Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Intelligence, Language-Thought, Social Cognition, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, The Self.

Description: You have likely heard about the Turing test that is intended as a means of testing whether the entity one is conversing with via typed messages is a human being or an artificial intelligence (a computer program). Alan Turing argued that if a program seemed to those corresponding with it to be “human” then we should grant it some sort of “being” status. The hyperlink above will take you to a previous post talking about this test and about a possible “winner.” Now, rather than thinking about what sorts of questions you would ask and what sorts of topics you would raise in such an interaction/investigation what if you were asked to come with ONE WORD that would most likely sound “human” rather than “machine (AI)” generated? One word would likely not be enough but think about what your one word would be and think about what research involving the collection of many peoples’ one words might tell us that could be interesting or useful. Once you have those answers in mind read the article linked below to see what several social Psychologists di with peoples’ one word “Turing Test” responses.

Source: What a “Minimal Turing Test” Says About Humans, Matthew Hutson, Psyched! Psychology Today.

Date: September 21, 2018

Photo Credit: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Article Links:

The frequency and conceptual patterns of words/concepts invoked in this one-word Turing Test research are interesting. Were you surprised at how well some words did in the head-to-head part of the study where participants were asked to consider pairs of words taken from the first part of the study and pick which word sounded more human. “Poop” beat every other word including “love”! Maybe there is another version of the “shit happens” T-Shirt image to be created here! The approach to examining our concepts of humans and robots or AI’s one word at a time might seem a bit artificial but the results suggest much about the nature of our concepts in this area and the conceptual structures that support them and thr stereotypes they produce.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the Turing Test?
  2. What sorts of things does the single word Turing Test allow us to do from a social Psychological perspective?
  3. What might it mean to say we have “stereotypes” about artificial intelligences, robots etc.?

References (Read Further):

McCoy, J. P., & Ullman, T. D. (2018). A Minimal Turing Test. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 79, 1-8.

Abrams, J. (2017). Is Eliza human, and can she write a sonnet?: A look at language technology. Access, 31(3), 4.

Marcus, G. (2017). Am I Human?. Scientific American, 316(3), 58-63.

de Graaf, M. M., & Malle, B. F. (2018). People’s Judgments of Human and Robot Behaviors.

Oliveira, R., Arriaga, P., Correia, F., & Paiva, A. (2018). Making Robot’s Attitudes Predictable: A Stereotype Content Model for Human-Robot Interaction in Groups.’s_Attitudes_Predictable_A_Stereotype_Content_Model_for_Human-Robot_Interaction_in_Groups/links/5aa91bf7aca272d39cd502a6/Making-Robots-Attitudes-Predictable-A-Stereotype-Content-Model-for-Human-Robot-Interaction-in-Groups.pdf

Posted by & filed under Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Neuroscience, Physiology, Social Psychology.

Description: The octopus is not a particularly social animal. While that might sound like the start to a fairy tale or to a “Just So” story it is actually simply a scientific fact. Octopi typically avoid social contact entirely including avoiding other members of their species. They Do, however, have to engage socially with at least one other octopus at least once in a while in order to mate. It turns out that octopi seem to use a mechanism to flip this social/asocial switch that is virtually identical to how we manage social connections, using the serotonin system. How did they test this? Well, they used the drug ecstasy or MDMA which alters mood in humans by driving a serotonin “dump” which, in the short term provides strong feelings of social connectedness and positive social affect in humans. How did this work in Octopi? Well read through the article linked below to find out. While you read through it pay attention to and think about what research like this with octopi might tell us about ourselves.

Source: Octopuses given mood drug “ecstasy’ reveal genetic link to evolution of social behavior in humans, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: September 20, 2018

Photo Credit: Ton Kleindinst/ Marine Biological Laboratory

Article Links:

So, exposure to MDMA (ecstasy) lead the octopi to spend time being close with a caged male octopus while most octopi not exposed to the drug avoided the caged male octopi. Their behavior while on the drug paralleled that of human rave attendees on ecstasy (not the dancing but the increased frequency of social touching).  It seems that octopuses’ social behavioral tendencies are there most of the time but suppressed in and by non-mating circumstances in ways that produce the “loner” behavior they are best known for. The functioning of the serotonin system, while referred to most often in humans as region related to mood and being primary site of drug intervention in cases of depression, is likely involved in the evolution of our social connectedness as well.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does ecstasy effect social behavior?
  2. What might studying the effects of ecstasy in octopi tell us about human social behaviors?
  3. Did the octopus “social” behaviors described in the article linked above strike you as genuinely social? Why or why not?

References (Read Further):

Eric Edsinger, Gül Dölen. A Conserved Role for Serotonergic Neurotransmission in Mediating Social Behavior in Octopus. Current Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.061

Fiorito, G., & Scotto, P. (1992). Observational learning in Octopus vulgaris. Science, 256(5056), 545-547.

Turchetti-Maia, A., Shomrat, T., & Hochner, B. (2017). The vertical lobe of cephalopods—a brain structure ideal for exploring the mechanisms of complex forms of learning and memory. In The Oxford Handbook of Invertebrate Neurobiology.


Posted by & filed under Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Neuroscience, Personality, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: I am teaching a course this term on I/O or Industrial Organizational Psychology and I was struck by a quote in one of the sources I was reading in preparation for class that suggested that I/O psychology is a “brainless” science. What might it mean for someone to say that? Well, they were pointing out that while there has been an explosion of research and interest on the brain functioning foundations of many areas and phenomenon in psychology (driven by the cheaper availability of brain scanning etc.), to date there has been little neuroscience informed work in I/O psychology. That is changing. Here is a Neuro-I/O question: How does power change the brains of CEO’s? How does having power change the way you think and behave? Think about what this might involve and then read the article linked below to see where research in this area is going.

Source: How Power Changes the CEO Brain, Jeanne Sahadi, @CNN Money, CNN.

Date: September 4, 2018

Photo Credit: chombosan/Getty Images

Article Links:

So, what does power do to your brain? Well, it may change your perspective making you more self-focused and less empathic. It may cause your perceptions of social constraints to fade and your recall of obstacles to your goals to fade along with them and your behaviours and decisions may become riskier. These and other factors could contribute to incidents of corporate greed and sexual harassment among CEO’s. It DOES seem that what people were like before becoming CEO’s can have a mitigating effect of the potentials for power abuses when at the top. We can and need to look forward to more research into the effects of power on the brains of those who take it up.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are the behavioural patterns and power related tendencies of New CEO’s inborn or a result of the new power they have?
  2. What would a neuroscience of I/O psychology potentially provide us with that we do not already have?
  3. What new areas of research looking at CEO brains should we be undertaking?

References (Read Further):

Galinsky, A. D., Magee, J. C., Inesi, M. E., & Gruenfeld, D. H. (2006). Power and perspectives not taken. Psychological science, 17(12), 1068-1074.

Gruenfeld, D. H., Inesi, M. E., Magee, J. C., & Galinsky, A. D. (2008). Power and the objectification of social targets. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(1), 111.

Bentley, F. S., Fulmer, I. S., & Kehoe, R. R. Payoffs for layoffs? An examination of CEO relative pay and firm performance surrounding layoff announcements. Personnel Psychology.

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Death and Dying, General Psychology, Health and Prevention In Aging, Health Psychology, Human Development, Stress Coping - Health, Successful Aging, Work Retirement Leisure Patterns.

Description: Simple question: who is happier a 30 year old or a 70 year old? What do you think? Must be the 30 year old if only for the existential issues, 70 years of age is WAY closer to death than 30 so, of course the 30 year old is happier right? Well, wrong, actually. Think about how or why that could be and then read the article linked below to see how psychologists are addressing these questions.

Source: Why you can look forward to being happier in old age, Jeffery Kluger, Time Magazine.

Date: September 6, 2018

Photo Credit: Time Magazine

Article Links:


What do you think of the happiness curve? Children and old people are happier than most in the middle. While children could be viewed as happy due to their innocence or naivete what is up with older people? Terror management, wisdom and experience all likely play roles in positive aging. Likewise, and noted in the video clip associated with the article, people who maintain a general sense of life purpose age more slowly physically in terms of things like the onset of “slow walking.” So, check you potentially ageist assumptions and think more positive thoughts about aging.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the general findings of happiness levels among older adults compared to middle aged adults?
  2. How might we account for those differences?
  3. When we look at successful, aging CEO’s, what is it about them that supports their continuing success despite some of the changes they experience with age?

References (Read Further): Lacey, H. P., Smith, D. M., & Ubel, P. A. (2006). Hope I die before I get old: Mispredicting happiness across the adult lifespan. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(2), 167-182.

Oerlemans, W. G., Bakker, A. B., & Veenhoven, R. (2011). Finding the key to happy aging: A day reconstruction study of happiness. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66(6), 665-674.

Jopp, D., & Rott, C. (2006). Adaptation in very old age: Exploring the role of resources, beliefs, and attitudes for centenarians’ happiness. Psychology and aging, 21(2), 266.’_Happiness/links/564dc3ff08ae1ef9296acd54.pdf

Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Neuroscience, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Ok, so what do you think we “know” about the long-term impact of concussions on athletes who play hockey or football? Let’s see, concussions and inappropriate responses to how such injuries are managed or followed up have lead to a serious issue that the sports of hockey and football are now only staring to address with the NHL entering mediation to try and settle a lawsuit regarding the long term impact of concussion brought by former players and football introducing a raft of new rules and enforcement  practices regarding “head shots” and late hits on quarterbacks. We know there is data supporting the need for steps to be taken with all but one of the 111 brains of deceased former NFL players showing clear signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Cases like that of Zarley Zalapski who played for the Calgary Flames in the 1990’s and who died in his sleep at 49 years of age are surfacing regularly. Zalapski’s brain was analyzed and showed clear indications of CTE along with a huge amount of tau (abnormal brain protein) even though Zalapski was NOT a fighter, saying that if you fight you sit in the penalty box and you cannot score goals from there. So, we are seeing and increasingly clear picture of the effects of concussions on the brains of hockey and football players over time, right? Well yes BUT do we really have a clear understanding of how this works? Are there some players who sustain concussions but do NOT have issues with CTE later in life? And what about sub-concussive hits? Are these issues confined to the “hit sports” of hockey and football? And are enough steps being taken to deal with them? There is more we need to know to have a clear understanding of what we essential DO NOT know yet about hits in sports, concussion and CTE. Read the article linked below in which Zarley Zalapsky’s sister talks about her brother and a number of neuro scientists point out some of what we do not know (and must find out) about concussions and CTE.

Source: Zarley Zalapski’s story shows CTE isn’t black and white, Allan Maki, The Globe and Mail.

Date: September 14, 2018

Photo Credit: Glenn Cratty/Getty Images

Article Links:

There IS some puzzling data out there.  A man who never played sports and never suffered a concussion whose brain showed clear signs of CTE and the brain of John Forzani who played for the Calgary Stampeders for 7 seasons as an offensive lineman and who suffered several concussions but whose brain shod no signs of CTE on post mortem analysis. To quote Peter Cummings, a neuropathologist “…to think we have CTE solved in a nice, wrapped little box in the space of four, five years doesn’t make any sense.” His biggest point is that instead of stopping with news media summaries we must read the original research articles if we want to properly understand what we DO know about concussion and CTE in sports AND, more importantly, to understand what we DO NOT know, which is a LOT. Indeed, more research and more reflection are both needed in this important area.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is CTE and how might it be related to concussions?
  2. What data do we have that speaks to ways in which concussions among hockey and football players might be related (is related) to later issues with CTE?
  3. What sorts of research do we need to be doing to expand our understanding of concussion, CTE and sports?

References (Read Further):

Small, G. W., Kepe, V., Siddarth, P., Ercoli, L. M., Merrill, D. A., Donoghue, N., … & Barrio, J. R. (2013). PET scanning of brain tau in retired national football league players: preliminary findings. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21(2), 138-144.

Shahim, P., Tegner, Y., Wilson, D. H., Randall, J., Skillbäck, T., Pazooki, D., … & Zetterberg, H. (2014). Blood biomarkers for brain injury in concussed professional ice hockey players. JAMA neurology, 71(6), 684-692.

Shahim, P., Linemann, T., Inekci, D., Karsdal, M. A., Blennow, K., Tegner, Y., … & Henriksen, K. (2016). Serum tau fragments predict return to play in concussed professional ice hockey players. Journal of neurotrauma, 33(22), 1995-1999.

McCrory, P., Meeuwisse, W. H., Aubry, M., Cantu, B., Dvořák, J., Echemendia, R. J., … & Sills, A. (2013). Consensus statement on concussion in sport: the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Br J Sports Med, 47(5), 250-258.

Kamins, J., Bigler, E., Covassin, T., Henry, L., Kemp, S., Leddy, J. J., … & McLeod, T. C. V. (2017). What is the physiological time to recovery after concussion? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med, 51(12), 935-940.

Stein, T. D., Alvarez, V. E., & McKee, A. C. (2015). Concussion in chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Current pain and headache reports, 19(10), 47.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Emerging Adulthood, Human Development, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Psychological Disorders, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Have you heard that teenagers these days are effectively having their brains rewired by their massive use of digital technologies? I did not ask if you were aware of this as a truth but just whether you had heard it stated as if it were true. Such ideas, that up-coming generations are being sculpted by their experiences right down to the neuronal level, are not new but have become more frequent in recent years, especially in relation to digital technologies such as smart phones and video games. The author of the article linked below is a clinical psychiatrist and director of a psychopharmacology clinic and as such, one might see him to be perfectly situated to have the clinical experience and data necessary. Before you read the article reflect briefly on the following questions. Are smart phones and digital media changing the brains of teenagers? Are the rates of depression and anxiety disorders higher in the current generation of teenagers than in previous ones? Is it possible for teenagers to become addicted to video games? Are academic related anxiety and stress levels among senior high school and first year university students atypical when compared to previous generations? Once you have thought about these questions have a read through the article and see what the clinical (psychiatric) neurologist has to say.

Source: Teenagers Aren’t Losing Their Minds, Richard A. Friedman, the New York Times.

Date: September 9, 2018

Photo Credit: Erik Carter, The New York Times.

Article Links:   

So, did you see how important it is that we be precise and clear in how we are defining our terms when we are discussing the current state of teenage minds “these days? First, we need to be clear about the difference between anxiety related to the presence of an anxiety disorder and anxiety related to life events, like the end of a relationship or the difficult economic environment one is contemplating having to soon enter. To be clear, it is not that these two examples of life events are not anxiety provoking, but, the author suggests, they do NOT appear to have led to generational increases in rates of anxiety disorders. What might be happened he suggests is that parents are not appropriately preparing their children for the fact that life involves some anxiety from time to time and that we will not and cannot live effectively in a constant state of high happiness. The good news is that while life is stressful and anxiety producing from time to time and something for a lot of the time this does not mean our brains are being re-wired in dysfunctional ways. I mean people like myself who grew up with television (a previous great evil) have done pretty well (at least I think so). From a developmental perspective it is worth noticing that, generation after generation many humans do pretty well regardless of what their parents think is going on for them.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are stress and anxiety levels amongst teenagers higher today than in previous generations?
  2. Even if the levels of stress and anxiety are higher does that mean there are more disorders in today’s teens than in previous generations?
  3. Who needs to talk to who about what to get this in certainty about teenagers’ brains sorted out, and what sort of research might help along the way?

References (Read Further):

Niemer, E. (2012). Teenagers and social media. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, 20-29.

O’Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). Clinical report—the impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, peds-2011.

Strasburger, V. C., Hogan, M. J., Mulligan, D. A., Ameenuddin, N., Christakis, D. A., Cross, C., … & Moreno, M. A. (2013). Children, adolescents, and the media. Pediatrics, 132(5), 958-961.

Bolton, R. N., Parasuraman, A., Hoefnagels, A., Migchels, N., Kabadayi, S., Gruber, T., … & Solnet, D. (2013). Understanding Generation Y and their use of social media: a review and research agenda. Journal of service management, 24(3), 245-267.

Denizet-Lewis, B. E. N. O. I. T. (2017). Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety. New York Times Magazine.

Posted by & filed under Emerging Adulthood, Human Development, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: First year in University is hard and that is a good thing. That is a widely shared sentiment but how do people actually mean it? Is it good because it “weeds out” lower functioning, less serous students? Is it because adversity (as in a deep-end immersion into the “real world”) is simply good for you at that point in development? Or is it, as I have suggested elsewhere in these postings (search Life Design), that first year is the first tangible part of a developmental transition opportunity that, if risen to, can lead to a richer, more fulfilled life? Like me, the authors of the article linked below have gathered data on first year students’ experiences and argue for the latter of the alternative interpretations offered above. Before you read the article make up a mental list of what you think or recall of the challenges faced by first year university or college students. After reading the article click on the comment link down at the bottom of the article and have a look at the quite diverse array of comments offered by many people who had a first-year experiences in the past. The range of comments, while not formal “data” are quite interesting and informative.

Source: First-year university is hard – and that’s OK, Shauna Pomerantz and Dawn Zinga, the Globe and Mail.

Date: August 31, 2018

Photo Credit: The Globe and Mail, Camille Pomerlo.

Article Links:  

The article itself provides a general overview of what the first-year experience might involve. The authors are also assuming that the first-year students they have in mind have mostly moved away from home to attend their first year.  While the experiences of “commuter” students are similar in many ways to those of residence students there are some key differences which can make for experience differences. For example, there is likely a different experience to being on your own at university of college when you still live at home. The comments at the end of the article are particularly interesting I find as many of them express one or another version of a “suck it up buttercup” sentiment that buys wholesale the characterization of first year students “these days” (and especially those not in a professional program) as “bubble wrapped” or “snow-flakes”  who were never taught how to bear down and get going when things get tough. As a long-term instructor of first year students I really have not seen very many students that fit these negative stereotypes, and neither, it seems, did the authors of the linked article. That said, the advice to parents is well taken. Data on adaptation to university and identity development supports the notion that first-year can be a great developmental launching point and that a lot of how that goes for students depends upon how they approach their time at university. Get engaged and it can be a heck of an interesting ride with life-long positive outcomes.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What makes first year at university or college difficult for many students?
  2. Is the first-year experience significantly different for today’s students than it was for their parents?
  3. How might you respond to some of the sorts of “suck it up and get to work on life” statements in the comments section following the linked article?

References (Read Further):

Nijsten, C. (2016). Fluid Identity and Cultural Sensitivity in Youth.

Kift, S. (2015). A decade of transition pedagogy: A quantum leap in conceptualizing the first year experience. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 2, 51-86.

Boyes, Michael C., Pearson, Ilana and Ursenbach, Jacob M. (under review) Identity Processing Style and Supportive Resource Engagement.


Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Child Development, Classification Diagnosis, Clinical Assessment, Clinical Psychology, Gender-Role Development Sex Differences, Legal Ethical Issues, Psychological Disorders, Sexual Disorders Gender Dysphoria, Stress Coping - Health, The Self, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Gender Dysphoria is a diagnostic category in the DSM-5. You can find a description and the diagnostic criteria here: . The question of what sorts of variables contribute to an individual of one sex having feelings that they are actually another sex (and yes, I realize that speaking of sex in a binary fashion is an oversimplification) is a fascinating one. In addition to research challenges the question also raises ethical and policy issues about how we should think about and treat the idea of gender (if we are not going to stick with the idea of a biologically set binary). Putting aside (but NOT dismissing) for the moment the issues of population diversity and LGBTQ identification the article linked below examines a small part of this large issue in that it discusses the social consequences of research work done by one American researcher who noted a rapid jump in one sub-area of gender dysphoria. Specifically, Lisa Littman, at Brown University gathered data relating to what she came to call Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria which incorporated a generally observed dramatic jump in the number of post-puberty girls identifying as boys without having shown previous signs of childhood gender dysphoria (which are a whole other can of policy and practice worms). Before you read the article linked below stop a moment and think about what that sort of data might mean. What do you think about gender dysmorphia? Is it reflective of biological factors tied to sex identification? If so, how does the rapid onset of ROGD fit? What other sorts of factors might be involved? For example, might social factors be involved? Once you have reflected on these questions give the article a read and, while doing so be asking yourself what other research data might be needed in this area. Oh, and think too about whether the researcher whose work is discussed has been has been treated appropriately? (Be clear I am NOT pushing for any particular side in this).

Source: Why the surge is gender dysphoria among teenage girls? Margaret Wente, Opinion, The Globe and Mail.

Date: September 8, 2018

Photo Credit:

Article Links:

So, you are likely not in a position to judge whether the scientific/methodological merits arguments leveled at the research in question are appropriate or fair (though re-reviewing a peer reviewed article is quite a strong step). The important policy/political issue that gender dysmorphic individuals could be seen as struggling with “who they are” and the related need for respect for the outcomes of those struggles are challenging for all involved. Is sex identification biological or social? That old dichotomy is similar to the old debate about whether IQ attributable to heredity or environment, it is overly simplistic yet surrounded with political and policy minefields. Even (or especially) including gender dysmorphia in the DSM 5 is challenging, though there is no commitment there to viewing people whose biological sex does not match the sex-identification as in need of repair. In this specific area the challenge is an epidemiological one. Where there is a rapid change in the prevalence of a disorder the search is on for either a “new” cause or for previously ignored or unseen precursors. The charged nature of these debates is hard on those who are struggling with their identification and on some of those trying to conduct research with them. Psychology IS about the real world in all its complexity and strong feelings and sometimes it is hard to step back and simply “do research”.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is gender dysmorphia?
  2. What are the implication of the possible existence of a rapid onset version of gender dysphoria?
  3. What are some of the ethical and practice implications for psychologists who want to either conduct research or to engaging in clinical practice in gender dysphoria?

References (Read Further):

Littman, L. (2018). Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports. PloS one, 13(8), e0202330.

Littman, L. L. (2017). Rapid onset of gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: a descriptive study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 60(2), S95-S96.

Zucker, K. J. (2017). Epidemiology of gender dysphoria and transgender identity. Sexual health, 14(5), 404-411.

Turban, J. L., & Keuroghlian, A. S. (2018). Dynamic Gender Presentations: Understanding Transition and “De-Transition” Among Transgender Youth.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Emerging Adulthood, Human Development, Stress Coping - Health, Student Success, The Self.

Description: OK, this is another posting on the theme of things to spend a bit of time thinking about NOW before the fall term takes away your free time, your time for self-reflection, and (hopefully not) some of your general wellbeing! Positive Psychology is a recent area of research in psychology that focusses upon the things people can do to make their lives better. Among other things it looks at the things we do that make us miserable and at the things we can do to increase out general sense of wellbeing as well as what we can do to change habits we have developed that are leading us to regularly behave in ways that do NOT add to our general sense of wellbeing. Sound like something it would be good to know about? Well, if so, you are in luck. There is a course at Yale university called the Science of Wellbeing that will tell you all about it. It is taught by psychologist Laurie Santos and it is so popular that last year ¼ of Yale’s undergraduate population all wanted to take it at once. Now if you are thinking that this is interesting but out of reach because you are not enrolled at Yale, no worries, there is a version of the course available for free on a course site called Coursera (the link is below). You can hear Laurie Santos talk about the course in a radio interview which is also linked below. Give it a listen and, if the course sounds like it could be useful you can go to the course link and view it on-line for free.

Source: The Science of Wellbeing (a course) and The secret to happiness? Ask this Yale professor and the 1,200 students taking her class, Laurie Santos.

Date: August 30, 2018

Article Links: The Coursera version of the course  and an interview with Laurie Santos about her course

So, does the course sound interesting? I think it is worth checking out if only for the “Rewirement” assignments which explain how you can identify and change base habits you have developed that are, or will be, getting in the ay of your wellbeing. Now, I am not touting the course just because. I am referring you to it because I believe that it is unique in that it is research-based. There is some very interesting and useful work that has come out of Positive Psychology lately and Laura Santos has built her course around that science. So, it is certainly worth a look. So, QUICK! Do it now as part of your new “develop a few good habits so the fall term or fall season will be less overwhelming than if you just slide into it” strategy!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What do we do wrong in terms of how we typically think about happiness?
  2. What sorts of things can we do to start thinking “right” about happiness?
  3. What are one or two things you can take away from your consideration of this topic?

References (Read Further):

Search Life Design in the search box at the top of this page.

Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction (Vol. 55, No. 1, p. 5). American Psychological Association.

Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. American psychologist, 60(5), 410.

Seligman, M. E. (2004). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. Simon and Schuster.








Posted by & filed under Emerging Adulthood, Health Psychology, Human Development, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: What are you going to have for lunch today? How about after dinner, are you doing to watch a movie or TV? What will you watch? Are you going to get married? What career are you going to pursue? Some decisions are easy and some are, well, NOT.  How do you make BIG decisions? Do you make a list of pro’s and cons? Then what? Does the list help? How do your decisions work out? Well, lists of pro’s and cons, by themselves, are actually not very helpful. How do we know this? Research! Psychological research in areas like cognitive science and decision making and I/O Psychology and Developmental Life Design actually has been looking closely at how people make big decisions and, thankfully, has some things to tell us about how we can do better and make decisions that are less likely to lead to failed outcomes and dashed hopes and dreams. Ok maybe the dashed hopes and dreams part is overly dramatic but there IS stuff there we can (and should!) use. So, with your own big decision-making processes in mind, have a read through the article linked below and pay particular attention to what the Psychological science (well and some from a few other also-ran fields as well) has to offer.

Source: How to Make a Big Decision: Have no fear. An emerging science can help you choose. Steven Johnson, Grey Matter, The New York Times.

Date: September 2, 2018

Photo Credit: Lea Heinrich, The New York Times

Article Link:


First, meet Emma Darwin, she was Charles Darwin’s first cousin and he married her, and they had 10 children (three of whom died very young). So, Darwin used his rudimentary Pro/Con list and decided to get married and have children.  A recurrent finding in the research literatures on decision-making is that a “should I do it yes or no” approach is doomed to failure (in terms of longer term outcomes) at least 50% of the time. In contrast developing at least 2 alternative courses of action only lead to failure 1/3 of the time. Generating alternatives is a core feature of various life design approaches which feature making distinct alternative possible plans when designing your life course. Having diverse advisors or peers off whom you can bounce ideas helps too. I particularly like Gary Klein’s suggested “pre-mortem” study. When you are considering a course of action put yourself into the future, imagine that your choice failed badly and try to figure out why. Thinking about what we do not know can be very informative in making better decisions. Finally, reflecting on what you value is also (or should be) an important part of Developmental Life Design in emerging adulthood. Your values are the “weights” that will sort out which of your pro’s and con’s are the most important and which are trivial and rolled up together will help you make better, more livable and more personally successful decisions. Give it a try! Search this site for more posts on Life Design for more suggestions.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What do Pro-Con decision-making lists only produce successful decisions around 50% of the time?
  2. What is a “pre-mortem” and why might it be a good thing to try out?
  3. Why might it be helpful to review your personal values as part of important personal decision-making?

References (Read Further):

Klein, G. (2007). Performing a project premortem. Harvard Business Review, 85(9), 18-19.

Serrat, O. (2017). The Premortem Technique. In Knowledge Solutions (pp. 223-228). Springer, Singapore.

Nutt, P. (2002). Why decisions fail: Avoiding the blunders and traps that lead to debacles. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Search Life Design in the search box at the top of this page.