Music Cognition

A shortened version of this article will appear in the next Psychology in Action Newsletter.

One of the most fascinating and quickly growing subareas of psychology and the cognitive sciences is music cognition, the interdisciplinary study of how the brain processes and perceives music.  Music cognition is driven primarily by the perception of tempo and pitch, as well as the important concept of expectation. Continue reading


Tackling the Admissions Process: What to Know about Applying to Graduate School in Psychology

If you’re considering a graduate degree in psychology, you may be wondering about how to tackle the potentially daunting application process. However, some key information can help to demystify the process Continue reading

APA Resolution Supporting Marriage Equality

Yesterday the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting full marriage equality for same-sex couples by a unanimous vote of 157-0. Although the full text of the resolution is not yet available, the APA has supported same-sex marriage for several years, always citing peer-reviewed research to support their views. This quote from The Examiner is an excerpt from the proceedings of the 2010 annual convention (held last year during the California Prop 8 battle):

Research has shown that marriage provides substantial psychological and physical health benefits due to the moral, economic and social support extended to married couples. Conversely, recent empirical evidence has illustrated the harmful psychological effect of policies restricting marriage rights for same-sex couples. Additionally, children raised by same-sex couples have been shown to be on par with the children of opposite-sex couples in their psychological adjustment, cognitive abilities and social functioning.

APA has been a strong advocate for full equal rights for LGBT people for nearly 35 years, based on the social science research on sexual orientation. APA has supported legal benefits for same-sex couples since 1997 and civil marriage for same-sex couples since 2004. APA has adopted policy statements, lobbied Congress in opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment, and filed amicus briefs supporting same-sex marriage in legal cases in Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, New York (three times), Maryland, Connecticut, Iowa, and California. In California, the APA brief was cited by the state Supreme Court when it ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in May 2008.

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It’s an age-old refrain — adults claim that kids today are completely different from when they were growing up, usually for the worse. And that claim often extends to the TV shows that kids are exposed to – more sex, less depth, endless shows about celebrities and reality TV show stars.

But hasn’t Hollywood always glamorized being rich and famous? The pursuit of fame is embedded in the fabric of our society, in America – every person, no matter where they come from, is supposed to have the opportunity to become successful and achieve to their fullest extent.

So maybe adults are just waxing nostalgic about the past, and things really haven’t changed that drastically. Our study, completed at the Children’s Digital Media Center@LA and just published in Cyberpsychology here, suggests otherwise.

We took a look at the top two shows for tweens, age 9-12, in one year of the last 5 decades. Children at these ages are beginning to form their values, as they move from their families being the most important sphere of influence to peers and other forces outside of the home gaining more influence.

We found that the most important value of tween television shows in 2007 is fame, out of a list of 16 values. Moreover, in every other decade, from the sixties to the nineties, fame ranked at the bottom of the list! So, in just one decade, from 1997 to 2007, fame went from being the least important value to the most important value. In stark contrast, community feeling, number one or two in every other decade, dropped to number 11 in 2007.  The table below shows the ranking for each decade, keyed to the 2007 ranks.

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Red scare, quite literally

The color red is commonly used to caution us. Used prominently in alerts ranging from stop signs to warning labels, we generally associate red with some kind of threat or danger. Some have even suggested that athletes whose team color is red dominate more than those with other team colors (although having been a Stanford Cardinal during a period of particularly embarrassing athletic performance, I have my doubts).

In any case, the roots of this phenomenon are interesting from an evolutionary psychological perspective—is our association between a color and certain emotions hardwired or culturally based (or a mix of both)? Researchers at Dartmouth have reason to believe the former. Continue reading

Evidence for Multiple Pathways to Sexual Orientation

Social scientists have long debated the “true” nature of sexual orientation. In the past, this debate has been characterized as another example of the classic battle of nature vs. nurture/biology vs. society. Today, most acknowledge that a simplistic this or that explanation doesn’t fly for most things and likely doesn’t rightly characterize sexual orientation, either. Over the past decade or so, psychologists have begun gathering evidence indicating that there are likely multiple pathways to sexual orientation; for instance, some may be attracted to people of the same-sex because of something in their biology, others because of their social environment.

A recent study by Diamond and Wallen in the April issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior (“Sexual Minority Women’s Sexual Motivation Around the Time of Ovulation”) found evidence supporting a multiple pathways perspective in women’s sexual orientation. Continue reading