Personality Pedagogy Newsletter Volume 7, Number 9, May, 2013

Hello and welcome to the eighty-first Personality Pedagogy newsletter highlighting what’s new at For more about the links below and approximately 2,781 other interesting links related to personality, please visit:

This month’s newsletter is dedicated to my Personality class. It seems that we fell into an interesting habit last semester (I usually have the same students for this two-semester sequence of Social and Personality psychology). At the request of one of the members, before every exam we went around the room and each person said something encouraging out loud to the next person about how they were going to do well on the exam. They said things like, “I don’t know your name, but you’ve never missed a class, you’re going to do great” or “I hear the scritch-scratch of your pencil behind me so I know you’re taking good notes”. It seemed to calm everybody down. Well, research published this month suggests that self-affirmations can increase problem-solving abilities! So, my class was onto something even before the research evidence was in.

Also, this month, we feature a veritable grab-bag of topics, most of them on the newest research findings in personality psychology: everything from personality changes and weight gain, to the 10 most narcissistic US presidents, to making the world a kinder place. There’s a little something for everyone here, including links to the effect named for the man who made a living on that philosophy: P.T. Barnum.

As ever, please pass this newsletter on to interested colleagues and invite them to sign up for future issues and to visit the home of Personality Pedagogy: Remember, you can view the current newsletter, comment on newsletters, re-read what you missed in previous newsletters, or search all newsletters by checking out our blog at and you can even receive Personality Pedagogy newsletters via RSS feed as soon as they are posted, by clicking on the “RSS-posts” button on the bottom right.


Marianne Miserandino
miserandino “at” arcadia “dot” edu

1. The Personality Pedagogy Monthly Newsletter

Sign up here to receive this newsletter delivered to your e-mail inbox once a month! We promise never to share your information with anybody else or to use it for any other purpose than Personality Pedagogy.

2. Self-Affirmation Improves Problem-Solving Under Stress

Research suggests that the identifying and thinking about one’s most important values can increase individuals’ problem-solving abilities. This, according to research by J. David Creswell and colleagues published in “PLOS ONE” and summarized here in “Science Daily”, May 3, 2013.

3. The Biology of Kindness: How it Makes Us Happier and Healthier

Summarizes research by Barbara Fredrickson and colleagues which finds that people who engage in Loving Kindness meditation show great responsiveness of the vagus nerve which plays a role in regulating glucose levels, immune responses, altruistic behavior, and how we connect and bond to one another. From “Time”, May 9, 2013.

4. Bonding with Avatar May Alter Perception of Virtual Reality

“When individuals create their own avatar and modify it, the difficult situations faced by their alter egos may influence the perception of the virtual environment” according to research by Shyam Sundar and colleagues summarized here for PsychCentral, May 6, 2013.

5. Six Ways to Separate Lies From Statistics

Public Policy professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers present these ways in which non-experts can separate useful statistics from the lies in this article for “Bloomberg”, May 2, 1013.

6. You’ll Never Learn: A New Marshmallow Test?

Is resisting a “blinking inbox or a buzzing phone” the new marshmallow test of self-discipline? Read about new evidence on self-discipline and multitasking in this article from “Slate”, May 3, 2013.

7. Weight Gain Linked With Impulsively-Related Personality Trait Changes

“People who gain weight are more likely to give in to temptations but also are more thoughtful about their actions, according to a new study” published by Angelina Sutin and colleagues in “Psychological Science” and summarized here, May 6, 2013.

8. The 10 Most Narcissistic U.S. Presidents

“Scott Lilienfeld and his student Ashley Watts recently found evidence that a personality trait called “grandiose narcissism” predicts greatness in U.S. presidents—and also malignancy” in a new study published in “Psychological Science” and summarized here, May 8, 2013.

9. Nice Guys Finish Last. Really? What Does The Research Say?

Eric Barker of the “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” blog weighs the evidence to see if there is any truth to this old adage. When it comes to money, dating and marriage, leadership and life in general, it all depends on what aspect of life you are looking at. Published May 10, 2013.

10. The Times and Troubles of the Scientific Method

“Science is working tirelessly night and day to disprove its own theories about how the universe works (or at least, that’s what science thinks it’s doing). Hank tells us a quick history of how we came to create and adopt the scientific method and then gives us a vision of the future of science (hint: it involves a lot more computers and a lot less pipetting)”. Posted by SciShow, April 29, 2013. (runs 11 minutes, 8 seconds)

11. National African American Photographic Archive

Collects, scans, and makes available to the public “photographs and informative metadata illustrating the daily and work lives and social activities of African Americans.”

12. Dan Ariely: What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?

“What motivates us to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money. But it’s not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work”. This TEDx talk was Posted April 10, 2013 and runs 20 minutes, 27 seconds.

13. Do You Fear Missing Out?

Obsessive checking of Twitter and Facebook to see what your friends are doing may have led to a new type of fear: FoMO. The fear of missing out is the “concern that others may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than” we are. Read all about it in this summary from “Science Daily”, April 29, 2013.

14. The Fear of Missing Out

Are you of those people who need to check social media constantly to see what their friends are up to? Take this brief test to see how you compare to others in this new fear that others “may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than we are”.

15. Emotional Intelligence Trumps IQ in Dentist-Patient Relationship

IQ may predict who does well in dental school, but EQ predicts who will make the best patient-friendly dentists. This according to research by Kristin Victoroff and colleagues published in the “Journal of Dental Education” and summarized here in “Science Daily”, April 22, 2013.

16. Risk Factor for Depression Can Be Contagious

A particular style of thinking which makes people vulnerable to depression — interpreting the causes of negative events as internal and stable — may actually infect roommates making them more vulnerable to depression six months later. This, according to research published by Gerald Haeffel and Jennifer Hames in the journal “Clinical Psychological Science” and summarized here in “Science Daily”, April 18, 2013.

17. People Present Themselves in Ways That Counteract Prejudices Toward Their Group

“Individuals from stigmatized groups choose to present themselves in ways that counteract the specific stereotypes and prejudices associated with their group”. This, according to a study by Rebecca Neel and her colleagues published in “Psychological Science” and summarized here in “Science Daily”, April 17, 2013.

18. Extroverts and Introverts, Make Way for the Ambiverts

When it comes to who is likely to excel in sales—Extroverts or Introverts—the surprising answer is both! Research suggests that people who have a balance between Introverted and Extroverted tendencies may have the best of both types of people and end up surpassing both at pulling in more revenue. From “Psychology Today”, April 21, 2013.

19. 7 Myths About Happiness

According to happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, “Nearly all of us buy into what I call the myths of happiness—beliefs that certain adult achievements (marriage, kids, jobs, wealth) will make us forever happy and that certain adult failures or adversities (health problems, divorce, having little money) will make us forever unhappy. Overwhelming research evidence, however, reveals that there is no magic formula for happiness and no sure course toward misery. Rather than bringing lasting happiness or misery in themselves, major life moments and crisis points can be opportunities for renewal, growth, or meaningful change. Yet how you greet these moments really matters.” From “Psychology Today”, March 9, 2013.

20. Favorite Link Revisited: The Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect Take this test to remind yourself why good personality tests should provide specific feedback…and why horoscopes are so much fun! This online test of 47 questions plus some background demographics gives the appearance of a legitimate personality test. Respondents receive the typical Barnum feedback and rate how accurate it is. The beauty of this on-line version is that students can change some of their answers and see that their description never changes. In the words of Prof. Birnbaum at Fullerton State who developed this page, “Self-validation is no validation”, according to the explanation given here.


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