Friday, November 29, 2013

I'm Thankful For Female Role Models in Psychological Science

Zoe! Science!
My brain may still be in a fog from all the food I ate yesterday, but that isn't going to stop me from being thankful. I'm thankful for a great many things in my life: My family, my health, and my job are three things that first come to mind. I am especially thankful for my daughter Zoe, who just turned 8 months old last week, and is, pretty much, the best baby in all the universe (admittedly, I haven't been EVERYWHERE in the universe, but I think it's at least a fair hypothesis with some empirical support). When I think about Zoe growing up, I wonder about the kind of person she is going to be and the things she is going to be interested in doing for her life. Along with these thoughts, I worry about whether Zoe's interests will conflict with what the world around her says about what she can or cannot do. If she wants to go into science, for instance, will there be people or institutions telling her that science simply isn't a thing that "people like her" are interested in? Thinking about this must be raising my blood pressure.

You're an intelligent bunch, PYM readers, so I don't need to review all the details, but when women pursue science careers they face barriers that men do not. These barriers include norms and expectations that socialize men and women to think that a science career is only compatible with the male gender, unwanted sexual advances from superiors (typically men) who make the science environment a hostile workplace (here), and direct and indirect discriminatory practices that make it more difficult for women to succeed in a science career (here for an example, and here behind a paywall).

And yet, despite these significant obstacles, women still pursue science careers and excel! Today, I would like to give thanks to my female role models in psychological science. These are female scientists who have shaped my research career and through their own path-breaking work, have made science more accessible to women everywhere!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Look Everyone: A Social Priming Finding with Direct Replications!

If you visit this blog occasionally (or follow me on twitter, because of course!) then you know that social psychology has come under criticism recently for its lack of integrity in research methods and the complete absence of exact replication. The criticism has been strongest with respect to a subfield in social psychology known as social priming. Social priming refers to a now classic psychological phenomenon where the activation of one social concept in memory can elicit changes in behavior, physiology, or self-reports of a related social concept without conscious awareness. Social priming has been used to explain why reading words related to elderly concepts (e.g., Florida, retire) can lead you to walk slower (although, this particular social priming finding does not replicate across different laboratories).

The criticism about social priming stems from (a) a growing number of high profile replication attempts of classic findings that failed, (b) the steady stream of fanciful/unbelievable social priming effects that appear in glamour psychology journals (e.g., messyrooms make people more creative), and (c) the inappropriate reactions of prominent social priming researchers to this scrutiny (e.g., criticizing the scientific integrity of replication attempts and the journals that publish those attempts). It’s been like watching a car wreck in super slow motion!

Friday, November 1, 2013

What Your Resistance to Halloween Candy Predicts About Your Life

Tempting Halloween candy
Thanks to yesterday’s festivities, both kids and adults have a few more sweet treats on hand than normal. With a big bowl of candy sitting at home on the kitchen table or stashed in a desk drawer, many of us now face the annual challenge of eating our Halloween candy in moderation. Some of us will succeed; others won’t. We face situations like this constantly in life, where we are tasked with resisting temptations and overriding our impulses.  What might our responses to these situations reveal about the rest of our lives? Are we happy? Are we satisfied? To approach this question, let’s imagine a couple of eight-year olds and their new stashes of Halloween candy.