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Here’s some information the business majors taking your Intro Psych class should be thinking about.

 

During the social psychology chapter, pose this question to your students: Is it good for employees to know how much money their managers and their coworkers are making? Why? Give students a couple minutes to think about this. If you’d like, let students discuss with one or two people around them. If you have an audience response system, ask each question separately. “Is it good for employees to know how much money their managers are making?” Ask volunteers to share their reasoning. Next, ask “Is it good for employees to know how much their coworkers are making?” Again, ask volunteers to share their reasoning.

 

Zoë Cullen (Harvard Business School) and Ricardo Perez-Truglia (UCLA) wondered the same thing. You’re welcome to read the working paper or a summary written by the authors for the Harvard Business Review.

 

Managers (vertical inequality)

 

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) asked a couple thousand employees of “a large commercial bank in Asia” to guess how much their manager made. They thought that their managers made about 14% less than they actually did. The researchers then randomly assigned the employees to either learn how much their managers actually made or to remain in the dark.

 

With the assistance of the bank, researchers “gathered daily timestamp, email, and sales data for the year following our survey.” Learning that their managers made more money than they thought resulted in employees working more hours, sending more email messages, and selling more than those who did not learn how much their managers actually made. In fact, the more off employees were in their estimates, the more work they did. And the closer the manager was on the corporate ladder to the employee, the more pronounced the effect. “[A]fter realizing that these managers get paid more, employees became more optimistic about the salaries they will earn themselves five years in the future.” 

 

Coworkers (horizontal inequality)

 

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) asked those same research participants to guess the salaries of “the other employees with the same position and title, from the same unit.” While the participants were closer in accuracy with their guesses than they were with managers, most still underestimated how much their coworkers were making. Again, participants were randomly assigned to learn how much their coworkers actually made or to remain in the dark.

 

Using the same “daily timestamp, email, and sales data for the year following our survey,” researchers found employees worked less than their in-the-dark counterparts. And they didn’t work just a little bit less. “ Finding out that peers earn on average 10% more than initially thought caused employees to spend 9.4% fewer hours in the office, send 4.3% fewer emails, and sell 7.3% less.”

 

This is a beautiful – if unfortunate – example of relative deprivation. Relative deprivation is “the perception by an individual that the amount of a desired resource (e.g., money, social status) he or she has is less than some comparison standard. This standard can be the amount that was expected or the amount possessed by others with whom the person compares himself or herself” (American Psychological Association, n.d.) When we experience relative deprivation, we feel worse. And when that relative deprivation is experienced in a work setting, that feeling worse translates into working less.

 

Discussion

 

Ask your students to imagine that they are employers. How might they handle salary information? Would they be transparent, letting everyone know how much everyone is paid? Would they release average salaries by position type rather than attach names to salaries? And should different people who hold the same position be paid different salaries?

Cullen and Perez-Truglia (Cullen & Perez-Truglia, 2018) offer a couple suggestions.

 

  1. “[K]eep salaries compressed among employees in the same position, but offer them large raises when they get promoted to a higher position.”
  2. “[T]ransparency about average pay for a position, without disclosing individual salaries.”

 

The researchers conclude their Harvard Business Review article with this advice.

 

We encourage you to start experimenting with transparency at your company.  The first step is to figure out what your employees want. You can find out through anonymous surveys. Just mention some alternatives that you consider viable, and let them voice their preferences. For instance, do your employees feel informed about their salaries five years down the road? Would they want to find out the average pay two or three promotions ahead? Once you look at the survey results, you can decide what information to disclose and how. According to our findings, signals about the enticing paychecks waiting five years in the future is the push they need to be at their best.

 

References

 

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Relative deprivation. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://dictionary.apa.org/relative-deprivation

 

Cullen, Z., & Perez-Truglia, R. (2018). The motivating (and demotivating) effects of learning others’ salaries. Retrieved December 27, 2018, from https://hbr.org/2018/10/the-motivating-and-demotivating-effects-of-learning-others-salaries

At long last, artificial intelligence (AI)—and its main subset, machine learning—is beginning to fulfill its promise. When fed massive amounts of data, computers can discern patterns (as in speech recognition) and make predictions or decisions. AlphaZero, a Google-related computer system, started playing chess, shogi (Japanese chess), and GO against itself. Before long, thanks to machine learning, AlphaZero progressed from no knowledge of each game to “the best player, human or computer, the world has ever seen.”

 

DrAfter123/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

 

I’ve had recent opportunities to witness the growing excitement about machine learning in the human future, through conversations with

  • Adrian Weller (a Cambridge University scholar who is program director for the UK’s national institute for data science and AI).
  • Andrew Briggs (Oxford’s Professor of Nanomaterials, who is using machine learning to direct his quantum computing experiments and, like Weller, is pondering what machine learning portends for human flourishing).
  • Brian Odegaard (a UCLA post-doc psychologist who uses machine learning to identify brain networks that underlie human consciousness and perception).

 

Two new medical ventures (to which—full disclosure—my family foundation has given investment support) illustrate machine learning’s potential:

  • Fifth Eye, a University of Michigan spinoff, has had computers mine data on millions of heartbeats from critically ill hospital patients—to identify invisible, nuanced signs of deterioration. By detecting patterns that predict patient crashes, the system aims to provide a potentially life-saving early warning system (well ahead of doctors or nurses detecting anything amiss).
  • Delphinus, which offers a new ultrasound alternative to mammography, will similarly use machine learning from thousands of breast scans to help radiologists spot potent cancer cells.

 

Other machine-learning diagnostic systems are helping physicians to identify strokes, retinal pathology, and (using sensors and language predictors) the risk of depression or suicide. Machine learning of locked-in ALS patients’ brain wave patterns associated with “Yes” and “No” answers has enabled them to communicate their thoughts and feelings. And it is enabling researchers to translate brain activity into speech.

 

Consider, too, a new Pew Research Center study of gender representation in Google images. Pew researchers first harvested an archive of 26,981 gender-labeled human faces from different countries and ethnic groups. They fed 80 percent of these images into a computer, which used machine learning to discriminate male and female faces. When tested on the other 20 percent, the system achieved 95 percent accuracy.

 

Pew researchers next had the system use its new human-like gender-discrimination ability to  identify the gender of persons shown in 10,000 Google images associated with 105 common occupations. Would the gender representation in the image search results overrepresent, underrepresent, or accurately represent their proportions, as reported by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data summaries?

 

The result? Women, relative to their presence in the working world, were significantly underrepresented in some categories and overrepresented in others. For example, the BLS reports that 57 percent of bartenders are female—as are only 29 percent of the first 100 people shown in Google image searches of “bartender” (as you can see for yourself). Searches for “medical records technician,” “probation officer,” “general manager,” “chief executive,” and “security guard” showed a similar underrepresentation. But women were overrepresented, relative to their working proportion, in Google images for “police,” “computer programmer,” “mechanic,” and “singer.” Across all 105 jobs, men are 54 percent of those employed and 60 percent of those pictured. The bottom line: Machine learning reveals (in Google users’ engagement) a subtle new form of gender bias.

 

As these examples illustrate, machine learning holds promise for helpful application and research. But it will also entail some difficult ethical questions.

 

Imagine, for example, that age, race, gender, or sexual orientation are incorporated into algorithms that predict recidivism among released prisoners. Would it be discriminatory, or ethical, to use such demographic predictors in making parole decisions?

 

Such questions already exist in human judgments, but may become more acute if and when we ask machines to make these decisions. Or is there reason to hope that it will be easier to examine and tweak the inner workings of an algorithmic system than to do so with a human mind?

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit www.TalkPsych.com.)

In Intro Psych, during coverage of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the therapy chapter, give your students this one-page summary provided by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association: Society of Clinical Psychology. Walk your students through some of the highlights.

 

Next, share with your students this Tumblr post as it appeared on Fail Blog. Clearly the client had been seeing this therapist for some time. The client knew the basics of CBT – CBT is about changing how one thinks. The client had had some practice in doing this, but during this particular session, the client was not using what he’d learned.

 

The therapist had very likely seen this behavior from the client before and had been thinking about ways to call the client’s attention to his negative thinking without interrupting the client’s train of thought. At the therapy session described in the Tumblr post, the therapist unveiled his new CBT tool: a Nerf gun. For the rest of the therapy session, every time the client voiced “unhelpful ways of thinking,” his therapist shot him with a Nerf gun. The client stopped, thought about what he said, and revised it. Saying “what a stupid issue, I’m an idiot” was revised to this issue is “frustrating me and I don’t want it to be a problem I’m having.”

 

If you’d like to expand this coverage, you can add information about attribution. Making global (vs. specific), stable (vs. unstable), and internal (vs. external) attributions about negative events is associated with depression.

For example, after a relationships ends, a person may make the following attributions.

 

Global: “I can’t do anything right.”

 

Stable: “I’ll never have a successful relationship.”

 

Internal: “I’m not good enough to have a successful relationship.”

 

In CBT, the client is encouraged to make different attributions, attributions that are specific (vs. global), unstable (vs. stable), and external (vs. internal).

 

Specific: “This relationship wasn’t good.”

 

Unstable: “While this relationship didn’t work out, the next one could.”

 

External: “It takes two people to have a relationship. My boyfriend bears some responsibility.”

 

Interestingly, the reverse is true for positive events. Making specific, unstable, and external attributions for positive events is associated with depression. People who are not depressed are more likely to make global, stable, and internal attributions for positive events.

 

Class demonstration

 

If you’ve been waiting all term for an opportunity to peg your students with Nerf balls, here’s the demonstration for you.

Ask your students to imagine that they have received a poor grade on an exam. Ask student volunteers to give a global attribution for the failing grade. Hit them with a Nerf ball (aim low, you don’t want anyone to lose an eye!), and then ask for a specific attribution instead. After students have given several global attributions, ask for stable attributions – and for those to be changed to unstable attributions. Lastly, ask for internal attributions – and for those to be changed to external attributions.

Judith Rich Harris’ December 29th death took my mind to her remarkable life and legacy. Among all the people I’ve never met, she was the person I came to know best. Across 243 emails she shared her draft writings, her critical assessment of others’ thinking (including my own), and the progress of her illness.

 

Our conversation began after the publication of her cogent Psychological Review paper, which changed my thinking and led me to send a note of appreciation. The paper’s gist was delivered by its first two sentences: “Do parents have any important long-term effects on the development of their child’s personality? This article examines the evidence and concludes that the answer is no.”

 

Her argument: Behavior genetics studies (of twins and adoptees) show that genes predispose our individual traits, and that siblings’ “shared environment” has a shockingly small influence. Peers also matter—they transmit culture. Show her some children who hear English spoken with one accent at home, and another accent at school and in the neighborhood, and—virtually without exception—she will show you children who talk like their peers.

 

Judy Harris was a one-time Harvard psychology graduate student who was dismissed from its doctoral program because, as George Miller explained to her, she lacked “originality and independence.”

 

But she persisted. In her mid-fifties, without any academic affiliation and coping with debilitating autoimmune disorders, she had the chutzpah to submit her evidence-based ideas to Psychological Review, then as now psychology’s premier theoretical journal. To his credit, the editor, Daniel Wegner, welcomed this contribution from this little-known independent scholar. Moreover, when her great encourager Steven Pinker and I each nominated her paper for the annual award for “outstanding paper on general psychology,” the judges selected her as co-recipient of the—I am not making this up—George A. Miller Award. (To his credit, Miller later termed the irony “delicious.”)

 

The encouraging lesson (in Harris’ words): “‘Shut in’ does not necessarily mean ‘shut out.’” Truth will out. Although biases are real, excellence can get recognized. So, wherever you are, whatever your big idea or passion, keep on.

 

Her fame expanded with the publication of her 1998 book The Nurture Assumption, which was profiled by Malcolm Gladwell in a New Yorker feature article, made into a Newsweek cover story, and named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

 

Her argument was controversial, and a reminder that important lessons are often taught by those who fearlessly push an argument to its limit. (Surely child-rearing does have some direct influence on children’s values, religiosity, and politics—and not just via the peer culture to which parents expose children. And surely the loving versus abusive extremes of parenting matter.)

 

Harris was kind and generous (she supportively critiqued my writing, even as I did hers) but also had the self-confidence to take on all critics and to offer challenges to other widely accepted ideas. One was the “new science” of birth order, which, as she wrote me, was “neither new nor science.” An August 24, 1997, email gives the flavor of her wit and writing:

Birth order keeps coming back. In their 1996 book on birth order and political behavior, Albert Somit, Alan Arwine, and Steven A. Peterson spoke of the “inherent non-rational nature of deeply held beliefs” and mused that “permanently slaying a vampire”—the belief in birth order effect—may require “that a stake of gold be driven through his/her heart at high noon” (p. vi).
            Why is it so difficult to slay this vampire? Why, in spite of all the telling assaults that have been made on it, does it keep coming back? The answer is that the belief in birth order effects fits so well into the basic assumptions of our profession and our culture. Psychologists and nonpsychologists alike take it for granted that a child’s personality, to the degree that it is shaped by the environment, receives that shaping primarily at home. And since we know (from our own memories and introspections) that a child’s experiences at home are very much affected by his or her position in the family—oldest, youngest, or in the middle—we expect birth order to leave permanent marks on the personality.
            The belief in birth order effects never dies; it just rests in its coffin until someone lifts the lid again.

 

Alas, the disease that shut her in has, as she anticipated, claimed her. In her last email sent my way on September 6, 2018, she reported that

I’m not doing so well. This is the normal course of the disorder I have—pulmonary arterial hypertension. It is incurable and eventually progresses to heart failure and death. I’m in the heart failure stage now. It’s progressing very slowly, but makes remaining alive not much fun. 

            Because I can’t actually DO anything anymore, it’s a treat to get your mail. I can’t do any more than I’ve already done, but maybe what I’ve already done is enough. Who would have thought that 20 years after its publication, people would still be talking about The Nurture Assumption!

 

Or that The New York Times would replay its message at length, in your well-deserved obituary, Judy.

 

(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life visit www.TalkPsych.com.)

Crows are smart. Never underestimate a crow.

 

Comparative psychology is “the study of nonhuman animal behavior with the dual objective of understanding the behavior for its own sake and furthering the understanding of human behavior” (American Psychological Association, n.d.). The better that we understand how crows behave, think, communicate, and solve problems, the better we will understand both crows and ourselves.

 

I have a short written assignment that my Intro Psych students do. After its completion, students have a greater appreciation for the crows around them.

 

John Marzluff, a University of Washington zoologist, has made studying crows his life’s work. In his 22-minute TEDx talk, Marzluff shares what he thinks everyone should know about crows. I assign this during the thinking chapter in Intro Psych, after we’ve covered neuroscience and learning. It makes for a nice review of previously covered content.

 

Here are the questions I ask my students to address:

  • What three factors does Marzluff cite for the crow's problem-solving ability? Explain how each contributes to problem-solving skills.
  • How do the brain areas of crows map onto the human brain? What do those brain areas do and why are they important? How do their brains differ from those of humans?
  • Give an example from his talk of how the birds' behavior changed due to positive reinforcement.
  • Give an example from his talk of how the birds' behavior changed due to observational learning.
  • What is your reaction to this video? 

 

 

 

Reference

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Comparative psychology. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://dictionary.apa.org/comparative-psychology

As Pope Francis has said, “Everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others.” We are social animals. We need to belong. We flourish when supported by close relationships. Finding a supportive confidante, we feel joy.

 

Longing for acceptance and love, Americans spend $86 billion annually on cosmetics, fragrances, and personal care products—and billions more on clothes, hair styling, and diets. Is that money well spent? Will it help us find and form meaningful relationships?

 

Consider one of social psychology’s most provocative, and simplest, experiments. Cornell University students were asked to don a Barry Manilow T-shirt (at the behest of researcher Thomas Gilovich and colleagues) and were then shown into a room where several others were completing questionnaires. Afterwards they were asked to guess how many of the others noticed their dorky attire. Their estimate? About half. Actually, only 23 percent did.

 

Other experiments confirm this spotlight effect—an overestimation of others’ noticing us, as if a spotlight is shining on us.

 

The phenomenon extends to our secret emotions. Thanks to an illusion of transparency we presume that our attractions, our disgust, and our anxieties leak out and become visible to others. Imagine standing before an audience: If we’re nervous and we know it, will our face surely show it? Not necessarily. Even our lies and our lusts are less transparent than we imagine.

 

There’s bad news here: Others notice us less than we imagine (partly because they are more worried about the impressions they are making).

 

But there’s also good news: Others notice us less than we imagine. And that good news is liberating: A bad hair day hardly matters. And if we wear yesterday’s clothes again today, few will notice. Fewer will care. Of those, fewer still will remember. 

 

If normal day-to-day variations in our appearance are hardly noticed and soon forgotten, what does affect the impressions we make and the relationships we hope to form and sustain?

 

Proximity. Our social ecology matters. We tend to like those nearby—those who sit near us in class, at work, in worship. Our nearest become our dearest as we befriend or marry people who live in the same town, attend the same school, share the same mail room, or visit the same coffee shop. Mere exposure breeds liking. Familiar feels friendly. Customary is comfortable. So look around.

 

Similarity. Hundreds of experiments confirm and reconfirm that likeness leads to liking (and thus the challenge of welcoming the benefits of social diversity). The more similar another’s attitudes, beliefs, interests, politics, income, and on and on, the more disposed we are to like the person and to stay connected. And the more dissimilar another’s attitudes, the greater the odds of disliking.  Opposites retract.

 

If proximity and similarity help bonds form, what can we do to grow and sustain relationships?

 

Equity. One key to relationship endurance is equity, which occurs when friends perceive that they receive in proportion to what they give. When two people share their time and possessions, when they give and receive support in equal measure, and when they care equally about one another, their prospects for long-term friendship or love are bright. This doesn’t mean playing relational ping pong—balancing every invitation with a tit-for-tat response. But over time, each friend or partner invests in the other about as much as he or she receives.

 

Self-disclosure. Relationships also grow closer and stronger as we share our likes and dislikes, our joys and hurts, our dreams and worries. In the dance of friendship or love, one reveals a little and the other reciprocates. And then the first reveals more, and on and on. As the relationship progresses from small talk to things that matter, the increasing self-disclosure can elicit liking, which unleashes further self-disclosure.

 

Mindful of the benefits of equity and mutual self-disclosure, we can monitor our conversations: 

  • Are we listening as much as we are talking?
  • Are we drawing others out as much as we disclosing about ourselves?

 

In his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie offered kindred advice. To win friends, he advised, “become genuinely interested in other people. . . . You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.” Thus, “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.”

 

So, looking our best may help a little, initially, though less than we suppose. What matters more is being there for others—focusing on them, encouraging them, supporting them—and enjoying their support in return. Such is the soil that feeds satisfying friendships and enduring love.

 

(For David Myers’ other weekly essays on psychological science and everyday life, visit www.TalkPsych.com)

Sue Frantz

Gaming disorder: Discuss

Posted by Sue Frantz Jan 2, 2019

"Wes, 21, an Eagle Scout and college student from Michigan, played video games 80 hours a week, only stopping to eat every two to three days. He lost 25 pounds and failed his classes" (Irvine, 2018).

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced the addition of “gaming disorder” to the next edition of the International Classification of Diseases.

 

Gaming disorder is defined in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences (World Health Organization, 2018).

 

For your reference, internet gaming disorder appeared in DSM-V in the section identifying areas in need of research. While it’s called internet gaming disorder, the internet part is not required. As it’s currently written, a person would need five of these symptoms to be diagnosed:

 

  • Preoccupation with gaming
  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)
  • Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
  • Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
  • Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming
  • Continuing to game despite problems
  • Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
  • The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
  • Risk, having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming (“Internet gaming,” 2018)

 

The symptoms, as it true for (almost?) all DSM-V diagnoses, must cause “significant impairment or distress” (“Internet gaming,” 2018).

 

Following WHO’s announcement, 25 researchers co-authored a short and freely-available paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions (Aarseth et al., 2017) outlining their concerns with the inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11. Their six concerns are:

 

  1. “The quality of the research base is low.”
  2. “The current operationalization of the construct leans too heavily on substance use and gambling criteria.”
  3. “There is no consensus on the symptomatology and assessment of problematic gaming.”
  4. “Moral panics around the harm of video gaming might result in premature application of a clinical diagnosis and the treatment of abundant false-positive cases, especially among children and adolescents.”
  5. “Research will be locked into a confirmatory approach rather than an exploration of the boundaries of normal versus pathological.”
  6. “The healthy majority of gamers will be affected by stigma and perhaps even changes in policy.”

 

In the same journal volume, also freely-available, a couple researchers (Király & Demetrovics, 2017) address each of those concerns.

 

Discussion

 

After your coverage of psychological disorders, divide your students into six groups – or if you have a large class, divide students into groups that are multiples of six. Give each group a copy of both articles.  Assign one of the six concerns to each group. The group is to:

  1. Summarize the concern as it was raised in the Aarseth article.
  2. Summarize the response to that concern given by Király and Demetrovics.
  3. Decide, as a group, which of the two arguments is more persuasive. In other words, based on that concern alone, should ICD-11 include gaming disorder? Explain the group’s reasoning.

 

Ask three different group members to take on the responsibility of being prepared to speak to the class about one of those three tasks. In other words, one student would address #1, another would address #2, and another would address #3.

 

Following discussion, ask the group that was assigned the first concern to offer their responses to the three questions. If you have more than one group looking at the first concern, ask the other groups for their response to the third question.

Repeat with the remaining five concerns.

 

Conclude this activity with a summary of how difficult it is to determine if a set of behaviors rises to the point of a diagnosable disorder and that there are real consequences for creating a diagnosis.

 

Expansion

 

If you would like to expand this exploration, the journal volume, September 2017 issue of the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, these two articles came from has another 10 articles on the topic, all freely available. Create 11 groups. Give each group the Aarseth article that opens the volume, plus one additional article from the remaining 11 commentaries. To start the discussion, you can summarize the Aarseth article. This will ensure everyone starts on the same page, and this will model what their summaries should look like. After the groups have had time to discuss the commentary article they’ve been given, ask each group to report out. After all the groups have reported, by a show of hands (or through an audience response system), ask students to decide if gaming disorder should be included in ICD-11. Ask volunteers to share their reasoning.

 

References

 

Aarseth, E., Bean, A. M., Boonen, H., Colder Carras, M., Coulson, M., Das, D., … Van Rooij, A. J. (2017). Scholars’ open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 6(3), 267–270. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.088

 

Internet gaming. (2018, June). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.pn.2018.12a20

 

Irvine, M. (2018). ‘Hi, my name is ___, and I’m addicted to tech’. Retrieved December 27, 2018, from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/hes-a-tech-addict-who-works-in-the-tech-industry/

 

Király, O., & Demetrovics, Z. (2017). Inclusion of Gaming Disorder in ICD has more advantages than disadvantages. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 6(3), 280–284. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.6.2017.046

 

World Health Organization. (2018). WHO | Gaming disorder. Retrieved December 25, 2018, from https://www.who.int/features/qa/gaming-disorder/en/

At the end of each term, I ask my Intro Psych students for their top ten list of important concepts they learned in the course. Last fall, interestingly, none of my students put parenting styles in their top ten lists. This term, a quarter of my students did. The only difference between those classes is that this term I asked my students to read an Atlantic article on distracted parenting (Christakis, 2018).

 

In our coverage of development I asked students, after they had read the article, whether they thought this is a new “parenting style” or if it fits one of the existing four: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, or neglectful. (Most students called it neglectful, but many weren’t quite ready to go all the way there and called it a “new branch” or a “type” of neglectful parenting.)

 

The article makes for an excellent discussion starter for small groups after you’ve covered parenting styles in class. The discussion of the impact distracted parenting has on children will be meaningful to students since you would have just covered child development.

 

Later when you cover operant conditioning – if you haven’t already done so – you can refer back to this section of the article.

 

Young children will do a lot to get a distracted adult’s attention, and if we don’t change our behavior, they will attempt to do it for us; we can expect to see a lot more tantrums as today’s toddlers age into school. But eventually, children may give up (Christakis, 2018)

 

If the adult drops the phone and attends to the child’s tantrum, the child’s tantrum behavior has been positively reinforced by getting attention, and the adult’s dropping-the-phone behavior has been negatively reinforced by stopping the tantrum. If the adult’s phone is more attention-grabbing than the child’s tantrum, then the adult will ignore the child. The result? Extinction. The child will no longer throw tantrums – or, perhaps, any other behavior that is a plea for adult attention.

 

The author of the article cites two research studies. If you’d like to challenge your students’ research skills, ask them to find those studies. The study that took place in Philadelphia is a pretty easy find because the article’s author gives us the names of the researchers. The Boston research article is a little more challenging because we don’t have clues to the citation. I don’t want to give the reference here because it would make it too easy for your Googling students to find. I can give you a hint, however: it was published in 2014 in a highly-respected peer-reviewed journal. And, if you email me (sfrantz@highline.edu), I would be happy to send you either or both references – as long as I don’t think you’re a student.

 

If you’d like to extend this activity, ask students to assess how well the article’s author did at describing those studies. Did the author hit the important high points? Was there other information in the research articles that would be important for a reader of The Atlantic to know?

 

Reference

 

Christakis, E. (2018). The dangers of distracted parenting. Retrieved August 29, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/07/the-dangers-of-distracted-parenting/561752/

There are a lot of social psychological concepts that can help explain road rage. This Seattle Times article (Doughton, 2018) beautifully identifies a number of these concepts. Students will see how social psychology tells us something about our everyday lives. And, hopefully, students will remember this the next time they find themselves overly angry at the behavior of strangers.

 

You can use the article in any number of ways.

  • Pull out the examples to frame your social psychology lecture
  • After students read the chapter, but before you cover the concepts in class, ask students, as a homework assignment, to identify the social psychological concepts
  • Before you cover these concepts, ask students to read the article, then, in small groups, identify the social psychological concepts
  • After your social psychology lecture, ask students to read the article, and then in small groups, identify the social psychological concepts

 

If your students are reading the article and identifying the concepts, ask students to define the concepts they find in their own words, quote sections of the article that illustrate each of those concepts, and, finally, explain how the quotes they found illustrate each of the concepts students have identified.

 

To make it easier, give students these concepts to find in the article:

  • Deindividuation
  • Fundamental attribution error
  • Self-serving bias
  • Outgroup homogeneity bias

 

If you’d like students to reflect on previous content they’ve learned about in their Intro Psych course, ask them to identify examples of these concepts in the article:

  • Sympathetic nervous system arousal
  • Observational learning
  • Long-term effects of stress

 

References Doughton, S. (2018, November 2). How to keep your head from exploding in Seattle traffic. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/how-to-keep-your-head-from-exploding-in-seattle-traffic

Do you cover survey research in your Intro Psych course? Given the prevalence of bad surveys, I’m starting to think I should spend more time on it.

 

For a seemingly unlimited supply of bad survey questions, check out the @BadSurveyQ Twitter account. (Thank you to Rachel Soicher at Oregon State University for directing me to this.)

 

Point out to students that not all surveys are written by researchers who have been trained to conduct surveys. In fact, some survey questions are designed to persuade, not to actually gather data. Other survey questions are written by people with good intentions who may not have thought them all the way through. Can you students spot the difference? More importantly, can your students fix the problems?

 

@KenFernandezPHD shared this slanted poll question. In small groups, ask students to take a crack at rewriting this question in neutral language.

 

Do you believe the corrupt leadership of the FBI and DOJ [Department of Justice] now realize President Trump means to end their efforts to subvert his presidency?

 

Yes
No

 

@magnatom found another slanted poll question. How would your students fix this one?

Do you think the Government will ever seriously look into proven, practical and effective methods to lower vehicle emissions instead of resorting to raising yet more cash from drivers?

 

Yes
No
No idea

 

@t_mabon found this limited option question. Can students identify the problem? And then fix it?

 

How do you read your books?

 

Papers
e-reader/tablet
I don’t read
Audio books

 

@sachinsomaiya found a question that left the interpretation of the rating scale up to the reader. How do your students interpret this? How would they make it better?

 

What priority would you assign to the candidate for this program? Choose a number between 1 to 10 for the person.

 

@BadSurveyQ wonders about the “other” option in this question. Other what? What would your students do with this “other” option to fix the question?

 

Which of the following have you done in the last 2 years?

 

Rented a house
Rented an apartment
Rented a car
Bought a house
Bought an apartment
Bought a car
Other
None of the above

 

@t_mabon shared a poll question that had responses only a company could love. What additional options would your students add?

 

Which of the following statements do you agree with? SELECT ALL THAT APPLY

 

Uber is a company I’m proud to say I use

Uber is a brand/service for me

Uber sends me relevant communications

 

And one last question from @BadSurveyQ, another question that only a company could love.

 

Please select three other statements that according to you also apply to a Tassimo machine [coffee maker].

 

Freedom
Togetherness
Power
Entertaining
Liberating
Fun
Open-minded

 

Now, with this blog post completed, I’m going to have a long over-due chat with my coffee maker. If it’s not entertaining and open-minded, it’s out of here.

“I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me,” explained President Trump in stating why he believed Federal Reserve interest rate hikes were a mistake. “My gut has always been right,” he declared again in saying why he needn’t prepare for the recent trade negotiation with China’s president.

 

In trusting his gut intuition, Trump has much company. “Buried deep within each and every one of us, there is an instinctive, heart-felt awareness that provides—if we allow it to—the most reliable guide,” offered Prince Charles. “I’m a gut player. I rely on my instincts,” said President George W. Bush, explaining his decision to launch the Iraq War.

 

Although there is, as I noted in another of these TalkPsych essays, a gut-brain connection, are we right to trust our gut? Does the gut know best about interest rates, trade policy, and climate change? Or, mindful of smart people often doing dumb things, do we instead need more humility, more checking of gut hunches against hard reality, more critical thinking?

 

Drawing from today’s psychological science, one could write a book on both the powers and perils of intuition. (Indeed, I have—see here.) Here, shortened to an elevator speech, is the gist.

 

Intuition’s powers. Cognitive science reveals an unconscious mind—another mind backstage—that Freud never told us about. Much thinking occurs not “on screen” but off screen, out of sight, where reason does not know. Countless studies—of priming, implicit memory, empathic accuracy, thin slice social judgments, creativity, and right hemisphere processing—illustrate our nonrational, intuitive powers. We know more than we know we know. Thanks to our “overlearning” of automatic behaviors, those of us who learned to ride bikes as children can intuitively pedal away on one decades later. And a skilled violinist knows, without thinking, just where to place the bow, at what angle, with what pressure. “In apprehension, how like a god!,” exclaimed Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

 

Intuition’s perils. Other studiesof perceptual illusions, self-serving bias, illusory optimism, illusory correlation, confirmation bias, belief perseverance, the fundamental attribution error, misplaced fears, and the overconfidence phenomenon—confirm what literature and religion have long presumed: the powers and perils of pride. Moreover, these phenomena feed mistaken gut intuitions that produce deficient decisions by clinicians, interviewers, coaches, investors, gamblers, and would-be psychics. “Headpiece filled with straw,” opined T. S. Eliot.

 

Intuition’s failures often are akin to perceptual illusions—rooted in mechanisms that usually serve us well but sometimes lead us astray. Like doctors focused on detecting and treating disease, psychological scientists are skilled at detecting and calling attention to our mind’s predictable errors. They concur with the novelist Madeline L’Engle’s observation: “The naked intellect is an extraordinarily inaccurate instrument.”

 

The bottom line: our gut intuitions are terrific at some things, such as instantly reading emotions in others’ faces, but fail at others, such as guessing stocks, assessing risks, and predicting climate change. And so psychologists teach about intuition’s perils as well as its powers. We encourage critical thinking. We urge people, before trusting others’ gut intuitions, to ask: “What do you mean?” “How do you know?”

 

As physicist Richard Feynman famously said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

 

(For David Myers’ other weekly essays on psychological science and everyday life, visit www.TalkPsych.com)

The next term is on the horizon. Looking for a different way to introduce your students to the course?

 

Today in the History of Psychology database, created by Warren Street (Central Washington University, Emeritus), has been over 40 years in the making. Hosted on his faculty website for many years, Street donated the database to the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP). Under its second editor ever, Chris Koch (George Fox University), the database made its STP debut in October.

 

In small groups, have your students use their web-enabled devices to find the month and day of their births in the database. (If students don’t want to share their birthday, they can, of course, choose any month and day.) Ask students to pick one event from each birthday. Next, ask students to look at the table of contents from their textbooks to figure out in which chapters those events fall.

 

Circulate among the groups, answering any questions they may have.

 

Ask each group to identify the most interesting event they identified, the month/day/year it happened, why they chose that event, and in which chapter they think it falls.

 

As groups report out, add whatever other information you think would be interesting. Let students know they’ll be hearing more about these events as the course progresses.

 

Keep a list of the dates and events. When you get to those chapters, refer back to these events – or post an announcement in your course management system with additional information.

 

Examples:

 

October 30, 1938: “The Orson Welles radio broadcast of H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds ‘was aired, on Halloween night. This realistic radio drama caused panic in many parts of the United States. The phenomenon was described in Hadley Cantril, Hazel Gaudet, and Herta Hertzog's book The Invasion From Mars (1940).’" 

 

The social psychology chapter will tell us about some of the factors that contributed to this panic. The podcast Radiolab did a story on this event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its airing. It’s an interesting piece! It's noteworthy that War of the Worlds aired at different times in different parts of the world, all to similar effect. 

 

July 18, 1892: “Lightner Witmer passed his doctoral oral examination at the University of Leipzig under Wilhelm Wundt, receiving the grade of magna cum laude.  The degree was formally awarded on March 29, 1893.  Witmer was a founder of the APA and an originator of modern clinical psychology.”

 

Wundt’s founding of his lab marks the start of the field of psychology. When most people think about psychology, they probably think about psychotherapy. As you’ll see in this course, psychology is much bigger than that. In the therapy chapter, we’ll learn about the psychotherapeutic techniques used by today’s clinical psychologists.

 

December 9, 1930: “Walter Cannon delivered an address to the Harvard Medical Society on heart rate and emotion.  Cannon's research explored the physiology of emotional states.”

 

Walter Cannon’s and Philip Bard’s theory of emotion is covered in the motivation and emotion chapter. Let’s say that you are in a car accident. Your dominant emotion is probably fear. Where does that fear come from? Cannon and Bard found evidence that our physiological response (increased heart rate, for example – more on this in the biopsych chapter!) happens simultaneously with the emotion of fear.

If you, dear reader, can indulge some slightly geeky calculations, I hope to show you that with daily exercise you can live a substantially longer and happier life. Indeed, per the time invested, exercise will benefit you more than smoking will harm you. Consider:

  • An analysis of mortality data offers this memorable result: For the average person, life is lengthened by about 7 hours for every hour exercised. So (here comes the geek), the World Health Organization recommends exercising 150 minutes = 2.5 hours per week. Multiplied times 7, that equals 17.5 hours longer life for each week of exercise. Over 52 weeks, that sums to 910 hours = 38 days = 1/10th of a year longer life for each year of faithful exercise . . . which, continued over 40 years would yield ~4 years longer life. (Though, more typically, say the researchers, runners live 3.2 years longer.)
  • In another epidemiological study of over 650,000 American adults, those walking 150 minutes per week lived (voila!) 4 years longer than nonexercisers (Moore et al., 2012).

 

How satisfying to have two independent estimates in the same ballpark!

 

This potential life-extending benefit brings to mind the mirror-image life-shortening costs of smoking, which the Centers for Disease Control reports diminishes life for the average smoker “by at least 10 years.” Thus (geek time again):

  • A person  who takes up smoking at age 15, smokes 15 cigarettes per day for  50 years, and dies at 65 instead of 75, will lose roughly 1/5th of a year (equals 73 days = 1752 hours = 105,000 minutes) for each year of smoking. If each cigarette  takes 10 minutes to smoke, the minutes spent smoking (54,750 each year) will account for half of those 105,000 lost minutes.
  • Ergo, nature charges ~2 minutes of shorter life for each minute spent smoking. . . but generously gives a 7-to-1 return for each hour spent exercising. How benevolent!

 

Massive new epidemiological studies and meta-analyses (statistical digests of all available research) confirm both physical and mental health benefits of exercise (see here, here, and here). A good double goal for those wishing for a long life is: more fitness, less fatness. But evidence suggests that if forced to pick one, go for fitness.

 

As an earlier blog essay documented, exercise entails not only better health but a less depressed and anxious mood, more energy, and stronger relationships. Moreover, clinical trial experiments—with people assigned to exercise or to control conditions—confirm cause and effect: Exercise both treats and protects against depression and anxiety.

 

The evidence is as compelling as evidence gets: Go for a daily jog or swim and you can expect to live longer and live happier. Mens sana in corpore sano: A healthy mind in a healthy body.

 

 K.C. Alfred/Moment/Getty Images

(For David Myers’ other weekly essays on psychological science and everyday life, visit www.TalkPsych.com)

David Myers

Sometimes Truth Is Comedy

Posted by David Myers Expert Nov 29, 2018

As I approach five years of www.TalkPsych.com commentary—which has settled into a weekly Thursday essay—I am tempted (given our now larger audience) to replay an occasional favorite. Here is my second focused essay, which still puts a smile on my face . . . and perhaps yours? (In sneaking humor into texts, I presume that if I can’t have fun writing, then readers likely won’t have fun reading.)

 

From April 6, 2014:

Consider Brett Pelham, Matthew Mirenberg, and John Jones’ 2002 report of wacky associations between people’s names and vocations. Who would have guessed? For example, in the United States, Jerry, Dennis, and Walter are equally popular names (0.42 percent of people carry each of these names). Yet America’s dentists have been almost twice as likely to be named Dennis as Jerry or Walter. Moreover, 2.5 times as many female dentists have been named Denise as the equally popular names Beverly and Tammy. And George or Geoffrey has been overrepresented among geoscientists (geologists, geophysicists, and geochemists).

I thought of that playful research on names recently when reading a paper on black bears’ quantitative competence, co-authored by Michael Beran. Next up in my reading pile was creative work on crows’ problem solving led by Chris Bird. Today I was appreciating interventions for lifting youth out of depression, pioneered by Sally Merry.

That also took my delighted mind to the important books on animal behavior by Robin Fox and Lionel Tiger, and the Birds of North America volume by Chandler Robbins. (One needn’t live in Giggleswick, England, to find humor in our good science.)

The list goes on: billionaire Marc Rich, drummer Billy Drummond, cricketer Peter Bowler, and the Ronald Reagan Whitehouse spokesman Larry Speakes. And as a person with hearing loss whose avocational passion is hearing advocacy, I should perhaps acknowledge the irony of my own name, which approximates My-ears.

Internet sources offer lots more: dentists named Dr. E. Z. Filler, Dr. Gargle, and Dr. Toothaker; the Oregon banking firm Cheatham and Steele; and the chorister Justin Tune. But my Twitter feed this week offered a cautionary word about these reported names: “The problem with quotes on the Internet is that you never know if they’re true.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Perhaps you, too, have some favorite name-vocation associations? I think of my good friend who was anxiously bemused before meeting his oncologist, Dr. Bury. (I am happy to report that, a decade later, he is robustly unburied and has not needed the services of the nearby Posthumus Funeral Home.)

For Pelham and his colleagues there is a serious point to this fun: We all tend to like what we associate with ourselves (a phenomenon they call implicit egotism). We like faces that have features of our own face morphed into them. We like—and have some tendency to live in—cities and states whose names overlap with our own—as in the disproportionate number of people named Jack living in Jacksonville, of Philips in Philadelphia, and of people whose names begin with Tor in Toronto.

Uri Simonsohn isn’t entirely convinced (see here and here, with Pelham’s reply here and here). He replicated the associations between people’s names, occupations, and places but argued that reverse causality sometimes is at work. For example, people sometimes live in places and on streets after which their ancestors were named.

Implicit egotism research continues. In the meantime, we can delight in the occasional playful creativity of psychological science.

P.S. Speaking of dentists (actual ones), my retired Hope College chemistry colleague Don Williams—a person of sparkling wit—offers these photos, taken with his own camera:

And if you need a podiatrist to advise about your foot odor, Williams has found just the person:

(For David Myers’ other weekly essays on psychological science and everyday life visit TalkPsych.com)

After elections, people often note unexpected outcomes and then complain that “the polls got it wrong.”

 

After Donald Trump’s stunning 2016 presidential victory, the press gave us articles on “Why the Polls were such a Disaster,” on “4 Possible Reasons the Polls Got It So Wrong,” and on “Why the Polls Missed Their Mark.” Stupid pollsters. “Even a big poll only surveys 1500 people or so out of almost 130 million voters,” we may think, “so no wonder they can’t get it right.

 

Moreover, consider the many pundits who, believing the polls, confidently predicted a Clinton victory. They were utterly wrong, leaving many folks shocked on election night (some elated, others depressed, with later flashbulb memories of when they realized Trump was winning).

 

So how could the polls, the pundits, and the prediction models have all been so wrong?

 

Or were they? First, we know that in a closely contested race, a representative sample of a mere 1500 people from a 130 million population will—surprisingly to many people—allow us to estimate the population preference within ~3 percent.

 

Sounds easy. But there’s a challenge: Most randomly contacted voters don’t respond when called. The New York TimesUpshot” recently let us view its polling in real time. This enabled us to see, for example, that it took 14,636 calls to Iowa’s fourth congressional district to produce 423 responses, among which Steve King led J. D. Scholten by 5 percent—slightly more than the 3.4 percent by which King won.

 

Pollsters know the likely demographic make-up of the electorate, and so can weight results from respondents of differing age, race, and gender to approximate the population. And that, despite the low response rate, allows them to do remarkably well—especially when we bear in mind that their final polls are taken ahead of the election (and cannot account for last-minute events, which may sway undecided voters). In 2016, the final polling average favored Hillary Clinton by 3.9 percent, with a 3 percent margin of error. On Election Day, she won the popular vote by 2.1 percent (and 2.9 million votes)—well within that margin of error.

 

To forecast a race, fivethirtyeight.com’s prediction model does more. It “takes lots of polls, performs various types of adjustments to them [based on sample size, recency, and pollster credibility], and then blends them with other kinds of empirically useful indicators” such as past results, expert assessments, and fundraising. Here is their 2016 final estimation:

Ha! This prediction, like other 2016 prediction models, failed.

 

Or did it? Consider a parallel. Imagine that as a basketball free-throw shooter steps to the line, I tell you that the shooter has a 71 percent free-throw average. If the shooter misses, would you disbelieve the projection? No, because, if what I’ve told you is an accurate projection, you should expect to see a miss 29 percent of the time. If the player virtually never missed, then you’d rightly doubt my data.

 

Likewise, if, when Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com gives a candidate a 7 in 10 chance of winning and that candidate always wins, then the model is, indeed, badly flawed. Yes?

 

In the 2018 U.S. Congressional races, fivethirtyeight.com correctly predicted 96 percent of the outcomes. On the surface, that may look like a better result, but it’s mainly because most races were in solid Blue or Red districts and not seriously contested.

 

Ergo, don’t be too quick to demean the quality polls and the prediction models they inform. Survey science still works.

 

(For David Myers’ other weekly essays on psychological science and everyday life visit TalkPsych.com)