EP 159 Psych Files Brief #3: Evidence in Favor of Affirmations? The Licensing Effect and the Power of Gossip

What’s Wrong With a Little Gossip?

While some research points out that gossipers are in general disliked, there is an upside: sharing negative gossip can actually help two people like each other better. In this episode we’ll find out the benefits of sharing a tasty piece of negative gossip.

The Licensing Effect

If you take supplements you need to hear this news about how you might be using your taking of the supplements to “license” other activities that aren’t so good for your health.

  • Chiou, Wen-Bin, Yang, Chao-Chin and Wan, Chao-Chin (2011). Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation: Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-Risk Behaviors. Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/0956797611416253

Evidence in Favor of Affirmations?

In a previous episode on self affirmations I presented some strongly negative evidence. However, in this study there might be a role for affirmations – especially in helping people with social anxiety to feel a bit more confident.

  • Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Shepherd, S. and Zanna, M.P. (2011). Rewriting the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Social Rejection: Self-Affirmation Improves Relational Security and Social Behavior up to 2 Months Later. Psychological Science, doi:10.1177/0956797611417725.

The Little Albert Activity

In previous episodes I discussed Little Albert, psychology’s most famous subject. The episodes were Finding Little Albert and Little Albert MythsLittle Albert with John Watson and Rosalie Raynor, well now I’ve got an activity in which you play detective in the search for “Little Albert’s” true identity. The Little Albert Activity will give you a taste for how historical research can be fun as well.

  • Rosnow, R.L. and Foster, E.K. (2005). Rumor and Gossip Research. American Psychological Association Online, 19(4).
  • Weaver, J.R. and Bosson, J.K. (2011).I Feel Like I Know You: Sharing Negative Attitudes of Others Promotes Feelings of Familiarity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(4).

Additional Resources

BPS Research Digest: Take vitamin pill, eat cake. How supplements

Psychologists call these licensing effects and a new study has documented a similar phenomenon following the simple act of taking a vitamin pill. The researchers say the finding could help explain why the explosive rise in

Publish Date: 08/16/2011 4:38


Dietary supplements and the licensing effect – Washington Post (blog)

Dietary supplements and the licensing effect
Washington Post (blog)
MacKay, whom I interviewed for this week's “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column about dietary supplement use, notes that the phenomenon known as the “licensing effect” may well be in play among some supplement users. “People make excuses for behaviors in

and more »

Vitamin pills can lead you to take health risks – The Guardian

The Guardian
Vitamin pills can lead you to take health risks
The Guardian
In the study of risk perception, people talk about "the licensing effect": when you take a vitamin pill, for example, you think you've done something healthy and wholesome, so you permit yourself to eat more chips and have a cigarette.

and more »

Good summary of Finding Little Albert called, Looking back: Finding Little Albert from the psychologist website. Thanks to @psychmag for bringing this to my attention.

Finding Little Albert – The Brain: A Secret History – BBC Four

More about this programme: www.bbc.co.uk Professor Hall Beck shows Michael Mosley how he tracked down Little Albert.

Episode 104: Can Positive Affirmations Improve Your Self Esteem?

Can positive affirmations help raise your self esteem? People use daily affirmations and money affirmations to help them feel more confident, build their self esteem and bring positive events into their lives. But do they really work? If not, then what will? We explore these questions in this episode of The Psych Files.

We propose that, contrary to popular belief, positive self-affirmations can be useless for some people, even though they may benefit others. They may even backfire, making some people feel worse rather than better. – Wood, et. al, 2009

Affirmations and Self Esteem

  • Wood, J.V., Perunovie, E., & Lee, J.W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others. Psychological Science, 20, 860-865.
  • The idea of latitudes of acceptance was mentioned in this podcast as being one of the reasons why people with low self esteem would probably not be influenced by positive affirmations. This idea is part of what is called Social Judgment Theory.

  • My previous episode on self-esteem which you may find helpful was episode 9, "How Do You Really Raise Self Esteem? The Incredibles vs. American Idol"
  • Another episode that might be of interest is the one in which I discuss positive thinking and positive psychology, including the ideas of Aaron Beck, Martin Seligman and Albert Ellis.
  • I also have an episode on how some people use positive thinking to run away from their feelings