Ep 230: Questionable Research – With A Famous Psychologist Involved

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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.
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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 216 (video): YouTube Power Search Tips

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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.
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Ep 188: Psychologists Are Keeping You From Getting the Flu

Wash Your Hands to Avoid Illness

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.

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Ep 184: Critical Thinking (Part 2) – Important? Yes. But Can We Teach It? Well….

The importance of critical thinking for children

The importance of critical thinking for childrenIn episode 183 I talked about what critical thinking is and why it’s important. Now we talk about why it’s so darn hard to teach and to use critical thinking in our everyday lives. In this episode I’ll discuss Dr. Daniel Willingham‘s advice to teachers on what they can do to effectively teach critical thinking – something that couldn’t be more important in today’s world where misinformation is all around us. Make sure to take a look at the concept map below. [Read more…]

Ep 183: Critical Thinking – Important? Yes. But Can We Teach It? Well….

Critical Thinking Key Ideas

Can We Teach Children to Think Critically?Why does it concern psychologists that the Texas GOP platform recently opposed the teaching of critical thinking? Most of us have been told since we were very young that critical thinking is very important. Psychologists certainly agree and a lot of time spent in most psychology classes is spent learning how to think critically. Why is it such a central part of our classes? And here’s a kicker: it might be a lot harder to teach it than we had hoped. Find out why critical thinking is so central to psychology. Sounds kinda dry? I think you’ll find this a lot of fun (in a mental kind of way…).

Critical thinking is essential if we are to get to the root of our problems and develop
reasonable solutions. After all, the quality of everything we do
is determined by the quality of our thinking. – The Critical Thinking Community

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Ep: 169 – Validity – How Can You Tell a Good Test from a Bad One?

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In episode 168 I discussed reliability but the real test of a test’s “mettle” – or how confident you can be in the results – comes when you subject it to lots of validity tests. You’ll learn a lot about validity if you take a psychology class. High validity is what separates the many fun-to-take but essentially meaningless tests you’ll find on the web, and a truly solid test of your personality.
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Ep 168: Reliability – the Foundation of Any Good Personality Test

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Can you tell your personality from what flavor ice cream you like? There are lots and lots of so called Personality tests on the web. How do you know when you’ve come across a good one? For example, are the inner workings of your personality revealed in the playlists you have on your smartphone or mp3 device?

In this episode we take a look at the first thing you should demand from any test – reliability. If you’re interested in psychology you are going to learn A LOT about the different kinds of reliability.
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Ep 165 (video): Psychological Research Under Fire: What Can We Do About It?

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What’s going on with Psychology? There have been a number of reports about poorly conducted or completely fraudulent research in the field such as this one that appeared in the New York Times. Well, there’s bad research in all fields, but psychology, which has through its history struggled for scientific credibility, is particularly sensitive to this issue and many psychologists have come out with strong recommendations to make sure that our research is of the highest quality.
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