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Christine B. Whelan :
214 article(s)

Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
September 20th, 2010

In an excellent piece by David Brooks in the New York Times… a while back, he mentioned the plethora of research that says that happiness comes from our relationships, not our material possessions or economic wealth.
Most of us pay attention to the wrong things. Most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Most schools and colleges spend too much time preparing students for careers and not enough preparing them to make social decisions. Most governments release a ton of data on economic trends but not enough on trust and other social conditions. In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the

September 20th, 2010
An academic researcher asks you to share your opinions on religion, sex and online communication

Is it always wrong for unmarried people to have sex? Do you think sex toys are acceptable for use within marriage? Is it ever OK to use contraception?
Do I have your attention now?
For more than five years the Pure Sex, Pure Love column has asked Busted Halo readers for opinions about the intersection between faith and decisions about love and sex. When I met Kelsy Burke, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh who is writing her doctoral dissertation on Christians, the internet and discussions of sex, I was thrilled that someone in the academy was taking these conversations of faith and sexuality as seriously as I do. I immediately began thinking about how she and I could team up to share her research with…

September 16th, 2010

Interesting piece on PsychCentral about the “trust gap” in America: In lab settings and in opinion polls, we tend to report thinking that other people are less trustworthy than we are. But a recent study in Psychological Science… suggests that we just don’t have enough practice trusting people because we’re stuck in a vicious cycle of cynicism.
Write authors Fetchenhauer and Dunning of their study:
Participants saw short videos of other people and had to decide whether to trust each person in an economic game. Participants overall underestimated the trustworthiness of the people they viewed, regardless of whether they were given financial incentives to provide accurate estimates.

September 14th, 2010

A team of neuroscientists claim that it’s possible to alter a subject’s moral judgments using a large magnet to temporarily disrupt normal brain activity, according to new findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.… The researchers, led by Rebecca Saxe, MIT assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and lead author on this paper, Liane Young, a postdoctoral associate, find that subjects make different decisions about whether a person’s behavior hypothetical scenario is permissible or forbidden after exposure to this magnetic field.
Says Dr. Young:
“It’s one thing to ‘know’ that we’ll find morality in the

September 9th, 2010

I recently came across a fascinating piece on NPR from a few months back in which Alix Speigel interviewed Larry Nucci, a research psychologist at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley about what rules children believe are good, and what rules they think are stupid.
Rules can be broken down into four categories, Dr. Nucci says:

Moral rules: Don’t hit, do share.
Safety rules: Don’t cross the street alone, don’t run with scissors.
Social convention rules: You must say “sir” and “madam.”
Personal rules…: Rules about friends and how to express themselves… which is where things get tricky.

According to the NPR report, Dr.

September 7th, 2010

OK, I know I’m a little obsessed with self-control research (see my recent posts on Dogging Self-Control and Commitment Strategies 101) but PsyBlog recently posted a fascinating tidbit: Positive affirmations can replenish your self-control.
In a study published last year in the Journal of Personal Social Psychology, participants were asked to write a short essay about something that was important to them-their core values, their relationships etc. But half of the participants had to write this essay without using the letters ‘a’ and ‘n’ while the other half could use the entire alphabet.
Proving yet again that self-control is a resource that gets depleted over time, when folks…

September 2nd, 2010

In a recent issue of Psychological Science, researchers find that man’s best friend reacts just like we do when posed with a challenge of self-control: If a dog is tired, or has been asked to exert self-control for a long time in a previous test, it is less likely to succeed in the next test of self-control.
These findings provide the first evidence that self-control relies on the same limited energy resource among humans and non-humans.
We’ve seen similar findings in humans for years: Self-control is like a muscle.
What happens when you go to the gym and do a really hard workout-and then someone asks you to lift a very heavy box? You might not be able to heft it up as high as you could have before your workout.…

August 31st, 2010

A round-up of oddly compelling bits of news:

Us heathen college professors aren’t as devoid of faith as some might think: According to a new article in the Sociology of Religion, three-quarters of college professors report some belief in a higher power. Ten percent of professors are atheists and 13% are agnostic. As the good folks at Contexts.org report, that’s more than the 4% that told the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life researchers that they were atheist or agnostic, but the two studies didn’t ask questions in exactly the same way.

A bad hair day can have a serious impact on a woman’s self-esteem, reports USA Today. Indeed, 44% of women in a telephone survey conducted by ShopSmart…

August 30th, 2010
Are we texting our way out of potential relationships?

The phone call is dead, say tech-savvy social commentators. With the increasing popularity of text messaging, who needs to actually talk… to someone anymore?
While text messaging may be an immediate and direct form of communication, good for flirty messages and quick hellos, I’m wondering if those instant, impersonal communiqués are hurting our dating lives and hindering our relationship formation.
Let’s be clear: I send and receive text messages. In fact, just as I typed that last sentence, a text pinged in from my husband to let me know that he’d be home in 20 minutes. That’s fine. I’m not anti-text, but I think it’s time to think critically about the pros and cons of

August 26th, 2010

Trust is a crucial element of a successful relationship, experts tell us. But sometimes, as President Ronald Reagan said, “trust but verify.”
According to a new nationally representative study of nearly a thousand British married couples, nearly half the time, at least one member of the couple is snooping on the other’s internet and email activities.
Reports PsyBlog, respondents told researchers it was unacceptable if

their partner fell in love online (90%)
had cybersex with someone else (84%)
flirted with someone else (69%)
or communicated relationship troubles with someone else (70%)

And perhaps unsurprisingly, women were more likely to be concerned about potential online transgressions,…

August 24th, 2010

It’s been nearly a year since three people died and dozens more were injured during a self-help retreat led by the now-infamous James Arthur Ray. At the time, I wrote a piece in The Washington Post and was outspoken about the fact that, although we’d like to write them off as New Age wackos, the folks who stayed in a steamy sweat lodge well past when it was physically safe were just like you and me: Seekers who were smart, educated and interested in pushing themselves to achieve greater things.
In this month’s SELF… magazine Shepelavy has a terrific piece about the lessons we can all learn from last year’s deaths. Roxanne and I logged in several hours of talk time over the last few months as she crafted the piece,

August 19th, 2010

Are Shoppers Fairer? asked John Tierney in his New York Times… column and blog.
Do markets and morality – as we like to definite fairness in modern societies – reinforce one another? Does shopping at Wal-Mart, as the fair-minded people in Missouri do, strengthen one’s tendency to follow the golden rule in dealing with strangers?
Turns out that in a multi-country anthropological experiment, Americans shoppers scored higher in a test of fairness toward strangers than those surveyed in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The researchers played the game “dictator” with folks around the world: The person who is in the “dictator” role is given a

August 17th, 2010

Are college students today more narcissistic than their peers from previous generations?
Based on the results of the narcissistic personality inventory, a standardized test that has been given to students at the University of South Alabama over the last 15 years, the answer is a resounding yes.
“I’m extremely confident,” San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge told Discovery News. “I think these analyses end the debate completely. It’s clear narcissism is rising.”
But is this inventory the best judge of narcissism-and what does that really even mean? Narcissistic personalities are usually defined as people who think very highly of themselves, are…

August 12th, 2010

If the pilot of your plane has a heart attack mid-air, could you land the plane? With the help of some calm, fast-thinking air traffic controllers, Doug White of Archibald, La., was able to land the plane — saving both his own life and the life of his family.
You probably didn’t hear about this story–from more than a year ago–or the brief media mentions of the Archie League Medal of Safety Award that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association gave Brian Norton and Lisa Grimm for talking Mr. White through a harrowing situation on Easter Sunday 2009. But when I come across stories of courage like this, I think it’s important to highlight them, no matter when they happened.
Mr. White…

August 10th, 2010

Here’s some visual amusement — to make you laugh or cry.
Check out this map, from the good folks at Sociological Images. The red parts of the map are locations where there are more bars than grocery stores. The yellow parts of the map are where grocery stores outnumber bars.
Hmmmm.
After nearly three years at the University of Iowa, this map seems about accurate: Midwestern college towns must have bars outnumbering grocery stores by a margin of 10 to 1. Indeed, it’s fitting that this research comes out of the University of Wisconsin:
According to my totally unscientific online research, La Crosse, Wisconsin is home to more than 360 bars and holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most bars…

August 5th, 2010

In the last year, at least six Cornell University students have committed suicide, with the most recent death in March. Back in the late 1990s, there was a similar wave of suicides, giving the university a reputation as a “suicide school.” While that’s a little bit unfair–yes, it’s cold and dark and dreary in Ithaca during the winters–Cornell has developed an admirably open and proactive mental health approach to its problem.
Suicides are awful — and suicides among young, bright students with so much potential? It’s that much more heart-wrenching. Yet somehow, news of these deaths has sparked excellent conversations about recognizing depression in…

August 3rd, 2010

Should economists be concerned with morals?
In a post recently on the Freakonomics blog, Stephen J. Dubner writes
economists – academic economists in particular – are generally free from the political and moral boundaries that restrict most people, and are therefore able to offer analysis or recommendations that politicians, e.g., wouldn’t go near with a ten-foot pole.
I’m all for rigorous academic research and presentations of findings, even if we disagree with them. I find the research on the rise in premarital sex that Dubner highlights fascinating. And I’m a huge fan of the whole Freakanomics approach generally. But I’m stuck on the implication in this post that…

August 2nd, 2010
How to listen to the voice inside that’s telling you not to go down the aisle

Within three months of dating a guy, I could always tell why the relationship should end. But most of the time, I’d keep dating him anyway. We were having fun. I thought he might change. I didn’t want to be alone. Some of these relationships lasted for years, but finally that voice deep inside of me started screaming. The gut feeling in the pit of my stomach turned into queasiness that I couldn’t deny. Mind you, these were all wonderful, loving guys. They just weren’t the one I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with.
When I met my husband, Peter, I checked in with my gut at three months. I was sort of wondering if it had gone on vacation, because I wasn’t hearing any complaints. I remember going into a church…

July 29th, 2010

A French documentary, which aired this spring, argues that we’d do anything to win a reality television show — even kill another human being.
The film, called “The Game of Death,” features players in a fake television game shocking fellow contestants if they answer a question incorrectly. The directors of the film found some 80 contestants and auditioned them to take part in a game-show called “Zone Xtreme,” where other “contestants” (actually actors) were asked questions while strapped to an electrified chair. If the actor gave an incorrect answer, the contestant was encouraged to administer an electric shock as punishment, while the crowd roared…

July 27th, 2010

Ok, look at this ad quickly…

Looks normal right?
Yeah, these aren’t human beings, they are Barbie dolls.
Thanks to the blog Sociological Images, for highlighting the find from Sarah Barnes at Uplift…, an online magazine.
Honesty is a virtue — as is beauty, arguably. But wow, are these two ideas in conflict here. What’s freaking me out (and other women) is that at first glance we don’t even notice that the women are fake. We’re that used to seeing airbrushed models that we just see this as yet another display ad for some fashion show or product.
This is problematic. While I don’t need to see rolls of fat on models either, it’s probably time to acknowledge that, in the

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