Signal Detection: Decision Making in Uncertainty

by Christoph Michels - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

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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Mind the Explanatory Gap

Dualism is dead – it’s been dead for a while now, actually, and is beginning to smell a bit. Somebody ought to take it out. Ask any scientist, philosopher, or academic involved in the study of the mind and you will discover this in no uncertain terms for yourself. The notion that the mind and body are separate is an antiquated one heavily influenced by religious ideas about the separation of the soul and the…

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Love Me Tinder: A Psychological Perspective on Swiping


Several months ago, I wrote a post about how online dating has shifted the way people search for and establish romantic relationships in the modern era. Notably absent from that article was any mention of what has become the fastest growing, and arguably the most popular, dating app of the past several years: Tinder. Why didn’t Tinder make it into my discussion of the potential benefits and drawbacks of online dating? To put it simply,…

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Music Reaches Down to Our DNA

  You’ve likely experienced strong emotions while listening to music. Would it surprise you to know that, at the same time, something as fundamental as the expression of your genes was potentially being altered? Chakravarthi Kanduri and his colleagues1 at the University of Helsinki found evidence for such deep effects. They collected blood samples before and after participants of varying aptitude listened to Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major. These samples were compared…

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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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An Illustrative Guide to Statistical Power, Alpha, Beta, and Critical Values


From my interactions with undergraduate students, it seems that even though these definitions are easy to recite, they are difficult to be integrated into a comprehensive whole. I hope here to show how to conceptually integrate them into a cohesive picture. Everything begins with reality: the “Reality Continuum” I call this green line “Reality Continuum” (rather grand, no?) because you will take your ideas, and do a reality check against it via data analysis (within the traditional statistical framework–it is definitely NOT…

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Psychology and the Everyday

Elephant & Egret

I’d like to start off a bit unusually today. Specifically, I’d like to make a request of you, dear reader. Nothing terribly difficult, but I realize it’s strange to have an article ask you to do something. If you’re on board so far, I’d like to ask you to choose a number between 1 and 10. Multiply that number by two. Add 8 to this number. Divide this resultant number by 2, and then subtract…

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What color is the dress, really?


One of the top social media items today regards the color of the following dress:   Is it blue and black? Or white and gold? The internet is in a disarray and a great debate has ensued. Even Taylor Swift has chimed in (her vote is blue and black). I see white with a gold fringe. Actually both answers can be correct. The phenomenon for why the dress can be both blue with black fringe…

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Mediating and Moderating Variables Explained


What is the difference between a mediator and a moderator? One of my former academic advisors used to always say “be a walking laboratory”. I think it’s a very poetic way of describing a core feature of psychological research—to come up with theories or explanations for various phenomena we observe. Sometimes there isn’t a clear-cut relation between a dependent and independent variable. In those cases, a mediating variable or a moderating variable can provide a…

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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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