Laura’s Psychology Blog

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

September 16, 2010

readings in psychology for september 16th 2010

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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.”

August 25, 2010

Interview on SvD about Facebook and Loneliness

Filed under: Conventions,General Psychology,Internet,loneliness,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 9:20 am

I had the pleasure earlier this summer of speaking with Anna Asker, who writes for the Swedish newspaper SvD, about our research on Facebook and Loneliness. In a nutshell, our data showed that at least with university students and the “nonymous” environment of Facebook, connectivity offline predicted connectivity online. The notion of the loner compensating for offline isolation by having millions of online friends just doesn’t apply in this situation. We presented our data at the 2009 APS annual convention, and after tweaking our instruments a bit more this past year, our paper is currently under review.

I thought Anna did a terrific job of capturing the main points of our study, and although Bing Translator has some rough spots, you can get the general idea of the article here. If you are fluent in Swedish, of course, I recommend the original site.

Anna warned me that the article had generated quite a bit of response from Swedish psychology students, and told me to expect to hear from them. That would be a pleasure!

June 17, 2010

Social Isolation and the Internet

Filed under: General Psychology,Internet,loneliness,Psychology,Social Media,Technology — Laura Freberg @ 8:59 am

We have been very fortunate in the past few years to have experienced few glitches in our technology at home. Yes, there was the occasional hard drive crash, but we have learned to back up everything with super redundancy. So the two-day Internet outage we just experienced was definitely out of the norm.

This may just be the world's most ancient modem...

When we first went down, we of course called Charter tech support, and again, with our learning from past experience, we moved through the automated menu (yes, I know how to restart the modem) in a few seconds to get to a real person. Unfortunately for us, our city was experiencing an outage, so we just sat back to wait. When our connectivity was still down 24 hours later, however, we began to suspect something else was afoot. This was confirmed when a quick survey of the neighborhood found that everybody else was up and running. Mr. F hunted back through our Charter bills (I confess to being an avid filer) until he found a direct phone line for Internet service. Interestingly enough, this number was no longer printed on the more current bills. The nice lady on the phone said she’d send out a tech person that day.

We never did find out exactly what happened to our service, which came on about an hour before the tech arrived. We thought we should let him look around anyway, so did not cancel the visit. Charter replaced our modem, which was an antique Surfboard, and all seems well.

What was interesting to me about this situation was how funny it felt to be without connectivity. I was wondering if my ACC was extra active due to my sense of isolation.

Yes, we do have phones and our iPad, but we live in an odd shadow where neither Sprint nor AT&T coverage is adequate to do much. We have to walk down our driveway to use our cellphones, so we are among the very few to retain a land line (which, I might add, was AWFUL during this last primary election–we are NOT representative of the American public in any way, shape, or form, so perhaps the pollsters will think of some new techniques). AT&T gives us one to two bars at home, which allowed us to check our email on the iPad, but not much else.  A trip to the Nautical Bean allowed us an opportunity to catch up with a bit more speed.

Karla, of course, was very unhappy with the situation, as she spends quite a bit of time on the Internet. She said she likes to look up definitions of words in particular. I did point out that we owned many hardcopy dictionaries, but she gave me one of those generational looks of disdain as if I’d suggested we go back to stone tools and arrowheads. 

So it’s back to work as usual this morning. I have to confess that I did accomplish quite of bit of writing in the absence of Internet intrusions, and I might just try turning off my email, etc. for certain periods of the day. I was just reading a fascinating article by Karon MacLean about the “cultural pasttime of interruption handling,” and her words seemed quite appropriate for the day.

April 30, 2010

The Family that iPads Together….

Filed under: Biological Psychology,Internet,Technology — Laura Freberg @ 8:56 pm

Our family loves technology. We even had a Jaguar gaming system, and not too many people even know what that is. So of course we needed iPads…Kristin and Karen received theirs today, too, and we’re getting some good advice from them on apps.

The first thing I downloaded was the Genes to Cognition 3D Brain, and it was wonderful! Then of course, we had to have weather.com for iPad, even though we live in California and have no weather.

A New Toy!

I admit to some frustration in trying to get the iPad to work with my wireless router. I suspect that my password settings will need adjusting, but the nice people at NETGEAR are on the case. They responded to my inquiry immediately, which surprised me. It connected nicely to the wireless at our local coffee shop, but that’s not a secure network.

I’m sure we’ll figure out more things to do with the iPad in the next few days, but right now, it’s just fun to mess around with it.

February 10, 2010

An Interview with “Calgary Today”

Filed under: General Psychology,Internet,Psychology,Technology — Laura Freberg @ 9:01 pm

Today provided a fun opportunity to discuss our student group’s loneliness and Facebook research with an audience far from home–via Mike Blanchard’s “Calgary Today” show on AM 770 CHQR. Their news producer had asked me to respond to an article in the Atlantic that suggested that the ubiquitous connectedness technology provides today might actually be making us more lonely, rather than less.

I'm the Underlined Part of Mike Blanchard's Show

In my 15 minutes on the air, I tried to explain that the Atlantic had some things correct and others not. Our research confirms the idea that loneliness is highly negatively correlated with the number of self-reported confidants a person has. The fewer the confidants, the higher the person’s score on the UCLA Loneliness Scale (Russell, 1996). We use the full 20 question version, but you can see a short version here. In our regression analysis, the other factor that really pops in predicting loneliness is a person’s total face-to-face time spent with friends and family. Time spent on the cell phone or on Facebook was not significantly correlated with loneliness at all.

Our differences of opinion with the Atlantic occur in the contribution of social media and technology to loneliness. True, during the same decades that people’s reported number of confidants dropped like a stone, there was a steady increase in the use of technology. But our research does not show that people who report high amounts of face-to-face contact are less likely to spend a lot of time on their cell phones and Facebook. This is not an either-or situation. We are dealing with college students of course, and ALL of them seem to spend a lot of time on cell phones and Facebook.

If anything, I suspect that having cellphone conversations and Facebook might actually soften some feelings of loneliness. We just don’t have the data to evaluate this idea yet. One of my daughters just returned from a year’s deployment in Iraq, and felt that Facebook made it much easier for her to feel connected to her friends and family.

One of the callers to the show did make a valid point–some people reduce the quality of their face-to-face time with others by constantly taking cell phone calls in the middle of conversations, etc. But this, to  me, is simply bad manners.

I did enjoy the way Mike moved the conversation along–it was easy, and hopefully entertaining. What really astonished me, as a Californian who bundles up for any temperature under 60 degrees, was the weather report for Calgary that was on while I was on hold before the show. Zero degrees? I just don’t do zero degrees!

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Quote to Ponder

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

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