UNIT: The Science of Psychology
Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and the Future of Psychology, Martin E.P. Seligman and Raymond D. Fowler, American Psychologist, 2011.
Psychology has played in pivotal role in the U.S. Army since the early days of World War I with respect to recruit selection and more recently with treatment of psychological disorders among the rank and file. In this article, the authors show how positive psychology is being used to help improve soldiers' resilience in the face of repeated combat and related stressors in an effort to prevent or reduce anxiety, depression, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Improving Health, Worldwide, Kirsten Weir, Monitor on Psychology, 2012.
Psychologists have an incredible opportunity to promote health and help prevent disease, writes Weir reporting on recent research. One of the greatest threats to human life is malaria, which killed over 650,000 people worldwide in 2010. This is tragic, because the disease is both preventable and curable.
A Scientific Pioneer and a Reluctant Role Model, Erin Millar, The Globe and Mail, 2012.
From the early days of neurosurgery, Dr. Brenda Milner describes her role as both a researcher and a role model for other female scientists who work in male-dominated fields of study. By working, succeeding, and excelling in a male-dominated area such as neuroscience, Milner was able to challenge stereotypes and break down barriers for others.
That's So Random: Why We Persist in Seeing Streaks, Carl Zimmer, The New York Times, 2014.
Humans can have a difficult time in recognizing patterns; sometimes we see patterns that are not present, and other times we miss patterns occurring in front of us. The ability to understand when an event is random (or not) can have momentous influence on how we make decisions.
Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination, Eric Jaffe, APS Observer, 2013.
Procrastination is more than just putting off a task until tomorrow or having a poor concept of time. Procrastination is more about the inability to self-regulate, even when knowing that delays can lead to harmful or undesired outcomes.
Ten Famous Psychological Experiments That Could Never Happen Today, Meredith Danko, Mental Floss, 2013.
There are classic studies in the history of psychology that shape some of the basic, core beliefs that psychologists hold about human behavior. Some of these studies were controversial at the time, and they would be difficult to replicate today due to ethical guidelines. But we can still learn much about human behavior by understanding the outcomes of these classic studies.
UNIT: Biological Bases of Behavior
Reflections on Mirror Neurons, Temma Ehrenfeld, APS Observer, 2011.
Only recently have scientists discovered mirror neurons in humans. These neurons depolarize when we perceive particular activities and engage in similar activities. Mirror neurons appear to be important to learning through observation.
Does Thinking Really Hard Burn More Calories?, Ferris Jabr, Scientific American, 2012.
After a difficult mental challenge (such as completing a cumulative final exam or finishing the ACTs), how does the mental exhaustion relate to the physical exhaustion exhibited by some? In this article, Jabr reports on recent research that characterizes the energy consumption patterns of an active brain.
A Single Brain Structure May Give Winners That Extra Physical Edge, Sandra Upson, Scientific American, 2012.
Reporting on the outcomes of recent research, Upson describes the brain's insular cortex (also called the insula) and its role in helping athletes anticipate future feelings. A more highly developed insula in athletes may help them with better interoception—the sense of the body's internal state. Athletes with highly precise interoception may experience a competitive advantage.
The New Science of Mind, Eric R. Kandel, The New York Times, 2013.
The connections between mind and body are becoming clearer with the advent of researchers attempting to better understand the biology of depression or the effects of psychotherapy. Even at the genetic level, researchers are beginning to understand that small differences in genes can help to explain certain conditions, such as autism or schizophrenia.
How to Spot a Murderer’s Brain, Tim Adams, The Guardian, 2013.
The study of neurocriminology involves the exploration of physical, biological abnormalities and their relative contribution in the explanation and motivation of criminal behavior. This field is not without controversy, because many believe that crime is a result of social and environmental factors, and is not genetically predisposed.
UNIT: Perceptual Processes
Corporeal Awareness and Proprioceptive Sense of the Phantom, Melita Giummarra, et. al., British Journal of Psychiatry, 2010.
Amputees frequently report feeling the continued existence and movement of amputated limbs, which is called phantom limb perception. In a research study with 283 amputees, most amputees report that the phantom limb is normally sized and in its normal position; however, the location of the amputation and the conditions under which it occurred seem to influence the perception of phantom sensation.
You Do Not Talk about Fight Club if You Do Not Notice Fight Club: Inattentional Blindness for a Simulated Real-World Assault, Christopher F. Chabris, et. al., i-Perception, 2011.
These researchers asked the question about how paying attention to one aspect of the environment can make us blind to other salient events (called inattentional blindness). In a real-world experience, 56% of participants noticed a staged fight during the day, whereas only 35% noticed the fight during the night. An event can occur right in front of us that we do not see.
Rethinking Motion Sickness, Peter Andrey Smith, The New York Times, 2013.
Is it that motion sickness causes individuals to lose their balance, or does losing your balance lead you to become motion sick? Interesting motion sickness research is underway both in the lab and on cruise ships.
Will Behave for Money, Sadie F. Dingfelder, Monitor on Psychology, 2011.
By using a contingency management system, good behaviors can be reinforced by giving cash, such as getting HIV-positive methadone patients to take their medication, or convincing pregnant smokers to stop smoking. Dingfelder reports on these and other research efforts that optimize the use of contingency management to positively shape people's behaviors
Phobias: The Rationale behind Irrational Fears, Dean Burnett, The Guardian, 2013.
The author addresses details about phobias, including arachnophobia and agoraphobia, as well as some thoughts about how they develop and treatment options.
Incentives for Drivers Who Avoid Traffic Jams, John Markoff, The New York Times, 2012.
Trying to solve the congestion caused by automobiles often uses the stick approach rather than the carrot, but this researcher is attempting to use game theory to encourage drivers to modify their commute times to less congested times in order to enhance chances at winning an "anti-congestion" lottery.
You Have No Idea What Happened, Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker, 2015.
Researchers now understand that memories for emotional events are truly different than memories for regular, everyday events. One’s confidence in a recollection of events may be related to the emotionality of that event.
A 'Learning' Attitude Helps Boost Job Search Success, Scott Sleek, Alexandra Michel, and Anna Mikulak, APS Observer, 2015.
When college seniors viewed their job search as an opportunity to learn, they successfully increased their chances of landing a job. Also, researchers reported that a moderate amount of stress helped job seekers be successful—thus, stress is not always universally bad.
B.F. Skinner at Harvard, Gregory A. Briker, The Harvard Crimson, 2014.
In this retrospective piece about B.F. Skinner, his graduate school habits and freedom to conduct research at Harvard are discussed and examined.
UNIT: Cognitive Processes
The Secret Life of Pronouns by James Pennebaker: What Do "I" and "We" Reveal about Us?, Juliet Lapidos, Slate, 2011.
In this article, Lapidos reports on recent research that examines the role of pronouns as unexpected keys to communication. For instance, certain words, such as "nice" or "weird," are considered content words. However, this research focuses on function words, such as pronouns, articles, prepositions, and auxiliary verbs.
The Epidemic of Media Multitasking While Learning, Annie Murphy Paul, The Brilliant Blog, 2013.
This author describes research suggesting that when students multitask during schoolwork, the learning is less effective and shallower as compared to studying with full attention. Other negative performance effects associated with multitasking, such as more time needed to complete assignments, more mistakes, and lower grades, have also been documented.
Pigeons, Like Humans, Can Behave Irrationally, Sandra Upson, Scientific American, 2013.
Researchers are exploring the idea that if animals exhibit irrational behaviors (such as gambling), that commonality with humans may lead to some of the underlying brain mechanisms. Using pigeons in a laboratory, the researchers noted that pigeons make common reasoning mistakes similar to compulsive gamblers, such as the sunk cost fallacy.
"They are Happier and Having Better Lives than I Am": The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others' Lives, Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2012.
These researchers tested the hypothesis that Facebook users are influenced by easily recalled examples and that when reading positive content on Facebook, that positive content is due to the others' personality rather than situational differences that other people experience. The length of time that users have been on Facebook appears to be an important variable in explaining the impact that Facebook can have.
Cognitive Shields: Investigating Protections Against Dementia, Andrew Merluzzi, APS Observer, 2015.
Researchers have recently indicated that over a lifetime, individuals can build a “cognitive reserve” which may serve as a protective factor from dementia. Multiple researchers in multiple laboratories are exploring different methods of encouraging individuals to build their cognitive reserve.
We Aren’t the World, Ethan Watters, Pacific Standard, 2013.
Using a game scenario where one player is given money that must be split with a second, anonymous player, both parties can keep the money if they both agree on the split. What researchers have found is that people from many cultures around the world do not react to this game scenario as Americans do, providing an important reminder that research findings based on American participants may not be universally generalizable.
UNIT: Emotion and Motivation
Women at the Top: Powerful Leaders Define Success as Work + Family in a Culture of Gender, Fanny M. Cheung and Diane F. Halpern, American Psychologist, 2010.
More and more women are emerging as leaders of businesses, industry, and national governments. The authors of this article raise the question about how women, who typically have strong family care responsibilities, become such influential and successful leaders. Based on cross-cultural research, the authors develop a leadership model to account for why women are able to make it to the top of their fields.
Self-Efficacy in the Workplace: Implications for Motivation and Performance, Fred C. Lunenburg, International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration, 2011.
In this review paper, the author defines self-efficacy as the beliefs about one's ability to complete specific tasks, and then discusses four specific aspects or components of self-efficacy: past performance, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and emotional cues.
Changing Faces: We Can Look More Trustworthy, but Not More Competent, New York University, 2015.
Over the course of four experiments, researchers determined that individuals can make themselves look more trustworthy to others (happy expression, upturned eyebrows, upward curving mouth) but that individuals cannot make themselves look more competent to others (competence is based on facial structure—wider is better—and facial structure cannot be altered).
Do Cholesterol Drugs Affect Aggression?, Dennis Thompson, HealthDay, 2015.
In previous studies, a person’s level of cholesterol has been linked to aggression levels. Researchers have identified that drugs designed to lower cholesterol can have different effects on men and women in regard to their resulting aggression levels.
Harnessing the Wisdom of the Ages, Amy Maxmen, Monitor on Psychology, 2012.
Reporter Maxmen writes about the success of Experience Corps, a nonprofit program that recruits and organizes retired volunteers to serve as mentors to students who are struggling in schools of need. Not only do students benefit, but fMRI studies suggest cognitive benefits to seniors as well.
How a Newborn Baby Sees You, Kjerstin Gjengedal, The University of Oslo, 2015.
Based on existing literature, technology, and mathematical calculations, researchers believe that they have identified what an infant 2 to 3 days old can see; they can perceive faces at 30 centimeters (almost 12 inches). The key to this new discovery was to focus on motion detection rather than the focus on a static (still) image, according to the researchers.
One in Five Teens May Be Bullied on Social Media, Randy Dotinga, HealthDay, 2015.
Bullying, and particularly cyberbullying, continues to be hot topics with developmental researchers. After examining multiple studies, it is estimated that 23% of kids report being bullied via social media, although the amount of cyberbullying varied in studies from 5% to 74%.
How Do Smartphones Affect Childhood Psychology?, Amy Williams, Psych Central, 2014.
The use of smartphones is everywhere, and this includes usage by younger and younger children. Certain developmental achievements, such as language acquisition, rely on face to face interactions; researchers are concerned that with the increase in screen time by younger individuals, some developmental achievements may be impeded.
UNIT: Personality Processes
Evolutionary Psychology and Intelligence Research, Satoshi Kanazawa, American Psychologist, 2010.
Using his Savanna Principle—the idea that humans have difficulty understanding and adjusting to circumstances absent in their evolutionary history—Kanazawa argues that evolutionary psychology is helpful in studying intelligence and in developing novel approaches for researching intelligence.
Enough about You, Christopher Lasch, Utne Reader, 2011.
In an in-depth essay about narcissism, writer Lasch reviews the social and economic influences on our behavior and how we affect others. How do we find the balance between self-promotion (self-preservation) and the development and encouragement of others around us?
What Your Facebook Use Reveals about Your Personality and Your Self-Esteem, Amy Morin, Forbes, 2014.
In this article, the author explores research outcomes specifically linked to the use of Facebook. The results are fascinating, and researchers can learn about self-esteem, introversion/extroversion, conscientiousness, narcissism, neuroticism, and more by studying the use of Facebook.
UNIT: Social Processes
Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: The Big Idea from a Tiny State That Could Change the World, Annie Kelly, The Guardian, 2012.
From a nationwide perspective, the country of Bhutan has worked to measure progress not from measures such as the gross national product, but to emphasize the spiritual, physical, social, and environmental health of citizens through measures of what is called gross national happiness (GNH). As this developing country values environmental conservation and sustainability, GNH principles also extend to educational principles and practices.
13 Practical Tips for Training in Other Countries, William J. Rothwell, T+D, 2012.
Global opportunities necessitate the training of individuals to understand cultural nuances and local etiquette, but this author suggests that learning and development professionals must be culturally sensitive to issues on a deeper level. The author offers 13 tips for those desiring meaningful training experiences in different countries.
The Third Wheel: The Impact of Twitter Use on Relationship Infidelity and Divorce, Russell B. Clayton, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2014.
In this empirical research, active Twitter users led to increased Twitter-related conflict for romantic partners, which were in turn related to infidelity, breakup, and divorce. The negative effects of Twitter-related conflict occurred for couples who had been in short- and longer-term relationships.
Rethinking One of Psychology’s Most Infamous Experiments, Cari Romm, The Atlantic, 2015.
Researchers are currently exploring archival material from the 1960s regarding Milgram’s famous obedience to authority studies. Although the studies make for good theater and these themes appear in popular culture, there remain questions about Milgram’s methods and the veracity of his research findings.
Ten Psychological Studies That Will Change What You Think You Know about Yourself, Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post, 2013.
Social processes help to define us and how we treat others. In this review of classic studies, important social psychology concepts like good and evil, delayed gratification, power and morality, happiness, and self-esteem are presented through the outcomes of key psychological research studies.
UNIT: Psychological Disorders
Bringing Life into Focus, Brendan L. Smith, Monitor on Psychology, 2012.
Although the stereotype is that ADHD is a childhood disorder, ADHD in adults can cause substantial disruptions in relationships, careers, and the pursuit of higher education. Smith reports on recent research about the diagnosis of adult ADHD and the role medications (such as stimulants) may play.
The Roots of Mental Illness, Kirsten Weir, Monitor on Psychology, 2012.
An approach gaining more traction in psychology is that mental illness results from a malfunction of brain processes, which leads to the importance of taking a biological perspective. Weir reports on researchers who agree and some who do not completely agree with this viewpoint, focusing on the fruitful explanations that a biological perspective can offer.
A Mad World, Joseph Pierre, Aeon Magazine, 2014.
Psychiatrists and psychologists share an interest in the effectiveness of psychotherapy, and practitioners from both disciplines rely on the DSM-V as a major diagnostic tool. The author explores the lens by which a psychiatrist views the world and views mental illness.
UNIT: Psychological Treatments
More Support Needed for Trauma Intervention, Beth Azar, Monitor on Psychology, 2012.
Researchers have demonstrated that children who are neglected and abused suffer from an increased risk of substantial mental health and physical health problems. Azar reports on recent research that chronicles both the scope of the PTSD problem for children as well as effective interventions.
Yes, Recovery Is Possible, Rebecca A. Clay, Monitor on Psychology, 2012.
As part of the Recovery to Practice initiative, mental health professionals from diverse backgrounds are collaborating to help other mental health practitioners understand that people can recover from mental illnesses. Based on the research, Clay reports about the successes of the initiative to both identify best practices for mental health recovery as well as develop training programs for mental health professionals.
Addiction Interaction, Relapse and Recovery, Cheryl Knepper, Scientific American, 2013.
This author describes the situation in which substance abuse and addiction often co-exist with other addictions and compulsive behaviors, such that treating one condition without treating the other may result in less-than-desired outcomes. Reporting on recent research, an integrated multidisciplinary treatment approach that includes family members may provide an opportunity to normalize patient behavior, as well as identify relapse triggers and high-risk situations.
Post-Prozac Nation: The Science and History of Treating Depression, Siddhartha Mukherjee, The New York Times, 2012.
Antidepressants, such as Prozac, are the third most common prescription drug in the United States. Patients with depression describe the relief provided by Prozac as transformative and like the lifting of a fog. The author describes several hypotheses for how Prozac works, including the correction of existing chemical imbalances in the brain. In some research circles, the key question has shifted from how Prozac works to does Prozac work?
Could Brain Scans Help Guide Treatment for OCD?, Mary Elizabeth Dallas, HealthDay, 2015.
About 2.5% of Americans are diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and another 10% exhibit symptoms of OCD; that is, they have a lesser form of the illness. Although cognitive behavioral therapy has been useful as a short-term treatment for individuals with OCD, brain scan technology is currently being used to explore treatments that may have longer-term effectiveness.