Category Archive: social psychology

Nov 06

The Secret Costs of Keeping Secrets


My first post for Nautilus’ blog, Facts so Romantic, is on new research by Clayton Critcher and Melissa Ferguson, about the costs of keeping secrets. The research, inspired by the now repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy in the U.S. military, suggests that keeping your identity secret can impair your cognitive abilities, your self-control, and even your physical strength.

Aug 26

Expecting Better

expecting better

My friend and colleague Emily Oster’s new book, Expecting Better, came out last week. She dives into the data behind what your doctors and friends tell you about pregnancy and gives you the information you need to ask the right questions and make decisions that fit with your values. I wrote a short blog post about it, including some thoughts as a parent and psychologist. In particular, why are people generally so optimistic about their health and other life outcomes, but can get so much more conservative when it comes to pregnancy. It’s more questions than answers, so your thoughts are very welcome. You can read the article here:

Jun 12

Pay Now Consume Later

This is a re-post of my article from earlier today on my new blog at Big Think. As of this morning Random Assignment has a new home-away-from-home which you can visit here, but I’ll continue to post here as well. This is the second in a series of Psychology of Nothing posts that explore the social psychology of Seinfeld, so if you’re a Seinfeld fan be on the lookout for more where this came from, and I’m always open to ideas and suggestions. You can see the first Psychology of Nothing post, Phantom Symptoms, here.

May 29

Odysseus Nudged: Some more thoughts

Odysseus and the Sirens

I wrote a piece for Big Think that came out on Monday and there were some additional thoughts that I wanted to share that didn’t make it into the original article. If you’ve already read the piece, then thank you – if you haven’t, you can read it here: Odysseus Nudged: How Limiting Our Choices Can Give Us More Freedom. Most of these ideas came up in a phone conversation I had with George Loewenstein in preparing to write the story; it was his article in the New York Daily News is what got me thinking about some of these ideas.

May 21

Narrative Transportation

By Chordboard (Self, from material in my possession.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a draft of an article I submitted to Nautilus Magazine, a “new magazine on science, culture, and philosophy,” for their issue entitled In Transit. Nautilus already had plans to cover the topic of my story, narrative transportation, so they politely declined my submission, which I share here with you. Their magazine is off to a great start, I encourage you to check it out.

May 08

The Psychology of Nothing: Phantom Symptoms

Lovable anti-hero George Costanza is having a salad for lunch when he suddenly clutches at his chest and declares, “I think I’m having a heart attack!” His companions, Jerry and Elaine, seem remarkably unconcerned with George’s seemingly life-threatening predicament. As George breathlessly lists off the symptoms he’s experiencing (Tightness… Shortness of breath… Radiating waves of pain!), Jerry arrives at a less catastrophic diagnosis: “I know what this is. You saw that show on PBS last night, Coronary Country.”

May 03

Paul Rozin on Music, Food, and Sex

I’m not sure how it’s possible that until yesterday I had never seen Paul Rozin speak. However it happened, I corrected a huge mistake by going to see him give an invited address at the Midwestern Psychological Association meeting in Chicago titled, The Aesthetics and Pleasures of Temporal Sequences. The talk spanned far more than that topic, but as Rozin’s research predicts, it was made extremely memorable by ending with a bang.

Apr 17

Narrowing the Achievement Gap with a Psychological Intervention

There is an academic achievement gap in the United States. Compared to their White peers, African American and Latino American students earn lower grades and are more likely to drop out of school. Recently, a small intervention, aimed at easing the psychological burdens that impair minority performance, has been found to interrupt this downward trajectory, improving the performance of minority students, narrowing the achievement gap, and with long lasting effects.

Dec 20

The Science of Gifts


Is it possible to get gifts down to a science? With gift giving season upon us, there has been a flood of advice for consumers on how to navigate their purchases scientifically. I even got in on the action myself, writing a piece for the Chicago Booth website on some new research by Yan Zhang and Nick Epley about when people appreciate a gift’s thoughtfulness. Reviewing the research – and the journalism – got me thinking about the strengths and the limitations of bringing a scientific approach to exchanging presents. There is a lot to be said for studying gift giving, as long as we remain mindful of its limitations.

Dec 11

It’s the Thought that Counts (sometimes)


My first post for the Chicago Booth website has just gone up and I wanted to share the link — it’s called Using Behavioral Science To Pick The Perfect Holiday Gift. It’s on research by Yan Zhang and Nick Epley on when thoughtful gifts are appreciated. In writing the post I found several recent articles and guides on …

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