Friday, June 28, 2013

The Great Social Ladder of Our Lives

Last week I was on vacation in my hometown of Poway, CA. It's a little suburb outside of San Diego that boasts of being "The City in the Country" (basically that means we have both Starbucks and rodeo!). Whenever I go home, I see my family and I tend to fall into many of the same activities I did when I was in high school--mostly that involves eating Mexican food from the various eateries around the city (Cotijas, Albertos, Aibertos, Robertos, El Robertos, you get the idea). When I'm in Poway I think a lot about high school. One of the main aspects of high school--as we know from careful analyses of movies like the Breakfast Club and Mean Girls--is social status. That is, who is at the top of the social ladder, and how can we either be friends with those people, or if we aren't high status, how can we avoid the wrath of those at the top of the pecking order? I think my first interest in research on social hierarchy started in high school.

The truth is that social hierarchy isn't just confined to the high school cafeteria, but is instead a large part of our everyday social lives. Status hierarchies can be about workplace power, respect among peers, or stereotypes ascribed to us by virtue of our membership in a social category (e.g., gender and race). I believe that one of the, often overlooked, bases of status is social class--the money we make, education we obtain, and the job prestige we garner. Social class is the great social ladder that ranks us in society.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Guest Post: Combating Weight Stigma

Today's guest post comes from Aubrey Toole, a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley who will begin a doctoral program in clinical psychology at Emory University in the Fall. 

I am willing to bet that most of you reading this don’t go a typical day without hearing a weight-related comment or conversation, or seeing body weight-related advertisements or media messages. It seems like I hear about another celebrity weight loss ‘success’ story or weight gain ‘fiasco’ every time I turn on the TV. Standing in line at the drug store means being surrounded by a smattering of tabloids fraught with photos of celebrity cellulite. And even on facebook, it’s hard to avoid sneaky before and after photos of some new miracle diet appearing out of the corner of my eye.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quality v. Quantity in Publication

Einstein says Quality not Quantity (source)
I was on twitter the other day (mwkraus, why aren't you following me?) and my twitter feed displayed a great quote from Albert Einstein with some important career advice for aspiring scientists: He said something like "a career in which one is forced to produce scientific writings in great amounts creates a danger of intellectual superficiality." This quote got me wondering about the career trajectories of aspiring social psychologists, and the tension between wanting to publish as much as possible, and wanting to publish only the very best research. I consider this tension in today's blog.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Psychology At the Movies: Essentialist Musings in Man of Steel
Yesterday, my spouse and I dropped our newborn daughter off with Grandma and then popped over to the local theater to see this summer's much anticipated comic-book blockbuster Man of Steel. By any standard, Man of Steel is exceptionally light when it comes to philosophical musings: The plot is predictably linear--good guys fight bad guys who are trying to kill them. At first glance, it may seem like a stretch to write an entire blog entry (for a psychology blog) about the film, given this simple plot design. But, in between the explosions--and there were MANY explosions--the bad guys turned out to be motivated by some very simple psychological principles. Spoilers Ahead!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Daddy Chronicles II: Parenting Boosts Immune Function

I've been doing this whole parenting thing for almost three months now and it has been simultaneously gratifying, terrifying, exhausting, and fascinating. One thing I haven't been doing is sleeping, and because of this I have had a lot of time to read up on some neat research on new parents. Last time I wrote about how parenting reduces Testosterone in men. Today I blog about the relationship between parenting and immune function.

Can parenting boost the immune system?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This is NOT advice for first year faculty

Hello again, PYM readers. It is now June and I just finished my first full academic year as a faculty member at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Chambana). Having just passed through the rabbit hole, I have returned mostly unscathed to blog a bit about my experience. As this is just my first year, I don't have any advice that will help others who are transitioning to professor-hood, rather, this post reflects some of the things that I think people (like me) deal with during their transition to a new faculty job. Onward!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Four (Wrong) Ways To Interpret Links Between Genes and Education

Last week Science published a neat little paper examining links between specific human DNA sequences and educational attainment. The paper, which is a bit shorter than the list of authors who worked on the project, examined a total sample of more than 120,000 participants who had their entire genome sequenced for a number of small clusters of repeating nucleotides (single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs). They then examined all the SNPs and their associations with the level of educational attainment of each of the participants in the sample. After controlling for bias, in that a genome wide study performs thousands of significance tests, three SNPs emerged as significant predictors of educational attainment.

I find this study very interesting because there are a number of provocative ways to interpret the results of this study, and most of those would be incorrect! In what follows, I highlight four (wrong) ways to interpret the results of this study.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sunscreen slows wrinkles: Will this evidence increase the use of sunscreen?

This week, new research was released suggesting that sunscreen not only reduces the risk for skin cancer, but that it also slows skin aging. In this study, people who were told to use sunscreen daily had fewer lines and less coarse skin after four years than those who used it as they normally would. I’ve seen this study all over the news (here, here, and here)! Though doctors say they have long been telling patients that sunscreen protects against skin aging, they are now excited to have solid evidence to support their claims and are hopeful this will encourage people to use sunscreen more often.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why So Serious?* An Insider’s Guide to the Study of Smiling and Dominance

The toughest grad students at the University of Illinois
(J. Hepler & N. Segal)
Over the years, one of my favorite things to hear about in research is the initial personal events that inspired researchers to conduct their investigations into human behavior (e.g., Did your neglectful mother lead you to a study of anxious attachment?). In today’s blog post I would like to talk about the inspiration for a study I conducted last year, with my my colleague David Chen, examining what happens when a professional mixed martial artist smiles before a fight with his opponent.

When I think back to the initial kernel of inspiration for this study, two events stick out in my mind—one concerning myself and a near physical confrontation, and the other concerning a professional fighter facing perhaps the most dangerous martial artist of his generation.