Friday, October 14, 2016

Learning! Roundup: The good side of selfies, virtual morality, back up plans, and role models

Learning! People who take selfies are happier, role models make a difference

The Good Side to Selfies

Like to make fun of those who take constant selfies? They could be happier than you, so they probably don't care. It's not just selfies making people happy, though! A new study shows that taking and sharing photos has a variety of positive effects. People who took lots of selfies became more confident and happy with their own faces; people who snapped objects that made them happy became more reflective and appreciative; and people taking shots in order to make other people happy became calmer and more connected to their community.

Virtual Morality

Psychology research has a big problem - that problem is ethics. We're not allowed to just put people in situations that are, say, life-threatening, and find out what they do, because that is unethical. Instead, we have to do things like tell them to imagine that they are in a life-threatening situation, and then ask them what they would do. Not quite the same.

Thanks to virtual reality, however, studies can get a lot more exciting! With the ability to actually immerse a person in an experience, we can see how they actually react to various situations. One study has already shown that, despite paper-based experiments showing that most people wouldn't push a person onto train tracks to block a train and save five people, when immersed in the situation, they actually would. Our morality may be a little more pragmatic in the heat of the moment than we like to think.

There is No Back Up

You know how celebrities always say that they had no back up plan, and that's why they were successful? Research now corroborates their claims: having a back up plan reduces the effort a person puts in towards their primary goal.

Role Models Matter

You know how women and people of colour get all excited whenever we see ourselves represented in traditionally white and/or male roles? Turns out we aren't just being silly! A recent study shows that undergraduate women studying STEM fields perform significantly better, and are less likely to drop out, after reading a letter from a female grad student in their field.

In the letters, the female grad student spoke about her feelings of not belonging, the challenges she overcame, and the value of her degree. Think of what could be done with this! Not only could this encourage women to stick it out in prominent, male-dominated fields, but for anyone pursuing work that isn't "typical" to their sex, race, gender-expression, or anything else! And it's so easy - instead of having "poster children" of a particular field be the typical entrant, take someone who bucks the norm. Share their story.


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