In 2009, Congress passed a law that mandates the introduction of new, graphic warning labels on cigarette packs. By 2012, tobacco companies must incorporate into their packaging one of nine FDA-approved graphics—images that show the potential consequences of smoking, like diseased lungs and rotting teeth—along with a national quit-smoking hotline number. The FDA believes the warnings will prevent children from taking up the habit and help adults quit (Department of Health and Human Services).

Findings generally show that graphic warning labels are effective at increasing awareness of the health risks posed by smoking. In April, the authors of a study published in Health Education Research interviewed subjects both before and after the implementation of Taiwan’s new graphic cigarette warning label and smoke-free law. They found that “the prevalence of thinking about the health hazards of smoking among smokers increased from 50.6% pre-law to 79.6% post-law, [and] the prevalence rates of smokers who reported thinking of quitting rose from 30.2% pre-law to 51.7% post-law.”

A 2009 study looked at Australia’s graphic labels, which have been in use since 2006 and have relatively strict specifications (they must compose 30% of the front and 90% of the back of each pack). The warnings “increased reactions that are prospectively predictive of cessation activity. Warning size increases warning effectiveness and graphic warnings may be superior to text-based warnings.” Despite some wear-out of the message over time, “stronger warnings tend to sustain their effects for longer.” Another Australia-focused study looked at the media coverage surrounding the introduction of the new labels and found that, of 67 news stories, “85% were positive or neutral about the new warnings and 15% were negative” and that “smokers’ initial reactions [to the labels] were in line with tobacco control objectives.”

What do you think? Are these methods effective motivators in the long run? If so, will that translate into an increase in actual quitters? Are there drawbacks to this type of labeling? Let’s hear what you have to say.
One in 10 American adults experienced depression in 2010, making it one of the most common complaints of those seeking therapy services. In her October 11 webinar, "An Innovative Approach to Treating Depression," PAR author Dr. Lisa Firestone will present a method for helping treat depression that encourages clients to identify and combat their self-destructive thoughts.

According to Dr. Firestone, when someone is depressed, the hopelessness they feel clouds the lens through which they see the world; this lens is most harsh when it is turned on themselves. To begin challenging the roots of depression, therapists must help clients identify their self-destructive thoughts (“Critical Inner Voices”) and learn to take action in their own self-interest. In this webinar, Dr. Firestone will introduce a cognitive/affective/behavioral modality for bringing these thoughts to the surface, separating from them, and taking action against them. Clinicians will learn how to help clients challenge their Voices, show more self-compassion, and strengthen their sense of self.

To register for this webinar, click here. The webinar will be held October 11, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. EST, is worth 1.5 CE units, and costs $25.
When an important task requires your attention, do you get right to it or do you put it off? When you’re faced with a paper to write, a report to review, or a memo that needs a detailed response, does the laundry—or the latest YouTube video—suddenly emerge as a more interesting alternative? Procrastination is an occasional challenge for many of us. But chronic procrastination can be a real problem for students, significantly affecting their academic success.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology*, authors Laura Rabin, Joshua Fogel, and Katherine Nutter-Upham look at procrastination and its connection to the self-regulatory processes that make up executive function.

Dr. Rabin and her colleagues examined nine clinical subscales of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning–Adult Version (BRIEF-A) in a sample of more than 200 college students. These subscales include measures of impulsivity, self-monitoring, planning and organizing, ability to “shift” behavior or mindset when necessary, initiative, task monitoring, emotional control, working memory, and organization of materials. The authors found that all nine of the clinical subscales measured by the BRIEF-A showed a significant correlation with higher academic procrastination.

What can be done to help students whose procrastination is hindering their success? In his Psychology Today blog “Don’t Delay: Understanding Procrastination” (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay), Timothy A. Pychyl describes implications of the Rabin, Fogel, and Nutter-Upham study, summarizing some key strategies for students who struggle with procrastination. They include:

  • setting proximal sub-goals along with reasonable expectations about the amount of effort required to complete a given task;

  • using contracts for periodic work completion;

  • requiring weekly or repeated quizzes until topic mastery has been achieved;

  • using short assignments that build on one another with regular deadlines and feedback;

  • focusing on the problem of “giving in to feeling good” by developing an awareness of the problem and its subversive effects on achievement;

  • developing volitional skills, such as managing intrusive negative emotions and controlling impulses;

  • establishing fixed daily routines;

  • blocking access to short-term temptations and distractions such as social media; and

  • using peer monitoring and self-appraisal methods to improve academic conscientiousness.


Pychyl’s blog includes a podcast interview with Laura Rabin in which she describes how a neuropsychological perspective can inform our understanding of the role of executive function in procrastination. To listen to Dr. Rabin’s interview now, click on http://iprocrastinate.libsyn.com/a-neuropsychological-perspective-on-procrastination.

To learn more about how the BRIEF measures executive function, visit the PAR Web site (www.parinc.com) and navigate to the BRIEF product page.

*Rabin, L. A., Fogel, J., & Nutter-Upham, K. E. (2011). Academic procrastination in college students: The role of self-reported executive function. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 33, 344-357.
PAR is proud to support United Way! Last week, PAR employees took part in our annual fundraising campaign. For the 19th consecutive year, 100% of PAR staff participated in our annual United Way drive. We exceeded our fundraising goal, resulting in $105,993 being donated to help United Way continue its mission of helping others in our community.


For more information on how you can help United Way in your community, visit www.liveunited.org.

Yes or no, this or that… sometimes, having a lot of options isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While you may think that you are just making decisions based on the options in front of you, according to new research, your decision-making abilities may fluctuate throughout the day. The well-thought-out choice you thought you were making? Well, it may just be a reflection of your mental state.

According to research from social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister (link to http://www.psy.fsu.edu/faculty/baumeister.dp.html),  there is a finite amount of energy allotted for self-control, meaning that the more decisions you make, the quicker you deplete this store. Decision-making saps willpower, making it easier and easier to give up on tasks as you go along. Think about the last time you had to make many decisions fairly quickly – after some time, most people begin to feel exhausted even though they aren’t doing much physical work.

According to a recent study by Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso, even people whose jobs are based on their decision-making abilities can fall victim to decision-making exhaustion. This group of researchers studied judicial decisions and found that legal reasoning could not sufficiently explain why judges choose what they do. By breaking a judge’s day into three decision-making sessions, punctuated by a break for food, the researchers found that the likelihood that a prisoner was granted parole was highly correlated to when they were seen by the judge. Researchers found that the percentage of favorable rulings drops from about 65 percent to nearly zero during each segment of a judge’s day. Essentially, those up for parole were most likely to be granted parole the earlier the individual was seen during each decision-making session; those who were scheduled just before a break had almost no statistical possibility of parole. Once the judge took a break, the possibility of a favorable judgment returned to about 65 percent.

It became clear that those suffering from decision-making exhaustion behave in one of two ways – they either behave recklessly (think about how many quarterbacks throw a wild pass late in the game) or they refuse to make any decisions at all, refusing to do anything risky (like releasing a prisoner on parole).

Have you ever made decisions that were affected by your mental fatigue? Knowing how your ability to make decisions wanes throughout the day, will you make any changes to your schedule?
Broader Definition of the Disease Could Help Doctors with Early Diagnosis and Intervention

In April of this year, the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Association announced significant changes in the clinical diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease dementia. These revisions—the first in 27 years—are intended to help diagnose patients in the very early stages of the disease, allowing doctors to prescribe medication when it is most effective; that is, before a patient’s memory becomes compromised.

The new guidelines recognize two early stages of the disease: preclinical Alzheimer's, in which biochemical and physiological changes caused by the disease have begun; and mild cognitive impairment, a stage marked by memory problems severe enough to be noticed and measured, but not severe enough to compromise a person’s independence. The new guidelines also reflect the increased knowledge scientists have about Alzheimer’s, including a better understanding of the biological changes that occur and the development of new tools that allow early diagnosis.

William H. Thies, chief scientific and medical officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, explains, “If we start 10 years earlier and could push off the appearance of dementia by, say, five years … that could cut the number of demented people in the U.S. by half” (Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2011).

For more information about the updated guidelines, as well as a list of journal articles and answers to frequently asked questions for clinicians, visit the National Institute on Aging Web site at http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Resources/diagnosticguidelines.htm.
PAR author Thomas M. Brunner, PhD, will be presenting at the 15th Annual Conference on Critical Issues Facing Children & Adolescents. The conference is being held October 3-4, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dr. Brunner will be presenting the keynote address, titled “Advanced Assessment of the Pulse of Youth Anger: A Core Symptom and Vital Sign of Our Times” and a workshop titled “Advanced Anger Assessment and Treatment Using the STAXI-2 C/A to Identify Anger Profiles.”

Dr. Brunner is the coauthor of the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory–2™ Child and Adolescent (STAXI-2™ C/A).

For more information about the conference, click here.
What is a hero? Is heroism something that can be taught?

Philip Zimbardo thinks so. The renowned Stanford University psychologist and former APA president is probably best known as the author of the controversial 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, a landmark study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or a prison guard (www.prisonexp.org). In Zimbardo’s experiment, students were randomly assigned to roles in a mock prison set up in the basement of a building on the Stanford campus. Students assigned the role of “officer” quickly became authoritarian, abusive, and sadistic; the “prisoners” became depressed and passive, accepting the abuse and even turning on fellow “inmates” who tried to fight back.

In his 2007 book The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil, Zimbardo revisits the Stanford study, admitting that in his capacity as “prison superintendent,” he temporarily lost sight of his own role as psychologist and permitted the abuse to continue. When he was made aware of his complicity and recognized that he’d created a dangerous situation for the students, he abruptly stopped the experiment, only six days into the two-week study he had planned.

Throughout his career, Zimbardo has continued to grapple with the question of what happens when good people find themselves in circumstances that encourage bad behavior. More than 30 years after the Stanford study, he testified as an expert witness in the 2004 court martial of a U.S. Army officer implicated in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. He argued that given a “perfect storm” of social pressures, personalities can be distorted, and decent, ordinary people can be convinced to do extraordinarily bad things.

These days, Zimbardo is looking beyond the human capacity for evil, toward the human capacity for heroism: how people can tap into their own strength to face a crisis and make the unpopular, difficult, or even dangerous decision to do the right thing. “My work on heroism follows 35 years of research in which I studied the psychology of evil, including my work on the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment,” he said in a January 18 interview published by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “The two lines of research aren’t as different as they might seem; they’re actually two sides of the same coin” (www.greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_makes_a_hero).

The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) is a nonprofit organization founded by Zimbardo to teach people how to act with moral courage when the situation demands it. Its mission is “to encourage and empower individuals to take heroic action during crucial moments in their lives. We prepare them to act with integrity, compassion, and moral courage, heightened by an understanding of the power of situational forces” (www.heroicimagination.org).

The Heroic Imagination Project has developed programs for middle and high school students as well as corporate managers and employees. These programs, which are based on the findings of recent research in social psychology, include lessons and exercises that help participants learn how to act with integrity and resist behaviors like bullying, negative conformity, and passive indifference.

During the 2010–2011 school year, the HIP program was introduced in three San Francisco Bay Area schools. At the ARISE High School in Oakland, HIP formed a club in which ten students met once a week to analyze famous experiments in social psychology, complete a curriculum on resisting negative social influences, and conduct their own experiments; the HIP program also spent a semester helping to teach a course on the rise of Nazi Germany.

Through their programs, HIP hopes to engender what they call heroic imagination; that is, “a mindset—a set of attitudes which begins with the desire to help others, and grows into the willingness to act on behalf of others, or in defense of integrity or a moral cause, at some risk and without expectation of gain.”

What do you think? Can programs like Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project encourage independent, heroic thinking? Can the culture of negative conformism that is so prevalent in schools be reversed? Can psychology contribute to educating the heroes of tomorrow? Let’s start the conversation—PAR wants to hear from you!


The Self-Directed Search® has been used by more than 30 million people worldwide and has been translated into more than 25 languages. There are a number of career assessments on the market, yet the SDS continues to be extremely successful. What sets it apart? Recently, PAR had the opportunity to catch up with two SDS experts, Robert Reardon, PhD, and Janet Lenz, PhD, both from the Career Center at Florida State University and widely published in the career counseling arena. Reardon and Lenz have worked closely with SDS author John Holland as collaborators and authors of many SDS-related publications, including The Self-Directed Search and Related Holland Materials: A Practitioner’s Guide (PAR, 1998).

The SDS is based on Holland’s career theory, which argues that vocational choice is an expression of personality, and that by identifying certain personality characteristics and preferences, better career choices can be made. “People often feel overwhelmed about how to relate their self-knowledge to career options,” says Reardon. “The SDS gives them a way to intuitively and logically make that connection.” One of Holland’s most important contributions was his identification of the personality and environmental characteristics that have become known collectively as RIASEC: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. These factors form the basis of the SDS.

Reardon and Lenz have worked with the SDS for nearly 40 years, and they have seen it develop in response to career counseling research and new technology. “Our counseling service started using the SDS in 1973 because it included a self-help feature that we knew would be useful to our clients,” they explain. “Holland took note of what we were doing and was supportive along the way.”

Reardon and Lenz have been deeply involved in revisions of the SDS, and they have been key players in updates and revisions to many of the individual elements in the SDS product family, such as the interpretive report generated by the SDS software. But what keeps these products current and relevant? “The SDS is informed by both practice and research,” they explain, “and we continue to draw upon both to keep SDS materials current and relevant. For example, the revised Occupations Finder published in 2010 is very important because it now connects the SDS to the O*NET system of occupational information, which is online and updated constantly. Unlike many other assessments, the SDS embraces users—after all, ‘self-directed’ is in the title—and this user perspective helps to keep the SDS relevant.”

Today, using the on-screen administration, clients can complete the SDS electronically on a laptop computer, a tablet, or even an iPhone® or Android device. For college students and other clients living in this era of instant information, the SDS has kept pace by providing a fast, accessible, portable, and reasonably priced tool that can help them gain real insight into making good choices about career.

In the category of reliable, valid, theory-based instruments, the SDS is one of the most user-friendly, and it is very easy for practitioners to use with clients. “Some have described the SDS as simple,” say Reardon and Lenz, “but when fully interpreted and connected to Holland’s theoretical constructs (for example, congruence, differentiation, coherence, consistency, vocational identity), it provides a rich source of information for both clients and practitioners to discuss and incorporate into a plan for next steps. The information not only addresses self and option knowledge, but it provides diagnostic data about the client’s ability to move effectively through the career decision-making and problem solving process.”

As the SDS has evolved, it has always been research-based; through the years, more than 1,600 published studies have examined, evaluated, and supported Holland’s career theory. Reardon and Lenz have themselves collaborated in more than 35 publications related to the SDS and RIASEC theory. “Over time, our interest in the SDS has deepened as we learned more about the instrument, not only from our own research, but from hundreds of studies and articles that were published as more practitioners adopted the SDS and more researchers began to consider it.”

“One of the things we’ve seen from doing workshops with counselors all over the country is how many different settings and with how many different client populations the SDS has been used successfully,” say Reardon and Lenz. “It’s been rewarding to see how it has helped so many people become more effective career problem solvers.”
To learn more about the Self-Directed Search and other materials related to career intervention services and resources, visit the SDS product page on PAR’s Web site; to take the SDS online right now, click on http://www.self-directed-search.com/.
A new study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health suggests that Facebook may be a potential tool in finding individuals who are suffering from depression. However, study authors say that it should not be used as a substitute for clinical screening.

Researchers analyzed the Facebook profiles of 200 college sophomores and juniors. Twenty-five percent of the students exhibited one or more symptoms of depression through their online activities, whether those were references to decreased interest or pleasure in activities, a change in appetite, sleep problems, loss of energy, or feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Only 2.5 percent of the profiles displayed enough information to warrant screening for depression.

One of the most interesting findings? Students who complained of depression symptoms often had others in their social networks reach out to help them.