Monthly Archives: August 2011

Inspiration from Ira Glass

I am still too busy to function, and unfortunately, that means I am too busy right now to write any high-quality posts about the awesome psychology research coming out lately. As much as I love blogging, I am a grad student first and foremost, and if I want to remain one, I need to pass my qualifying exams in 2.5 weeks. Meeting the two deadlines I have coming my way this month wouldn’t hurt, either.

So, even in the absence of my usual posts for the next few weeks, I’m still going to try and keep the blog updated every so often with (very short) interesting/relevant thoughts, images, or Psychology tidbits.

Today I’d like to share an Ira Glass quote sent my way by my friend Jenny, who runs the fabulous website Lovely At Your Side with her sister Olivia (you may remember that I wrote a guest post for them a few months ago!)

Here is the quote, in fancy image form (not designed by myself; I saw it on Tumblr and it popped up a few places on Google Images, but I unfortunately cannot find a proper source. A version of it with different coloring appears to have been first created here: http://forrst.com/posts/Ira_Glass_Quote_Poster-9OF).

I actually think that this could be some of the best advice I’ve ever seen about graduate school. When new lab members arrive in town, one of the first pieces of advice that my labmate usually gives them is that they should expect their first projects to be awful, and they shouldn’t take it too hard…because all of ours were awful too. You need to have a “first project” that sucks in order to learn how to devise second, third, fourth, or fifth projects that are better. It’s called the “creative process” for a reason: It’s a process, and even the big names in your field probably didn’t hit the idea jackpot on their first tries. They were probably just too stubborn to give up after the first few embarrassing flops. Or didn’t know what else to do other than graduate school, perhaps.

What are your thoughts about this quote? Do you think Ira Glass has it right? If you’re a blogger, graduate student, faculty member, post-doc, research scientist, undergraduate student, high school student, or anything — do you think these words apply to your field, life, or work? I’d love to read what you have to say in the comments!

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Note: I’m in the depths of finishing up some summer projects and studying for my qualifying exams, so this seems like a good time to bring out a post from the archives. This was originally blogged at IonPsych on 2/4/2011…and was actually my first-ever blog post!

What are some consequences of eating too much fast food?

Weight gain? Check. Higher cholesterol? Check.

Increased reading speed?

Wait. Back up.

Yes – as it turns out, fast food can have consequences that reach far beyond the bigger-bellied symptoms that we already know to look out for. Those iconographic golden arches may be so inherently related to concepts of haste, time efficiency, and instant gratification that simply being exposed to them can influence more than just our eating behavior. Continue reading

“Anything but country”: What factor analysis reveals about our tastes for tunes [at Scientific American]

When asked to indicate their favorite type of music, plenty of people say they like “anything but country.” Is this really accurate? Why do rock music fans also tend to like punk and heavy metal? And why on earth would Pandora play a Britney Spears song on a Lil’ Wayne station?

I have a post over on the Scientific American guest blog today about musical preferences that answers all of these questions. Here’s a quick blurb from the beginning of the post:

There’s a strong appeal to the idea that we can study and categorize music preferences, and that these categorizations are somehow deeply unique and meaningfully representative of who we are as individuals. But what if I told you that when it boils down to it, we’re not all that different from each other – in fact, most of those seemingly “nuanced” differences in musical taste can be boiled down to a mere five musical factors?

In the rest of the post, I discuss the findings of the study, what it means for websites like Pandora, and how we can better predict our musical likes and dislikes. I also attempt to write a “general audience”-friendly explanation of how to interpret a factor analysis, step by step.
Click here to go read the entire post!


Rentfrow PJ, Goldberg LR, & Levitin DJ (2011). The structure of musical preferences: a five-factor model. Journal of personality and social psychology, 100 (6), 1139-57 PMID: 21299309