August 27, 2016

Carol Dweck's theory tested and largely supported

Carol Dweck's mindset theory has now been fully tested by Smiley et a. (2016). To understand how they did this, I'll first try to summarize Dweck's theory (see picture below which is mine but was inspired by Smiley et al.'s paper).

What Dweck's theory predicts


August 26, 2016

Good is Stronger than Bad for Older People: The Age-Related Positivity Effect

Fifteen years ago, in a review article entitled Bad is stronger than good, Baumeister et al. (2001) documented research into the so-called negativity bias. The article cites research showing that negative events, emotions, and information impact us more strongly than positive ones do. They conclude their article by saying:
"In our review, we have found bad to be stronger than good in a disappointingly relentless pattern. We hope that this article may stimulate researchers to search for and identify exceptions; that is, spheres or circumstances in which good events outweigh bad ones. Given the large number of patterns in which bad outweighs good, however, any reversals are likely to remain as mere exceptions."

August 25, 2016

Positive fantasies may lead to depression

Positief fantaseren kan leiden tot depressieWhen we feel bad, it makes sense to search for things that may make us feel better, and rather sooner than later. But be careful. Some things which are practically sure to make us feel better in the short term may have detrimental effects in the longer term. One example might be the use of antidepressants. They might work in the short term but might have unpleasant side effects in the longer term. But there is another example which may be a little less obvious: fantasizing about something positive. The thought is logical: "When you feel down, fantasize about how your life might become wonderful. That will make you feel better!"

August 24, 2016

Even Einstein struggled!

Zelfs Einstein worstelde!The more high school students think that success in science depends on extraordinary talent the less they will be inclined to choose and persist at science and math courses. Researchers Lin-Siegler et al. (2016) developed a practical intervention to correct such beliefs: stories which make clear that even the most successful scientists had to face struggles and setbacks.

August 21, 2016

When is positive feedback more motivational and when negative feedback?

Constructive feedback, both negative and positive, can play an important role in goal achievement. Previous research by Koo and Fishbach (2008) demonstrated that feedback can signal two kinds of messages. The first type of message is about commitment: it can say something about whether your goals are valuable and whether you have a good change of achieving them. Individuals which are not strongly committed to a certain goal can become more motivated after receiving positive feedback (and less after receiving negative feedback). The second message is about progress: feedback can say something about whether you have put in enough effort and whether you have achieved enough progress. Strongly committed individuals tend to get more motivated by negative feedback and less motivated by positive feedback (see the figure on the right). By the way, with negative feedback I do not mean personal criticism or blame but constructive information about what is not going well yet and what could be better.

August 20, 2016

Using in a future-orientation in dealing with conflicts

Het nut van een toekomstperspectief in conflictenAnyone can, at some point, be faced with a conflict. Dealing ineffectively with conflicts may threaten your relationships. Examples of ways of dealing with conflicts which usually do not work well are: expressing negative emotions, being hostile, seeking revenge, and making accusations. It is usually more effective to control your emotions, be forgiving, accepting personal blame, and looking at the situation from a distance. But in the heat of the moment it can be hard to come up with an effective way of responding to conflicts. A new publication identifies an effective way of responding. 

August 19, 2016

Will the future be better?


What would your answer be to the question: will the future be better? The answer to this question turns out to depend on whom you ask and on what it is specifically focused on. Mohammed Nagdy and Max Roser explain in their article Optimism & Pessimism that many people are individually optimistic but, specifically in developed countries, socially (or collectively) pessimistic. In other words, they expect that their personal future will be good but the future of their country not too good. This individual optimism is relatively stable. Collective pessimism is less stable. It is influence by recent events and recessions. Another remarkable finding is that many people are locally optimistic and nationally pessimistic. They expect that things will go generally well in their near environment but not in the country ar large.

August 18, 2016

Can most people be trusted?

Trust in other people is important in any society. The degree to which people trust each other contributes to their well-being and to the economy of a country. In a new publication, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Max Roser show that the degree to which people trust others differs strongly in different countries. In countries like Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden, and China there is much trust; in countries like The Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana and Romania there is little.

August 8, 2016

100 Billion Neurons?


Guest post by Jamie Hale 

College students are taught that the human brain consists of 100 billion neurons. This claim can be found in a large number of textbooks. Popular science publications promote this claim as definitive. When I was in graduate school this number was promoted an accepted without question. What is the original source for this number? Surely, with such a strong assertion this claim is supported by a plethora of evidence.

August 7, 2016

A growth mindset tempers the adverse effects of poverty on academic achievement

Socioeconomic background is an important predictor of academic performance. The extent to which this is so varies by country but generally the following is true: people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to perform less well in school than those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. This is due to, among other things, the following factors: the lower the socioeconomic background of a people is, the more likely it is that they will face certain extra obstacles such as reduced access to educational resources, higher levels of stress, poorer nutrition, and reduced access to healthcare.

August 6, 2016

Satisfaction of basic psychological needs predicts choosing mastery goals

In this article I described research which shows that choosing mastery goals predicts intrinsic motivation. Based on that research I concluded that it is wise for parents and teachers to encourage students to choose mastery goals (vs. performance goals). A new study by Duchesne et al. (2016) suggests an effective way to do this. That way is: create the conditions in which the  basic psychological needs (of autonomy, competence, and relatedness) of students are satisfied.

July 16, 2016

What is the relation between mastery goals and intrinsic motivation?

Bieg et al. (2016) did a study to clarify the relation between mastery goals and intrinsic motivation. Let's first look at what these two concepts mean.

Meaning and importance of mastery goals and intrinsic motivation

Mastery goals are focused on developing competence. This is in contrast with performance goals which are focused on demonstrating one's competence in comparison with others. Why are mastery goals important? Because research has shown that they have many positive effects (in comparison with performance goals), such as choosing challenging goals, persistence, more interest, deeper learning, etc. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to do things which are inherently interesting, fun, exciting or otherwise satisfying. Intrinsic motivation is not only fun. It is also important because it is associated with positive emotions, interest, and deep learning.

July 15, 2016

Portugal decriminalized drugs use and what happened?

Drugs use can have a disruptive effect on lives of individuals and can also lead to many problems at a societal level. In 1971 president Nixon proclaimed a 'War on Drugs' which continues up to today. This war on drugs meant that the production, trade and use of drugs were seen as criminal behavior and were to be fought aggressively by the state. The emphasis in the war on drugs was on punishment and not on treatment of addiction. Has it been successful? Well, no. The annual costs are astronomic (they are estimated to be around $51 billion), prisons are packed and drugs use and all problems that go along with it have only gotten worse. Okay, but if such a strict approach does not work, what else can you do?

July 13, 2016

Is need for novelty the fourth basic psychological need?

We may need to keep on experiencing new things in order to keep on functioning well and feeling well. 

Self-determination theory has identified three basic, innate psychological needs - the need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness - which need to be fulfilled for optimal functioning. In a paper by González-Cutre et al. (2016) preliminary evidence is provided that need for novelty is also a basic psychological need contributing to optimal functioning. In two studies, participants completed a new measure to assess novelty need satisfaction, the Novelty Need Satisfaction Scale (NNSS), measures of psychological needs and regulation styles and psychological well-being.

July 6, 2016

Trump's words are a clear warning of what he intends to do: turn back civilization

Of the many things that can be held against Donald Trump (that very many things he says aren't true, his ruthless behavior in business, his many business failures, his unawareness of his own ignorance regarding policy matters, the fact that he's taking bragging to whole new levels, that he promises amazing things without explaining how he will achieve them, etc.) there is one thing that worries me most and that is his philosophy that fire should be fought with fire.

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