Monday Miscellany: Theoretical Godlessness, Social Psychology, & Coffee

Today in Social Psychology is a Many-Variabled Beast: that marshmellow test, where children had to do a ‘delay of gratification’ exercise in waiting to eat a marshmellow in return for having two marshmellows as a reward….is actually way more complicated. There’s this article, and also this one. As it turns out, when you try to simplify social psychology and apply it across the board, you’ll miss things.

We have a new blogger! His name is Alex Gabriel, you should read what he has to say about coffee, and he once made me incredibly happy by designing this poster:


Somewhat like Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds*, PsyBlog is here to help you use Real Actual Science ™ to unbork your brain. In this case, Six Weird Tips To Lose Weight. Er, sorry,  Six Quick Tips To Get Your Brain in High Gear Fast.

Melanie Tannenbaum makes my inner psychnerd happy when she talks about psychology’s brilliant, beautiful, scientific messiness:

Psychology is a science.

Shut up about how it’s not, already.

I clearly cannot just say that without explaining why psychology is a science, although sometimes I wish I could just join the biologists, chemists, and physicists who are never faced with having to answer such questions. So I will start by quoting the main thrust of Dr. Berezow’s argument, and then explaining why the 20-year-olds who take my Intro Social Psych class each semester could have told Berezow why he’s wrong by the end of our first week of class.

Is talking about body image actually useful? Well…maybe not.

HeadQuarters is the Guardian’s new psychology blog, and it’s quite a bit better than I usually expect from mainstream psych-journalism. Take a look at this piece on anti-depressants. There’s science! Very little jargon! Even nuance!

For something totally different, Dancers Among Us.

We’re not all mentally ill:

Mental illness is many things. But there’s one thing it most emphatically is not — and that is everyday fears, worries, doubts, and attractions. (Of the items on Rick Warren’s list, “compulsions” is the only one that belongs.) Seeing mental illness as ordinary emotions is a fundamentally flawed view,  one that harms people actually living with such illness.

What have you been thinking through lately?

*59 Seconds is excellent and worth reading. General premise: what can science tell us about being more happy? Think self-help, but evidence-based. 


  1. trazan says

    The fifth item in the “get your brain in gear” list is about visualization. I don’t think I can visualize. For me it’s as flimsy as writing in water. I can think of a line, but I guess it’s more the concept of a line I try to assign visibility to, than something I see clearly without effort.

    It seems important to visualize. Am I missing out?

  2. Kate Donovan says

    I think yes, visualizing is probably important to that one way to getting your brain in gear, but not irreplaceable. That approach likely won’t work for you–some other one probably will.

  3. lochaber says

    nice links about the marshmallow bit. I remember hearing about that one previously, and one of the first criticisms that crossed my mind was whether the kid trusted the adult.

    Also, more recently, I’ve learned to be somewhat skeptical towards ‘research’, ‘studies’, and ‘findings’ that generally support a status-quo of inequality and/or oppression. (actually, I think I’ve become more aware/conscious of it recently, but I think it’s at least subconsciously bugged me/triggered hesitations for some time.)

  4. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    What have you been thinking through lately?

    A lot of things, thanks for asking. But primarily I was faced with a very difficult decision in rather emotional circumstances this last week. I agonised and I avoided thinking about it in a repetitive cycle, back and forth for days. Finally I made a decision, and almost instantly I felt better. Never mind that nothing had changed, the situation was still as crappy as it had been the moment before.

    This got me to wondering if I’ve been deceiving myself for lo these many years. I’ve always felt that I’m very poor at making decisions because I tend to second guess myself for great periods of time after the fact. But this one was such a profound choice and so charged with the potential for guilt I was taken aback by how at peace I felt after I had made it. I’m now wondering if I’ve been somehow extending in my memory the difficult period before making the decision into the period after. I’m wondering if I’ve been making the process seem way worse than it actually is. I can’t imagine why I would do that, but there it is.

    My little experiment (N=1 and no possibility of controls, so not really an experiment at all of course) from now on will be to make a decision a quickly as I can in the absence of a clear best choice. And then to monitor my mood thereafter by writing things down as they come up.

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