A look behind a changing mind

Successfully changing someone’s mind is incredibly challenging, especially because in some cases providing evidence that contradicts someone’s firmly-held beliefs may actually strengthen their confidence in their original stance. Picture yourself, for instance, convincing someone who is pro-life to be pro-choice, or vice versa. Challenging, but not impossible. Challenge Accepted GIF from Barney GIFs While we can attribute holding onto beliefs (even if they are false or outdated) to obstinance, the implications are slightly different for…

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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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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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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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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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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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Social Relationships and Your Health

Whatever you may think of the Hallmark cards and heart-shaped chocolate clichés, Valentine’s Day and the accompanying “love is all you need” glow of February are great reminders that the relationships in our lives are worth being celebrated. Aside from just making us feel good, our relationships may also be helping to keep us healthy. For example, people who are more socially isolated or lonely are more likely to develop diseases like cardiovascular disease, visit…

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What’s the Latest from the World of Social and Health Psychology? Reporting from the Social Personality and Health Network Conference

What do Facebook, biological assays, virtual reality, recording devices, and civic engagement programs have in common? They’re all being used to study personality and social psychological processes related to health, as reported by some of the leading researchers in the field at last week’s Social Personality and Health Network annual conference. Here are just a few examples of the exciting areas of research happening at the intersection of social and health psychology: Did you know we…

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5 Reasons to Add Sleeping More to Your Holiday Wish List

“I planned out our whole day!” Will Ferrell’s character prefaces his list of holiday activities in Elf. Even if your holiday season to-do list isn’t quite as festive as Buddy the Elf’s, you likely know the feeling of having a lot to do around this time of year. One item that rarely makes the to-do list is getting enough sleep. As your holiday season gets busier and busier, here are a few reminders for why…

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Why It’s Important to Continue Being Grateful Even After Thanksgiving

Aside from eating copious amounts of turkey and pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving also represents a time of reflection and gratitude for many of us. Even though November and the Thanksgiving season are winding down, we may want to consider extending our gratitude into December and beyond. The idea of being grateful for what we have not only sounds like a good sanity check in the midst of a crazy holiday season, but research has also shown…

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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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Inflammation: What Is This Health Buzzword and Why Should You Care About It?

On a classic episode of The Office, Steve Carrell’s character Michael Scott burns his foot on a George Foreman grill. Later in the episode, a doctor says to him: “For a burn, you really just need to look at the outside of the foot…does the skin look red and swollen?” Although one of the other characters responds to this question with a common punch line on the show, what the doctor was really probing for…

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Benefitting Ourselves While Benefitting Others: The Importance of Generativity

  “How to Talk About Dying” was the name of one of the “Most Emailed” articles on The New York Times website in early July. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, written by bestselling author and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Dr. Atul Gawande, has an average of 5 out of 5 stars with nearly 3,000 reviews on Amazon.com. What used to be a very unsexy topic in our culture – having a…

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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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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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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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