Me, Myselfie, and I: The Psychological Impact of Social Media Activity


Not too long ago, I relentlessly teased my 21-year-old sister when she revealed her strategies for achieving maximal positive feedback on Facebook photos. There were timing basics—don’t post on Friday or Saturday nights because no one is checking. She also recommended sensitivity to time zones so as to avoid an entire coast being asleep when your picture is posted. There was even attention to Facebook’s sharing algorithms. Rather than posting and tagging other people in…

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Bewonderment: Awe and other stupefying things

I distrust wonder implicitly. It is not meant to survive or have permanence. It is held up as a virtue in modern society. It shouldn’t be. Wonder has a purpose in your brain but it isn’t to be sought for its own sake. To do so speaks to intellectually low-level behavior. Like the mind of a drug addict who has been commandeered by an overriding quest. It isn’t necessarily an ethical statement (although I could…

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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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Highlights of “Building Minds”


  For those who missed “Building Minds: Microchips & Molecules”, here is a taste

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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 What used to be a very unsexy topic in our culture – having a…

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My Graduate School Survival Guide


Disclaimer: Technically, I have not yet ‘survived’ grad school. But, with three out of five years under my belt, I like to think I’ve acquired some useful wisdom. Although there is no one-size-fits-all model for successfully navigating grad school, here I’ll outline some strategies that I find particularly effective for maximizing efficiency and maintaining solid work-life balance. Stay organized (and give your brain a break) Although I pride myself on having strong memory skills, grad…

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The Neuroscience of Altruism


At times, it is tempting to take a rather cynical view of human nature. After the latest revelation of political corruption, exposure of fraud, or swiping of the last space in the crowded supermarket parking lot that you had been waiting 10 minutes for, we may want to conclude that people are fundamentally selfish. A great deal of research has investigated the neural mechanisms that may support anti-social behaviors, such as aggression or the absence…

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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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“Building Minds: Microchips & Molecules” Symposium – May 18, 2015

Building Minds Poster

Psychology in Action is proud to announce the fourth annual Psychology Interdisciplinary Events symposium, Monday, May 18th, 2015, from 4 to 6pm in UCLA’s CNSI Auditorium. The discussion will focus on various attempts to create artificial minds and what they tell us about our own minds. The event is completely FREE and open to the general public! We hope to see you there! Featuring – James K. Gimzewski, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, UCLA – Timothy…

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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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