Category Archives: Uncategorized

First Birthers, now Deathers… Why so many conspiracy theories?

By Erica Zaiser

Just after the “birthers” lost some footing with US President Obama’s release of his full birth certificate, the “deathers” have begun to question the validity of the news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed. Conspiracy theories have always been around but lately they have been getting a lot of media attention. What makes someone more likely to believe in conspiracy theories? 

Researchers have suggested that people may be more likely to believe in conspiracy theories when they feel a lack of control because conspiracy theories may help to explain their current situation or reaffirm their belief that other people control the world around them. Also, people who are strongly suspicious of authority may be more likely to believe authorities are conspiring. Furthermore, conspiracy theories can simplify situations that may actually be quite complex. Indeed, a number of related personality characteristics have been linked to belief in conspiracy theories, including low self-esteem, authoritarianism, and powerlessness.

Very recently, Douglas and Sutton (2011) found that people are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories when they themselves are more willing to engage in conspiratorial behaviour. Thus, the very people shouting conspiracy are more likely themselves to conspire. So perhaps we need to take a close look at what is going on behind the scenes with these “birthers” and “deathers”, maybe they are conspiring to make the media blow their claims out of proportion. 

Read more: Belief in Conspiracy Theories. Political Psychology. 

Does it takes one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories in influenced by personal willingness to conspire

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Monkey see, monkey yawn … other monkey yawn

 

By Erica Zaiser

Yawning has always been thought of as “contagious” among humans. When someone in a group yawns it always seems to set off a trend of yawning with people around. This has often been thought of as being social in the same way that you think things are more funny when other people laugh and you frown more when other people frown. In a new study reported on by the BBC, researchers have found that yawning as a contagion is not limited to the human species but is seen in chimpanzees as well. What is even more interesting is that chimps in their studies yawned more frequently after seeing chimps from their own group yawn as opposed to when they watched chimps from an outside group yawn. The researchers suggest that this might mean that yawning can be seen as a measure of empathy.

As far as I know there hasn’t been research which has shown if this yawning bias towards ingroup members is present for humans. Empathy in humans has been linked to pro-social behaviour and there is research suggesting that people tend to be more prosocial and feel more empathy towards people in their ingroup than in their outgroup. So if yawning is a measure of empathy, it would make sense that people, like chimps, would yawn more when they see members of their ingroup yawning than when they see outgroup members yawning.

Read more: Chimpanzees ‘catch’ contagious yawns from friends. BBC- Earth News.

Empathy-related responding: Associations with prosocial behavior, aggression, and intergroup relations. Social Issues and Policy Review. 2010.

Social Categorization and empathy for outgroup members. British Journal of Social Psychology. 2010.

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Social and Personality Psychology Compass first Video Abstract

Using Neuroscience to Broaden Emotion Regulation: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations (pages 475–493)
Elliot T. Berkman and Matthew D. Lieberman

AbstractFull Article (HTML)PDF(438K)References

I’m Back with a New Identity: Baby Daddy!

by P. Getty

I want to begin this entry with a short apology to my loyal readers—all ten of you—for taking some time away from the blog. I understand if you are upset, what with being without your biweekly fix of weird thoughts and rants that I proudly contribute to the psychological community. I understand that I have slacked in this charge. I will, unless environmental influences shift even more drastically than they already have, continue to provide that service. Still, I feel that I owe you, my loyal reader, an explanation for my absence. Well, if the picture that accompanies this entry and the title above doesn’t give it away, the reason for my absence was that my son, Lucas Kinan (which means danger in Japanese if you are interested) was born on February 2nd, 2011, at 21:20 hrs.  So I was away becoming baby daddy! Strangely, since then, my demeanor has shifted slightly to that of a sleep-deprived zombie. Despite this, however, I’m confident in my new role as baby daddy and look forward to this new adventure while getting back to the blogin’.  Weirdly, my positive attitude seems to be in contrast to what is expected from a person in my shoes, according to the relevant literature.

In a resent review of the literature on men transitioning to fatherhood, Genesoni and Tallandini (2009) identified three phases in this transition that coincide with the stages of their pregnant partners (i.e., prenatal, labor and birth; finally, postnatal). Each stage is accompanied by its own set of challenges and obstacles for the transitioning male. While I don’t want to give away the ending, I will point out that the authors suggest that the postnatal stage (the stage I’m in) has the potential to be the most inter- and intra-personally challenging in the sense of dealing with their our new identity as the baby daddy.  Not me! I’m lovin’ it! Of course, it could be the significant increase in caffeine I’ve consumed daily in order to combat the lack of Zs. Nevertheless, I’m sure this new caffeinated adventure will be full of the strange and the weird, like the rest of my life. With that, there should be interesting tales and experiences that will no doubt find their way into this blog.

With that, I would like to congratulate myself and the rest of the newly named baby daddies out their, and wish us good luck, we are going to need it.

Genesoni & Tallandini (2009)

What makes us happy on Valentine’s Day?

Cut-out book of Valentines circa 1940.

Valentine’s Day was established in honor of three early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, but today people celebrate romantic love or love more generally.  Since romance is so salient on this holiday, people who are single can feel ostracized and sometimes motivated to support an anti-love mantra.  I wonder if the second biggest Hallmark holiday is really worth the hype (either for or against). Is love or a partner really what makes people happy in life?

Perhaps one of the answers can be found by looking at one of the current hot topics in social psychology research: the intersection of emotion regulation and well being.  A quick look at the latest program from the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology reveals numerous talks and posters on the topic of mindfulness and emotion regulation.

A recent paper points to the importance of the perspective from which people try to adaptively reflect on their feelings.  According to Ayduk and Kross (2010), participants who analyzed negative experiences from a self-distanced perspective (versus a self-immersed perspective) were less likely to ruminate and reported less negative emotions.  Maybe people’s affective experiences on Valentine’s Day have more to do with how they think about their lives and less about relationship status.

Read more:

Ayduk, Ö. and Kross, E. (2010). Analyzing negative experiences without ruminating: The role of self-distancing in enabling adaptive self-reflection. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 841–854.

Meditation vs. Medication: Which Should You Choose?