Ep 230: Questionable Research – With A Famous Psychologist Involved

Might you be able to rid yourself of an illness by “turning back the clock”? That is, by immersing yourself in a time in your life when you were not ill? We know that thinking about things in a positive way – which we sometimes call “reframing” can make us feel and act differently, and we know that the “placebo effect” is real, but how far can these ideas be taken Psychology has always struggled to separate itself from those who would “borrow” good ideas and take them too far or twist them in ways that promise people too much. We’re now more sensitive than ever about how psychological research is conducted and there are a lot of questions about a proposed new study by Ellen Langer that seems to be skirting some serious ethical issues in order to carry out a study with cancer patients – a study that could be done much less elaborately than is planned. Is this groundbreaking research, or as James Coyne suggests, quackery? We’ll find out what’s going on in this episode of The Psych Files. And by the way, what the heck is the nocebo effect? We find out.

Read more

Ep 227: I Remember How I Felt (Or Do You)?

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.

Resources on Pollyanna’s Revenge and on Positive Psychology

Ep 221: The Facebook Experiment: Reaction from Psychologists

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.


Resources on the Facebook Study

Below is a map I put together with resources on the Facebook experiment. It’s a large map and if you want to view it in a larger size click here.


Create your own mind maps at MindMeister

Again – here’s the link to the map that will open full screen.

Ep 216 (video): YouTube Power Search Tips

How can you find the best videos on YouTube? In this video episode of The Psych Files you are going to learn some crazy power tips that will alert you whenever whenever a video from a credible source gets added to a YouTube playlist. You will be the first to know. And you can find out not only by receiving an email, but – if you want – you can also get a phone call when that video is ready for you! Don’t waste your time – there are some crazy new ways to efficiently search the web and here is how I do it.


Click here to find our more about this amazing app!
Click here to find our more about this amazing app!

Resources to Help You Search the Web Efficiently

  • Here’s a link to my app, PsycExplorer iPhone and PsycExplorer for iPad
  • Thanks to Charles Schallhorn, who has some great materials on his YouTube Channel
  • Here’s the “magic code” you saw used in the video to create rss feeds from YouTube playlists: http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/api/playlists/put-playlist-ID-here
  • Here’s the very cool site you can use (for free) to have email and/or phone alerts sent to you: IFTTT. Explore this tool for all kinds of other possibilities!


Ep 188: Psychologists Are Keeping You From Getting the Flu

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.

Wash Your Hands to Avoid Illness


Resources for this Episode


…messages aimed at health care professionals should be most effective when they emphasize how hand-hygiene practices can protect patients’ health rather than personal health – Grant and Hofman