Is social status hardwired?

Imagine a conversation between two people: Preston Power, the CEO of a prestigious corporation, and Alan Awkward, the assistant to the assistant to the regional manager. It wouldn’t take very long to pick up on the difference in social status between these two individuals even if you had no information about who they were. Body language, the tendency to interrupt, volume of speech, and a host of other nonverbal behaviors automatically cue us in to who is the alpha dog in this scenario. While these behaviors are often viewed as personal choices that we can control, Fei Wang and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggest that poor Mr. Awkward may not be at fault for his plight—his neurons may be to blame.  Continue reading


Perceptual Learning: Applications to Education

My lab at UCLA has been in the news twice recently, which is very exciting for us! You may have seen this article in the NYTimes last week or this interview on CBS’ The Early Show this morning. Both stories are about perceptual learning and its applications to education. I thought in this post I would expand on those ideas to give you a deeper sense of what perceptual learning is, why we study it, and what its limitations are.

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Investigative Interviewing and the Detection of Deception – Professor R. Edward Geiselman, UCLA

Information is the lifeblood of investigations and it is the ability of investigators to obtain useful and accurate information from witnesses that is most crucial.  Yet full and accurate memory recall is difficult to achieve.  The Cognitive Interview (CI) technique developed by Geiselman and Fisher is a systematic approach to interviewing witnesses toward increasing the amount of relevant information obtained without compromising the rate of accuracy.  The CI is based on scientifically derived principles of memory and communication theory as well as extensive analyses of law-enforcement interviews.  The CI has been found in scientific studies to produce significantly more information than standard police questioning. Continue reading

Children with ADHD have greater likelihood of trying substances and developing substance use disorders.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in childhood. In fact, estimates of the rates of ADHD had found that between 5-10 percent of all children meet diagnostic criteria for the disorder. Children with and without ADHD, at a group level, show several differences, including poorer school performance, more peer rejection, and increased rates of anxiety, depression, and acting out behavior. Following children over time is a common way to study the long term effects associated with psychological problems. Many scientists have used follow-up (longitudinal) studies to examine whether children with ADHD are a greater risk for substance use and abuse/dependence than children without ADHD. Any single study may be imperfect, as studies differ in the way ADHD is measures, substance use or abuse/dependence is measures, the group of children that were followed, or how much time passed between the follow-up assessment. One way to help find clarity in multiple studies of the same question is to conduct a meta-analysis. Meta-analyses run one major analysis using all of the data collected using different groups – more heavily weighting the results from larger studies. Earlier this year, a meta-analysis on the association between a childhood diagnosis of ADHD and trying alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, as well as a substance use disorder (substance abuse or dependence/addiction) was conducted. Continue reading

How Does Early Life Stress Affect Health Across the Lifespan? — Professor Shelley Taylor, UCLA

How does early life stress affect health across the lifespan? This question has intrigued our research team for many years. People who experience early life stress, in the form of poverty, exposure to violence, noise, and other stressors, or who experience a harsh early family environment in the form of conflict-ridden, cold non-nurturant parenting, or neglect, have an elevated risk for illnesses, not only in childhood but throughout the lifespan; their adverse early experiences lead them to develop chronic diseases in adulthood earlier than is true for people who do not experience early hardships. These findings are somewhat mysterious, as it is not immediately clear why stress in one’s early life, during the first decade, would affect risk for illness in one’s 40s or 50s. Using a combination of laboratory experiments, large scale health studies, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and genetics studies, we’ve uncovered several of the reasons why. Continue reading

Are you more of a conformist during flu season?

Looking back on social psychology’s greatest hits, my mind always drifts first to studies on conformity, largely because they make such good stories. Take Asch, for instance. Who would’ve thought that so many people would willingly follow the crowd in giving a blatantly wrong answer about line length? And then, of course, there’s Milgram. It is still shocking to imagine two-thirds of participants agreeing to shock another person up to the highest possible voltage. (Ok, so that’s technically obedience, not conformity, but you get the picture.)

Although studies of conformity fell out of fashion years ago, interest in the origins of conformist behavior are back in a big way, and the theorized reasons are definitely not what you might expect. Continue reading

Career Options for How to Become a Therapist: Multiple Pathways Exist

Many individuals find the idea of helping people for a living to be appealing. There is no one path to this type of career. Clinicians, therapists, coaches, social workers, or psychologist, provide psychotherapy and guidance to people. Below are several popular avenues to becoming a professional therapist.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that completes a residency in psychiatry after finishing medical school. Psychiatrists generally prescribe medication and conduct psychotherapy with their patients. Their training emphasizes the biological basis of psychological based distress.

PhD in Clinical Psychology and PsyD in Clinical Psychology
These degrees are similar, both requiring 4-5 years of graduate school and one year of internship. Through research and clinical practice, clinical psychologists seek to understand, prevent, and relieve distress and promote well-being. Common theoretical orientations that generally guide such treatment include psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioral and family

PhD in Counseling Psychology
This degree path is similar in requirements to a clinical psychology PhD. Counseling psychologists typically work with individuals who are dealing with moderate psychological issues, such as anxiety or sadness resulting from major life events.
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