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 Challenge Accepted GIF from Barney GIFs While we can attribute holding onto beliefs (even if they are false or outdated) to obstinance, the implications are slightly different for…

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

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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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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“Criminally Minded: The Psychology and Law of Culpability” Symposium – May 16, 4pm

Psychology in Action is proud to announce the third annual Psychology Interdisciplinary Events symposium, Criminally Minded: The Psychology and Law of Culpability, to be held Friday, May 16th, 2014, from 4 to 6pm in UCLA’s CNSI Auditorium.  The discussion will focus on legal and psychological issues regarding mens rea.  The event is completely FREE and open to the general public!  We hope to see you there!

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Interview Tips for Students Applying to PhD Programs in Psychology

Preparing for interviews for a PhD program in psychology can be very stressful as well as very exciting. This is likely the first time that you will be interacting face to face with multiple professors and graduate students from the program you are applying for, and it is important to make a good impression. It can be difficult to find the ideal balance between self-praise and humility; you want to sell yourself as a dedicated…

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Why are attitudes so hard to change?

I once attended a debate between a professor of philosophy and a spokesman for a religious organization, on whether abortion ought to be made illegal. Perhaps a hundred men and women had gathered in the university lecture hall, some college-aged, some in middle age and older. Before beginning his arguments, the professor asked those in attendance a question: who expected to change their opinion? Not a single person raised their hand. Why are attitudes apparently…

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Biased About Biases: The Origins and Growth of Human Conflict

————————— “We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”                                                                – George Orwell, 1946  —————————…

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Scientific Support for Same-Sex Parents

An article was published today in the Huffington Post, titled “Romney: ‘Some Gays Are Actually Having Children. It’s Not Right on Paper. It’s Not Right in Fact.’” The article reviews a Boston Globe piece from yesterday in which some of Romney’s actions as governor of Massachusetts indicate his antipathy towards gay marriage. In particular, the article criticizes the fact that Romney refused to allow the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics to revise birth…

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Bayes’ Rule and Bomb Threats

Earlier today, I read an article published on Washington’s Blog titled “Fear of Terror Makes People Stupid.”  The central claim of the post was that the government purposefully induces fear of a terrorist attack in order to get Americans to relinquish more of their civil liberties (see: Patriot Act), but this fear is silly (so the post claims) because we are so much more likely to die from things like heart disease, car accidents, and…

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An argument for the end of political ads?

With election season coming up, the presidential candidates have invested heavily—recruiting top ad executives, media researchers, producers, etc.—in creating the perfect ads to highlight their own strengths and their opponents’ shortcomings. But how much does this effort really sway voters?

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The Politics of Eating and Exercising: Are We Getting It Right?

Eat healthier. Exercise. Our culture is currently full of messages telling us to change our habits, to turn us into a leaner, healthier society. While these messages are easier said than done, they’re perfectly warranted: The Centers for Disease Control reports that childhood obesity has tripled since the 1970s. So what can we do to fight childhood obesity? According to Kristen Harrison and other researchers in the Division of Nutrition Sciences at the University of…

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A Nation Divided: Partisanship and Morality

It seems that the divide between conservatives and liberals grows sharper every day, especially during election season.  But what is the source of this bitter partisanship? Research by Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham may begin to provide an answer.  Their research suggests that people of different political affiliations are not merely divided over the specific values they hold, but are divided on the very foundations of their values.  Using evolutionary theory and anthropological evidence as…

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Swing state neurons?

In a tight election, attention immediately turns to swing voters. Poll analysts swarm them with a barrage of questions to predict which candidate may garner more of their crucial votes. In anticipation of the 2008 election, analysts went one step further and looked not only at swing voters’ survey responses but also their neural responses.

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Quick Tips for Becoming Poll-Literate

If you’re a political junkie like me, or just a casual election-follower, you’ve probably read a few polls that made your jaw drop.  Here are some things a skeptical poll consumer should look for before letting their jaw fully drop.   Selection Bias One of the first questions you should ask yourself when you read a poll is “What kinds of people did they ask?”  What we want in a poll is to get an…

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Troy Davis: Victim of Eyewitness Testimony

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed today, charged with murdering a Savannah police officer in 1989. Davis’ execution has been scheduled 4 times, and appealed again and again. The most recent appeal to halt the lethal injection was rejected yesterday and it seems Davis’ attorneys are out of options. The death penalty is a controversial issue in and of itself, but some of you may wonder why people are up in arms over the…

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How effective are political campaign advertisements?

While the media buzz surrounding the 2012 Presidential Election is just starting up, now is as good a time as any to think about how effective political advertisements really are at influencing our candidate choices.  Every election season, political candidates shell out thousands and even millions of dollars on televised campaign advertisements.  But how persuasive are these advertisements really?  Previous scientific research in this area has only been able to look at how well individual’s…

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