psychology

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We've got some issues facing us now that require some long-term planning.  Global warming will not be solved immediately; we won't see results of climate-positive actions right away. 

Which makes it hard for creatures bent toward instant gratification.  So how do we modify our behaviors in ways that provide benefits a while from now, perhaps not in our lifetimes? 

Bina Venkataraman examines who we are and what we're capable of in the book The Optimist's Telescope

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The psychiatrist James Gordon knows a thing or two about trauma, and not just the kind experienced by individuals.  As the director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, he works with the kind of trauma that affects entire populations--think Kosovo, Gaza, or Pine Ridge. 

How would a therapist even begin the healing process?  That question and many more are answered in Dr. Gordon's book The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma

It reveals many of the techniques he's used over 50 years in the field. 

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It's really just three words contracted to two: "I'm sorry."  So there's no great expenditure of energy in saying it. 

Physical energy, anyway; psychic energy is another thing entirely.  Harriet Lerner, clinical psychologist and author of many books on relationships, examines how hard it is for so many of us to say the words and mean them sincerely. 

Lerner's book is Why Won't You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts

"Abraham Lincoln attacked the South." 

"I can't do it tonight, I have to wash my hair." 

"The dog broke it, Mommy."  Each one a lie, but obviously lies of somewhat different degrees. 

Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin takes up the human capacity to wander from the truth, and gives some pointers on staying in a truth-based world, in the book A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age

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The barista who gave you a nice smile may have gotten a better tip from you, but there could be other costs. 

A researcher at Penn State looked into the effects on employees of enforcing "service with a smile" guidelines.  And roughly, the effect appears to be more drinking. 

Employees who force smiles at work appear to drink alcohol more heavily after work. 

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Ever hear of "cab wit?"  That's the snappy comeback that arrives in your head long after a conversation has ended... like in the cab going home. 

We appreciate wit in our society, even though it may be a little difficult to define.  James Geary takes a stab at definition, explanation, and more in his boo Wit's End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It

Hint: it's more than a sense of humor. 

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Ever put something up on social media, then obsessively check for the next few hours to see if anyone "liked" it?  If so, you're not alone. 

The current age offers all kinds of technological distractions that can turn into compulsions.  And it goes way beyond just the technology, as Matt Haig points out in his book Notes on a Nervous Planet

He explores the ways in which modern life can put a dent in our happiness. 

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Abby Ellin is an award-winning journalist, and her investigative skills came in handy when her fiancé's tales of his life began to sound suspicious. 

He was indeed lying, but the bigger surprise was finding out how common such lies can be.  Abby's discoveries and her research led to a book: Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married

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What better time than the New Year to take on a grudge!

British crime writer Sophie Hannah maintains that not all grudges are created equal. Some are better than others.

And embracing a good grudge -- or as Sophie Hannah puts it, walking the Grudge-Fold Path -- can be downright healthy. She outlines it all in her new book, How to Hold a Grudge

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The old JPR studios were located next to a classroom that hosted many a math class.  Some of our former co-workers avoided the area when class was in session; math made them nervous. 

It's really a thing, says Jennifer Ruef at the University of Oregon.  She teaches Education Studies, and says "math trauma" from past learning experiences really happens. 

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Maybe we've gotten a bit soft in the millennia since we moved indoors, but our survival skills are still pretty good.  Our primitive brains keep us moving in search of food and mates and other necessities. 

Trouble is, human ingenuity has resolved those quests, up to a point.  We have abundant food, some of it good for us, and many ways to find potential mates. 

Psychiatrist Peter Whybrow says we need to re-tune our brains for the world we live in now.  His book is The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived

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Even the use of the very word "empathy" can produce some interesting gut-level reactions.  Some people feel the need to delve deeper; others just snicker. 

Empathy--the ability to sense what other people feel emotionally--is a handy skill, and helpful in many situations.  But it is often misunderstood as well. 

Cris Beam puts a journalists on fact and myth, theory and practice in the book I Feel You: The Surprising Power of Extreme Empathy

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Life does not always live up to our expectations.  Is the problem life, or the expectations? 

Christine Hassler, coach, speaker, and host, says it's the expectations. 

In fact, she coins a term for that situation and uses it for the title of a book: Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life.  The book lays out ways to keep the expectations realistic, so the sense of accomplishment is obtainable. 

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Therapist Eric Maisel thinks about how our minds work.  A lot. 

He's visited The Exchange several times to talk about his books, including a visit in December 2014 to talk about Life Purpose Boot Camp

You don't actually have to go to camp to make use of the concepts, which center around organizing your life to find meaning and purpose. 

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"I did NOT mean to say that!"  Ever uttered that phrase? 

You have lots of company, and it's just possible that you're all wrong.  Psychologists can demonstrate that many things we do emerge from our unconscious minds, instead of from the turned-on conscious brain. 

Dr. John Bargh knows the unconscious mind well, and he gives us a tour in his book Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do

Can we turn our knowledge of the unconscious into more deliberate behavior?  Yes! 

Everyone from our parents to our doctors often counsel us to be positive. 

And just look at the tone on social media sites: be happy!  Those negative emotions do have their uses, though. 

Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener point out how, in their book The Upside of Your Dark Side

Robert Biswas-Diener joined us a few years back to demonstrate how those "negative" emotions can produce positive results. 

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Leave it to an economist to teach us how to be happy. 

No, really... Paul Dolan's training is in economics, but his research focuses on the pursuit of happiness... and how to actually obtain some results from the pursuit. 

He joined us a few years back to talk about the process he advocates; book and process are both called Happiness By Design

Maybe your boss set up some exercises to help you and your colleagues work better together. 

And maybe you did become a better and more productive team as a result. 

But at least one psychologist believes firmly that knowing YOURSELF better is the key to success at work and elsewhere. 

Tasha Eurich is that psychologist, and the author of Insight: Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life

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"Two heads are better than one" seems like a mismatched phrase with "fake news," but there's a common thread. 

And that is the working of the human brain.  We tend to think better in groups than as individuals. 

And that may explain why left to our own devices, we believe in conspiracy theories or lying reporters. 

Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach are the co-authors of The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone.

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We don't want everyone to know everything about us. 

But that's just privacy; secrets are another matter entirely.  And research shows that keeping secrets can damage relationships, wounding both keeper and finder of the secret. 

Jane Isay, who comes from a family of psychologists and psychiatrists, wrote about the issues in her book Secrets and Lies

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