Mind Matters: Recent research in psychology

Did you know that people who reside in neighborhoods that are racially diverse are “more likely to help friends, neighbors, and strangers?” According to a study reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people in racially diverse urban areas tweet more about pro-social ideas, such as helpfulness and charity. It was also found that those who live in racially diverse neighborhoods are more able to identify with humanity as a whole and “more likely to have helped a stranger ….”

This nugget of information and the others presented below were gleaned from the APA Monitor on Psychology’s “In Brief” column compiled by Lea Winerman (July-August, 2018).

Here are some more nuggets to consider. Take, for example, the finding that to get people to get vaccinated, don’t try to change their opinions, just work on changing behaviors. It was found that behavioral intervention — such as automatic reminder postcards — were far more successful than attempts at changing opinions. Very interesting.

Another notable finding — soda tax does appear to curb consumption of sugary sodas. A study reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine compared Philadelphia residents whose soda was taxed to residents of other cities with no such tax. Soda consumption significantly decreased where there was tax while there was no decrease where there was none.

A study published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law found that youth, more than adults, are prone to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit. Participants in the research — children, teens, and adults — were given a scenario in which they were informed about how much a sentence would be reduced if they pleaded guilty. Rather than plead not guilty and run the risk of a heavier sentence, 33 percent of the innocent youth chose to plead guilty, while only 18 percent of the adults chose the guilty plea. Something to ponder.

Then there’s the good news/bad news research. The good news is that it was found that young children today are more likely to have broken from old stereotypes. When asked to draw a picture of a scientist, children now will draw a woman 28 percent of the time, as compared to 50 years ago when they would draw a woman 1 percent of the time. The bad news? Teenagers revert back to the stereotype and only draw a woman scientist 1 percent of the time. Question: What happens in those intervening years to create this regression?

The last gleaning was found in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Comparing the survey answers of several hundred people, it was observed that those who have lived abroad had a “clearer sense of self.” Self-awareness was higher among those who had lived or studied in another country. It was also found that their self-assessments were confirmed by their peers.

If one were to make any connections among all the nuggets presented here, it might be that living with and among people, communities, and cultures that are diverse is a way of learning about yourself and is a way of accepting and caring for others. We may have strong opinions, but our behaviors can change anyway.

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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