A Goodbye Message to Our Graduates… that you will eat up like a cheesecake

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Dear Graduates,

I wanted to drop you all a quick note to say congratulations on your upcoming graduation.  A few of you asked that I do something for you like the Mean Girls goodbye I wrote to last year’s graduates.  I was like, “yeah, that’s not a thing, and you’re not the boss of me.” Instead, I just want to say goodbye in my own way and not feel pressured to try and include a bunch of quotes about flying Mexican food or whether or not synchronized lady dancing to a Mariah Carey chart-topper is lame (it’s not by the way).

The truth is, this is a tough group to say goodbye to.  It makes me sad.  I don’t know if that is a good feeling or an incorrect feeling (Feelings are hard.  Sometimes I have the feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think, ‘Mmm, better not.’).  I just know that lately, when it comes to saying goodbye, I wanna do something else (we could re-live my parents’ divorce?)  It will be ok, though.  I am a survivor, but I have to pull back because I am limited.

We did a lot of great things this year: Psychology March Madness, the Smile Squad, February Psych Challenge, when we wrestled crocodiles and dingoes simultaneously (just to name a few).  One of the best things we did this year, though, was the NAMIwalk.  You may think we just show up and walk for something like that but, nope, the presidents of PHD and Psi Chi made it very clear, “We will practice, and I trust you will add your own cardio.”  I was like, “Yeah, no. Don’t put me down for cardio” but that didn’t stop them.  It was a great walk and we all had a great time, until I realized I parked in a lot where they do not validate.  Plus, if I’m being honest, I realized a couple minutes in that I should have taken that cardio tip more seriously.  Maybe some horizontal running?

I got to have most of you in class too, which was a joy.  I’m impressed by how smart, talented, funny, and curious you all are.  Granted, it wasn’t always pretty.  Like that time I had to tell a student, “That’s not a real word, but keep trying. You will get there” or the time I had to write on a student’s exam, “not a good enough reason to use the word penetrate.”  I’m sorry if I was too rough on you, but I am my father’s son and he always says ‘if at first you don’t succeed’…’pack your bags’.

Plus, it’s not like you were always nice to me.  At least one of you wrote “Is it me, or did we just take a left turn into snooze-ville?” on my course evaluations.  That hurt.  Someone tried to take it out of the evals but I said, “Leave it. It fuels my hate fire.”  So you know, I’m not a total nerd. I also happen to be super-into close-up magic.  Plus, I’m good at modern dance, olden dance, and mermaid dancing (it’s a lot of floor work).  That said, if I could sing a lick, I would. But I can’t. And I hate myself everyday because of it.

But enough about me.  This week is about you.  So in closing, let me say this.  I’ll miss you.  I’m serious…  Dixie Chicks serious.  It’s been an incredible experience working with you all and I’m thankful you chose to study psychology at UWGB.  I don’t like saying goodbye, but like I’ve told you… endings are the best part.

Hands in,

Ryan Martin
Chair of Psychology-UW-Green Bay
Lead Singer- The Minstrel Cycles

PS. I’m sorry for the name of my singing group.  That’s an unfortunate name.

Fact check: Does anger always lead to aggression?

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1When we’re in situations that make us angry, we often want to respond by doing things like yelling, throwing something, or hurting someone. It’s not unusual for those things happen, but does anger always lead to aggression?

Although anger and aggression are terms that are often used interchangeably, they’re not actually the same thing. In fact, the two can operate independently; people can be aggressive without being angry, and angry without being aggressive. Reidy and colleagues (2010) provide evidence this when they investigated the relationship between narcissism and aggression. They found that the higher people scored in narcissism, the more likely they were to aggress toward people without provocation. In other words, when narcissistic people sense an ego threat, they may respond with aggression as a way to protect themselves from being seen in an unfavorable manner, rather than aggressing as an expression of anger.

Perhaps more common than unprovoked aggression, though, is anger not accompanied by aggression. Research indicates that a major predictor of whether anger will lead to aggression is the individual’s ability to control his or her emotional expression. A study by Roberton and colleagues (2015) found that people who have more control over their behaviors are less likely to respond with aggression. Such people don’t necessarily feel less angry, but have better control over how that anger is expressed. One way to help control aggressive behavior is to practice controlling the anger itself, which allows the situation to be dealt with in a less reactive manner. As is explained by Lohr et al. (2007), anger can be reduced in a number of ways, such as relaxation, reappraisal, and distraction.

Considering these studies together, what we find is that while anger and aggression often go hand-in-hand, anger does not always lead to aggression.

By Allie Nelson
Allie is a senior with majors in Psychology and Human Development. She graduates in May of 2015.
References:

Lohr, J. M., Olatunji, B. O., Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2007). The psychology of anger venting and empirically supported alternatives that do no harm. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 5(1), 53-64.

Reidy, D. E., Foster, J. D., & Zeichner, A. (2010). Narcissism and unprovoked aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 36, 414-422. doi: 10.1002/ab.20356

Roberton, T., Daffern, M., & Bucks, R. S. (2015). Beyond anger control:  Difficulty attending to emotions also predicts aggression in offenders. Psychology of Violence, 5(1), 74-83. doi: 10.1037/a00037214

Hunger, Anger, and Intimate Relationships

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voodoo-dolls-largeCan being “hangry” (hungry and angry) have an effect on intimate relationships? In a recent study done by Bushman and colleagues (2014), researchers looked at glucose levels and aggression levels. Their research suggests that glucose levels affect aggressive impulses and behaviors. Over the course of 21 days, 107 couples took part in a four part experiment. Initially participants took a 10 item questionnaire. Then for 21 consecutive days, the couples measured the glucose levels before breakfast and before bed. The participants were also given a voodoo doll that represented their spouse along with 51 pins. After the 21 days the couples returned to the lab to compete against their spouse, actually a computer; in this competition the winner got to blast their spouse with loud uncomfortable noises, in which they controlled the intensity and duration.

Their findings: lower levels of glucose predicted and increase in aggressive impulses (i.e., more voodoo doll pins and louder and longer uncomfortable noise). Ultimately, this has to do with self-control, the ability to resist an urge or desire.  Self-control is a limited resource that depletes over time when you have to resist or override aggressive impulses.  One way to prevent depletion of this self-control tank is to keep your glucose levels up.

By Katie Bright
Katie is majoring in Psychology and Human Development. A senior, she plans on graduating in Spring of 2015 and taking some time off school before returning to earn a Masters degree.

Midwestern Psychological Association: Honor Student Research

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My three honors students, Kayla Hucke, Olyvia Kuchta, and Sarah Londo, presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago last week (April 30th and May 1).  They did brilliantly.

Here’s a sample of their work:

HuckeKayla Hucke: Emotions in Sports Performance

KuchtaOlyvia Kuchta: The Influence of Free Will, Politics, and Religion on Attitudes about Mental Illness

LondoSarah Londo: Locus of Control and the Stress Response

Anger Management Tip: Think it Through First

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One of the worst things that can happen when someone gets angry is for them to say Thinking_Mansomething they regret.  It happens all the time.  They become overwhelmed with anger and their desire for revenge overtakes everything else.  Boom, they say something cruel or hurtful that can’t be taken back.

It’s a difficult thing to do but people need to find a way to stop, think through how they are feeling and how the other person is feeling, and then decide if and how they want to respond.  Learning to do that can be the difference between letting your anger get the best of you and using your anger in a positive way.

Psychology Today: Five Fascinating Findings About Anger

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Anger is everywhere.  It influences our behavior in ways we can’t possible imagine.  Here are five examples.

1. People Really Do Associate Anger with the Color Red

According to a 2013 study published in Emotion (Young et al., 2013), the expression “seeing red” isn’t just a metaphor.

Read at Psychology Today

Fact-Check: Do Video Games Lead to Violence?

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We’ve likely all heard the arguments about video games and their role in violence. The grand_theft_auto__vice_city_by_homel001-d4al0zlquestion of whether or not video games have a part in aggression is an ongoing and complicated debate.

It’s not a new question either.  It’s been studied by psychologists, not to mention scholars from other disciplines, for decades.  Dr. Albert Bandura, along with countless other researchers, showed us that being exposed to aggressive behavior, even at a young age, results in imitation (Bandura, Ross and Ross, 1961).

A more recent study by Hollingdale and Greitemeyer (2014), compared aggression levels in response to a violent video game (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare) and in response to a neutral video game (LittleBigPlanet 2), both played online and offline. Participants in the online group played against human components, whereas the offline group played against computers, each for 30 minutes. They predicted that playing a more violent video game would increase aggression, and (surprise!) they were right. Not only do violent video games increase aggression, according to Hollingdale and Greitemeyer, but there is also no difference based on whether the game is played online or offline Call of Duty increased levels of aggression regardless of where it was played (online or offline). The authors also noted that there may have been other factors, such as the competitiveness of each game, which may have attributed to the increased aggression levels.

In addition to violence and competitiveness, there are other factors.  For example, games can be frustrating, which may increase aggression.  Plus, from a research perspective, how we define violence is also a complicating factor.  Do we only consider games like first person shooters or Grand Theft Auto to be violent, or are games like Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros included?

To make matters even more complicated, if video games lead to increase violence, then why do violent crimes decrease when new game comes out as noted by Ward (2011)? Ward argues that people playing violent video games are inside playing the game, not out and about causing trouble.  Ward calls this  “voluntary incapacitation” and noted that in areas where gaming is more popular, the violent crime rate goes down, which is the opposite of what people might expect (Ward, 2011). In fact, Ward’s (2011) results showed that there were reductions in arson, car theft, and robbery at the time of a new release for a game. This voluntary incapacitation most affects youth (ages 15-25) and draws them away from criminal or violent activity.

Taking all this into consideration, it would appear that playing violent video games does increase aggression. But, the relationship is much more complicated when you take into account are the other factors that attribute to the aggression. In saying so, I would have loved to write a piece that included definite answers, but the truth is, I don’t know and I’m not sure that we’ll ever know.

By Katie Bright
Katie is majoring in Psychology and Human Development. A senior, she plans on graduating in Spring of 2015 and taking some time off school before returning to earn a Masters degree.

 

Smart Guns, the NRA, and What We Really Can Agree On

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I saw this article yesterday about how an 18-year-old may have created the “world’s Capturesafest gun” and it struck me as particularly strange.  Basically, Kai Kloepfer is developing a gun with “an advanced fingerprint sensor that’s outfitted on the grip of a gun.”  It scans the user’s fingerprint and won’t fire unless there is a match to the owner of the gun.

There are two reasons why this article was odd to me.  First, and I don’t want to take any credit away from Kloepfer who is obviously a very smart and dedicated inventor, but this idea isn’t at all new.  “Smart Guns,” as they are known, have been in development since the late 90s.  This is a new twist as others have used radio technology, magnetic spectrum tags, etc. but the concept is very similar; link the gun to a particular person somehow and only allow it to fire if that person is holding it.

Much more strange, though, was the opening of the article:

To say that gun control is a complex topic in American culture is a massive understatement, but there’s one point we can probably all agree on: Fatal accidents involving firearms are heartbreaking tragedies and any measure we can take to try to reduce or eliminate them is something we as a society need to consider. That said, 18 year-old Kai Kloepfer has a plan that could help end them for good.

Sadly this is not a point we can “probably all agree on.”  The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been fighting smart gun technology since the beginning.  Some doubt the reliability of the technology.  Would it really work in an emergency… and what if it fails?  However, the objection from the NRA appears to be much broader than the reliability issue.  To quote the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action:

NRA does not oppose new technological developments in firearms; however, we are opposed to government mandates that require the use of expensive, unreliable features, such as grips that would read your fingerprints before the gun will fire.  And NRA recognizes that the “smart guns” issue clearly has the potential to mesh with the anti-gunner’s agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology.

In other words, the development of such guns might lead to laws that regulate the sale of guns and they won’t stand for that.  They’re worried about the slippery slope that might lead up to the slippery slope.

In fact, Katie Trumbly of Highbrow Magazine argues that the NRA is actively working to prevent the sale of smart guns because of a particular law in New Jersey (New Jersey Law S1223).  The law has been on the books since 2002 and “would require all handguns sold in New Jersey to be childproofed within three years of the state Attorney General determining that childproof handguns are available for the consumer market.”  In other words, within three years of smart guns becoming available for sale in the U.S., only smart guns could legally be sold in New Jersey.  Trumbly suggests that the NRA is actively working to suppress the development of smart gun technology and sale of smart guns to prevent this law from taking effect.

To get back to my original point, we need to be honest about goals and what we can agree on.  We can’t grant the premise that the NRA actually cares about reducing fatal accidents involving firearms.  We simply have no evidence for that.  And even if they do care, the evidence we have clearly tells us that they don’t care nearly as much about safety as they do suppressing gun regulation.

By Ryan Martin

A Look Inside: Anger From an Athlete’s Viewpoint

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People think of anger as an emotion athletes often feel and even “use” during competition as a way to get pumped up, increase aggressive play, and even outperform others with the “angry edge”. Well, why not ask athletes themselves how they view anger the day of, immediately before, and during competition? Is experiencing anger seen as beneficial? Are sports an “outlet” for releasing anger in an acceptable way? Desired AngerStudents who competed in a varsity level sport in high school and some current college athletes participating in an online survey say that YES anger may be beneficial. Athletes actually desire to experience increased levels of anger as competition nears and hope to feel at their angriest during competition. On the other hand, athletes view anxiety as harmful to performance and strive to experience less of it as competition nears. Could it be that athletes actually strive to enter into a competitive scenario feeling angry?

AngerInterfered

Part of a bigger study looking at emotional intelligence in sports, the findings regarding anger were striking. As mentioned above, athletes want to feel angry, but the opposite seems to be true of anxiety. Athletes were asked to share personal examples in which anger helped and interfered with performance.  Athletes reported anger as a distraction as the biggest reason for it interfering with one’s performance. For example, say an athlete was angered by foul play from the opposing team, a poor call made by the ref, or a careless mistake he/she made a few moments earlier…this was oftentimes seen as interfering with performance. On the other hand, athletes associated increase in adrenaline as a positive component of anger. Athletes Anger Helpedthat felt angry indicated that their adrenaline was pumping, they felt more motivated and excited leading to increased levels of performance. Interestingly, athletes were also asked to participate in a questionnaire looking specifically at emotional intelligence.  Participants who scored higher on emotional intelligence considered themselves to be more successful in their sport when comparing their abilities to others they compete against. This suggests that athletes view emotions, or more importantly their understanding and ability to manage such emotions, as playing a role in sports performance.

What does this research suggest for athletes and their emotional experiences during sports competition? Athletes view anger as a beneficial emotion surrounding sports. This may suggest that athletes should incorporate feelings of anger into their sport routine and competition prep. Findings also suggest that athletes need to learn how to recognize, manage, and understand their emotions in order to reap the benefits of experiencing them surrounding a competition. Future research could look at sport type and see whether athletes involved in sports that are considered more aggressive in nature (e.g., football) view emotions such as anger as more beneficial to performance outcomes. Being able to recognize such emotions could lead athletes to better be able to use such emotional experiences, in turn, leading to increases in ability and performance in a sports context.

HuckeBy Kayla Hucke
Kayla is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She will graduate with honors in May 2015 and plans to take some time off of school to gain experience before attending graduate school. She will present her honors project, Emotions in Sports Performance, at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago in April 2015.