It all began with a perfectly ordinary event – my partner, daughters and I were invited around for a late afternoon dinner with some friends one Sunday last month. Usually when you go to someone’s house you bring something – some flowers, something you have made, or a bottle of something (not so much the latter for us now as we are basically drunk all the time in my household). In this instance we’d been quite disorganised and been unable to sort anything out in advance. No problem – we would just pick something up on the way right? Wrong. Just as we were leaving our baby (with impeccable timing) needed a full nappy / outfit change and a comprehensive hosing down(I’ll let you guess why). As a result we arrived at the supermarket at one minute past four, 60 full seconds after it closed, and were barred entry. Even though we knew the people we were seeing (who are super nice squared) would not automatically expect us to bring something we still felt we had a dilemma – walk across town to another shop which may be open, but be quite late (which with kids and eating can be a deal breaker in terms of a pleasant afternoon!) or go empty handed, which felt wrong (or so half of our partnership thought). OK, so it’s a bit of a exaggeration to say my marriage was nearly destroyed by this discussion. But my partner and I did have quite a falling out! In the end we picked something up, were a bit late, and had a fantastic evening. The tension this seemingly minor issue raised did lead me to reflect on why the drive to bring something when we go to someone’s house to eat is so strong, and what psychology has to say about it.
Continue reading “How cavemen, chocolates and a dinner invite nearly destroyed my marriage.”
PsychologyItBetter How To: Meditation.
Meditation is not complicated.
Why should I do this?
Psychological research shows us that meditation can increase your immune function and health, improve levels of happiness and bolster emotional self-regulation. It can also decrease negative emotions and massively reduce stress and anxiety. It can also make you more productive in your day to day lives. It’s not complicated, and it need not have a spiritual component to it. Neither should it take up hours of your day. Even 10 minutes done regularly can have an impact on your life.
Continue reading “PsychologyItBetter How To: Meditation.”
What predicts performance differences in two people with equal preparation? Challenge!
Tests, performance and stress.
We all face tests in our lifetime. As I write, all across the country people are preparing for, or sitting exams. My own students are no exception – I have 180 undergraduates who are busy revising (I hope) for a exam on social psychology next week. There are a lot of things which predict success in such tasks. Some are out of our immediate control – some people simply have an aptitude for exams and some (like me!) find them more difficult. Other things are more within our control – how much you engaged with the course when it was presented, how much extra reading you did and how thorough your revision was. But what predicts the differences between two people of equal aptitude, who have prepared similarly? The ‘edge’ the stronger person have may be less to do with how much they know or how skilled they are, and more to do with how they perceive the situation. I understand this via something called the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat [BPSM]
Continue reading “What predicts performance differences in two people with equal aptitude and prep?”
Lack of sleep can affect us in many ways, but did you know in some ways it is the equivalent of being drunk?
I love my children, but boy, do they keep me up at night. I reckon over the last three years, 98% of my nights have involved being woken up multiple times, often for stretches of 30 minutes plus. The other 2% of the time I am away at conferences. Things were just settling down with our last one (by settle down, I mean just up once a night) when we had the next one. I think my partner has it even worse at the moment with our four month old!
Continue reading “Suffering from sleep deprivation due to kids, work or something else? You are basically permanently drunk, but try not to take out your ‘hangover’ out on others.”
I am a grown man who is terribly pleased to get a sticker. What is worse is, this sticker is not even real. Yep. My partner bought me an activity monitor (if you’ve not heard of these think footstep pedometer on steroids).
Today I am mostly pleased because, since putting this device on, I have walked the same distance which emperor penguins migrate (112 km if you are interested). For this, my phone displayed a little picture of a penguin when I logged in. Super! Next, I want to climb stairs equivalent to a helicopters cruising altitude. I vow to avoid all elevators from this day on!
Continue reading “Oops. I gamified my life.”
What does psychology make of alien abductions? And what does this study tell us about the discipline?
Last night, my partner and I were watching a rerun of the X-Files. It was great, Mulder and Scully being curious and sceptical, hints of conspiracy, images of alien abduction and some great dry humour. But it got me thinking – what does my discipline make of belief in alien abduction? And what does it study tell us about the wider context of psychological science?
Continue reading “Alien Abductions and the Science of Psychology”
My family and I have a allotment (well, a half sized allotment)a short walk from our home. The growing season starts in earnest soon, and our windowsills are covered in small seedlings and the like already. Whilst digging last week (something which allotments seemingly demand endlessly!) I began to wonder about the psychology of gardening.
Interestingly, a quick search of the research literature revealed a pretty decent selection of papers. Gardening seems to have a great stress reducing effect – lowering physiological reactions to stress1, being of therapeutic benefit for everyone from children2 to the elderly3. It is also linked to higher self-efficacy and self esteem4. But how does it work? This seems to be a bit more of a mystery, but I’m happy to speculate. One argument is that simply looking at green landscapes is simply inherently soothing (Soylent Green anyone?). I think this is true from hiking trips, but looking at my allotment is NOT viewing a inherently pleasant vista (more of a muddy diorama covered in bravely struggling flora!). I wonder if it is more about the states of mind gardening can produce, and the social connections it brings.
Continue reading “The Psychology of Gardening”
At the moment I’ve two major projects on my desk. One is launched, a large study which requires the recruitment of a large number of participants. This project is kicking off after a lot of planning, and we need to make sure we stay on track and make good decisions as things evolve. The second is in the planning stage, a large research grant application involving multiple collaborators. I really want these both to go well – they are significant steps forward for both me and the partners involved.
Continue reading “A tale of two biases”
Why am I writing this?
My name is Dan Frings and I’m an academic – specifically an Associate Professor in Psychology. Academics write copiously, but within quite strict confines. We write journal articles each focused on a single experiment. We write book chapters (or even books) to specialist audiences of academics. Occasionally we write text books for undergraduates. We are always very circumspect in the claims we make about what our work means.
At the end of last year I was invited to be involved in writing a book which was a little different (for me at least). This books was called called “Psychology Squared:100 Concepts in Psychology you should know”. It’s aimed at a mass audience, and boils down complex concepts into bite sized chunks (and each gets a picture or diagram). Although it’s not out until June, for me it’s already had a big impact. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing for a non-academic audience.
Continue reading “Hello!”