Tag Archives: Motivation

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

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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?

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Should you tell Facebook about your resolutions?

Now that you’ve set your difficult, specific, and attainable resolutions for 2013, should you tell people about your plans?

Before you update your Facebook status proclaiming your intention to lose 15 pounds, run a marathon, or publish 20 papers, you should think about your reasons for broadcasting your plans to the world. If you’re thinking about this public commitment the wrong way, you might be setting yourself up for disaster.

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Set SMART resolutions in 2013!

Many people around the world woke up this morning with a renewed determination to tackle a long list of resolutions. But as we head into 2013, it’s worth noting that some of these resolutions will be better than others. Psychological research on goals can clue us in to which resolutions will be more likely to end in success, and which will probably end up flopping before the snow even melts.

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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.

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Why do swimmers hate Lane 8?

Jon Scheyer | Duke Blue Devils vs. Long Beach State - (12/29/09)

Jon Scheyer | Duke Blue Devils, 2009

Before I went to college, I was never a big basketball fan (for those who know me now, I’m aware that this is probably surprising). As a result, when I arrived for my freshman year at Duke and began attending a ton of basketball games, I had the opportunity to learn an entire dictionary’s worth of terms for the first time.

One of the phrases that I quickly heard was “playing down.” Even though we were highly ranked and expected to do well later in the season against big-ticket teams like the #2 Texas Longhorns (who we eventually beat by 31 points), I was somewhat surprised by the fact that our margins of victories over early opponents were, quite frankly, not as impressive as I had expected them to be.

“Ugh, we’re playing down again. We always do this,” my friend Leah would say.

It wasn’t intentional. The players probably didn’t want to run up the score, but they also probably didn’t want to make every game against a low-ranked opponent a too-close-for-comfort nail-biter. You would think that, given the large difference in rankings (and presumably in ability levels), the better team should be able to maintain a respectable 15-20 point lead — wide enough that no one had to worry about the outcome, but close enough that it wasn’t rubbing the score in the other team’s faces.

Yet…they didn’t. Most of the time they made sloppy mistakes, missing easy 3-point shots or turning over the ball more times than we could count. The looks of frustration on their faces let us know for sure that this wasn’t anything they were doing on purpose. They weren’t thinking, “OK, this is a no-name team…let’s just not play as well as usual.” They were certainly putting in effort, but they simply couldn’t break past a ceiling that seemed to be hanging far lower than usual, even though their skills were demonstrably better when they played higher-ranked teams. In short, as Leah noted, they were “playing down.

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Olympic greatness: Biology or motivation?

If you tried hard enough, could you have won Olympic gold in the 100 meter dash?

If you’re an entity theorist, your answer is probably “no.” Entity theorists believe that attributes such as personality characteristics, athletic ability, or intelligence are relatively stable traits that are pretty much fixed at birth. However, if you’re an incremental theorist, you might believe that if you had started young enough or trained hard enough, you could have had a chance at earning a spot on the podium. Incremental theorists believe that attributes are malleable, meaning that they can always be improved with practice and effort.

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If You Compare Yourself With Michael Phelps, Will You Become A Better Swimmer?


“Remember, the Ukrainians are doing this in the snow,” warns a concerned McDonald’s consumer to Team USA boxer Marlen Esparza, as the pseudocoach chows down on a burger and watches Esparza train in one of Mickey D’s new 2012 Olympics commercials. I’m not sure if they realize it, but when McDonald’s instructed the actress to coach Esparza by saying this, they tapped into the logic underlying a fundamental psychological concept: Social Comparison Theory.

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