In the Stanford marshmallow experiment, arguably the most famous study ever conducted on the concept of delayed gratification, children were offered a choice between receiving one small treat (like a marshmallow) immediately or receiving two treats later (like, 15 minutes later). In the years since, the ability to choose deferred rewards over smaller immediate rewards has been associated with numerous positives such as enhanced self-esteem, academic excellence, and physical fitness.
Marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson speculates that this trait may also have something to do with being better at environmental stewardship.
Johnson thinks a lot about how humans interact with ocean resources (like fish), and what drives us to exploit or conserve these resources. One question she returns to, over and over, is: How can we enable people to take a long-term view when it comes to the wealth of the oceans—”to save some for later, to use the ocean without using it up?”
The answer to that question has more to do with people and the psychology of human decision-making than it does with fish and ecology. So, while doing field work in Curacao and Bonaire for her marine biology Ph.D., Johnson ended up designing a behavioral economics study.
Read more. [Image: Ayana Johnson]
It was a good old-fashioned Olympic scandal in Sochi, when South Korean figure skater Kim Yuna, known as “the Queen,” lost to a less experienced Russian. The judgment spurred millions of angry Tweets, and a Change.org petition protesting the result was the fastest growing one on site record—reportedly more than 1.2 million signatures in about 12 hours.
Skating officials and fans around the world have questioned the decision, but critics remain focused on the South Korean outrage, largely since their sports fanaticism has made headlines before. Diehard citizens of countries like South Korea may seem odd to some; a post on Yahoo had the misguided headline: “Deal with it, South Korea.” But this line of thinking fails to understand the nature of nationalism, an ideology strongly associated with war and extremism that is in fact a common psychological phenomenon seen in everyday life—including sports.
Read more. [Image: Vhadim Ghirda/AP Photo]
New research shows that the best humor is both a little bit wrong and a little bit right. Is there something about comedians that makes them better at subversion?
Read more. [Image: Camera on autopilot/Flickr]
“Twitter is the best and Twitter is the worst.”
This was the response Dr. Marion Underwood, clinical psychologist and University of Texas at Dallas psychology professor, received from one of her 15-year-old daughter’s friends when she asked what the girl thought of the social networking juggernaut.
“I can’t get off of it,” the girl elaborated. “I can’t stop getting on Twitter.”
If these sound like the words of an “addict,” it’s because they (at least kind of) are. Underwood was inspired to take her informal poll after watching the teen in question spend the entirety of her daughter’s birthday party glued to her phone, reading and sending tweets. What’s more, she says that social media can be highly addictive. Millennials are perpetually accused of self-centeredness, but it isn’t self-promotion, in and of itself, that they’re addicted to, Underwood says. It’s the positive reinforcement they receive from peers for doing it. For some teens, however, there’s a source of reinforcement even more addictive—and elusive—than their peers: their favorite celebrities.
Read more. [Image: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP]
Russia is nine hours ahead, so we all knew what would happen, and somehow that made it even worse. At first Shaun White—flying tomato, snowboarding legend, two-time Olympic gold medalist—sailed through the halfpipe with characteristic aplomb. Then, there was trouble on one of his first tricks, and he slid down part of the ramp on his rear.
"That’s okay!" we thought (or would have thought, had we not already seen the result on Twitter.) There was still time for White to recover the run.
He launched into another stunt, but this time his board snagged and he crashed, tush-first, into the pipe’s blue ledge. He sheepishly slid out into the results area, smiling but certainly not pleased with himself.
White placed fourth, and the Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov became the new king of the “cab doublecork 1440.”
Read more. [Image: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]
“I feel invisible.”
I often hear variations on that statement from people who are middle-aged or older, especially women. As our bodies age and younger people find us less physically attractive, they seem to look right through us, as if we no longer exist. Finding that we have lost our sexual currency can come as a blow to our self-esteem, even for those of us who haven’t relied heavily on our looks to garner attention. Most people enjoy being noticed and found attractive. Hardly anyone wants to feel as if they don’t exist.
As we begin to develop a sense of self during the earliest months of life, being “seen” by our caretakers plays a central role. The joy we perceive in our parents’ gaze makes us feel that we are beautiful and important, an experience that lays the foundation for healthy self-esteem. Even as adults, we depend to a significant degree on being noticed and admired to maintain our sense of self. This isn’t merely narcissism in the unhealthy sense of the word. Human beings are social animals, defining ourselves through interconnection: Although we build self-esteem by living up to our own personal values and standards, we also rely upon the regard of others to feel good about ourselves.
Read more. [Image: Phenomenal Fauna/Library of Congress]
Netflix is crushing it. But now, the company untying cable’s $60 billion stranglehold on American TV is apparently trying to accomplish something simple—something it hasn’t done in more than two years in the U.S.
It’s trying to raise prices.
Netflix costs $7.99 per month. Last year, it cost $7.99 per month. The year before that, it cost $7.99 per month. While cable and Internet costs has grown inexorably, the inflation-adjusted price of Netflix has actually fallen in the last three years. And its executive is starting to think three years is enough.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Why, Justin Bieber? How could you so rashly destroy our belieb in you?
“Why is one of the most affluent stars throwing eggs at his neighbor’s house?” asks Conan O’Brien.
“Cause he’ a “f*cking idiot,” Joel McHale responds.
Possibly, but that’s not the full story. The child-star meltdown is a trope: Lindsay Lohan went from portraying a set of precocious campers in 1998 to becoming synonymous with the word “tantrum.” Amanda Bynes has had her own share of psychological turmoil, some of which included “janky wigs.” For more examples, Buzzfeed helpfully provides a listicle of 16 Disney stars who have been arrested.
A closer look at the psychology of early acclaim helps explain some of these implosions. There aren’t that many studies of child stars—it would be tricky to corral them all into some university lab to fill out questionnaires—but psychologists who have studied the effects of young stardom say strict parental limits are key to preventing post-adolescent disasters.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
The Simpsons might seem an odd place to find scientific inspiration. Considering Homer’s affinity for couches and anything donut-related, finding insight into Americans’ psychological relationship with exercise and fitness also seems unlikely. But Northwestern researchers Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky did just that.
In “Team Homer,” an episode from the series’s seventh season, Springfield Elementary’s newly-instituted drab grey uniform (instituted after Bart’s “Down With Homework” tee causes an uproar) pushes the students into a zombie-like funk until a freak rainstorm washes off the dye, revealing the true color of the t-shirts: tie-dye. The students riot, and fun returns—all because of their clothes.
Read more. [Image: Eric Thayer/Reuters]
By the time you swear you’re his, / Shivering and sighing. / And he vows his passion is/ Infinite, undying. / Lady, make a note of this — /One of you is lying. ― Dorothy Parker
Edward Royzman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, asks me to list four qualities on a piece of paper: physical attractiveness, income, kindness, and fidelity. Then he gives me 200 virtual “date points” that I’m to distribute among the four traits. The more I allocate to each attribute, the more highly I supposedly value that quality in a mate.
This experiment, which Royzman sometimes runs with his college classes, is meant to inject scarcity into hypothetical dating decisions in order to force people to prioritize.
I think for a second, and then I write equal amounts (70) next to both hotness and kindness, then 40 next to income and 20 next to fidelity.
“Oh wow,” he says.
Read more. [Image: liss j/Flickr]