December 10, 2008

more on Zajonc . . .

Just in case you don't already know, the New York Times did release a nice piece on the life and death of Robert Zajonc. In it you'll see a more extensive coverage of his research, than just the mere exposure effect and social facilitation. It's pretty good, plus there's a lot of interesting facts about Zajonc that I did not know. For instance, here's a little snippet on his life during WWII:

"Robert Boleslaw Zajonc, an only child, was born in Lodz, Poland, on Nov. 23, 1923. In 1939, after the Nazis invaded Poland and headed toward Lodz, he and his parents fled to Warsaw. There, the building in which they were staying was bombed, and Robert’s parents were killed. Robert woke up in a hospital, seriously injured.

He attended an underground university in Warsaw before being dispatched to a labor camp in Germany. He escaped and, recaptured, was sent to a political prison in France. Escaping again, he joined the French Resistance and studied at the University of Paris. Reaching England in 1944, he worked as a translator for American forces in the European campaign."
Wow. If you have time, you should really read the full article. It's good. Zajonc was a remarkable man.

December 5, 2008

Robert Zajonc (1923 - 2008)

This is unfortunate news for social psychologists. I just found out that Robert Zajonc, an early contributor to social psychology and simply a superstar of the field, died Wednesday (Dec. 3rd).

Amazingly, I still haven't found an obituary for him. Actually, I was searching for a paper of his and went to the Social Psychology Network profile previously linked, and that's how I found out. Not something that I was expecting.

Robert Zajonc was (and still is) an important figure in the field of social psychology. He held positions at the University of Michigan as the director to both, the Institute for Social Research and the Research Center for Group Dynamics. He later joined Stanford University, eventually becoming Professor Emeritus of Psychology.

He is known for his research in a myriad of areas, but what I perhaps know best is his work on the mere exposure effect (the tendency to like something more after being repeatedly exposed to it). In 1968, Zajonc conducted 3 studies showing that the more people were exposed to stimuli, such as Turkish words, Chinese characters and yearbook photographs, the more they liked them. This effect even occurs in animals, like chickens (Zajonc et al., 1973).

Another area that Zajonc was an early contributor to was social facilitation theory. At the time (1960's), research was showing that people performed better on certain tasks if they were in the presence of others. Yet, at the same time, research also showed that people performed worse on tasks if in the presence of others (known as social loafing). Zajonc offered an explanation for these seemingly contradictory findings, proposing a "dominant response" theory of social facilitation. He explained that being in the presence of others causes physiological arousal. For instance, imagine giving a lecture in front of 100 people. You'll probably breathe faster, have a faster heart beat, sweat, etc. Zajonc believed that this arousal causes people to react in situations with their most dominant response. In other words, when we are in the presence of others, we'll feel heightened arousal, and this arousal will provoke behaviors that we most commonly elicit or display in the given situation. Take the following example, say you usually choose to drink coke over sweet tea, even though sometimes you do in fact enjoy a glass of tea. Then choosing coke is your dominant response. So when others are present, you will be even more likely to choose coke over sweet tea.

Zajonc's theory helps explain why the presence of others can help or hinder your performance on certain tasks. With tasks that seem simple or familiar, your dominant response is to perform well. On the other hand, with unfamiliar or difficult tasks your dominant response is to perform more poorly. So when you are around people while carrying out familiar tasks, you'll perform even better. And when you are performing on more complex tasks, you'll make more mistakes when others are watching you. The dominant response effect is so robust that it even occurs in cockroaches! Zajonc and his colleagues (1969) found that cockroaches completed simple mazes quicker when they performed with four other cockroaches present than when alone. Yet they were slower on difficult mazes when other cockroaches were present, rather than alone. Pretty cool eh?

Well, to sum up, this is just a sampling of the great ideas that Robert Zajonc contributed to the field. Social psychology definitely suffered a loss this week.

If you are interested, below are some citations that cover the mere exposure effect and social facilitation . . . enjoy!

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Monograph Supplement, 9, 1 - 27.

Zajonc, R. B., Reimer, D. J., & Hausser, D. (1973). Imprinting and the development of object preference in chicks by mere exposure. Journal of Comparative Physiological Psychology, 83, 434 - 440.

Zajonc, R.B., Heingartner, A., & Herman, E.M. (1969). Social enhancement and impairment of performance in the cockroach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 83-92.

December 4, 2008

New Journal in Evolutionary Neuroscience

Hello there ladies and gents. It appears that there is a new online journal out there. It's called, Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience. It's a sub-genre of the more general Frontiers of Neuroscience.

There's yet to be an article published in the new journal, but it looks like some really cool stuff will be represented. Here's the mission statement of FEN:

"Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience is a first-tier electronic journal devoted to understanding the evolution of neural processes, neuroanatomical structure, neural structure - function relationships, and cognition and behavior. Brains regulate behavior and as such have been designed by evolution to solve specific adaptive problems faced by organisms during evolutionary history. Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience is dedicated to publishing papers that lead the field in discovering mechanisms that have undergone selection pressures resulting in evolution (divergent or convergent) of structure or function that leads to a greater understanding of 1) the neural processes of animals and humans; 2) neuropsychiatric disease states and the paths in which normal neural processes have gone off course; 3) the genetics underlying variations across species in neurocomputational hardware and behavior; and 4) evolutionary underpinnings that gave rise to advanced social and cognitive capacities. Evolutionary neuroscience is the discipline poised to answer fundamental questions about the nature of the nervous system such as the degree to which behavioral, cognitive, and neural modularity exists (e.g., domain specificity versus domain general processing); heritability and variations (species, regional, cultural, ethnic, and individual) in intellectual, social, and personality characteristics; make predictions about ancestral neural states (paleoneurology); and inform behavior and clinical modification programs from an evolutionary perspective. The journal welcomes submissions that tackle questions from a broad spectrum of disciplines and use myriad methodologies including, but not limited to: comparative genetics and genomics; investigations of allelic variations of behavior, cognition, and neural structure and function; comparative investigations of animal and human behavior that address the underlying cognitive and neural architecture; and functional neuroimaging studies that have been guided by an evolutionary framework."
I'm excited to see how this journal will turn out.

November 24, 2008

shame on me . . .

Wow, so I have not kept up with my blog lately. I really can't believe that it's November already though. It's just going by too fast!

Well, my wife and I are adjusting to life here in Kentucky very nicely. We really like it here, so that's always good. Yet I feel about 10 times more busy here than I was at William & Mary. I suppose that is to be expected for a doctoral program.

On another note, I added some new links to my blog. You should check them out. One leads to the new blog of my office mate, called "medicine for melancholy." Another is the awesome flickr stream of my friend Chris. And then I even put my uncle's new accounting website on here (not necessarily psychology related, but what the hey, you might find something useful on there).

Anyways, I shall not let this slothful blogging behavior occur again. Though I know my time for extra-curricular activities has diminished. I will make sure that I keep a minimum of 2 posts a month, but my goal will be 2 posts a week . . . err, um, starting after Thanksgiving, haha. Well, enjoy those links and have a great Thanksgiving!

July 31, 2008

"i am statistically significant! p < .0001"

How cool!

Are you proud of your geekiness? Do you revel in your knowledge of statistics? Or maybe you are just a researcher with that extra sass . . . well maybe these t-shirts are for you! The company is called Sassy Statistics, and the shirts are hilarious. I think I will have to buy a couple. I especially like the "don't be mean," and the "i am statistically significant" shirts.

go check it out, even if just out of curiousity, haha.

July 10, 2008

Psychology Survey: Personality, Mental States, and Relationship Processes-- Help needed!

A couple of researchers are conducting an on-line study and need your help! The study is about personality and relationships, and they need more volunteers to get a nationally representative sample. Here is the relevant information:

"We are two psychologists doing an internet survey and we would appreciate if you could help us by filling it out. The survey is about your personality, your thoughts, and your relationships. It will take about 25 minutes to complete. Participation is completely voluntary and you can stop at anytime. As well, your participation is anonymous and you will never be asked to provide your name. Please note that you must be over 18 to participate in this survey.

If you would like to participate, please go to the following link.

Thank you for your help!

Dr. C. Nathan DeWall
Department of Psychology
University of Kentucky

Dr. Brad J. Bushman
Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan"
So if the topic interests you, and you have the time to take it, then visit the site. You'll be doing your part in advancing scientific knowledge about social processes, plus taking surveys is fun! . . . right? Well, anyways, I know that the researchers will appreciate it very much!

June 23, 2008

No! Not Carlin!

This isn't directly related to psychological science in any way, but still worth note.

As many people know by now, George Carlin died yesterday. This is perhaps the saddest news I have heard in a right good while. He was undeniably one of my heroes growing up and still is today. I love his comedy and have always been inspired by his brutal assault on irrationality.
I regret that I never got to see him live.

May 28, 2008

Identical Twins Aren't Identical?

Now here's an interesting topic; one that I have wanted to write a post about and now have the lovely time to do it!

For those who don't already know, a report
was published in the February issue of
the American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG) concerning genetic differences between identical (i.e. monozygotic - arriving from one fertilized egg) twins. Weird. Identical twins are supposed to be identical through and through, right? Isn't that why they're called identical? Well, maybe not. I suppose that is pushing it a little.

Anyway, Carl Bruder, a geneticist from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues compared the genomes of 19 sets of adult identical twins. What they found was that these people differed subtly from their twin in what's called, copy number variation (CNV) of their genes.

As Wikipedia states, CNV's refer to:

"differences in the number of copies of a particular gene present in the genome of an individual . . . Some people have deletions of some genes on only one chromosome while other people have multiple copies of some genes."
People typically have two copies of each gene within their genome, because they inherit one copy from each parent. Yet at various genome sites copy number variation occurs. One would expect that monzygotic twins would resemble each other in the amount of CNV's that occur in their genomes. Since the "identical" twins from the above study differed in genetic copy number variants, they aren't 100 % identical!

It's all very interesting. And I think such findings may trigger important implications to consider for further psychological research. In fact, I learned about this study through class discussion in a personality research class and am frankly surprised that it hasn't received as much attention as I thought it would through the various media outlets.

What's one of the major issues most everyone will learn about in any psychology course? Well how about the battle between nature and nurture? Everything's a nature/nurture problem. And the common way to decide the influence of nature on a psychological attribute is to conduct a twin study. The logic behind a twin study is that identical twins should be most related to each other, as compared to dizygotic twins, non-twin siblings and strangers. Therefore differences between monozygotic twins on, say, a personality variable (and we do occasionally find these types of differences) aught to be attributed to environmental influences. But if identical twins are not really genetically identical, then how do we know that a personality difference isn't genetic? Now the AJHG report does not completely destroy the picture created by twin study results. Monozygotic twins are still highly similar; again, the differences in CNV's are subtle. Yet the paper does add the implication that an observed personality difference cannot automatically be attributed to the environment.

Oh well, if you want to read more about it, there is a Scientific American article about it, as well you can visit the AJHG site are read the original article. Go check it out! Very cool stuff!

May 20, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

picture by explodingdog

May 15, 2008

Graduation and other stuff . . .

Well graduation was this past Sunday for the College of William & Mary. As you can see, I decided to attend, and I brought my wife along. It was nice and short. And though there was some celebration, it ain't over yet! All my class requirements are completed, but there's still that little thing we call a thesis that needs to be defended. I have until July 18th to defend my thesis, which is plenty of time so I don't expect to run into any problems. But until then I suppose I can't officially consider myself an MA. My wife on the other hand has completed everything, including her thesis, and her graduation from VCU is this Saturday. Fun stuff.

So now we basically have about two months before we move to Lexington, KY and start our doctoral programs at the University of Kentucky. This is an exciting time for us. Of course, we don't have much to do right now. I do have thesis work to complete, as well I'm still working on a few other side research projects. Yet I still feel that I have a lot of free time on my hands. Part of this free time I plan to spend writing (both blog and academic writing). As well, I have started a writing schedule (under the advice of my future grad advisor) and I hope to use these two months to get used to scheduled writing. Hopefully then I will break my binge writing habits, haha.

As for the blog, I'm making myself the goal of at least three posts a week, though it'll be great if I can get to posting daliy. I let myself slack too much this past semester, so I need to make up for it. Anyways, more on that later! Congratulations to all my friends and colleagues who are now fellow graduates! Yea!

On another note, here's a collection of links to keep you busy. Each has to do with psychological science in some way or another:

* Firstly, here's a newly launched website called Personality and Social Psychology Comments. As you can guess from the title, it's an online database of comments on published papers in the areas of personality and social psychology. Here's a brief description of PSPC:

"In order to advance as a scientific field, we argue that personality and social psychology should be characterized by cumulative knowledge as well as a constant questioning and discussion about what has been previously established. To incorporate such an ideal, previous data and unpublished research should be far more accessible than it is today.

We believe that there is a great deal of well-conducted research such as replications, extensions of previous studies, and null findings that never reach the stage of publication. Thus, valuable information never gets accessible to the scientific community.

Most of all, however, we believe that scientific enterprise should be open and critical and there should be a space to express criticism and other viewpoints. PSPC is meant to provide a forum for these issues and hopefully function as a resource for researchers conducting reviews and meta-analyses as well."

PSPC seems like it could be a pretty useful tool, but no one has bothered to submit any comments yet. I'm not sure whether it's because the word just hasn't gotten out yet or what. But if it starts to garner some popularity, I imagine it's usefulness will become more apparent . . . especially those comments focusing on null findings.

* The second item concerns a society called, Psychologists for Social Responsibility. This is the first time that I have heard about them, though the group was founded 25 years ago. I found out about them through a social psychology listserv. It's basically a group that uses psychological knowledge to promote peace and social justice. I took a gander at their website. I suppose that if you are into peace or political psychology, this might be an interesting group to look at/consider.

* Finally, my last item concerns a new essay that Steven Pinker has just written in the New Republic. It concerns the concept of dignity, its uselessness in terms of bioethics, and how it's being used to stall the progress of basic scientific and medical research. It's a good essay, brief and to the point. Go check it out!

May 14, 2008

Roll up to the Magical Memory Tour?

Now here's something cool that I read about in the April edition of Observer. Psychologists from the Leeds Memory Group, at the University of Leeds, are conducting an online survey that aims to create the "biggest database of 'autobiographical memories' ever attempted."

How are they doing this? Interestingly, they are asking people to blog about their memories of the Beatles! And anyone who has a memory related to the Beatles can participate. You can find their online study here at the Magical Memory Tour.

On their website, you can blog about your own memories of the Beatles, as well as check out the memories of other people. You can even find out which albums or songs evoke the most positive or negative memories. You can even check out the top ten most viewed Beatles associations (so far, number one is John Lennon - In Memoriam).

The researchers hope to explore "how experiences from our lives might be associated with music, personality, and the public perception of the Beatles." Seems like a pretty cool project to me! Check it out!

April 13, 2008

it's April already?

Wow, so I suppose it is April already! I can't believe it. This semester has gone by faster than I imagined or was prepared for. And, unfortunately, more than a whole month has past since I updated my blog with even a single new post! What am I to do? Of course I have the usual excuses . . . with work and travel, but I don't want to lie . . . facebook's scrabulous game has taken WAY too much of my time! It's addictive!

Well not much has happened in the past month, but I guess I can give you a recap of how my March went anyway. Let's see, I finished data collection for my thesis, which is nice. But since my study rests on behavioral interactions that were recorded with the use of a hidden camera, I won't be able to analyze any data until my tapes are all coded. This is very aggravating, considering that I am just itching to see my results. Not to worry, I finished training several students who are assisting me with this task. They are now in the process of coding the tapes for me as we speak (about 8 1/2 full 6 hour tapes). So the end is in sight, though I'm reluctant to admit it.

On another note of importance, I gave a talk at the College of William & Mary's 7th Annual Graduate Research Symposium. That was pretty good. It went well, although my talk was the first one in the morning. I wasn't too happy about that, haha, but oh well . . . what can one do? I basically talked about my thesis as a work in progress, since I had no data to present. But everyone seemed to "dig it" (that's scientific jargon for "liked it" ha), and I received really good questions and comments. By the by, for readers who don't already know, my project is concerned with how social exclusion affects future affiliative behaviors. If you're interested, you can read my abstract about it, as well as the abstracts of other projects in the symposium program.

Besides my own thesis research, I've recently started two new projects, which I might have already written about (I don't remember). One concerns work for Eastern Virginia Medical School
that I'm helping out on, and the other is a side project that I started with my friend and colleague, John Terrizzi, and William & Mary's very own evolutionary psychologist, Lee Kirkpatrick. The EVMS study is concerned with stopping college-aged students from driving while under the influence of alcohol, while the other study concerns disgust sensitivity and prejudicial attitudes. Both of the projects are going well, but we are still in the early stages of data collection. I hope to write more about these later! Though, for some reason I always feel reluctant to blog about my own research, haha. I need to get over that.

Lastly, I have some really good news to report. My wife and I have both been accepted into the University of Kentucky! We are very excited, because this school was the best fit for each of us, and we actually both got in together! Apparently we beat the odds, because everyone kept telling us how hard it was going to be to get into the same place. Of course, my advisor told me not to worry, until I had something to worry about (i.e. don't worry about getting into different places until you find out you got into different places). So I took his advice and didn't worry . . . well I didn't worry a lot I suppose. I guess the hard work is starting to pay off for us, haha. So, after defending our theses we'll be completing our masters programs here in Virginia and then move up to Lexington, Kentucky. There I'll continue my study of social exclusion in the lab of C. Nathan DeWall, while earning a Ph.D. in experimental psychology (concentrating in social). This is a great opportunity for me, because Nathan is an up-and-coming star social psychologist, and his research interests match mine perfectly. Plus I'll be one of his first Ph.D. students. And then there's my wife, who will be studying 19th & 20th century British literature, feminist literary criticism and women's studies, while earning her Ph.D. in English. I'm not sure who she plans to study with, although I know Ellen Rosenman fits her interests perfectly.

Well, that's pretty much how my March went. Now I'm waiting for classes to end, especially the two classes for which I TA. I'm also eager to finish all the projects that I'm working on and the defense of my thesis. It's going to be May before I know it!

February 21, 2008

The Implicit Association Test

The Edge website recently put up a talk with Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, concerning the Implicit Association Test, aka IAT. In the interview they basically cover why and how the IAT was created, and the importance of the test.

Very quickly, the IAT is a social psychological research tool used to help investigators explore the various unconscious preferences and attitudes that affect our behavior. Specifically, it measures how strongly one automatically associates a concept or entity with an attribute as compared to how one associates another concept or entity with the very same attribute. So, in other words, would you be quicker to associate a flower (concept 1) with pleasantness (attribute) and an insect (concept 2) with unpleasantness (attribute) than the other way around? If so, then you, purportedly, have a stronger preference for flowers than insects.

Because the test works on split-second associations, you have no time to think about them. This means, ostensibly, that these attitudes are unconscious and inaccessible to one’s self-awareness, otherwise known as implicit associations. As well, because these attitudes are unconscious, they affect aspects of our behavior without us even realizing it, which gives way to enormous implications they have on social cognition and behavior. Being able to understand unconscious attitudes will give us great insight into all kinds of social issues concerning stereotypes, prejudices and biases. And because the IAT is able to quickly measure unconscious attitudes, it is a very useful tool for studying these social issues. Let’s face it . . . the IAT is hot right now, haha. It seems like everyone wants to do an IAT study. But the three main IAT researchers are Mahzarin Banaji, Anthony Greenwald (featured in the Edge interview) and Brian Nosek from the University of Virginia.

Yet the IAT is not without its detractors. In fact, there was a decent debate between the IAT camp and
Hart Blanton and James Jaccard in 2006, which was published in the American Psychologist. Blanton and Jaccard came up with some very worthy criticisms of the IAT. Firstly, they state that the metric the test is measured on is arbitrary for measuring a psychological dimension, such as prejudice. We don’t really know what an IAT score means. An example they give deals with self-esteem. Imagine that you scored an 8 on a self-esteem scale. And scores can range from 0 to 10. A score of 8 is meaningless in diagnosing one’s level of self-esteem. We would have to know how that score of 8 relates to behaviors associated with self-esteem. In the same way, to gauge our implicit attitudes we have to link our IAT scores to observable behaviors relevant to automatic preferences, and this has not yet been done with IAT scores.

Well, anyways, if you are interested in implicit social cognition or bias, stereotypes and prejudice, then definitely check out the Banaji/Greenwald interview and, as well, I’ll list some citations for further reading you might enjoy. Lastly, the Edge website has a link to an IAT on preferences for the presidential candidates. So perhaps you’ll find that you hold an implicit preference for a candidate that differs from the candidate that you consciously prefer, if you decide to take it that is.

For further reading:

Greenwald, A., McGhee, D. & Schwartz, J. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
74(6), 1464 – 1480.

Blanton, H. & Jaccard, J. (2006). Arbitrary metrics in psychology. American Psychologist, 61(1),
27 – 41.

As well, the same issue of American Psychologist (vol 61 num 1) contains a Greenwald reply and Blanton counter-reply.

Go check them out and enjoy!

February 18, 2008

another historical day for psychologists

So how's it going sports fans?

It seems that I have been neglecting my blog a little bit lately. I know, I know . . . it seems like I get into a good rhythm for a couple days, and then BOOM!, I'll hit a dry spell and won't write anything new for weeks. Oh, the time graduate study takes from me. Well, I do have a decent excuse . . . I've been doing a lot of traveling. Firstly, I spent some time in Albuquerque, NM for the 9th annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. And secondly, I'm interviewing for Ph.D. programs. Fun stuff. Interestingly, before February, I have never flown on a plane before (I guess a live a sheltered life, ha). Yet I flew on 10 different flights in the past week and a half!

Well, besides leaving me tired, my traveling has left me with several posts that I plan to write up soon. The current post, on the other hand, is about an event that occurred on February 17th, 1890. Give up? It's the birth date of R. A. Fisher!

You might be asking yourself, who is R. A. Fisher and why is he important? I'll tell you. Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher was a British statistician and evolutionary geneticist, and one of the founders of the modern evolutionary synthesis. He basically showed quantitatively that "inherited traits were consistent with Mendelian principles." As well, he built the foundation for modern statistical theory and population genetics. To say the least, he was a bright guy.

A lot of Fisher's work concerned the variation of inherited traits among plants, so why is he important to psychologists? Well, like I stated before, he practically fathered modern statistical theory. He created advanced techniques that we still use today and wrote influential books on research design and analysis, including his first book, Statistical Methods for Research Workers (of which I actually found a used early edition and got it for free!). Most importantly, especially for social psychologists, he invented the statistical technique referred to as "analysis of variance," or simply, "ANOVA."

To put it simply, ANOVA is a procedure that deals with the differences between groups (specifically, two or more groups), rather than just describe the relationship between variables. This makes it a considerable advancement from the statistical technique of correlation. In correlational research, you can't really make statements about cause and effect. Whereas, in experimental research using ANOVA's, you are given more insight to do so, which is why it has become the most popular (and often abused) statistical procedure in psychology . . . especially social psychology! ANOVA gives us it's extra insight by examining the ratio of the observed variability BETWEEN groups (what we can account for) and the observed variability WITHIN each group (uniqueness that we can't account for). Or in even simpler terms that my thesis adviser, John Nezlek, would say, an ANOVA is the ratio of "what we know" over "what we don't know."

Here's an example to make it a little easier to understand:

Let's say that I have a drug and I think it makes people more aggressive. So I draw two random samples of people and I give one sample a dose of the drug, while the other sample gets a placebo (sugar pill). Then I measure how aggressively (perhaps how many times each person physically harms another) each person in each sample acts. To say that my drug causes aggression, one would have to say that the variation in aggressive behavior between the two groups (drug group and placebo group) is much larger than the variation within each group (do all placebo participants act similar? do all drug participants act similar?). So if the the drug group does act more aggressively than the placebo group, and each member of the drug groups acts similarly aggressive, then it's likely that my drug causes aggression.

Well, that's my short and simple description of Analysis of Variance. I know that my meager post does not give Fisher's brilliance the full justice that it deserves, but I try. So, even though I'm just a little late (my time says 3:18 am on Feb. 18th) . . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY Ronald Fisher!

February 12, 2008

Happy Darwin Day!

Almost too late! Happy Birthday Charles Darwin!

And here's a funny comic I found to go with the special occasion:

January 24, 2008

a new blog about . . .

Are you interested in issues of cause and effect? Do you use quasi-experimental methodology or correlational analyses for your own research? If so, I might just have the blog for you!

It's called . . . what else . . . Alan & Bo's Correlation and Causality Blog. It's brand spanking new too, with two posts so far. It looks pretty interesting though. I just found out about it yesterday through a social psychology listserv. Here's a little blurb describing the purpose of the blog:

"On this blog, we seek to raise and discuss various issues pertaining to correlation and causality, much like we did during our frequent conversations at Texas Tech. In fields that study human behavior in “real world” settings, many potentially interesting phenomena are off-limits to the traditional experimental desgin that would permit causal inferences, for practical and ethical reasons.

Does the birth of a child increase or decrease couples’ marital/relationship satisfaction? Does growing up with an alcohol-abusing parent damage children’s development of social skills? How does experiencing a natural disaster affect residents’ mental and physical health?

For none of these questions could researchers legitimately assign individuals (or couples) at random to either receive or not receive the presumed causal stimulus. Much of our discussion, therefore, will be aimed at formulating ideas for how to make as strong a causal inference as possible, for a given research question.

By raising issues of how researchers might approach a given research question from the standpoint of internal validity, we hope to fulfill a “seeding” process, where our initial commentaries will be generative of further discussion and suggestions. We are thus permitting (and encouraging!) comments on this blog, for this purpose. We hope to learn as much (or more) from you, as you might learn from us."
Seems pretty unique, a blog specifically devoted to the logic of causality. I'm looking forward to their future posts. Well, anyways, go check it out!

January 21, 2008

it's all in the name!

So I was reading through the current issue of Dialogue, the official newsletter of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and I found some very interesting trivia facts. That is, the most common names among contemporary social psychologists.

They basically compiled a list of 1,179 different first and last names from individuals who were current members of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. And can you guess what the 2nd most common name was among male social psychologists? If you guessed 'Richard,' then you are correct! Ha! So maybe I was born to become a social psychologist, or maybe my parents were trying to condition me from the very start, haha. Of course, what would it mean if I didn't make it through grad school? I guess I'd have to change my name to 'George' or something.

Okay, so setting the kidding aside, if you are interested in the top name for male social psychologists, it's: John. I guess I wasn't too surprised on that one. The top two names for females in social psychology were: 1. Linda and 2. Ann(e). So there's some random social psychology trivia to spike up your life! Your welcome!

On another note, my blog is officially 1 year old! Yea! I actually missed like a lake's true blogaversary by a couple days. I was thinking that my first post was on the 21st of last January, but it was actually on the 12th. Doh! Oh well, happy late blogaversary to me!

January 9, 2008

To Understand Evil . . . Through Science

Just found out about this, so I thought that I'd let the readers know.

For anyone who has the National Geographic Channel, tonight's Explorer will be doing a special on the Science of Evil:

"Explorer journeys inside one of the most fascinating places of all - the human mind - to better understand the Science of Evil. Using cutting-edge functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques, scientists attempt to isolate the mechanics of moral judgment by mapping patterns in neurological processes. Could neuron activity in the brain really give rise to good or evil? Then, gain insight into the minds of some of the worlds cruelest people."
I'm pretty sure that the show will cover some of Phil Zimbardo's work as well, like the Stanford Prison Experiment. It looks pretty interesting though, and it starts at 8pm. I think that it's also playing on Saturday around 7pm. I'd check it out myself, if I had the channel . . . maybe I'll get a friend to tape it for me. Oh, and if you have Adobe's flash player, you can check out a video preview from the show . . . here. Enjoy!

January 8, 2008

First post of 2008!

Yeah, I know, I know. I am a tad bit late, but Happy New Year anyways . . . ha! I can't believe that it's 2008 already. The time does fly I suppose. Well, anyway, I hope everyone's Christmas and New Year's get-togethers were fun and eventful . . . or peaceful and relaxing.

So, has anyone had time to check out
Edge's annual question for the "intellectual elite"?

As I'm sure many readers know, John Brockman issues a question every year to the world's leading thinkers and publishes the responses on the Edge website. And then usually a collection of the best responses get published in paperback format. You may recall seeing the book on last year's question, "What Are You Optimistic About?," at your local bookstore.

Well, this year's question is:

Edge has received responses from 165 contributors, all leading thinkers within the Sciences and Humanities, particularly the evolutionary and cognitive sciences. I haven't had a chance to read through all of them, but there are a few that I have looked over. Steven Pinker has a short essay about whether humans have stopped evolving or not. The cognitive scientist, Stanislas Deheane, has an interesting essay about whether we will soon have a mathematical "theory of consciousness." And there are lots and lots of others! Go ahead and check them out!

And if you are interested in answers to past Edge questions, go check out the World Question Center.