Getting Psyched

 I’ve always been fascinated by psychology.  I never formally studied it, but I like to consider myself somewhat of an amateur analyst – I love to observe people. Human behavior is endlessly interesting. And funny. And weird. And unpredictable.

 So covering the Department of Psychology and getting an opportunity to work with the faculty researchers there is really a fun part of my job. Most of the time, the studies offer new insight and reveal some really cool, counterintuitive results. 

 But other times, the results, though perhaps not entirely counterintuitive, are still really cool because they offer comfort and validation that we humans are pretty nice, “normal” creatures.

Like Darcia Narvaez’s work in the moral development of children.  She’s identified six parenting practices that appear to help children, well, be nice. These practices – like encouraging kids to play outside and cuddling your toddler, are pretty natural things for parents to do, so it’s somehow comforting to know that they actually have long-lasting, positive implications.    Clearly, other people found Darcia’s work interesting as well, since her study appeared everywhere from MSNBC to Women’s Day

Then there’s Gabe Radvansky’s study on walking through doorways causing forgetting. Talk about R-E-L-I-E-F!  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gotten up, walked purposefully into another room, then promptly forgotten what I was going to do.  I suffered in silence and assumed it was just the beginning of old age. Not that I’m old yet or anything. Apparently, lots of people were equally relieved about their forgetting, and word of Gabe’s study was picked up far and wide: CBS News, National Geographic and U.S. News and World Report are just a small sample of the interest in this one.

Most recently, Jill Lany published a study on how babies actually can identify nouns and verbs in spoken language even before they can speak. All that listening they do in the first year of life is actually priming them for speaking the following year. 

All of it’s so amazing when you really stop and think about it – that babies are born ready to communicate, that parents do have influence over whether or not their kids grow up to be nice adults, and that forgetting what you’re doing in another room is a universal frustration.

We humans are cool creatures.

 

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