The Unbearable Distraction of Being Sweet: Performing in the Presence of Candy

Think eating is easy? Think again. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight worldwide in 2016. Of these, over 650 million were obese—a number equivalent to roughly twice the population of the United States. And most of the world’s population lives in countries in which obesity kills more people […]

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Through the Goal Post: Evaluating the Psychological Value of Goal Achievement

A basic assumption of human nature is that we all want the greatest reward for the least amount of effort.  Take for example the students in my class. Often they apply just enough effort to earn a satisfactory grade (e.g., a low B or high C), while avoiding extra-credit assignments like the plague. But in […]

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Hungry Eyes See More Cookies: Food Deprivation and Perceptual Discrimination

Are you hungry, yet? How long has it been since you have eaten? Are you cranky and tired? I am as I write this piece.  I went on an unexpected food deprivation plan, thanks to a recent trip to Central America. I can’t wait to eat more than toast, applesauce, and bananas again. Food deprivation […]

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Racing Towards Another Race: Processing Faces One Feature at a Time

The own-race bias in face processing is a well-known effect that refers to the fact that people generally find it easier to identify faces of people of their own race. Although the general effect has been known for decades, the source of the bias is not well understood. There are a number of broad explanations […]

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Muslims, Gays, and Vowels: Psychophysics Explains Biases in Demographic Estimates

What percentage of Americans are Muslim? What percentage of Americans are LGBT individuals? What percentage of Americans are Christian? Think about it and take real guesses. If you are like the average person, your guesses were likely overestimates of the real numbers for the smaller percentages (for Muslims; for LGBT), and underestimates for the larger […]

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Preparing for Nate and Ophelia: How People Process Hurricane Forecasts

Harvey, Irma, Jose, … and now Maria. Hurricanes have been wreaking havoc in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic for much of the past few months. Their power and consequences fueled by climate change, we can expect more hurricanes that are followed by the retirement of their names: When a named storm was particularly destructive and […]

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Bringing a friend along for the ride: Why are we slower to respond when we’re talking to someone else while driving?

A computational model of mental processing speed in drivers who are holding a conversation suggests that having a passenger in the car is not a distraction, but it does make us more cautious and slower to make decisions. A reality of living in much of the United States and many other parts of the world […]

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