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Fuzzy Thinking Gives Adolescents a Clearer View of Risk

Although many people make risky decisions, one group — adolescents — are the most likely to engage in risky behavior. According to one theory explaining the developmental trajectory of risky decision-making — the imbalance theory — this phenomenon is prevalent in adolescence partly because areas of the brain involved in reward mature before areas of the brain connected with behavioral inhibition and delay of gratification.

In a recent article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, APS Fellow Valerie F. Reyna, Rebecca B. Weldon, and Michael McCormick, all of Cornell University, describe how a second theory — fuzzy-trace theory (FTT) — may provide suggestions about altering adolescents’ tendency toward risky behavior.

Although FTT is…

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Helping Healthy Habits Stick

PAFF_010615_MaintainingHealthyHabits_newsfeatureEvery New Year, millions of people resolve to adopt healthier habits, and that will no doubt be fueled this year by the US government’s new dietary guidelines urging people to eat less sugar. Despite these good intentions, actually sticking to a new diet or exercise plan is hard to sustain. Estimates show that around 25% people forsake their New Year’s resolutions within the first week.

In a special section of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a group of prominent researchers underscores how behavioral science can provide actionable solutions to societal problems, like getting people to make long-term improvements to their health. The authors, led by University of Minnesota professor Alexander Rothman, outline evidence-based strategies that can help individuals and policymakers alike meet their goals for a healthier year ahead.

“The persistence of unhealthy habits undermines efforts to perform a new behavior,…

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SBST to Accept Fellowship Applications Through Jan. 24

This is a picture of the White House in Washington, D.C.The application deadline is approaching for fellowships with the new White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) created by President Obama.

The SBST is seeking new team members for a 1-year fellowship in Washington, D.C. beginning in October 2016. Fellows must have substantial experience in a social or behavioral science field, including psychology, economics, statistics, and political science.

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, January 24. Information about the responsibilities and qualifications of Fellow and Associate Fellows, and details on how to apply are available at https://sbst.gov/apply.

President Obama made the team a permanent government operation last fall as part of an order directing federal agencies to inject more behavioral science into their activities and services.

SBST Fellows and Associate Fellows translate insights from the social and behavioral…

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Reproducibility Project Named Among Top Scientific Achievements of 2015

The journal Science has named a major attempt to replicate 100 papers published in top-tier psychology journals as one of the “breakthroughs of the year” for 2015.

This collaborative project, facilitated by the Center for Open Science and APS Fellow Brian Nosek, has been recognized as a major scientific achievement by psychology but also by science as a whole. The results were sobering for the field — less than half of results replicated — but they also provided a valuable estimate of the replicability of psychology papers and are motivating new attempts to improve reproducibility. Science published the results of the project in August 2015.

The reproducibility project joins other breakthroughs such as the development of CRISPR, a genome-editing technology; explorations of dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto; and the discovery of a new human…

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Testing and Spacing Both Aid Memory

As students the world over can attest, there are lots of strategies for trying to remember new information — you might reread key paragraphs in a textbook or use flashcards to test your memory for vocabulary — but not all of these strategies actually work. Research has shown that testing yourself on material is one of the most effective techniques for committing something to memory. But new research from Psychological Science suggests that restudying might also be a useful strategy, especially if that restudying is spaced out in time.

This is a photo of a student reading a book on the floor.The research, conducted by Nicholas Soderstrom, Tyson Kerr, and APS Past President Robert Bjork (University of California, Los Angeles), builds on a study conducted in 2008 by APS Fellow Jeffrey Karpicke and APS Past President Henry L. “Roddy” Roediger,…

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