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When Seattle residents were surveyed concerning their fear of crime, many reported a fear that outpaced the actual level of crime. Two neighborhoods, for example, “are seemingly safe places to live, and rank among the 15 neighborhoods with the lowest rates of reported crime. But in terms of fear, they rank second and third, respectively — both at least 10 points higher than the city average.” There are 8 additional neighborhoods whose amount of crime is below the city average but whose fear of crime is above the city average (Balk, 2018).

 

Additionally, while Seattle crime is frequently reported in the news, suburban crime is less reported. Some residents of Bellevue (population 150,000 and located 10 miles east of Seattle) have complained that problems with crime in their city has not enjoyed the same media coverage Seattle’s has. In all fairness, Bellevue’s crime rate is not near that of Seattle’s. For example, in 2018, while Seattle had 992 burglaries per 100,000 residents, Bellevue had 268 per 100,000 residents (Balk, 2019). Why do the residents of some Seattle neighbors greatly fear crime while their neighborhoods are pretty safe?

 

Why do the residents of Bellevue think there is more crime in their city than there is?

 

One culprit may be Nextdoor.com (Balk, 2019), “The private social network for your neighborhood.”

 

The Nextdoor.com website says, “Nextdoor is the best way to stay informed about what’s going on in your neighborhood—whether it’s finding a last-minute babysitter, planning a local event, or sharing safety tips. There are so many ways our neighbors can help us, we just need an easier way to connect with them.” As a member of Nextdoor.com, I do see all of those things. But Nextdoor also provides a way for everyone to report suspicious activity and actual crime (posting security cam recordings of thieves stealing packages is a favorite), whether experienced themselves or by a neighbor. “Suspicious activity” is, of course, subjective. Whether it’s actual crime or “suspicious activity” that may have been nothing, it’s easy for readers of Nextdoor to add ticks to their mental crime column.

 

For frequent Nextdoor readers, crime information is salient. The availability heuristic leads such readers to think their neighborhoods are crime-ridden when, in fact, the crime rates may be quite low. If only people would also report when they experienced no crime. (Do you think I could start that trend? “Dear neighbors, nobody harmed my family or stole my property today.”) It’s another nice reminder that the information we take in does indeed influence our perceptions. For those keeping score – System 1: 1; System 2: 0 (Stanovich & West, 2000).

 

References

 

Balk, G. (2018, June 28). ‘Mean world syndrome’: In some Seattle neighborhoods, fear of crime exceeds reality. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/mean-world-syndrome-in-some-seattle-neighborhoods-fear-of-crime-exceeds-reality

 

Balk, G. (2019, February 11). The ‘Nextdoor effect’ in Bellevue: A familiar reaction to crime. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/the-nextdoor-effect-in-bellevue-a-familiar-reaction-to-crime

 

Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2000). Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 645–726. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X00003435

With so many trillions of daily happenings, some weird and wonderful events are inevitable—random serendipities that we could never predict in foresight but can savor in hindsight. From sports to relationships to our very existence, chance rules.

 

Sports. I defy you to watch this 7-second basketball clip (of a “double doinked” basketball fan) and not smile (or cringe). Freakish events are commonplace in baseball and basketball—as in astonishing hot and cold hitting and shooting streaks. Even when such streaks approximate mere random sequences, they hardly seem random to fans. That’s because random data are streakier than folks assume. (Coin tosses, too, have more runs of heads and of tails than people expect.) And thus is born the sporting world’s preeminent myth—the “hot hand” (see here and here).

 

Chance encounters. Albert Bandura has documented the lasting significance of chance events that deflect our life course into an unanticipated relationship or career. He recalls the book editor who came to one of his lectures on the “Psychology of Chance Encounters and Life Paths”—and ended up marrying the woman he chanced to sit beside.

 

In 1978, I was invited to a five-day conference in Germany, where I came to know a more senior American colleague who chanced to have an adjacent assigned seat. Six months later, when he was invited to become a social psychology textbook author, he referred an acquisitions editor to me, which led to my writing of textbooks and eventually these TalkPsych.com essays. So, thanks to this happenstance seating assignment (and to the kindness of my distinguished colleague), I gained a meaning-filled new vocation . . . and now you are reading this.

 

Recently I was stranded on a rainy Cambridge, Massachusetts, sidewalk, waiting for a lost Lyft driver. That mix-up led to my sharing a ride with University of California at Santa Barbara professor Ann Taves. Making small talk, I asked her about the California fires, noting that I have a friend whose department at Westmont College (in Santa Barbara) was burned in wildfires some years ago.

 

“Who’s your friend?” she asked.

 

“Ray Paloutzian,” I said.

 

Her reply: “I'm married to him!”

 

But then it got weirder. She said she’d heard that I had a Seattle connection. I told her about family there and mentioned we now own a home in the area.

 

“Where is that?” she asked. When I said Bainbridge Island, she looked a little stunned and said, “Where on Bainbridge?”

 

I explained that it was on a beach called “Yeomalt,” one point north of where the ferry docks.

 

Her mouth dropped open. “You're that David Myers?!” 

 

Wonder of wonders, her uncle was also named David Myers, and she spent time over many summers with Uncle David in our little neighborhood—meaning we surely had crossed paths multiple times. She knew all about the other Yeomalt Myers . . . and her uncle’s name doppelganger.

 

I recalled for her the many times that her uncle and I would row past each other while salmon fishing in the early morning . . . with Dave Myers exchanging a friendly wave with Dave Myers. (That always did feel slightly weird.)

 

The point is not that just the world is weird, but that with so many things happening, some weirdness in our lives is to be expected, and enjoyed, be it double doinks or chance encounters that reveal the unlikeliest of connections. Some happenings are destined not to be explained, but to be savored.

 

Our improbable lives. But surely the unlikeliest aspect of our lives is our very existence. As I explain in Psychology, 12th edition (with Nathan DeWall), conception was “your most fortunate of moments. Among 250 million sperm, the one needed to make you, in combination with that one particular egg, won the race. And so it was for innumerable generations before us. If any one of our ancestors had been conceived with a different sperm or egg, or died before conceiving, or not chanced to meet their partner or . . . The mind boggles at the improbable, unbroken chain of events that produced us.”

 

From womb to tomb, chance matters. And whether you call it chance or providence, your life’s greatest blessing is surely that, against near-infinite odds, you exist.

 

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

Adjunct faculty, unfortunately, often don’t have the kind of support full-time faculty do. As full-time faculty, many of us could do a better job supporting both our new and our long-standing adjuncts.

 

The Adjunct Faculty Resource Guide from the American Psychological Association can help. This 19-page document was originally produced by the Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges (PT@CC) committee and revised in 2017 by the Committee for Associate and Baccalaureate Education (CABE).

 

If you are an adjunct or are thinking about taking up teaching as a part-time endeavor, read this guide.

 

If you are full-time faculty who are hiring or supervising adjuncts, read this guide so you know what you should be telling your new adjuncts. Also, give this guide to your new adjuncts.

 

The guide is divided into three categories.

 

“Getting started: Learning institutional culture”

The process for getting hired varies. Class attendance policies, class cancellation policies, and grading policies vary widely from institution to institution. Know what you need to know to keep student records confidential and where students can get the institutional support they need – and where you can get the institutional support you need.

 

“Getting organized: Teaching psychology courses”

Create, manage, and assess your course. Write a syllabus that explains all of that to your students. Know how institutional areas, like the library, testing center, and tech support, can help you and your students.

 

“Getting connected: Building your psychology network”

Your departmental colleagues and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (including its 8,000-member Facebook group) will be invaluable. Join us. If attending national psychology conferences are out of your price range, consider going to a regional conference. All of them include programming on the teaching of psychology. There are a lot of local or state teaching of psychology conferences as well. Check with your department for a list of such conferences in your area.

 

At the end of the guide are checklists for new adjuncts teaching face-to-face courses and new adjuncts teaching online courses. Print them out, and check the boxes as you prepare for your first course. As you have questions, ask.

Help shape the future of the intro psych course! The APA is looking for instructors to provide feedback to their APA Introductory Psychology Initiative Census (APA IPIC). Take a look at ow.ly/lZGu30nYCVS   

What are today’s U.S. teens feeling and doing? And how do they differ from the teens of a decade ago?

 

A new Pew Research Center survey of nearly a thousand 13- to 17-year-olds offers both troubling and encouraging insights (here and here).

 

The Grim News

 

Screen time vs. face-to-face time. Today’s teens spend about half their nearly six daily leisure hours looking at screens—gaming, web-surfing, socializing, or watching shows. Such activity displaces leisure time spent with others, which now averages only an hour and 13 minutes daily (16 minutes less than a decade ago).

 

Increased depression, self-harm, and suicide. My Social Psychology co-author, Jean Twenge, reports that teen loneliness, depression, and suicide have risen in concert with smart phones and social media use. She notes,

Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently are the most likely to agree with the statements “A lot of times I feel lonely,” “I often feel left out of things,” and “I often wish I had more good friends.”

Indeed, reports Pew, 3 in 10 teens says they feel tense or nervous every or almost every day, and 7 in 10 see anxiety and depression as major problems among their peers. Other studies confirm that teen happiness and self-esteem have declined, while teen depression, self-harm, and suicide have risen.

 

The Good News

 

Sleeping more. The teens’ time diaries found them sleeping just over 9 hours per night (and 11 hours on weekends). Although other studies have found teens more sleep-deprived, these teens reported sleeping 22 minutes more per night than their decade-ago counterparts.

 

Doing more homework. Teens also are spending more time—16 minutes more per day—on homework, which now averages an hour a day. The increased sleep and homework time is enabled partly by 26 fewer minutes per day in paid employment—fewer teenagers today have jobs.

 

Minimal pressure for self-destructive behaviors. Relatively few teens feel personally pressured to be sexually active (8 percent), to drink alcohol (6 percent), or to use drugs (4 percent)—far fewer than the 61 percent feeling pressure to get good grades.

 

The Gendered News

 

Time use. Do you find it surprising (or not) that girls, compared with boys,

  • average 58 fewer daily minutes of screen time,
  • spend 21 minutes more on homework,
  • average 23 minutes more on grooming and appearance, and
  • spend 14 minutes more on helping around the house?

 

Emotions. Girls (36 percent) are also more likely than boys (23 percent) to report feeling anxious or depressed every or almost every day. But they are more likely each day to feel excited about something studied in school (33 vs. 21 percent). And they are more likely to say they never get in trouble at school (48 vs. 33 percent).

 

Aspirations. Girls are more likely than boys (68 vs. 51 percent) to aspire to attending a four-year college. And they are less materialistic than boys—with 41 percent of girls and 61 percent of boys reporting that it will be very important to have a lot of money when they grow up.

  

To sum up, (1) aspects of teen time use and emotions have changed, sometimes significantly. (2) Gender differences persist, though the differences are not static. (3) In this modern media age, adolescence—the years that teens spend morphing from child to adult—come with new temptations, which increase some dangers and decrease others.

 

What endures is teens’ need to navigate turbulent waters en route to independence and identity, while sustaining the social connections that will support their flourishing.

 

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

Cartoonists have pretty good insight into the workings of the human mind. How many of them took Intro Psych?

 

These comics will jazz up your next research methods, cognition, personality, learning, and social psych lectures.

 

Dilbert's boss does not have an operational definition of "employee engagement," and, thus, no way to measure it. Also, on the ethics side, no, it's not okay to make up data.

 

Lio, having no trouble with functional fixedness, repurposes an object into a sled. Lio’s friends aren’t typical. His ingroups include monsters, aliens, and death himself. When everyone else sees those creatures as part of a threatening outgroup, to Lio, they are just his friends. Also, you don’t have to read through too many strips to see Lio’s strong internal locus of control.

 

Rat in Pearls Before Swine can be counted on for a solid outgroup homogeneity bias.

 

Jeremy’s mom in Zits provides a nice example of positive punishment. No, I don’t think he’ll forget his textbook at home again. Or, perhaps more likely, if he does forget it at home, he won’t ask his mom to bring it to school. After all, punishment makes us better at avoiding the punishment.

 

Caulfield, the boy in Frazz, wonders if Santa has fallen victim to the just-world phenomenon.

Pig in Pearls Before Swine, whose sweetness and innocence may be unparalleled in the comics universe, does not fall for the fundamental attribution error.

 

Looking for more example from the comics? Here are some previous comic-focused blog posts:

Spotlight effect

Door-in-the-Face, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning

Change blindness, priming, and positive reinforcement

In hindsight, almost any finding (or its opposite) can seem like plain old common sense—a phenomenon we know as hindsight bias (a.k.a. the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon). Likewise, the outcomes of most elections, wars, and sporting events seem, in hindsight, explainable and predictable. As Dr. Watson said to Sherlock, “Anything seems commonplace, once explained.”

 

It may therefore seem unsurprising that new studies—reported in a forthcoming article by Florida State psychologists Jessica Maxwell and James McNulty—reveal a “bidirectional relationship” between relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. A loving relationship enhances sex. And good sex, with a lingering “afterglow,” enhances a loving relationship.

 

Even if the love-sex interplay does not, in hindsight, feel surprising, it does seem a lesson worth teaching in an age of sexual hook-ups and delayed marriage. As I explain in an upcoming essay for the Association for Psychological Science Observer,

When a romantic relationship is sealed with a secure commitment—when there is minimal anxiety about performance, and when there is an experience-rooted sensitivity to one another’s desires and responses—intimacy can flourish. “Satisfying relationships [infuse] positive affect into sexual experiences,” say Maxwell and McNulty. And when confident of a partner’s acceptance, low body self-esteem is a diminished barrier to sexual frequency and satisfaction.

 

The researchers’ evidence comes from tracking relationships through time. Higher marital satisfaction today predicts increased sexual satisfaction seven months later. And higher sexual satisfaction today predicts increased marital satisfaction seven months later. Moreover, it’s true for both newlyweds and long-term couples, and for both men and women.

 

Earlier studies found that when sex begins after commitment, couples win twice—with greater relational stability and better sex (see here and here). (In hindsight, we surely could rationalize an opposite finding: Perhaps test-driving sexual compatibility prior to commitment would make for better sex, and thus better relationships? But this does not seem to be the case.) And when sex happens in the context of a committed relationship, there is more pleasure and less morning-after regret (see here).

 

The take-home lesson: Our romantic bonds both enable and feed off sexual intimacy. We humans have what today’s social psychologists call a “need to belong.” We are social creatures, made to connect in close relationships. We flourish when embracing and enjoying secure, enduring, intimate attachments.

 

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

Because the perception of color is inherent to our experience, it’s difficult to know what someone else’s perception of color is like. People with total color blindness (either monochromacy or achromatopsia) (National Eye Institute, 2015) or color deficiency – can’t know what someone with complete color vision sees. And people with complete color vision can’t know what someone with total color blindness or color deficiency sees.

 

In an article about what it is like to be a woman who is red/green color blind*, Zoe Dubno (2019) tells us about a free app that manipulates color to show us what everyone else is seeing: Color Blind Pal (Android/iOS/Mac).

 

If your students have one of these three types of color blindness, the app will shift the hue of colors to make those colors easier to see.

 

Protanopia/protanomaly (cannot see any red/reduced sensitivity to red)

 

Deuteranopia/deuteranomaly (cannot see any green/reduced sensitivity to green)

 

Tritanopia/trianomaly (cannot see blue/reduced sensitivity to blue)

 

For your non-color blind students who are, say, future software builders, website designers, graphic designers, interior designers or who will ever have a need to create a graph or do a presentation, they should know what almost 10% of their audience (National Eye Institute, 2015) will see. You can give your students this information from the National Eye Institute (2015):

 

Red/green color blindness

 

Protanopia: “Red appears as black. Certain shades of orange, yellow, and green all appear as yellow.”

 

Protanomaly: “Red, orange, and yellow appear greener and colors are not as bright.”

 

Deuteranopia: Red looks brownish-yellow; green look beige.

 

Deuteranomaly (most common): “Yellow and green appear redder and it is difficult to tell violet from blue.”

 

Blue/yellow color blindness

 

Tritanopia (very rare): “Blue appears green and yellow appears violet or light grey.”

 

Trianomaly: “Blue appears greener and it can be difficult to tell yellow and red from pink.”

 

Or your non-color blind students can see the effects of color blindness for themselves in the Color Blind Pal app. 

 

Or your color blind students who are, say, future software builders, website designers, graphic designers, interior designers or who will ever have a need to create a graph or do a presentation, can use the Color Blind Pal app to shift colors into a range they can better see. 

 

Instructions on how to use the Color Blind Pal app are at the end of this blog post.

 

Why is it that a red deficiency results in an inability to distinguish red from green and vice versa, and why is it that a green deficiency results in an inability to distinguish green from red?

 

Follow the link to this image that shows the light wavelengths and how many photons (packets of lightwaves) each cone captures. Notice how much the red and green cones overlap in terms of their sensitivity to the wavelengths of light. For someone who is lacking green sensitivity, for example, their spectrum shifts toward red, making telling the difference between red and green more difficult. Conversely, for someone who is lacking red sensitivity, their spectrum shifts toward green, also making telling the difference between red and green more difficult.

 

Why so much overlap between red and green cones?

 

It looks like red and green cones used to be different alleles of the same gene. And this is still true among New World primates. The continents split 50 million years ago separating what would become New World primates from Old World primates. Around 40 million years ago, in Old World primates what was the green/red gene duplicated, allowing one gene to specialize in creating red cones and the other to specialize in creating green cones. New World primates haven’t had this gene duplication and all remain dichromats (essentially, they’re red/green color blind), except for some females. Since the gene with red/green alleles resides on the X chromosome (and gene for blue cones on chromosome 7), a male New World primate has blue (chromosome 7) and either green or red (he only has one X). A female New World primate has blue (chromosome 7), and, with two Xs, she can have two greens, two reds, or a green and red. In the latter case, she is a trichromat (White, Smith, & Heideman, n.d.).

 

The Ishihara Test

 

After your students have had a chance to explore the Color Blind Pal mobile app, visit a website that displays examples from the Ishihara Test for color blindness, such as this one at colormax.org. Zoom in so that only one test item is displayed at a time. Your students who are not color blind can simulate the different forms of color blindness to see how the number disappears. They can then change the settings in the app so that the app thinks they have, say, deuteranopia, to see how the app changes the colors to make the number more distinctive. Your students who are color blind, using the app set to their form of color blindness may see the number where they hadn’t before.

 

 

******<Start instructions>******

 

Instructions on how to use the Color Blind Pal mobile app

 

Install the app by downloading it from Google Play (Android) or the App Store (iOS). When it asks, give the app permission to access your camera.

 

If you are not color blind or color deficient:

 

Click on the “i” icon, then click on “Color blindness type.”

 

Choose one of the five “Simulate” options. Start with “Simulate deuteranomaly” (reduced sensitivity to green and the most common form of color blindness), then tap the back arrow.

 

At the top of the screen, you can toggle between “Inspecting Color” which names the color in the middle of the screen and “Filtering Colors.” (Play around with “Inspecting Color” first, if you’d like.)

 

Switch to “Filtering Colors.” Make sure “Shift” is selected at the bottom of the screen.

 

You are now seeing what someone with deuteranomaly sees. Use the app to look at a range of colors, especially green and orange. Compare violet and blue.

 

In the settings, change the “color blindness type” to “Simulate deuteranopia” (green blindness), and tap the back arrow. Look at those same colors again. How does lacking the ability to see any green (deuteranopia) compare to being green-deficient (deuteranomaly)?

 

Change the “color blindness type” again to simulate the other forms of color blindness: protanopia (cannot see red), protanomaly (red-deficiency), tritanopia (cannot see blue). How do colors look different when simulating deuternopia compared to protanopia?

 

If you are color blind or color deficient:

 

Click on the “i” icon, then click on “Color blindness type.”

 

Choose the type of color blindness that is closest to yours: protanopia (red), deuteranopia (green), or tritanopia (blue), then tap the back arrow. If you're not sure which form you have, start with deuteranopia (also covers deuteranomaly, the most common type of color blindness).

 

At the top of the screen, you can toggle between “Inspecting Color” which names the color in the middle of the screen and “Filtering Colors.” (Play around with “Inspecting Color” first, if you’d like.)

 

Switch to “Filtering Colors.” Make sure “Shift” is selected at the bottom of the screen.

 

The app will “shift" hues away from colors that are hard to distinguish toward colors that are easier to distinguish.”  

 

At the bottom of the screen, select “Filter.” Everything will appear gray except for the color you chose on the slider. How do the colors change for you? What looks different now?

 

******<End instructions>******

 

*Color blindness vs color deficiency. Technically, the only people who are color blind are those with no color vision at all. Everyone else has different degrees of color deficiency. However, color blindness is in common use to mean any degree of color deficiency, I will use color blindness in this post in that way.

 

References

Dubno, Z. (2019, February 5). Letter of recommendation: Color blind pal. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/05/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-color-blind-pal.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

National Eye Institute. (2015). Facts about color blindness. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://nei.nih.gov/health/color_blindness/facts_about

White, P. J. T., Smith, J., & Heideman, M. (n.d.). The evolution of trichromatic vision in monkeys. Retrieved February 17, 2019, from https://lbc.msu.edu/evo-ed/pages/primates/index.html

Climate change has arrived. Greenhouse gases are accumulating. The planet and its oceans are warming. Glaciers and Arctic ice are retreating. The seas are rising. Extreme weather is becoming ever costlier—in money and in lives. The warming Arctic and its wavier jet stream even help explain the recent polar vortex. If such threats came from a looming alien invasion, our response would be bipartisan and robust, notes Farhad Manjoo.

 

Even so, the U.S. government has

  • pulled out of the Paris Agreement on climate change,
  • plans to lift CO2 restrictions on coal-generated power,
  • weakened auto fuel-economy and emissions standards,
  • cut NASA climate monitoring,
  • increased off-shore oil and gas drilling, and
  • reduced clean-energy research and development.

 

So why, given the accumulating science, is the Trump administration apparently unconcerned about climate change as a weapon of mass destruction?

 

Surely the availability heuristic—the coloring of our judgments by mentally available events and images—is partly to blame. Climate change is imperceptibly slow, without a just noticeable difference from one month to the next. What’s cognitively more available is our recent local weather.

 

Thus, hot days increase people’s beliefs in global warming—as Australians understand after their recent scorching hot summer. And cold weather decreases concern—as vividly illustrated when U.S. Senator James Inhofe, during a 2015 cold spell, ridiculed global warming claims by bringing a snowball to the U.S. Senate. (Is it really so hard to grasp the distinction between local weather and global climate? We do manage, when feeling cold air on opening our refrigerator, not to misjudge our whole-house temperature.)

 

 (C-Span [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

President Trump has echoed Inhofe with dozens of tweets that similarly generalize from local weather:

 

 

Such wisdom brings to mind my favorite Stephen Colbert tweet:

 

The availability heuristic’s upside is that extreme weather experiences, as well as climate science, are driving growing public concern. Drought-caused wildfires, floods, and brutal heat waves have a silver lining. After surviving Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey residents expressed increased environmentalism. And today, 74 percent of Americans say that the last five years’ extreme weather has influenced their climate change opinions.

 

Ergo, Americans by a 5-to-1 margin now agree that global warming is happening. By a 3-to-1 margin they believe it is human-caused. Seven in 10 now say that they are at least “somewhat worried” about climate change. And globally, across 26 countries, two-thirds of people see it as a “major threat” to their country. “The evidence the climate is changing is becoming so overwhelming people are seeing it in their regions and in their lives,” says the Obama science advisor, John Holdren. “We are really to the point where we’re seeing bodies in the street from severe flooding and severe wildfires.”

 

With vivid and mentally available weather tragedies occurring more often, more folks are noticing and caring. Last month, 3300 economists—including 27 Nobel laureates and all former Federal Reserve Board chairs—signed a consensus statement supporting a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the most effective climate change solution. Although the Green New Deal proposed by progressive Democrats may be more aspirational than achievable, its existence—together with the increasing climate concern of youth and young adults, and the growth in low-carbon energy sources—gives hope for a greener future.

 

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

You can buy a good pair of bone conduction headphones for under $150. Some of your students may have seen them or own a set. Here’s a little information to add to your next Intro Psych hearing lecture, or at least some information to hold onto in case a student asks. If you teach Biopsych, you can dig even deeper into this topic – or have your students do the digging.

 

Bone conduction headphones, such as Aftershokz Trekz Air, send vibrations through, well, bone. The headphones speakers are generally positioned against the cheek bone or upper jaw bone right in front of each ear. The cheek bones carry the vibrations through to the temporal bone – the bone that surrounds the cochlea. While the specifics are still under investigation, we know that these vibrations cause the cochlear fluid to move, triggering the cilia that send their messages to the auditory cortex where we hear sound. It could be that the bone vibrations cause the fluid in the cochlea to move due to a change in pressure, the vibrations in the bone put pressure on the walls of the cochlea causing them to compress, or the vibrations in the bone could cause waves in the cerebrospinal fluid in the skull thereby causing waves in the cochlea (Dauman, 2013). Or all three.

 

All of those routes explain how someone with middle ear damage can hear through bone conduction. The vibrations bypass the bones of the middle ear and affect the cochlea directly. Bone conduction hearing devices (previously called bone anchored hearing aids) are for people with issues with their outer or middle ears. These devices can either be surgically implanted with a speaker attached by magnet or just temporarily attached with adhesive (Hearing Link, 2017).

The vibrations produced by bone conduction headphones also cause vibrations in the skin and cartilage of the outer ear as well as vibrations in the temporal bone of the skull. Those vibrations cause air to move in the outer ear, triggering the bones of the middle ear to move, and so on, resulting in sound. This may not contribute much to what we hear through bone conduction, but it contributes more if we wear ear plugs with our bone conduction headphones. That brings us to the occlusion effect (Dauman, 2013).

 

While you may not be familiar with the occlusion effect (I wasn’t), everyone with some amount of hearing has experienced it. While talking, plug your ears with your fingers. Your voice will sound up to 20 decibels louder (Ross, 2004).  

 

We hear our own voices through bone conduction. With our outer ears open, the vibrations that come through the bone can vibrate on out through the outer ear. With our outer ears plugged, the vibrations cannot escape and so reverberate back through the middle ear, amplifying our voices. This is one of the reasons some people don’t like (unvented) earmold hearing aids; they completely block the ear canal making our voice sound funny (Ross, 2004). Most earmold hearing aids now come with a vent – an opening that allows the vibrations caused by our voices to escape.

 

Why use bone conduction headphones?

 

There are several advantages to using bone conduction headphones (Banks, 2019).

 

If you are walking, running, or biking on the open road, bone conduction headphones allow you to listen to your tunes without blocking your ear canal. You’ll have a greater chance of hearing that car coming up behind you, but, of course, all of the research on attention tells us that you still may not attend to the sound of the car. Or you may not hear the car at all if the sound of it is masked by whatever you’re listening to through your headphones (May & Walker, 2017). In terms of this sort of safety, bone conduction headphones are likely not worse than any other kind of headphone or speaker (Granados, Hopper, & He, 2018).

 

If you use earmold hearing aids, you can use bone conduction headphones with them.

 

If you are a scuba diver, you can use a bone conduction microphone and headphones to both speak and listen underwater (see for example Logosease).

 

If you have tinnitus, bone conduction headphones can provide auditory stimulation to the cochlea that may reduce tinnitus while allowing you to still have a conversation in, say, a work environment (British Tinnitus Association, n.d.; Schweitzer, 2018), although the research here is scant (Manning, Mermagen, & Scharine, 2017).

 

Can bone conduction headphones produce hearing loss when listening at loud volumes just like regular headphones can?

 

After scouring journals and reading opinions from all corners of the internet, my conclusion, pending further evidence, is a tentative and cautious affirmative; bone conduction headphones can cause hearing loss. Anything that can produce loud sounds, including regular headphones cranked up to a high volume, causes hearing loss by producing tsunamis that damage the cilia in the cochlea. Since bone conduction headphones are also causing waves in the cochlea, it stands to reason that waves caused by bone conduction could also reach tsunami strength. But, then again, maybe bone conduction cannot produce those kind of waves. Some research here would be nice. If you know of any, please let me know!

 

References

Banks, L. (2019). Best bone conduction headphones of 2019: A complete guide. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.everydayhearing.com/hearing-technology/articles/bone-conduction-headphones/

British Tinnitus Association. (n.d.). Sound therapy (sound enrichment). Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/sound-therapy

Dauman, R. (2013). Bone conduction : An explanation for this phenomenon comprising complex mechanisms. European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Diseases, 130(4), 209–213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anorl.2012.11.002

Granados, J., Hopper, M., & He, J. (2018). A usability and safety study of bone-conduction headphones during driving while listening to audiobooks. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 62(1).

Hearing Link. (2017). Bone conduction hearing devices. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.hearinglink.org/your-hearing/implants/bone-conduction-hearing-devices/

Manning, C., Mermagen, T., & Scharine, A. (2017). The effect of sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus on speech recognition over air and bone conduction military communications headsets. Hearing Research, 349, 67–75.

May, K., & Walker, B. N. (2017). The effects of distractor sounds presented through bone conduction headphones on the localization of critical environmental sounds. Applied Ergonomics, 61, 144–158.

Ross, M. (2004). Dr. Ross on hearing loss. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from http://www.hearingresearch.org/ross/hearing_loss/the_occlusion_effect.php

Schweitzer, G. (2018). Bone conduction headphones for hearing loss and tinnitus. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://rewiringtinnitus.com/trekz-titanium-bone-conduction-headphones/

Democracy presumes civic wisdom. When voters grasp truth, when facts prevail over misinformation, prudence prevails. When the electorate understands what actually advances (and threatens) human flourishing, it can inaugurate sensible policies and elect benevolent leaders. The collective wisdom of the cognizant is more astute than an autocrat’s whims.

 

Alas, as the late Hans Rosling amply documents in Factfulness, too often the crowd is unwise. Ignorance reigns. Even with this forewarning, consider:

  • What percent of the world’s 1-year-olds have had a vaccination?
  • What percent of humanity lives in extreme poverty (<$2/day)?
  • What percent of humanity is literate (able to read and write)?

 

The factual answers—86 percent, 9 percent, and 86 percent, respectively—differ radically from Americans’ perceptions. Their vaccination estimate: 35 percent. And though extreme poverty has plummeted and literacy has soared, most don’t know that. More than people suppose, world health, education, and prosperity have improved (as Steven Pinker further documents in Enlightenment Now).

 

Such public ignorance—compounded by the overconfidence phenomenon (people’s tendency to be more confident than correct)—often undermines civic wisdom. When year after year 7 in 10 adults tell Gallup there has been more crime than in the prior year—despite plummeting violent and property crime rates—then fear-mongering politicians may triumph. Our ignorance matters when horrific but infinitesimally rare incidents of domestic terrorism, school shootings, and air crashes hijack our consciousness. We and our children will not only disproportionately fear the wrong things, we will then risk more lives by extreme public spending to avoid these frightening things—to, say, block the “vicious predators and bloodthirsty killers” supposedly pouring across our southern border, rather than to mitigate climate change and more extreme weather.

 

In the aftermath of anti-immigrant fear-stoking (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”), many people do fear immigrants. Americans are, reports Gallup, “five times more likely to say immigrants make [crime] worse rather than better (45% to 9%, respectively).” Roused by anecdotes of vicious immigrant crime, “Build the wall!” becomes a rallying cry—despite, as the conservative Cato Institute freshly documents, a lower crime rate among immigrants than among native-born Americans.

 

 

And what do you think: Is eating genetically modified (GM) food safe? “Yes,” say 37 percent of U.S. adults and 88 percent of American Association for the Advancement of Science members. Moreover, the people most opposed to GM foods are (according to a new study) those who are most ignorant about them.

 

As the famed Dunning-Kruger effect reminds us, ignorance and incompetence can, ironically, feed overconfidence. Ignorant of my ignorance—and thus prone to a smug overconfidence—I am blissfully unaware of all the possible Scrabble words I fail to see . . . which enables me to think myself verbally adept. We are, as Daniel Kahneman has said, often “blind to our blindness.”

 

The result is sometimes a theater of the absurd. A December 2015 Public Policy Polling survey asked Donald Trump supporters if they favored or opposed bombing Agrabah. Among the half with an opinion, there was 4 to 1 support (41 percent to 9 percent) for dropping bombs on Agrabah . . . the fictional country from Aladdin.

 

But ignorance needn’t be permanent. Education can train us to recognize how errors and biases creep into our thinking. Education also makes us less gullible—less vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories. Teach people to think critically—with a mix of open-minded curiosity, evidence-seeking skepticism, and intellectual humility—and they will think . . . and vote . . . smarter. Ignorance matters. But education works.

 

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

If you want an entire country, state, province, territory, or city to stop ingesting certain consumables, you tax them. “Sin taxes” are applied to things like alcohol and cigarettes. The goal is to make these goods so expensive to purchase, people will stop purchasing them. Or, for those who continue to consume them, the tax they pay can go toward the public health coffers.

 

The U.S. federal government, for example, has a tax of about $1.01 on each pack of cigarettes (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 2017). Each U.S. state/territory can add their own tax on top of that. The national average is $1.79/pack with a low of $.17 (Missouri) and a high of $5.10 (Puerto Rico) (Boonn, 2018). Finally, cities can add their own taxes. New York City, for example, adds a $1.50 tax. If you want to buy a pack of cigarettes in New York City, you’re tax is $1.01 (federal) plus $4.35 (state) plus $1.50 (city) for a total of $6.86 (Mathias, 2017). And, then, of course, is the cost of the cigarettes themselves.

 

Do sin taxes work? Does this added cost reduce consumption of tobacco?

 

Using a list of tobacco taxes in the U.S. (Boonn, 2018) and a list of smoking rates in the U.S. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018), I ran the correlation: -.42. The higher the tax, the lower the smoking rates. Of course, correlation does not mean causation. Do higher taxes cause people to smoke less? Or is it the other way around? Are people in states where people smoke less more likely to vote for higher taxes on cigarettes? Or is there some third variable(s) that affect both the cigarette tax and the smoking rate?

 

It doesn’t answer the question of causation, but the World Health Organization reported on interesting longitudinal data from South Africa (WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2008). When the tax was high, cigarette purchasing was low. From the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, South Africa reduced the tax, and gradually the cigarette purchasing rates climbed. In the late 1990s when they started raising the tax again, cigarette purchasing rates declined again.

 

If “sin taxes” cause us to reduce our purchasing of “sin” products, then operant conditioning offers an explanation why. If a product costs a lot of money to purchase, we’ll be less likely to purchase it – especially if we are not financially well-off. Punishment is defined as anything that reduces a behavior. High prices are, well, punitive. Or at least that’s the idea. For a six tax to be punitive, the amount of additional tax has to be enough for us to actually reduce the behavior, i.e. stop purchasing the product. What that amount is for you may be different than what it is for me. For a 1-pack-a-day smoker in New York City, they’re paying $6.86 in tax alone for that pack of cigarettes. If they make $14.00 an hour, one half hour of work goes toward that cigarette tax. Every day. I wouldn’t be surprised if that smoker quite smoking, or at least reduced how much they smoke. For a different 1-pack-a-day smoker who makes $150 an hour, that $6.86 in tax doesn’t hurt so much. They can make that amount of money in less than 3 minutes. Every day.

 

This is the discussion in Seattle right now around a year-old sugary drink tax. In the city, each sugary drink is assessed a $.0175 per ounce tax. That 16 ounce Coke you are buying with your lunch is now $0.28 more. “The city predicted the tax would cut soda consumption by 40 percent. But through the first nine months, the tax is generating revenues at a rate 52 percent higher than predicted — suggesting it’s possible it may be having no effect on Seattleites’ soda appetites whatsoever.” One possibility is that most of the city residents are making enough money that that $0.28 isn’t even felt (Westneat, 2018).  Like the rest of the city, that $0.28 is not going to stand between me and my Coke.*

 

Here’s a quick classroom demonstration. Ask students to think about their favorite beverage. How much more would their drink have to cost for them to reduce how much they buy? Start at $0.25 and raise it by $0.10, then another $0.10, and so on. Ask students to raise their hands when the additional cost hits the point when they buy less of it and to keep their hands up until everyone has their hands in the air (or use clickers – “vote A when we hit your no-go tax.”)

 

Reiterate that punishment is only punishment if it reduces the behavior. What that punishment point is differs by person.

 

The other thing that punishment does is make us good at avoiding punishment. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that there is a thriving black market for cigarettes in New York City. Of these smuggled packs of cigarettes, 30.9% have no state stamp; 44.7% carry a Virginia stamp where the state tax is $0.30 per pack, well-below the New York State/New York City combined tax of $5.85 (Mathias, 2017). If the tax is too high, people will find ways to not pay it.

 

Conclude this part of your lecture by emphasizing the importance of understanding the principles of operant conditioning. From their pets to their dating partners/spouses to their children to the population of a city, state/province/territory, or country, operant conditioning is at work.

 

*Actually, I haven’t had a full-sugar Coke in years, but if they similarly taxed Diet Coke or Coke Zero, I’d have no problem paying that $0.28. Don’t tell the Seattle City Council.

 

References

 

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (2017). Federal excise tax increase and related provisions. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.ttb.gov/main_pages/schip-summary.shtml

 

Boonn, A. (2018). State cigarette excise tax rates and rankings. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/factsheets/0097.pdf

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Map of cigarette use among adults. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/statesystem/cigaretteuseadult.html

 

Mathias, C. (2017). Inside New York City’s dangerous, multimillion-dollar cigarette black market. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/cigarette-smuggling-new-york-_n_5041823.html

 

Westneat, D. (2018). The city’s new soda tax is usurious — and also too low. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/story-of-seattle-the-citys-new-soda-tax-is-usurious-and-also-too-low/

 

WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic. (2008). Geneva, Switzerland.

Time and again I am struck by two robust social science findings.

 

The first, to which social conservatives nod their appreciation, concerns the benefits of successful marriages—which are a substantial predictor of health, longevity, personal happiness, and the well-being of children. An example: As I documented here, U.S. Child Health Surveys have shown that children living with two parents have been half as likely as those living with a never or formerly married mother to have been suspended or expelled from school—even after controlling for variations in race, family size, and parental education and income. To be sure, most single-parented children thrive, and many co-parented children are dysfunctional. Yet show me a place where nearly all children are co-parented by two adults enduringly committed to each other and their children and I will show you a place with relatively low rates of psychological disorder and social pathology. Marriage matters.

 

The second, to which progressives nod their appreciation, is that economic inequality is socially toxic. Places with great inequality have more social pathology—higher rates of crime, anxiety, obesity, and drug use, and lower life expectancy and happiness (see here and here).  Show me a place with great inequality and I will show you a place with a comparatively depressed and dissatisfied populace. Disparity dispirits.

 

Moreover, argues John Hopkins University sociology chair Andrew Cherlin, there is a path between these two oft-confirmed findings: Rising income inequality contributes to family dissolution. As the gap between rich and poor has widened, unstable cohabitations and nonmarital child-bearing have dramatically increased among those with lower incomes—or where men have dim job prospects. In deteriorating job markets, marriage wanes and families become less stable. Moreover, for working single parents, affordable quality child care may be out of reach.

 

Ergo, doesn’t it follow that those who support marriage and stable co-parenting (a typically conservative value) should also be economic progressives—concerned about reducing inequality and poverty? To envision a culture that welcomes children into families with two or more people who love them is to envision an economic environment that nurtures secure families.

 

What do you think: Might this vision of a family-supportive just economy be a meeting place between conservatism and progressivism? And might it be a basis for depolarizing our politics and unifying our aspirations?

 

A glimmer of hope: After writing this essay, I learned of Fox News’ conservative voice, Tucker Carlson, recent lament that “families are being crushed by market forces” . . . to which Dean Baker of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research replied: “It’s a bit scary to me how much of this I agree with.”

 

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

Shout out to the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Facebook group for sharing their favorite tools for helping students study the brain.

 

Printable black and white images of the brain from Clipart Library (shared by Achu John)

 

Images include the brain, the eye, and the neuron.

 

Use these images as diagrams on your next exam, write on them during your lecture using a document camera, and print them for students to take notes on.

 

This webpage also includes a half-court basketball drawing, an empty times table chart, and a two-circle Venn diagram. I’m not entirely sure how you can use these for teaching brain-related things, but you’ll have them if you need them.

 

3D Brain app for iOS, Android, and web (web version needs Adobe Flash) was produced by the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (shared by Kat West)

 

From the dropdown menu, select the brain area of interest, such as Broca’s area. The image of the brain turns gray with Broca’s area highlighted in purple. A paragraph of text tells us what Broca’s area does and another paragraph gives us a case study. We get some information about associated functions, cognitive disorders, and what we see when Broca’s area is damaged. Three research reviews round out the text. The directional controls in the lower right allow you to rotate the brain image.

 

Use this website during your lecture to show where the brain areas in a three-dimensional space. Students can use it as a study tool. Be aware that the functions associated with each brain area in the 3D Brain likely paints a more complicated picture of how the brain works than your Intro Psych textbook. For example, the amygdala, the 3D Brain tells us, is associated with “fear-processing, emotion processing, learning, fight-or-flight response, and reward-processing,” which is a bit more than the strong emotions-like-anger-and-fear that a lot of Intro Psych textbooks report.

 

Pocket Brain, Brain Anatomy, and Brain and Nervous Anatomy Atlas ($9.99) all for iOS (shared by Susie Veccio); My Brain Anatomy and Brain Tutor 3D

 

Some of these are at a level appropriate for Intro Psych. Others may be more appropriate for a neuroscience course. Take a look at each of them yourself before recommending to your students.

 

Neuroscientifically Challenged videos (shared by Susanne Biehl)

 

"These 2-Minute Neuroscience videos will help you learn the basics of neuroscience in short, easy-to-understand clips."

 

Bonus resources

 

BrainFacts.org (a resource by the Society for Neuroscience) has a webpage for educators.

 

The target audience is K-12, but many of the resources for secondary ed teachers would also work for higher ed.

The website includes a “Find a Neuroscientist” database. “Neuroscientists around the world are eager to help you educate about the brain. Our database has scientists in more than 40 countries. Connect with a scientist in your community today.” Enter your location, and a list of neuroscientists will come up. How to pick one and how they can help you is not clear, but there you go.

 

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by science writer Sam Kean

 

This book is a must-read for anyone teaching neuroscience. Each chapter focuses on a different part of the brain. We get the back story on the research, a report on current research findings, and a handful of case studies. Take notes as you read; your neuroscience lectures will be much more compelling. (Read my 2015 book review.)

 

Christina Ragan's Teaching Resources for Biological Psychology and Neuroscience Facebook Group 

 

This is "a a centralized location to share activities, links, readings, videos, etc. on topics related to biology, psychology, and neuroscience." If you're looking for a community for sharing such resources, this is a good one.

 

What are your favorite resources for teaching the brain?

Psychology’s archives are filled with well-meaning, well-funded endeavors that were meant to change lives for the better but that—alas—made no difference.

 

In one huge study, 500 Massachusetts boys deemed at risk for delinquency were, by the toss of a coin, assigned either to a no-intervention control condition or to a 5-year treatment program. In addition to twice-a-month visits from counselors, the boys in the treatment program received academic tutoring, medical attention, and family assistance and were involved in community programs, such as the Boy Scouts. When Joan McCord located 97 percent of the participants some 30 years later, many  offered glowing testimonials: Were it not for the program, “I would probably be in jail”; “My life would have gone the other way”; or “I think I would have ended up in a life of crime.” Indeed, even among “difficult” predelinquent boys, 66 percent developed no juvenile crime record.

 

But the same was true of their control counterparts—70 percent of whom had no juvenile record. Alas, the glowing testimonials had been unintentionally deceiving. The program had no beneficial effect.

 

More recently, other endeavors—the national Scared Straight program to tame teenage violence, the police-promoted D.A.R.E. anti-drug effort, Critical Incident Debriefing for trauma victims, and numerous weight-reduction, pedophile rehabilitation, and sexual reorientation efforts—have also been found ineffectual or even harmful.

 

Is this because genetic influences fix our traits—minimizing our malleability? (Think of the dozens of identical twins who, though raised separately, are still amazingly similar.) To be sure, genes do matter. The most comprehensive review of twin studies—more than 3000 such, encompassing 14.6 million twins—found that “across all traits the reported heritability [individual differences attributable to genes] is 49 percent.” That is substantial, yet it leaves room for willpower, beliefs, and social influence as well. Body weight, for example, is genetically influenced, but diet and exercise also matter.

 

Given the guiding power of our heredity and the failure of many large-scale efforts to help people to flourish, I am stunned by the successes of brief “wise interventions”—“wise” in the sense of being savvy about how our beliefs and assumptions influence us, and “stunned” that a 1-hour intervention sometimes outperforms a 5-year intervention.

 

Two leading researchers, Gregory Walton and Timothy Wilson, recently reviewed 325 interventions. Their conclusion: Helping people reframe the meaning of their experiences can promote their long-term flourishing. As Walton explains at www.wiseinterventions.org, “Wise interventions focus on the meanings and inferences people draw about themselves, other people, or a situation they are in.” Three examples:

  • At-risk middle school students given a “growth mindset”—being taught that the brain, like a muscle, grows with use—achieved better grades because they “saw effort as a virtue, because effort helps to develop ability.”
  • Entering minority college students who experienced a 1-hour session explaining the normality of the worry that they didn’t belong (with reassuring stories from older peers) achieved higher grades over the next 3 years—and greater life and career satisfaction after college.
  • A paraprofessional’s helping at-risk new mothers understand their baby’s fussing reduced the moms’ deciding they were bad mothers—and reduced first-year child abuse from 23 percent to 4 percent.

 

Thus, conclude Walton and Wilson, “exercises that seem minor can be transformational” when individuals address “a pressing psychological question, such as whether they belong at school, whether a romantic partner loves them, whether they can improve in math, whether they are a ‘bad mom,’ or whether groups can change in an ongoing conflict.”

 

So, genes matter. But we are all a mix of nature and nurture, of biology and beliefs. And that is why wisely changing people’s interpretations of their experiences and situations can support their flourishing.

 

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