Last Week’s Links

How Your Brain Morphs Stressful Family Vacations Into Pleasant Memories

“We have two ‘selves,’” explained Dr. Omar Sultan Haque, a Harvard University psychiatrist and social scientist. “The experiencing self and the remembered self. In the midst of vacation stresses, we may be stressed and annoyed by family and children and the indignities of bureaucratic travel, but the remembered self easily turns nausea into nostalgia.”

This article puts the specific twist of vacation memories onto the more general concept of how different individuals remember the same events and experiences differently. There are some reasonable suggestions on how to maximize vacation enjoyment with both younger (toddlers who need naps) and older (teenagers who won’t want to put down their phones) children.

The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain

Ben Yagoda discusses

the tendency people have, when considering a trade-off between two future moments, to more heavily weight the one closer to the present. A great many academic studies have shown this bias—also known as hyperbolic discounting—to be robust and persistent.

In this long but interesting article Yagoda examines the research into this phenomenon and how to counteract these cognitive biases in making decisions such as which job candidate to hire or which financial investments to make or avoid.


I’m not sure which fact is worse: that we’re all more susceptible to BS than me think, or that some academicians have actually made studying BS their life’s work.

This article focuses on one particular kind of BS:

what [Gordon Pennycook, a psychology professor at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan who has been researching BS for years] and other BS researchers call “pseudo-profound bullshit” — those “seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.” Pennycook cites a tweet sent by the popular alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra as an example: “Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.”

You’ve probably seen a lot of this. It’s those pithy sayings, often superimposed on a lovely photo, that fill up your Facebook feed.

The author of the article concludes, “Needless to say, as the BS piles up around us, there is more work to be done.” Unfortunately, he offers no explanations of what that work might be or what strategies we might all employ in our everyday lives to avoid being influenced by such BS.

The 2,000-year-old origins of EQ and how it became a crucial job skill

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is one of the most important skills candidates need when they’re looking to land a job. And it’s also a key factor to move up the ranks more quickly. We’ve also heard that EQ is a better predictor of success in the workplace than IQ, and that’s been backed by numerous studies in both academia and through data from companies on their employees.

Lydia Dishman traces the notion of emotional intelligence from its ancient Greek origins through its more recent application to success in life, for example by Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence. “Since then, numerous corporate and academic studies have tested the concept to prove that EQ does indeed surpass IQ when it comes to succeeding in the workplace.”

Cold-Case Cure: Inside New Era of Hunting Serial Killers

law enforcement figured out that they could team with up with forensic genealogists to create DNA profiles from decades’ old suspect DNA and upload those profiles into genealogy databases, following a gnarled family tree until it bears fruit.

This article from Rolling Stone looks at the rise of forensic genealogists and autosomal DNA testing to solve cold-case crimes.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Psychology

10 Telling Signs You’re an Emotionally Intelligent Person

Emotionally intelligent people are the advice-givers among their group of friends. Do you have a friend who seems to know what you’re feeling before you’ve verbalized it? This friend is emotionally intelligent. There are many of those people in the world. They are the healers, the untrained therapists among friends.

Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills

A recent update to federal education law requires states to include at least one nonacademic measure in judging school performance… . But the race to test for so-called social-emotional skills has raised alarms even among the biggest proponents of teaching them, who warn that the definitions are unclear and the tests faulty.

Should schools be testing students for social-emotional skills such as grit and resilience? The approach has both proponents and critics.

13 Sleep Lessons From A Landmark British Sleep Report

If you’re like most people, these findings probably won’t surprise you:

A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. And now, a British report finds that no one is faring any better across the Atlantic.

According to the Royal Society for Public Health — one of the world’s oldest health education organizations — Britons may be missing out on as much as a full night of sleep each week, on average.

Seeing the Light: Emotional Intelligence

We know emotional intelligence is critical to personal and professional development, but how do we define this amorphous concept? A widely accepted definition: Emotional intelligence is the regulation of our own emotions and the ability to recognize, understand, and influence others’ emotions.

Emotional intelligence is both an innate and a learned skill. This article contains some advice for improving it.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Psychology Round-Up

Why Are Old Women Often The Face Of Evil In Fairy Tales And Folklore?

In time for Halloween, Elizabeth Blair looks at why evil in folklore and fairy tales is so often represented by an old woman. Maria Tatar, who teaches a course on folklore and mythology at Harvard, says “old women villains are especially scary because, historically, the most powerful person in a child’s life was the mother.”

Here’s another possible explanation:

Veronique Tadjo, a writer who grew up in the Ivory Coast, thinks there’s a fear of female power in general. She says a common figure in African folk tales is the old witch who destroys people’s souls.

See what Baba Yaga, a monstrous female figure of Russian folklore, and Yama Uba, an old woman from Japanese folklore, have in common with the old lady in Hansel and Gretel and the queen who poisons Snow White: “Elderly women in folk tales often use their knowledge and experience of the world to guide the troubled protagonist.” Blair concludes:

old women in fairy tales and folklore practically keep civilization together. They judge, reward, harm and heal; and they’re often the most intriguing characters in the story.

Why We Favorite Tweets, According To Science

How often do you mark someone’s tweet as a favorite? And why?

Thanks to a study published by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, this year we now have what amounts to an official taxonomy of faving behaviors. Conducted by Florian Meier and David Elsweiler from the University of Regensburg, Germany and Max L. Wilson from the University of Nottingham after extensive surveys with 606 Twitter users (many long-term users), the study sought to classify the myriad of individual reasons for favoriting a tweet in order to “enhance our understanding of what people want to do with Twitter.”

Read the explanations of what the study found out about why people mark certain tweets as favorites to see if they agree with your own practice.

And what did the study conclude? “findings highlight that the favoriting feature is currently being over-utilized for a range of motivations, whilst under-supporting many of them.”

Can We End the Meditation Madness?

I used to reject the notion of meditating out of hand because it seemed too religious to me. But when I discovered Dr. Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response, I was happy to adopt it to reduce my blood pressure. Since I performed it lying on my back in bed at night, I found that it also helped me fall asleep instead of lying awake with my mind whirring. (Placebo or not, whatever works…)

It’s always good to feel validated, so I was gratified to come across this article in the New York Times recently. Adam Grant notes “Meditation is exploding in popularity,” particularly in association with mindfulness. To discover why meditation is so popular he consulted meditation teachers, researchers, and practitioners. His conclusion: “Every benefit of the practice can be gained through other activities.” He cites a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that drew a similar conclusion:

“We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (i.e., drugs, exercise and other behavioral therapies).”

I’m gratified to find validation for what I discovered through my own research several years ago: with the relaxation response, I can achieve the benefits of meditating without having to meditate. As Grant says:

Evangelists, it’s time to stop judging. The next time you meet people who choose not to meditate, take a deep breath and let us relax in peace.

Are You Aware of Your Self-Defeating Habits?

Daniel Goleman, author of the seminal book Emotional Intelligence, offers advice and recognizing and overcoming one’s self-defeating habits, those “invisible emotional patterns” that are “habitual ways we react that get triggered over and over.” Such self-defeating habits “often stem from our learning early in life, and are so deeply ingrained that we repeat them over and over, despite the sometimes obvious ways in which they do not work.”

Read about Goleman’s five-step process for recognizing your own trigger sources:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the self-defeating habit.
  2. Be mindful.
  3. Remember the alternatives.
  4. Choose something better.
  5. Do this at every naturally occurring opportunity.

Recognizing your triggers is the necessary first part of cultivating more useful responses. If necessary, Goleman adds, a coach or therapist can help you develop new, more positive, habits of response.

How to Turn a Bad Day Around

Since this article is in the Harvard Business Review, it’s aimed at improving work productivity. However, the advice here can help anyone turn a bad day around for any purpose.

Amy Gallo begins the article with the assertion that happiness is a choice, according to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. Gallo offers some ideas for recognizing the positive aspects of life even in the face of negative occurrences:

  • pinpoint the problem
  • take a moment to be grateful
  • take action
  • change your routine
  • reset realistic expectations
  • learn from your bad days to prevent future ones

In addition, she has some specific suggestions for how to achieve these goals. She concludes with two case studies that put these general ideas into specific contexts to illustrate how the principles work.

Remember: You can’t keep bad things from happening, but you can improve the way you respond to them.