from one end of the conference hotel to the other.

A glance at an SPSP Poster Session

So why am I telling you all of this, besides to invoke a bit of sympathy for how tired we will all be by Sunday morning? To let you know that its not going to be a normal week here at Psych Your Mind. We've decided to forgo our usual posts this week in order to do a semi "live-blogging" from the SPSP conference. We are not entirely sure what this will look like, but likely it will end up being each of us posting one or two brief write-ups summarizing the talks we heard that day, highlighting interesting or favorite findings, or merely complaining about the sheer enormity of the entire event (okay, less likely to be that last one, I'll save that for the personal blog). We may also be tweeting one-liners if we hear an interesting tidbit or attend a particularly cutting-edge talk that we just can't wait to tell the world about. So keep checking back with us here at PYM all weekend long (starting Thursday)!

If you'd like to find out more about the conference, you can go to the website here or check out their schedule here.

Any questions about the SPSP Conference? Any particular talks or topics you want us to blog about? Perhaps some words of comfort?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do Positive Emotions Shape Our Health?

This post continues our tradition of guest blogs on Psych-Your-Mind! Here, Elizabeth Hopper-- graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara-- discusses the possibility that positive emotions might matter a lot for your health. Read on!

You may have heard that negative emotions can have an impact on your health: for example, you may have been told that people who are prone to becoming stressed or hostile have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.  But what about positive emotions?  Are positive emotions simply a nice experience to have, or can they actually serve to protect your health?  In today's post, I'll discuss some of the recent findings on positive emotions and health, and discuss how positive emotions might help to lower your risk of heart disease.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Is Graduate School a Ponzi Scheme?

A couple of years ago, this article ran in the Economist. In the article, the author takes the point of view that the pursuit of a PhD degree is a waste of time. Whether or not you agree with this perspective, it is important to consider the points being made. If you are, or have been, a graduate student, you probably learned much of this during your time in graduate school.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Fun: Five Surprising Findings from 2011

Social psychology findings can sometimes seem obvious. At times, however, they contradict common sense, make us question our assumptions, or are just plain bizarre. Here are five of such findings, published in the past year, that particularly caught my attention:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Psychology says couples who play together stay together

To be completely correct, psychological research suggests that couples who play together feel closer, experience more positive emotions, and as a result are happier together, but that doesn’t have the same ring does it? 

This couple knows how to keep it exciting
If boredom, is the silent relationship killer, novel and arousing activities seem to be the powerful antidote. Art Aron and colleagues have found that couples who engage in more novel and arousing activities together are happier in their relationships. And these results aren’t just correlational – Aron actually had couples come into the lab and engage in exciting or mundane tasks. Couples in the exciting condition got strapped together with Velcro and had to crawl their way through an obstacle course while holding a pillow between them. The explanation of the mundane activity might put you to sleep. Couples who got to take part in the Velcro obstacle course reported feeling happier in their relationships than couples who took part in the mundane activity or no activity at all. Why does participation in a novel and arousing obstacle course lead to a happier relationship? 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Fun: Michael's Favorite Posts of 2011

This year has been a wonderful ride for Psych Your Mind. We've had over 130 entries since the blog started in mid March of last year. In that short time, our fearless team of bloggers has covered nearly every topic from almost every angle! Looking back on our year, I thought I'd spotlight my favorite posts. These weren't necessarily the most-read posts, but they were definitely must-reads!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to trick yourself into keeping your New Year's Resolution

Year after year we make ambitious New Year's Resolutions, 90% of which ultimately fail, according to a 2007 study. There is no shortage of advice on how to make this year the one where you actually stick with your resolution: we know that we should set realistic goals, take things one step at a time, enlist support, and bounce back from setbacks rather than giving up too easily. And yet, somehow we still manage to fail, time and time again. If you are a chronic resolution-breaker, or if the mere thought of your resolution makes you want to run for the hills, it might be time to try an anti-resolution approach. Here are three of my favorite ideas for making a resolution that's almost impossible not to keep:

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Difficulties of Scientific Writing (An Update)

Writing is so hard!
When I was a young graduate student, with one publication to my record, I ambitiously wrote a piece for the Association of Psychological Science's (APS) Magazine, the Observer, lamenting the difficulties of scientific writing. Oh, to be a young researcher again!

I look back on this bit of writing with equal parts pride (the Observer goes out to all APS members) and embarrassment (here I was, early in my career, trying to tell people how to write). Anyway, as we are starting the New Year, I thought it might be fitting to take another look at this piece and give my new perspective on scientific writing, now that I've had a bit more experience. Here goes nothing!