Posted by & filed under Child Development, Early Social and Emotional development, General Psychology, Human Development, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Stress Coping - Health, Student Success.

Description: I have provided two article links below. The first is to a general online article that talks about the sorts of things parents and teachers should be working on with children that will make those children more employable later on in young adulthood. That article concludes by suggesting that training in empathy for all children would be a good idea. This is certainly true. Check out the Canadian developed program “Roots of Empathy” to see how far-reaching positive developmental support for empathy can be. But what about the employ-ability claims. Well the other article link is to a recently published research article that looks at levels of empathy among emerging adult university students developmentally over time. The claims and findings are rather surprising. Consider this, university students today are significantly less empathic than university students in previous decades. Also consider that employers are consciously interested in the level of empathy shown by potential hires, not simply because it reflects the extent to which they are “nice” or ethical but because it speaks to job candidates a level of Emotional Intelligence or the extent to which they are aware of and competent in acting and getting along in social contexts (and work places are usually social contexts in many ways). SO if empathy is important and if there is not enough of it in current university students what should those university students do to increase their employ-ability?

Source: Skills that improve employability: Empathy (2 links below)

Date: posted June 7, 2017

Photo Credit:

Links:  Article Links: General article:

                                Research Article:


Even if you are only able to look at the abstract of the research article linked above you can see some of the key findings of this research.  Involvement in academic clubs, and paid employment lead to positive growth in empathy in the longitudinal study whereas involvement in fraternities seems to inhibit empathic growth. However, before you start to write prescriptions for empathy growth among university students think a bit about the results and whether we can make comfortable causal attributions. Also think a bit about what might be done earlier that university in relation to the development of empathy.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might empathy be related to organizational job success (why do employers look for it)?
  2. What sorts of factors or experienced stimulate the development of empathy?
  3. How does the use of a longitudinal design in the research article linked above change how we think about the results compared to how we might think about it is the study were just cross-sectional (comparing the stated experiences of low versus high empathy students at a single point in time)?

References (Read Further):

Hudson-Flege, M., & Thompson, M. P. (2017). Empathy and Extracurricular Involvement in Emerging Adulthood: Findings from a Longitudinal Study of Undergraduate College Males. Journal of College Student Development, 58(5), 674-684.

Rasoal, C., Danielsson, H., & Jungert, T. (2012). Empathy among students in engineering programmes. European journal of engineering education, 37(5), 427-435.

Crossman, J. E., & Clarke, M. (2010). International experience and graduate employability: Stakeholder perceptions on the connection. Higher education, 59(5), 599-613.

Teding van Berkhout, E., & Malouff, J. M. (2016). The efficacy of empathy training: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trial.  Journal of Counselling Psychology, 63(1), 32-41.

Roots of Empathy:

Posted by & filed under Group Processes, Intergroup Relations, Social Cognition, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, The Self.

Description: It is a simple fact that we live in a culturally diverse world. It is a further fact that with global access to information and with global human movement (either purposeful or refuge seeking driven) we are locally surrounded by such diversity. Think about cultural variability and then read each of the following words and pick the one that best captures your feels about or your stance on cultural diversity (about how we should think about it and act about it both personally and it terms of public policy);  the words are assimilation, colour-blindness, multiculturalism and polyculturalism. Social psychologists study not just what we think about these words and their related concepts but also how we act in relation to cultures and cultural groups. Once you have thought about and picked a word from the list read thorough the article linked below and see how your choice maps onto current research.

Source: Cultures fuse and connect, so we should embrace Polyculturalism, Nick Haslam, The Conversation.

Date: posted June 7, 2017

Photo Credit:  pixabay, CC BY-CA

Links:  Article Link —

It is clear that the words listed above involve quite different takes on cultural diversity. In Canada the term assimilation carries some serous baggage, linked as it is historically with the treatment of First Nations people, residential schools, child welfare scoops and truth and reconciliation commissions. Multiculturalism is somewhat problematic as a term because it assumes that cultures are static and there is concern that it reifies cultural divides. Polyculturalism is seen as having some advantages over multiculturalism. Primary among them is that polyculturalism reflects the “real” state of the historic world in which cultures blend over time. As you think about whether this term is useful and if it addresses concerns about assimilation (certainly) and multiculturalism (less clear) think about how the term can, is or should be applied: to individuals in the here and now, to individuals over time, to groups here and now, and to groups over time (and over what sort of time frame? Days? Months? Years? Generations?).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is problematic about the term assimilation when applied to culture?
  2. What is problematic about the terms multiculturalism and polyculturalism?
  3. What sorts of limits or caveats should we consider on our theorizing and research about culture as the terms we use or propose relate to people, groups and to individual and historic time and over individual and group or cultural development?

References (Read Further):

Wingfield, A.H. (2015) colour-blindness is counter productive.

Rosenthal, L., Levy, S. R., & Moss, I. (2012). Polyculturalism and openness about criticizing one’s culture: Implications for sexual prejudice. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 15(2), 149-165.

Bernardo, A. B., Rosenthal, L., & Levy, S. R. (2013). Polyculturalism and attitudes towards people from other countries. International journal of intercultural relations, 37(3), 335-344.

Bernardo, A. B., Salanga, M. G. C., Tjipto, S., Hutapea, B., Yeung, S. S., & Khan, A. (2016). Contrasting lay theories of polyculturalism and multiculturalism: Associations with essentialist beliefs of race in six Asian cultural groups. Cross-Cultural Research, 50(3), 231-250.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Early Social and Emotional development, Families and Peers, General Psychology, Human Development, Language-Thought.

Description: Years ago while sitting in a park watching a couple of my children play I saw a fascinating exchange. A small boy, about 3 years old, tripped getting off of a swing and did what looked like a quite painful face-plant onto the ground (no there was no pea gravel or shredded tires to cushion the blow). What I was amazed by was that the child leapt to his feet and rather than bursting into tears he looked around, zeroed in on his mother’s location (she was sitting on a bench facing away from the swings), and then ran up to his mother and tugged on her coat sleeve. As she turned and looked at him he burst into tears and though he did not make much noise his tears were flowing and he was indicating that his face hurt. What was going on became clear as his mother hugged him and then sat him on her lap and signed a series of questions and, likely, reassurances to him while examining his face closely and wiping his tears away. What amazed me was that the young child had clearly learned that verbal distress signals would not work with his deaf mother and he had adapted to another way of getting the parental support he needed. The cries of human infants are recognized as call for assistance by virtually any human and for most the cries pull on empathy strings that seem evolutionary selected to increase the likelihood that infants will get the help they need. Doubt this? Well think about the last time you heard a crying infant on a plane … it only become noxious when you cannot do anything about it and you cannot walk away from it (and you did not bring noise cancelling earphones). Think about how this adult response is triggered and think about whether it might even be active across species, and then read the article linked below to see what recent psychological research has to say about these questions.

Source: A Baby Wails, and the Adult World Comes Running, Natalie Angier, Basics, Science, New York Times.

Date: September 4, 2017

Photo Credit:  Anita Kunz, New York Times

Links:  Article Link —


So the drive to respond to infant cries is a rather powerful, and basic, thing. When infant mice are genetically altered so they cry without noise they are ignored entirely by their mothers (lucky for the child I talked about above human mothers are a bit more adaptable!). There are cross-species responses to infant cries (at least in Bambi’s mother!). Human parents early on seem to learn how to tell the difference between their infant’s cries, responding differently to the “I am boarded here in bed” cry as compared to the “OMG the cat is trying to kill me” cry.  Researchers noted in the article linked above described the differences in infants’ reactions to fear, frustration and pain (note the fancy ethical footwork in getting this particular data point).  Recent research is starting to show exactly how the human brain is wired to respond to the distress calls of dependent off spring, something that clearly has both individual and species survival value!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Do human adults respond only the cries of their own infants?
  2. What might it be about infant cries that lead to even cross-species adult responses (hint: it may not be about the cries themselves)?
  3. If mouse pups that make no noise when distressed die of neglect how did the three year old I talked about at the start of this post with a deaf mother survive?

References (Read Further):

Lingle, S., & Riede, T. (2014). Deer mothers are sensitive to infant distress vocalizations of diverse mammalian species. The American Naturalist, 184(4), 510-522.

Hernandez-Miranda, L. R., Ruffault, P. L., Bouvier, J. C., Murray, A. J., Morin-Surun, M. P., Zampieri, N., … & Fortin, G. (2017). Genetic identification of a hindbrain nucleus essential for innate vocalization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(30), 8095-8100.

Parsons, C. E., Young, K. S., Joensson, M., Brattico, E., Hyam, J. A., Stein, A., … & Kringelbach, M. L. (2013). Ready for action: a role for the human midbrain in responding to infant vocalizations. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 9(7), 977-984.,5&scillfp=15435527558104599162&oi=lle

Chóliz, M., Fernández-Abascal, E. G., & Martínez-Sánchez, F. (2012). Infant crying: pattern of weeping, recognition of emotion and affective reactions in observers. The Spanish journal of psychology, 15(3), 978-988.

Sheinkopf, S. J., Righi, G., Marsit, C. J., & Lester, B. M. (2016). Methylation of the glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1) in placenta is associated with infant cry acoustics. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 10.

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Death and Dying, General Psychology, Health and Prevention In Aging, Health Psychology, Psychological Health, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Are you looking forward to the, likely distant point in the future when you will retire? What will that be like? Having recently “retired” myself I can tell you that it is not (or it need not be) about sitting around and relaxing. In fact I have found myself telling people who ask me how my retirement is going that I think I need another word for what I did (other than retire). The Japanese do not really have a word for retirement and, if by that we mean ceasing work and not working at anything anymore they also lack any such concept. Instead they speak of ikigai and finding one’s ikigai can prolong one’s life. Haven’t heard of the term? Well read the article linked below and find out about it and then start expanding your own retirement planning portfolio!

Source: Want to live longer? Find your ikigai., Hector Garcia, Life and Style, Inner Life, The Guardian.

Date: September 3, 2017

Photo Credit:  Alamy

Links:  Article Link —

The lovely animated film “Up” actually captures the concept of ikigai rather well. To find one’s reason for being is to find a way to carry one live positively and live longer.  As with other phases of life (think emerging adulthood and identity formation, development, and commitment) as Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal  puts it in relation to stress  “It is better to chase meaning that to avoid discomfort (or rest and boredom we might add)” .  So perhaps the Japanese have it right, we should not retire but, rather, move into a different phase of life work.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How is the Japanese concept of retirement different than that in North America?
  2. Are there ways in which older people in North America may actually already be doing it right from a perspective of ikigai?
  3. What sorts of adjustments might we make in the area of “retirement planning” to more fully take advantage of what the Japanese concept of ikigai suggests? (and what sort of research is needed before we get too far into this idea?

References (Read Further):

Garcia, Hector and Miralles, Francesca (2017) Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life London, UK: Hutchinson.

Kelly McGonigal TED Talk: How to  make stress your friend,

Ailshire, J. A., & Crimmins, E. M. (2011). Psychosocial factors associated with longevity in the United States: Age differences between the old and oldest-old in the Health and Retirement Study. Journal of Aging Research, 2011.

McMunn, A., Nazroo, J., Wahrendorf, M., Breeze, E., & Zaninotto, P. (2009). Participation in socially-productive activities, reciprocity and wellbeing in later life: baseline results in England. Ageing & Society, 29(5), 765-782.



Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, General Psychology, Neuroscience, Physiology, Psychological Disorders, Social Influence, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: So what are echophenomena? Well if you don’t know, think about yawning. Have you noticed how it seems that when one person yawns the people around them will also yawn? Now it may be that they are ALL sleep deprived, bored, too warm etc. etc…. but, in fact it may simply be that yawns are contagious. If you are not aware of this go to this link ( ) and watch the video clip and see if you yawn. I bet you do, or if you don’t you may still have to stifle a yawn or otherwise come pretty close to yawning. So why are yawns contagious? What are your hypotheses as to why? There may be social factors but what about at the neurological level? What is it about or in our brains that triggers a yawn when we simply observe someone else yawning? No idea? Well you are not alone. Read the article linked below to see what some neuro-psychological researchers in this area are thinking and looking at and to see how yawns might tell us some potential very useful things about other echophenomena.

Source: Yawning: Why is it contagious and why should it matter? ScienceDaily and the University of Nottingham.

Date: August 31, 2017

Photo Credit:  Garrincha/Fotolia

Links:  Article Link —

So yawning is one of potentially quite a few echophenomena.  At the core of echophenomena may be neutrally based response inhibition functions or systems in the brain that inhibit responding. Seeing someone else yawning seems to override our ability to not yawn or to inhibit yawning. Understanding those mechanisms at the neural level could lead us to treatments for disorders that involve other losses of inhibition such as epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, or epilepsy. It is one of many neural “control systems” neuropsychologists are trying to better understand and, through that new understanding, develop better management strategies or treatments.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What do yawning when others yawn around us and epilepsy have in common?
  2. Can you think of any social factors that might be associated with contagious yawning?
  3. What sorts of treatment opportunities might arise from a better understanding of the neural mechanisms involved in echophenomena?

References (Read Further):

Schürmann, M., Hesse, M. D., Stephan, K. E., Saarela, M., Zilles, K., Hari, R., & Fink, G. R. (2005). Yearning to yawn: the neural basis of contagious yawning. Neuroimage, 24(4), 1260-1264.

Georgina M. Jackson et al. A neural basis for contagious yawning. Current Biology, August 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.07.062

Senju, A., Maeda, M., Kikuchi, Y., Hasegawa, T., Tojo, Y., & Osanai, H. (2007). Absence of contagious yawning in children with autism spectrum disorder. Biology letters, 3(6), 706-708.

Holle, H., Warne, K., Seth, A. K., Critchley, H. D., & Ward, J. (2012). Neural basis of contagious itch and why some people are more prone to it. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(48), 19816-19821.

Harr, A. L., Gilbert, V. R., & Phillips, K. A. (2009). Do dogs (Canis familiaris) show contagious yawning?. Animal cognition, 12(6), 833-837.

Palagi, E., Leone, A., Mancini, G., & Ferrari, P. F. (2009). Contagious yawning in gelada baboons as a possible expression of empathy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(46), 19262-19267.

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Depression, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Intergroup Relations, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Social Psychology, Social Psychology, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, Substance-Related Disorders, The Self.

Description: As students head off to university and college campuses next week (you may be one of them) think for a minute about what might be a BIG but unexpected issue that new first year students might have to (perhaps unexpectedly) deal with? A hint might be to think more closely about students who are going away (out of their home city or town) to attend college or University. Once you have a possibility or two in mind think about what colleges and universities can or should do to anticipate and address those issues associated with the transition of first year students to their new learning environments. Now read the article linked below and see if it is describing something that occurred to you.

Source: The Real Campus Scourge, Frank Bruni, Sunday Review, New York Times

Date: September 2, 2017

Photo Credit:  Ben Wiseman, New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

Did you have loneliness on your list of possible issues? It may seem hard to imagine that going to a place frequented by 10’s of thousands of similarly aged peers could be loneliness producing. Also raised is the issue of why young people, with perhaps hundreds of friends on social media and available by smart phone, would ever be lonely. It raises the question (addressed increasingly in Psychological research) of how social networks and friend connectedness relates to, augments or diminishes real-world experiences. How much face-to-face interaction and relationship do emerging adults need to NOT feel alone and anxious? Finally, while college or university is new for first year students having first year students arrive on one’s campus is most certainly NOT new for colleges and universities. The article mentions some efforts to address this through the design of student living spaces but what about students on many campuses who are commuting to campus from their local homes? They may have a few friends in place but are still likely alone and isolated within their new college and university learning environments. What should higher learning institutions be doing about that? Finally, how might we help students better prepare for these issues in order to ease their transitions into post-secondary learning environments?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How can college and university first year students be lonely when surrounded by other students?
  2. What sorts of things could or should colleges and universities do to reduce the impact of this issue (and related issues)?
  3. What sorts of things can first year students do to either prepared themselves for these transition issues or to cope with them when they find themselves immersed in them?

References (Read Further):

There are a number of links in the articled linked above to websites talking about practical approaches to these issues.

Wei, M., Russell, D. W., & Zakalik, R. A. (2005). Adult attachment, social self-efficacy, self-disclosure, loneliness, and subsequent depression for freshman college students: A longitudinal study. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(4), 602.

HENNINGER, I., WILLIAM, R., Eshbaugh, E. M., OSBECK, A., & MADIGAN, C. (2016). Perceived Social Support and Roommate Status as Predictors of College Student Loneliness. Journal Of College & University Student Housing, 42(2).

Bek, H. (2017). Understanding the Effect of Loneliness on Academic Participation and Success among International University Students. Journal of Education and Practice, 8(14), 46-50.

Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Group Processes, Health Psychology, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Memory, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: So how can you get people to do things that are good for them? Yes, I know, yelling, nagging, and threatening have their places but what if you want to try and influence how things are done within an organization? Well I/O or Industrial/Organizational Psychologists are quite interested in such questions. Here are three issues that, if addressed, would greatly improve life conditions and wellbeing for employees. Consider each and think about some simple things you might try to produce improvement in each area. 1. How might you get employees to contribute more money more regularly to their retirement savings plans? 2. How might you get employees to follow through more consistently on citations for Health and Safety Guideline violations in their organizations? 3. How might you get more unemployed people to sign up for and complete re-employment programs that are offered for free? Once you have your thougts and hypotheses in order read the article linked below that talk about what I/O psychologists did in each case. Pay attention as you read not only to their results but to how they evacuated (assessed using research techniques) their interventions.

Source: Behavior and Brain Sciences Help Optimize Labor Programs, Association for Psychological Science.

Date: August 24, 2017

Photo Credit:  Association for Psychological Science

Links:  Article Link —

So how did you do? I/O psychologists are increasingly active in consulting to or, through their research, better informing Human Resource department and managers about what their research has to say about how to attract, select, train, and retain good employees and how to optimize employee and, by extension, organizational performance as well.  What struck me about the solutions was their basic simplicity. Drawn from research examining barriers to the implementation and sustainability of behavior the I/O psychologists suggested several straightforward always to optimize employee behavior. The results were encouraging. As well the results also illuminated areas where further work is needed (such as in getting employees who have not been making ANY retirement savings to start to do so. We will be hearing more and more about I/O psychology in the future and it is an area of psychological specialization worth considering as a career path.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Select one of the problems or issues noted in the article and describe what was done in an effort to improve things.
  2. For the problem or issue you selected above, how was the intervention evaluated?
  3. Think of an area within an organization you are familiar with (perhaps your school or your workplace) where some aspect of employee behavior could be improved and come up with several simple ways that might be accomplished.

References (Read Further):

Mathematica Policy Research. Behavioral Insights Help Make Labor Programs More Effective. Accessed August 3, 2017.

Amin, S., Chojnacki, G., Perez-Johnson, I., Darling, M., Moorthy, A., and Lefkowitz, J. (2017). Emails Prompt Employees to Save More for Retirement. DOL Behavioral Interventions Final Project Brief. Mathematica Policy Research.

Chojnacki, G., Deutsch, J., Perez-Johnson, I., Amin, S., Darling, M., and Lefkowitz, J. (2017). Pilot OSHA Citation Process Increases Employer Responsiveness. DOL Behavioral Interventions Project Brief. Mathematica Policy Research.

Darling, M., O’Leary, C., Perez-Johnson, I., Lefkowitz, J., Kline, K., Damerow, B., Eberts, R., Amin, S., and Chojnacki, G. (2017). Simple Encouragement Emails Increased Take-Up of Reemployment Program. DOL Behavioral Interventions Project Brief. Mathematica Policy Research.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Psychology, Families and Peers, Gender-Role Development Sex Differences, General Psychology, Human Development, Psychological Disorders, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Even if you have not taken a psychology course that included a section on either personality or abnormal psychology you have certainly heard about Sigmund Freud. Either way you likely have also pondered or at least run across the question of how, today, we should think about Freud: as forefather or at least as an instigator of what would become modern Psychology or as a possible crazy old psychological relative of whom current psychologists would rather not speak. The debate about what Psychology can or should do about old “Papa Freud” is long and complicated. As you read through the “debate” linked below keep in mind that the two participants are coming from different perspectives. Susie Orbach comes from a clinical or therapeutic perspective where one must engage with clients one at a time and MUST, one way or another, link things back to their individual clients’ subjective perspective on their lives. As such the powerful interpretive narratives that Freud spun are examples of, if not currently viable or defensible, ways of making complex sense of the complexity of human experience. Frederick Crews, on the other hand is coming at Freud from a broader theoretic perspective and is asking is Freud’s views are helpful ways of explaining the general human condition. Crews is further saying that ANY attempt to theoretically address the human condition (that IS Psychology after all) MUST do so in ways that are empirically testable and based when and where possible on solid research data (which was NOT true of Freud’s work. I strongly suspect (actually I guarantee) that after reading the debate you will likely have many more questions than answers and that is just fine because just as Psychology is still trying to figure us humans out so to is it trying to figure out its progenitors like Sigmund Freud.

Source: How do we feel about Freud: Susie Orbach and Frederick Crews debate is legacy, The Observer, The Guardian.

Date: August 20, 2017

Photo Credit:  Everett Collection/ Rex Feature

Photos Credit: Mike Boyes

Links:  Article Link —

I do not have a lot more to add at this point. My own view is that Freud is an interesting historical figure within Psychology. I have a lot of trouble with how closely his ideas at the time were tied to assumptions and stereotypes (particularly about masculinity and femininity) of his time or era. On the other hand, the notion that Psychology needed (and still needs to) acknowledge the good the bad AND the ugly within humans and the human condition if we are to properly understand ourselves is, I think, an important one. In preparing for a recent trip to Paris I read a rather academic book about the restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral in the 1860’s. I was particularly interested in the Chimera (people usually call them the gargoyles – but gargoyles are the animal or beast headed water downspouts) around the upper levels of the cathedral. The Chimera were not original to the cathedral but were designed by the architect (Eugène Viollet-le-Duc) in charge of the refurbishment and were to reflect the Gothic revival/facination that was underway in Paris at the time. I was most taken with a passage in the book I read that talked about how the chimera contemplating Paris were popular  as reflections of the animalistic or instinctual side of humans. The passage went on to say that whenever he had a chance when in Paris Freud liked to climb the spiral steps in the tower of Notre Dame and spend the afternoon gazing over Paris and contemplating the beastly and fantastic chimera. While there, I enjoyed a couple of hours contemplating Paris and the chimera as had Freud. We might have figured out the chimera’s symbolic importance without Freud but, regardless, he is certainly associated with the more well-rounded (for good or evil) view we now have of human beings and humanity. Oh and when you get to Paris be SURE and find the time to climb the stairs at Notre Dame and contemplate Paris and the Chimera as Freud did a century ago.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What were some of the positive things that Freud did for Psychology and for our understanding of human beings?
  2. What were some of the negative things that Freud did for Psychology and for our understanding of human beings?
  3. How should we think about Freud within Psychology today?

References (Read Further):

Crews, Frederick (2017) The Making of an Illusion, New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.

Noddings, Nel (1984) Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Britzman, D. (2015). Reading Freud Today For the Destiny Of A Psychology Of Education. Knowledge Cultures, 3(2). 

Camille, M. (2008). The gargoyles of Notre-Dame: Medievalism and the monsters of modernity. University of Chicago Press.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Memory, Sensation-Perception.

Description: Last week we drove 9 hours south from where we live in order to be in the zone of totality for the eclipse on August 21st. We lucked out (well the location we went to was chosen to maximize our luck in this area) and found a comfortable place to sit and watch the eclipse develop in a cloudless sky. I had debated about whether to have my camera out and with me during the event. I did not have the filters needed to take pictures of the partial eclipse but thought I might try and snap a few pictures during the totality when the moon totally obscured the sun leaving only the solar corona visible. My internal debate turned on the fact that the totality was going to last a grand total of 2 minutes and 18 seconds where we were located and that seemed like a tiny amount of time in which to fully take in the event. On the one hand there was little time to take in the amazing and rare celestial event and I am only an amateur photographer and could download many many better pictures than I could take (even with my fancy Nikon). On the other hand I typically take a few pictures anytime I am somewhere with the purpose of looking at something (e.g., celebrating social events, traveling, hiking etc etc). So what did I do? Well I lost about 20 seconds of the totality struggling with the fact that there was not enough light for me  to see to adjust the ISO setting on my camera but after that I took a few pictures of the eclipse and of the 360 degree sunrise/sunset it created and then just looked at and took in the event in the remaining time of totality. So, should I have avoided taking any pictures in order to ensure I took in the event as deeply as possible? Figure out what your advice to me would be if I go to Argentina in 16 months for another totality (with my camera’s ISO settings set in broad daylight prior to the time of totality!) and then read the article linked below.

Source: Taking Photos Won’t Take Your Out of the Moment, Study Suggests, Steph Yin, Science, New York Times

Date: August 18, 2017

Photo Credit:  mediocre Photos by Mike Boyes, PhD

Links:  Article Link —

So taking pictures does not necessarily take you out of or away from the moments you take them in. In fact, it seems that looking at things around you for possible pictures to take increases the likelihood that you will recall visual information about the situation or events later. Think of it as a sort of sensory tuning effect. However, the purpose for which you are taking the pictures matters! If you are talking pictures to post on social media then you are not really staying in the moment as you are thinking about tour social networks and your profile and not about what you are “seeing”. Aside from this you can also have a look at the article link in the Reference section below that suggests that awe inspiring events (and I can tell you from personal experience that a total eclipse DOES inspire awe) have positive impacts on our happiness. I am not sure if I am happier today than before we went down into the zone of totality but I did enjoy our brief time in the zone immensely and would love to do it again!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might taking pictures of events impact your processing of information and formation of memories related to that event?
  2. Is the question of whether or not to take pictures at important event simply a yes or no question?
  3. What else might be important to know about people’s picture taking habits if we are to make more sense out of the impact of the 1,3 trillion photos taken each year (yes we DO take a LOT of pictures)?

References (Read Further):

Barasch, A., Diehl, K., Silverman, J., & Zauberman, G. (2017). Photographic Memory: The Effects of Volitional Photo Taking on Memory for Visual and Auditory Aspects of an Experience. Psychological Science, 0956797617694868.

Diehl, K., Zauberman, G., & Barasch, A. (2016). How taking photos increases enjoyment of experiences. Journal of personality and social psychology, 111(2), 119.

Can Real Life Compete With an Instagram Playground?

Awe, Happiness, and the Solar Eclipse: New interventions with beauty show a boost to happiness.

Diessner, R., Woodward, D., Stacy, S., & Mobasher, S. (2015). Ten once-a-week brief beauty walks increase appreciation of natural beauty. Ecopsychology, 7, 126 -133. doi: 10.1089/eco.2015.0001

Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2016). Nine beautiful things: A self-administered online positive psychology intervention on the beauty in nature, arts, and behaviors increases happiness and ameliorates depressive symptoms. Personality and Individual Differences, 94, 189-193

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Child Development, General Psychology, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Intelligence.

Description: What makes something creative? The answer to THAT question is complicated and uncertain despite decades of reflection in Psychology. But sidestepping that question for the moment think about this: What would make young children more creative than teenagers or adults? Are their brains less “committed” to typical question answers? Are they simply more open to “crazy” possibilities? Are adults just getting cognitively slower? Think about what hypotheses you might come up with in response to this question and then read the article linked below written by two research psychologists who have direct assessed several of their hypotheses in this area.

Source: What Happens to Creativity as We Age? Alison Gopnick and Tom Griffiths, Grey Matter, Sunday Review, New York Times

Date: August 19, 2017

Photo Credit:  Marion Fayolle, New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

So did the researchers address some or all of your hypotheses while assessing their own? We often think of creativity as that which takes us beyond the typical, standard and known and into the novel, new and unknown, reorganizing what we see or know or entertaining new ways of viewing and thinking about things in the world around us. The developmental implications are interesting. Perhaps creativity is that which young children use in their efforts to organize and make sense out of new (to them) experiences when a ready explanation or knowledge kernel is not available to them. Perhaps it makes sense to say that sometimes children are simply making it up as they go along. It is also interesting that for adolescents it seems the physical world has largely resolved into the known background and less creativity is needed in relation to it as their foundational knowledge about the physical world is built. The social world, however, is still of intense interest to adolescents. Developmentally they have only recently figured out that much of the social world is driven by people’s inner thoughts, emotions, and personalities – things that are not directly observable or easily inferred.  This leads adolescents into intense and creative efforts to figure out the people and social events and situation around them. (Yes that IS why junior high is the way it is…). Beyond this, it is worth hypothesizing a bit about what the advantages might be of encouraging creativity or creative thought processes into adulthood.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does the use of creative thinking seem to change developmentally?
  2. What are exploration and exploitative thinking? How are they different? What role might each kind of thinking play in development at different ages?
  3. What does this view of creativity suggest about the way we think about creativity in adulthood? Is that characterization of creativity sufficient to account for your own thoughts about creativity in adulthood?

References (Read Further):

Gopnik, A. (2016). The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children. Macmillan.

Christian, B., & Griffiths, T. (2016). Algorithms to live by: The computer science of human decisions. Macmillan.

Gopnik, A., O’Grady, S., Lucas, C. G., Griffiths, T. L., Wente, A., Bridgers, S., … & Dahl, R. E. (2017). Changes in cognitive flexibility and hypothesis search across human life history from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(30), 7892-7899. \

Taylor, I. (2017). Perspectives in creativity. Routledge.

Smith, J. K., & Smith, L. F. (2017). The Nature of Creativity: Mayflies, Octopi, and the Best Bad Idea We Have. In Creative Contradictions in Education (pp. 21-35). Springer International Publishing.