Category Archives: Personality

RIP Cpt. Phil. You’ve earned it!

(image from deadliestcatchwiki.wetpaint.com)

Last night, Discovery Channel aired its tribute to Phil Harris, captain of the crabbing vessel Cornelia Marie. Cpt. Phil died of a massive stroke at the untimely age of 53 on February 9th, 2010, while tapping the latest season of the hit series Deadliest Catch.  While I enjoyed the series, I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard fan; I just learned of Cpt. Phil’s death earlier this week. However, I am an admirer of the man. When I did watch the show, I noticed something familiar about the grizzly captain. There was something about his spirit, his attitude, that seemed to shout “I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.” I liked that. But during last night’s show, learning about the man through the stories told by his closest friends, it was like reliving my own father’s death and listening to his friends tell similar stories.

Both men—my father, Joe, and Phil—where thickheaded men who lived the way they wanted. They both had two sons, but saw them far less than they would have wanted to. They both worked their ass off all of their lives. They lived hard and they played hard. They smoked, drank, and ate some of the best tasting, cholesterol-filled, artery-clogging foods that a person could consume. While their personal habits may be seen to some as crude or even selfish—in the sense that their habits lead to their untimely deaths—those who were closest to them seemed to admire their rebel spirits. That spirit that lead my Dad and Phil to continue working like dogs, drinking like fish and smoking like chimneys until their early 50s, when it finally caught up to them.

While I admire these men, I also remember that they were fathers who left their loved ones behind far to early. So I must ask myself, should we (me, my brother, Joe Jr., and Phil’s sons, josh and Jake) live like our fathers who we loved and admire dearly, or change? Should we realize the unbalanced natures of the rebel lifestyle, filled with packs of smokes, gallons of coffee and cases of beer every day, or embrace the rebel and say ”to hell with the consequences, I’ll live my life the way I God-damn please!” The same way I have for the past fifteen years? Can we? Though I can’t speak for the other sons in this story, I can speak for myself. I am changing.

I have recently learned of my own paternity. In the next six months my first son or daughter will be born. And for him/her I have quit smoking, cut-down on the coffee and alcohol, but my diet still needs some work; I love butter…. Every day I must ask myself if I want to be like my Dad and leave this earth never seeing my child venture off to college or pursue their talents, whatever they may be. I don’t. I don’t want them ask themselves the same questions about their father that I have. I don’t want them to make the same mistakes and to endure the pains of changing their entire lifestyle. It is very difficult, but I must. I want to see them grow up. I want to be a different type of role model.

Usually, I would include some applicable research to this story. Some article addressing how a son’s understanding of his father relates to his own identity and behavior would do well. Frankly, I couldn’t find any. It seems that fatherhood has been neglected in the literature (Samuels, 2007). I did find that even at an early age, our Father’s seem to be a source of a good time and congruent positive arousal (Feldman, 2003). And perhaps that is the difficulty in separating ourselves from our fathers: they know how to have fun. We must remember them for who they were, the great times they brought us, but try desperately not to make the same mistakes. I think they would want that. Perhaps there is a way to embrace the rebel while not ingesting the copious amounts of poison that seems to come with it. In the words of another fallen rebel father, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, I will ponder this rotten assignment and learn how to cope with it. Until then, I will close with an appeal to The Great Magnet: May these men rest and be remembered fondly. They’ve earned it.

A Relation Called Father Part 1: The Father in Depth PsychologyA Relation Called Father Part 1: The Father in Depth Psychology

Infant-mother and infant-father synchrony: The coregulation of positive arousalInfant-mother and infant-father synchrony


Sh*t my grandpa says (about cautious drivers)

By Kevin R. Betts

Sitting next to my grandpa in the back seat of my mom’s car last week, I listened to him critique his daughter’s driving: “I could have made it through that gap three times by now.” “How do you get anywhere?” “How come Kevin isn’t driving?” Seemingly unaffected by my grandpa’s comments, my mom and grandma discussed the things they wanted to do before our family vacation in Traverse City, Michigan was over. Reminiscent for me of the humorous website http://shitmydadsays.com/, I just laughed.

Although my grandpa’s comments are humorous, the aggressive driving habits he hopes my mom will adopt are not. Just a month earlier than our vacation, a man in the same city sped down a local road and rolled his vehicle, killing one passenger and seriously injuring another. Around the world, similar stories are heard. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 37,261 people died on U.S. roads in 2008 alone.

Hoping to shed light on factors that influence aggressive driving like that resulting in the abovementioned accident, Michele Lustman and colleagues (2010) surveyed a sample of motorists, collecting information about their driving habits and personality characteristics. Results revealed a link between trait narcissism and both perception of intentionality following road incidents and aggressive driving behaviors. Specifically, motorists with high self-esteem were more likely than those with low self-esteem to perceive ambiguous road incidents as intentional, and to react to those incidents aggressively. The researchers suggest that the aggressive reactions of these drivers may be in response to threatened high self-esteem that results from perceived offenses by other drivers.

Read more:

Man charged in fatal rollover accident

FHWA road safety fact sheet

Lustman, M., Wiesenthal, D.L., & Flett, G.L. (2010). Narcissism and aggressive driving: Is an inflated view of the self a road hazard? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 1423-1449.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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Is love blind? Positive illusions in romantic relationships

You might have the similar experience. One of your friends Ann comes to you and starts talking about her new boyfriend Mark. He is not only charming, but also extremely smart, humorous, thoughtful. You think Ann is the luckiest girl in the world and cannot wait to see this amazing guy. Finally, when you meet this him, this perfect guy seems to have been turned into a bald, short and boring man. You run away from him and doubt that there is something wrong with Ann’s eyes. However, the same story happens to Mary, Ken, Chris, and Benny. Eventually, one day your friends ask you, what the hell do you see in that guy!? You wonder, is love really blind?

There has been a substantial amount research devoted to investigating this interesting question. Research showed that during their romantic relationship, partners frequently attempt to sustain a sense of felt security by weaving an elaborate story (or fiction) that both embellishes a partner’s virtues and minimizes his or her faults. For instance, several research found that individuals often rate their partner overly positive on characteristics such as “kind” and “intelligent,” a phenomenon that has been called positive illusions. Barelds and Dijkstra (2009) examined the existence of positive illusions about a partner’s physical attractiveness and its relations to relationship quality. They found that individuals rated their partner as more attractive than their partner rated him or herself, and such positive illusion about partner’s physical attractiveness was associated with high relationship quality. Researchers interpreted that feeling that one partner is very attractive will therefore enhance one’s satisfaction with one’s relationship. Partners may feel they are lucky to have such an attractive partner. So is love blind?  Perhaps not blind, but certainly magic.

People in Love Are Blind to Pretty Faces

Barelds & Dijkstra (2009).Positive illusions about a partner’s physical attractiveness and relationship quality. Personal Relationships,16,263 – 283.

Gordon Brown– hot or not? Physical appearance and election outcomes

As David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and other candidates prepare for the UK general elections, voters must decide whom to support. Although political ideology is (hopefully) a major influence on voting habits, a number of other factors about the candidates may sway voters as well. For example, many election observers have noted the seeming link between candidate height and election outcome– with taller candidates winning more. The BBC recently reported on how lately UK candidates have been emphasizing their exercise routine and physical fitness to the public; perhaps hoping that physical fitness translates into a perception of leadership fitness for voters. Or, candidates may be hoping to boost their perceived attractiveness (since perceived attractiveness has been linked the perception of other positive trait attributes) by spending a few extra hours in the gym.

Much research on first impressions has reiterated the importance of physical features in influencing judgments about a number of traits, including competence– which is strongly linked to voter support. Research altering the images of famous US presidents showed that subtle changes to their faces could greatly change perceptions of them.  Recent research in Political Psychology tried to examine more specifically the ways that first impressions (non-verbal at least) might influence social judgments other than competence and how those judgments may influence actual election outcomes. Just as previous research has suggested, judgments of competence were highly positively correlated with winning in a real election. However, somewhat surprisingly, when paired with judgments of incompetence, judgments of physical attraction were actually correlated with a lesser chance of winning an election than judgement of incompetence alone. In other words, if a first impression of incompetence is made, being seen as physically attractive actually makes your chance of winning even worse. So, according to this research if candidates are hoping to boost their physical appeal in order to sway voters, maybe they ought to make sure they are being seen as relatively competent first.

Read More:

Mattes et al. (2010). Predicting Election Outcomes from Positive and Negative Trait Assessments of Candidate Images, Political Psychology, 31, 1.

BBC– The election fitness trail – exercising power or PR?

Keating et al. (2002). Presidential Physiognomies: Altered Images, Altered Perceptions. Political Psychology, 20, 3.

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“Our love is dead, according to science!” What does science tell us about marriage?

Can science really predict divorce? Can science really tell you how to select the “right” partner? A recent post by Chris Matyszczyk brought a sarcastic and ironic view about the finding of a marriage study. Chris claimed, according to this study, the perfect wife is five years younger than her husband, is from the same cultural background, and is at least 27 percent smarter than her husband. 

Sounds ridiculous? Yes. If people try to over-generalize certain research findings to general population in any situation by ignoring its specific subjects and applicable context, or make prediction based on correlational studies, it’s possible that they will always obtain disappointing or ridiculous results.  Then, how should we think about the scientific findings on complicated human phenomena, such as marriage? What does science tell us about marriage? 

Gottman & Notarius (2002) reviewed the advances made in the 20th century in studying marriages. The first published research study on marriage dealt with one major research question, “What is fundamentally different about happily and unhappily married couples?”  Following that, with the development of more sophisticated measures and methods, some grim and interesting findings began emerging from research on marriage. For example, in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, Burgess’ longitudinal study (Burgess & Wallin, 1953) found that, for most couples, marital satisfaction was high right after the wedding and then began a slow, steady, and nontrivial decline thereafter. Another example is Hicks and Platt’s (1970) decade-review article on marital happiness and stability which concluded that “perhaps the single most surprising finding to emerge from research is that children tend to detract from, rather than contribute to marital happiness”. Then, research in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s witnessed the realization of many secular changes in the American family, including the changing role of women, social science’s discovery of violence and incest in the family, and the beginning of the study of cultural variation in marriages et al.

In sum, marriage as an ultimate human condition has been intriguing to both scientists and common people for a long time. However, when we try to understand and interpret research findings on marriage, we need to be very careful about their applicable conditions and limitations. For example, as we know, psychological studies have relied on samples of convenience that have limited generalizability. Although based on the evidence we have so far, marital relations haven’t yet succumbed to delightfully efficient approaches, scientific findings keep shedding light on the mystery of human marriage.

Why your wife should be 27% smarter than you

John M. Gottman, Clifford I. Notarius. ( 2002), Marital Research in the 20th Century and a Research Agenda for the 21st Century. Family Process, 41, 159-197.

The Blame Game

Representative Eric J. Massa of New York is lashing out at the Democratic Party. Last week Massa announced his retirement citing the return of cancer as the reason for the departure, but also leaves amidst a sexual harassment charge from a male aide. In a later radio interview Massa claimed Democratic Party leaders drove him out of office because he did not support health care legislation although the party has dismissed Massa’s assertions.

Given the changing reasons for his retirement blaming his Party could just be an excuse or an attempt to mask the scandal surrounding him. New work on blame and excuse making adds a formerly unstudied dimension to the study of interpersonal relations: locus of control. Wang and Anderson (2006) studied internals and externals asking them to judge excuses and assign blame. They found that externals tended to use excuses more and assigned less blame for cases of cheating and lying relative to internals. Externals also assigned more blame to others and less to themselves and were more sensitive to being blamed.  Making excuses then may be less a calculated effort to shift blame and more a result of one’s general outlook on the social world.

Excuse-making and blaming as a function of internal – external locus of control

House Democrat Says Party Drove Him From Office

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