Let’s fight (the bad guys): Do superheroes teach kids good or evil?

Everyone loves a good superhero story. Superheroes have been a fixture in American pop culture for decades, but in the past 10-15 years we’ve witnessed a resurgence of superhero mania. Between movies, TV shows, toys, and even national conventions, the superhero fever is real. Given that superhero stories are characterized by themes of fighting against evil, defending others, and promoting justice, many parents encourage their children’s engagement in superhero media, even as early as preschool.…

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The benefits of multilingual education

This November, California voters will vote on Prop 58 (also called Prop 58-LEARN [Language Education, Acquisition, and Readiness Now]; Senate Bill 1174). This bill, introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), will bring back California parents’ option to choose multilingual education for their children. I will be upfront and disclose that—as a researcher of bilingual children’s language and cognitive development—I am fully in support of this bill. But my goal for writing this post is…

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The Role of Mind Wandering in Education

It was a crisp spring morning in my high school English class as I took my seat near the window. At some point during class, I had noticed a flower blooming outside. My mind gently tracked away from the Grapes of Wrath discussion to the Biology lecture I had heard just hours before. Looking at that flower, I started thinking about the connection of water molecules in the plant, and then trailed off to think…

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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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Signal Detection: Decision Making in Uncertainty

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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Understanding Bullying: Facts vs. Fiction

At 10:00 P.M. every night, I receive an email update from Google Alerts listing all the news articles from the day containing the word “bully”. Some of these are inspiring stories of victims who have spoken up and made a difference, others are heartbreaking accounts of bully-related suicides. What strikes me about many of these news stories is that they oftentimes perpetuate certain myths of bullying. Although some components of bullying may seem easily explained…

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Women in science: Yes we can!

The cover of my statistics text book features a diagram depicting the relation among sex, time since obtaining a doctorate degree, number of publications, and citations on salary. I haven’t formally learned about structural equation modeling just yet, but nonetheless found it rather discouraging for women. In hopes of being potentially proven wrong, I read the chapter on causal models. The example that Cohen, Cohen, West & Aiken, 2003 give as a working frame to…

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There is a green% chance you will read this post.

Recently The Onion posted this tongue-in-cheek article regarding synesthesia. For those of you who may not know, synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which people experience cross-sensory perceptions. Fellow PIA blogger Emma Geller has written a fabulous primer to the world of synesthesia, located here, but the quick-and-dirty version is that synesthetes have associations between senses that are unique to each person, involuntary and automatic, and consistent over time. For example, grapheme-color synesthetes associate colors with…

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How to Change the World

If you enter the world of research psychology, there will come a time when you’re talking about your studies at a party and you suddenly realize that no one cares. If you’re lucky, this will happen before you’ve been in academia for 10 years and published 30 papers that 5 of your closest friends have read. Or skimmed. Let’s be honest, they read the title. So how can you take the leap from academia to real…

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Outreach Event: Brain Booths!

Psychology in Action’s Outreach Initiative teamed up with Interaxon, an interdepartmental undergraduate neuroscience educational outreach group at UCLA, to participate in two events with the Los Angeles community. To learn about future Interaxon events, please visit their web calendar. On Saturday, October 19th, 2013, Psychology in Action and Interaxon members hosted a “Brain Booth” at STEAM Nation in Culver City. 1,600 school children and more than 200 educators participated to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math education. Hosted by STAR Education, STEAM…

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Controversy Surrounding California Senate Bill 185

By now the news is focused more on the contested UC Berkeley “Diversity” Bake Sale than the issue itself. The Berkeley College Republicans group has decided they will hold a bake sale that prices items based on race and gender, with items being more expensive for whites than for other minorities. For more information on this story see this article from the LA Times. The sale is a protest of California Senate Bill 185. What…

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Perceptual Learning: Applications to Education

My lab at UCLA has been in the news twice recently, which is very exciting for us! You may have seen this article in the NYTimes last week or this interview on CBS’ The Early Show this morning. Both stories are about perceptual learning and its applications to education. I thought in this post I would expand on those ideas to give you a deeper sense of what perceptual learning is, why we study it,…

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What’s in a font?

How likely are you to remember this post tomorrow? The question above asks you to make a metacognitive judgment—that is, it asks you to evaluate your own thoughts. People use metacognitive judgments every day, whether it is to believe you know a route well enough to leave your GPS at home, decide that you know a certain chapter well enough to stop studying, or have enough confidence in your ideas before presenting them to others.…

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What are the Areas of Study within Psychology?

The field of psychology had its modern origin just over 100 years ago, and yet interest in the field has grown rapidly. Researchers with broad and varied interests have expanded the field, and as a result there are many different subdisciplines. Highlighted here are several key areas of psychology. Biological psychologists apply biological principles to the study of mental processes and behavior. The field examines the basic biological processes that underlie normal and abnormal behavior…

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Society For Research in Child Development – Day 2

Up to the minute reporting.  This was first posted on the Society for Research in Adolescence’ website. So much interesting research to report on.  Today was the day I presented at a symposium I organized that Brad Brown chaired called From Texting to Social Networking Sites to Virtual Worlds: Examining Youth Media Practices.  Many of my copresenters reported interesting work on adolescent media practices that I will discuss below. Since my research focus is on…

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