An Illustrative Guide to Statistical Power, Alpha, Beta, and Critical Values


From my interactions with undergraduate students, it seems that even though these definitions are easy to recite, they are difficult to be integrated into a comprehensive whole. I hope here to show how to conceptually integrate them into a cohesive picture. Everything begins with reality: the “Reality Continuum” I call this green line “Reality Continuum” (rather grand, no?) because you will take your ideas, and do a reality check against it via data analysis (within the traditional statistical framework–it is definitely NOT…

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Psychology and the Everyday

Elephant & Egret

I’d like to start off a bit unusually today. Specifically, I’d like to make a request of you, dear reader. Nothing terribly difficult, but I realize it’s strange to have an article ask you to do something. If you’re on board so far, I’d like to ask you to choose a number between 1 and 10. Multiply that number by two. Add 8 to this number. Divide this resultant number by 2, and then subtract…

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What color is the dress, really?


One of the top social media items today regards the color of the following dress:   Is it blue and black? Or white and gold? The internet is in a disarray and a great debate has ensued. Even Taylor Swift has chimed in (her vote is blue and black). I see white with a gold fringe. Actually both answers can be correct. The phenomenon for why the dress can be both blue with black fringe…

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Mediating and Moderating Variables Explained


What is the difference between a mediator and a moderator? One of my former academic advisors used to always say “be a walking laboratory”. I think it’s a very poetic way of describing a core feature of psychological research—to come up with theories or explanations for various phenomena we observe. Sometimes there isn’t a clear-cut relation between a dependent and independent variable. In those cases, a mediating variable or a moderating variable can provide a…

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Theory of Mind: the Movie Magic in You

eyes test friendly

Film stands out as a particularly effective medium in conveying psychology to the public. This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture provide numerous examples of psychological phenomenon—PTSD in American Sniper, adolescent development in Boyhood, and psychological control in Whiplash.  These films will make you laugh (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman), make you cry (The Imitation Game; Selma; The Theory of Everything), all while temporarily pulling you into the respective world each film creates. Although…

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The Top 5 Differences Between Undergraduate and Graduate School


When deciding whether or not to attend graduate school, a lot of prospective students ask how it is different that undergrad. Is it more difficult? Less fun? Stressful? Whether you are thinking of applying to grad school, have a friend/sibling/daughter/son/niece/nephew/etc. in grad school and still don’t quite understand what it means, or are a graduate student yourself, here you can read about (my opinion on) some of the ways in which these two experiences differ…

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Tips for Graduate School Admission Interviews: through the years


It’s that time of year again… The wait is almost over, invitations for graduate school interviews are going out. Perhaps your experience is/would be like mine: cries of joy and then… “OMG OMG OMG what do I do when I get there?” Congratulations for being in the minority of applicants who need to conduct this search! Here is what Psychology in Action has offered in the previous years, thought it might be helpful to have…

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Jumping for joy on four paws: Neurological evidence of emotion in dogs

Bri's dog Rainey

Running with Rainey is simultaneously the best thing and the worst thing.  As a joint new year’s resolution to get in better shape, we’ve been trying to run together several times a week.  Yesterday, as we started out in the warm afternoon sunshine, my iPod jamming away to White Panda’s mashup of pop music from 5 years ago, she got so excited she jumped for joy.  Let me repeat: my dog jumped for joy.

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Outwit, Outplay, Outlast: The Psychology of Survivor


I have been watching Survivor for more than half of my life.  In 7th grade, I decorated my 3-ring binder with a stalkerish collage of “Boston” Rob Mariano pictures, and several years later my parents indulged me with my first Survivor buff for Christmas. I still own two of my favorite seasons on DVD, as well as my precious Survivor hat and t-shirt. Some would call me a dedicated fan; others, insane.   I love Survivor. And…

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Surrendering to Creativity: The Psychology of Remembering to Breathe (Part 3 of 3)

Up until graduate school, I often indulged the myth that good writing was a sacred thing to be done under the most precise conditions.  Akin to knowing without a timer when the soufflee has finished (sorry, I have holidays sweets on the mind), the creativity dedicated to a well-written piece had to be carefully cultured and perfected.  My patterns were always the same, although the specific details evolved with time.  In high school I had…

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Internet and the teen brain: what do we know, and what should we be asking?

Teenagers—and more specifically, their brains—are having something of a moment in the psychological literature and popular press. Noninvasive imaging tools like fMRI allow us to peek at adolescents’ cognition in real time, and to build a better understanding of the brain’s developing structure. You may be familiar with research suggesting that the brain continues to mature well into the 20’s, and that some of the last regions to complete this maturation are involved in higher-order…

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A Meditation On Meditation: Behavioral Flexibility and Success

As an undergraduate I worked for a man who was, if nothing else, compelling. Tall and trim, with a bushy handlebar mustache, slicked back hair, and a propensity for pulling out and smoking an e-cigarette in the middle of lab meetings, my adviser could often be heard shouting expletives at his computer from down the hall. I quite liked him. These, of course, were not his only defining character traits. Like many in academia, he…

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Getting your Zzz’s as a baby: How you learn to sleep depends on your culture

The topic of how to get babies to sleep can be a touchy and stressful subject for many parents. There’s been a lot of popular articles written on the topic, and these articles have been published in unsurprising places like Parents Magazine and HuffPost Parents, as well as some less expected places like The Washington Post and Forbes. Articles like these are often filled with information about the pros and cons of every imaginable sleep arrangement…

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Serial: the Case of Memory


Serial has quickly become an international obsession. From the master storytellers of This American Life, the focal story of the inaugural season is about details surrounding the 1999 conviction of then high-school student Adnan Syed for the murder of ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. A new episode is released every Thursday (this week will be the 11th episode), and narrator Sarah Koenig artfully pieces together recollections from other suspects, high school friends of Adnan and Hae,…

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