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On the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Facebook page, Cait Alice was asking for advice on how to handle a student’s misconception of how gender works. Allison Matthews recommended the gender unicorn created by the Trans Student Educational Resources group*. 


If you’d like to turn this into a class activity, identify how many groups of 3 you will have in your class. Let’s say 16. Print out 16 copies, and then mark different spots on each continuum for each group.


Show students one as an example of what you are asking them to do. Using the graphic above, explain to students that the person identifies primarily as a woman who dresses and acts more masculine than feminine, whose assigned sex was female, and who is not physically attracted to anyone but is emotionally attracted to men and women with a slight preference for the former.


Distribute the marked up gender unicorn handouts to your student groups, asking each group to describe their person. Walk around to each of the groups answering any questions they have. After discussion dies down, ask groups to pair up to share their descriptions.


If time allows, invite a few volunteers to display their gender unicorn on the classroom’s document camera and describe their person.


As a wrap-up to the activity, encourage students to think about where they fall on each of the gender unicorn dimensions – although your students probably already did this as soon as you showed them the infographic. Give each student an unmarked copy of the infographic to share with friends and family.


* This is an edited post. The original post featured the Genderbread Person ostensibly created by Sam Killermann. A few people, including Allison Matthews, reported a concern with accusations of plagiarism by Killermann. A friend and colleague shared with me this analysis of the plagiarism accusation. Because of the potential issues with plagiarism, I've decided to use an image created by "the only national organization entirely led by trans youth."

When I cover monocular cues in the perception section of Intro Psych, I like to show students a few photos and have them identify the monocular cues in the photos. This also works as a small group activity – put a photo up on the screen, ask students to huddle up and identify as many monocular cues as they can, then ask volunteers to identify the cues they found.


This is a nice way to show travel photos and give students who haven’t traveled much a different view of the world. The Association for Psychological Science held their 2017 International Conference on Psychological Science in Vienna, Austria. As we’ve been out and about, I’ve been looking for good monocular cue photo opportunities.

Entrance to Hofsburg Palace

In the photo above we see the entrance to the Hofburg Palace. The buildings and the cobblestones provide linear perspective. The streetlight on the right and the streetlight farther down on the left, as do the people, illustrate relative size. Relative height -- the bottom of the image is closer to us and the middle of the image is farther away. Interposition (overlap) can be seen with the people, the streetlights, the wires hanging across the walkway. In the cobblestones, you can see every nook and cranny in the ones up close, but as texture gradient tells us, the cobblestones that appear smoother are farther away.

Largest synagogue in Vienna, Austria


In this photo, the building at the end of the street on the right is the biggest synagogue in Vienna. It survived WWII by looking like any other apartment building.

  • Linear perspective: cobblestones, buildings
  • Relative size: windows
  • Relative height: cobblestones (the closer ones are lower in the field of vision)
  • Interposition: the person overlaps the building
  • Texture gradient: cobblestones (closer ones are more distinct)


Vienna Opera House

This photo is part of the Vienna State Opera. The building was completed in 1869.

  • Linear perspective: columns become narrower
  • Relative size: tables and chairs, lights
  • Relative height: cobblestones (the closer ones are lower in the field of vision)
  • Interposition: the chairs overlap each other
  • Texture gradient: cobblestones (closer ones are more distinct)


While you are certainly welcome to use my photos to illustrate monocular cues, consider working in a few shots on your next trip.

David Myers

Living Well in Sydney

Posted by David Myers Expert Mar 27, 2017

Here are three random scenes from University of New South Wales’ 19th Sydney Symposium of Social Psychology, which recently assembled sixteen scholars from around the world to share their insights on “The Social Psychology of Living Well.”


Roy Baumeister (Florida State & Queensland) documented the overlap between a happy and a meaningful life, but then identified separate predictors of a) happiness and b) meaningfulness.



Bill von Hippel (Queensland) explored what evolutionary theory can tell us about our basic human needs—how humans have flourished in the past and are disposed to a good life today.


Barbara Fredrickson’s (University of North Carolina) research has turned to examining the biological underpinnings of positive well-being and purpose.


Other contributors:

  • Yair Amichai-Hamburger  (IDC Herzliya, Israel) reviewed the social consequences of today’s age of the Internet and social media.
  • William Crano (Claremont) provided data from a large, longitudinal study of the associations of parenting with adolescent substance use.
  • Elizabeth Dunn (University of British Columbia) presented her recent experiments on the social and mood consequences of people using vs. not using smart phones (while crossing campus, eating with friends, etc.).
  • Klaus Fiedler (University of Heidelberg) offered an analysis of underlying adaptive principles pertinent to the good life.
  • Joseph Forgas (University of New South Wales) was the conference host.   He also shared his continuing work on the benefits of negative affect for human flourishing.
  • Shelly Gable (University of California, Santa Barbara) described her studies of satisfying and meaningful close relationships.
  • Felicia Huppert (Australian Catholic University) emphasized the contribution of mindfulness and compassion to living well.
  • Sonja Lyubomirsky (University of California, Riverside), author of excellent trade books on happiness, spoke on the benefits of happiness and what contributes to it.
  • Constantine Sedikides (University of Southhampton) described his creative work on nostalgia, as a positive experience.
  • James Shah (Duke University) spoke on the regulatory pleasure and purpose of a good life.
  • Ken Sheldon (University of Missouri) critiqued the sometimes ill-defined concept of eudaimonic well-being”and called for agreed-upon measures that define subject well-being.
  • Jeffry Simpson (University of Minnesota) presented the latest data from a long-term study of how preschoolers’attachment and parental care predicts their health 30 years later.
  • And yours truly presented the“religious engagement paradox”-- the curious tendency, on measures of happiness, health, and altruism, for religious individuals to be flourishing, but for lesser flourishing in religious places (countries, states).
David Myers

Musings on Sport and Life

Posted by David Myers Expert Mar 17, 2017

For us college basketball enthusiasts, March Madness is here! As their fan, I was delighted when my college’s men’s and women’s teams progress through the NCAA Division III tournament‘s first two rounds to the “Sweet 16.” Alas, both Hope College teams then saw seeming victories snatched in the final seconds by the jaws of defeat.


The disappointing results prompted some morning-after reflections on the parallels between sport and life. As stage theater reenacts the dramas of everyday life, so the sports arena offers a microcosm of life itself.


Identity. As social animals, we live in groups, cheer on our groups, sacrifice for our groups. Our groups help define who we are, and who we are not. Our ancestors, knowing that there was sustenance and safety in solidarity, divided the world into “us” and “them,” reserving their most intense rivalry for those “others” closest at hand. As Freud observed, “Of two neighboring towns, each is the other’s most jealous rival.” The pleasures and passions of sport express our group identities.


Grit. Disciplined effort + a belief in one’s possibilities = excellence. Whether a point guard or a pianist, preparation seasoned with inspiration prepares one for the big stage moment. Persist in striving for excellence, without being derailed by setbacks, and we may achieve great things.


Mistakes. Yet, no matter the effort and the excellence, mistakes will happen. No one—no athlete, no musician, no business person—is perfect. Our aim in life can never be flawlessness, but rather having our good judgments vastly exceed our missteps.


Chance. After thousands of hours of preparation, a single shot that rattles in or out, a rebound that caroms to one’s teammate or the opponent, proves decisive. And so in life. Two intersecting cars meet at the same freakish moment and a life is snuffed. Two people arbitrarily cross paths, and a lifelong partnership forms.


Possibilities. In sport and in life, the possibility of a bad outcome makes a good outcome more gratifying. The darkness of night defines the light of day. Experiencing sickness helps us appreciate health. The pain of separation enables the joy of reunion. There is little pleasure in good endings apart from the ever-present possibility of the bad.


Death. College seniors on 63 of 64 teams entering the NCAA basketball tournaments will find their sporting lives ending in defeat, the death of their dreams. And so in life, which always ends in death.


Hope. Even so, many of us live with hope that on death’s other side is a new beginning. For the returning athletes and their fans there is next year. And for the senior athletes, there is a developed capacity for self-discipline and teamwork that—applied to new life goals—will take them to new and bigger life successes.

If the hardiest weed in our cognitive neuroscience garden is that “we only use 10 percent of our brains,” the next hardiest weed is this myth: “All our past experience is ‘in there’ and potentially retrievable by hypnosis or brain stimulation.”


I could almost believe this, after marveling at my aging mother-in-law, a retired pianist and organist. At age 88, her blind eyes could no longer read music. But sitting at a keyboard, she could flawlessly play hundreds of hymns, even ones she had not thought of for 20 years.


How and where did her brain store those myriad notes? For a time, some surgeons and memory researchers marveled at patients’ apparently vivid memories triggered by brain stimulation during surgery. Did this prove that our whole past, not just well-practiced music, is “in there,” in complete detail, just waiting to be relived?


That’s what neurosurgeon Ben Carson presumed in this 2013 tweet:

And that’s what he said again on March 6th in his first speech as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: “I could take the oldest person here, make a hole right here on the side of the head, and put some depth electrodes into their hippocampus and stimulate, and they would be able to recite back to you verbatim a book they read 60 years ago. It’s all there; it doesn’t go away.”


Alas, everything is wrong about this. Our flawed memories, as every introductory psychology student learns, are constructions that incorporate both our past and recent experiences. Moreover, the hippocampus, while a vital part of our memory processing, is not a long-term computer memory stick.


And about those brain-stimulated memory flashbacks . . . . As Elizabeth Loftus has reported, they appear invented, not a vivid reliving of long-forgotten experiences.


But our memory imperfections have a silver lining. As Williams James wrote in Principles of Psychology, “If we remembered everything, we should on most occasions be as ill off as if we remembered nothing.” To discard the clutter of useless or out-of-date information—where we parked the car yesterday or our old phone number—is surely a blessing. So be glad that neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who knows a lot, is wrong about memory.

I confess that for many years in my Intro Psych course I didn’t cover sleep or stress. In retrospect, I’m sorry that I didn’t use that opportunity to give those students that information they could use to live better lives. While I can’t go back and change the past, I can make sure that the students I have today – and hopefully, my students’ families and friends – have this information.  


The cover story to the March 2017 Monitor on Psychology is on “how smartphones are affecting our health and well-being, and points the way toward taking back control.” The article cites 2015 data from the Pew Research Center that said 72% of U.S. adults have a smartphone (Weir, 2017). In 2016, that number jumped to 77%. If you’re between 18 and 29, 92% of your cohort has one. For those of us 50 to 64, 74% of our peers have one – last year, only 59% of people in this age group owned a smartphone (Smith, 2017).


Ask your students to raise their hands if they own a smartphone. After almost all of the hands go up, ask students to take a couple minutes to jot down a few ways in which their phones help them and a few ways in which their phones interfere with their lives. Ask students to share their lists in pairs or small groups, adding other ideas as they come up. Ask groups to identify one student as the recorder. After a few minutes of discussion, starting on one side of the room, ask the recorder from each group to share one benefit their group identified. If it was a benefit other groups had on their list, they should cross it off. List the benefits on the board/computer screen. Repeat this process for the ways smartphones interfere with their lives.


One of the interferences cited in the article is lack of sleep – due to blue light disrupting the circadian rhythm, due to getting worked up reading email and text messages before bed, due to waking up to answer phone calls or respond to text messages. Lack of sleep can cause all sorts of problems, including making it harder to cope with stress or poorer school or work performance thus upping stress levels.


As a clicker question, ask students:


Imagine that you didn’t have your phone for an hour. How freaked out would you be?

  1. I’d be fine.
  2. A little nervous.
  3. Pretty anxious.
  4. Totally freaked out.


As a research methods booster, describe Nancy Cheever, Larry Rosen, and colleagues’ quasi-experiment (2014) described in the Monitor article. They asked participants to estimate how much time they spent each day on their phones doing various activities, e.g., “send and receive email,” “play video games.” I’m not sure how good any of us are at making such estimates. Given that the range of responses they got was from 1 hour a day to 64.5 (?!) hours a day, I’m even less confident in our ability to make such ratings. (If time allows, give students a few minutes to brainstorm other ways phone usage could be estimated or tracked.) The researchers soldiered on and divided participants into three groups: low smartphone usage (1 to 7 hours a day), moderate usage (7,5 to 16.5 hours a day), and heavy usage (17 or more hours a day). And then the researchers took away the participants’ phones. Participants completed the State/Trait Anxiety Inventory after 10 minutes, after 35 minutes, and after 60 minutes. The low usage participants were fine the entire time. The moderate users were fine after 10 minutes, but by 35 minutes they were a little anxious, and they were still just as anxious after an hour. The high users though were already anxious by the 10-minute mark, and their anxiety continued to climb through 35 minutes and was even higher by 60 minutes.


Ask students to take a look at the benefits and interference lists you have on the board/screen, and invite students to hypothesize why the heavy smartphone users would be so freaked out.  


Part of what may be driving that anxiety is FOMO – a fear of missing out. “What are my friends texting me? Are they thinking I’m mad at them because I’m not responding? What’s happening on Facebook? On Instagram? On Twitter? On Snapchat?” That gives you a good opportunity to revisit operant conditioning. The Monitor article notes that checking one’s phone provides instant reinforcement. If you check your phone to relieve anxiety, phone-checking is negatively reinforced. If you check your phone to see a loving text message from your sweetie, then your phone-checking is positively reinforced.

The stress chapter in your Intro Psych textbook likely talks about the importance of feeling like we have control over our lives. Have our smartphones taken over control? Notifications tell us to look now (discriminative stimulus – “If you look now, I’ll reinforce your looking behavior with a new text message, information about who liked your most recent Facebook status update, or that you have a new life in that game that you started playing”). Can we resist the buzz, the blinking lights, the special text notification sound we assigned to our new love?


Constantly ducking into our phones takes time and cognitive energy. If we’re reading, writing, or studying, every time we check the latest buzz, we take our minds away from what we’re doing. When we are done with the phone, it takes time to figure out what we had been doing and refocus… only for another buzz to take us away. While this may interfere with our productivity, greatly increasing how long it takes to do what we need to do, at least it’s not going to kill us.


But when we engage in exactly that same behavior when driving, it may very well kill us or cause us to kill someone else. “A newly released survey shows that cell phone use is the greatest cause of distracted driving in Washington state and that fatalities from distracted driving have increased dramatically over a one-year period” (KOMO Staff, 2017). This is not just a Washington state problem. “After steady declines over the last four decades, highway fatalities last year [2015] recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015” (Boudette, 2016).

Also, as a bonus, if a driver is sleep deprived because of the phone interrupting their sleep, they don’t need to check a phone while driving to get killed. They can fall asleep while driving.


Since we know that dramatic stories or footage are a more powerful persuasive tool than mere statistics, here are some car crashes. The view out the car window is on the left, and the view of the driver is on the right. Point out to students how little time it takes for a crash to happen.



While the video shows drivers looking at their phones instead of the road, the distracted driving research makes it clear that mentally doing something else while driving, like talking on the phone, is just as dangerous. If your mind is not on driving, you’re at risk of crashing.


Crashing. Not having an accident, but crashing. An accident makes it sound like something that could not be avoided, after all, accidents happen. Crashes, however, can be avoided. This change in terminology, recommended by the National Traffic Safety Administration, is to help drivers take more responsibility for the havoc they can cause (Richel, 2016). I don’t know that there are any data to support this, but here’s a blog post by a linguist that explains why it should make a difference.


Conclude this activity by asking students to take a minute to reflect on what they can do to regain control from their phones. Ask students to share in pairs or small groups, then ask volunteers to share some of their suggestions.


Here are seven suggestions from the Monitor on Psychology article.


  1. “Make choices.” Decide what you are going to use your phone for. I know several people who have uninstalled the Facebook app from their phones specifically because it was sucking up too much of their time.
  2. “Retrain yourself.” Gradually wean yourself off habitual phone-checking. Don’t look at it first thing in the morning or the last thing at night.
  3. “Set expectations.” Let everyone know that you’re not going to respond to their text message or email immediately. Assure them that it’s about you, not about them.
  4. “Silence notifications.” If you don’t need to know NOW, turn off the notifications. Push notifications for my work email are turned off between 6pm and 8am and all day on the weekend. I made that change the night I was at a play and during intermission I was reading work email. I thought, “What am I doing?!” I changed the notifications then and there.
  5. “Protect sleep.” My phone automatically sets itself to silent between 9pm and 8am. When I still couldn’t resist the urge to check it when I woke up in the middle of the night, I started leaving it in a different room.
  6. “Be active.” When on social media, participate. That’s more likely to make us feel connected to others.
  7. “And, of course, don’t text/email/call and drive.” If you can’t stay off your phone, lock it in the trunk.




Boudette, N. E. (2016, November 15). Biggest spike in traffic deaths in 50 years? Blame apps. Retrieved from


Cheever, N. A., Rosen, L. D., Carrier, L. M., & Chavez, A. (2014). Out of sight is not out of mind: The impact of restricting wireless mobile device use on anxiety levels among low, moderate and high users. Computers in Human Behavior, 37, 290-297. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.002


KOMO Staff. (2017, February 13). New survey: Distracted driving deaths up 32 percent; cell phone use a key factor. Retrieved from


Richtel, M. (2016, May 22). It's no accident: Advocates want to speak of car 'crashes' instead. Retrieved from


Smith, A. (2017, January 12). Record shares of Americans now own smartphones, have home broadband. Retrieved from


Weir, K. (2017, March). (Dis)Connected. APA Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved from