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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How can we best predict how long someone will live?

If you had to guess how long a person will live, what would you want to know about them? In other words, what single piece of information best predicts longevity? This was a central question addressed by renowned demographer Noreen Goldman, from Princeton University, in a recent lecture at UCLA – and her answers were fascinating. In a large-scale study in Taiwan of aging adults (ages 54+), Dr. Goldman and her team interviewed and carried…

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Outreach Event: Explore Your Universe!

What was the first science experiment you ever conducted? When did you first think about thinking? Were you in awe the first time you saw an illusion? Well, this past Sunday, Psychology in Action participated in UCLA’s annual Explore Your Universe Event – a scientific expo for the community to come and learn about the brain, behavior, fossils, rockets, chemistry, and more! There were over 5,000 attendees of all ages at the event, and in particular,…

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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…

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The Defiant Optimism of Understanding

‘If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.’ There are literally hundreds of these seemingly benign, brain-teasing quotes I could have picked. Hundreds of pithy-sounding wisdoms taking stabs at poorly unpacked concepts that are given transcendent reverence because they claim to reveal ethereal nature. Quotes on how the sublime, consciousness, justice, mystery of life are actually beyond our comprehension. These topics aren’t directly related but they…

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Obscurantism: Lame explanations to the lame questions

“Indeed, the quantum theory implies that consciousness must exist, and that the content of the mind is the ultimate reality.” Your intuition can fail you on what is genius and what is asinine. Good thinking strives, almost as its prime directive, to clarify. It doesn’t mean a discussion you have with someone else on a topic is going to be brief or simple, but it will strive to clarify by focusing on identifying common robust…

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