Let’s fight (the bad guys): Do superheroes teach kids good or evil?

Everyone loves a good superhero story. Superheroes have been a fixture in American pop culture for decades, but in the past 10-15 years we’ve witnessed a resurgence of superhero mania. Between movies, TV shows, toys, and even national conventions, the superhero fever is real. Given that superhero stories are characterized by themes of fighting against evil, defending others, and promoting justice, many parents encourage their children’s engagement in superhero media, even as early as preschool.…

Continue reading

The Teen Sleep Epidemic: Biology and School Start Times

  “It’s too expensive to start the school day later.” “Extracurriculars will suffer if we start school later.” “We shouldn’t coddle teens by pushing school start times.” These are just some of the arguments against later school start times for teens. Although the public has become increasingly aware of the sleep deprivation epidemic among teens in the US, the cost and logistic difficulties associated with addressing the problem have stymied attempts at reform. But what…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

On Essena O’Neill, #fitspo, and the “real-ness” of social media.

If you’ve been on social media in the past 48 hours, you may have seen one of several articles making the rounds about Essena O’Neill, the former teen Instagram model (yes, that’s a thing!) who gained popularity for her bikini-clad selfies and fitness tips. Essena made the decision to quit Instagram after growing disillusioned and unhappy with the staged nature of her social media presence. Before deleting her Instagram account, Essena recaptioned all of her…

Continue reading

Parenting in the Digital Age: Q&A with Yalda Uhls

About this Q&A Interview We are proud to secure an exclusive interview with Yalda T. Uhls, MBA, PhD — a child psychologist researcher and leading expert in how media affects children. She is a former Psychology in Action president and our most prolific blogger. Yalda continues to research with UCLA while serving as as director of Creative Community Partnerships at Common Sense Media, a national non-profit. Most importantly, Yalda is a mom of two digital teens (a boy and a girl), which is also the topic of…

Continue reading

Bewonderment: Awe and other stupefying things

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.” -Neil DeGrasse Tyson I distrust wonder…

Continue reading

Outreach Event: Thought Suppression vs. Mindfulness!

Infinity, pizza, spiders, shoes, pizza, iPhones, sleep, pizza, code names, iPads, games, pizza… When we asked elementary students to think about anything these were the responses. However, when we asked elementary students to think about anything but a yellow jeep, the kids told us they thought of the yellow jeep about 100 times in a minute. One child even thought of yellow pizza. Why? Well, as we explained this past Friday at the PIA Outreach Event…

Continue reading

Theory of Mind: the Movie Magic in You

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…

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

A New Direction in Autism Research: Google Cloud

Autism is everywhere and it is great! I’m not referring to the recent CDC estimate that 1 in 68 children in the U. S. are diagnosed with the disorder. Instead, I’m talking about its presence in the news. Most recently, I’ve read that the Vatican is holding an inaugural conference on autism, “The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope” this week. This is part of Pope Francis’ initiative to rethink social issues and the…

Continue reading

New research: From Screen to Green: What happens to kids social skills when they go cold turkey on all media?

The fact is we all stare at screens more than we would like and many of us rely on these tools to communicate with others, even during times when we should be spending quality time with our families and friends. So does all this time staring at screens, which may take time away from looking at faces, change the nature of what we learn about the social world? Our study, at the Children’s Digital Media…

Continue reading

Understanding Bullying: Facts vs. Fiction

At 10:00 P.M. every night, I receive an email update from Google Alerts listing all the news articles from the day containing the word “bully”. Some of these are inspiring stories of victims who have spoken up and made a difference, others are heartbreaking accounts of bully-related suicides. What strikes me about many of these news stories is that they oftentimes perpetuate certain myths of bullying. Although some components of bullying may seem easily explained…

Continue reading

Light it up!

From Empire State Building to the Sydney Opera House, iconic landmarks around the world are shining blue at night in honor of the sixth annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day. “Light It Up Blue” is a global-initiative lead by Autism Speaks and spans throughout April as part of Autism Awareness Month. There is no doubt that the general public is aware of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The topic of autism has been covered in…

Continue reading

There is a green% chance you will read this post.

Recently The Onion posted this tongue-in-cheek article regarding synesthesia. For those of you who may not know, synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which people experience cross-sensory perceptions. Fellow PIA blogger Emma Geller has written a fabulous primer to the world of synesthesia, located here, but the quick-and-dirty version is that synesthetes have associations between senses that are unique to each person, involuntary and automatic, and consistent over time. For example, grapheme-color synesthetes associate colors with…

Continue reading