Personality Pedagogy Newsletter Volume 4, Number 6, February, 2010


Personality Pedagogy Newsletter Volume 4, Number 6, February, 2010

Hello and welcome to the forty-second Personality Pedagogy newsletter highlighting what’s new at

Is it spring yet? Not that we think our weather here has been any worse than yours, but let’s just say between two-hour delays, shoveling, two back-to-back blizzards, we’ve had enough! This seems like a good month to stay indoors and keep warm with a nice cup of hot chocolate by the computer with this month’s newsletter.

This month we are reflecting on the life and work of noted personality psychologist Jack Block, who died January 13. You can read about him in his New York Times obituary (see link below). Among his many accomplishments, often with his wife and co-author Jeanne, is establishing one of the earliest longitudinal studies in the field, development of the Q-sort test, work on the ego-resilient personality, the Ego Resiliency scale, and his classic book ”Lives Through Time”. It was Jack and Jeanne Block who introduced the word ”resilience” to psychology over 60 years ago in their dissertations.

The second link this month is to a summary on the website ”Sociological Images” of a ”New York Times” article by Natalie Angier and Kenneth Chang summarizing research on gender differences in math. It seems that psychological research tells a very different story from folk wisdom. Check out the myths and the facts here. If you’re not already aware, ”Sociological Images” is a good source for controversial maps, graphs, advertisements (vintage and current), on issues related to sociology including institutionalized racism, sexism, etc. While more relevant to social psych or sociology, their entries are always thought-provoking and sure to spark discussion among your students.

Have you heard of Thiagi? Sivasailam ”Thiagi” Thiagarajan was the genius behind the classic cross-cultural game, and one of our all-time favorites, called ”Barnga” (published by Intercultural Press; see link below). He has a website and monthly newsletter all about how to use play to teach and train people with games and interactive experiential exercises ( This month, we feature a link to one of his newest games: Five ”-Ful” Envelopes.

As ever, please pass this newsletter on to interested colleagues and invite them to sign up for future issues. Remember, you can read old newsletters, comment on newsletters, view the current newsletter or re-read what you missed in last month’s newsletter by checking out our new blog: You can even receive Personality Pedagogy newsletters via an RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) feed as soon as they are posted.


Marianne Miserandino
miserandino “at” arcadia “dot” edu

1. Jack Block, Who Studied Young Children Into Adulthood, Dies at 85

From the ”New York Times” obituary, February 6, 2010: ”Jack Block, a prominent psychologist of personality who in 1968 began studying a group of California preschoolers and for decades kept watch as they moved from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood, died on Jan. 13 at his home in El Cerrito, Calif. He was 85.”

2. The Truth About Gender and Math

From the website: ”Math ability, in some societies, is gendered. That is, many people believe that boys and men are better at math than girls and women and, further, that this difference is biological (hormonal, neurological, or somehow encoded on the Y chromosome)… But actual data about gender differences in math ability tell a very different story. Natalie Angier and Kenneth Chang reviewed these differences in ”The New York Times”.”

3. Five ”-Ful” Envelopes

In this activity by Barbara Frederickson, participants explore the positive emotions of being hopeful, joyful, peaceful, playful, and thankful, and brainstorm ways of increasing the frequency and intensity of these positive emotions in their lives.

4. Barnga (PDF of instructions)

This game teaches participants about inter-cultural awareness: ”In Barnga, participants experience the shock of realizing that despite many similarities, people of differing cultures perceive things differently or play by different rules. Players learn that they must understand and reconcile these differences if they want to function effectively in a cross-cultural group.” Essentially, the game induces feelings of culture shock in the limited (and safe) environment of a classroom. (Note: We have used this game to introduce principles of conformity, obedience, normative social influence, informational social influence, etc., in our social psychology classes with great success for years. We’ve also used this game as the basis of an orientation session for students about to study abroad. The manual, which you can purchase from Intercultural Press or online at, features extensive notes about possible discussion topics and sensitive debriefing of the experience).

5. From Music to Sports: Autonomy Fosters Passion Among Kids

”Parents take heed: children and young adults are more likely to pursue sports, music or other pastimes when given an opportunity to nurture their own passion. According to a three-part study led by Geneviève Mageau, a psychology professor at the Université de Montréal, parental control can predict whether a child develops a harmonious or obsessive passion for a hobby” according to this summary from ”ScienceDaily,” February 4, 2010.

6. Why We Love Narcissists (At First)

”Despite being self-absorbed, arrogant, entitled, and exploitative, narcissists are also fascinating. And not just from a clinical perspective; the research finds that we are strangely drawn to their self-centered personalities, their dominance and their hostility, their sensitivity and their despair, at least for a while.” This article from PsyBlog summarizes new research from Mitja Back and Stefan Schmukle (2010), Why are narcissists so charming at first sight? Decoding the narcissism–popularity link at zero acquaintance, from the ”Journal of Personality and Social Psychology”, 98(1), 132-145.

7. Cultural Comparisons

Compare any two cultures on Geert Hofstede’s 5 dimensions of cultural values (power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation). From the website: this ”research gives us insights into other cultures so that we can be more effective when interacting with people in other countries. If understood and applied properly, this information should reduce your level of frustration, anxiety, and concern”.

8. Phineas P. Gage: photo, photo, NPR story

The first two links are to the only known photograph (daguerreotype) of Phineas Gage, the foreman who sustained a serious and amazing head wound which changed his personality for the rest of his life. The third link is to a January 24, 2010 NPR story on him and the surfacing of the photograph.

9. The Science of Success

The ”Atlantic Magazine” ran this article December 2009 summarizing research on the genetics of resilience: ”Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.”

10. APA Style Essentials

Douglas Degelman, Vanguard University of Southern California, put together this document to ”provide a common core of elements of APA style that all members of an academic department can adopt as minimal standards for any assignment that specified APA style.”

11. Functional Asymmetry: Sitting in the Right Spot

According to research by Matia Okubo of Japan, right-handers sit to the right of the movie screen to optimize neural processing of the film. This summary from the British Psychological Society Research Digest Blog, December 29, 2009, of the paper: Okubo, M. (2010). Right movies on the right seat: Laterality and seat choice. ”Applied Cognitive Psychology”, 24 (1), 90-99.

12. Clips for Class

From the website: ”We launched an extensive search for videos on the internet that could be used both in class and by students at home. The videos range from news clips, to popular television shows, to student projects, and represent many psychological fields of study.” Collection of creative videos for all areas of psychology including personality. Under the Personality tab, check out: individualism vs. collectivism, psychosexual stages explained in the spirit of High School Musical, Self-Efficacy Theory (a la Masterpiece Theatre), a clip from the MTV show room raiders to illustrate the Five Factor model, and others.


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