Five Ways Psychology Can Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolution

In a recent article from National Public Radio, a study revealed that nearly 11 percent of respondents claim addiction to sugar soaked foods and drink. This awareness of dependence typically steers people around this time of year to develop a resolution to change their eating habits.

The only problem is that fewer people are making and keeping resolutions because of previous failed attempts at adhering to them, according to the New Republic.

Thanks to 20th century humanistic and cognitive psychology, there are ways to build healthy goals and keep them if you have the mettle and patience to reap the benefits.

Here are five tips stemming from psychological therapy techniques:

Focus on the inside
Too often resolutions are developed for social reasons: we what to look thinner, be healthier or appear attractive to suitors. While this goal is possible, people typically get wrapped up in other people's perception of themselves.

Develop a goal that focuses on you first. Maslow's hierarchy of needs shows that we need to address our basic needs before we worry about the needs of others. How can you help a child with math if you do not understand the math concept yourself?

Intrinsic benefits, not extrinsic rewards
Shift your thinking from rewarding yourself with an outside token like snacks, treats or mad money. Studies have shown that when we concentrate solely on outside benefits it diminishes the internal joys and reasons why we set goals. If you are going to commit to a resolution, commit to something that benefits you for your sake. If your goal is to eat healthier, make the motivation something that makes you feel valuable on the inside.

Delay gratification
Walter Michel's long-term study of children known as the Marshmallow Effect showed that those who delayed gratification after waiting for a period tend to have higher senses of self-satisfaction, confidence and long-term social benefits. Those who sought immediate gratification later in life were more likely to be envious, impulse and financially unstable.

Be patient with the results of your resolution and you may just find the intended and unintended benefits add up.

Short cycle check-ups and final assessment
Another problem with resolutions is that they do not typically have a well constructed plan to achieve the goal in a reasonable manner. The goal is set and the person hopes for the best. Consider setting up periodic check-ups on a calendar to monitor your progress and have a reasonable deadline for achievement. Too soon and you may become discourages; too late and you may forget you even had a resolution.

Be positive and realistic
Resolutions that fail are typically lofty, improbable and beyond your reach at that particular time. Take the time to consider if the resolution is too bold. If you stumble along the way, it's okay! You're human! Be positive, stay resilient and bounce back to your goal with the understanding that mistakes and errors in judgment are natural acts.…

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Unethical Psychology in Early America: Elizabeth Packard

Unethical and Early Psychology

Early psychology and unethical psychology have a lot in common, especially in that the earlier the psychology had been the more unethical it seems to have been as well. Granted, some of the reasons early psychology was so unethical was because the medical understanding of psychology had been so poor. Obviously, early psychology will reflect the time's limitations of knowledge. However, another component to the unethical quality of early psychology is that the practice not only reflected intellectual boundaries, but it also mirrored what we now consider to be unethical societal standards.

Today it is incredibly difficult for someone to be involuntarily committed to an insane asylum. Even in the 1860's, a time in which unethical psychology practices and experiments had barely reared it's ugly head, without compelling data it was still considered unethical for patients to be committed without their consent. This law, of course, did not apply to married women.

The Unethical Law Surrounding Packard v Packard

For one reason or another, early psychology found that husbands were allowed to involuntarily commit their wives to an insane asylum. Sound fairly unethical? Of course, were other relations to report the same indicators of insanity of the same women, they would theoretically be ignored, because otherwise that would be unethical.

In the famous case of Packard v Packard, a case which is both infamous for it's importance in the development in early psychology, the attention paid to unethical psychology, and the advancement of woman's rights, Elizabeth Packard was involuntarily committed to an insane asylum by her husband. The indicators of her insanity? Elizabeth Packard most notable disagreed with her husband on issues of religion, slavery, and wished he would assist her in weeding the garden. Her husband reported her as being slightly insane. The seriousness in which this oxymoron was investigated should in itself highlight the unethical and poor quality of early psychology in.

Elizabeth Packard was committed to an insane asylum for three years. Upon her release, she was shut up in a nursery in her husband's house and was only rescued by what was finally and obviously unethical bondage by slipping a note through a crack in the window her husband nailed shut. Maybe this is an apt time to mention Elizabeth Packard's husband was a reverend and they had six children.

What sort of evidence did Elizabeth Packard's husband produce to indicate that the former bondage had not been unethical and that she was truly insane? Packard called upon witnesses of his side of the family who agreed that Elizabeth Packard had disagreed with her husband on issues of religion. Elizabeth Packard's response instead called upon unbiased witnesses which whom she had interacted in her community, all of whom said she had never seemed insane. Where early psychology had defined her as incurable, the resolution of Packard v Packard was such that Elizabeth Packard was declared sane and locking her away unethical.

Elizabeth Packard's Efforts

After Elizabeth Packard was finally declared sane at …

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Social Psychology: A Review of Four Studies on Stereotype Creation

The focus of this paper is the examination of particular causes of social stereotypes, with the specific question being: "what are the factors in society that create stereotypes?" I found several studies in which this or a closely related question was highlighted as the central focus of the research. Each of the studies has a unique approach to a different facet of stereotyping. My intention is to discuss the initial question, method, results, and implications of each study to show overall whether or not stereotyping comes from parenting, teaching, overall societal factors like television and adolescent relationships, self schemas, personal experiences, or even the simple verification that certain stereotypes exist. I do not focus on any particular group; rather I use examples from any group I can find to illustrate my points that stereotypes may be learned through cues in normal communication from peers and authority figures and that they may be borne out of the media.

Before discussing these complex studies, a few definitions of terms and ideas should be presented. Stereotype, in-group, out-group are terms that I will use repeatedly. A stereotype is a belief that associates a group of people with certain traits (Brehm et al, 133). Groups consist of two or more persons perceived as related because of their interactions with each other over time, membership in the same social category, or common fate. In the fifth edition of Social Psychology, stereotyping is attributed to social categorization into in-groups and out-groups. Social Categorization describes how people sort each other into groups on the basis of gender, race, and other attributes like intelligence, body weight, and physical ability. This social categorization breeds in-groups (groups you identify with) and out-groups (all groups other than your in-groups). Brehm also attributes stereotype formation to past events, political figures, and from real differences in social groups that manifest into exaggerated, perceived differences. Stereotypes have long been a topic of study as researchers try to attribute their formation to societal factors.

The first study to be discussed is "The Consequences of Communicating Social Stereotypes" by Micah S. Thompson et al. It is actually a compilation of the method and results of two studies done by the group, and the overall implications of the results of the studies taken as a whole. Here is the abstract:

"At the extreme, social stereotypes can be learned either from direct contact with individual target group members or from communications about the target group received from others. These two forms of stereotype acquisition have consequences for the nature and content of the stereotype that is formed (Park & Hastie, 1987). The present studies examine these consequences using, in the first study, a rumor transmission design and, in the second, group discussions. The first study demonstrates that stereotypes that are received from others are more extreme, contain less variability information, and have higher social consensus than stereotypes learned from contact with individual target group members. The second study demonstrates that stereotypes that are communicated and …

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Psychology Columnist Suggests We Might Be Searching Too Hard to Find Happiness

In a recent article in Psychology Today columnist Carlin Flora suggests most of us might never reach happiness if we try too hard to find it. He comes to this apparent paradox citing several authors of self-help books that point out in various ways that happiness, as has been oft noted, is in the eye of the beholder.

But it's also in you, much more so than in any book a psychologist is peddling.

Flora points out that if you're doing reasonably well financially, meaning you don't have to scrape to pay the rent or mortgage each month, than your own happiness, as has been espoused by many before him have pointed out, is in your own hands. Rather than simply sitting there asking yourself occasionally if you're happy, he suggests people first consider what they mean by happy, as some might say happiness is little more than the absence of unhappiness, while others might believe that to be happy, means to feel some sort of elation all the time. Once you figure out what you believe happiness to be, he suggests you might then try to redefine it for yourself if your definition is beyond reasonable measure. If you think happiness means feeling joy all the time, for example, you will assuredly be setting yourself up for failure if you set true happiness for yourself as your goal. Instead, you might want to consider looking a little deeper, as many other psychologists suggest, to see if perhaps there isn't some underlying happiness that you could aspire to, such as finding a feeling of contentment with your job, spouse, family, life, etc.

Flora also points out that though some may truly be born with a sunny disposition, we can't all be so lucky, which means, if we want to be happy, whether with ourselves or our lives, or just in general, we probably ought to do some things to make it happen; otherwise, it just might not. The things people can do to encourage their own happiness vary of course, but most can be grouped into categories, such as giving of yourself to others; striving for some sort of goal that you really would like to achieve; allowing the downers in life to contrast with those that are more uplifting so as to give something with which to compare; arranging your life so you're not in competition with others, etc.

Which all means in the end of course, that if you want to be happy, stop buying self-help books and reading articles that tell you how, and get up off your duff and make the kinds of changes in your life that will give you a sense of happiness; the kind that fits your own description of it.…

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The Psychology of the Sandusky Cover Up: A Counselor's Perspective

As media continues to discuss Jerry Sandusky's alleged abuses of children, teens, and young men, I can't help but feel a profound sense of rage and disappointment about it. On the one hand, my mind asks, "How did this happen?" while on the other hand, my training in psychology helps me understand the unfortunate events.

I decided to write this article to explain, in my opinion, why some people may have made the decision not to pass on the information they had to authorities regarding allegations that Sandusky had sexually abused kids and teens. I'm not making excuses for those who knew. Of course, most people reading this article will agree that those same people should have contacted local police immediately.

Sexual Themes and the "No Talk" Rule

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, a "no talk" rule exists in American society, specifically related to subjects of a sexual nature. What this means is that whenever some individuals encounter a situation that's incredibly uncomfortable and involves sexual behavior, they don't want to talk about it. They believe it just shouldn't be discussed.

I would submit that many react this way because their parents taught them that sex was "bad" or at the very least, were sent the message that sex was a subject to be avoided. As education is dispersed, many understand the profound negative impact on those with less power (such as kids, teens, women, and members of various minority groups) that exercising the no talk rule can have in alleged sexual abuse situations.

The Phenomenon of Diffusion of Personal Responsibility

While in college, I learned about Albert Bandura, a famous psychologist at Stanford University, who discovered a social-psychological phenomenon that occurs when numbers or groups of people are involved in unsavory situations. Bandura called his discovery, "diffusion of personal responsibility."

It's a theory that states that when people are in a group (or not alone) and observe a morally upsetting event, a type of group mentality takes over. This phenomenon causes each person in the group to feel he isn't responsible to act to get people help in any way.

Interestingly, if just a single person is present when something goes wrong, chances are better that the lone individual will be more likely to act (PsycNET website). But if it's a larger group, no one takes responsibility to right the wrong-there's diffusion of personal responsibility.

The Sandusky Case and Diffusion of Personal Responsibility

PennLive website recently reported that in 2002, a graduate student, Mike McQueary (who later became the Assistant Football Coach at Penn State) made an allegation to Joe Paterno, the Head Coach of Penn State's Football team. McQueary said he saw Jerry Sandusky in a shower sexually molesting a boy who appeared 10 years old.

Paterno reportedly did nothing but tell McQueary he would have to talk about what he saw with then-Athletic Director, Tim Curley. Over a week later, McQueary spoke with Curley and Gary Schultz, head of Campus Police about the incident. …

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The Psychology Behind Why Abused Women Stay with Their Partners

Why do Montreal women and women in the rest of Canada and the USA stay in abusive relationships?

You love the man and cannot imagine what it would be like to be without him. You are afraid to leave. Oftentimes these men hold power on these women by threatening to kill them if they leave. You feel you have nowhere to go and do not know how you can survive on you own or with your children. The fear of the unknown is our worst enemy. You don't know where to turn to get help

Note: There are women shelters and many websites that can help you through this transitional period please take advantage of the wonderful services available to you. Reach out – don't be afraid there are people who are standing by to help you. Your first major step may be to simply tell a family member, friend, pastor, teacher, doctor, anybody you feel comfortable with.You are afraid of what people will think of you

Note: This Montreal Mental Health examiner's friend's mother was abused for years, she took it in stride. When my friend was in her 40's and her father came home and beat her mother because he didn't like the taste of the spaghetti sauce, my friend asked her why she was taking this abuse all these years. Her mother's answer was, "he is my husband, I cannot leave, what will the neighbours think?"
He is my husband I married for better or for worse.

All women please understand that you didn't get married to be abused or even killed. Get out! That is the only logical thing to do to stay alive.
You don't believe in divorce

Note: Okay so don't believe in. Then don't get divorced, but don't live in the same house with this abuser who is hurting you.

To be continued


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What's the Psychology Behind American Idol?

Can you sing?

I mean really?, or do you just believe that you can sing, and really can't? Do you also think that you look just like Jewel, or maybe Tom Cruise? Do you perceive yourself as a great intellectual leader, or well accepted and loved, no matter what environment you carelessly amble into?

These sublime questions beg an explanation. Just how, and more significantly why, do the worst of the worst American Idol contestants seem utterly oblivious to their obvious lack of talent? In order to understand, one must merely look within.

This twisted sense of self is not limited to vocal ability, to be sure. Many of us entertain an often skewed internal image of how we look, how others perceive us, and what the limitations of our abilities really are. Any given person almost invariably harbors an internal image that is not consistent with the external one that they actually project. Most of us think we are better looking, smarter or more talented than we really are. Why is that? The clockwork mechanism of this grandiose illusion is often rooted in the subconscious need to protect one's ego. In order to survive the relentless grist and tumble of daily life in a society of our peers, such illusions are often necessary to shield our often fragile sense of self-esteem as much as a suit of armor shields a Medieval Knight from raining blows. Such self-deceptive devices are often quite fragile, however, as evidenced by the brutal effect of Simon Cowell's scathing remarks, as these illusions tend to die hard, with great upheaval, and often in overt agony

Sigmund Freud once stated "Rob a man of his subterfuge and he goes mad", that is to say, once our armor of self-illusion has been cracked and exposed to the world by poignant, scathing criticism, madness may ensue. Sometimes hearing the truth can be devastating, but yet we love to hear it said, as long it is levied on others and not ourselves, of course.

Why is that?

The obvious answer is that when Pontius Cowell casts another American Idol contestant to the lions, we applaud with ferocious glee, just as spectators in the Roman Colosseum bellowed in uproarious approval, thumbs down, when a vanquished combatant was tossed to their death. The psychology behind this vulgar impulse, of course, is that at some deep, primordial level, we see it as slaying the twisted sense of self that all of us bottle tightly within, but are too terrified to confront, as most of us deeply and passionately need to believe that our own illusions are quite real, and not illusions at all.…

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Sports Psychology, Part 2 – Relaxation

Just relax!

Those have to be the two most un-relaxing words ever to be put together. Yet we continue to tell ourselves and each other that when stress arises. Anxiety in sports has been around since the beginning of time. Dealing with this anxiety is what can separate a beer leaguer from an elite athlete.

For those of you who feed off of nervousness, that enjoy being freaked out beyond belief, this article is not for you. For the rest of us, this will show you some beginning steps and skills that you can use in taking your anxiety down a couple of notches.

We are nervous because we care. We want to succeed. We want to be the best we can be. Those butterflies in our stomachs are a welcome feeling at times. They can however be controlled so that they do not negatively impact your performance. I was a pitcher at a small college in southern California and I frequently came out of the bullpen as a relief pitcher. Every time I stepped onto the mound the catcher looked like he was a hundred yards away. Once I made the first pitch, and heard the pop of the glove, all of that went away.

When I began to learn how to relax under pressure is when I began to reach my full potential as a player. There are a couple of ways to do this. We have all seen the movie with Adam Sandler where he goes to his happy place. We all need to have this place. Think about where you are most comfortable. Think about how you feel in that place. You must replicate those feelings as often as you possible can. That way you can recall that feeling when the time is needed.

Cue words are a great way to get you into that relaxed mode. The problem is that we often use negative tense words to try and put us in that place. Let me show you what I mean. Do not think of a pink elephant. It is impossible. Your mind does not hear "don't". It only hears the action. You must put all cues into a positively tensed form. Focus, breathe, and loose are great cue words. Try and stay away from relax and concentrate as we have been exposed to those negatively so many times we often keep that association.

Finally allow yourself to let go of failures as well as successes. Each of them can taint your next experience towards either end of the spectrum. Remember to live in the present and not in the past or the too distant future. Worry about the task at hand and you will be able to reduce the amount of anxiety felt during your performances.…

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New Insights into Psychology of Infant Development: Do Babies Have Morals?

How much do Psychologists really know about infants?

The mental life of infants has always been mysterious. But for the past century, Psychologists felt certain about at least a few fundamental truths about the infant mind: 1. That infant cognitive schemas pass through several developmental stages before reaching maturity, 2. that early-childhood schemas involved wildly different cognitive frameworks from those found in adults, and 3. that these frame works involved a world view that is entirely self-centered and solipsistic.

Do infants have morals?

But today, these long accepted claims are being turned on their head by Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale who contends that infants are born with an innate moral understanding. His controversial argument is based upon a number of experiments in which infants, usually around six months old, are presented with rudimentary "morality plays." One play featured three puppets. One puppet was struggling to climb up a steep hill, another decided to help him, and started walking him up, while a malicious third one, ran up to the first puppet and gave him a shove, tumbling him down the hill. After witching these plays, the baby is issued a series of tests designed to determine if the baby is partial towards the helping puppet, and/or turned off by the sadistic one. In all these cases, babies showed a tendency to desire to be with and to reward the "good guy," as well as a desire to be away from and to punish the "bad guy."

Are these Studies Truly Groundbreaking?

Of course, it would be presumptive to assume that these plays point towards some sort of innate, objective moral hardwiring. We know that nature does play a role in individual preferences, but preferences alone do not equate to morality. A baby bonds with a mother because of his preference for intimate social contact and needed resources. At this stage in development, a baby's love is still wholly selfish. But the ability to detect the fact that this individual provides positive interactions and tends to basic needs is surely innate, as it is an evolutionary necessity for a mother's young to recognize her as such. It seems to me that this innate "morality" is simply an extension of the capacity to differentiate individuals who might offer good things to the baby from individuals who may threaten the baby.

What makes these experiments interesting is not that they prove the existence of inborn morality, but that they show the sophistication of babies cognitive schema: babies, once thought to be entirely solipsistic, are in fact able to see the connection between how one stranger treats another and how said stranger might treat them. Of course, as time goes on, such perceptions develop into an intellectual understanding of justice and fairness, but at this stage in child development, it is fascinating enough to see that infants are so sophisticated at interpersonal perception.


  1. Bloom, Paul. "The Moral Life of Babies". New York Times Magazine May 2010: 44-65.
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What is the Psychology and Sociological Value of Favoriting a Tweet on Twitter?

The world of Twitter has slowly evolved into its own little sociological universe that users have more or less invented themselves. Consider that even though Twitter provides us with basic tools there, how we've been using them has really been dictating the true direction of Twitter. And one of the simplest tools available there has actually turned into one of the most revealing in how people feel about each other on social media. Ironically, it says so much despite no words uttered directly and only repeating what someday already said.

The above refers to Twitter's favorites section where you can instantly favorite a tweet by pressing a little golden star. While Twitter refers to it simply as a process for people to save tweets they like, what's the real psychology behind favoriting a tweet? Some online guides have provided some armchair psychology into multiple categories. With that, Twitter users are providing some of their own ideas on what they think the real motivations of favorites are. But does it go beyond and give us some deeper sociological insights into how people really feel about each other when not communicating face to face?

Favoriting Over Retweeting

There seems to be an unsaid dichotomy developing over making a tweet a favorite and retweeting someone's tweet. The art of RT'ing a tweet has been around since the beginning of Twitter and used to be the true favoriting method. That's because you're making someone's tweet more public in your own feed, including using variation on the RT of directly retweeting the whole tweet or just using copy and paste. While the psychology of a retweet may have to be done on its own, what's the real difference between an RT and a favorited tweet?

So far, there hasn't been any set rules, and some people might get insinuated vibes that a favorited tweet is slightly less than if the person retweeted directly on their page. In some cases, it may simply mean that they only give an RT directly on their page to people they know in real life. Everyone else they only know tangentially will be relegated to the favorites box.

The above might sound like a compact sociological picture of favoriting a tweet. Other times, it may be insinuated in a much more complex way that makes friendships on social media perhaps more scrutinized.

Are Favorites Meant Only for Compliments?

Many people (including some notables) use their favorites box to merely post tweets that have positive comments from real fans. In that regard, considering we can't go and call up our massive Twitter archive immediately to find the tweets we admire, favorites may be becoming our little scrapbook of compliments that can help us feel good about social media again after losing faith in its positives. Many notable people feel overly sensitive when they see how open of a forum it is to widespread criticism from supposed fans. During the bleakest moments, they can open their favorites box and be reminded that …

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