Unit 1: The Science of Psychology
Investigating Variation in Replicability: A “Many Labs” Replication Project, Richard A. Klein et al., Social Psychology, 2014
A classic saying from science is “if it hasn’t happened twice, it hasn’t happened.” A team of 51 researchers collaborated to replicate the research findings of 10 previously published studies. Surprisingly, some of the published outcomes did not replicate, and the reasons for failed replication were not due to lab versus online testing or United States versus international samples.
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 2: Biological Bases of Behavior
Sleep Deprivation and False Confessions, Steven J. Frenda et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2016
From 15 percent to 25 percent of criminal convictions in the United States occur due to false confessions. In a fascinating research study, these authors report that individuals who were in sleep-deprived states (after having been up all night) were 4.5 more likely to offer a false confession compared to normally rested participants. Innocence or guilt may heavily rely on a good night’s sleep.
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 3: Perceptual Processes
Some People Are More Likely to See Faces in Things, Moheb Constandi, Braindecoder, 2015
The ability to see images in places where those images are unlikely to exist (e.g., seeing the image of a famous historical figure in a slice of toast) is called pareidolia. This reporter writes about recent research where the ability to detect such images is related to both personality characteristics and current mood states.
A New Way to Trick the Brain and Beat Jet Lag, Randy Rieland, Smithsonian, 2016.
There are certain tricks that researchers are uncovering about the relationship between brain function and interacting in our environment. In one study, researchers were able to reduce the amount of jet lag (sleepiness) by manipulating the light that passes through the eyelids. Other new research-based “tricks” involve not “watching” what you eat and not thinking too much about that new, desired habit.
Understanding Human Perception by Human-made Illusions, Claus-Christian Carbon, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014
Although visual illusions can be fun to view, researchers believe that by studying the limitations of human perception, the cognitive processes that drive perception can be better understood. The author believes that by garnering attention to the visual illusions, viewers can become more interested in understanding and studying the psychological phenomena that cause these illusions in the first place.
Unit 4: Learning
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.
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.
The Science of Learning: Five Classic Studies, Tom Stafford, The Guardian, 2015
This is a very nice summary of five key studies in the psychology of learning. The studies selected by the author describe the construction and recollection of memories over time, the operant behavior of rats, multiple memory systems, how novices and experts think about situations differently (like chess), and the thousands of hours that it takes to acquire expertise.
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 5: Cognitive Processes
Strengthening the Student Toolbox: Study Strategies to Boost Learning, John Dunlosky, American Educator, 2013
Researchers who study metacognition study individuals’ thinking about their own thinking; one aspect of this topic is called self-regulated learning, which involves decision-making about what to study, how to study, how long to study, and so on. This author provides an excellent research summary on key topics relating to self-regulated learning, including the benefits of practice testing, distributed practice, interleaved practice, and self-explanation.
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.
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 6: Emotion and Motivation
Hand on the Wheel, Mind on the Mobile: An Analysis of Social Factors Contributing to Texting While Driving, Steven J. Seiler, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2015
Even though there are numerous reported accidents and fatalities for individuals who text and drive, it appears that texting while driving is becoming more prevalent in the United States. This researcher studied potential reasons why this occurs, and concluded that texting while driving has become socially acceptable, even with the obvious conflict with existing laws.
On the Science of Creepiness, Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, Smithsonian, 2015
Creepiness has been defined by both brain and body signals that something is not quite right in the environment and one’s attention is needed to avoid being hurt. Research studies are now underway to better understand the specific aspects of what makes a situation or a person creepy; it seems that unpredictability is a key predictor of creepiness.
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.
Unit 7: Development
A Brief History of Twin Studies, Ker Than, Smithsonian, 2016
This is a very nice research study that summarizes and highlights the benefits of twin studies on the relative contribution of nature and nurture, including studies about intelligence, eating disorders, sexual orientation, and when twins are not raised in the same household (reared apart).
How a Newborn Baby Sees You, Kjerstin Gjengedal, University of Oslo, 2015
Based on existing literature, technology, and mathematical calculations, researchers believe that they have identified what an infant 2–3 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 percent of kids report being bullied via social media, although the amount of cyberbullying varied in studies from 5 percent to 74 percent.
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.
The Influence of Health-care Policies on Children’s Health and Development, James M. Perrin, Thomas F. Boat, and Kelly J. Kelleher, Society for Research in Child Development, 2016
The data are clear—poverty affects a child’s health; that is, children who are poorer suffer from more acute and chronic illnesses as well as having a higher mortality rate. These authors examine the role of health insurance for children in the United States and also describe how a community approach is desired in providing comprehensive health care to children.
Unit 8: Personality Processes
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.
Good News about Worrying, Jan Hoffman, The New York Times, 2015
When receiving the results about a long-awaited outcome, most of the existing research examines the reaction to the news, such as coping strategies used when the news is bad news. However, researchers have also studied the waiting period for the big decision, and the outcomes of that study yielded surprising results.
How Are Horoscopes Still a Thing? Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, Smithsonian, 2016
Believers in astrology think that humans are currently affected by the movements of the sun, the moon, and the stars, and that our future is shaped by the relative positioning of the sun, moon, and stars on the day we are born. Given what we know about the causes of human behavior and the development of personality traits and characteristics, the author concludes that the reason that horoscopes remain popular today is simple: people like them.
Nothing Personal: The Questionable Myers-Briggs Test, Dean Burnett, The Guardian, 2013
The Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI) is widely used and sometime inappropriately interpreted. The author presents a nice historical perspective on the development and use of the MBTI as well the uses and abuses of MBTI results in the workplace.
Unit 9: Social Processes
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, The 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 10: Psychological Disorders
Being Neurotic Makes It Harder for You to Remember Things, Emily Mullin, Smithsonian, 2015
Using neuroimaging, researchers were able to conclude that individuals with higher levels of neuroticism (i.e., the tendency to worry) were less efficient when working memory was tested. It may be that the increased level of worrying slows braining functioning down when engaging in simultaneous tasks, such as trying to remember.
Overcoming the Shame of a Suicide Attempt, Jamie Brickhouse, The New York Times, 2016
In this first person narrative, the author describes two of his own suicide attempts and integrates his story with the available U.S. research about suicide attempts and suicide prevention.
China and India Burdened by Untreated Mental Disorders, Benedict Carey, The New York Times, 2016
Combined, China and India represent more than one-third of the world’s population, yet less than 10 percent of the individuals in these countries with mental disorders receive effective treatment. This trend, combined with both countries spending less than one percent of their total medical budget on mental health treatments, makes for a growing burden that will not be easily relieved.
A Potent Side Effect to the Flint Water Crisis: Mental Health Problems, Abby Goodnough and Scott Atkinson, The New York Times, 2016
Through the environmental crisis in Flint, Michigan regarding extremely high levels of lead in the water supply, these reporters present various stories about individuals experiencing mental health difficulties as they survive the situation.
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 11: Psychological Treatments
Fifty Psychological and Psychiatric Terms to Avoid: A List of Inaccurate, Misleading, Misused, Ambiguous, and Logically Confused Words and Phrases, Scott O. Lilienfeld et al., Frontiers in Psychology, 2015
These authors provide a highly valuable listing of psychological and psychiatric terms that should be avoided; moreover, the authors explain the problems with the term, provide an example of its misuse, and offer more palatable alternatives when they exist.
Study Finds Virtual Reality Can Help Treat Severe Paranoia, Medical Research Council, 2016
Based on a study in Britain, about 1–2 percent of individuals suffer from severe paranoia, which is evidenced by extreme distrust of others, believing that people are deliberately trying to harm the individual. Using virtual reality technology, patients with severe paranoia with specific instructions experienced reduced paranoia symptoms for the rest of the day, suggesting that there may be successful short-term coping techniques available.
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.
Could Brain Scans Help Guide Treatment for OCD? Mary Elizabeth Dallas, HealthDay, 2015
About 2.5 percent of Americans are diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and another 10 percent exhibit symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; 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.