Ep 233: White Policemen and Young Black Men – What’s Really Going on?

In the US, we’ve experienced a number of recent incidences of white policemen shooting black men. What’s going on? Are these more examples of prejudice and discrimination or unprovoked attacks on police? How do we know what really happened? In this episode of The Psych Files we look at how key social psychological theories are on display in these incidences: false memories, attribution biases, blaming the victim and social identity theory.


the criminal justice system that, flawed as it is, still insists that indictments be based on facts instead of emotions, which are fed by long-simmering prejudices and all the cognitive biases and memory distortions that come packaged in the human mind. – Michael Shermer, What Really Happened in Ferguson?

Resources for this Episode

Ep: 231: Multiple Personalities and Tips on Getting People to Help

Is there such a thing as a person having multiple personalities? What about Sybil and “All About Eve” – did they really have multiple personalities? The idea makes for great headlines and fascinating talk shows, but what’s the real story? I talk about that in this episode of The Psych Files along with giving tips on how to maximize the chances you’ll get help in an emergency and answer the question: is the new generation of teens lazy or is something wrong with the way we’re thinking about them? Another good example of Social Comparison theory.


Multiple Personalities

Social Comparison Theory


Bystander Intervention


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 219: Mental Health Professionals: Why So Liberal?

Surveys find that psychologists tend to align themselves with a liberal political orientation. Why is that? Are liberal-minded people drawn to human service professions or is there something about working in human services that causes people to become more liberal in their political views? In this episode I propose a few ideas that I think explains why mental health professionals tend to be on the liberal side of the political spectrum. I invite your constructive feedback on these suggestions.


Resources on Psychology and Politics

Polarized Psychology: Is Science Devalued in a Divided Society?

90.6 percent of social and personality psychologists describe themselves as liberal on social issues (compared with 3.9 percent who describe themselves as conservative), and 63.2 percent describe themselves as liberal on economic issues (compared with 10.3 percent who describe themselves as conservative). Overall, they found a liberal-to-conservative ratio of 14:1. – Polarized Psycholgy


Suggestions as to Why Mental Health Workers Tend to Have a Liberal Political Orientation

  • Mental health workers spend their days in direct contact with people who, because of their mental/emotional/situational challenges, are simply not able to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”. They need assistance, often in the form of social programs, to be able to do this.
  • Social programs often require government assistance, which often means increased taxes. Conservatives are typically in favor of lowering taxes and less government intervention.
  • The branch of psychology called Social Psychology focuses on external causes of behavior. Studies such as those by Stanley Milgram, Solomon Asch, Henri Tajfel, and Philip Zimbardo demonstrate that our behavior, thoughts and feelings are often strongly influenced by our surroundings. Conservatives tend to focus on the individual.
  • Another large branch of psychology – Behaviorism – also focuses on the influence of reinforcers in our environment and how they can make us behave, think and feel. Thus, to change people (from this perspective) requires changes in the environment (e.g., social programs).


I mentioned the “Filter Bubble” in this episode – the fact that the information we are exposed to from TV and from the web is often tailored only toward what organizations (particularly those that want to sell you something) think you would agree with. Thus, it is very hard to get an accurate picture of what is really happening in the world.

The Filter Bubble


Ep 208: The Elaboration Likelihood Model in Less Than 2 Minutes

The elaboration likelihood model developed by Petty and Cacciopo is a complicated name for a not too complicated idea about how people can be persuaded. In this under 2 minute video I explain the key idea.


If you need to memorize the parts of the brain really quickly for a test, click here to go to the Google Play store to check out the Memorize the Brain Quickly Android app.

And here is the same app, called Brain Mnemonics 2, in the Apple App store.