Psychologists React to Robin Williams’ Death

Shock and Sadness

How has the mental health community reacted to Robin Williams’ suicide? I’ve been reflecting on my own reaction as well as reading blog posts and news articles from other mental health professionals. Here’s my take on what we’re thinking.

Like everyone else, mental health professionals found themselves saddened and speechless at Williams’ loss. He was so unique and gave so much. He will be so missed.

But Why Couldn’t He Have…

It’s so natural for us to think, “But he was rich and famous – couldn’t he have brought himself out of this?”. There are two things we need to understand here:

Hedonic Adaptation – the term to describe the fact that we all get used to what we have. Almost all of us think that if we had more money, a new car, or more X, Y or Z we would be happier. And maybe, for a little while, we would. But we don’t stay delirious forever.Our minds adapt and whatever our current state soon becomes the daily grind. In the civilized world we already have more than most people. You probably already have more money and more stuff (cars, smartphones, TVs, etc.) than you had 10 years ago. Bet you’ve gotten used to it. Robin Williams had been famous for 30+ years. I’m sure he was used to it. I doubt it gave him the kind of joy we imagine it would give us. We are quite poor at what we call “emotional forecasting“: we think we’ll feel a certain way in the future, but we’re usually wrong.
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Psychology Tip to Help You Get More Tips

Do you have a tip jar at work? Here’s one way to use a little psychology to increase the likelihood that customers will put a little money in there:

  • Set out not one but two tip jars
  • Label the jars with two competing themes

Okay, so what do I mean by “competing themes”? What you want to do is to motivate people to drop in a little (or a lot of course) money by tapping into their social identities. For example, if you know that there is a natural rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox (and especially if there is a game between them coming up), label one tip jar Yankees and the other Red Sox (or better yet, print out an image of their logos and tape them to the jars). People want their team to win. It makes us feel good. Here are some examples…
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Ep 207: The Psychology of Vine

Would you believe there’s a lot of psychology you can fit into a 6 second vine? Well there is. In this video episode I show you a few of there vines I like and which are also good (unintended) demonstrates of a variety of psychological concepts. I think you’ll have fun with this one.


Consider following these folks on Vine!

The Vines Shown in this Video

You can download Vine for iPhone here and Vine for Android here.


Ep 200: Reflections on the 200th Show!

Thank YOU Squarespace for sponsoring the 200th episode!

Thank YOU Squarespace for sponsoring the 200th episode!

Thank you so much for listening to The Psych Files for the past 6 1/2 years. In this episode I provide a little background on how the podcast started and what has happened as it grew over the years. It just past 8 million downloads and I want to share a few thoughts on this with you. Thank you everybody!


Facts about the Show

  • Started in January of 2007
  • Over 9 million episode downloads
  • 4,500 episode downloads day on average
  • Almost always in the top 10 of iTunes Higher Ed
  • Website gets an average of 800 hits day
  • 4 1/2 stars from 131 ratings on iTunes
  • The show has been featured in the APA Monitor, The Discovery Channel show Dark Matters, and has led to invited presentations at APA and APS conferences

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Upcoming Episodes

  • More Great Psychology Apps
  • Abandoned Suitcases Reveal Private Lives of Insane Asylum Patients
  • jetlag/circadian rhythms
  • New Little Albert Findings
  • Psychology of laughter with Greg Dugan
  • New treatments for autism
  • Kohlberg stages of Moral Development
  • Visual illusions
  • Psychology of Magic
  • More on the DSM5
  • The Strengths Perspective (Social Work)
  • Anorexia/Bulimia
  • The Controversy over the Effects of Serotonin
  • A Call To Men
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Allowing children to have dogs accompany them while they testify
  • Transcranial stimulation
  • Stats: chi-square, t-test, anova
  • How medications work
  • anesthesia
  • Narrative Therapy (Damien from facebook)