Didn’t get the flu this past winter? Thank a psychologist. What? Well, it could be that a psychologist was involved in helping health care professionals to do what they know they need to do (but sometimes don’t): wash their hands. The issue here is persuasion and motivation: how to we get people to do something – and keep doing it? Health care workers like doctors and nurses can fall prey to the availability heuristic: they can easily remember times when they didn’t wash their hands and they didn’t get sick so they might develop an “illusion of invulnerability“. How do psychologists get involved to solve this problem? Listen to this episode and find out.
Guess What? Bad news: if you’ve ever been overweight and you’re trying to lose weight it’s even harder than you think. Yikes. Pretty de-motivating. As psychologist Matthew Edlund wrote recently, Weight: Why Simple Answers Won’t (Can’t) Work. However, let’s see what motivational psychologists would have to say about this. How to keep from throwing up your hands at the whole effort.
Resources on the Difficulty of Losing Weight
- The Fat Trap by Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times, December 28, 2011.
- Episode 126 (video): SuperNormal Stimuli: Is This Why We’re Overweight? There are many reasons why it is difficult to lose weight, but have you considered how supernormal stimuli might be one of them? In this episode I discuss some of the ideas in the books Waistland and Supernormal Stimuli by Dierdre Barrett. Is it possible that the old saying Everything in Moderation might just be wrong?
- Episode 57: Expectancy Theory, Goal Setting and Getting in Shape
. Trying to get in shape and lose weight? What’s the psychology behind getting in shape? Well, first forget the psychobabble. I examine two established theories of human motivation – goal setting and expectancy theory. Join me for a different perspective on weight loss, exercise and fitness.
How does Behavior Modification work? Find out in this episode as I interview Scott Milford, author of the Behavior and Motivation website. If you’re about how to apply Psychology to everyday life then this is the guy to show you how he does it. In this episode we talk about how to get kids to practice the piano, but you’ll quickly see how this approach could be applied to all kinds of other life challenges. Scott developed his approach over many years of working with young people both at the piano and with at-risk adolescents in school. See how Psychology can be put to work!
Do you have a dull job? Wonder how it can be made more motivating? That’s the challenge – how can we make jobs that are typically not much fun (like an assembly line job) more interesting to do? There is a lot of research on this important topic (check out The Five Drivers of Happiness at Work from the Wall Street Journal).
And Dan Pink wrote a good deal about this in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (you can hear him talk about work motivation in this interview called Dan Pink on the Modus Operandi of Motivation). This is one of the challenges facing I/O psychologists and in this episode I discuss the [easyazon-link asin=”0201027798″]Job Characteristics theory[/easyazon-link] by Hackman and Oldham and apply it to assembly line jobs in China where your iPhone is made and where a record number of suicides have occurred over the past few years. Can we use job redesign to make such jobs more tolerable?
5 Characteristics of Jobs that Affect Motivation
- Significance: do the workers feel that the work they do every day is important in the grander scheme of things? To some workers it’s clear that their daily work is important (say, nurses), while others (say, assembly line workers who put together cell phone components) may not feel that their work is important. However, you can help cell phone assembly line workers get a connection to the significance of their work by reminding them of how important cell phones are to the global connections they enable between people and the role cell phones play (through photos and messaging) in changing the world. Here’s an article on the important role that leaders play in helping their employees find meaning in their work.
- Identity: as opposed to putting one tiny piece onto something that other people put tiny pieces onto, it’s important for workers to be able to identify a whole task that they themselves created. Is there a way to redesign a job so that workers can put their names on something and say with pride, “I created that”?
- Variety: nothing kills motivation faster than monotony. How can you increase the variety of things that workers do? How can you let them tap into their skills or build new skills so that work can include some variety from day to day?
- Feedback: employees need to know how well they’re doing their jobs. This helps with imparting a sense of pride as well. Feedback can come from a car that rolls off the assembly line and works perfectly (low defects) or it can come from a boss who tells the worker how well he/she is doing.
- Autonomy: many employees benefit from having some say in how things are done. What aspects of the job can be supervised or redesigned based on input from employees? What decisions can they make on their own?
In this episode I put Jack Lalanne "on the couch". I take selections from several of his videos and see what they reveal about his personality. He was clearly passionate about exercise, but what drove this passion? What was his underlying motivation? I suggest that his relationship with his father was crucial to his passion for exercise and fitness. Join me as I do a little armchair psychoanalysis of Jack Lalanne.
Okay, admit it – you have some kind of lucky charm on you, in your car or in your house. And if you participate in any sport or performance activity you have some sort of ritual that you believe will help make you more successful. Well guess what – there is research to show that such charms and rituals really do help you perform better. Find out how in this episode of The Psych Files.
Resources on Superstitions
- Damisch, L., Stoberock, B., & Mussweiler, T. (2010). Keep your fingers crossed! How superstition improves performance. Psychological Science, 21, 7, 1014-1020.
- "Fingers Crossed" summarized on Science Daily
- "Fingers Crossed" summarized by U.S. News
- Buhrmann, H.G., & Zaugg, M.K. (1981). Superstitions among basketball players: An investigation of various forms of superstitious beliefs and behavior among competitive basketballers at the junior high school to university level. Journal of Sport Behavior, 4, 163–174.
- Darke, P.R., & Freedman, J.L. (1997). Lucky events and beliefs in
luck: Paradoxical effects on confidence and risk-taking. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 378–388.
- Day, L., & Maltby, J. (2003). Belief in good luck and psychological well-being: The mediating role of optimism and irrational beliefs. The Journal of Psychology, 137, 99–110.
- Day, L., & Maltby, J. (2005). “With good luck”: Belief in good luck and cognitive planning. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 1217–1226.
- Gilovich, T. (1991). How we know what isn’t so: The fallibility of human reason in everyday life. New York: Free Press.
- Keinan, G. (1994). Effects of stress and tolerance of ambiguity on magical thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 48–55.
- Lobmeyer, D., & Wasserman, E.A. (1986). Preliminaries to free throw shooting: Superstitious behavior? Journal of Sport Behavior, 9, 70–78.
- Shah, J. (2003). Automatic for the people: How representations of significant others implicitly affect goal pursuit. Journal of Per- sonality and Social Psychology, 84, 661–681.
- Whitson, J.A., & Galinsky, A.D. (2008). Lacking control increases illusory pattern perception. Science, 322, 115–117.
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I show you 10 of what I consider to be the best psychology apps in the app store. There are a lot of psychology apps and many are not so good, but in this episode I pick out what I consider to be credible therapy apps, excellent mind mapping tools, relaxation apps, and some of the best 3 dimensional ways to look at the brain.
Here are three apps created, maintained and constantly updated by me – Michael A. Britt, Ph.D.:
- PsycExplorer – the psychology news app which contains all the latest news, audio and video from experts in the field. PsycExplorer for iPhone/iPod and PsycExplorerHD for iPad.
- Psyc Test Hero – the psychology test prep app to help students prepare for tests using concept maps, brief audio, and practice quizzes. Psyc Test Hero for iPad and Psyc Hero for iPhone/iPod. You can also get Psyc Test Hero for Android tablets and Psyc Hero for Android smartphones!
- Brain Mnemonics 2 – the app I built specifically to help students memorize 35 parts of the brain, the neuron and neurotransmitters.
How do the Rorschach, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and the House, Tree, Person tests work? Do you reveal something about yourself when you tell stories about pictures or tell what you see in an inkblot or even when you do something as seemingly innocent as drawing a picture of a house? In this episode I try to answer these questions about the Freudian defense mechanism of projection as well as show you how a wonderful poem called How It Will End by Denise Duhamel could be an excellent example of psychology in everyday life.
Resources for this Episode
- Many thanks to Denise Duhamel for allowing me to read her wonderful poem How It Will End on this episode. You can find out more about her here.
- Click to hear Garrison Keillor read the poem in the September 28, 2009 episode of The Writer’s Almanac.
- You can find more poetry by Denise Duhamel here: Denise Duhamel on Amazon
- The Rorshach Society of North America created this site where you can get a sense of what it is like to take the Rorshach test.
- Information about the Rorshach Test from Wikipedia
- Information about the Thematic Apperception Test from the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders
- Iinformation about the Thematic Apperception Test from Wikipedia
Why is it so hard to keep our new year’s resolutions to lose weight? I explore this question in this episode in which I also take a tour through the various schools of psychology and show how each one would explain why you have trouble keeping your promise to yourself to lose weight (or stay out of debt, or stop smoking).
- Concept Map – In t his video I refer to the concept mapping program as “MeadMap”. Well, the company “CoMapping” purchased MeadMap. However, the program still looks and runs the same. You’ll see the map below, but you can see it full size by clicking here: Losing Weight and the Schools of Psychology. In addition, feel free to contact me (click on the Contact Michael page to the left) if you would like me to send you a copy of the map which you can import into a MeadMap account and alter it any way you wish.
If you’re old, don’t try to change yourself, change your environment – B.F. Skinner
If you can’t change something, then change the way you think about it – Maya Angelou’s mother