Wednesday, September 18, 2013

SWAG: My favorite reason to "Just Post It!"

Every Wednesday Thursday afternoon, I gather with a bunch of faculty and graduate students at the University of Illinois to discuss a journal article about social psychology, and to eat a snack. This blog post reflects the discussion we had during this week's seminar affectionately called Social Wednesdays Thursdays and Grub (SWTAG)--we're going STAG now!

In last week's journal club we read about a recent paper in Psychological Science with a very clear message: It should be the norm for researchers to post their data upon publication. In the article, the author (Uri Simonsohn) lays out the major reason why he thinks posting data is a good idea: It helps our field catch scientific fraud in action (e.g., fabricated data). Simonsohn details some methods he has used in the past to catch fraud in the paper and on his new blog over at (I'll have mine blended!).

I agree that posting data will make it harder for people to fabricate data. However, my favorite reason to increase norms for posting data has nothing to do with data fabrication.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Single Factor Model for Success in Graduate School

Graduate School: The Playground of the Mind
If you've come to the internet more than once, then you know that blogs often discuss the difficulties of coming out of graduate school with a tenure track faculty appointment in psychology or other fields (here and here). For those of you out there considering a research career at a major university--keep in mind that it's not for everyone. PYM has also tried its hand at one or two lists of traits needed to succeed in graduate school. These lists have been inspired by others. Together, success lists make it seem like graduate success is a product of a number of personality factors and situational variables that people have very little control over.

But, what if I told you that success in graduate school is much simpler than considering all these complex person X situation interactions? What if whether you sink or swim is really just about one key ingredient? Today I present a single factor model for success in graduate school!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Your Social Life Affects Your Self-Regulation

Part of being human is the desire to control or change what we do, what we feel, and what we think. We all struggle with tasks of self-regulation, like cooking more nutritious food, limiting our emotional outbursts, and paying attention in class. I’m sure you can find countless reasons on the internet and within the self-help literature to explain why you’re not so good at regulating your behaviors, emotions, and cognitions. Maybe you didn’t learn how to control your actions well in childhood or perhaps you don’t have as much willpower as other people. One influence you may not have considered, though, is your social environment. Do you have friends you can confide in? Do you feel accepted by your peers? Believe it or not, our social surroundings can have a strong impact on our ability to self-regulate. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

How is your sleep affecting your relationship?

For the first few years of college, I maintained the typical college-student sleep schedule: in bed between 2am and 3am, dragging myself up at 9am for my 9:30am lecture which I inevitably slept through (in the front row… what was I thinking?!?). Chronically sleep-deprived, I would rather be spending time with my new friends and boyfriend than catching those precious zzz’s. Many of those nights made for wonderful memories, but other times I’d find myself inexplicably upset over some small issue, picking fights with my boyfriend (now husband) in the wee hours of the night. “You’re tired, go to bed” my wise boyfriend would tell me. “No I’m not! This is a real issue!” sleepy me would argue back, frustrated at his disregard, not understanding why he didn’t get what I was feeling.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I will publicly state that my husband was right – 99% of the time I was just tired and a good night of sleep made all of my problems go away. Happily, I eventually learned the benefits of getting my requisite 9 hours of sleep, and rarely find myself picking fights in the middle of the night. And now, 10 years later, I’m putting this anecdote to the test – conducting research to answer the question of whether we might, at times, find ourselves in conflict simply because one of us is tired.

Poor Sleep: A route to unnecessary conflict?

Conflict is an important, inevitable, and healthy component of relationships. Romantic partners who are sharing their lives together are expectedly going to have times of disagreement. In fact, being able to express differences of opinion and find compromise may very well be the hallmark of a healthy relationship. However, conflict is not always helpful and even at its best, is generally unpleasant. Minimizing unnecessary squabbles is vital for the longevity of relationships. And here is where I think sleep comes in. People who are sleep deprived tend to experience more negative emotions (see this post for more on sleep and mood), are more reactive to negative events, and are worse at problem solving. A recipe for disaster – whereas someone who is well-rested might be able to clarify when they think they’ve been criticized, or simply shrug off a sink of dirty dishes, someone who is sleep-deprived is more likely to be a ticking time bomb, possibly reacting automatically without the capacity to stop and think it through.

In our research, we examined the link between sleep and conflict, testing three main questions:

After sleeping poorly…
1.       Are people more likely to report experiencing conflict with their relationship partners?
2.       Is their conflict more severe?
3.       Are they less able to resolve conflict?

The short answer is Yes. A bad night of sleep is associated with more frequent, severe and less resolved conflict between relationship partners. But read on for the longer explanation…