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Science Shows How Students Can Stop Sweating Statistics

The thought of taking a statistics course strikes fear into their hearts of many psychology students, but it’s an increasingly unavoidable burden. A survey of over 300 University psychology programs in North America found that 98% of them required their students to take at least one or two statistics courses for degree completion.

Students generally point to statistics courses as being the most anxiety-inducing courses in their degree program. In a recent Perspectives on Psychological Science article, Peter Chew and Denise Dillon reviewed the current state of statistics anxiety research and outlined several ways instructors can help reduce students’ anxieties.

Although statistics anxiety has often been confused or conflated with math anxiety, researchers have managed to identify several factors which seem to play a role in its development. Aspects…


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What’s the Value of a Dollar? It Depends on How You Perceive Numbers

When it comes to how we value money, all dollars (or Euros or yen or pesos) are not created equal.

If someone gives you three dollar bills and then offers a fourth, the prospect of getting that extra dollar is kind of exciting. But if someone offers you 33 dollar bills first, the additional dollar loses some of its luster.

This is because the extra dollar in the first scenario has greater subjective value than the extra dollar in the second scenario, a phenomenon economists often call “diminishing marginal utility” (DMU). If you were to poll a bunch of people and map out the subjective value of each additional dollar, the values would take a curvilinear shape.

Psychological scientists Dan R. Schley and Ellen Peters of The Ohio State University speculated that the DMU function might vary from person to person depending on how they perceive and map numeric values…


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Social Processes in Daily Life

Michael Roche and his coauthors studied social processes and how they play out in daily life. In their study, college students with a high-dependency or a low-dependency personality reported how agentic (dominant vs. submissive) and communally (friendly vs. unfriendly) they behaved towards others, and how agentic and communally others behaved towards them during a one week period. High-dependency and low-dependency participants were similarly agentic towards interaction partners that were highly communal, but high-dependency participants were much less agentic than low-dependency participants to interaction partners that were less communal. People with a high-dependency personality seem to have trouble asserting dominance with people they perceive as unfriendly, which could lead them to be taken advantage of in some types of interactions. The next step in this research is to use this information to form treatments for helping improve the interactions of people with different types of personalities.


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Piecing Together the Flight 370 Narrative

It’s been 13 days since the Malaysia Airlines flight vanished. In that time, there have been hundreds of news reports positing different theories about its whereabouts and its fate. But by virtue of the fact that the plane is still missing, each of those stories is based on circumstantial evidence — no one truly knows what happened, and the leads and hypotheses that seemed plausible for Flight 370 a week ago have since changed.

This is an especially trying situation for those with family or friends on board — people who want nothing more than to hear a clear-cut story about the fate of their loved ones.

As consumers of the news information, how are we to make sense of so many different reports based on so little evidence? Research has shown that people…


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How Science and Technology Can Help Each Other Flourish

Psychological science and technology stand side by side as two of the fastest-growing areas of interest in the world, yet they rarely intersect or interact to mutually benefit one another. This Presidential Cross-Cutting Theme program at the 2014 APS Annual Convention, May 22–25 in San Francisco, will feature three subpanels on behavioral genetics, mobile sensing, and social networks. The subpanels and speakers include:

Behavioral Genetics