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.…

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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…

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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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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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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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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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Outreach Event: Brain Awareness Week 2016

Sleep! Taste! Heart rate! Emotions! Memory! These were only a few of the winning performances by middle school students during Brain Charades, a Psychology in Action (PIA) led event during Brain Awareness Week. The PIA outreach team was on the frontlines, as middle school students battled it out in head-to-head competition – acting out various functions of the brain for their teammates to guess. Students played for the championship through several bonus rounds where they…

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Outreach Event: Explore Your Universe 2015!

Imagine your watching your favorite sport, and a gorilla walks right through the game. Think you would notice it? Think again. This exemplar of our selective attention was just one of the many beliefs flipped on its head by members of the Psychology in Action (PIA) outreach team at last Sunday’s 7th annual UCLA Explore Your Universe (EYU) event. As one of the largest science outreach events in all of southern California, the event sought…

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5 Reasons You Should Make Time to Read Fiction (Especially Harry Potter)

In true Hermione Granger bookworm fashion, I grew up reading as many books as I could get my hands on. I didn’t consider a summer complete unless I had checked off a long list of “to read” books. But, as schedules got busier and lazy summer days became nonexistent, I watched reading for pleasure take a backseat in my life. If you’ve also found this to be the case, here are some reasons to reconsider…

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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…

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The Power of Social Belonging

In his final novel, Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about…You are not alone.’” Vonnegut’s thoughts nicely tap into a psychological theory called “the need to belong,” which proposes that people’s sense of social belonging, or their sense that they have good relationships with others, is a fundamental human need. That is, having solid…

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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…

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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…

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Signal Detection: Decision Making in Uncertainty

We all experience uncertainty: How did I do on that test? What do they think of me? Where did I leave my keys? Is my phone ringing? In these and other uncertain situations,

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Outreach Event: Brain Awareness Week 2015!

Imagine your typical morning. You crave some sugary cereal to get you fueled for the day ahead. You dash out the door to realize you forgot your keys. And – especially for you teenagers – as you’re heading out to school, you realize that you’d rather go on a spontaneous adventure today… Is it possible that all these behaviors are connected? Psychology in Action outreach coordinators Jenna Cummings and Nicco Reggente, and PIA member Micah…

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