Ep 152: How Do You Change Your Behavior? Interview with Scott Milford

Behavior Modification

How does Behavior Modification work? Find out in this episode as I interview Scott Milford, author of the Behavior and Motivation website. If you’re about how to apply Psychology to everyday life then this is the guy to show you how he does it. In this episode we talk about how to get kids to practice the piano, but you’ll quickly see how this approach could be applied to all kinds of other life challenges. Scott developed his approach over many years of working with young people both at the piano and with at-risk adolescents in school. See how Psychology can be put to work!
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Episode 137: Objectivity and the Scientific Impotence Excuse

Can science study love? Are we able to scientifically determine what romance is all about? There seem to be times, particularly when people hold strong beliefs, that we just don’t want to hear what scientists have to say. We talk a lot these days about the importance of objectivity, but are people – even scientists – capable of being objective? In this episode I’ll talk about the scientific impotence excuse. Another interesting cognitive bias we seem to carry around with us.


  • Munro, G. (2010). The Scientific Impotence Excuse: Discounting Belief-Threatening Scientific Abstracts. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40 (3), 579–600.
  • Alfieri, L., Brooks, P.J., Aldrich, N.J. & Tenenbaum, H.R. (2010). Does Discovery Based Instruction Enhance Learning? Journal of Educational Psychology.
  • Walter Cronkite: The Man With America’s Trust
  • Music for this podcast provided by guitarist David Temple


Episode 130 (video): Why Are We So Fascinated by Famous People?


If you’ve ever met a famous person you know how exciting that feels. But why? What is it about fame that draws so many people to it? In this episode I examine fame from two very perspectives: the Basking in Reflected Glory theory and Terror Management Theory. Along the way we’ll see what this all has to do with the rock band Queen, baseball and Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.

Thanks again to Beth Benoit of Granite State College and to Melissa Kennedy of Holy Names Academy for pointing me in the direction of the following sources:

Resources on the Psychology of Fame

  • Cialdini, R. B., Borden, R. J., Thorne, A., Walker, M. R., Freeman, S., & Sloan, L. R. (1976). Basking in reflected glory: Three (football) field studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 366–375.
  • Greenberg, Jeff, Kosloff, Spee, Solomon, Sheldon, Cohen, Florette and Landau, Mark(2008). Toward Understanding the Fame Game: The Effect of Mortality Salience on the Appeal of Fame’,Self and Identity
  • You can learn more about Terror Management Theory here.
  • Terror Management Theory: Yes, Virginia, you're going to die – The

    HowStuffWorks.com blogger Josh Clark writes about Terror Management Theory which is the idea that everything we do is in reaction to our fear of death.

    Publish Date: 02/17/2011 15:53


  • Terror Management Theory | Mrs. Neutron's Garage

    Terror management theory is based heavily on the writings of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, and in particular his book The Denial of Death, for which he won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize. According to TMT, humans, having

    Publish Date: 04/03/2011 8:24


  • Sheldon Solomon – Anthropology 322 (4)

    Sheldon Solomon speaks about Ernest Becker and Terror Management Theory to an anthropology class at the University of Washington called Comparative Study of Death

Episode 129 (video): Science Shows Superstitions Actually Work! Sort of…


Okay, admit it – you have some kind of lucky charm on you, in your car or in your house. And if you participate in any sport or performance activity you have some sort of ritual that you believe will help make you more successful. Well guess what – there is research to show that such charms and rituals really do help you perform better. Find out how in this episode of The Psych Files.

Resources on Superstitions

  • Damisch, L., Stoberock, B., & Mussweiler, T. (2010). Keep your fingers crossed! How superstition improves performance. Psychological Science, 21, 7, 1014-1020.
  • "Fingers Crossed" summarized on Science Daily
  • "Fingers Crossed" summarized by U.S. News
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  • Buhrmann, H.G., & Zaugg, M.K. (1981). Superstitions among basketball players: An investigation of various forms of superstitious beliefs and behavior among competitive basketballers at the junior high school to university level. Journal of Sport Behavior, 4, 163–174.
  • Darke, P.R., & Freedman, J.L. (1997). Lucky events and beliefs in
    luck: Paradoxical effects on confidence and risk-taking. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 378–388.
  • Day, L., & Maltby, J. (2003). Belief in good luck and psychological well-being: The mediating role of optimism and irrational beliefs. The Journal of Psychology, 137, 99–110.
  • Day, L., & Maltby, J. (2005). “With good luck”: Belief in good luck and cognitive planning. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 1217–1226.
  • Gilovich, T. (1991). How we know what isn’t so: The fallibility of human reason in everyday life. New York: Free Press.
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  • Keinan, G. (1994). Effects of stress and tolerance of ambiguity on magical thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 48–55.
  • Lobmeyer, D., & Wasserman, E.A. (1986). Preliminaries to free throw shooting: Superstitious behavior? Journal of Sport Behavior, 9, 70–78.
  • Shah, J. (2003). Automatic for the people: How representations of significant others implicitly affect goal pursuit. Journal of Per- sonality and Social Psychology, 84, 661–681.
  • Whitson, J.A., & Galinsky, A.D. (2008). Lacking control increases illusory pattern perception. Science, 322, 115–117.

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Episode 124: Flashbulb Memories – Are They As Accurate As We Think?


Would you be surprised if I told you that your memories of the attacks on September 11, 2001 are inaccurate? How much of what you remember of that day or of other Flashbulb Memories actually happened? Where were you, for example, when the Challenger disaster occurred? Or when Princess Diana died? Join me as I explore the research that reveals how inaccurate our memories are (no matter how confident we feel). And by the way, was President Bush involved in a conspiracy over the events of September 11? Let’s find out.

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False Memories

  • Greenberg, D.L. (2004). President Bush’s False ‘Flashbulb’ Memory of 9/11/01. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 363-370.
  • Lee, P.J. and Brown N.R. (2003). Delay related changes in personal memories for September 11, 2001. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17, 1007-1015.
  • Talarico, J.M. and Rubin, D.C. (2003). Confidence, not consistency, characterizes flashbulb memories. Psychological Science, 14(5), 455-461.
  • Weaver, C.A. and Krug, K.S. (2004). Consolidation-lik effects inflashbulb memories: Evidence from September 11, 2001. The American Journal of Psychology, 117.

Episode 122: DSM-V and On Being Sane – Are Psychiatric Labels Really Harmful?

What does the movie Shrek have to do with labeling, the DSM-V and the self-fulfilling prophecy? In this episode I take a close look at the well-known Rosenhan study. This was the study in which "pseudopatients" pretend to hear voices and on the basis of this they get admitted to psychiatric centers. Then they were told to act "normally". It took an average of 19 days for these "pseudopatients" to be discharged from the hospital and even then they were diagnosed as "schizophrenia in remission".
Does this study show that psychiatric diagnoses are not only useless but also possibly harmful? Or do we find what we found back in episode 47 on Little Albert, and what we found in episode 36 on Kitty Genovese – what we thought we knew is largely wrong.

“[The Rosenhan study is]…a prime example of extremely compelling writing in conjunction with remarkably sloppy reasoning.” – Scott Lilienfeld


…a careful examination of this study’s methods, results, and conclusions leads me to a diagnosis of “logic, in remission.” – Robert Spitzer

Resources on the Rosenhan Study

Popular Press Articles on the Revision to the DSM

DSM-V Resources

Episode 119: Are You Lying in that Email?


Have you ever been less than truthful in an email? Or perhaps a little more blunt or emotional than you might have been if you delivered your message in person? Why is it that people can sometimes be so mean in their online comments? In this episode I explore why we communicate differently in the online world than we do in person by discussing an article on the "finer points of lying online".

Moral Disengagement

  • The article discussed in this episode is : The finer points of lying online: E-mail versus pen and paper. Naquin, Charles E.; Kurtzberg, Terri R.; Belkin, Liuba Y.
    Journal of Applied Psychology. Vol 95(2), Mar 2010, 387-394.
  • Definition of Moral Engagement from Wikipedia:

Moral disengagement is a term from social psychology for the process of convincing the self that ethical standards do not apply to oneself in a particular context, by separating moral reactions from inhumane conduct by disabling the mechanism of self-condemnation.