Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Development of the Self, Human Development, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: In my previous 2 blog posts (1. and 2.  I wrote about the Big Life Task of identity formation and about the bleak picture painted of how this important post-secondary developmental enterprise is seen as going for many (40 to 45%) emerging adults (18 to 29-year-old’s). I pointed out that there are a number of ways in which speaking only of Identity Styles is problematic and developmentally unhelpful. Focusing on Identity Styles alone is focusing on symptoms rather than underlying causes. Second, discussions of Identity Style focusses attention solely on the individuals doing the developing and not on the socio-historical contexts in which that development is or is not occurring. The world that emerging adults are preparing to move into is more complicated than the worlds that their parents and grandparents grew into and this needs to be considered before simply stating that the main “problem” that 40 to 45% of emerging adults experience in their early post-secondary years is that they are using a Diffused Identity Style. This complexity contributes to the historically high levels of stress and anxiety experienced by emerging adults during their early post-secondary years. Efforts by colleges and universities to increase student engagement have shown limited success partly because the focus there has been on getting students engaged in educational and institutional practices of previous generations and mainly because what emerging adults in their early post-secondary years need first and foremost is to be figuring out how to be engaged in themselves and their own development.

What to do? What to do?

I would like to suggest that you engage in a brief reflective exercise before I try and address the previous twice-repeated question.  In this exercise, though, I do not want you to reflect inwardly on your own psychological perspective. Rather, I would like you to reflect outwards and consider anything you have read, seen or heard in the media and in your social experiences that was presented as advice for how young (emerging) adults “these days” need to think and act when it comes to their career and life development. Before you start, I also want you to expand your reflective perspective to include not just young (emerging) adults but what older adults (middle aged or late-career or aging) need to do to adapt “these days” and for good measure throw in anything you may have heard about what companies, big and small, are said to need to do “these days” to maintain their competitive advantage and their sustainable places in the world. OK, all set? Before reading on, take a few minutes to think about what you have heard in these areas. Think in terms of words or simple phrases rather than book length treatments as we are looking here for basic directions and basic life preparation advice. Ok GO!


So, what came to mind for you? I have not conducted a systemic media review but here are a few words, phrases and thoughts I have run across in the past few years. To get along and get ahead in the world “these days” emerging adults (and all adults and companies too) need to:

…be lifelong learners (one does not know all there is to know after some schooling and what IS known is changing rapidly).
…be entrepreneurs (you will need to adapt your enterprise to the world around you).
…be nimble (things will change on the fly and so will you and your goals, strategies and plans).
…be open to diversity (things are different not just on the other side of the world by just down your block as well).
…be open to experience (related to diversity, be open to seeing things that you did not expect and considering them).
…be prepared to see failure NOT as a sign to stop what you are clearly not good at but as a learning opportunity and an invitation to re-configure and move ahead (be pleased when you fail).
…view planning your life and living your life as closely related, ongoing, lifelong processes.
…realize that knowing what you are going to be or do “when you grow up” is a lifelong process.
…know that there are many possible answers to the questions who am I and how am I going to live my life (and figuring that out is the ongoing journey that this is about).

How does all that sound? That you have a lot to learn and a LOT to work on? Well, perhaps that is why emerging adulthood is 10 years long. What it should also suggest is that identity is not something to be found or developed early and then just lived out. Identity is better viewed as an ongoing process or ongoing journey that will, or ought to be, under ongoing reflection and regular review throughout your life. Your Identity Style is simply a snapshot of where you were at in that ongoing process when you last completed the measure.

So how should you proceed?  A couple of months ago I ran across a book by a couple of professors at the Stanford Design School who had looked at the Big Life Task of personal identity and decided that it should be approached as a Design problem. The Stanford Design School was the first to adopt a human centered approach to design.  Bill Burnett and Dave Evans thought that the principles of human centered design could very usefully be applied to developmental and lifelong task of designing a human…. specifically, to the task of designing yourself. Their Stanford course, their online course, and their book Design Your Life draw on human centered design principles as well as drawing heavily on research in positive psychology looking at things that help or hinder human wellbeing. Think of it as an applied course in Identity self-development. I am very impressed with how well their approach ties into the huge literature on identity development. While not getting stuck at the Identity Style as symptom level, the Life Design approach, digs past it to talk about the underlying causal factors that produce particular Identity Style snapshots and to talk about how we can take them up and use them to get on with our life journeys — to figure out what we will be when we grow up.

So, what does their approach involve? Well, you have several options for finding out. You can enroll in Stanford and take their course, you can take their online course, you can find someone like me, local to wherever you are, and find out when they are next running a Developmental Life Design course in your area or you can buy their book (see reference list below). In point form, here are some highlights of Developmental Life Design.

A well-designed life is one that is generative, it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is a possibility of surprise.

Don’t think about outcomes (what you want to be when you grow up) think about processes (Work on what you want to grow into).

Like a designer, don’t THINK your way forward BUILD your way forward.

Start with 5 design mindsets (basic assumptions and action tendencies)

  1. Be Curious
  2. Have a bias to action, don’t think about stuff TRY it!
  3. Reframe Problems: get unstuck by examining your biases and assumptions and open new solution spaces.
  4. Know Life Design is a Process for approaching a wicked problem (a wicked problem is one that changes as you work on it). Life is a journey so let go of the end goal, focus on the process and see where that takes you.
  5. Ask for help: collaboration works wonders.

The old advice that you should find and follow your passions is backwards and is part of why people who are using Diffused or Normative Styles just keep using them. You should aim to build into your passions which you will find as you move along.

You do NOT need to and probably won’t know where you are going when you are getting started. As things will change along the way you do need to be nimble, but you also need to not burden yourself with things you cannot know (like where you MUST end up).

You are starting a lifelong process. You will (should) regularly review how you are doing in relation to Work, Play, Love and Health and make adjustments for balance as needed.

As Burnett and Evans put it, you may not know where you are going but you can know that you are going in the right direction (that’s a biggest part of the Designed Life as a voyage perspective).

How do you do this?

Build a Compass

  1. Reflect on your Lifeview and your Workview, write them down and look for coherencies (places where these two views complement one another, clash, support or drive one another). His will help you find your own True North and help ensure that as you journey forward you are following your own compass and not someone else’s.


  1. To get started (and for the rest of your life on a regular basis) you need to pay attention to how your engagements with the world go. Drawing on work in Positive Psychology you should look back at the things you did (classes, meetings, events etc.) in the past few days to a week in a good times journal. For each event rate how engaged you were in the event. Being engaged means being focused and caught up in the event (not noting the passage of time etc.). Also note how you felt after the event. Where you tired or energized? Events that were engaging AND energizing are wonderful examples of the sorts of things your compass could be pointed towards. Your reactions are telling you about yourself and about what might be possible journey paths for you.


    <liCan’t see what might be possible? Try and reframe the situation. Mind Map some things from your good time journal and then mine the map for possibilities and new solutions.

Possible Lives

  1. An important part of the Developmental Life Design process is to realize that the average number of fantastic possible lives people can imagine having is in the neighbourhood of seven (yes 7). This is a lot like the traveler’s dilemma that you may have heard about. You are going to Rome and you will have 4 days there. You dig through guidebooks and ask friends and remember your courses on religion etc. and you make an itinerary. At some point, however, either before you go or once you get there you are potentially paralyzed by self-doubts. You cannot see everything and, so you start to worry that what you have planned to see might not be the best things to see and you know that you will be missing some amazing things. Your Life Planning process can be fraught with the same problem. Make some choices and then ….. agonize about whether they are the best choices or the right choices for you. The solution to the traveler’s dilemma is to let possibilities go, once you have thoughtfully put an itinerary together and just go and enjoy your trip, it WILL BE amazing. Despite what your parents or high school guidance counselors may have told you, life is like that trip. Once you have made a plan let the other possibilities go and KNOW that the life journey you embark on WILL be amazing (this one can be a bit hard but there are a lot of tricks and tips for how to accomplish it well).

Plan Out Three Possible Life Odysseys – 5-year plans (yes that is another voyage reference!)

  1. Prototype your options: Prototyping is one of the core features of Developmental Life Design. Prototyping, as in design, involves a range of activities that grow from the Bias Toward Action noted above as one of the 5 key mindsets. Burnett and Evans point out that as unique as the components of our Odyssey plans might be it is pretty likely that there is someone out there doing exactly that or something pretty close to it already. In a richer version of Informational Interviewing, they suggest that you go and gather life stories (brief ones) from people doing things you think might be good “ways” for you to try. You are not going to ask for a job, you are going to find out what got those people onto their own current life journey and you are going to listen very hard to see if that sounds like something you would like to embark upon.
  2. Prototyping is a form a failure immunity. You are gathering life data and trying things on for size and if the worse thing that can happen is that something does not fit well, no problem, tailor the situation, tailor your plan, adapt your thinking and re-prototype. You learn valuable things every step of the way and, really, you learn more from failure than from success. Do not judge your progress or your life by your outcomes, its not over ‘til its over so judge your progress by your process.

Recognize That This is a Lifelong Process

  1. So how does that sound to you? Are you ready to abandon the idea that you need to know who you are and exactly where you are going before you leave high school or by some point early along your post-secondary developmental pathway? Doing so does not mean that you will be stumbling blindly along your life course. It IS true, however, that there is always fog on life’s journey. For people using an Informational Identity Style (going back to symptoms for a moment) the fog is off in the distance and they are comfortable in with the Developmental Life Design idea that while we may not be able to see exactly where we are going we can design our journeys in such ways that we can be confident we are going in the right direction. For people using a Normative Identity Style the fog is a bit closer, but they have chosen career and life courses that allow them to look from side to side and see the armada of other life craft travelling in the same direction as them and they find this reassuring (though if or when they find themselves travelling alone they may need to seek out a Developmental Life Design learning opportunity). Finally, for people using a Diffused Identity Style the fog of uncertainly is quite close and they are uncertain about how to set a course. For them the steps of a Developmental Life Design course or book or friend could help them walk themselves through the steps towards wayfinding and prototyping and towards a better designed life course.

So how is your life navigation going? Hopefully these blogs have given you some things to think about and some suggestions about how to plan and start journeying on well designed life courses.

Source:</strong Developmental Life Design 301.

Date:</strong December 31, 2017

Photo Credit:


Links:  Article Link —

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the ways you can link your Identity Style to the Developmental Life Design outline provided above?
  2. Do you have the sort of life data you need to try the Developmental Life Design model out?
  3. If the answer to the previous question is no what do you need to make a trial run possible (it is worth a try!)?

Blog Series on Developmental Life Design



References (Read Further):

Boyes, Michael, Pearson, Ilana, and Ursenbach, Jacob (manuscript) Identity Processing Style and Supportive Resource Engagement.

Burnett, Bill and Evans, Dave (2016) Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life, Knopf, New York NY.

Arnett, J. J. (2016). College students as emerging adults: The developmental implications of the college context. Emerging Adulthood, 4(3), 219-222.

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Emerging Adulthood, Human Development, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: My previous blog ( might have seemed a bit bleak in that it talked about how the largest proportion of 1st year university students (40 to 45%) utilize an Identity Processing Style called Diffused which suggests that in taking on the Big Life Task of figuring out who they are, where they are going, how they are going to get there and what they are going to stand for along the way they are in need of some additional tools, skills and personal insights. In addition, my own data, which I talked about in my last blog, indicates pretty clearly that while Diffused Identity Style using students are in need of some assistance in managing this Big Life Task, they are among the least likely to seek out that assistance even when it is available to them free and nearby (on campus). I am not alone in puzzling about what to do about this. Universities and colleges across the world are worried about student engagement or how to get students more actively engaged in their college or university (post-secondary) life experience. Most educational institutions seem to think that this can be accomplished by encouraging students to take their studies seriously, to examine their options more extensively, and to join a club or two ( My own view is that these strategies are focused on symptoms rather than on the underlying causes of student under-engagement. Over the past several years and particularly since my retirement about a year ago, I have been digging around looking for and thinking about possible ways to directly address the underlying causes of the difficulties many students (and people at all points in their adult lives) are having with their first encounter with the Big Life Task of Identity formation (or with their ongoing struggles with this important life issue).

The research literatures on identity and emerging adult development and the related literatures on college and university student development have begun to try and look at this question but have not gotten very far with it. A lot has been done looking at what correlates with Identity Style and its precursors and educational performance outcomes. Less has been done looking at how to help folks gain some conscious control over the things that make up their Identity Style and, through that, to begin to actively acquire and/or develop the life skills, life perspectives, and life strategies. What are needed are strategies that help emerging adults to positively negotiate the Big Life Task of identity formation both by setting some life goals and directions and, as well, by mastering the skills necessary to manage and continue to develop those goals and directions moving forward into adult life.

It is also worth noting, especially if the Identity Style proportions I discussed in the previous blog are in any way alarming to you, that this rate of Diffusion may be a relatively recent phenomenon (and as such, symptomatic of something larger than individuals’ efforts to psychologically sort out their worlds). Simply put, the world that emerging adults are growing into today is a more complicated world than the one in which their parents and grandparents grew up. The current generation of young adults are destined to be the first since generation since the “Boomers” who will, on average, earn less over their lives than their parents did. In addition, while my high school guidance counselors way back in the 1970’s were telling me and my peers to expect to have 3 to 10 jobs over the course of our working careers (that is one career and several jobs within it), emerging adults are being told today to anticipate having 3 to 5 careers over the course of their working lives and to have longer working lives than their parents are having. (by the way, the data on these claims is not at all clear, though “job-hopping” does seem to be the new norm according to Forbes, ). In such a work/career environment, picking a career in your teens or 20’s and expecting to succeed by sticking with it until one receives a pension is not advisable, and is, in fact, somewhat delusional as it is likely not going to be anywhere close to reality. To be fair, there IS some research out there that is starting to take seriously the question of how emerging adults (18 to 29 years old’s, Arnett, 2016), manage or can be helped, nudged, or nurtured into developing the skills and perspectives for positively negotiating this Big Life Task.

It is worth noting that the developmental “stage” of emerging adulthood is relatively new. We only began viewing adolescence as a formal developmental stage just over 100 years ago, partly due to downward shifts in the age of physical maturity along with socio-historical and related cultural shifts in our view of pathways to maturity and the more complex nature of the world young people were developing into. Emerging adulthood as a developmental life “stage” has only been under discussion in developmental psychology circles for about 18 years, since Arnett’s American Psychologist article about it in 2000 ( ). The Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood emerged out of the Society for Research on Adolescence in 2007 and established the journal Emerging Adulthood in 2013. So, Emerging Adulthood is new. The point of recounting this recent history is simply that if, as the new area of developmental psychology called Emerging Adulthood seems to be suggesting, it takes until around 29 years of age for folks to “emerge” as adults in the current socio-historical context then making a plurality of them (40 to 45%) feel bad by pointing out that their Big Life Task Identity Style seems Diffused is at least discouraging and perhaps also nasty, unethical and unhelpful. Using a Diffused Identity Style during one’s early post-secondary developmental years may simply be symptomatic of being in the earliest portion of a developmental stage that, over the space of about a decade, will gear one up actively make one’s way in a world that is more complex, more demanding, more diverse, and basically much broader than the worlds that previous (even recently previous) generations grew up and entered into.

So, how should we currently be thinking about the Big Life Task of Identity formation and what should we be doing to optimize the transitions of high school students to post-secondary life pathways to created spaces, tools and opportunities for the early post-secondary years that do not simply get stuck on the rate of Diffusion? This will be the topic of my next blog, but it is worth saying here that some post-secondary institutions that are taking seriously the idea that Identity development is a longer-term process than just completing a 4-year degree. Some are encouraging gap-year travel or volunteer or service experiences, study abroad experiences, community engagement and volunteerism and many other activities and course experiences that provide exposure to, and emersion in, the diverse social and cultural contexts that make up the globalized, more complex world in which emerging adults (and the rest of us) are now living. In my next blog I will write a bit about some ways to think about, look at and, for emerging adults of all ages, to prepare for and navigate within this new richly complex world of both challenge and opportunity.

Source: Developmental Life Design.

Date: December 31, 2017

Photo Credit:

Links:  Article Link —

To be continued in the next blog.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do you feel about your Identity Style now?
  2. What are some of the ways in which the Big Life Task of Identity formation is different today than it was even just 30 years ago?
  3. Are there things you planned or are planning as part of your own transition to post-secondary developmental pathways that are different than what your parents did? If you are older (over 29) how are you thinking about such things as career, spirituality, relationships, and political or global issues as they relate to your Identity – to who you are and what you believe and what you stand for?

Blog Series on Developmental Life Design


References (Read Further):

Berzonsky, M. D., & Kuk, L. S. (2000). Identity status, identity processing style, and the transition to university. Journal of adolescent research, 15(1), 81-98.

Boyes, Michael, Pearson, Ilana, and Ursenbach, Jacob (manuscript) Identity Processing Style and Supportive Resource Engagement.

Arnett, J. J. (2016). College students as emerging adults: The developmental implications of the college context. Emerging Adulthood, 4(3), 219-222.

Posted by & filed under Human Development, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: As I sit writing this it is December 31, New Year’s Eve (News Year’s Eve Day Morning to be perfectly correct).  In previous years around new year’s I have posted about resolutions and about how Psychological research suggests our performance when we strike out into new behaviors as a result of a new year’s resolution is not very good and certainly not sustained even when we start well. Rather than dipping into that depressing theme again for THIS New Year’s I have decided to head off in another reflective direction. I am posting 3 blogs (this is the first) in which I am talking about the matter if personal identity, an area I have researched in and thought about throughout my nearly 4 decades long time in Psychology. I am going to start with a little reflection on my own research and then move on into an area of application of Psychology to life that I have through about for years and have been working intensively on over the past few years.

Before I start I want you to prepare yourself to actively read and reflect upon what I am going to be talking about because, as the title of this blog suggests I am going to try and nudge you along a developmental path that is intended to move you well beyond resolution into action – into identity relevant action. The first thing I want you to do is to stop reading and go to this linked website ( ) and complete the identity style questionnaire there. Once you do you will, if you have entered your email in the space on the site, receive an email with your raw scores and instructions for calculating your Identity Style. So, what IS an Identity Style?

Developmentally speaking, there are a number of what we might call Big Life Tasks we need to work out as we grow and develop (if you would like a roadmap just search Erikson’s Psychosocial Model on line). In our late teens and well into our 20’s our Big Life Task concerns identity – figuring out who we are, where we are going, how we are going to get there and what we are going to stand for along the way. Your Identity Style is kind of a summary of how you are thinking about and, to a certain extent, working on this Big Life Task. I have been gathering data on how students manage their transitions from high school to their post-secondary developmental pathways for a number of years now (my sample is over 4000 and climbing) and Identity Style is a good way of summarizing how that transition process is going.

If your Identity Style is Informational then you are actively engaged in the process of negotiating this Big Developmental Task. Even if you are not yet sure what you want to do you are investigating possibilities and trying them on for personal size. You feel comfortable in a post-secondary learning institution like a college or university because it is a place that was largely built with folks like you in mind – independent learners figuring out what their academic and life passions are and how they can advance them. You will use the identity information and identity advancement skills you are honing through out the rest of your life. As well, you are not alone, though not nearly as un-alone as you might think. About 20 to 25% of first year university students (according to my data) use an Informational Identity style. Developmentally one might expect this proportion to go up as students move through their post-secondary educational years and it does but now by very much (perhaps by 5 to 10 percentage points).

If your Identity Style is Normative you have a pretty good idea in mind of where you are going and how you are going to get there. You are likely heading towards or are in a program of study or career preparation that is fairly well defined, like business or engineering and you have a pretty good idea of what you will do with your degree when you receive it – e.g., go into business or engineering.  You tend to make life decisions by looking around you to see both what options exist but also to see what other people are doing in this regard. This approach can work quite well for you as long as defined options exist and as long as you are able to meet the entrance criteria. You are also not alone as about 25 to 30% of first year students are using this style through this proportion goes down by about 5% by 4th year.

The remaining Identity Style is Diffused or Diffused and Avoidant and it typically involves not being particularly clear about how you are going to negotiate this Big Life Task and, as well, not being particularly clear about how to get clear. You find the expectations of post-secondary life a bit unclear and you are moving along hoping that things will get clearer. You are REALLY not alone as between 40 and 45% of first year students are using this style. This proportion drops by about the 5 to 10% that the Informational Style increases by 4th year.

When I look at what my data tells me about how folks with each of these Identity Styles fair in making their transition to university life, things are pretty clear. I asked them about their adjustment in 9 areas, from Anxiety and Stress, to academic and career issues to family problems and friendship issues – 9 areas of adjustment in all. Succinctly put, 65 of folks using an Informational OR a Normative Identity Style need assistance in either 0 or 1 of these adjustment areas while 65% of folks using a Diffused Identity Style are in need of assistance in 2 or MORE adjustment areas with an average of about 5 areas. When I asked if they had taken advantage of the many assistance resources available to them at their university (and there ARE a LOT of resources for student transition and adjustment assistance) it turned out that Informational Style students were the most likely to seek out and available themselves of those services and Diffused Style students were the least likely to do so. Further, Diffused Style students were more likely to use “do it yourself” supports such as web-surfing or talking to friends rather than access the Student Success center and related services available to them on-campus.

What to do? Well this is the question I am going to take up in my next blog but it IS an very important question. Within Developmental Psychology we have assumed that most people successfully negotiate the Big Life Task of forming a personal identity and yet, my data has been telling me that the BIGGEST group of students in university are using a Diffused Identity Style and as such are struggling with this Big Life Task of identity development all through their time and university and likely beyond. The essential question NOT addressed in the Identity Style research literature is what to do about this state of affairs. This is the question I have been thinking about, reading about and working on over the past couple of years and I will talk about one or two of the things I have found in my next blog.

Source: Identity Processing Style and Supportive Resource Engagement, Michael Boyes, Ilana Pearson and Jacob Ursenbach.

Date: December 31, 2017

Photo Credit:

Links:  Article Link —

To be continued in the next blog (see list below).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is your Identity Style?
  2. Can you see some examples of how it has been used by you in areas like academic decision making, career planning, voting decisions?
  3. What sorts of things have you done to work on the Big Life Task of Identity formation?

Blog Series on Developmental Life Design


References (Read Further):

Berzonsky, M. D., & Kuk, L. S. (2000). Identity status, identity processing style, and the transition to university. Journal of adolescent research, 15(1), 81-98.

Boyes, Michael, Pearson, Ilana, and Ursenbach, Jacob (manuscript) Identity Processing Style and Supportive Resource Engagement.


Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Memory, Motivation-Emotion.

Description: As you are very likely aware there has been a LOT of research om human memory (how it works, what improves it or messes it up etc. etc.) but what about memory of certain humans? What sorts of factors or characteristics or deeds (good, bad or otherwise) make it more likely someone will be remembered in 1000 years? Think about it, what makes it more likely someone will be part of many peoples “memories” 1000 years after they are gone? Once you have a few hypotheses in mind read the article linked below to see if any of your ideas made the list.

Source: Who will be remembered in 1000 years? Zaria Gorvett, BBC, Future Now, Psychology.

Date: December 21, 2017

Photo Credit:  Alamy

Links:  Article Link —

Were you surprised by any of the really well known (back then) people who were NOT in your memory?  Or were you surprised at how many people specifically worked at doing things that might get them remembered? Did you think of the “found a religion” approach? That certainly gets you talked about generation after generation. All of the “hints for memorial longevity” in the article gets me thinking about Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious and the idea that some concepts, fears, urges and maybe some people are part of the cultural, historical “memories” we all seem to carry about with us. Recognizing that the roots of such things could be genetic, social and or cultural helps to see the complexity of human memory.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How are people from many many years ago “remembered” in human memory?
  2. What is the relationship between individua human memory and collective human “memory”?
  3. Who would you bet on as being “remembered” in 1000 from today and why?

References (Read Further):

Gilbert, D. T., & Wilson, T. D. (2007). Prospection: Experiencing the future. Science, 317(5843), 1351-1354.

Bid, S. (2016). Case Study Internal Branding of Human Resources Using the Expectation Gap Analysis. International Journal of Academic Research & Development JAR&D, 87.

Lull, R. B., Gibson, B., Cruz, C., & Bushman, B. J. (2016). Killing Characters in Video Games Kills Memory for In-Game Ads.



Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Child Development, Families and Peers, General Psychology, Human Development, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Moral Development, Personality, Personality Disorders, Personality Disorders, Psychological Disorders, The Self.

Description: What is a sycophant? Well, colloquially we sometimes use the term “suck up” as in “that person is a suck up” or “that person is really sucking up to the boss”. But what is going on in situations like that psychologically? There are a couple of hints for possible hypotheses in the pictures posted below. Have a look at them and then think a bit about what sorts of circumstances or developmental experiences might give rise to someone being a sycophant or to someone needing to have one or several or hundreds of sycophants around them at all times. Also think a bit about why this is a relatively new phenomenon, at least at the levels we have been seeing examples of it in the news lately. Once you have your thoughts in order read the article linked below and see what several psychological researchers have to say on this topic.

Source: The Psychology of Sycophants, Susan Scutti, Health, CNN.

Date: December 22, 2017

Photo Credit:  and  CNN, Saul Loeb ATP/Getty Image

Links:  Article Link —

So, issues of praise and needing it to the extent that some seem almost addicted to it are part of what is at play here. As well, the dynamics of social media such as Facebook come into play. “Like mine and I will like yours”, “I have more likes that anyone in the world!” And all of this ties to narcissism as well and it all plays out with example after textbook example in media coverage of the political (and especially of the American) political arena. For a statement of concern about where this is at or where it may be going simply look at the title of the last entry in the References (Firther Reading) section below.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is a sycophant?
  2. How does the behavior of sycophants play into the symptom patterns associated with Narcissism (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)?
  3. What are some of the historical and developmental roots of the apparent jump in numbers of sycophants and narcissists in the last 20 to 40 years?

References (Read Further):

Matosic, D., Ntoumanis, N., Boardley, I. D., Sedikides, C., Stewart, B. D., & Chatzisarantis, N. (2017). Narcissism and coach interpersonal style: A self‐determination theory perspective. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 27(2), 254-261.

Sheldon, P., & Bryant, K. (2016). Instagram: Motives for its use and relationship to narcissism and contextual age. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 89-97.

Wetzel, E., Brown, A., Hill, P. L., Chung, J. M., Robins, R. W., & Roberts, B. W. (2017). The narcissism epidemic is dead; long live the narcissism epidemic. Psychological science, 0956797617724208.

Miller, J. D., Lynam, D. R., & Campbell, W. K. (2016). Measures of narcissism and their relations to DSM-5 pathological traits: A critical reappraisal. Assessment, 23(1), 3-9.

Joiner, T. (2017). Mindlessness: The Corruption of Mindfulness in a Culture of Narcissism. Oxford University Press.

Buser, S., & Cruz, L. (Eds.). (2016). A Clear and Present Danger: narcissism in the era of Donald Trump. Chiron Publications.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, Neuroscience, Physiology, Psychological Disorders.

Description: As the Dilbert cartoon below suggests there has been much research and more speculation about the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in explaining the focused nature of many people’s interest in video or online games. The American Psychiatric Association considered adding a disorder called Internet Gaming Disorder the latest 5th edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual but decided to include it as a special research category (needing more study). Internet-Based Gambling is covered in another category of Gambling Disorder. The articles linked below provide a general overview of this area of disorder and speculate as to possible brain based explanatory links. The most commonly noted link concerns the role of dopamine in the “pleasure” circuits” of the brain associated with basic pleasures like food and sex and perhaps also associated with the “rewards” of video gaming as suggested by Zimbu the monkey’s reaction to Dilbert’s new APP in the cartoon below. If you have not run across the connection between dopamine and video games before then read the two articles linked below for an overview. If you HAVE run across this hypothesized connection before then, as to you look through the articles try and think critically about alternative or additional hypotheses.

Source: Video Games Can Activate the Brain’s Pleasure Circuits, David j. Linden, The Compass of Pleasure, Psychology Today and Internet Gaming Disorder in DSM-5, Stephanie A. Sarkis, Here, There, and Everywhere, Psychology Today.

Date: December 19, 2017

Photo Credit:  Scott Adams

Links:  Article Links — and

As with a lot of initial hypotheses about links between sometimes alarming behavior in the world and brain functioning it may well be that the dopamine hypothesis for addictive video gaming is a bit too simple to be the only explanatory angle in play. If you are up for it, a couple of the articles listed in the References (Further Reading) section below provide concise reviews of recent research using brain scans and related techniques to examine what areas of the brain are activated during video gaming and what differences there may be in the brains of those individuals who meet the diagnostic criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder compared to those who do not. The array of ways in which video games engage our brains is rather amazing but then that is likely part of why the gaming industry is so lucrative ($99.6 billion worldwide in 2016, ).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might the neurochemical dopamine be involved in video gaming?
  2. How might dopamine be involved in  the shifting of a bit of video gaming into a video gaming addiction?
  3. What other brain-bases systems, areas, or factors, might be involved in video gaming addiction issues?

References (Read Further):

Weinstein, A., Livny, A., & Weizman, A. (2017). New developments in brain research of internet and gaming disorder. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Weinstein, A. M. (2017). An Update Overview on Brain Imaging Studies of Internet Gaming Disorder. Frontiers in psychiatry, 8, 185.

Nielsen, R. K. L., & Blom, J. H. (2017). Crimes Against Pokémon GO1: why dopamine does not explain the pleasure of video games.

Choi, J., Cho, H., Kim, J. Y., Jung, D. J., Ahn, K. J., Kang, H. B., … & Kim, D. J. (2017). Structural alterations in the prefrontal cortex mediate the relationship between Internet gaming disorder and depressed mood. Scientific Reports, 7.,5&as_ylo=2016&scillfp=11502996620639751515&oi=lle

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Early Social and Emotional development, General Psychology, Human Development.

Description: A seasonal question: at what point if ever should you tell your children the truth about Santa? Well, as any good developmental psychologist should, I am going to tell you to have a look at what the data says and the article linked below provides a number of things to think about in relation to this age old question. Think about what YOU think and try to link your thoughts to what you may know about children and child development (not just what you wish were true or are afraid might be true) and then read through the article.

Source: Lies about Santa? They could be good for you, Kristen Dunfield (Concordia University) The Conversation, Culture and Society.

Date: December 11, 2017

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock

Links:  Article Link –

Were any of your hypotheses or fears covered by research or theory from developmental psychology?  The data is pretty clear, children are not harmed by believing in Santa and, in fact seem to benefit from doing so developmentally. Parents can play along but they can also adjust their interactions (as they always should) to their children’s developmental level as reflected in the questions their children are asking. Again as always, address the questions actually being asked by the child, focus on what they really want to now not what you might think they should know. Let their developmental curiosity be your response guide.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. So, should parents tell their children about Santa at some age? And if so at what age?
  2. Are there positive outcomes from believing in Santa?
  3. What advice would you offer parents of children at 4, 6 and 8 years of age with regards to how to talk about Santa?

References (Read Further):

Shtulman, A., & Yoo, R. I. (2015). Children’s understanding of physical possibility constrains their belief in Santa Claus. Cognitive Development, 34, 51-62.

Prentice, N. M., Manosevitz, M., & Hubbs, L. (1978). Imaginary figures of early childhood: santa claus, easter bunny, and the tooth fairy. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 48(4), 618.

Anderson, C. J., & Prentice, N. M. (1994). Encounter with reality: children’s reactions on discovering the Santa Claus myth. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 25(2), 67-84.

Corriveau, K. H., Harris, P. L., Meins, E., Fernyhough, C., Arnott, B., Elliott, L., … & De Rosnay, M. (2009). Young children’s trust in their mother’s claims: Longitudinal links with attachment security in infancy. Child development, 80(3), 750-761.

Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Group Processes, Human Development, Intergroup Relations, Personality, selfies, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, The Self.

Description: If you were born after 1980 then you are a “millennial”, at least according to Pop-Psyc (what non-psychologists are saying that is “based in” Psychology). And, what have you heard about your “generation”? Narcissistic? Entitled? Snowflakes? Etc. etc.? Other than the older generations dumping on the current youth/young adult cohort (believe me this has been going on for generations!) is any of this true? Well THAT sounds like a hypothesis doesn’t it? How about we look and see if it has been tested? The article linked below does a very nice job walking trough some of the current contradictory theories and findings in this area and even talks a bit about why the findings out there are so discrepant.

Source: Millennials are narcissistic? The evidence is not so simple, Christian Jarrett, Personology, Psychology, BBC Future.

Date: November 17, 2017

Photo Credit:  Getty Images

Links:  Article Link —

So which line of theory and research feels more right to you (and yes I know what things “feel like” is not really scientific or thoughtful but nevertheless which feels right (based on what you know about how to evaluate theories and research in Psychology? Does Jean Twenge’s work based on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory track? How about Peter Arnett’s work on emerging adulthood? How about Brent Robert’s work on cross generational views? In sorting this out it is important to pay close attention to what one or the other of the researchers/theorists did, measured, or considered that the others did not. You may have to go and read the original studies to fully understand the differences but it is in those differences that you will start to see how the various research strands might start to fit together, where they overlap and where, it turns out, they are actually looking at different things or at least at things differently than are the other researchers. Sorting out such differences can be a very engaging way to get your head around an area of study within Psychology and this one may actually apply to you so perhaps that will make it even more interesting.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are millennials (university students of today) more narcissistic than previous students?
  2. What is the current state of the debate over answers to question 1 above with the Psychology research literature?
  3. What are some factors that might, at least to some extent, help account for the discrepancies within this research area?

References (Read Further):

Barry, C.T., Kerig, P.K., Stellwagen, K.K., & Barry, T.D. (Eds.). (2011). Narcissism and Machiavellianism in youth: Implications for the development of adaptive and maladaptive behavior. Washington, D.C.: APA.

Trzesniewski, K.H. & Donnellan, M.B. (2010). Rethinking “Generation Me”: A study of cohort effects from 1976–2006. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 5, 58–75.

Twenge, J.M., & Campbell, W.K. (2009). The narcissism epidemic: Living in the age of entitlement. New York: Free Press.

Twenge, J. M., Konrath, S., Foster, J. D., Keith Campbell, W., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Egos inflating over time: A cross‐temporal meta‐analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Journal of personality, 76(4), 875-902.

Dingfelder, Sadie F. (2011) Reflecting on narcissism. APA Monitor, 42(2) 64,

Posted by & filed under Aggression, General Psychology, Intelligence, Intelligence-Schooling, Language-Thought, Learning, Legal Ethical Issues, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Cognition, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: Ah politicians are a never-ending source of possible research topics! Assuming you have not been successful in selectively ignoring any political news from south of our border (and if you have please tell us how, as long as it does not involve a lobotomy or copious amounts of alcohol!) then you have heard about concerns and issues related to what is being referred to a ‘fake news’. I am not going to get into the “debate” about who is faking news, which news is fake, or why the person who is talking about it the most seems also to be the person most inclined to produce it or reproduce it via twitter. But, here is an interesting question that arises from that gnarly debate and that is; if someone who has been exposed to fake news is told by an authoritative (trustworthy) source that the news they have seen or heard is fake can and do they adjust their thinking so as not to take the fake news into account in forming their judgments? What do you think? And, keeping in mind that nothing is ever straightforward, what other variables are at play in the question of whether or if or when people can discount fake news “information” once they know it is not true?

Source: ‘Fake news’ study finds incorrect information can’t be corrected simply by pointing out it’s false, Eric W. Dolan, Cognition, PsyPost

Date: December 4, 2017

Photo Credit:  diy13

Links:  Article Link —

So, were you surprised by the findings of the study?  The key to putting fake news aside seems to be cognitive functioning or intelligence. People with higher levels of cognitive ability were better able to change their thoughts and evaluations of a person once they wee told that something they had “learned” about them was in fact fake news or wrong. Oh my but the implications of this finding for stereotyping in areas of the social world where fake news is found and at issue are immense and hard to avoid. It is worth reflecting a bit on how fake news should be thought of, approached and dealt with. But, of course, more research is needed before we use the results we have to start arguing for public policy, press regulation, or socio-political activity.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How are people influenced by “fake news”?
  2. Can the effects of fake news be undone and if so for who and how?
  3. What sorts of things do the results of this study perhaps get us thinking about in relation to fake news, media policy and media activities (reporting guidelines)?

References (Read Further):

Roets, A. (2017). ‘Fake news’: Incorrect, but hard to correct. The role of cognitive ability on the impact of false information on social impressions. Intelligence, 65, 107-110.

Conroy, N. J., Rubin, V. L., & Chen, Y. (2015). Automatic deception detection: Methods for finding fake news. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 52(1), 1-4.

Rubin, V. L., Chen, Y., & Conroy, N. J. (2015). Deception detection for news: three types of fakes. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 52(1), 1-4.

Chen, Y., Conroy, N. J., & Rubin, V. L. (2015). News in an online world: The need for an “automatic crap detector”. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 52(1), 1-4.

Alowibdi, J. S., Buy, U. A., Philip, S. Y., & Stenneth, L. (2014, August). Detecting deception in online social networks. In Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM), 2014 IEEE/ACM International Conference on (pp. 383-390). IEEE.

Silverman, C., & Singer-Vine, J. (2016). Most Americans who see fake news believe it, new survey says. BuzzFeed News.

Posted by & filed under Development of the Self, Emerging Adulthood, Health Psychology, Human Development, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Student Success, The Self.

Description: How quickly can you come up with a personal example of a situation where you’re a choice that you made (or did not make) resulting in regrets, wishing you had done something different or simply wondering if perhaps you should have done something different or not acted at all. If people are honest then they can usually come up with an example or two pretty quickly. It seems that having regrets (even if it just a few, …. too few to mention; according to Frank Sinatra in his classic “I did it my way”) is a part of being human. But can our experience of regret be managed and where does the whole business of regret come from? The brief article linked below provides a light overview of how we might begin to answer these questions. Give it a look and if anything there peaks your curiosity then have a look in the Further Reading section down at the bottom of this post for a few places to start expanding your understanding of regret.

Source: How to Have Fewer Regrets, Malia Wollan, The New York Times, Magazine.

Date: December 8, 2017

Photo Credit:  Radio, The New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

So, the onset of the ability to experience regret is developmental. That is, we have to be able to consider counterfactuals (coulda, woulda, shoulda…..) before regret is possible. From there it can be quite demanding. We can think of OCD as perhaps at least partially driven by regret (going back over a behavioural scheme over and over and over again). Regret can also figure in life choices. Leaving romance aside for another time, regret can play a central role in how we make decisions about things like our career directions. Think about this standard life process: you generate a list of career options, you gather data about what each is like, what each involves, and you think about what each would be like if you picked it and you narrow your choices down to 2 to 4 of the better options and then you  …. What?…….., you agonize…. Well, if you have difficulty letting go of counterfactuals you do and you especially do if you decide or believe that you have only made the right choice of a career path if it is, in fact, the very best possible career path for you (be the best you, you can be) and as a result your life could be quite miserable. This is a good example, however, of how we can benefit greatly from a mental set change. I think of this as akin to the travelers’ dilemma ( . You are planning a trip to an exotic part of the world and you are going to stay for 2 weeks. You read extensively about what there is to do there you research accommodations, historical sites, day trips to nearby amazing places and you plan an itinerary. At some point either before you go or after you get there you will likely be hit with the paralyzing realization that you are not going to be able to “do it all” and there are going to be some wonderful things you are going to miss in or around your destination. So what are you to do? How are you going to be sure you put together the “best possible” itinerary? Agonize, agonize, agonize and regret regret, regret. Counterfactuals have you firmly in their life sapping grip! Except, you do not have to be in that place, full of mental/emotional agony and regret. The solution to the travelers’ dilemma that also applies to career and other life decisions is to shift you thinking and to start with the understanding that while there ARE many possible voyages or journeys, if you build one based on what interests you, what engages you and what energizes you, the results will be a wonderful trip (and a wonderful life). In my own work on identity development and life planning and decision making among people of all ages but particularly among emerging adults (18 to 28) an appreciation of this mind set adjustment virtually eliminates the “agonize” stage of the process and also virtually eliminates pre-and post-decision regrets. It is well worth thinking about.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are regrets and how do they arise in the course of human decision making?
  2. How do regrets arise in the course of trip or life planning?
  3. What sorts of strategies make sense to you as ways of dealing with regret?

References (Read Further):

Krott, N. R., & Oettingen, G. (2017). Mental contrasting of counterfactual fantasies attenuates disappointment, regret, and resentment. Motivation and Emotion, 1-20.,%20N.%20R.%20&%20Oettingen,%20G.%20(2017).%20Motivation%20and%20Emotion.pdf

Byrne, R. M. (2016). Counterfactual thought. Annual review of psychology, 67, 135-157.

Roese, N. J., & Epstude, K. (2017). The Functional Theory of Counterfactual Thinking: New Evidence, New Challenges, New Insights. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology.

McCormack, T., O’Connor, E., Beck, S., & Feeney, A. (2016). The development of regret and relief about the outcomes of risky decisions. Journal of experimental child psychology, 148, 1-19.

Feldman, G., & Albarracín, D. (2017). Norm theory and the action-effect: The role of social norms in regret following action and inaction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 111-120.