Category Archives: Personality Psychology

Being a “doer” vs. a “thinker,” and where you’ll go for New Orleans beignets.

20130120-100345.jpg
When I arrived in New Orleans on Thursday to attend the annual SPSP conference, everyone told me that I must immediately go to Cafe du Monde to eat beignets and drink cafe au lait.

Once I did get to Cafe du Monde, imagine my surprise to discover two things. First of all, it was not the easy “walk in, order beignets, enjoy” process that I was delusionally expecting. Secondly, I soon discovered that cafe au lait and beignets were, in fact, the only things that they had on the menu.

There’s no doubt that Cafe du Monde is renowned for their beignets. But let’s imagine for a second that there were a Starbucks right down the street, and this Starbucks had managed to create incredible beignets as well. If you were coming to New Orleans and wanted to enjoy a midday pastry with some friends, where should your group decide to go?

Continue reading

Advertisements

Sure, women cannot get pregnant from rape. Also, all mean people are ugly and puppies are immortal.

[Potential trigger warning: Discussion of rape and sexual assault in this post.]

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear:

If you have vaginal sex without protection, you can get pregnant.

For some reason, this concept can be remarkably difficult for people to grasp. It toes the line between “sad” and “kind of funny” when this ignorance simply leads people to wonder if they can successfully avoid pregnancy by having sex while standing up, in a hot tub, or without climaxing.

But when a Senate nominee like Representative Todd Akin tries to claim that a woman’s body can somehow “know” when she is being raped and avoid pregnancy as a result? That’s an entirely new, scary level of ignorance.

Continue reading

Trayvon Martin’s psychological killer: Why we see guns that aren’t there [at Scientific American]

Today, I’m honored to have a post on the Scientific American guest blog about the Trayvon Martin case, discussing Joshua Correll’s 2002 research on the disturbing ways in which cultural stereotypes — even those that we do not endorse — might impact our split-second decisions to shoot (or not shoot) potentially armed targets of different races.

An excerpt:

Over a series of four studies, participants were faster to (correctly) shoot an armed target when he was Black, and faster to (correctly) decide not to shoot an unarmed target when he was White. But the truly interesting and tragic finding lies in what happened when people decided to shoot the target when he was actually holding nothing more than a wallet or a cell phone, much like what happened in the real-life case of Trayvon Martin. As it turns out, the participants were consistently more likely to accidentally shoot unarmed targets when they were Black.

Surely this must be influenced by racism, thought the researchers. After all, it would certainly make sense that racist people would be more likely to jump to the conclusion that Black people are armed. Wouldn’t non-racist people be more likely to disregard the color of the target’s skin when making judgments? Wouldn’t non-racist people – especially those who are well aware of the negative stereotypes towards Black people in American culture, and those who consciously try to fight against prejudice in their everyday lives – be more forgiving on the trigger?

Unfortunately, that hypothesis could not be further from the truth. First of all, no matter how racist the participants were (or were not), they were equally likely to shoot unarmed Black targets; outright levels of racism did not predict the results at all. However, one thing did predict performance on the task – the participants’ level of awareness that there is prejudice towards Black people in American society, even if the participant adamantly did not support those stereotypes. Simply being highly aware of prejudice in the world, even if you don’t agree with, support, or like that prejudice, makes it more likely that you might make the fateful mistake of shooting an unarmed target when making split-second decisions in uncertain conditions. The more aware you are of cultural stereotypes, the more likely you are to make a biased mistake.

Click here to read the entire post over at Scientific American!

SPSP 2012: The Year Of Morality Research

SPSP may as well have called this the “Year of Morality,” since there were so many interesting-looking sessions, posters, and talks on morality and injustice! I was able to attend 2 symposia on this topic while at SPSP. One set of talks looked more at what it means to be a moral person from the personality side of things, and the other looked at morality from more of a social psychological perspective.

Continue reading

The procrastination post…two months in the making.

As many people know, I had to take a brief posting hiatus recently as I dealt with an onslaught of work and prepared for my doctoral qualifying exam on September 10th.

As anyone with a calendar knows, that exam was two months ago.

Whoops.

I guess my not-so-well-kept secret is now officially out: Like many others, I can be a bit of a procrastinator. So, in the spirit of this break-the-hiatus post, it only seems appropriate to focus on the psychology underlying everyone’s favorite productivity plague — how do people naturally attempt to fight procrastination, and how well do these attempts really work?

Continue reading

Sex, lies, and power = lies about power and sex.

Can we please stop sounding the depressing alarm claiming that all powerful men are destined to be cheating husbands?

Yes, in recent history we’ve had Anthony Weiner and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But we’ve also had Barack Obama and Mark Wahlberg. However you choose to feel about the debt ceiling or The Fighter, these are recently-newsworthy examples of powerful men who have stayed happily married without getting caught up in a sex scandal. And they’re far from being the only ones.1

The problem with proclaiming that there’s an inextricable link between power, maleness, and cheating is that it implicates both power and masculinity as unavoidable evils. Fact is, that’s not really fair – or accurate.

Continue reading

Casey’s case: What psychology says about Anthony’s acquittal.

Casey Anthony

Credit: Red Huber/AP Photo

Everyone seemed to think Casey Anthony would be found guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.

They all thought wrong.

In light of Anthony’s recent murder acquittal, plenty of people have wondered (either angrily or with genuine confusion) how a jury could possibly acquit Casey Anthony when her guilt seemed so apparent to the general public. As it turns out, several legal and psychological characteristics that have historically influenced the outcomes of jury trials may be able to clarify this bewilderment.
Continue reading