Tag Archives: Psychology

How we are moral

In November 2009, the Philippine Commission on Elections issued a disqualification against an LGBT partylist group, accusing it of advocating immorality. This in turn, triggered an ‘I Am Not Immoral’ campaign by members of the LGBT community and supporters. The issue of morality, according to Steven Pinker pervades all aspects of our lives, and he refers to moral goodness, as ‘something that makes us feel worthy as human beings’. Morality has been deemed universal and yet culturally expressed. Pinker identifies five aspects of morality: harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority and purity, acknowledging that each culture may choose to give more preference to any aspect over another.
Krebs (2008) looks into the evolutionary beginnings of morality and discusses adaptations in the brain brought on by both early and modern circumstances. These early circumstances have caused certain adaptations, decision making strategies, that are triggered in modern events that evoke familiarity of setting, such as the need for certain responses such as obedience, conformity or others. One also must understand the adaptive functions of morality in order to understand what it is. Using the evolutionary theory, morality is when an individual’s genetic self-interest is promoted through a genuine concern for the welfare of others.

Krebs (2008). Morality: An Evolutionary Account. Perspectives in Psychological Science

The Moral Instinct (Steven Pinker)

Gays legally deemed immoral and a danger to youth



Photo: “Innocence so suffocating, now she cannot move” by Samantha Rose Pollari, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

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When the past comes to haunt

Pop culture is rife with stories of people who blame their negative childhood experiences for their incapacity to stay within relationships or marriages, from the fictional serial killer Dexter who felt it impossible to connect to anyone to Jennifer Aniston’s announcement that her experience of her parents’ divorce made her wary of interpersonal intimacy. But are these mere pop psychology incarnations or are children who experienced traumas any likelier to experience certain marital troubles as adults?

Whisman’s (2006) study on childhood traumas looked at seven different childhood traumas: physical abuse, rape, sexual molestation, serious physical attack, experiences of being threatened with a weapon, life threatening accident, and natural disasters; and the effect of these on marital disruption and marital satisfaction. Physical abuse, rape, and sexual molestation were associated with higher probability of marital dissolution. Lower marital satisfaction was associated with individuals who had experienced rape or sexual molestation. Traumas with assaultive violence, or those where another person directly harmed the child were more likely to be associated with marital disruption and dissatisfaction, as these are seen to be more likely to lead to attachment insecurity (characterized by avoidance, lack of trust) which may then lead to lower marital stability.

Photo: “Goodbye my lover.” by Andii Jetaime, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.

Dexter crosses media lines, captivate fans

Aniston: ‘Childhood Trauma Blighted My Marriage’

Whisman M. A. (2006) Childhood trauma and marital outcomes in adulthood. Personal Relationships

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When Gut Feelings Trump Conscious Thought

At almost every major sports event there will be commentators giving their opinions on the predicted winners, losers, or favorites. People tend to give commentators due credibility for their knowledge of the game and sometimes experience. For the layperson however it may be better not to give the event much thought. This is true when making predictions on your own. In a recent study, Dijksterhuis and colleagues (2009) asked participants to make predictions about random football matches two weeks prior to the event. Three groups were used in this investigation. Those who were asked to guess performed the worse. Those who were asked to think about their answers performed better. But the group that performed the best was the group who thought unconsciously.

One exception however is that making predictions unconsciously without prior knowledge is not recommended. The participants who performed the best in the investigation also perceived themselves as relatively knowledgeable.  Those who made conscious decisions with relative knowledge are said to not give proper value to relevant information, hence why they performed worse. People who are essentially asked to guess tend to do worse overall. So next time there’s a football, or sports match for that matter, it might be better to not give it much thought about whom will win.

Read More: Football info

Read more: Sports commentary

Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M.W., van der Leij, A., van Baaren, R.B. (2009) Predicting soccer matches after unconscious and conscious thought as a function of expertise.

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Keynote Lecture – ‘What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ By Roy F. Baumeister

Baumeister Polaroid

Professor Roy F. Baumeister

Professor Baumeister’s Keynote lecture ‘ What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ is now live

Roy F. Baumeister is currently the Eppes Eminent Professor of Psychology and head of the social psychology graduate program at Florida State University. He grew up in Cleveland, the oldest child of a schoolteacher and an immigrant businessman. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton in 1978 and did a postdoctoral fellowship in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. He spent over two decades at Case Western Reserve University, where he eventually was the first to hold the Elsie Smith professorship. He has also worked at the University of Texas, the University of Virginia, the Max-Planck-Institute, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Baumeister’s research spans multiple topics, including self and identity, self-regulation, interpersonal rejection and the need to belong, sexuality and gender, aggression, self-esteem, meaning, and self-presentation. He has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health and from the Templeton Foundation. He has over 400 publications, and his books include Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, The Cultural Animal, and Meanings of Life. The Institute for Scientific Information lists him among the handful of most cited (most influential) psychologists in the world. He lives by a small lake in Florida with his beloved family. In his rare spare time, he enjoys windsurfing, skiing, and jazz guitar.

You can view his keynote at http://compassconference.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/baumeister/

Virtual Conference – 6 days to go

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When Two Regulating Systems Is Not Enough

ArgueTake a classic example of a driver who is running late for an appointment and another driver unexpectedly cuts him off, or how about when another driver is stuck behind a slow moving vehicle with no immediate way of getting around. If you can relate with these themes then you may have experienced a sense of frustration for the posed scenario. If you indeed had these experiences and have not acted on them by rolling down the window and yelled at the other driver then you, like most everyone else, is dutifully practicing automatic emotion regulation and emotion regulation (Mauss, Bunge & Gross, 2007).

Now, think of an instance when someone leaves decorum: a U.S. congressman yells at the U.S. President during a speech, or a musician who during an award event takes the microphone from the award winner to make a point, or a tennis player angrily disagreeing with the referee during a match.

As it turns out people have not one but two regulating systems to help control behavior (Mauss et al., 2007). Automatic regulation system, as the name suggests, occurs automatically, such as when children are being raised and told not to cry. Eventually the child regulates his emotions before they kick in. What about the second regulation system–you ask? Mauss et al., 2007 note that if the first system, for some reason, does not regulate and people have an outburst then we can mitigate the action. Emotion regulation itself, the authors note, occurs by reducing the intensity or duration of the outburst. As it turns out though, sometimes even two regulating systems are not enough. If that is the case then an apology may be in place.

square-eye Read more: Joe Wilson’s outburst

square-eye Read more: Popular figures leave decorum behind

square-eye Mauss, I.B, Bunge, S.A., & Gross, J.J. (2007). Automatic Emotion Regulation.

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Governments Sanction Happiness

EnthusiasticBillyMurrayA new political trend appears to be evolving—the search for happiness. A case in point is the country of Bhutan, which measures “gross national happiness” according to NPR and Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2007). An NPR story reported how the country of Bhutan is growing alternative resources to reduce the cutting down of its forests. The depletion of forests may reduce the countries happiness the story reports. On the same note The Associated Press, reported that French President Sarkozy declared that happiness should be implemented as part of an economic indicator.  For instance, it is noted that factors such as “distribution of wealth and income, education, health and leisure” would be considered instead of GDP.

The search for happiness seems to be elusive even for those who study the concept, according to Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2007). One similarity in the review was that happiness does depend on factors such as the distribution of wealth, income, education, health and leisure and so on. Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2007) also noted however that when everything is equal other variables are more important. The authors conclude that the search for happiness starts at an individual level with consistent pursuit and appropriate goals. However the governments opening up the discussion may be the start of the pursuit of happiness.

square-eye Read more:  “Bhutan Hopes Bamboo Boosts National Happiness”

square-eye Read more: The Associated Press: Sarkozy wants happiness used as economic indicator.

square-eye Sheldon, K.M., Lyubomirsky, S. (2007) Is it possible to become happier? (And if so, how?)

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