Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SWAG: The World is ending and that's unfair!
Every Wednesday afternoon, I gather with a bunch of faculty and graduate students at the University of Illinois to discuss a journal article about social psychology, and to eat a snack. This blog post reflects the discussion we had during this week's seminar, affectionately called Social Wednesdays and Grub (SWAG).

Ever watch a video like this one? I imagine that for different people it activates very different emotions. For some, this sort of video might galvanize people, strengthening resolve for reducing their carbon footprint. For others, however, it might be a very threatening video to watch, a video that could potentially challenge some of your deeply held assumptions about the world being a fair and safe place.

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions: Are You Suffering From Decision and Willpower Fatigue?

Today's guest post comes from Sarah Roberts, Ph.D. candidate in Psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal and blogger at Psychobabble for Normal People

Why is it that at the beginning of January, we’re able to keep our New Year’s Resolutions—hitting the gym regularly, drinking less alcohol, wasting fewer hours on Facebook, following a budget or a diet—but our willpower wears off as the month wears on? Similarly, how come at 9am, 10am, and 1pm, we easily walk by a tantalizing plate of brownies someone left in the lunchroom at work—but at 4pm, we give in and eat six? 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SWAG: The Aversion to Harm Others

Every Wednesday afternoon, I gather with a bunch of faculty and graduate students at the University of Illinois to discuss a journal article about social psychology, and to eat a snack. This blog post reflects the discussion we had during this week's seminar affectionately called Social Wednesdays and Grub (SWAG).

This week in SWAG we read a paper on committing harmful actions by Fiery Cushman and colleagues (2012), who may have the most fantastic name in all of the academic world. Cushman was curious about why people are averse to committing harmful acts on others.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

SPSP 2013: How Much Inequality Is Too Much?

“Of all the babies that die every year, what percent should be from the richest 20% and what percent should be from the poorest 20%?” – Mike Norton

In the Saturday morning session, some of my favorite social psychologists/researchers presented their ongoing work on lay beliefs about inequality in the United States. It is encouraging to see the new generation of psychology scholars taking on important issues related to social justice and inequality!

Friday, January 18, 2013

SPSP 2013: Notes For Starting Your Academic Career

“There is no other job that allows you to pursue questions that interests you, and then pay you to do it. But, there are tradeoffs.” –Chuck Carver
In the second morning symposium session at SPSP this year, three hugely influential scholars in our field discussed some challenges that new faculty members must contend with early in their career. Having just started an academic job of my own at the University of Illinois, I found this symposium to be of particular interest. My hope was to get a bit of help and support regarding the murky waters of Assistant Professorship. I wasn't disappointed.

SPSP 2013: How to Get Your Message Across

The team at Psych-Your-Mind is at the annual meeting for the Society of Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans, LA bringing you the latest news from the conference!

At this morning’s symposium on science in the media called “How to Get Your Message Across,” two public relations experts discussed some of the strategies that researchers can use to be more effective in their communications with the media. I attended this symposium with great interests because my research has gone rogue in the media before, and so I came with the intent of learning something new about the ways to communicate with reporters and journalists.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sour in the Sun? 3 Unexpected Ways the Weather May Affect Your Mood

Warm Weather = Happy Amie
Last weekend I returned from the tropics to find myself outside the San Francisco airport basically barefoot in sub-40 degree weather. As I stood there shivering in disbelief, the shock to my system made me wonder about the effect of the  weather on my mood and well-being. Like Kate, I often find myself a little more blue as winter progresses and the sun sets early in the day. But in what other ways might the weather be affecting how we feel from one day to the next? Some of what I found surprised me. Below I detail three unexpected (at least to me!) ways in which the weather may be influencing your mood…

Summer can sour your mood. Just because there is a lot of sunshine in the summer doesn’t mean it is the time when people are the happiest. In one study, rates of depression and sadness among the general population of the Netherlands were highest in the summer and fall. In a separate line of research, although participants’ moods tended to become more positive as the weather became more pleasant in the springtime, in the summer, hotter weather was associated with being in a more negative mood. Heat is also associated with increased aggression. So when you find yourself feeling sad, grouchy, or wanting to punch someone in the middle of summer, try taking a weekend trip to somewhere cool.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Do I have the least stressful job in 2013?

About a week ago, Forbes magazine published a list of the least stressful jobs in 2013 (here). At the very top of the list was the college Professor. This sparked some outrage among my colleagues who (rightly) point out that a Professor's job is not without stress (here). The swell of outrage was so immense, that the original author posted an addendum stating that indeed, some of the characterizations of a Professorial job made in the original post--e.g., that Professors don't work hard--were inaccurate (here).

So, what kind of stress do Professors actually face in their jobs relative to other professions? It might help to first try to understand what is meant by the word "stress."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Seasonal affective disorder: An extreme case of the winter blues

Though the shortest day of the winter is behind us, in many areas of the United States, the days continue to be painfully short. Where I live, the sun will set at 4:41 pm today – during my summer vacations, I still have a few more hours of fun in the sun at that time! As someone who enjoys being outside and the light and warmth of the sun, I do have the tendency to get a little fatigued and saddened by Northeastern winters. According to the American Psychiatric Association, I am not alone: about 25% of people living in the middle and northern latitudes of the United States exhibit such winter blues.

Unfortunately, though, for some, these symptoms can be so serious that they are considered to be indicative of a mood disorder. The condition, marked by seasonal symptoms of depression, is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Prevalence estimates for SAD range from 0 to 9.7 percent, depending on the population studied (rates tend to be higher farther from the equator) and the method used for diagnosis.  

What are the symptoms of SAD and how does it relate to depression?