Monday, July 22, 2013

You Are Not a Bridezilla

The word "bridezilla" was reportedly first used in the mid-1990s to refer to the bride-to-be who turned into a monster while planning her wedding, throwing tantrums when she didn't get her way and making ridiculous demands on her friends and family. But in recent years the derogatory term, a reference to a fictional giant mutant dinosaur-like creature who went on crazed killing sprees (i.e., Godzilla), has almost become synonymous with "bride," encompassing behaviors that are almost impossible to avoid.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When The Green-Eyed Monster Strikes: The Best Antidotes to Envy

Life is full of reminders of what we lack, usually in the form of other people. There is always someone who is more successful, more talented, more attractive, or more advanced in meeting important "milestones" than we are. We encounter these people every day--in fact, they are often our friends, family members, and colleagues. Sometimes these encounters can leave us with a bitter taste in our mouths, or a green glow in our eyes, that familiar sting of envy. Defined as a state of desiring something that someone else possesses, envy is a vicious emotion that can crush self-esteem, inspire efforts to undermine others' successes, or even cause people to lash out violently. It also just feels horrible. So what can we do to disarm the green-eyed monster when it strikes?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ampelmann: A traffic sign turned cult figure

During the past month, I have been living in Germany and conducting research at the University of Hamburg. It has been an amazing opportunity! I visited Berlin last weekend and came across a pretty unique phenomenon: a city-wide obsession with a traffic sign! It seemed like everywhere I went, I saw stores dedicated to selling merchandise featuring the “Ampelmann” (translated as “traffic light man” in German) and restaurants selling food in the shape of the Ampelmann. Berliners love him, and even celebrities like Dennis Quaid have been spotted rocking Ampelmann t-shirts. How do you get a traffic signal to become a cult figure? You ask a psychologist to design it, of course! Though the Ampelmann wasn’t intended to be such a beloved and popular symbol of Berlin, its story is a fun look at how psychology is behind even the simplest and most mundane aspects of life.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Trouble with Destiny: Relationships Take Work

Do you believe in Soul Mates?
If I could give one piece of advice as a relationships researcher, it would be this: Relationships take work. Sure we’d all like to believe in destiny, thinking there is someone out there who is meant for us. Then when we find our soul mate, we will slip into an easy and comfortable companionship that provides us with decades of endless laughter and joy, and not a single fight or tense moment. But that is the stuff of dreams, people. Of course there will be times of joy greater than you imagined and laughter that brings you to tears, and those moments should far outweigh the fights and tension. But to believe that you are destined to be with one person and when you find the right relationship for you, it will be one that doesn’t take work, well that belief may be detrimental for your relationship.

In a great test of what happens when people believe they are "meant to be", close relationships researcher C. Raymond Knee looked at the extent to which people held Destiny Beliefs or Growth Beliefs, and the consequences of these beliefs for their relationships.

Destiny Beliefs. People who hold high destiny beliefs report that potential relationship partners are either compatible or they are not, that successful relationships are built on finding a compatible partner, and that relationships that begin poorly will inevitably fail.

Growth Beliefs. People who hold high growth beliefs report that the ideal relationship develops over time, that challenges to a relationship can make it even stronger, and that successful relationships are mostly the result of hard work and learning to resolve incompatibilities.

Monday, July 1, 2013

What Grinds My Gears? Media Coverage of Emotion Research

What's in a facial expression of emotion? (source)
Last week Boston Magazine published an article (here) claiming a "new theory" of emotion. The article then challenged the idea that emotions are signaled and perceived universally through unique facial expressions (like we've discussed here). The article purports to be a take-down of famous emotion researcher Paul Ekman*--whose work has been popularized on such television shows as Lie to Me. Here is why I hated this article: