Psychology

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Recruiting players from other countries is fairly common in the arena of professional sports, but in the world of chess, luring one of the top players to the U.S. was a clandestine operation. On today’s show, the U.S. Chess Federation makes a bold move and lands the number two player in the world.

Then, in April, a Louisiana high school principal outraged the public by forbidding a female student from wearing a tux to her prom. Later in the show we’ll break down gender norms for a brief history of unisex fashion.

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Sports nutrition is a multi-billion dollar market, but a new study from the University Of Montana is calling so-called recovery foods into question. On today’s show we’ll look at the evidence on whether post-workout energy food and drinks any better for you than fast food.

Then, doctors typically diagnose diseases with blood tests, x-rays, scans, pokes and prods. Later in the show we’ll look at a powerful and prevalent diagnostic tool that’s been used to identify diseases for centuries: the nose.

Megan Lynnette via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/8UsssG

Today’s classrooms may come outfitted with iPads and gadgets, but the textbook industry has weathered the digital storm surprisingly well. On today’s show we’ll look at an unexpected threat to the textbook industry:  the rollout of the Common Core standards.

Then, between jam packed schedules and lengthy to-do lists, it’s little wonder that so many people claim they hate surprises. But what can we gain from embracing the unexpected?  A self-described 'surprisologist' makes the case for being caught off guard.

Listen to the full show or click read more for individual segments.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

When you hear about prison work programs, you think license plates or chain gangs – not farm-raised Tilapia, or buffalo milk cheese. On today’s show, artisanal foods and other the under-the-radar products made by prisoners for next to nothing.

Plus, a project aims to solve two global problems by turning sewage into drinkable water, and why revulsion may prevent it from becoming a reality. 

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments. 

Logan Shannon / NHPR

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary may be a year away, but presidential hopefuls are already jockeying for position. Today we’ll talk about why you should forget election fatigue and start paying attention to the race now.

Plus, it turns out that girls are growing up much faster than they used to. Why is this generation of girls going through puberty much earlier than previous ones?

Then, one of the world’s leading theorists on comics tells us how the brain interprets simple cartoons and symbols – much differently than words.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

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In New Hampshire, skiing is one of winter’s biggest perks and the best cure for cabin fever. The first skiers put two planks on their feet and slid down a mountain, not as a past time but as a way to hunt. On today’s show, a National Geographic reporter sets out on the trail of the earliest skiers in human history and finds himself elk hunting in the far reaches of western China where he witnesses a skiing tradition thousands of years old.

Also, a couple embarks on a medical odyssey to find relief from a devastating illness. And talking to strangers may be good for your health. The psychology behind interacting with people you don't know.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

11.4.14: Winners & Losers

Nov 4, 2014
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While we can’t predict the outcome of the midterm elections, two things are certain: there will be winners and there will be losers.  Today’s show is all about winning and losing, starting with the brain chemistry of champions. And we’ll examine the victors and the vanquished in the natural world through the parasite-host relationship.

Plus, we’ll take a look back at political losers throughout history, including Samuel Tilden, who never got over his loss to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

myri_bonni via flickr Creative Commons

At her funeral on Sunday, fellow comedians applauded Joan Rivers for her sharp wit, biting humor, and irreverent routines. What really made Joan Rivers so funny? On today’s show, the director of the Humor Research Lab offers some theories into what makes us laugh. Plus, from walk sign buttons that don’t reflect reality to digital signs over-estimating wait times at amusement parks; we’ll consider why technology is sometimes designed to give us the illusion of control.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments. 


W10002 via Flickr CC

 Anyone who has taken a personality test knows that they tend to be long, indepth, and even invasive. But today we discover how a group of researchers is testing levels of narcissism with one simple question. And, we’ll look into what an inflated sense of self means for society at large. Then, a philosopher and ethicist joins us to discuss the delicate balance between confidence and vanity in the age of the selfie. Plus, New Hampshire has a bigger role in cinema than you may have realized. We look at what roles put our state on the map.

7.20.14: TV On The Radio

Jul 18, 2014
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From airplanes to high school cafeterias, television is everywhere these days. Whether you are a Game of Thrones diehard or an Orange is the New Black binger, most of us have found ourselves entrenched in what some call the Third Golden Age of Television. Today on Word of Mouth we talk all things television. First, Matt Zoller Seitz  makes the case that Seinfeld was the original anti-hero.

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In a world filled with tough news, we’ve come to expect our weather updates to include a bit of comic relief. But is it time for them to sober up?  Today we’re challenging our expectations with the case against kooky weather-reporters. And, amid calls to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns, we’ll hear a challenge to the notion that health-care professionals can weed out America’s killers. Plus, we take a look at the funniest and most culturally resonant examples of product placement from the last ten years.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.


Famous Germaphobes

Mar 24, 2014
anyjazz65 via flickr Creative Commons

We wash. We sanitize. We might wash again, just to make sure. But in the end, we will probably allow ourselves to believe that it (whatever it is – a hand, a dish, a children’s toy that the dog confused for its own) is clean enough. We carry on.

At least, some of us do.

This is the time that all the germaphobes out there reading this raise their sanitized hands and say “Me! Me! That toy is not clean. For the love of Clorox – it is not clean!” Was this your reaction? You may be suffering from mysophobia, the fancy term for “fear of germs.”

Keep calm; you’re in good company.

Public Service of New Hampshire is an energy utility – but it’s about to try an experiment in psychology, which it hopes might prompt consumers to use less electricity.

It's known as "nudging," and to explain how it works we turn to David Brooks, who writes the weekly GraniteGeek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and GraniteGeek.org.

via promiselandbook.com

Three weeks into the New Year, sticking to that resolution to exercise more or stop eating sugar or drink less may feel a little extreme. So, what do you do? Shrug your shoulders and reach for another cupcake? Log onto veganlife.com? Head for the bookstore to find somebody, anybody, who can guide us to be fitter, happier, radiant human beings? From the meditations of Marcus Aurelius to Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac,”  people have been reaching for advice on how to be more fully actualized since long before being self-actualized was a term. The writer Jessica Lamb-Shapiro set out to explore the 11-billion dollar industry of self-improvement books, seminars, and coaching to figure out why people follow them so devoutly--if they work--and what happens when they don’t. She’s written a memoir called, Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture.

Sara Plourde

Scarcity is a kind of great equalizer. Whether it be less sleep, security, time, food, money or whatever a person needs, scarcity hijacks the mind, diminishes intelligence, and lowers resistance to temptation. Eldar Shafir, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton set out to find evidence for what happens to our minds when we have too little – and how scarcity shapes our choices and behaviors.  He's coauthor of the new book is Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.

Dr. Murray Straus has studied the use of spanking and corporal punishment with children for decades, as a professor of sociology and founder and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire.

He compares the research on spanking to studies on cigarettes – people use it because it seems right at the time, but that’s because they can’t see the long-term dangers.

Enthusiasm for the fictional British detective is hardly new. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in an 1893 issue of Strand magazine, 20,000 readers canceled their subscriptions. Doyle succumbed and revived the character in dozens more stories before his own death in 1930. While the appeal of Sherlock Holmes coincided with the rise of popular science in the late Victorian era, today’s Sherlock-mania may be connected to a more 21st century concept: mindfulness.

Courtesy of The Webster House

The Webster House is a children's home in Manchester that has been in operation since 1884, caring for youth who are unable to live at home.

Gabrielle Dante came to The Webster House when she was in her mid-teens. She had been experiencing problems at home and at school, and was struggling to overcome an eating disorder.

The sensation of tickling has baffled great thinkers  since the days of Aristotle, who used human ticklishness to distinguish people from animals. Later, Freud puzzled over the strange mix of pleasure and pain caused by tickling.  

Indeed, we tickle kids or siblings, sometimes affectionately, sometimes edging towards cruelty.  Still unknown is why people laugh when tickled, and why you can’t tickle yourself? Why do some people enjoy tickling and others not? And what is tickling, after all? Contemporary philosopher Aaron Schuster picks up those questions. He’s on the faculty at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and wrote “A Philosophy of Tickling” for Cabinet Magazine.

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Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness…whatever he's called, some seventy percent of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil. That’s according to a 2007 Gallup Poll, and that number has increased steadily since 1990, when only fifty-five percent believed in evil personified in the form of Satan.

Now, researchers are looking at the implications of belief in “pure evil” on psychological and social behaviors.  Piercarlo Valdesolo is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Claremont Mckenna College and contributor to Scientific American’s “Mind Matters” blog, where we found his article, “The Psychological Power of Satan.” 

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The number of  shocking events over the past year is overwhelming … the Newtown school massacre; the Boston Marathon bombings; devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Although the specifics of each catastrophe varies, media coverage adheres to a similar script involving communal resilience, collective support, and predictions of post-traumatic stress among victims and witnesses – even those thousands of miles away. In recent years, a small branch of positive psychology has been exploring the possibility that adversity can be a source of strength and wisdom.  Mark Obbie recently wrote about post-traumatic growth for Pacific Standard magazine.

Vermario vis flickr Creative Commons

Humans are vastly more social than most other mammals. Neuroscientists point to the development of our social brain as key to the survival of our species; early humans survived by cooperating with each other in the rearing of children, by hunting in bands, by organizing night watches. A battery of research reveals that people still need people.

Zach Stern via flickr Creative Commons

Science is supposed to be objective, value neutral, a noble pursuit of truth – whatever that may turn out to be. In recent years though, some science skeptics have sought to associate objectivity with amorality - and meanwhile, a few well-publicized academic frauds and political battles over funding have revealed that researchers are just as capable at deception as anyone else.  Despite these setbacks, research at the University of California Santa Barbara reveals that people do indeed carry deep and positive associations with the scientific method. Piercarlo Valdesolo wrote about the experiments for Scientific American.

Taylor Quimby

One in thirteen people on earth use Facebook. It’s a staggering number, and evidence of the human desire to connect with others through social media. Research at the Human-Computer Institute at Carnegie Mellon and other places have found that passively following the lives of others on Facebook can have the opposite effects, triggering feelings of depression, envy, and isolation. Jessica Winter is senior editor at Slate, and argues that the hipster-centric photo-filtering social network Instagram, is even worse.

happier.com

What makes you happier? This simple question lies at the heart of a new app called “Happier” – a social media community and iPhone app which collects and shares the little actions, moments and gesture that brighten their day. The app was developed with the idea that the key to happiness is focusing on the positive and plenty of people have joined so far. We wanted to know – are they any better off? Nataly Kogan is co-founder of the Boston-based Happier Inc. and she spoke with us about the app.

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Long lines are a part life for most of us…at the DMV, grocery store, post office… we line up by choice for some things…maybe you’ve heard of people queuing up for hours outside the New York City bakery that sells the “Cronut” – an apparently delicious cross between a croissant and doughnut.  Francesca Gino wrote about new research suggesting that one reason we’re willing to wait in long lines for midnight movies, the latest smartphone, or bizarre baked delicacies is because they help us learn more about ourselves.  Francesca is a behavioral scientist and associate professor at Harvard Business School. She wrote about the psychology of waiting in line for Fast Company, and joins us now on the line.

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Our favorite content of the week, wrapped up in one audio-licious program. This week, author Chuck Klosterman defines villainy, the Cronut craze catches a Harvard researcher's eye, head transplants are given an examination, robots roll into vinyards, and a pair of hard-partying vegetarians share their take on potato salad (spoiler alert: it's got Doritos in it!)

Angry girl on a couch.
meaganmakes via Flickr/Creative Commons - http://www.flickr.com/photos/meaganmakes/6980624734/in/photostream/

Siblings fight. Almost any family with children knows this- and yet what we know about the effects of that fighting may be changing.

A new study from the University of New Hampshire shows that sibling aggression may leave deeper marks on children than we’ve previously understood.

elmachuca via Flickr Creative Commons

You know those individually wrapped chocolates that you find in office candy jars and Halloween sacks ?  Turns out, the troublesome need to unwrap chocolates makes them hard to eat in certain settings, like the car, which is why some years back, Hershey released Reese’s Minis, small, resealable bags of candy designed to be snarfed on the go.

WoM Team for NHPR

The growing emergence of self-portraits – “selfies” – shows no signs of stopping its domination of the social media sphere. By 2012, 86% of the U.S. population had a cell phone. Moreover, research indicates that six out of every ten women use their mobile devices to take self-portraits, most of which end up on Facebook. Narcissism, egotism and vanity are commonly associated with these snapshots – but our guest, Dr. Pamela Rutledge, argues that “selfies” are important, and expand on a rich history of self-portraiture. Pamela is the director of the Media Psychology Research Center.

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