Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Group Processes, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Intergroup Relations, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: Have you figured out the Robert Burns quote above (Oh would some power the gift give us, To see ourselves as others)? How self-aware are you? What proportion of the general adult population, would you say, IS self-aware? How does how you see yourself match up with how other people see you? And again, are people in general very good at this? The answers to these questions (research answers) may surprise you. Read the article linked below and see what the numbers say.

Source: Knowing how others see us is the key to happiness, Tasha Eurich, Inner Life, The Guardian.

Date: May 14, 2017

Photo Credit:  You talking to me? Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976) Rex/Shutterstock

Links:  Article Link —  

Before being too surprised by the 10 to 15% truly self-aware numbers think about how unique this ability is (to our species) and think about how many people you know and interact with daily who are NOT very good at seeing themselves and seeing how others see them. Oh and if you are hopeful that working on your self-awareness will help you with becoming aware of how others see you well think again. The data suggests the two are largely unrelated. Self-delusion is not just for the distracted or the mentally ill. It is fairly clear that we all make use of it to varying degrees. Something to think about,…. Now if we can only figure out just how to actually DO that!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. So are you as self-aware and you thought you were at the start of your reading of this post?
  2. What sorts of things ought/can people do to increase their self-awareness?
  3. Why is awareness of how others see us potentially more important than self-awareness?

References (Read Further):

Eurich, Tasha (2017) Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World, Pan Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK.

Garcia, D., Drugge, A., Samuelsson, H. B., Storm, U., & Archer, T. (2016). The Need of Holistic Interventions in Schools: The Promotion of Healthy and Sustainable Personal Development among Children. Clinical and Experimental Psychology, 2, 129.

Bhandari, R. (2016). Effect of awareness training model on life skills and personal values of secondary school children in relation to their psychological hardiness.



Posted by & filed under Aggression, Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Clinical Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Moral Development, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience.

Description: Hypothetically, if there were a way to change the brains or the brain chemistry of criminals in order to ‘make them more moral’ would that be a good idea? Should we try it out? Maybe do not answer Yes or No to this question but, rather, think about what else you would like to know, what other questions you would like to have addressed before answering the initial question. Once you have some of those questions in mind have a look at the article linked below that describes a paper in which researcher considered these questions.

Source: ‘Moral enhancement’ technologies are neither feasible nor wise, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: May 16, 2017

Photo Credit:  NYU Press, Nicole Rafter

Links:  Article Link —

Had you heard of any of the drugs or related treatments noted in the article? How would you answer the initial question now? The authors of the review article described in the linked article definitely say NO. Their most pointed comment is to refer to all the treatments listed a “blunt instruments.” Much in the way that ECT and lobotomies were used FAR beyond their even minimally defensible applications the authors are arguing that there is not nearly enough focus or consistency in the treatment data to support their being set to the purpose of increasing the morality of criminals and that is without even beginning to talk about the complexity of the concepts associated with morality itself. So maybe the answer for now, and likely for a long while, is or should be, NO.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Would it be a good thing if we could tweak up the level of morality of criminals prior to their release from prison or their return to society at any point?
  2. What technique and treatments have been offered as possible ‘morality boosters’?
  3. What reservations do you and/or the article authors have about the currently available list of ‘morality booster’ treatment possibilities? Why?

References (Read Further):

Veljko Dubljević, Eric Racine. Moral Enhancement Meets Normative and Empirical Reality: Assessing the Practical Feasibility of Moral Enhancement Neurotechnologies. Bioethics, 2017; 31 (5): 338

Persson, I., & Savulescu, J. (2013). Getting moral enhancement right: the desirability of moral bioenhancement. Bioethics, 27(3), 124-131.

Savulescu, J., & Persson, I. (2012). Moral enhancement, freedom and the god machine. The Monist, 95(3), 399.

Harris, J. (2011). Moral enhancement and freedom. Bioethics, 25(2), 102-111.

Douglas, T. (2013). Moral enhancement via direct emotion modulation: a reply to John Harris. Bioethics, 27(3), 160-168.

Rafter, N. (2008). The criminal brain: Understanding biological theories of crime. NYU Press.





Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Memory, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience.

Description: So, you hear a new song and love it. You listen to is over and over and eventually you find you don’t like it as much as you did originally. Of course, there ARE exceptions to this sort of “wear-out” effect too,… some songs remain well liked for years and years. What is the difference between these two sorts of songs and our experience of them? Why does our liking of some songs wear out over time and exposure? Once you have a psychological hypothesis have a read through the article linked below to see how what his has to say matches up with your predictions.

Source: The Science Behind “Killing” a Song When You Listen to it Too Much, Kashmira Gander, Independent.

Date: May 10, 2017

Photo Credit:  Christopher Polk/ Getty Images

Links:  Article Link —

So were exposure and song complexity part of your hypothesis? Human responses to music are so powerful there most certainly must be some brain-based foundations for how song effects come and go. The example of the staying power of Queen’s Hungarian Rhapsody reflects the role of complexity in song liking longevity. Simple may be catchier initially but the glow is short lived…. Our brain gets tired of it.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What gives a song “hit” stating power (psychologically speaking)? Oh and what is “flow”?
  2. Are there some more recent songs than the older Queen hit that you think might have staying power? Why?
  3. What advice would you offer to song writers and performers if they want to boost their popularity (AND their royalties)?

References (Read Further):

Skowron, M., Lemmerich, F., Ferwerda, B., & Schedl, M. (2017, April). Predicting genre preferences from cultural and socio-economic factors for music retrieval. In European Conference on Information Retrieval (pp. 561-567). Springer, Cham.

Thomas, K. S. (2016). Music preferences and the adolescent brain: A review of literature. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 35(1), 47-53.

Sallavanti, M. I., Szilagyi, V. E., & Crawley, E. J. (2016). The role of complexity in music uses. Psychology of Music, 44(4), 757-768.

Ruth, N., Spangardt, B., & Schramm, H. (2016). Alternative music playlists on the radio: Flow experience and appraisal during the reception of music radio programs. Musicae Scientiae, 1029864916642623.

Eerola, T. (2016). Expectancy-violation and information-theoretic models of melodic complexity. Empirical Musicology Review, 11(1), 2-17.

Posted by & filed under Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Do you love your smart phone? I mean really love your smart phone? Or perhaps think about it another way. How does your use of your smartphone over the course of a typical day impact your primary relationship(s)? If you are not sure about this think about people you have seen together at movies, restaurants or other public venues. What about them and their phones and their relationships? Once you have a hypothesis or two have a look at the article linked below to see what clinicians and research Psychologists have found or have to say about this question.

Source: The Phones We Love Too Much, Lesley Alderman, Well, Mind, New York Times

Date: May 2, 2017

Photo Credit:  Kim Murton

Links:  Article Link —

Smartphones can do many things for us but they also demand a fair bit of our attention and in doing so they often threaten (or succeed in taking us away from our immediate face-to-face interactions. When those interactions are with our loved ones, significant others etc. there can be negative consequences for our relationships. The link to the “Smartphone Compulsion Test” near the end of the article will provide you with some general feedback as to whether this might be a problem or a potential problem for you. While escaping from the “here and now” may be a good thing to do some of the time it is NOT a good thing to do when interacting with a friend, lover, or significant other and especially not a good thing to do regularly. In one study 70% of women stated that smartphone use was negatively impacting their relationships (and this is especially important to note as women are more likely to be the first in a relationship to notice that it is not going well). The article suggests some relationship saving steps well worth considering in relation to your smartphone use.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might smartphone use impact a close relationship?
  2. Why might smartphone use have negative impacts on relationships (in terms of the sorts of things that build or strengthen relationships)?
  3. Why might the suggested relationship saving or preserving steps of smartphone use be helpful?

References (Read Further):

Roberts, J. A., & David, M. E. (2016). My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 134-141.

McDaniel, B. T., & Coyne, S. M. (2016). “Technoference”: The interference of technology in couple relationships and implications for women’s personal and relational well-being. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5(1), 85.

2016 global mobile consumer survey: US edition. The market-creating power of mobile

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: OK here is an exercise in hypothesis generation. Worry and the anxiety and stress potentially associated with it are all bad right? Well, think about possible ways in which worry might be of psychological benefit to us. How would you design a study (ethically) to test your hypotheses? Once you have your thoughts in order on these questions have read through the article linked below which describes a recent psychology study in this area.

Source: The Upsides of Worry, Rick Nauert, PsycCentral.

Date: April 28, 2017

Photo Credit:

Links:  Article Link —

So perhaps there were no real surprises for you in the article. Worry is motivating. What we do when or after we worry can make many positive contributions to our wellbeing.  It can help us recover from traumatic events. It can help us avoid future traumatic events. It can help us to remember to do healthy things like exercise or use sunscreen. The motivating effects of worry are manifold. So perhaps worry deserves a bit more psychological respect that it has typically been afforded.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In what ways might worry be seen as a good thing?
  2. What sorts of limits are there on the “goodness” of worry?
  3. What sort of a psychological variable is worry or at least how should we think about worry as we design research studies or think about ways to help people manage their lives and wellbeing psychologically?

References (Read Further):

Bower, B. (2013). The bright side of sadness: Bad moods can have unappreciated mental upsides. Science News, 184(9), 18-21.

Sweeny, Kate and Dooley, Michael D. (2017) The surprising upsides of worry, Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11(4).

Fox, E., Dutton, K., Yates, A., Georgiou, G. A., & Mouchlianitis, E. (2015). Attentional control and suppressing negative thought intrusions in pathological worry. Clinical Psychological Science, 3(4), 593-606.



Posted by & filed under Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Death and Dying, Families and Peers, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Perhaps you have heard about concerns about ways in which Facebook and other social media sites can potentially contribute to social isolation (as they do not involve “real social face-to-face connections”). While there IS research supporting this concern can you think of situations and ways in which Facebook could, in fact, have exactly the opposite effect and support or even build communities? Think about personal or larger societal disasters. Once you have constructed a hypothesis or two have a read through the article linked below and see what research with real Facebook data suggests.

Source: Facebook can create psychological safety nets during crises, Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today.

Date: April 29, 2017

Photo Credit:  Anikei/Shutterstock

Links:  Article Link —

So how did your hypotheses hold up? It is interesting and important to be open to considering the ways in which things like Facebook use and other social media use may vary depending upon the situations and circumstances of the people and social groups who use them. These can vary for personal reasons, larger social reasons and even for developmental reasons (Facebook use patterns, for example, shift when people enter university or other post-secondary educational environments). We also need to remain open to ways in which platforms such as Facebook can (as in the case of bereavement) provide a way for people and for communities to grieve and to heal from loss.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the ways in which platforms like Facebook can contribute to social isolation?
  2. What are some of the ways in which platforms like Facebook can contribute positively to social and personal wellbeing?
  3. What sorts of steps ought psychologists consider thinking about or taking in relation to their research planning around emerging social trends and platforms such a Facebook?

References (Read Further):

William R. Hobbs, Moira K. Burke. Connective recovery in social networks after the death of a friend. Nature Human Behaviour, 2017; 1: 0092 DOI:10.1038/s41562-017-0092

Douglas Paton, Melanie Irons. Communication, Sense of Community, and Disaster Recovery: A Facebook Case Study. Frontiers in Communication, 2016; 1

Brian A. Primack, Ariel Shensa, Jaime E. Sidani, Erin O. Whaite, Liu yi Lin, Daniel Rosen, Jason B. Colditz, Ana Radovic, Elizabeth Miller. Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2017;

Roberts, D. F., & Foehr, U. G. (2008). Trends in media use. The future of children, 18(1), 11-37.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Consciousness, Families and Peers, Human Development, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Student Success.

Description: If you are an undergraduate student you hopefully have strategies in place that work to help you reduce stress and anxiety as big exams or presentations loom. So what advice would you offer to the parents of high school students about ways the parents can help their children not only manage anxiety but learn strategies that they can take with them into post-secondary life endeavors? Once you have thought about what advice you have to offer, or perhaps what sort of advice you could use, have a look at the article linked below to see some possibilities.

Source: Want to help your kid ace the big tests? Make ‘em laugh, Kyra Gurney, Seattle Times.

Date: April 16, 2017

Photo Credit:  Charlotte Southern/TNS

Links:  Article Link —

So how did your suggestions match up with those offered in the article? Did you learn anything new? The one thing to think further about if you are going to offer advice to others and especially if you are going to offer advice based on what psychological research suggests are good things to do is to notice that while there is research hinted at in the linked article there is none described. Passing along that sort of advice as “things you or your teenager could try to see if they help” is one thing but if you were going to write an article for a parenting magazine or if you were going to go and speak to high school students and/or their parents on this matter you would want to have a look at some of the research data yourself before formulating and delivering the talk (hopefully as the author of the linked article did). That extra step of actually scoping out the research foundations for advice is one of the more important differences between taking the scientific foundations of psychology seriously and just offering advice off the top of your head, or based solely on your own experience, or after a brief internet search. Sometimes that is good enough but not always and know the difference and knowing how to take the extra steps are important parts of how psychology can benefit you going forward in your career and life paths.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of things CAN parents do to avoid or reduce exam anxiety in their teen-aged children?
  2. Pick one or two of the things your noted in response to the question above and explain why (from a psychological perspective) they might help.
  3. What sorts of things should/would you do if you were asked to speak to the challenges of test anxiety for high school students to a high school class or to a group of parents of high school students?

References (Read Further):

Ergene, T. (2003). Effective interventions on test anxiety reduction: A meta-analysis. School Psychology International, 24(3), 313-328.

Segool, N. K., Carlson, J. S., Goforth, A. N., Von Der Embse, N., & Barterian, J. A. (2013). HEIGHTENED TEST ANXIETY AMONG YOUNG CHILDREN: ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ANXIOUS RESPONSES TO HIGH‐STAKES TESTING. Psychology in the Schools, 50(5), 489-499.’_anxious_responses_to_high-stakes_testing/links/560465e208ae5e8e3f30dfbd.pdf

Weems, C. F., Scott, B. G., Graham, R. A., Banks, D. M., Russell, J. D., Taylor, L. K., … & Marino, R. C. (2015). Fitting anxious emotion-focused intervention into the ecology of schools: Results from a test anxiety program evaluation. Prevention Science, 16(2), 200-210.

Spielberger, C. D., Anton, W. D., & Bedell, J. (2015). The nature and treatment of test anxiety. Emotions and anxiety: New concepts, methods, and applications, 317-344.

Sattler, S., & Wiegel, C. (2013). Cognitive test anxiety and cognitive enhancement: the influence of students’ worries on their use of performance-enhancing drugs. Substance Use & Misuse, 48(3), 220-232.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Group Processes, Memory, Personality, Social Psychology.

Description: Apparently about half of people when surveyed will say they believe in the existence of Aliens (little green people, or at least of some colour or other). There are also quite a few people (in fact, 3.7 million Americans in one poll) who believe they have experienced some form of alien abduction. What hypotheses might we entertain with this data in hand? Well one possibility is that there really ARE aliens abducting (and returning) humans to earth (well to the United States at least as that is the only place we have poll data from) and, if the numbers are true those aliens a REALLY REALLY busy! Now, if at least some or perhaps many, most or even ALL of the reported alien abductions and alien sightings do NOT involve aliens then how are we to explain them? THAT is certainly something psychology should have a thing or two to say about! Before turning you towards the linked article let me offer you a developmental hypothesis. Do you see a similarity between the two images below? A couple of aliens right? Well no, actually the picture on the left is what a mother’s face likely looks like to a new born infant ( ). I am NOT saying our mothers were all aliens. I am suggesting that the degree of similarity in what people who say they have seen aliens say they looked like might be due to them all drawing upon early, pre-representational (email me if you want a more detailed explanation of pre-representational) memories of their human mother’s faces. So, maybe there are psychological possibilities for how people have come to believe they have seen or even been abducted by aliens. Think about some possibilities and then read the article linked below to see what has been hypothesized from within psychology.                                              

Source: Some scientific explanations for alien abduction that aren’t so far out of this world, Ken Drinkwater and Neil Dagnall, Science, The Independent.
Date: February 1, 2017

Photo Credit:  iSTackphoto


Links:  Article Link —

So personality and suggestibility offer a possible way to talk about “memories” of many things including alien abduction that may be “real memories” but reflect events that did not actually occur. Throw sleep paralysis into the mix and you have more explanatory options. Again, I cannot say whether aliens exist or not and whether they are being seen by people on earth or whether they are regularly abducting people and later returning them to earth. I have no data to indicate that such claims are true or false. We DO, however, have some alternative hypotheses about how such stories could arise. Human psychology has room for memories of aliens even on the off chance that none of them have actually visited earth…. YET.  Fascinating stuff!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might we account for the stories some people tell about alien sightings or alien abductions (of humans) without there needing to actually be aliens involved?
  2. What should we do about such possibilities?
  3. What other human experiences might be influenced by the sorts of psychological observations and hypotheses discussed in the linked article(s)?

References (Read Further):

McNally, R. J., & Clancy, S. A. (2005). Sleep paralysis, sexual abuse, and space alien abduction. Transcultural psychiatry, 42(1), 113-122.

Clancy, S. A., McNally, R. J., Schacter, D. L., Lenzenweger, M. F., & Pitman, R. K. (2002). Memory distortion in people reporting abduction by aliens. Journal of abnormal psychology, 111(3), 455.

McNally, R. J., Lasko, N. B., Clancy, S. A., Macklin, M. L., Pitman, R. K., & Orr, S. P. (2004). Psychophysiological responding during script-driven imagery in people reporting abduction by space aliens. Psychological Science, 15(7), 493-497.

Meyersburg, C. A., Bogdan, R., Gallo, D. A., & McNally, R. J. (2009). False memory propensity in people reporting recovered memories of past lives. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118(2), 399.

Newman, L. S., & Baumeister, R. F. (1996). Toward an explanation of the UFO abduction phenomenon: Hypnotic elaboration, extraterrestrial sadomasochism, and spurious memories. Psychological Inquiry, 7(2), 99-126.

Clancy, S. A. (2009). Abducted: How people come to believe they were kidnapped by aliens. Harvard University Press.







Posted by & filed under Child Development, Cognitive Development: Piagetian and Vygotskian Approaches, Consciousness, Development of the Self, Health Psychology, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Human Development, Neuroscience, The Self.

Description: The age of majority is 18 where I live, 19 where I grew up and 21 in some other jurisdictions. This is the age at which one can drink legally, vote, and other things. It is also the age at which the local justice system starts to treat you as an adult and to hold you totally responsible for your actions and related decisions. Younger offenders (from 12 to 17 years of age in Canada) are viewed as young offenders and are subject to the Young Offenders Act. The purpose of the act, essentially, is to respond to young offenders in ways that reflect the belief that they are not yet fully developed and as such treated in ways that hold out the possibility that they will be better citizens with some intervention, support or further development. To assign them a criminal record would not take into account their remaining developmental potential. How do we know this? Well, we know it based on general observation and experience but not with nearly as much research data in support as you might think.  For example, are the brains of late teenagers fully developed? …in ways that matter for the mature self-management of their own behaviour? Well, the fact that most jurisdictions have graduated drivers’ licensing programs (get a provisional license and then gain 6 months to two years of on-road experience under conditions of limited access to road risk before getting your “real” license would suggest that we seem to know teenagers have a way to go developmentally. Does turning 18 mean that all young people are ready to be upstanding citizens and ready to be held fully culpable for ALL of their actions? What do you think? With your thoughts in mind read the article linked below to see both what neuroscience has to say about the notion of 18 as the age of maturity AND what some courts are undertaking in the way of alternative court processes and treatments for young adults on the basis of this neuroscience research.

Source: A California Court for Young Adults Calls on Science, Tim Requarth, Health, New York Times.

Date: April 17, 2017

Photo Credit:  Laura Morton for the New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

I have served as an expert witness for the crown over the past 2 years here in Alberta Canada. I was asked to speak to the question of what developmental research has to say about the potential harms associated with young people in their early to mid-teenage years (12 to 16) becoming involved sexually with individuals older than them (3 years older for 12 to 14 year olds and 5 years older for 14 to 16 year olds). Many jurisdictions have increased the age before which young people cannot be viewed as providing defensible consent to sexual activity (such laws used to be called statutory rape laws). One of the central factors supporting such laws are the findings noted in the linked article; that brain development is not complete by 16 or even by 18 or perhaps 20 to 22 years of age. At the same time that frontal lobe areas of the brain involved in self-regulation are developmentally under-functioning the reward monitoring centers of the brain are over-functioning. This leads to the consistently verified finding that young adults ARE capable of demonstrating advanced rational thinking in “cool” situations (think school logic problems) but when things warm up (in peer groups or when access to “adult” activities and interests are in play) the reward centers of the brain light up and the self-control areas cool down and do not often provide the level of self-control necessary for rational decision-making. 18 years of age is a rather arbitrary marker of “maturity” and developmental neuroscience is causing us to think harder of about when to offer young adults, adult-levels of license for their behaviour and when to them hold to adult levels of responsibility-related consequences for their actions. Young adult courts are providing opportunities for young adults to move forward from inappropriate or dangerous actions in ways that do not close a door on ongoing development or on future full participation in adult life.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Should 18 year olds be held responsible for all of their actions in the same manner as adults?
  2. In what ways are the brains of late adolescents and young adults still developing?
  3. How is the ongoing development you discussed in response to the previous question related to the sorts of situations that may give rise to problematic behavioural opportunities for young adults? What should be done about young people in such situations?

References (Read Further):

San Francisco, Young Adult Court:

Giedd, J. N., Blumenthal, J., Jeffries, N. O., Castellanos, F. X., Liu, H., Zijdenbos, A., … & Rapoport, J. L. (1999). Brain development during childhood and adolescence: a longitudinal MRI study. Nature neuroscience, 2(10), 861-863.

ROPER V. SIMMONS (03-633) 543 U.S. 551 (2005)

Steinberg, L., Cauffman, E., Woolard, J., Graham, S., & Banich, M. (2009). Are adolescents less mature than adults?: Minors’ access to abortion, the juvenile death penalty, and the alleged APA” flip-flop.”. American Psychologist, 64(7), 583.

Thye MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience

Cohen, A. O., Breiner, K., Steinberg, L., Bonnie, R. J., Scott, E. S., Taylor-Thompson, K. A., … & Silverman, M. R. (2016). When is an adolescent an adult? Assessing cognitive control in emotional and nonemotional contexts. Psychological science, 0956797615627625.,%20Breiner,%20Steinberg,%20et%20al%20(2016)%20When%20is%20an%20adolescent%20an%20adult.pdf

Posted by & filed under Personality, Sensation-Perception.

Description: Growing up I had a couple of friends who were always daring or challenging one another with feats of eating. “I bet I can eat 15 cheeseburgers in 1 hour. I bet I can finish this whole bag of puffed wheat cereal in 30 minutes”… and it went on and on. It stopped when one of the friends bet the other he could not eat, I think it came down to, 5 red chili peppers. The friend who accepted the bet ate all 5, turned bright red, threw up, and then rushed around for the next hour or so drinking water, milk, eating bread and panting, bug-eyed, that his “mouth was on fire! After that the dares stopped. I guess he had hit a tasting wall. Some people are happy to take the advice of blues musician Tim Williams telling us to “Put Some Peppers in Your Chili” (So Low Album, 2016, while others run away when “heat food” is put on the table. So where are you in the mix? Do you like chili-hot food? Why do some people like it so much while other hate it? How does chili-hot relate to plain old hot? Well to find out read the article linked below. There is always more to learn about how our sensory system works!

Source: Feel the Burn: why do we love chili? Bob Holmes, Food and Drink, The Observer.

Date: April 23, 2017

Photo Credit:  Getty Images

Links:  Article Link —

So perhaps you knew about capsaicin, the (seriously) active ingredient in chili that brings the heat. But, did you know that we have receptors (TRPV1 receptors) that respond to (and signal our brains about) the presence of chili heat in ways that are essentially identical to signaling about real or actual heat? Chilies do not just seem hot they REALLY ARE hot and people that like them may be less sensitive to their effect OR they may actually enjoy the pain of chili heat. Chili, then, is NOT a taste so much as it is a sensation, of heat! I liked the Hungarian saying in the article that I had not heard before that “good paprika burns twice”. I was also impressed by the development of the Scoville scale, developed back in 1912 by Wilbur (yes) Scoville as a way of quantifying the heat in peppers. He simply tested how far, by volume you had to dilute a pepper to remove its burn. This useful (defensively at least) scale tells us that basic table pepper extract must be diluted 10 times to remove its heat while a Cubanelle pepper can range for 100 to 1000 Scoville units, a Jalapeno pepper can range from 2500 to 8000 units, and the deadly Carolina Reaper can range from 1.4 to 2.2 million (yes million) Scoville units (see the list here: ).  So why do some people seek chili heat? Well personality is part of it. For women being a high sensation seeker is part of it while for men sensitivity to (social) reward is a higher motivator (read bragging rights or machismo). So now you know more about why you seek chili heat or, if you don’t, you have a LOT more snappy facts to talk about while trying to avoid the “how much heat can you stand” dinner competition!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do we process the sensation of heat in chili peppers?
  2. What individual difference dimensions contribute to people seeking and liking of, or their stanch avoidance of, chili charged foods?
  3. What sort of factors, other than our how our sensory systems are built are implicated in the liking or loathing of chili heat?

References (Read Further):

Caterina, M. J., Schumacher, M. A., Tominaga, M., Rosen, T. A., Levine, J. D., & Julius, D. (1997). The capsaicin receptor: a heat-activated ion channel in the pain pathway. Nature, 389(6653), 816-824.

Caterina, M. J., Rosen, T. A., Tominaga, M., Brake, A. J., & Julius, D. (1999). A capsaicin-receptor homologue with a high threshold for noxious heat. Nature, 398(6726), 436-441.

Rozin, P., & Schiller, D. (1980). The nature and acquisition of a preference for chili pepper by humans. Motivation and emotion, 4(1), 77-101.

Byrnes, N. K., & Hayes, J. E. (2013). Personality factors predict spicy food liking and intake. Food quality and preference, 28(1), 213-221.

Byrnes, N. K., & Hayes, J. E. (2015). Gender differences in the influence of personality traits on spicy food liking and intake. Food quality and preference, 42, 12-19.