Ep 229: What Makes a Song Popular? How We Detect Melody

Why Are Some Tunes So Popular?

What makes some songs so popular? Guess what – psychologists actually know a lot of the answers. In this episode we’ll listen to excerpts from Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, as well as Noisestorm’s Ignite, Adele’s Someone Like You, the Enterprise Theme from Star Trek, and even two pieces of music from the motion picture Koyaanisqatsi. We’ll especially deconstruct “Hallelujah” to figure out why it is such a popular song. Many thanks to musician extraordinaire – Steve Kessler.
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Ep 227: I Remember How I Felt (Or Do You)?

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Do “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation” or are we actually pretty happy most of the time? As it turns out humans are far more resilient than you think. Ever heard of the term “affective forecasting“? It’s something we do every day and very often we make mistakes doing it. In this episode you’ll learn more about positive psychology from the authors of a new book called Pollyanna’s Revenge. Another myth put to rest: “depressive realism” – the idea that there’s an advantage to being depressed – that depressed people are more realistic about the world than non-depressed people. That’s not so either and I think you’ll find a lot of interesting information in this episode about what affects your own level of happiness. Join me for a fascinating discussion about how we really react to the ups and downs of life.
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Ep 221: The Facebook Experiment: Reaction from Psychologists

Facebook Experiment on Social Contagion

Facebook Experiment on Social ContagionYou may have heard that Facebook manipulated the content of user’s New Feeds during January of 2012 so that some users saw more positive posts than others, which other Facebook users saw more negative posts. They interpret this as an indication of Social Contagion on a massive scale (almost 700,000 Facebook users were part of the study). How did this affect these users? Did those who say negative posts become more negative and vice versa? The answer is that the research indicates that some of them – though a very, very few of them – did subsequently write posts that were similar to the ones that saw on their News Feed. How big of an effect is this? Is it unethical? Does agreeing to Facebook’s Terms of Use constitute “informed consent“. I examine these questions in this episode of The Psych Files.
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Ep 192: An Example of How Psychoanalysts Really Interpret Dreams

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Dream AnalysisWhat do psychologists really think about your dreamsdo they have meaning? In this episode I talk about what psychologists think today about dreams. You probably know that Freud thought that dreams had a manifest content (the people and things that happened in the dream that you remember) and a latent content (the unconscious meaning of the dream). Do we still think this? Also: can you look up in a book or online to find out what your dreams meant? If you dream about a cat for example – what does this mean? In this episode I explore these questions with author and psychoanalyst Kerry Malawista. She and her colleagues discuss this topic in their book, Wearing My Tutu To Analysis. I’ll talk to her and include my own thoughts about whether or not dreams have meaning and whether you should be taking the time to analyze them. [Read more…]

Ep 190: Why Do You Get So Absorbed in that Book (or Movie)?

Experience Taking

Have you ever become so immersed in a book or movie that you actually felt like the character? Or you felt the character’s pain or joy? Why does this happen? When does this happen? What is it about the book or the movie and its characters that draws us in like this? It’s amazing isn’t it? To be so moved like this. Psychologists have studied this experience and we have some ideas regarding what factors have to be present in order for this to happen. And would you believe that this understand might help us to combat racism and bullying? Pretty amazing stuff. Join me as I explore what psychologists call “experience taking“.

Experience Taking


Ep 189: The Psych Files Brief #6 – Facebook Untagging, Money and Happiness, and Memory and Aging

We have some great articles covered in this episode so I hope you find them thought-provoking and leave your comments below! We cover four topics, all of which can be relevant to your everyday life.  Join me and my intern Madison for a fascinating discussion on some new research in psychology. First, a throwback to a previous episode on how to spend your money; experiences only beat out material possessions if they are spent with others. Social settings beat solitary settings every time.

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Ep: 166: The Secret Life of Pronouns – an Interview with James Pennebaker

What do you reveal about yourself in the way you use the smallest and seemingly most insignificant words you use every minute? That’s the focus of Dr. James Pennebaker‘s fascinating book and one of the most interesting psychology books of 2011: The Secret Life of Pronouns. If you’re fascinated by language then you’ll find this episode especially interesting.
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Ep 164: What’s So Disgusting About Poop?

Just about everyone finds poop disgusting right? So who finds it not so disgusting? Would you believe women in their 20s who are in the middle of their menstrual cycle, and who have motherhood as one of their goals in life? Disgust has become quite a popular topic in psychology lately. Join me as I discuss one of the more interesting studies that looks at how the intensity of our emotions can be affected by our nonconscious goals. More interesting than you might think really. And certainly not to be poo-pooed at…
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Ep 162: How to Spend Your Money and Truly Make Yourself Happy – Part 2

In episode 160 I discussed the first 2 ideas on how to spend your money wisely. In this episode I’ll talk about 4 more great ideas on how to get the most from your money and 2 things you have to be careful about. Get the latest findings from positive psychology researchers like Elizabeth Dunn, Tim Wilson and Dan Gilbert on this episode of The Psych Files.
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Ep 160: How to Spend Your Money and Truly Make Yourself Happy

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Why aren’t rich people happier than those with less money?

We think money will bring happiness, but research in the area of positive psychology has consistently found that having more money does NOT make us happier. Find out how to spend your money the right way so that it really can bring happiness into your life. [Read more…]