PsychNotes October-November 2010
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
NOVEMBER 16, 2010
NOVEMBER 9, 2010
How Both Overly Positive and Negative Misperceptions of Performance Can Affect You
When individuals have an overly positive view of their performance, they are likely to engage in future "self-handicapping" which involves strategies to protect the self-esteem. For example, not studying enough for a test so as to blame future poor performance on the lack of preparation rather than the lack of ability.
However, an overly negative view of performance also affects future performance by causing self-doubt. Such individuals are also likely to engage in "self-handicapping." In addition, both types of misperceptions are associated with increased anxiety and lower levels of life satisfaction (Kim, et.al, 2010).
Individuals who have accurate perceptions of their performance are likely to be more motivated, less likely to engage in "self-handicapping," and are more satisfied in general (Kim, et.al, 2010).
Kim, Y., Chiu, C., and Zou, Z. (2010). Know thyself: Misperceptions of actual performance undermine achievement motivation, future performance, and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 395-409.
NOVEMBER 7, 2010
Being Mindful of Emotions Decreases Intensity
Researchers Kron et.al. (2010) found through a series of studies that the more an individual's
mind is occupied with mental activities, the less intense the emotional experience. Interestingly,
even if the assigned task is to focus on the emotions themselves, the individual still experiences
a reduction in the emotional intensity.
This may suggest a mechanism by which mindfulness impacts the emotional experience. During a
mindful state, an individual focuses completely on the emotions and often experiences a greater
tolerance of the emotional state and a decrease in intensity of the emotions. Therefore, when
faced with difficult emotions, a focus on emotions may be more effective than an avoidance of
Kron, A., Schul, Y., Cohen, A. and Hassin, R. (2010). Feelings don't come easy: Studies on the
effortful nature of feelings. Journal of Experimental Psychology:General, 139, 520-534.
ALSO READ: Why Are Meditative Relaxation and Mindfulness Important?
OCTOBER 17, 2010
Superman Effect? Wear Red to
Much research has been conducted regarding what characteristics attract the opposite sex.
Researcher Andrew Elliott and colleagues (2010) examined the effect of men wearing red
on women's perceptions of attraction. They found that women tended to be more attracted
to men wearing red or even standing in front of a red background. In addition, this effect
was consistent in three different countries.
They suggest this effect may be due to the perception of dominance that the color red
portrays. In addition, a man who wears red (such as a red tie) may also perceive himself
with greater status which may increase his self-confidence and assertiveness, and thus,
Elliot, A.J., Kayser, D.N., Greitemeyer, T., Lichtenfeld, S., Gramzow, R.H., and Maier, M.A.
(2010). Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 139, 399-417.
OCTOBER 8, 2010
Grief is Not Depression
Often, grief during bereavement may appear similar to depression and sometimes
individuals who are grieving may be treated for depression. However, in spite
of the similarities, grief and depression are not the same.
A significant difference between the two found by researchers Coifman and Bonanno
(2010) is that individuals who are grieving have more variability in emotional
responses, particularly the ability to experience positive emotions depending upon
the circumstances. For example, while grieving they may be able to share a funny
story about their loved one. Those with depression were less able to do engage in
this type of positive emotional response.
Coifman,K.G. and Bonanno,G.A. (2010). When distress does not become depression:
Emotion context sensitivity and adjustment to bereavement. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 119,
OCTOBER 7, 2010
Massage: Effects on Anxiety,
Depression, and Pain
Massage therapy has generally been overlooked in psychological research as a tool
to assist with managing conditions, both physical and mental, that are effected by
stress. However, Grant Rich (2010) reviewed the studies that have been conducted
and has drawn conclusions about the usefulness of massage therapy.
He indicates that research suggests that even a single session of massage therapy
can reduce the immediate symptoms of anxiety such as heart rate and blood pressure
and that multiple sessions can impact depression and anxiety on a long-term basis.
Although a single session of massage therapy does not impact pain, multiple sessions
have shown a reduction in pain including fibromyalgia, PMS, arthritis, back conditions,
and migraine headaches.
Rich, G.J. (2010). Massage therapy: Significance and relevance to professional practice.
Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41, 325-332.
OCTOBER 3, 2010
Laugh in the Face of Adversity:
Reducing Stress During Marital Conflict
Conflict usually causes physical effects of stress such as increased heart rate,
breathing, and muscle tension. These effects often lead to greater negative
perception and feelings of dissatisfaction in the marriage. However, researcher
Joyce Yuan and colleages (2010) found that positive emotion during the course of a
tense situation leads to a reduction in these physical effects.
Thus, couples who are able to laugh or respond positively to one another even when
discussing a difficult topic are able to reduce the stress of a tense situation.
As a result, they are likely to experience more satisfaction, in general,
regarding their marriage.
Yuan,J.W., McCarthy,M., Holley,S.R. and Levenson,R.W. (2010). Physiological
down-regulation and positive emotion in marital interaction. Emotion, 10, 467-474.
OCTOBER 1, 2010
Don't Be Too Unselfish in a
Group--You Might Be Removed
Why would group members get rid of a member who contributes significantly
to the group goal without asking much in return? It seems silly to sacrifice
the group goals to remove a contributing member.
Researchers Craig Parks and Asako Stone (2010) examined this common phenomena
and suggest that people don't want group members who exceed the norm and make
the others look bad if they don't meet the standard that is set. In addition,
some group members may perceive the unselfish member as a rule-breaker, and thus,
a threat to the cohesiveness of the group.
The problem with this attitude is that the group may lose a productive member
either through removal, the member quitting, or the member reducing productivity
in order to meet the group norm.
Parks,C.D. and Stone,A.B. (2010). The desire to expel unselfish members from the group.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 303-310.