Laura’s Psychology Blog

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

December 30, 2009

A Personal Trip Through Psychology’s History

While working on a writing project on the history of psychology, I was reading through various timelines others have constructed. Usually, these start with a series of “firsts”–first psychology laboratory, first psychology degree, etc.  I was reminded of a delightful coincidence of “firsts” in my own library, courtesy of Mr. F’s love of classic books and his persistence in finding interesting books online. We own a copy of George Trumbull Ladd’s Elements of Physiological Psychology, which was published in 1887. Ladd’s book is considered to be one of the very first textbooks in psychology. Given my personal interest in textbook writing, and writing about biological psychology in particular, this is an important book in my library.

Dr. Ladd's Physiological Psychology that was once owned by Joseph Jastrow

Physiological Psychology by Dr. Ladd (1887) once owned by Joseph Jastrow

What makes this book especially meaningful to me is that it was once part of the library of Joseph Jastrow, a student of G. Stanley Hall’s at Johns Hopkins, who is credited as having obtained the first Ph.D. in Psychology in 1886. So two firsts collide–a first textbook and a first doctorate.

I’m not sure if perusing the pages of Ladd’s book, as I often do, or the thought that my book might have once guided Jastrow in his thinking about psychology will help me in my own writing efforts, but surely it can’t hurt. The writing style, of course, reflects the time, but one can’t help but marvel at what these early psychologists accomplished without the word processors, internet resources, and photography that we enjoy today.

Handwritten notes in the Perception chapter are likely Jastrow's own.

December 29, 2009

Web>clicker…son (daughter?) of the i>clicker?

As my readers know, I am a huge fan of the i>clicker audience response system. My students seem to like it, too, but some have complained that they lose the remote or it’s too expensive (our bookstore sells it new for $29). So I was very excited to see that the ever-inventive folks at i>clicker were working on a new app that could be used on a phone or laptop, saving money for the students at the same time as solving the “I lost my clicker” problem.

The new web>clicker will look great on an iPhone!

The new web>clicker will look great on an iPhone!

This morning, i>clicker’s Chad Moeller kindly walked me through the process of how the new web>clicker works with a very helpful WebEx. Daughter Karen, home from her doctoral studies at UT Knoxville, sat in on the WebEx with me, even though it was at 7am our time. I’m hoping Karen will have a chance to use the technology in her teaching, too, although her classes run pretty small (20-25 students or so). I took a screen shot (above) so you can see what the web>clicker registration will look like from the student side. I should have taken a screen shot of the voting part, but didn’t, but the pdf Chad sent me had this image:

Voting with the web>clicker!

I polled my students (all 165 of them) and quite a few of them were interested in using web>clicker instead of the i>clicker. But here’s another issue interested faculty should consider. Our campus tech people are worried that we will overload the wireless system. I think I’ve learned more than I really wanted to know from watching the emails go between i>clicker and our campus ITS. Apparently, our classrooms are not set up for wireless access for more than about 20 simultaneous users, and to add further access would cost money, which of course, California has none of. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a phone or a laptop–both tap into the campus wireless system as a default. Fortunately, my poll is showing that we should be okay–so far each of my classes is running at about 20 interested students. However, I’m guessing that this option will become increasingly popular, so we’re going to have to deal with the access issue.

I’m sure there will be a learning curve with this–it’s quite new from i>clicker’s end, and it’s obviously completely new to me. But I like new things! Hope the students do, too!

December 24, 2009

Our Student Group Work Mentioned in SciAm Mind

Filed under: Conventions,General Psychology,Psychology,Technology — Laura Freberg @ 12:10 pm

Congrats to last year’s APS student research group for getting some nice recognition in this quarter’s issue (Jan/Feb) of Scientific American Mind. Writer David DiSalvo incorporated our results into his article “Are Social Networks Messing With Your Head?”  We found that in contrast with previous reports of people “being somebody else” online, our college student participants brought their personas with them. If they were lonely offline, they were likely to be relatively less connected online than their less lonely peers. We have continued to refine our work on this topic during Fall Quarter with two additional questionnaires, and hope to publish our results soon.

I especially liked the way David DiSalvo did his research for the article. He described the empirical work of danah boyd and Nicole Ellison, Andrew Campbell, and John Cacioppo. In contrast, so many reports of social media are purely anecdotal, like the remarkably statistics-free recent piece in the New York Times (To Deal With Obsession, Some Defriend Facebook).  In our research, we have run into students who quit using Facebook, and hopefully, someone is doing some research on this phenomenon. But interviewing a handful of students without any data, as the NYTimes article did, is hardly going to give us the big picture. Senior project anyone?

In the meantime, we just found out that our project for this year’s APS convention was accepted. It’s on a different line of work, but still fun. It’s going to be hard to top our “connect with me” LinkedIn t-shirts from last year, but we’re going to try.

December 20, 2009

Maintaining Weight and the Holidays

Filed under: Dieting,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 10:16 am

Needless to say, the holiday season poses some special challenges to those of us who are either trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss. Some of the most challenging choices face us when we are looking at temptations with a time frame. If you’re thinking that eating holiday foods is a “once in a lifetime” pleasure that won’t happen again or for a long time, it’s likely that you’ll be in trouble quickly. When human beings fear starvation, as most of our ancestors did, the best strategy is to eat everything in sight as a precaution. In a modern world of plenty, the self-talk needs to be “it will always be there.”

Karen's Baklava for Greek Night Is Worth Planning For

I did a quick search online for bits of advice for holiday dieters, and most of what I saw was frankly appalling. Here are some of my LEAST favorites with my own solutions:

  1. Eat a small meal before going to a party. Are you kidding? People get fat in the first place because they have learned to tune out their biological signals of fullness. All this pre-eat will do is ensure that you have more calories for the day. Instead, I’m all for portion control. Instead of taking a whole serving of something at a party, take one bite of everything you want. Recent research suggests that just eating a food triggers mechanisms that make the food less appealing. The first bite is the best–you don’t need the whole thing.
  2. Make healthy choices–This is not the time. Talk about unrealistic. Like you’re going to pass up that gingerbread for a slice of fruit? Instead, be mindful of your choices. Have the gingerbread (in a small quantity on a small dish), but be picky about how you use your calories. You don’t have to “holiday eat” every day–know when goodies are going to become available, and plan to enjoy them. Make up for it by being extra strict on “non-goody” days.
  3. Don’t skip meals. Normally, I would agree. But the bottom line is that you can’t eat a large meal and then follow up with your normal eating and not gain weight. When we celebrate chez Freberg with one of Mr. F’s special dinners, we usually do so at lunch. Then I have a pact with myself that unless my stomach is actively growling, that’s it for the day.

Here are some pieces of advice that I thought were truly helpful:

  1. Use small platesBrian Wansink has shown that this can be a huge help. You do not feel deprived, and you are much less likely to overeat.
  2. Eat slowly. Take time to enjoy your food. Focus on the conversation.
  3. Avoid alcohol. Nothing puts on weight faster, and alcohol lowers your inhibitions in general, and that includes eating more food than you need. It nukes your taste buds, too, which means the food you eat won’t taste very good (hence those dreadful spicy Chex things people persist in making for New Year’s Eve, even though I’ve never met a person who actually think this tastes good.)
  4. Walk, walk, walk. Yes, we live in California, which makes walking easier, but you don’t need to hit the gym either to lose weight or maintain it. Park your car at the outer edge of the parking lot. I think it’s so pathetic to see people jockey for places nearest the store. Walk around the block while you’re waiting for the turkey in the oven. Walk after you eat to admire your neighbors’ holiday yard displays.
  5. Just make a pact that you will not eat anything on impulse. If it’s not planned, it’s not eaten. Once again, our friend Brian Wansink has observed that a major difference between fat and slim people is that the latter are very systematic about their intake. After awhile, it just becomes habit and you don’t have to think about it anymore.
  6. Beware the evening. Apparently, our willpower is at its best in the morning. Most people do not have trouble making healthy breakfast choices, but as the day wears on, that might become harder to do. The more choices you make, the faster your willpower breaks down. Again, this is another area where a system helps. If you have a system, you make one decision–follow the system.

For me, the best strategy is to focus on people, not personal pleasure. I am delighted to be spending the holidays with all three of my daughters for the first time in three years. I plan to soak in every minute. Yes, great food is part of the fun, but it’s not the focus. Good luck and Happy Holidays to all of you!

December 14, 2009

Gifts for Geeks

Filed under: Avocations,Random Fun — Laura Freberg @ 5:31 pm

The holiday season is once again upon us, and presents are in order. Some people are easy to buy for, others more challenging. We tend toward the practical chez Freberg, as the last thing we need at our age is more “stuff.” But I do enjoy some of the odder possibilities in the gift-giving realm. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Shirtless Kirk Ornament is an instant classic!

The Shirtless Kirk Ornament is an instant classic!

  1. For the Star Trek fans in your life (and who is NOT a Star Trek fan), you can purchase a Star Trek stocking featuring the Enterprise, a Spock nutcracker, and the crowning glory–the Shirtless Kirk.
  2. For the hypochondriac on your list, how about a plush H1N1 virus from GiantMicrobes?
  3. If you are shopping for a really huge scifi fan, how about a Stargate ornament?
  4. From our friends at ThinkGeek, we have the ever-popular Albert Einstein action figure.
  5. Who doesn’t need more refrigerator magnets? This one has the periodic table.
  6. For your desk, especially if you share an office with annoying people, there is the desktop carnivorous plant.
  7. I personally like the wi-fi t-shirt that glows relative to the strength of your local wi-fi signal.
  8. I think I might buy myself some Miracle Berry Fruit Tablets (they make sour foods taste sweet) to use in Sensation/Perception class Spring Quarter.
  9. Not to spoil the surprise, but someone on my list needs a Star Wars flash drive…now which to choose?
  10. No list would be complete without the Zombie Brain Gelatin mold, which allows you to make jello in the shape of a brain…
Which to choose, which to choose?

Which to choose, which to choose?

Regardless of what’s under your tree this year, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

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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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