Psychology

There's a joke that goes when a man gets married, his wife changes everything about him and then complains he's not the man she married.

While it isn't entirely true, the sentiment goes both ways. So if your significant other makes a romantic effort this Valentine's Day, give them some credit for trying instead of remembering all the ways they have let you down. 

A new Northwestern University survey/study says that the more you believe your partner is capable of change and perceive that he or she is trying to improve, the more secure and happy you will feel in your relationship. That is true even if you think your partner could still do more to be a better partner.
The gap between atheists and the religious seems at times to be an impossible divide, almost as if believers and non-believers come from different species. What separates the secular from the sacred? An "Ask the Brains" question on the Scientific American site recently inquired as to any differences between the brain of an atheist and the brain of a religious person. Andrew Newberg, the director of research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Philadelphia, responded that, yes, in fact, there are some small but perceptible differences between the brains of believers and non-believers.

Conventional wisdom holds you're born with perfect pitch or you're not. The conventional wisdom is wrong. Here's how to train perfect pitch.

For my book Brain Trust, I interviewed Diana Deutsch, University of California San Diego professor and president of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, and she said the trick is pairing pitch with meaning -- early!

Taking notes during class? Topic-focused study? A consistent learning environment? All are exactly opposite the best strategies for learning. Really, I recently had the good fortune to interview Robert Bjork, director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, distinguished professor of psychology, and massively renowned expert on packing things in your brain in a way that keeps them from leaking out. And it turns out that everything I thought I knew about learning is wrong.

Here's what he said.
Changes to the diagnostic definition of autism will be published in the fifth edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" - DSM V - but exactly what those changes will be is a key point of discussion. There are still a lot of qualifying issues in a lot of areas for a publication that has already been a long time in the making.

At stake? Apparently a lot of money.  Autism was once rare enough that a definition was not rigorous but it also was not crucial - some leeway was allowed.  As a result, recent increased instances, either to more occurrences or more accurate diagnoses or even mis-diagnosis, have made the new definition for DSM-V a hot topic.
Gamification is a topic I have mentioned not too long ago (see this post). Recently I attended a Boston CHI presentation by Chris Cartter called "The Socialization and Gamification of Health Behavior Change Apps."

Gamification

One thing that Cartter said that sounds right, and may resonate with some of my readers, is that games are fuzzy, not perfect sequential processes. And that is what health behavior changes are more like.

So gamification in this area might actually result in better methods than old fashioned x-step procedures.

Who do you think will win the Republican presidential nomination? Obsession with this question possesses the entire United States. Today a brief search on Google for “GOP primary prediction” returned close to 40 million results. Over the past few months, the news media has been a continuous spin cycle of talking heads, pontificating pundits, bleating politicians, and outraged citizens, all converging on the topic of who will eventually be crowned the Republican candidate for the American presidency. The amount of effort expended on this process is staggering—even though many people felt that the probable outcome was more or less obvious from the start.
It's not correlation/causation (though less and less is, since science has learned that causation is now teaching us less and less about how to actually fix things) but some in the social fields are claiming there are biological truths to stereotypes about the left and right, like that progressives are self-indulgent and clueless on national issues while conservatives are fear-mongers with a fetish for exaggerated dangers.
This December the National Transportation Safety Board of the U.S. recommended a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. According to NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, "This (distracted driving) is becoming the new DUI. It's becoming epidemic.” For some, the NTSB recommendation is a sign of the forces of light winning the day, and for others, proof of the impending apocalypse. Regardless of your emotional reaction to the issue, the subject cuts right to the heart of questions about the attention capacity of the human brain.

Prejudice is just bigotry that arises from flawed ideology, right?  Not so, say the authors of a new paper.

They contend prejudice stems from a deeper psychological need and it is associated with a particular way of thinking. People who aren't comfortable with ambiguity and want to make quick and firm decisions are also prone to making generalizations about others. People who are prejudiced feel a much stronger need to make quick and firm judgments and decisions in order to reduce ambiguity.

And, they argue, it's virtually impossible to change this basic way that people think.