Posted by & filed under Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Perception, Uncategorized.

Description: Is Magic actually magic? Well, Hogwarts aside, while what is presented as magic typically involves fancy hand-work and misdirection another big part of “magic” involves “reading” people. Some performers suggest that can actually see into peoples’ minds and read what is there. Jay Alexander seems to have this level of skill but he is different. He explains how he reads people and what he does IS amazing and magical but it is, in fact, based in close human observation and social psychology.

Sources: OZY – The Human Lie Detector

Date: March 27, 2015

HUman Lie Detector

Photo Source: (link below)


Paul Ekman on micro expressions

Ekman International

Do you know someone who is good at ‘reading” people? At telling when someone is lying? How good are you at doing these sorts of things? What do you think is involved in such “readings?” IS it magic or science? Well it might seem like magic and some people who are good at it (such as magicians and fortune tellers) may or may not think of it as a “gift” or as “magic.” Paul Ekman thinks it is, or can be, science. Ekman began by studying humans’ apparently inherent (built in or learned early in life) ability to recognize other people’s emotions by reading their facial expressions. Ekman has gone on from there to study human facial expressions and other aspect of human body language in more detail. For example, Jay Alexander in the video clip mentions micro-expressions, small flashes of emotion shown briefly on the face that reflect actual inner feeling but which are then quickly covered up if one is trying to lie or deceive someone else. Ekman studies micro expressions and their relationship to human deception.

Ekman’s consulting company, Paul Ekman International PLC, trains border security workers and law enforcement providers at all levels essentially in human lie detection. The training does not lead to court appropriate evidence but it does help security people decide who to look at more closely and police to decide how to structure their investigations. The television series Lie to Me (2009-2011), starring Tim Roth, was based directly on Paul Ekman, his research, and his company.

So, how good are you at detecting lies? Have you played the game where people tell each other several (3 or 5) things about themselves, one of which is a lie and the other players have to spot the lie? Well perhaps with friends it is a test of what you know or remember about your friends but what about with strangers? Search “Spot the Lie” on YouTube and you will find many videos of people playing the lie-teller part of the game so you can tell and tell which of their statement is a lie. Most of us are not very good at it but perhaps if we took some training from Paul Ekman we would be a lot better and perhaps we should be prepared to look for some science behind things that seem magical.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What would the adaptive advantages be to being able to judge whether someone was telling the truth or not?
  2. What sorts of things does Ekman train people to be able to do or to do better?
  3. Are there other areas where this sort of looking for science behind “magic” might be a good idea?

References (Read Further):

Paul Ekman’s company (Paul Ekman International PLC) website has a good references page containing lots of places to find more information on this topic



Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Uncategorized.

Description: So perhaps you do not take Psychology with you to the movies, but then again maybe you do. Themes in films are sometimes obviously grounded in Psychology (see blog on The Imitation Game on this Blog site) and other times you may not notice the connections until some later point (hey that’s like…..). There is a LOT of Psychology (good and bad) in films.

Sources: PsycCritiques Blog

Date: Released March 12, 2015


Photo Source: Book Publishers (see below)


Here is a list of reviews of recent films written from Psychological perspective (usually by Psychologists). Psychology IS all around us!

Awards are given for the better portrayals of psychological situations, conditions, and knowledge (see Mind Media Awards link below)

Tomorrow’s Another Day: Review of – The Theory of Everything

When Resiliency Fails, Vulnerability Wreaks Havoc: Review of — Gone Girl

The Railway Man: Next Stop PTSD: Review of The Railway Man

Interstellar Dreams Big: Review of Interstellar

Gus’s Hamartia: Review of — The Fault in Our Stars

Coded Messages: Review of The Imitation Game

If it Bleeds it Leads: Review of Nightcrawler

Growing Up in America: Review of Boyhood

What is Left of Creation: Review of Noah

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Think about a film you have seen that contains psychologically relevant content and think about whether the content is managed in ways which are consistent with our current understanding of those issues from within Psychology.
  2. Does it matter if films portray psychological issues appropriately or accurately? Think of stigma.

References (Read Further):

Young, Skip Dine (2012) Psychology at the Movies, Wiley-Blackwell, Toronto.

Wedding, Danny and Niemiec, Ryan M. (2014) Movies and Mental Illness: Using films to understand psychopathology, Hogrefe Publishing; 4th, revised and expanded edition.

Mind Media Awards (for responsible portrayals of Mental Health issues):

Posted by & filed under Depression, Research Methods, Research Methods in ADA, Research Methods in AP, Research Methods in ChD, Research Methods in CP, Research Methods in SP, Uncategorized, Work Retirement Leisure Patterns.

Description: Think about someone who is two years post-graduation and unemployed and clinically depressed. Are they depressed because they cannot find work? Or are they unable to find or keep work because of the symptoms of their depression? Welcome to the world of correlational research.

Sources: US News and World Reports

Date: Released March 19, 2015
Depression and Joblessness

Photo Source:


“I am sooo depressed, I have been out of school for 2 years and I have not found a decent job”. How might we analyze that statement from a Psychological perspective? Well, first, we need to factor out situations where someone says they are “depressed” when they really mean they are sad, or stressed, or feeling unmotivated from those situations where the individuals involved are actually struggling with symptoms of clinical depression. Next we need to look at what kind of data there might be that bears on the research question.

McGee and Thompson (2015) report a correlation between unemployment and depression among young adults with depressed young adults being 3 times more likely to be unemployed that non-depressed young adults. So what are the causal factors at work here? Well I will leave that speculation up to you but this data does NOT speak to the question of the nature of the causal link between depression and unemployment, which the authors readily acknowledge. Perhaps more importantly the media report of this study also acknowledges the lack of causal clarity. What sort of research might we do (and what sort of research might we be ethically permitted to do) that would speak more directly to this question of causality? Well that IS the big question. One thing to note, by the way, is the data reported in the Globe and Mail article (link above) which shows employment rates of graduates from different university majors/faculties 6 months after graduation (Based on a study by the Council of Ontario Universities, 2014) and which indicates that the vast majority of graduates across all areas of study are employed 6 months out.

It is important to not only consider maters of causality but also the larger contexts surrounding reported findings when thinking both about issues of causality and about what additional information or logical next research steps might be required to properly understand a situation. Sometimes that research exists and can be searched out and other times it needs to be done or our ability to do it properly is understandably limited by what sorts of studies we can ethically design. As an example that may be less obvious, consider the claim made my many dental websites that there is a causal link between the health of peoples’ teeth and their heart health. The two things are certainly correlated but whether there is a causal link between gum disease and heart health is a more complex question. Think, for example about what you would predict about the tooth health of people who work hard to eat properly and get significant amounts of regular exercise (without even looking at their smiles!)

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What hypothesis can you generate about the possible relationships between depression and unemployment?
  2. What sorts of studies might we design to address the hypotheses you generated above?
  3. What sorts of ethical considerations are there is designing the studies in your answer to question 2? Are there ethical issues involved in how the media, psychologists and even dentists talk about research to the public?

References (Read Further):

McGee, RE, Thompson, NJ. (2015) Unemployment and Depression Among Emerging Adults in 12 States, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2010. Prevention of Chronic Disease, 12, 140451

Council of Ontario Universities (2014) University Works (PowerPoint Presentation),—February-2014.pdf

Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, Memory, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Uncategorized.

Description: Are things we see ALL the time more likely to be things we can routinely retrieve from memory? You would think so but maybe not so much. Look at the logo below. Recognize it? Of course you do, except…… is it genuine? Is there anything wrong with it?

Sources: Science Daily

Date: Released March 20, 2015


Photo Source:


We know that we are more likely to successfully memorize a line or a picture if we look at it over and over and rehearse it (especially if we spread the rehearsals out over time). So the logos and other images and objects that we see all the time in our day to day lives ought to be neatly and accurately ensconced in our memories, right? Research by Adam Blake and colleagues suggests that it may not work that way. Consider the Apple Logo (that’s it above right?). It is everywhere and so it should be something we could draw correctly from memory with our eyes closed. The researchers asked students to draw the Apple logo from memory and to pick the correct one out from a set of 8 possibilities (only one was correct). Only 1 in 85 students was able to draw the logo correctly (so maybe there were just not artists in the sample?), but as well, fewer than half of the students picked the correct logo from the 8 possibilities. Why might this level of performance be so low? Perhaps, as these and other researchers suggest, we only process a general impression of common (always around) everyday things – this is called a “gist” (“it’s kind of something like this sort of…”).

Other researchers (Shapiro and Nielsen, 2013) have shown that we are more likely to remember ads we see over and over if small details of the ad (such as the placement of the company logo) are varied from one exposure to another. So what does this suggest about our memory? Well perhaps we need to think about the relative advantages, evolutionarily speaking, of paying attention to things around us that stay the same as opposed to things that change or are novel.


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What might these studies suggest about the nature of our memory and its role in our day-to-day lives?
  2. What might the implications of your answer to question 1 be for our “modern” lives as opposed to our lives in ages gone by?
  3. What sorts of things do these studies suggest that advertisers ought to do to get our attention and influence our memories to their clients’ benefits?

References (Read Further):

Adam B. Blake, Meenely Nazarian, Alan D. Castel. (2015) The Apple of the mind’s eye: Everyday attention, metamemory, and reconstructive memory for the Apple logo. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 37(1), 1-8. pdf here:

Stewart Shapiro and Jesper H. Nielsen. (2013) What the Blind Eye Sees: Incidental Change Detection as a Source of Perceptual Fluency. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(6), 1202-1218


Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Aging Psychological Disorders, Aging-Psychological Disorders, Clinical Neuropsychology, Health and Prevention In Aging, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Neuroscience, Physical Changes In Aging, Psychological Health, Treatment of Psychological Disorders, Uncategorized.

Description: Current treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are limited in their effectiveness. A major issue is sorting out the potential causes of the disease from symptoms – the classical problem of correlation. This research on the potentially positive effects of ultrasound on the amyloid plaques that arise in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients is a good (and promising) example.

Sources: The Globe and Mail

Date: March 13, 2015

Alzheimers and Ultrasound

Photo Source The Globe and Mail

Links:    Globe and Mail Ultrasound and Alzheimer’s Article:

The brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients become loaded with amyloid plaques and this loading up is associated with the losses of memory and thinking and planning attributed to the disease. Mice have been selectively bred to produce a strain that rapidly develops the brain and behavioural symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and are used to test potential treatments. Ultrasound has been used to facilitate the movement of potential treatment substances across the blood-brain barrier and in the study discussed in this media article Australian researchers discovered that ultrasound alone when applied to the brains of Alzheimer’s disease model mice found that the amyloid plaques disappeared completely from the brains of 75% of the mice in the study. The memory functions of the mice also improved significantly. They caution that it is still unclear whether the amyloid plaques are symptoms or causally related to Alzheimer’s disease. As well, it is not clear whether the same effect would be noted in animals with thicker skulls (such as sheep and humans) and whether the memory effects will generalize as well. As is virtually always the case, … more research is needed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What effects did ultrasound seem to have on the Alzheimer’s disease model mice?
  2. What are some of the limits that should be placed on our potential hope and enthusiasm for these results?
  3. What sorts of studies must be done to move this promising result forward?

References (Read Further):

Leinenga, Gerhard and Gotz, Jurgen (2015) Scanning ultrasound removed amyloid-β and restores memory in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Science Translational Medicine, 7(278) 278ra33.

Take a tour of the brain and see the symptoms and effects of Alzheimer’s disease within the human brain at the Alzheimer’s association website;

Posted by & filed under Eating Disorders, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Psychological Intervention, Stress, Stress Biopsychosocial Factors Illness, Stress: Coping Reducing, Uncategorized.

Description: Would you pay money for a 30 to 45 minute session of cuddling (just cuddling no sex)? Physical touch seems to have the effect of promoting the release of oxytocin, sometime referred to as the “cuddle hormone” in the media and which seems to act to, among other things, reduce stress levels. So are there effects of physical contact in positive social relationships?

Sources: The Globe and Mail, CTV News

Date: March 13, 2015

Cuddle Winnipeg

View Video:

Video Source: CTV News Winnipeg

Links:    Globe and Mail Cuddling Company Article:

Globe and Mail Oxytocin and Anorexia

Concordia University Study Description:

Is touch important or valuable in human experience? It certainly varies culturally. North American couples eating together in a restaurant touch twice, on average, during the meal whereas Parisian couples touch 110 times and Puerto Rican couples touch 180 times. SO is touch important? While paying for a cuddle may seem a bit odd there may be research suggesting that such physical contacts actually promote the release of hormones with positive physical effects. The Vancouver company offering cuddles for pay and making enough to consider expanding into other Canadian cities suggests something is working. Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg has extensively studies the effects of the release of oxytocin and points out that it is released during child birth, bonding, breast feeding and other forms of close contact and associated with reductions in anxiety, stress, and addictions.

In a study by Carleton University Psychologist Christopher Cardoso students had their oxytocin levels increases using a nasal spray showed. It showed that many of them became oversensitive to social cues and suggesting that the contexts in which oxytocin level bumps occur may be important. Another study found that patients struggling with anorexia were less focused on food and body image after receiving a nasal spray of oxytocin.

So, what do you think? Is touch important? Well, maybe think about the general observation that there are (of course) interactions between our environments and our internal physiological functioning and then ask yourself how then interactions actually occur… it’s not all drugs and food.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of context effects might be important when looking at the effects of cuddling on human hormonal activity?
  2. How might the hormone oxytocin act physiologically to produce the broad range of effects noted in the articles and media linked here?
  3. How might we think about oxytocin and its effects? Does calling it “the cuddle drug” as the media has dubbed it make any sense at all?

References (Read Further):

Uvnas-Moberg, Kerstin (2003) The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, and Healing, Da Capo Press,

Kim, Youl-Ri, Kim, Chan-Hyung, Cardi, Valentina, Eom, Jin-Sup, Seong, Yoori, Treasure, Janet, (2014) Intranasal oxytocin attenuates attentional bias for eating and fat shape stimuli in patients with anorexia nervosa, Psychoneuroendocrinology, 44, 133-142.

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Human Development, Intelligence, Uncategorized, Work Retirement Leisure Patterns.

Description: Does intelligence decline or increase with age? Turns out this may be too simple a hypothesis. Recent research, discussed in this article, suggests that different parts of our brain function optimally at different points over the life cycle. As a consequence the pattern of the relationship between age and intelligence, when looked at in terms of the sub-tests that make up general intelligence, may be much more complex that used to be thought.

Sources: Medical Press, Anne Trafton, Neuroscientists find that different parts of the brain work best at different ages.

Date: March 6, 2015

Intelligence and age

Photo Source: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT


So you have likely heard that the old belief that our intelligence declines as we age is unfounded and that intelligence, after our early 20’s and that our intelligence remains relatively stable over our life-spans with the possibility of some declines towards the end of life. Is this all there is in the way of age related changes in cognitive functioning and intelligence? Not so much it seems. Joshua Hartshorne at MIT looked at cognitive performance of people of many ages using online testing and found that among other things face recognition ability increases up to 30 years of age and then declines from there. Intrigued the researchers looked at historical data showing the performances of many people at many ages on all the sub-tests of standard IQ tests. The researchers created an index that showed the ages at which people’s performance on each subtest reached maximum or optimal levels. They found that raw speed in information processing seems to peak around age 18 or 19, then decline. Short-term memory continues to improve until around age 25, when it levels off and then begins to drop around age 35.The ability to evaluate other people’s emotional states, the peak occurred much later, in the 40s or 50s. The amount of data the researchers were able to access was described as rare in research into human cognition and provides a much more nuanced view of the course of human cognitive functioning over the life span. You can access some of the tests they uses at the website posted below.


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does this line of research suggest about our assumptions regarding the nature of intelligence in general and our assumptions about changes in intelligence with age more specifically?
  2. What do these results suggest we might need to do with our theories of intelligence?
  3. What advice does this research suggest we should offer to people at different points along the lifespan with regards to their cognitive functioning?

References (Read Further):

Julia Spaniol, director of the Memory and Decision Processes (MAD) lab, Ryerson University, studies changes (negative AND positive) in cognitive functioning with age.

Hartshorne, Jashua and Germine, Laura T. (in press) When does cognitive functioning peak? The asynchronous rise and fall of different cognitive abilities across the lifespan. Psychological Science,

Try out some of the tests: or

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Sensation-Perception, Somatic Symptoms Dissociative Disorders, Uncategorized.

Description: Ever had the feeling that you were not alone when you really were alone? Psychologists are curious about what drives such “Third Man” or “felt presences” experiences. Rather than dismissing such experiences as impossible hocus pocus, psychological researchers and neuroscientists believe that understanding such experiences will likely add to our understanding of the functioning of the human brain.

Sources: The Guardian The Strange World of Felt Presences, by Ben Alderson-Day and David Smailes

Date: March 5, 2015

Scott expidition

Photo Source: Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images


Even if you have never had the feeling that someone or something was nearby when there could not be anything there you likely know someone who has had that experience. Perhaps a relative told you about feeling the presence of a recently deceased loved one or you have read accounts of explorers or others under severe stress reporting that they felt the presence of a person or a guide near them. This article discusses the experiences of people like Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer,  whose ship was frozen in ice while en route to Antarctica. Shackleton set out with two crewmen to walk 36 hours to a whaling station in search of aide. During the trip through the bitter cold all three men reported feeling the presence of a fourth man, an experience Shackleton later refused to discuss. More such experiences in situations of serious threat or adversity are chronicled in John Geiger’s book The Third Man Factor (reference below).

Some people who experience sleep paralysis (see link to CBC Current program on this below), being awake but unable to move or even open their eyes, report difficulty breathing sometimes as if someone were sitting on their chest and sometimes the strong feeling that there is someone else in the room. The article discusses a number of efforts both theoretically and empirically (see article reference below to a study that succeeded in inducing a sense of felt presence) to account for this mysterious experience. Just because a human experience seems weird or other worldly does not mean we cannot or should not study it and try to understand it.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What possible neuropsychological hypotheses are offered to account for the experience of a felt presence?
  2. While we often are inclined to dismiss reports of felt presences or sleep paralyses or ESP as unscientific and maybe a bit crazy how are psychological researchers looking at these sorts of phenomenon?
  3. What are some things that this work suggests about how psychology does (or ought to) respond to weird or odd claims people make about their personal sensory experiences?

References (Read Further):

Geiger, John (2009) The third man: Surviving the impossible, Weinstein Books,,

Arzy, Shahar, Seeck, Margita, Ortigue, Stephanie, Spinelli, Laurent and Blanke, Olaf (2006) Induction of an illusory shadow person: Stimulation of a site on the brain’s left hemoisphere prompts the creepy feeling that someone is close by., Nature, 443(21), 287.

CBC Radio, The Current March 5, 2014 The Hag: Sleep Paralysis

Posted by & filed under Group Processes, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Intergroup Relations, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Perception, Uncategorized.

Description: Can supervisors tell the difference between workers who are actually trying to help the company or team enterprise and which ones are just sucking up to gain favour and proportion? This study examined that question directly to see if supervisors could tell the difference between good soldiers (selflessly deserving of rewards) or good actors (looking for unfair rewards).


Date: March 5, 2015


Photo Source:

Links:     See sources above and references below.

Siblings (young and old), grade school students (actually students of all ages), and workers in many many workplaces worry about those of their peers who may be acting positively but are really just currying favour or what is sometimes referred to as “brown nosing” so that their parents or teachers or supervisors will view them positively and provide them undeserved nice things like promotions. Such good actors then get rewards that the “good soldiers” or people behaving more selflessly for the good of the family, class or organization really deserve. This study conducted by Magda Donia of the University of Ottawa and other Canadian colleagues suggests that we should not worry. Their findings suggest that supervisors are quite good at telling the difference between good actors and good soldiers and rewarding the good soldiers accordingly.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of behaviours and related negative motivations do the “Good Actors” in this study engage in? How easy do you think they would be to differentiate from the positively motivated behaviours of “Good Soldiers”? Can YOU tell when someone is “brown-nosing”?
  2. How might an Industrial Organizational psychologist suggest we train supervisors to avoid the sorts concerns raised in this article?
  3. What are some concerns or possible issues we might raise about how this research was conducted (e.g., think about what instructions the workers and supervisors in the study may have been given). ?

References (Read Further):
Donia, Magda B.L., Johns, Gary and Raja, Usman (2015) Good Soldier or Good Actor? Supervisor Accuracy in Distinguishing Between Selfless and Self-Serving OCB Motives. Journal of Business and Psychology,


Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Health Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Substance-Related Disorders, Uncategorized.

Description: Saying someone is “addicted” to something is quite a common statement. People are said to be addicted to work, to sex, or to their smart phones or to the Internet. Are these sorts of “addictions” real? These articles have a look at this question.


Date: Released March 6, 2015

Cell Phone

Photo Source:

Links:     See sources above

So have you ever worried about the amount of time you or a friend spend doing stuff on a smartphone? Have you ever told a friend they seem to be addicted to their smartphone, or to the Internet or to gaming (League of Legends? World of Warcraft?) or ever worried about the amount of time you spend doing, or your “need to do,” such things? When we use the term addiction in such instances is that different than how psychologists or psychiatrists would use it? Let’s have a look. Can smartphone use interfere with you daily life and adjustment? Maybe. A study by Pearson and Hussain (2015) suggests that the average user spends 3.6 hours a day on their device (and many spend FAR more). 35% say their use their phone in banned areas. 25% said their device created communication issues in “real life.” The authors report that the highest rates of potentially addictive use are associated with moodiness, loneliness, jealousy and significantly higher scores on the personality dimension of narcissism (marked by excessive selfie-taking). These lead the researchers to suggest that smartphone overuse can impact psychological well-being (a symptom of maladjustment or, perhaps, addiction).

Ronald Pies (2009) provides an overview of the criteria that were used as part of the discussion leading up to the decision to the decision not to include “Internet Addiction” in the new 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). He points out that “psychiatric disorders have proliferated like rabbits in recent years.” Pies weighs the evidence and concludes there is not sufficient grounds to include internet addiction in the DSM-5. Internet Gaming Disorder WAS included in the DSM-5 in an appendix of potential disorders for further consideration and research.

Note: this post was edited following  thoughtful comments offered by Ronald Pies shortly after the blog was originally posted (see comment below). I thank him for his correction and input — Mike Boyes.


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What criteria might we use to identify behaviours as reflecting underlying addictions?
  2. Should excessive smartphone use be considered a possible addiction?
  3. How might we distinguish between new addictions and behaviours that simply reflect new social trends that many people do not yet understand?

References (Read Further):

Pearson, Claire and Hussain, Zaheer (2015) Smartphone use, addiction, narcissism, and personality: A mixed methods in investigation, Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, 5(1), 16 pages

Adiele, Ikenna and Olatokun, Wole (2014) Prevelance and determnants of Internet addiction among adolescents. Computers in Human Behavior, 31, 100-110.

Weinstein, Ava, Feder, Laura, Rosenberg, Kenneth P., and Dannon, Pinhas (2014) Internet addiction disorders: Overview and controversies, in Feder, Laura and Rosenberg, Kenneth P. (Eds.) Behavioral Addictions: Criteria Evidence and Treatment. Academic Press. Pp 99-117.