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Aging

How Researchers Are Getting It Wrong

Much has been made in recent years of research indicating that willpower is an exhaustible resource. This research suggests that if we exercise self control for a few hours to resist Facebook and do our work, for example, we will have a hard time resisting that oh-really-I-shouldn’t brownie sundae. There’s a whole book based on this research:  Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength is by one of the leaders in this research, Roy Baumeister. (With science writer John Tierney, because believe me, not all psychologists can write.)

But here’s an interesting article in an open source journal pointing out how research on willpower has mostly been done on youngsters.



Books

Women and Negotiation: Damned If They Don’t, Damned If They Do

You know how some women are afraid that if they toot their own horns, people won’t like them?

Silly, right?

Actually, no, it’s not. Research finds that this is, in fact, the case.

I recently wrote an article about self-promotion for GradPSYCH, an American Psychological Association publication, and what I learned was one big ol’ bummer.

Women face a double-bind. If they don’t promote themselves, they risk not getting ahead. But if women do promote themselves, they turn people off because self-promotion violates a stereotype. They are perceived as immodest.


Creativity

What Baseball Taught Me About Writing

Let’s go Rangers (clap, clap, clapclapclap)!

I’m sorry for anyone who isn’t following the World Series this year (and it’s the lowest rated ever) because boyhowdy it’s been exciting. Some people say it ranks as one of the greatest ever. And so tense! By the end of a game, Texas Rangers fans are nearly as exhausted as the players themselves. (I can’t speak for Cardinals fans but I can guess.)

Baseball can be incredibly slow, but it also can be extremely intense, especially in those moments of suspended animation, when batter and pitcher are face-to-face, poised before the wind-up.

These days, cameras put us right up in the players’ faces. In those moments between pitches, we see what focus looks like. Very few of us will ever experience that kind of pressure. Imagine trying to remain both relaxed and focused when you’re about to have a rock hurled at you at 95 mph. Imagine hurling that rock from 60 feet away into an area roughly the size of a microwave. Imagine keeping performance pressure at bay with 50,000 people chanting your name. (Na-po-li, Na-po-li.)


Gender

Why Is It Harder for Women to Orgasm Than Men?


The punchline to the question posed in the title of this post is “Who cares?”

Yes, it’s a joke, a guy joke that actually makes me laugh because it’s really about how loutish some men are about jokes and sex. Also, it's funny because it's true.

The Psych Central news hounds pointed me towards an article titled “Women, Men, and the Bedroom: Methodological and Conceptual Insights That Narrow, Reframe, and Eliminate Gender Differences in Sexuality.”

I wanted to learn more, so I dug up the original paper, which pulled together a number of studies debunking or reframing some of the things we know to be true (or do we?) about men, women, and sex.

Two in particular amused me, in a loutish female way.


General

Making A Reality Checklist

Unearned praise may be just as much of a bummer as undeserved criticism.

New research finds that over-praising ourselves is as counterproductive as beating ourselves up. Or, as the title of the article puts it, "Both Self-Effacement and Self-Enhancement Can Lead to Dejection."

The aha moment for me in this article is Study 4, when participants did a task (unscrambling anagrams) and, without knowing their actual score, randomly received either positive or negative performance feedback. (A control group received no feedback.) Then they completed a survey about the experiment that had buried in it questions used to measure dejection.

Everyone who was told they did poorly felt dejected, but people who in reality performed well but got negative feedback were more bummed than those who performed poorly and were told the truth. Not surprising.

But I was a little surprised that people who were told they did well even though they didn't were more dejected than people who did poorly and were told they did poorly.

This research is part of the push back against the self-esteem movement, in which everybody gets a trophy just for showing up. For a long time, we believed that there’s no such thing as too much praise. Now we’re learning that unearned praise has its own burdens and pitfalls.

In other words, reality is good for us.


Aging

How the Internet Destroys Our Past

“Say hello to your past,” read the subject line of an email that landed in my junk email box.

It was from my old friend Meryl. I hadn’t spoken to her in decades. A few weeks later, we met for coffee.

Later I received a Facebook friend request from a mutual friend. Within three days, we had located three more people from that old gang of ours. Then we were four. Then six. Then nine. Then eleven.

We were far-flung but we formed a Facebook group and shared photos of our childhood summers together. We reminisced about the people, the places, the sounds, the smells. For a couple of weeks, our group spent every spare moment in a memory cloud, remembering together things we had forgotten individually. Memories came to us in dreams and flashbacks as we moved through our days. We gathered in Facebook in the evenings, to reminisce.

The fever eventually passed, but we remain in touch and friendships have been rekindled. 


Cognition

World Mental Health Day: A Cognitive Therapy Toolbox

I’ve been a science project since I was a troubled teen sitting across from my first shrink.

I’ve warmed a lot of therapists' office chairs since then, and experimented with various strategies at different times. I've journaled and created rituals and signed contracts. I talked to the empty chair and my inner child. I've projected and rejected and introspected. It's been a lifeline and hobby.

My therapists all dabbled in an array of theories and practices, but the one they all had in common, and that has provided me with the most useful tools, is cognitive therapy, which addresses thinking patterns.

Nothing newfangled about cognitive therapy. Psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck first proposed it in the 1960s. It  grew popular in the 1970s, and today is  it’s the go-to for efficient therapy.


General

A Question of Spontaneity

I am not a spontaneous person.

When a surprise invitation or opportunity appears, there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll pass it up. Maybe even 60/40. Maybe even more, but I don’t want to admit that to myself.

Spontaneity is a good thing. I know this because in romance movies, guys always dump their tightly-wound girlfriends for kooky, devil-may-care, spontaneous girls.

And I can see for myself that spontaneous people lead colorful lives full of surprise.

My life is pretty interesting, but it’s more a trip on a lazy river than a thrilling tumble down whitewater rapids.

Is that OK?


Anthropology

Research Happens: “Post Secret” As An Archive Of Our Id



Since I wrote this post, Frank Warren has had to withdraw the Post Secret app because people just couldn't play nicely. 

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When Frank Warren launched the Post Secret blog in 2004, it was a lark. “A creative prank,” he calls it. He gave out 3,000 postcards to strangers around Washington D.C., and asked each person to write a secret on it and mail it to him. And they did. And people still do.

To date, Warren has received more than half a million secrets. Enough to fill four bestselling books (and then some). Once a week, he posts a carefully curated selection on the blog. Sunday Secrets is a highlight of my week.

Some of the cards are scrawled, many are works of art. The  secrets are sad, funny, shocking, about love and sex, loneliness and anger, moral slips and personal habits.

 I’m afraid I’ll never find love because not even my own mother loved me enough to keep me
 I just want to tell someone how angry I am
i secretly hate my friends, its hard having friends 1/2 your size
 Sometimes I wish my gorgeous autistic daughter was ugly. Too many pervs out there.
 The cleaner stole my sex book but I’m too embarrassed to ask for it back
 “im fine” – “im tired” – “im alright” are just excuses. …. and I’m not ok. Help me



Body Image

Sexy Anna Rexia: Eating Disorders As Machisma

It’s almost October and you know what that means: Here come the goblins, ghosts, witches, and sluts!

The sleaziness of women’s (and little girls’) Halloween costumes has become an annual gripe for mommies and feminists.

But my friend Jeannine Gailey, PhD, a sociologist at Texas Christian University, clued me in on what might be the most appalling costume ever created: Anna Rexia, the sexy side of a life-threatening eating disorder.

Yikes.

The model dressed as someone starving herself to death is slender, yes. Even skinny. But her breasts strain to escape the bodice that barely contains them. Her skin glows, her hair is shiny, her eyes have a come-hither sparkle. She doesn’t look the least bit like a woman with anorexia. She looks like a woman ready to take control with her womanly wiles.

Gailey also sent me a 2009 article she published in Critical Criminology, titled