Laura’s Psychology Blog

One Professor’s Observations of the World of Psychology….   

November 3, 2011

readings in psychology for 3rd November 2011

This Halloween I wore my 'Slytherin" shirt holding two 'ANGRY BIRDS!'

Here is what I am reading today:

Too cute no to share

“New research from the University of Missouri indicates that at 10 months, babies start to understand another person’s thought process, providing new insights on how humans acquire knowledge and how communication develops.”

A pioneering neuroscientist reveals the reasons for loneliness and what to do about it.John T. Cacioppo’s groundbreaking research topples one of the pillars of modern medicine and psychology: the focus on the individual as the unit of inquiry. By employing brain scans, monitoring blood pressure, and analyzing immune function, he demonstrates the overpowering influence of social context—a factor so strong that it can alter DNA replication. He defines an unrecognized syndrome—chronic loneliness—brings it out of the shadow of its cousin depression, and shows how this subjective sense of social isolation uniquely disrupts our perceptions, behavior, and physiology, becoming a trap that not only reinforces isolation but can also lead to early death. He gives the lie to the Hobbesian view of human nature as a “war of all against all,” and he shows how social cooperation is, in fact, humanity’s defining characteristic. Most important, he shows how we can break the trap of isolation for our benefit both as individuals and as a society.”

(BTW, I use this book as part of our readings in my Introductory Psychology Classes)

“What drives addicts to repeatedly choose drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, overeating, gambling or kleptomania, despite the risks involved? Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have pinpointed the exact locations in the brain where calculations are made that can result in addictive and compulsive behavior.”

“”It’s not just a product of very lonely individuals having poor sleep. The relationship between loneliness and restless sleep appears to operate across the range of perceived connectedness,” said lead author Lianne Kurina, PhD, of the Department of Health Studies at the University of Chicago.”

“The use of credit scores as employment screening tools is a hotly debated topic. According to a 2010 poll by the Society for Human Resource Management, 60 percent of surveyed employers conducted credit checks for some or all candidates as part of the hiring process.”

“Nicotine causes changes in gene regulation that enhance the brain’s subsequent response to cocaine. The finding, in mice, provides the first clear evidence for a molecular mechanism supporting the idea of ‘gateway drugs’. “

“In the opening scene of The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg portrays a cold Mark Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend, who is exasperated by the future Facebook founder’s socially oblivious and obsessive personality. Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg is the stereotypical Silicon Valley geek — brilliant with technology, pathologically bereft of social graces. Or, in the parlance of the Valley: ‘on the spectrum’.”

July 28, 2011

readings in psychology for july 28th 2011

Sometimes we find special fun things in a book, like a letter from the author. The Mental Hygiene movement was started by Clifford Whittingham Beers that redirected much of how we handle mental illness today.

Here is what I am reading today:

“A new study published in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation shows just why it is that people tend to turn to fatty foods in order to boost their emotional state and reduce feelings of sadness. Be it chocolate chip cookies, French fries and a chocolate shake or whatever your favorite fatty food may be, researchers say these fatty foods create a biological change in your body to reduce the feelings of sadness.”

“It is a warm summer’s night and the sun has just crept down below the horizon, finally going to sleep. But the world is still ablaze with light, as stars twinkle overhead. And on the ground, a different kind of magic appears. Golden flecks of light flash and float around. Fairies? Maybe some of them, but most are fireflies. Catching them in jars is mean, as they don’t last long. Time to bring the magic of fireflies into your home (without inviting the Firefly Grim Reaper) with an Electronic Firefly in a Jar. “

“We’ve all heard about plastic surgery addicts — like Heidi Montag, who had 10 procedures in one day — and how they have body image problems that may be severe enough to be considered a full-blown mental illness. But how about someone who just wants a simple nose job to shave off an unsightly bump or narrow the bulbous tip?”

March 1, 2011

can’t wait for the movie? read “Forces and Powerful Beliefs”

In this book, a remarkable group of scientists, physicians, philosophers, and theologians share profound insights into our deepest questions, and the invisible forces and powerful beliefs that shape us. They will challenge you–and reward you with a richer understanding of who we are, what we share, and what it means. CLICK on the picture above to read about this wonderful new book.


John Cacioppo has written many wonderful books primarily aimed at the academic community; however, a few are written for everyone. “Loneliness” is a theme central to incoming freshman students at Cal Poly which is why I assign it along with my Introductory Psychology text.

His latest effort is far broader and very thought provoking. Here’s how it is described:

“Who are we? What connects us to each other and to the universe? What makes human beings believe in their marriages, friends, families, societies, God?

Men and women have long sought to answer questions like these through religion. For centuries, they have been joined by scientists bringing increasingly powerful new methods and worldviews. Whether scientist or theologian, physician or philosopher, they share a quest: to understand the invisible forces and powerful beliefs that shape human life.

Today, these explorers have much to learn from each other. In the Chicago Social Brain Network, an interdisciplinary group of scholars have come together to exchange ideas across the boundaries that have divided science, religion, and philosophy for far too long.

This book invites you into their conversation and journey. Join them as they explore human nature and human connections: Discover what can be learned from evolutionary analyses and Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas and fMRIs.

  • The social brain and the human journey
    Is humanity marching towards cooperation and social resilience?
  • Why and how we connect
    Our invisible relationships with each other–and our search for trust and meaning
  • “You and I” as one: mind and body, individual and society
    Human language, neuronal substrates, synchrony, and social coordination
  • Belief, connection, and learning
    How human beings construct their private experiences of God


I hope you enjoy it!



January 23, 2011

readings in psychology for january 23 2011

Random House is publishing Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. It’s the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who endured incredible hardships during World War II. CLICK on the picture above to read more!

Here is what I am reading today:

“With a fringe of white hair poking out from under a University of Southern California baseball cap and blue eyes sharp behind bifocals, 93-year-old Louis Zamperini refuses to concede much to old age. He still works a couple of hours each day in the yard of his Hollywood Hills home, bagging leaves, climbing stairs and, on occasion, trimming trees with a chainsaw.”

Around one in four Montrealers take some kind of anti-depressant, and according to new research, the drugs are passing into the waterways and affecting fish.”

New research by a team of psychologists from Canada, Belgium, and the United States shows there is more than a literal truth to the saying that ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. The findings suggest that new experiences that contradict a first impression become ‘bound’ to the context in which they were made. As a result, the new experiences influence people’s reactions only in that particular context, whereas first impressions still dominate in other contexts.”

“IS IT time to alter the advice to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day to a whopping eight daily doses? That’s a key question raised by an eight-year study of 300,000 Europeans in eight countries, which found that eating eight portions daily reduced the risk of heart disease by 22 per cent, compared with people who ate fewer than three portions (European Heart Journal, DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehq465).”

September 16, 2010

readings in psychology for september 16th 2010

everyone needs a library

It's never been a better time to buy books and start your own private library! CLICK on the picture above to see a little of the books I love!


Here are a few stories that caught my eye today:

“The rate of illegal drug use rose last year to the highest level in nearly a decade, fueled by a sharp increase in marijuana use and a surge in ecstasy and methamphetamine abuse, the government reported Wednesday.”

“Researchers have found an association between physical fitness and the brain in 9- and 10-year-old children: Those who are more fit tend to have a bigger hippocampus and perform better on a test of memory than their less-fit peers.”

“The research, which was published in the journal NeuroImage, uses functional brain imaging to assess how the environment impacts upon our brain functions”

“There are signs, some would say omens, glimmering in certain children’s demeanors that, probably ever since there were children, have caused parents’ brows to crinkle with worry, precipitated forced conversations with nosy mothers-in-laws, strained marriages and ushered untold numbers into the deep covenant of sexual denial”

“The team analysed hormone levels in young men and showed pictures to a group of women. It found a strong link between low levels of the stress hormone cortisol in men and how attractive they were to the opposite sex. The research also discovered no link between high levels of the sex hormone testosterone and sex appeal.”

“There are many more ways to get the news these days, and as a consequence Americans are spending more time with the news than over much of the past decade.  Digital platforms are playing a larger role in news consumption,  and they seem to be more than making up for modest declines in the audience for traditional platforms. As a result, the average time Americans spend with the news on a given day is as high as it was in the mid-1990s, when audiences for traditional news sources were much larger.”

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Quote to Ponder

It is not a lack of love,
but a lack of friendship
that makes unhappy marriages
-------- Nietzsche

Discovering Behavioral Neuroscience 3rd edition

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