Laura’s Psychology Blog

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

August 31, 2008

Update on Loneliness.

Filed under: Book Reviews,General Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 10:02 am

John Cacioppo gave an excellent radio interview about Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection on the Diane Rehm show on American University Radio. You can listen here and subscribe to a transcript here. The show is also available as an iTunes podcast.

It was obvious from the call-ins to the show that people are so very hungry for more information on loneliness.  John–great job fielding some very difficult questions!

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

If you haven’t already done so, check out the Science of Loneliness group on Facebook.

I almost felt guilty listening to John answer the callers while I was basking in the glow of all the fuss friends and family were making over my birthday. I feel truly blessed. But it is a vibrant reminder of how important these social connections are to all of us.

And one of the great things about John’s and Bill’s book is that they give you practical steps to improve your social relationships. I hope John’s callers follow through!

August 29, 2008

It’s College Football Time Again!

Filed under: Football,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 6:15 pm

Wow, this season really snuck up on me. I didn’t have a glamorous summer, mostly writing at home, so it’s kind of a shock to wake up and see that Fall is here. With tomorrow being my birthday, and family and friends stopping by for lunch, I probably won’t get a chance to sit and watch the USC–Virginia game until reruns. Should be a good one! An even better one is on two weeks later–USC versus Ohio State!

Looks like the Trojans are ready for another season.

Looks like the Trojans are ready for another season.

August 28, 2008

The Psychology of Hackers

Filed under: Internet,Psychology,Technology — Laura Freberg @ 9:12 pm

I’m feeling picked on this summer. First, my credit card was hijacked, and I spent several hours with the very kind people at the bank straightening out my account, going through statements, saying these are mine, those are not, and so on. Next, my blog was hacked, which resulted in my being blacklisted by Google. More hours spent upgrading my WordPress and testing my site. Today, while innocently looking at my Facebook StarGate page, I had a flurry of activity that ended up, in spite of up-to-date antivirus software, putting a highly malicious Trojan on my computer. Two more hours and $100 later, the nice people at Symantec gave me back a functional computer.

Who Are the Hackers?

Who Are the Hackers?

Being ever the psychologist at heart, this led me to wonder what kind of people do these things? Where is the motivation? The reward? The credit card is pretty clear. That’s just out and out greed. The blog hack was less clear. I don’t run a commercial site, so this just seemed like a nuisance kind of attack. The Trojan seems like the far end of the continuum–no commercial gain there at all.

So I decided to look online (armed with a more expensive version of Norton) to see if people were studying hackers. One of the more interesting researchers in this area is Marc Rogers, a psychologist at the University of Manitoba. Not only does Marc trace the development of hacking from first generation hackers (respected scientists for the most part) to the most recent fourth generation (criminals and cyber-punks). I’m guessing my Trojan authors fall into the latter category.

According to Marc’s research, my hacker is likely to be male, Caucasian, somewhere between the ages of 12 and 28, from a middle class but dysfunctional family. He has poor social skills and school performance, but excels in computer technology. He’s an obsessive loner with an inferiority complex. But Marc is the first to say how little we know and how important it is to figure out who these people really are. He quotes Sun Tzu: “If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

I think Marc has a point. Searching PsychInfo with the keyterm “hacker” produces surprisingly little research given the enormity of the problem. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center says that the average Internet crime victim loses $700. Multiply that by all of us, and we’re talking a whole lot of money. So if students out there are looking for a great topic area to study, this is a good one!

August 26, 2008

Does 100-calorie Food Packaging Work?

Filed under: Dieting,General Psychology,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 8:27 pm

Most of us intrepid dieters have noticed them in the stores–little bags of this and that labeled as 100 calories per serving. My gut reaction has been to agree with a dietician’s comment I read: “100 calories of junk is still junk.” At the same time, I like the idea of pre-portioned snacks. At least that gives people a sense of how many M&Ms they probably can eat without inflicting too much damage. And it’s far better than those candy bars that list a serving as 1/3 of a bar. Do you know anybody who cuts their candy bar in thirds and saves the rest for the next 2 days?

100 Calories of Junk Is Still Junk

100 Calories of Junk Is Still Junk

So I was interested to see that a group of researchers from Arizona State had actually looked at how people respond to the 100-calorie snack packs [1]. It appears that the overall impression of the packs is conflicted. People thought of the packs as “diet food,” but actually overestimated how many calories they contained. When the researchers divided participants into “restrained” eaters (or chronic dieters) and “unrestrained” eaters (people who do not watch their weight/calories, I assume), they found that the packs posed the greatest threat to the restrained dieters, who ate more of the small-portioned food than regular food. Oops.

The researchers might have produced clearer results using the Jenny Craig profiles of different eaters. According to Jenny, I am an unconscious eater…somebody who sort of grazes along without paying enough attention to what I’m doing. One of the hardest things I had to do on Jenny is to change the habit of grabbing a few grapes as I passed our fruit bowl. Fruit was now a “counted” food. For people like me, the idea of pre-packaged food is perfect, but that may not work equally well for other types of eaters. I do get some funny looks at the Nautical Bean when I arrive for my afternoon coffee with a little baggy containing a carefully counted out Jenny snack: 12 lowfat Wheat Thins, 1 wedge of La Vache Qui Rit cheese (one of my favorites), and 4 cashews or macadamia nuts. But hey, without this portion control thing, I think the Costco cashew jar would be the single serving….

Cashews Come From Costco In the Single Serving Container

Cashews Come From Costco In the Single Serving Container

ResearchBlogging.org

Scott, M., Nowlis, S., Mandel, N., Morales, A. (2008). The Effects of Reduced Food Size and Package Size on the Consumption Behavior of Restrained and Unrestrained Eaters. Journal of Consumer Research DOI: 10.1086/591103

August 23, 2008

More about Leroy

Filed under: Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 9:16 am

My brother’s passing after a heroic battle with cancer continues to generate some very moving tributes. Of course, there are the professional tributes from his media colleagues. But most meaningful of all, and most personal, are the posts by his wife Laurie, and the many comments from “ordinary folks” who found hope and comfort in his blog.

Here are some additional links:

Person of the Week on ABC’s World News

Excerpts from Ted Koppel’s 2007 Discovery show on Living With Cancer

Nightline’s tribute to Leroy

The NY Times obituary

I can’t help thinking that Leroy would have some suggestions for improving these broadcasts :)

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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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