Detailed Table of Contents
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.
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.
Trigger Warnings in Psychology: Psychology Teachers’ Perspectives and Practices, Guy A. Boysen and Loreto R. Prieto, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2018
Psychology instructors often address topics of a sensitive nature, and if a topic coincides with a students’ personal history, this could trigger a negative experience. The intention of a “trigger warning” is to give students a preview of topics to be discussed in order to avoid potential negative experience. These researchers surveyed psychology instructors to determined how many instructors have used trigger warnings and how often trigger warnings are typically issued.
A Manifesto for Reproducible Science, Marcus R. Munafò, et al., Nature Human Behavior, 2017
A key element of scientific findings is predictability or reproducibility; that is, if a psychological effect happens once, it should happen again under the same or similar conditions. Recent disciplinary introspection demonstrates that replications are not occurring as desired. These authors propose to improve the reliability and efficiency of scientific research with specific suggestions in hopes of making scientific research more transparent, more reproducible, and more efficient.
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.
Could a Dose of Sunshine Make You Smarter? Ruth Williams, The Scientist, 2018
Researchers exposed mice to ultraviolet (UV) light similar to sunlight, and this UV exposure eventually lead to the increased production of glutamate, a neurotransmitter linked to learning and memory. Given that UV light is typically thought of as dangerous, a beneficial effect such as potentially enhanced learning and memory is striking. Does this beneficial effect hold true for humans as it does for mice?
The Largest Health Disparity We Don’t Talk About, Dhruv Khullar, The New York Times, 2018
Individuals suffering with a mental illness often do not receive the mental health services they need, but as it turns out, they often do not receive the physical health services they need as well. U.S. citizens with a mental disorder (such as depression or bipolar disorder) die 15-30 years younger than those without a mental disorder. For physicians, the two key factors that have been identified are probably therapeutic pessimism and diagnostic overshadowing.
Using Deviance Regulation Theory to Target Marijuana Use Intentions among College Students, Robert D. Dvorak et al., Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2018
Deviance regulation theory (DRT) is based on the ideas that people who engage in uncommon behaviors tend to stand out and that information about these individuals is particularly important and valuable—this messaging is a signal to others how they would be perceived if they were to engage in the uncommon behavior. Using DRT and recognizing that marijuana use is on the rise with college-age samples, these researchers used a positively framed message about marijuana abstainers or a negatively framed message about marijuana users over three months and then measured students’ intent to use.
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.
Evoking the Ineffable: The Phenomenology of Extreme Sports, Eric Brymer and Robert D. Schweitzer, Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2017
Extreme sports, characterized as a leisure activity in which a mistake or accident would likely cause death, are experiencing rapid growth while many traditional sports are suffering from declining participation. Based on interviews with 15 extreme sports participants in this research study, the authors extract three themes that shed insight into one’s attraction to extreme sports: (a) extreme sports as invigorating experience, (b) inadequacy of words, and (c) participants’ experience of transcendence.
Unit 4: Learning
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
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.
Getting a Scientific Message across Means Taking Human Nature into Account, Rose Hendricks, The Conversation, 2017
One of the current problems with science communication is that many believe it is about fact communication—just tell people the facts, and the deficits will be filled. But humans suffer from confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out information that confirms what we already believe and discard contradictory information. The task for effective science communicators is to find the proper framing for messages, with an understanding of human limitations for quantitative reasoning as well as attraction to metaphors.
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
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.
Study of 20,000 Finds an Income Advantage for Those Judged to Be Very Unattractive, Alex Fradera, BPS Research Digest, 2018
In typical studies about income and attractiveness, there is often a beauty premium and an ugliness penalty. However, reporting on a longitudinal study, attractiveness ratings were compared to gross earnings, and for participants who were rated as “very unattractive” at age 20, these individuals were earning significantly more than participants who were judged as more attractive. Given this finding, at best, the researchers are only speculating as to what this unexpected result means.
How Democracy Can Survive Big Data, Colin Koopman, The New York Times, 2018
When signing up for any web site, service, or product, the vast majority of users quickly skip past the End User License Agreement (EULA). However, a company called Cambridge Analytica claimed to have as many as 5,000 pieces of data (“data points”) on 230 million Americans. What may have started as the testing of schoolchildren in the early 1900s has developed into powerful personality and predictive research that might be being used today to help “shape” the outcome of national elections.
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.
Are People More Disturbed by Dog or Human Suffering? Jack Levin, Arnold Arluke, and Leslie Irvine, Society & Animals, 2017
Using a survey research approach and a fictitious news report, undergraduate college students were asked to indicate their own degree of empathy for a brutally beaten child, human adult, puppy, or adult dog. As you can imagine, undergraduates might respond with different levels of empathy for humans versus dogs or might respond differently for young victims versus old victims. What do you think happened? What do you think should have happened?
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.
It’s Not Just You—Politics Is Stressing Out America’s Youth, Melissa DeJonckheere and Tammy Chang, The Conversation, 2018
When individuals aged 14 to 24 were surveyed before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a majority of respondents reported physical distress (concentration difficulties, insomnia, over-eating) as well as emotional stressors (depression, anxiety, and fear). Youth distress has been on the rise in general, with rates of depression for adolescents increasing from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.3 percent in 2014.
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.
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.
With the Help of Virtual Therapists, People with Eating Disorders Tackle Anxiety in Grocery Stores, Juli Fraga, The Washington Post, 2018
Anorexia is a mental health disorder affecting 1percent of Americans, and often people with anorexia are overwhelmed when surrounded by food, which makes grocery shopping difficult. Using procedures borrowed from telemedicine (FaceTime with headphones for privacy), therapists can now help individuals with anorexia with this adapted version of exposure therapy called grocery store therapy.