Tag Archives: Psychology

Five Celebrities Who Authored Psychological Studies

Did you know that some of Hollywood’s popular celebrities majored in psychology? From athletes to actors to musicians, many have backgrounds in the study of the mind. Some of these include producer Jerry Bruckheimer, horror writer Wes Craven, singer Gloria Estefan, and comedian Jon Stewart. Others have even more lofty accomplishments to add to their resume—they have authored psychological studies.

  1. Lisa Kudrow – Lisa is known for her quirky roles as Phoebe Buffay on Friends and as Ursula on Mad About You. Lisa is the daughter of neurologist Lee N. Kudrow, who specialized in the treatment of migraine headaches, which both he and Lisa have suffered from. Lisa wrote an article with her dad, along with two others, regarding the relationship between handedness and headaches. They studied two groups of those suffering headaches and found that they did not differ significantly from each other or from the expected 10% frequency of left-handedness in males and females. Ironically, Lisa went on to star in a TV series called Web Therapy, where she plays an unorthodox psychologist.
  2. Colin Firth – Colin is an actor known for The King’s Speech and Love Actually. Because of his appearance on a BBC radio show, he authored a study that appeared in Current Biology about the neurological roots of political affiliations. Neuroscientists scanned the brains of politicians from the UK’s Conservative and Labour parties, Alan Duncan and Stephen Pound because Firth wanted to determine whether they had differences in their political leanings. Scientist Geraint Rees continued this research and found that liberal and conservative attitudes were associated with thicker parts of the brain. Researchers concluded that political leanings could be predicted with 72% accuracy by evaluating brain structure.
  3. Natalie Portman – Natalie is an actress known for V for Vendetta and Star Wars: Return of the Sith. Natalie majored in psychology while she was at Harvard, under the name Natalie Hershlag. She studied the neuroscience of child development and conducted a study with several prominent psychologists, investigating the link between frontal lobe development and visual knowledge in infants. They used various fMRI scans to determine which brain areas correspond to object permanence. The researchers discovered that frontal lobes kicked in when children develop the knowledge that hidden objects still exist. The study also demonstrated that near-infrared spectroscopy could be used to successfully study the brain development of very young children.
  4. Tim Duncan – Tim is a retired professional basketball player who played with the San Antonio Spurs for almost 20 years. He is a five-time NBA champion and a 15-time NBA All-Star. When he was an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, he and his professor, psychologist Mark Leary, coauthored a chapter in a book called Aversive Interpersonal Behaviors. It evaluated reactions to narcissistic behaviors. Duncan and Leary concluded that one or more of the following produces and maintains egotism: a sincere, but usually mistaken, belief that one is better than others; an attempt to create a positive impression on others; and a concerted effort to defend against deep-seated feelings of inferiority.
  5. John T. Teller – John is one half of the popular comedic magician duo Penn & Teller. They have appeared on numerous television shows, conducted many world tours, and written three New York Times best sellers. In 2008, John authored an article that appeared in Nature Reviews Neuroscience called “Attention and Awareness in Stage Magic: Turning Tricks Into Research Regarding How Magicians Can Contribute to the Study of Human Attention and Awareness.” The study indicated that “by studying magicians and their techniques, neuroscientists can learn powerful methods to manipulate attention and awareness in the laboratory. Such methods could be exploited to directly study the behavioural and neural basis of consciousness itself, for instance, through the use of brain imaging and other neural recording techniques.”
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Happy Birthday,
Sigmund Freud!

On a day in early May in 1856 (traditionally thought to be May 6), Sigismund Freud was born, better known as famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Freud’s theories served as the foundation for psychoanalysis as we know it today. While many of his theories have caused considerable controversy, his work shaped views of sexuality, childhood, memory, therapy, and personality. So significant was his contribution to society that many of his ideas have become common terms and catch phrases in our culture, such as repression, denial, Freudian slip, defense mechanism, and anal retentive.

Though Freud is highly quoted, one of the most famous quotes attributed to him was likely never uttered by him: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” The story goes that this was his response after a student asked him about the hidden meaning behind his frequent cigar smoking. His supposed response was ironic as it demonstrated that even a famous psychoanalyst can admit that not everything has a profound meaning. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and things are exactly as they appear.

As controversial as some of Freud’s ideas have been, here are some things he got right:

  • The Unconscious plays a huge role in our lives: Random feelings, thoughts, and actions often have important, unconscious meanings.
  • Talking lightens the load: The common image of someone lying on a psychologist’s couch discussing their problems directly stems from Freud’s view that many mental problems can be resolved simply by talking about them.
  • The body defends itself: Defense mechanisms are the body’s way of manipulating reality to protect feelings.
  • Change is unwelcome: It is in our nature to resist change, even when that change is good.
  • The problems of the present stem from the past: Difficulties that occur in childhood can carry forward and influence present actions.

Though it has now been many years since Freud’s death in 1939, he is still a household name in the field of psychology. In fact, Time Magazine once featured him as one of their 100 most important people of the 20th century, and his ideas live on as part of the fabric of popular culture.

Share your thoughts about Freud and his theories. PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

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PAR Awards Scholarship for Excellence to Christina Barnett

Each year, PAR is proud to present a scholarship to a psychology major at the University of South Florida (USF). This year, PAR selected Christina Barnett, who will graduate from USF next May.

According to Christina, she chose her major as a freshman because “I wanted something where I could make an impact in peoples’ everyday lives. Being an industrial/organizational psychologist would allow me the opportunity to conduct research to help people find more enjoyment and efficiency in their work and nonwork lives.”

During her undergraduate career, Christina has participated in the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the Psi Chi National Honor Society for Psychology, Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Society, the Honors College Council, and is a member of the Herd of Thunder Marching Band. Christina is a member of the psychology honors program and has received the USF Directors Award. She has worked as a research assistant in various psychology labs on campus and is now conducting her own research through the psychology honors thesis program on the relationship between conflict and cardiovascular indicators. She hopes to pursue a PhD once she completes her undergraduate education.

We are proud to acknowledge Christina’s work and dedication to the field of psychology. Congratulations, Christina!

 

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Now Available—an Updated PAR Assessment Toolkit!

TOOLKITThe PAR Assessment Toolkit provides shortcuts to the tools you use on a daily basis—now streamlined with more functionality, a more modern look and feel, and improved features. As always, the PAR Assessment Toolkit is free.

  • Browse products by construct using the PAR Product Finder™.
  • Link directly to your PARiConnect account to review reports; add, remove, and edit client information; and make client notes.
  • Convert scores for the BRIEF®, BRIEF®-SR, BRIEF®-A, BRIEF®-P, MMSE®-2™, MMSE®, NEO™-PI-3, PAI®, PSI™-4, PSI™-4-SF, RAIT™, TOGRA™, and VAS—for free!
  • Read about the latest psychology news and watch PAR videos.
  • Stay informed about where PAR will exhibit and the various informative Webinars we offer.
  • Link to our Twitter, LinkedIn®, and Facebook pages and to Google Scholar™.

Your favorite features from the prior version are still included. If you already have the PAR Assessment Toolkit on your device, it will update automatically. To download the app, visit Google Play or the App Store.

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There’s More to Bruce Bracken

invisibleBruce A. Bracken, PhD is a respected psychologist and the author of numerous psychological tests, but did you know he is also a fiction writer? His second novel, Invisible, was published earlier this year.

Dr. Bracken’s novel explores the world of those who go through life largely unnoticed—those who feel invisible. Sometimes their invisibility is intentional, for example, among introverts who avoid attention and shun the limelight. More often, however, it is a not a choice, but rather an unwelcome reality for an underclass that includes panhandlers, the homeless, and the disfigured.

Invisible was recently named Book of the Month by the College of William & Mary, where Dr. Bracken is Professor of School Psychology and Counselor Education. Click here to see him discuss the idea behind his book.

Dr. Bracken is also the author of the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test™ (UNIT™), the Clinical Assessment of Behavior™ (CAB™), the Clinical Assessment of Depression™ (CAD™), the Clinical Assessment of Interpersonal Relationships™ (CAIR™), and the Clinical Assessment of Attention Deficit–Adult™ (CAT-A™) and Clinical Assessment of Attention Deficit–Child™ (CAT-C™).

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Psychology News by the Numbers

$4 Million: The fine Kaiser Permanente will face for failing to provide mental health treatment in a timely manner.

1 in 4: The number of stroke survivors who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a new study from Columbia University Medical Center.

70%: The ability of a computer to accurately guess a person’s emotions in a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

85.8%: The percentage of gang members diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder in new research from the Forensic Psychiatry Research Unit at Queen Mary, University of London.

49.4%: The number of adolescents reporting zero mentally unhealthy days in 2010 (a significant decrease from 60.9%, which was reported in 2005-2006).

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Stranger than Fiction

Who says psychology is just common sense? Sometimes the truth—as revealed by psychological research—truly is stranger than fiction.

“When you tell someone that you’re taking, teaching, or practicing psychology, you’re likely to get the reaction that ‘it’s all common sense,’” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in a recent article in Psychology Today.   “However, having taught introductory psychology for over 30 years, I’ve accumulated an armamentarium of facts to teach students that challenge this myth about psychology’s knowledge base.”

Whitbourne’s “armamentarium” includes some surprising facts:

  • Getting paid for doing something you like can make you less creative.
  • Maslow’s study of 3000 college students found that none met the criteria for self-actualization.
  • Placebos can often offer as much relief as actual treatments.
  • Posting a calorie chart in fast food restaurants leads people to choose less healthy foods.
  • Van Gogh probably developed the symptoms that led to his hospitalization from absinthe poisoning.
  • Rorschach’s nickname as a child was “Inkblot.”
Thinking about these kinds of strange-but-true phenomena may be important for more than just countering the “common sense” charge.  Considering the unusual, the unlikely, and the counterintuitive may be a useful way to stretch the imagination and explore unconventional ideas.  In his book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology*, Emory University Professor and PAR author Scott Lilienfeld and his coauthors examine common misconceptions about human behavior. A short postscript at the end of the book, however, includes a fascinating group of unexpected findings from psychological research, including:
  • Patients who have experienced strokes resulting in severe language loss are better at detecting lies than people without brain damage.
  • Handshake style is predictive of certain personality traits. Women with firm handshakes tend to show more openness, intellectual curiosity, and willingness to seek out novel experiences.
  • Dogs really do resemble their owners. In one study, judges matched faces of dog owners to their dogs at significantly better than chance levels—although this was true only with purebred, not mixed-breed dogs.

“Many of these findings may strike us as myths because they are counterintuitive, even bizarre,” says Lilienfeld.  “They remind us to doubt our common sense” (p. 247).

What do you think? What research results have been surprising to you? Have unexpected findings changed the way you think or work?  PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

*Lilienfeld, S., Lynn, S.J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B.L. (2010). 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

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Should You Bank Your Credentials?

Imagine this: Twenty years into your career, you decide to move between states. In order to practice in your new state, you simply need to submit documentation from your internship supervisor, previous jobs, and former managers. However, it’s been decades since you saw these people or worked in some of these places – you may not be able to find them, the organizations may not exist anymore, and there is no paper trail to back up your years of experience. Unfortunately, this is happening to many psychologists, making the process of obtaining a license in a new state a daunting task.

Once most psychologists complete the rigorous process of completing internship, passing boards, and applying for state licensure, many never give a second thought to documenting the path they took along the way. Organization like the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology and the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards have created credential banks in order to serve as a reliable clearinghouse for this professional information.

These banks provide a way for psychologists to safely store EPPP scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, internship and postdoctoral hours, continuing education information, state licensure information, and more in a secure place. Information stored throughout one’s career is then conveniently located in one archive. While credential banks charge a nominal fee for storing information, proponents believe that saving the hassle is worth the cost.

Have you run into problems documenting your work experience? Would you encourage psychologists early in their career to begin to bank their credentials? How have you kept track of your professional information throughout the years?

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Can Animals Help When Psychologists Can’t?

Some of the world’s best ideas happen by accident – as did the creation of animal-assisted therapy (AAT). In the 1950s, psychologist Boris Levinson discovered that his dog, Jingles, was able to engage a child with autism in a way that humans had not been able to. Since that time, the theory and practice of using animals in therapeutic ways has grown and a substantial body of research has documented the health benefits unique to the human-animal bond.

The Delta Society is an organization dedicated to improving people’s lives through positive interactions with animals. The society trains dogs, the most frequently used therapy animals, but also trains cats, birds, reptiles, and more. According to their research, when people hold or stroke an animal, their blood pressure lowers, their ability to be more extroverted and verbal increases, and the individual reports a decreased sense of loneliness and an increase in self-esteem. Another organization, the Equine Assisted Growth & Learning Association (EAGALA), focuses specifically on how horses and humans work together to improve mental health.

The benefits of animal-assisted therapy have been documented through studies with many different groups, from children with pervasive developmental disorders to senior citizens in assisted living situations. Studies have even gone so far as to say that statistics show that individuals exposed to AAT in psychiatric rehabilitation settings exhibit better outcomes than those in a control group that did not have the benefit of AAT, with the AAT group scoring higher on interaction, sociability, and responsiveness to surroundings. EAGALA has found that equine-assisted therapy has been helpful with at-risk youth, military, veteran, and trauma populations.

Do you use animals in your practice? How have they helped your clients?

 

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Therapy Goes Online…

If you’re looking for a good laugh (and sometimes, at the expense of the profession), Showtime’s new comedy, Web Therapy , may be just what you are looking for to blow off some steam after a tough day. Starring Lisa Kudrow as Fiona Wallice, a therapist who invented “web therapy,” the main character, who is sorely lacking in professional skills, makes her living by seeing clients via webcam.

While this is a fictional account of one therapist providing services online (as Fiona’s unique brand of therapy would never pass any kind of ethics codes), the area of telepsychology is a growing one. Although supporters of telepsychology tout a provider’s ability to serve clients all over the world, those who question the practice bring up issues related to licensure issues, privacy concerns, and the general effectiveness of outcomes.

Because the body of research on this practice is still evolving and best practices have not yet emerged, this year’s APA president, Melba J. T. Vasquez, PhD, has made a point to work on creating and adopting guidelines for telepsychology services.

Do you provide services via the web, e-mail, or telephone? How do you feel about the telepsychology movement? What do you think should be included in the guidelines?

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