Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle

You can watch the feel-good of the week here - it's Susan Boyle wowing them at the British edition of American Idol.

There is a theory of emotion that says we tend to follow an emotion with an opposite emotion of equal intensity. One example often used to illustrate this is a skydiver on her first dive feeling intense fear - followed by intense relief and happiness to have landed safely. The second part of the theory says that the intensity of those emotions wil moderate over time. So, by her 100th skydive, our skydiver will be blase at the start and at the finish.

Apply that to the Boyle video. The judges and audience were snickering at her, rolling their eyes and snorting. They followed the fairly strong dismissive reaction with an equally strong, and opposite, reaction to her singing - standing ovations and extravagent praise.

I was watching the video with a skilled soprano who noted that she has a nice voice - good tone, some power, but her range is limited. Applying the second part of the opponent-process theory, I predict that our response to her singing will moderate over time. She is not a great singer, but she is a pretty terrific story.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cleanliness is not next to Godliness?

According to a report in The Economist, people who have washed themselves are likely to be more tolerant toward unethical activities. People who haven't washed as likely to be tougher on unethical activities.

See the report here.

Why would this be so? The authors suggest that being dirty instills a desire to get clean, and that desire for cleanliness makes us less accepting of ethically "dirty" behaviors.

Interesting idea...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to the election...

So, who's got the better sense of humor - Democrats or Republicans?

Take a look at this article from the New York Times.

Sense of humor?

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Here's an interesting article from a security professional in which he argues that argues that terrorism is more often a social act than a political act; that is, more in the realm of social psychology. If that's so, our methods of fighting terrorists might be completely wrong. Hmmm.....

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists

(originally published on

Marc Sageman, a psychiatrist and CIA veteran, wrote a book called Understanding Teror Networks in which he argued pretty much the same thing - that suicide bombers enter that world through and with friends. No evil recruiters are necessary.

I have used Sageman's book in my class at CASA.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My personality?

Take a look at my scores on the Big 5 (from

Gary Shea's Big 5 -- O96-C10-E22-A83-N14

Second test -- Parents welcome

The second test was not quite as good as the first. Both classes averaged in the low 80s. Among other things, I will continue to emphasize using the study questions, quizlets, and the study questions in the textbook as aids to effective studying. Not to mention time - if you don't do the time, it's a crime.

Tomorrow night is Parents' Night. We have a short lesson in personality theory. Parents and students should bring their Big 5 Personality Inventory with them.