Outreach Event: Explore Your Universe 2016!

What if you saw something, but it wasn’t really there? What if a still image suddenly started moving? Or, if a yellow box was actually brown? Kids and their families were fascinated by the display of visual illusions from the Psychology in Action (PIA) outreach team at UCLA’s 8th annual Explore Your Universe (EYU) science festival last week. With exciting science demos, fun activities and interesting talks, the event brought science to life for people…

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Polyvagal Theory Part 1: The Wandering Nerve


The polyvagal theory is a neurobiological theory relating social engagement, physiology, and developmental outcomes. When I was first learning the theory, I struggled to understand some of the theory’s basic terms and could not find a resource that simplified it. Therefore, this three–part series of articles is intended to serve as an introduction to the theory. In this article I will introduce the physiology behind stress. In the second I’ll discuss specific stress responses, and…

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Biological and Environmental Impacts on Emotion Regulation


A fundamental aspect of the human experience is undeniably emotion. Love, anger, happiness, fear: these are concepts that we are all intimately familiar with, but their subjective experience can vary widely person to person. Take, for instance, you are sitting at the bus stop. You happen to be running late, for a pretty important meeting, and all of a sudden the bus you have been waiting for for the last twenty minutes speeds past you…

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But what about GIRLS with ADHD?

sweet little blonde hair school girl holding help sign in stress with books and homework in children education concept isolated on white background

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common, impairing neurobehavioral disorder that generally onsets in early childhood. Though ADHD is 2-3 times more prevalent in boys than girls, approximately 6% of girls are diagnosed with ADHD in childhood, which makes it one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in girls. A recent meta-analysis (method described below) in the journal Pediatrics looked to further understand how ADHD manifests in girls as opposed to boys, as well as…

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The benefits of multilingual education


This November, California voters will vote on Prop 58 (also called Prop 58-LEARN [Language Education, Acquisition, and Readiness Now]; Senate Bill 1174). This bill, introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), will bring back California parents’ option to choose multilingual education for their children. I will be upfront and disclose that—as a researcher of bilingual children’s language and cognitive development—I am fully in support of this bill. But my goal for writing this post is…

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What is a Sampling Distribution?

Sampling Distribution FI 3

The sampling distribution is one of the most important concepts in inferential statistics, and often times the most glossed over concept in elementary statistics for social science courses. This article will introduce the basic ideas of a sampling distribution of the sample mean, as well as a few common ways we use the sampling distribution in statistics. When we conduct a study in psychology, this almost always includes taking a sample and measuring some aspect…

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Early Emotion Understanding: When do Babies Learn about Emotions?


As human beings, we are particularly adept at discerning the emotions of others. Whether it’s our angry boss, saddened family members, or happy friends, we usually succeed at identifying emotional expressions in other people. These judgments let us adjust our behavior accordingly in complex social situations. It has allowed our species to avoid people who would do us harm, embrace people who need support, provide empathy to others, and bond with one another. Overall, reading…

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What Science Says You Can Do to Help Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Millions of people are diagnosed with cancer each year, and while not all cases of cancer are preventable, between one third and one half of these cases could be prevented by changing some everyday behaviors. Knowing that your behavior can have a real impact on your health is helpful, but what specific things can you do? Here’s some advice backed by scientific evidence that may help prevent certain cancers: Don’t start or quit smoking. You…

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Outreach Event: Demystifying the Graduate School Application Process!

Navigating the graduate school application process can be a very overwhelming and stressful experience. Potential applicants are understandably faced with countless questions, such as: “How many schools should I apply to?” “When should I take the GREs?” “What should I include on my CV?” “How do I know if a professor is accepting students?” “When should I ask for letters of recommendation?” In order to alleviate some of the confusion associated application process, the PIA outreach team…

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Why Sharing Good News Matters For Your Relationships

  In the latest season of HBO’s comedy series Veep, the President, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, makes small talk with her White House Press Secretary by asking “When’s your baby coming?” Elated to share his good news, the Press Secretary launches into details of his adopted baby’s arrival. An impatient look from Dreyfus shuts down his story, and he mumbles, “Misunderstood your level of interest, sorry.” The fictional President’s staff on Veep are not the…

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“Ballot Behavior: Politics & Psychology” – May 23, 2016

Ballot Behavior: Politics & Psychology

Psychology in Action is proud to announce our fifth annual interdisciplinary symposium, Monday, May 23rd, 2016, from 4 to 6pm in UCLA’s CNSI Auditorium. The discussion will focus on factors that influence voters’ beliefs and behavior. The event is completely FREE and open to the general public! We hope to see you there!   During the first hour (4–5pm), each speaker will present a brief talk demonstrating their research on voting behavior.  The second hour (5–6pm) will feature an…

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Emotions and Health: Not Just a “First-World Problem”


French writer and philosopher Voltaire said something along the lines of “I have decided to be happy because it is good for my health.” Is this just a vague philosophical aphorism or does it have any basis in science? In fact, decades of research point to the idea that emotions are indeed related to health in many ways. Negative emotions, such as feeling depressed, are related to numerous negative health outcomes (e.g., pain, disease, mortality).…

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The Case For Reality: Because Apparently Someone Needs to Make One

This morning, I read an article on consciousness and physics (“The Case Against Reality” in The Atlantic). The beginning of the article starts off with a broad statement: That our senses aren’t completely accurate; that the world isn’t perfectly represented them. It’s a relative statement so it’s not worth disagreeing with. That is, given the scope of our space telescopes and quantum detectors; yeah, we do a crappy job of perceiving. (But of course, when…

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The Role of Mind Wandering in Education


It was a crisp spring morning in my high school English class as I took my seat near the window. At some point during class, I had noticed a flower blooming outside. My mind gently tracked away from the Grapes of Wrath discussion to the Biology lecture I had heard just hours before. Looking at that flower, I started thinking about the connection of water molecules in the plant, and then trailed off to think…

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Batman vs Superman: The One Where I Tie In Trump and Sanders for Maximum Clickbait

Many saw Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice this last week (420+ million box office), a story about Bruce Wayne, a single man backed by wealth, angry determination and personal fortitude, taking on Superman, a very non-figurative manifestation of limitless power. It’s a story about a man so brilliantly competent, so grimly prepared, so unrelentingly intense, that even extreme power ultimately breaks before him or steers clear of him. The American appeal of the single…

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Ideal Affect: How What You Want to Feel Can Impact Your Choices


Think about how you feel right now. Nervous because of an upcoming deadline? Content because you spent the afternoon reading a satisfying book? Sad because you ran out of episodes of your favorite TV show? Whatever the answer may be, researchers who study emotion would call this your actual affect, or how you actually feel. Now think about how you want to feel. Do you wish you felt more happy? More excited? More relaxed? Your…

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