Psychology

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The shock and horror of the Boston marathon explosions one week ago today gave way to an almost incomprehensible sequence of events leading to a dramatic day-long dragnet that shut a major American city and several surrounding neighborhoods down. Now, with one suspect dead and his younger brother in critical condition at a Boston hospital, citizens and media alike are grappling to fill in motivations and create narratives that we can understand.  Among the most combed-over questions is whether 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev somehow radicalized his popular, athletic, seemingly well-adjusted 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar.

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They may not be able to dream or feel emotion, but a recent study suggests that robots do a better job of getting accurate witness statements than their human counterparts.  Cindy Bethel, is an assistant professor at Mississippi State University that specializes in human-robot interaction and the lead author of a study recently covered by The New Scientist. Also joining us is Deborah Eakin, the psychologist on the project.

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Patrick Radden Keefe's stunning investigation into mass shooter Amy Bishop's past has gone hyper-viral. The New Yorker writer joins us to talk about Bishop's 1986 shooting of her younger brother, and how family dynamics may have played into her 2010 murder of three colleagues at the University of Alabama.

Later this week 110 members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard will mobilize in support of combat operations in Afghanistan. The 237th Military Police Company will train in Texas for several months before departing to Khost Province.

77 of the soldiers are deploying for the first time. But others are on their second and third; one is one his fifth deployment.

It’s those repeated deployments that have been a signature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and a researcher at UNH, they could take a toll on servicemembers’ families.

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Word of Mouth's weekly show that wraps up the best of our content in one great-to-listen-to package.

The recent and somewhat controversial changes to the manual to diagnose mental illness, also known as the DSM-5, will become official later this spring. Edits to the manual are based around an evolving understanding of mental disorders, which historically, haven’t always been accurate. A shocking diagnosis took hold at the height of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, when thousands of young black men were arrested at protests and sent to the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Michigan, where they were systematically diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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A study finds that the very act of holding a gun (even a wii gun!) prompts subjects to identify an object held by another person as a firearm...even when it's just a shoe.

We talk to the researcher behind this work, Jessica Witt of Colorado State University.

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We spoke with Linda Rodriguez McRobbie about the history of boredom. Not surprisingly, scientists avoided studying the subject until the last century.  Studies suggest that boredom can lead to depression and other adverse health conditions, even death.  

To keep the doctors away, we've curated a motley assortment of "boring" film and television clips.

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Adjusted for inflation, the Bond series is the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, pulling in more than five billion dollars to date. Skyfall – 007’s 25th outing – took in 87.8- million dollars this past weekend ; it was the highest domestic opening ever for a Bond film.

In a new book, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores how we reach different moral judgments about the same issue. Haidt says we join groups to reinforce these judgments, and this "groupishness" contributed to the survival of our species, but it has also been cause for fierce divisiveness. Haidt says there’s another option: mutual understanding and respect.

Related links:

www.RighteousMind.com to learn more about the book

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In 1968, L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, declared as the result of a scientific experiment an unusual and disturbing notion: that tomatoes scream when sliced.  However strange his declaration may have seemed, Hubbard is in good company when it comes to prodding garden produce in search of an emotional response.

Last weekend, the box-office bowed to the marvel blockbuster dream-team The Avengers, which pits a group of righteous superheroes against their greatest villain yet:  their own neuroses.

Psychologists at Purdue University have come up with an interesting twist on the old notion of the power of positive thinking. Call it the power of positive perception: They've shown that you may be able to improve your golf game by believing the hole you're aiming for is larger than it really is.

Jessica Witt, who studies how perception and performance are related, decided to look at golf — specifically, how the appearance of the hole changes depending on whether you're playing well or poorly.

In 2006, Wells Fargo became the first bank to offer one-on-one psychological consults to wealthy customers. Unlike the counseling offered for debt-ridden, financially insecure Americans, Wells Fargo’s therapists were there to address emotional issues associated with having a huge portfolio. The service is becoming an industry standard for banks and brokerage firms.

A new study out of UCLA suggests that when people wield a gun, they don't just feel bigger and stronger — it makes others think they are bigger and stronger.

Posting on Facebook is an easy way to connect with people, but it also can be a means to alienate them. That can be particularly troublesome for those with low self-esteem.

People with poor self-image tend to view the glass as half empty. They complain a bit more than everyone else, and they often share their negative views and feelings when face to face with friends and acquaintances.

This campaign season, inconsistency seems to be, well, almost everywhere. Each flip-flopping politician revels in pointing out the flip-flopping ways of his opponents.

Why are politicians and those of us who vote for them so obsessed with inconsistency? We take that question on from three angles: how our brains are wired; the psychology of judging what's consistent; and how consistency plays out in leadership styles.

Jon Hamilton: Why Our Brains Hate A Flip-Flopper

Amid stories of horrific atrocities like the Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing that took place in the Balkans in the 1990’s, occasional tales of courage emerge: the stories of individuals who fly in the face of convention – or even the law – to stand up for what they know is right.

We’ve spoken on the program before about the tendency in science to connect today’s  traits and ailments to evolutionary adaptations for survival from which they presumably developed.  Not every aspect of humanity derives from Darwinian roots, argues Dr.

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Character is the currency of political ads and attacks. It makes business deals attractive or unsavory. Character is described in court trials and novels as what makes a person tick. We’re going to introduce you to the proposition that human behavior is not driven by character, but context.

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The other drug war South of the Border. An investigative reporter uncaps Big Pharma's secretive drug trials in South America. And researchers uncover the strange paradox of why Americans want to give their money to those with more, not less.  A   

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Author Richard Asma explains why we're afraid of monsters.  And what to do when the zombie apocalypse happens (because it SO will).  

This month’s installment of our 11 for '11 series of big picture conversations on the issues of our times. Today, we talk with Harvard experimental psychologist Stephen Pinker about his new book, Better Angels of Our Nature, about the history of violence, and why it's declined

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