Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Spotlight Archive

Spotlights are feature stories presented by The University of Texas at Austin
and the College of Liberal Arts.

Genetic Potential for Intelligence Adversely Affected by Social Class in U.S. Only

Associate Professor Elliot Tucker-Drob's latest research has found that genetic influence on intelligence varies according to people’s social class in the United States, but not in Western Europe or Australia. He and University of Edinburgh psychology professor Timothy Bates analyzed data from 24,926 pairs of twins and siblings, finding that the relationship between genes, socioeconomic status and intelligence depended on which country the participants were from. (12/18/15)

Ostracized Children Use Imitation To Fit In, Study Finds

Postdoctoral researcher Rachel Watson-Jones is the lead author (with co-author Associate Professor Cristine Legare) of the study, “In-Group Ostracism Increases High-Fidelity Imitation in Early Childhood,” which found that the threat of ostracism influences children to imitate group behaviors as a means of re-affiliating. The study was published in Psychological Science in November 2015. (12/15/15)

Halloween is Not Scary to Young Kids; It’s Beneficial

Dr. Jacqueline Woolley, writes for Texas Perspectives about parents' fears on whether children can differentiate fantasy from reality during Halloween. Her research shows that "despite occasional errors, children are actually quite good at making the fantasy-reality distinction by the age of 3 or 4. Our research showed that preschool-age children use many of the same cues that adults use to make this distinction." (10/30/15) 

Spooky Research: Faculty Experts Explore Halloween Topics

Dr. Jacqueline Woolley, Chair of the Department of Psychology, tallks about "Superstitious Thinking and the Candy Witch" in a video that is part of a series of College of Liberal Arts "Spooky" research. Dr. Cristine Legare is also featured in a video about "The Intersection of Science and the Supernatural," and Psychology Postdoctoral Researcher Aiyana Willard talks about "The Basis of Belief". (10/29/15)

UT Austin Receives $4M to Develop Techniques for Brain Imaging & Manipulation

Psychology and Center for Perceptual Systems (CPS) Associate Professor Alex Huk, along with CPS colleagues Nicholas Priebe and Ila Fiete, are among the team that will receive three grants totaling $4 million to develop techniques for imaging and manipulating the activity of neurons in the brain. The funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health and is part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative launched last year by President Barack Obama. (10/2/15)

UT Austin Receives $2.4M to Study Social Lives’ Link to Health in Seniors

Research has suggested that people with stronger social networks live longer and with better health than those who are more isolated in old age, but we don't know why. The National Institute on Aging will fund a study on how social interactions improve the health of older adults. The study is lead by Karen Fingerman, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences and the Department of Psychology and David Schnyer, a professor in the Department of Psychology, among others. (9/28/15)

David Yeager Recognized Nationally for Real-World Research

Assistant Professor of Psychology David Yeager will receive the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Robert B. Cialdini Award for his published studies on effectively providing criticism to children of all races. The paper, “Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide,” was published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General in August 2013. (9/23/15)

Six Tips for Staying Sharp

As students return to classes after summer break, they may be finding it tough to get back into learning mode. Later in life, we may come up against similar challenges with learning and memory. Experts across campus, including psychology professors Ali PrestonArt Markman and Jennifer Beer, were asked for their best, research-based advice for staying mentally sharp throughout life. (8/11/15)

Genders Differ Dramatically in Evolved Mate Preferences

Psychology graduate student Daniel Conroy-Beam's recent study found that men’s and women’s ideas of the perfect mate differ significantly due to evolutionary pressures. The study of 4,764 men and 5,389 women in 33 countries and 37 cultures showed that sex differences in mate preferences are much larger than previously appreciated and stable across cultures. The researchers suggest that these patterns of mate preferences are far more linked to gender than any individual mate preference examined separately would suggest. (8/6/15)

Hormones Influence Unethical Behavior

Hormones play a two-part role in encouraging and reinforcing cheating and other unethical behavior, according to research from UT Austin professor of psychology Robert Josephs and his colleagues at Harvard University. With cheating scandals a persistent threat on college campuses and financial fraud costing businesses more than $3.7 trillion annually, UT Austin and Harvard researchers looked to hormones for more answers, specifically the reproductive hormone testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol. (7/28/15)

Selective Imitation Shows Children are Flexible Social Learners, Study Finds

Dr. Cristine Legare and her colleagues have found that children flexibly choose when to imitate and when to innovate the behavior of others, demonstrating that children are precocious social learners. In order to function within their social groups, children have to learn both technical skills with instrumental goals, such as using a fork and knife to cut food, and social conventions with goals based on social conformity, such as forms of greeting (for example: handshakes, kissing and bowing). This research demonstrates that children are sensitive to the distinction between instrumental and conventional goals and flexibly adapt their behavior accordingly. (7/27/15)

As new graduate students in the neuroscience department, Kenneth Latimer and Jacob Yates did a class project in a business class that eventually resulted in the prestigious journal, Science, as well as a new tool for neuroscience. Using data on the activity of neurons collected in the lab of Psychology Professor Alex Huk, the two proved that individual neurons act like a switch, flipping from undecided to decided, rather than the previously held assumption that individual neurons interpret which way an object is moving after going through stages of indecisiveness, gradually becoming more certain about what it is the brain sees. Huk and former Psychology Assistant Professor Jonathan Pillow, co-mentors of both Latimer and Yates, intend to follow up this work in a collaborative grant. (7/9/15)

UT Researchers: Running May Help Treat PTSD

The physical benefits of exercise, particularly running, have long been established. But researchers have begun to expand the understanding of mental benefits as well. In a study published in Cognitive Behavior Therapy this spring, UT researchers, including co-author Associate Professor of Psychology Mark Powers, found that running could help alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). (7/7/15)

Study Links Heartbeat to Female Libido

Sexual dysfunction in women can be linked to low resting heart rate variability, a finding that could help clinicians treat the condition, according to a study by co-author and UT Austin psychologist Cindy Meston and graduate students Amelia Stanton and Carey Pulverman. (6/19/15)

Unlearning Social Biases While We Sleep

Can we learn to rid ourselves of our implicit biases regarding race and gender? A new study lead by Psychology postdoctoral fellow Xiaoqing Hu (Dr. Bertram Gawronski's Social Cognition Lab), indicates that sleep may hold an important key to success in such efforts. (5/29/15)

Six Tips for Staying Sharp

Psychology Professors Alison PrestonArt Markman and Jennifer Beer offer their best, research-based advice for staying mentally sharp throughout life. (5/11/15)

Depression: Making Treatment Personal

(from Life & Letters, the magazine of UT's College of Liberal Arts) Christopher Beevers, psychology professor and director of the Institute for Mental Health Research (IMHR) at The University of Texas at Austin is taking a translational research approach in the IMHR—applying basic research to improve health and well-being— to use discoveries from genetics, cognitive neuroscience and animal research to better understand mental illness and improve treatments. (4/30/15)

Train Yourself to Be More Creative

Creativity is a skill you can build, not a talent you either have or you don't, says psychology and marketing professor Art Markman. "For mental skills like creativity, few people know enough about the way their minds work to be able to treat it like a skill," as opposed to an innate talent, he writes in a recent "Work Smart" column for Fast Company. (4/29/15)

Dean of Graduate Studies to Serve as Interim Provost at UT Austin

Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Judith H. Langlois has been named interim provost at The University of Texas at Austin. She will begin May 26 and serve in that position while the university searches for a permanent provost to replace Gregory L. Fenves, who will become UT Austin’s next president. An expert in infant and child development, Langlois joined the university’s Psychology Department in 1973. She has twice served as interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and also served as interim dean of Graduate Studies before assuming her current post in 2013. (4/22/15)

Boston Bombing Shows the Power of Familial Ties

(by Dr. William B. Swann Jr., Professor of Social and Personality Psychology & Michael D. Buhrmester, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Oxford)

For many, the recent trial of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has relit the inevitable question: “How could they?” One answer lies within something called familial ties, and they’re more powerful and prevalent than most people realize. (4/14/15)

Shakespeare Wrote Contested Play, Suggests Psychological Text Analysis

Through the use of text-analysis software, University of Texas at Austin psychology researchers have identified William Shakespeare as the author of the long-contested play “Double Falsehood,” as described this week in the journal Psychological Science. Questioning the authorship of the works of famous writers has always been a form of blood sport in the humanities, said James Pennebaker, the Liberal Arts Regents Centennial Professor of Psychology at the university and co-author of the study. Until recently, he said, social scientists only watched the battles from the sidelines, but no more. (4/10/15)

Clinicians Need Reliable Predictors to Identify Who Will Attempt Suicide

(by Dr. Christopher Beevers, Professor and Director of the Institute for Mental Health Research)

Approximately 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable illness such as clinical depression or substance use disorders. These mental health disorders are treatable with medications and psychotherapy. However, the vast majority of people with a diagnosable mental health or substance misuse condition will not contemplate or attempt suicide. Simply using a diagnosis as a risk factor for suicide will produce many false positives and does not go far enough for identifying those at highest risk for suicide. Ideally, clinicians need a set of reliable predictors that will identify who will attempt suicide. (4/2/15)

In Memoriam: Dr. Janet Taylor Spence, Professor Emeritus

The College of Liberal Arts is saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Janet Taylor Spence, Professor Emeritus, on March 16, 2015. She held the Alma Cowden Madden Professorship of Liberal Arts and the Ashbel Smith Professorship of Psychology and Educational Psychology. A major figure in American psychology, Spence was a faculty member of the UT Austin psychology department from 1967 to 1997 and served as Chair from 1969 to 1972. (3/29/15)

Men's Preference for Certain Body Types Has Evolutionary Roots

A psychology study co-authored by Psychology Professor David Buss sheds new light on today's standards of beauty, attributing modern men's preferences for women with a curvy backside to prehistoric influences. The study, published online in Evolution and Human Behavior, investigated men's mate preference for women with a "theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature," a 45.5 degree curve from back to buttocks allowing ancestral women to better support, provide for, and carry out multiple pregnancies. (3/19/15)

US News Ranks Four Schools, 50 Programs at UT Austin Among the Nation's Best

According to U.S. News and World Report's 2016 edition of "Best Graduate Schools," more than 50 science, social science, humanities and professional programs and disciplines at UT Austin are ranked in the Top 15 nationally. The rankings are based on quantitative and qualitative measures, including GRE scores, student/faculty ratio, research expenditures, job placement success and ratings of academic experts, national faculty members and administrators. The Psychology Department is ranked #14 nationally in the Social Sciences and Humanities category, while the Clinical Psychology area is ranked #11 in the Health Disciplines (other than Nursing) category. (3/10/15)

We Need to Protect Ourselves From Our Phones

(by Dr. Art Markman, Annabel Iron Worsham Centennial Professor)

When it comes to cellphones, we are no better than trained rats in a box. In Austin, San Antonio and several other Texas cities, it is illegal to text or hold a phone while driving. It is also illegal to hold a phone while driving in 14 states and to text while driving in 44 states. So, why are people still using their phones while driving, even though most of us know it leads to hundreds of thousands of injuries in distracted driving crashes each year? Because as it turns out, most of us are addicted to our phones. (3/17/15)

This Semester I'm Working On ... Researching Autism and Parental Stress

In a new series that offers a glimpse at the UT experience, as told by students, faculty and staff. Follow the series to see what Longhorns are passionately pursuing during their time on campus, senior and Psychology major Kassandra Martinez describes her research on how Spanish-speaking mothers of children with autism experience and cope with parenting stress. (3/9/15)

Short Words Predict Academic Success

The smallest, most forgettable words in admissions essays can tell us in advance how students will perform in college, according to a new study co-authored by Psychology Professor James Pennebaker. The new study used 50,000 admissions essays written by prospective college students, enabling the researchers to connect language use to later college performance. It turned out that how students use small words is related to subsequent GPA. For example, students who heavily use the word I tend to do worse in class, and students who heavily use the words the and a do better. (1/7/15)

Get Ready to Hear More Ebola Jokes, and That May Not Be a Bad Thing 

(by Dr. Art Markman, Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing)

A stream of research in social psychology says that our ability to think about death holds the key to understanding this reaction. Something called terror management theory starts with the assumption that humans are most likely the only species on Earth that can contemplate mortality. Because we can think about the fact that some day we will die, each of us needs to find strategies to deal with the fear that comes along with that knowledge. (10/13/14)

Teaching Teens That Bullies Can Change Reduces Aggression in School, Study ... 

Teenagers who believe people can't change react more aggressively to peer conflicts than those who think people can change. And teaching them that people have the potential to change can reduce these aggressive reactions, according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin. The study, published in the February 2013 issue of Child Development, has important implications for bullying interventions in public schools. "When adolescents believe the world is full of ‘good' and ‘bad' people, with nobody in between, they are then quick to classify people as one or the other," said David Yeager, assistant professor of developmental psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. "We found that teens in this ‘fixed' mindset - even after a minor offense like getting bumped in the hall or being left out of a game of catch - relegated peers to the ‘bad person' group, decided that they had offended on purpose and wanted aggressive revenge." (2/14/13)

New Psychology Study Reveals Unexamined Costs of Rape

Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are commonly associated with sexual assault, but a new study from The University of Texas at Austin shows that female victims suffer from a wide spectrum of debilitating effects that may often go unnoticed or undiagnosed. Researchers Carin Perilloux, now a visiting assistant professor at Union College in New York, and David Buss, a professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, found significant negative consequences of rape and attempted sexual assault in 13 domains of psychological and social functioning, including self-esteem, social reputation, sexual desire and self-perceived mate value. (10/16/12)

Does True Love Wait? Age of First Sexual Experience Predicts Romantic Outcomes in Adulthood

Individuals who have their first sexual experience later than average may have more satisfying romantic relationships in adulthood, according to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin.

 The study by Paige Harden, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and the Population Research Center, suggests that those who had a later first sexual experience were also less likely to be married and had fewer romantic partners in adulthood. (10/18/12)

Psychology Researchers Receive $2.3 Million NIAAA Grant to Study Genetics of Alcohol Abuse

Two psychology professors at The University of Texas at Austin have received a $2.3 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to study genetic influences on drinking and other risky behaviors. The five-year grant to Kim Fromme and Paige Harden will support a project that follows Fromme’s previous NIAAA-funded longitudinal study — “The UT Experience!” — which examined drinking and other behavioral risks among more than 2,000 entering freshman at The University of Texas at Austin. (10/12/12)

Sam Gosling awarded Dads' Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship 

Sam Gosling, professor of psychology, is one of four University of Texas at Austin faculty members to be awarded a Dads' Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship during the 2012-13 fall semester. The award honors the recipients' teaching excellence and acknowledges the many contributions they have made to the undergraduate experience at the university. (08/27/12) 

New Master’s Degree Trains Business Leaders in Understanding Human Behavior

A new Master of Arts degree at The University of Texas at Austin draws on the liberal arts, technology programs and other disciplines to train business and nonprofit leaders who want a better understanding of how human behavior and experience relates to today's global marketplace. (09/25/12)

Repetitious, Time-Intensive Magical Rituals Considered More Effective, Study Shows

Even in this modern age of science, people are likely to find logic in supernatural rituals that require a high degree of time and effort, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin. The study, published in the June issue of Cognition, is the first psychological analysis of how people of various cultures evaluate the efficacy of ritual beliefs. The findings provide new insight into cognitive reasoning processes — and how people intuitively make sense out of the unknown. Cognition, Culture, and Development Laboratory (07/26/12)

The Pleasure Principle

With a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Juan Dominguez, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, is investigating the brain's response to the euphoric effects of cocaine. With a focus on the dynamics between sex hormones and the brain's reward system, he aims to delineate and map out where  and how addiction occurs in the brain. (7/27/12)

Imaging Research Center Opens, Bringing New Level of Neuroscience Research to The University of Texas at Austin 

The University of Texas at Austin’s Imaging Research Center (IRC) opened on May 10, 2012. The center will expand research capacities for neuroscience and cancer research. It includes a state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner dedicated to research. “We see the Imaging Research Center playing a role as a hub for translational research,” said Russ Poldrack, professor of neurobiology and psychology and director of the center. “The IRC will link pre-clinical research with human research and provide the bench-to-bedside transition needed for neuroscience research in Austin.” (05/24/12)

The Child and the Scientist

A UT-Austin KNOW feature story on researchers working in the The Priscilla Pond Flawn Child and Family Laboratory (known as the "Lab School") highlights developmental psychologist Dr. Cristine Legare and her studies on the acquisition of scientific reasoning in children.  (04/30/12)

Preschools Significantly Reduce Achievement Gap Between Rich and Poor, New Twin Study Shows

In a study published online in the February issue of Psychological Science, Elliot Tucker-Drob, assistant professor of psychology and research associate at the Population Research Center, found preschool attendance significantly bridges the achievement gap between children of low and high socioeconomic backgrounds. Read full study (PDF) (02/29/12)

Interview wth Dr. Alison Preston

Alison Preston, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Section of Neurobiology, explores how the brain supports memory and how memory influences the decisions we make. Dr. Preston is a recipient of Young Investigator Awards from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression and the Department of Defense, as well as a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, recognizing her as one of the leading young teacher-scholars in the country. (02/14/12)

Psychology undergraduate researcher Sarah Kettles showcased on KNOW

Psychology junior Sarah Kettles is featured in a Q and A series appearing on UT's KNOW web site. The series is sponsored by the Senate of College Councils and showcases the work of an undergraduate researcher every month. Sarah is head research assistant (RA) in the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders, working with Dr. Mike Telch and graduate student mentor, Annie Steele. (02/02/12)

Study Shows Persistence Pays Off in the Mating Game

A new study co-authored by Dr. David Buss suggests that self-deception may help men succeed in the mating game, while women will benefit more from effective communication. Dr. Buss and psychology graduate student Judith Easton, conducted the research with Williams College psychologist Carin Perilloux, senior author of the study, and former student of Dr. Buss. The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science. (01/05/12)

People More Motivated to Give When They See Others Volunteering Abroad

According to a new study by assistant professor Marlone Henderson, people are more inspired to give when they see others contributing their time and money to a good cause in another country. "Most of the time people volunteer or give to a charity to which they have a connection," Henderson said. "So when they learn about people who are going against the norm by giving back to people in foreign countries, that really stands out and motivates them to take action." more > The study will be published in the January issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Preview the full study (available as a PDF download). (Title: When others cross psychological distance to help: Highlighting prosocial actions toward outgroups encourages philanthropy). Watch a video on YouTube of Marlone Henderson discussing the many factors that motivate people to give. (12/15/11)

Extinguishing Fear

Psychology professors Francisco Gonzalez-Lima, Michael Telch and their team of researchers are pairing a memory-enhancing drug with prolonged exposure therapy to help lessen the time it takes for PTSD patients to recover from this severe anxiety disorder.  (11/10/11)

Being Smart is Already Part of your Mental Toolbox

Intelligence and smart thinking are not the same, according to University of Texas at Austin psychologist Art Markman, who studies how best to apply knowledge for smarter thinking at work and home.  (11/08/11)

Memory-Enhancing Drug May Improve Exposure Therapy for PTSD Patients, Study Shows

A memory-enhancing drug may improve the speed and effectiveness of prolonged exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients, according to a new pilot study by a group of researchers, including Drs. Michael Telch and Francisco Gonzalez-Lima.  (11/02/11)

Hogg Foundation Awards $1.6 Million in Mental Health Workforce Development Grants

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at The University of Texas at Austin has selected three grant sites for a $1.6 million initiative to create internships for doctoral psychology students that will help alleviate mental health workforce shortages in Texas.  (10/18/11)

Sex-Segregated Schooling Ineffective and Increases Gender Stereotyping, Experts Warn

Sex-segregated schooling is not superior to coeducational schooling and carries the risk of exaggerating sexism and gender stereotyping, according to a new report co-authored by University of Texas at Austin psychologist Rebecca Bigler. In an article in the current issue of Science magazine, Dr. Bigler and members of the American Council for CoEducational Schooling (ACCES) call upon policymakers to take a close look at scientific evidence addressing the negative aspects of single-sex education.  Read full study Dr. Bigler discussed the study in an interview on Good Day Austin. Watch video. (10/11/11)

Self-Reported Cognitive Difficulties May Indicate Early Signs of Cerebrovascular Disease

According to a recent study by assistant professor Andreana Haley, middle-aged adults at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) can perceive and complain about related cognitive difficulties long before standard neuropsychological screening tools detect any problems. The study has been published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. Read full study | Haley Web Page (10/04/11)

Researchers Develop Optimal Algorithm for Determining Focus Error in Eyes and Cameras

Bill Geisler, psychology professor and director of the Center for Perceptual Systems, and post-doctoral student, Johannes Burge, have discovered how to extract and use information in an individual image to determine how far objects are from the focus distance, a feat only accomplished by human and animal visual systems until now. The research will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Read about the study in UT News... Title: "Optimal defocus estimation in individual natural images" Read full study (PDF) (09/27/11)

Older adults make smarter decisions

A new study led by Darrell Worthy, professor of psychology at Texas A&M University, and co-authored by UT psychologists Todd Maddox and David Schnyer, has found that found older adults, at least 60 years old, are better at strategizing their decisions than those in their late teens and early 20s, who tend to focus on instant gratification. Read about the study in UT News...| The study in currently in press but is available as a PDF download. (09/21/11)

To the beat of a different drum

Putting a new spin on ADHD research, psychologist David Gilden finds the effects of the disorder may be caused by a glitch in internal timing University of Texas at Austin psychologist David Gilden’s research findings suggest the underlying problem doctors have diagnosing ADHD may be in recognizing that it’s not an issue of attention, but rather a problem of timing. (08/31/11)

Romantic Sexual Relationships Deter Teenage Delinquency, New Study Shows

A new study co-authored by Dr. Kathryn Paige Harden found that sexually active teenagers in committed relationships are less likely to exhibit anti-social behavior than teens who have casual sex. The study was published in the June issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Read paper (PDF) | More news coverage...

Word Choice Detects Everything from Love to Lies to Leadership

The words people use are like fingerprints that can reveal their relationships, honesty or their status in a group, according to research by University of Texas at Austin social psychologist James W. Pennebaker. Watch Dr. James Pennebaker discuss this topic and more in a Knowledge Matters five-part video series on YouTube.

Study Explores Best Motivating Factors for Pursuing a Shared Goal Such as Giving

People who see the “glass as half empty” may be more willing to contribute to a common goal if they already identify with it, according to Dr. Marlone Henderson and fellow researchers. 

Meet the Parents

Evolutionary psychologists reveal why parents want their children’s mates to have certain traits. The latest issue of the College of Liberal Arts' Life & Letters features the work of doctoral candidate Carin Perilloux on the topic of mate selection and how the preferences of parents and their children can differ. 

Conversation Stoppers

Professors examine how we don’t — but should — talk openly about race in the United States The latest issue of the College of Liberal Arts' Life & Letters features the work of psychologist Rebecca Bigler and other researchers on the topic of how race is discussed in the United States. 

The Skinny on Memory Loss

In a recent study Andreana Haley, assistant professor of clinical psychology, found that impaired insulin sensitivity, often caused by obesity, may have a direct connection to midlife brain vulnerability to cognitive decline. 

Research Week showcases the work of Margaret Sanders

Research Week, the university's campus-wide celebration of undergraduate research and creative activity, spotlights a study by psychology undergraduate student Margaret Sanders. Margaret's study explores how categorization affects the process of engaging with a work of art. 

Research Week showcases the work of Martinique Jones

Research Week, the university's campus-wide celebration of undergraduate research and creative activity, spotlights a study by psychology undergraduate student Martinique Jones. Martinique's study investigated the academic achievement of African American high school students. 

Study Helps Identify Soldiers More at Risk for PTSD

Research by Dr. Chris Beevers aims to identify soldiers who are more vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder. The study will be published in the July edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry. Read full paper

Study finds bottling up emotions can make people more aggressive

Psychology professors Art Markman and Todd Maddox, working with researchers from the University of Minnesota, have recently published results of a study which found that bottling up emotions can make people more aggressive. The study has been published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Read full study

African American Teenagers More Supportive of Affirmative Action, School Desegregation Than White Youth, Study Finds

Psychology professor Rebecca Bigler and Julie Milligan Hughes, a developmental psychologist at the College of New Jersey, have just published the results of a study which found that African American teenagers are significantly more supportive than whites of affirmative action and school desegregation. The study was published online by the journal Developmental Psychology. Read full study

Growing Economy Sparks Change in Chinese Mating Preferences, Research Shows

In a paper published in the February issue of Personality and Individual Differences, Professor David Buss and a team of researchers found the preference for financial security reflects the extraordinary economic changes in China over the past 25 years. Read full study

Meet the Parents: Study by psychology doctoral candidate examines traits parents want in children's mates

Psychologist Carin Perilloux is looking into a crazy little thing called love — and finding out why it's so complicated when that special someone meets the parents. Read full paper

The Language of Young Love: The Ways Couples Talk Can Predict Relationship Success

A new study by Dr. James Pennebaker examines the ways that people talk to each other in a relationship, and finds that people who speak in similar styles are more compatible. Read full study

Men More Likely to Stick with Girlfriends Who Sleep with Other Women than Other Men

According to research by Jaime Confer, graduate student researcher in evolutionary psychology, men are more than twice as likely to continue dating a girlfriend who has cheated on them with another woman than one who has cheated with another man. Read full study...

Distance May Be Key in Successful Negotiations, New Study Shows

By comparing negotiators who are located at a distance with those who are nearby, Dr. Marlone Henderson concluded that adding physical distance between people during negotiations may lead to more mutually beneficial outcomes. Read full study...

Being Poor Can Suppress Children's Genetic Potential

Growing up poor can suppress a child's genetic potential to excel cognitively even before the age of 2, according to research by Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob. Read full study

Spotless Mind? Psychologist Discovers Drug-Free Therapy Could Overwrite Fear-Filled Memories

In search of a non-invasive way to weaken memories of fear, Marie Monfils, assistant professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, and a team of researchers developed a new technique to tweak a memory-modifying treatment called extinction.  (January 2011)

Professors examine how we don't — but should — talk openly about race in the United States

As the topic of race becomes more difficult to navigate, many parents avoid discussing it with their children, sometimes because they are unsure of what to say or they want to discourage their children from talking openly about it in public, says Rebecca Bigler, professor of psychology and director of The University of Texas at Austin's Gender and Racial Attitudes Lab.  (Fall 2010)

Infants more tuned in than adults

Music professor Eugenia Costa-Giomi, whose research with infants is conducted in the Children’s Research Laboratory, directs a series of studies to find out how infants discriminate and categorize melodies and timbres. Read more in UT Know...| Watch videos of the test in Further Findings (December 2010)

Insulin Sensitivity May Explain Link Between Obesity, Memory Problems, Research Shows

Because of impairments in their insulin sensitivity, obese individuals demonstrate different brain responses than their normal-weight peers while completing a challenging cognitive task, according to new research by psychologists Andreana Haley and Mitzi Gonzales.  (Fall 2010)

What Mimicking One's Language Style May Mean About the Relationship

People match each other's language styles more during happier periods of their relationship than at other times, according to new research from Dr. James Pennebaker and graduate student Molly Ireland.  (Fall 2010)

Research Examines Vicious Cycle of Overeating and Obesity

According to a study by University of Texas at Austin senior research fellow Eric Stice and his colleagues published this week in The Journal of Neuroscience. Stice shows evidence this overeating may further weaken the responsiveness of the pleasure receptors ("hypofunctioning reward circuitry"), further diminishing the rewards gained from overeating.  (Fall 2010)

Men Look for Good Bodies in Short-Term Mates, Pretty Faces in Long-Term Mates, Research Shows

Men who are looking for short-term companionship are more interested in a woman's body than those looking for a long-term relationship, who focused on a woman's face. The study, by evolutionary psychologist David Buss, and graduate student researcher Jaime Confer has been published in the current issue of Evolution and Human Behavior.  (Fall 2010)

People Learn New Information More Effectively When Brain Activity Is Consistent, Research Shows

According to research by Russell Podrack, professor of psychology and neurobiology, people are more likely to remember specific information such as faces or words if the pattern of activity in their brain is similar each time they study that information. (Fall 2010)

Would you give it up for the group?

Psychology Professor William Swann's research on identity fusion reveals that individuals who develop extreme ties to a group are both willing and eager to sacrifice themselves for the group. Dr. Swann discusses the positive and negative effects of identity fusion with Jessica Sinn. Read more in KNOW...| UT News: Fused" People Eager to Die and Kill for Their Group, Research Shows | Read full text of article in Psychological Science (posted 08/04/10)

Ticking Biological Clock Increases Women's Libido, New Research Shows

As more women wait until their 30s and 40s to have children, they are more willing to engage in a variety of sexual activities to capitalize on their remaining childbearing years, according to new research by psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin. Read the article on ScienceDirect | PDF (posted 07/15/10)

Adolescent Brains Biologically Wired to Engage in Risky Behavior, Study Finds

Research by Dr. Russell Poldrack reveals the biological motivations that lie behind the stereotypically poor decisions and risky behavior associated with adolescence.  (posted 06/07/10)

On a Mission: Working with Fort Hood soldiers, researchers look at what predisposes service members to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

The Spring 2010 issue of COLA's Life & Letters features the research of clinical psychology professor Michael Telch. Dr. Telch has been studying susceptibility to PTSD in Fort Hood soldiers.  (posted 05/24/10)

Alumnus Edward Zigler has become psychology pioneer

Growing up the child of immigrant parents in the United States, Edward Zigler (doctor’s degree in psychology, 1958) didn’t speak English until he participated in a program similar to today’s Head Start program.  (posted 05/21/10)

Psychology Senior Examines Academic Success Among African American High School Students

Martinque Jones, senior and psychology major, has been investigating how cultural identity and academic attitudes affect the academic achievement of African American high school students. With support from the Ronald E. McNair Program and Drs. Kevin Cokley and Samone Johnson, Jones collected more than 120 surveys for analysis at various schools in the Houston Independent School District. Recognizing a deficit at the university’s campus, Jones also helped charter the Association of Black PsychologistsListen to interview | Read transcript of interview (posted 05/03/10)

Don’t Tug on Super-Mom’s Cape

A new study by psychology professor William Swann and associate professor Nancy Hazen-Swann (Human Ecology) has been published in the March issue of Personal Relationships. The study examines the effect of fathers' involvement in caregiving on mothers' self-esteem. Read full article (PDF)

Armed With Information, People Make Poor Choices, Study Finds

When faced with a choice that could yield either short-term satisfaction or longer-term benefits, people with complete information about the options generally go for the quick reward, according to new research from University of Texas at Austin psychologists Bradley Love and graduate student Ross Otto. This research was published in the February issue of Judgment and Decision Making. Full Text of Published Study See also "Short-Term Gains Get in the Way of Good Decisions".

Studying the Brain, Understanding the Mind

Russell Poldrack, professor of psychology and Neurobiology, is the new director of the Imaging Research Center, which houses the university’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. Watch video | Imaging Research Center

People Likely to Form Extreme Perceptions of Reality While Learning

People may develop distorted views of certain types of people, places or experiences depending on how they compare those categories during the learning process, according to new research by associate professor of psychology, Bradley Love, and graduate student Tyler Davis. 

Research Shows Personality Differences Between Cat and Dog People

In a paper to be published later this year in the journal Anthrozoös, Sam Gosling finds that those who define themselves as "dog people" are more extraverted, more agreeable and more conscientious than self-described "cat people.". 

Brain activity affects self-perception

The less you use your brain's frontal lobes, the more you see yourself through rose-colored glasses, according to assistant professor Jennifer Beer and graduate student researcher Brent Hughes. Their findings are being published in the February edition of the journal NeuroImage. Download PDF | Self-Regulation Lab | Hughes Web Page | Neuroimage

Facebook Profiles Capture True Personality

Online social networks such as Facebook are being used to express and communicate real personality, instead of an idealized virtual identity, according to new research from psychologist Sam Gosling.

Sleep Deprivation Negatively Affects Split-Second Decision Making, Study Shows

Psychology professors Todd Maddox and David Schnyer found moderate sleep deprivation causes some people to shift from a faster and more accurate process of information categorization (information-integration) to a more controlled, explicit process (rule-based), resulting in negative effects on performance. 

First Impressions Count When Making Personality Judgments, New Research Shows

Research by UT social psychologist Sam Gosling and Sonoma State University psychologist Laura Naumann is available in the December 2009 issue of "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin".  Downloadable PDF

Taking Aim at Addiction

UT researchers, including psychology professor Kim Fromme, "attack complex disorder from many angles, from basic biology to impact on society." 

New book authored by Cindy Meston and David Buss investigates women's sexual motivations

Psychology professors Cindy Meston and David Buss are the authors of a new book, Why Women Have Sex, published on September 29, 2009. The book investigates the motivations that guide women’s sexual decisions. "Through the voices of real women, Meston and Buss reveal the motivations that guide women’s sexual decisions and explain the deep-seated psychology and biology that often unwittingly drive women’s desires—sometimes in pursuit of health or pleasure, or sometimes for darker, disturbing reasons that a woman may not fully recognize." --from Press Release, Times Books/Henry Holt and Company |Study Reveals Complexities of Female Arousal - UT News feature A Q&A with the authors of Why Women Have Sex - ShelfLife@Texas

"Why Women Have Sex" was featured on the Rachael Ray Show (Oct.14) and the Dr. Phil Show (Oct. 22). The book has received extensive coverage by such major media outlets such as Time, Newsweek, CNN, and The Guardian. See the Meston lab web site below for more information on news coverage and TV interviews. Links to Meston and Buss labs: Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory | Evolutionary Psychology Research Lab

Internet and use of computer as communication device was brainchild of UT Psychology alumnus

It was the mystery of the human brain that first sparked Bob Taylor's interest in computers nearly a half century ago. Before Taylor initiated the ARPAnet project (the precursor to the Internet), before he funded the creation of the mouse, before he led the team that helped invent personal computing, he was a graduate student in psychology at The University of Texas at Austin who, as he tells it, "was interested in the brain and how it works."

Brain's Center for Perceiving 3-D Motion Is Identified

Larry Cormack, Bas Rokers and Alex Huk pinpoint center for 3-D motion processing.
Read online version of published article...

Attraction May Lead People to Appear Funnier, Research Shows

According to new research by Norm Li and Kristina Durante, both sexes are more likely to initiate humor and consider the other person to be funnier if they are attracted to them. Their findings will be published in the upcoming issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Read paper online...

Researchers find that well-timed timeout is more effective in wiping out memory response to fear stimulus

Marie Monfils, an assistant professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, has taken advantage of a key time when memories are ripe for change to substantially modify memories of fear into benign memories and to keep them that way. Dr. Monfils paper has been published this week in Science Express, an online publication of Science. Read "Extinction-Reconsolidation Boundaries: Key to Persistent Attenuation of Fear Memories

In Treatment: From Freud to Dr. Phil, scholars analyze the rise of psychotherapy in America

Art Markman, Annabel Iron Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology, and Robert Abzug, Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History and director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, reflect on the history of psychotherapy from Freud to Rollo May to Dr. Phil. 

Psychology researchers study the human condition in the College of Liberal Arts' Life and Letters

Psychologists at the University of Texas feature prominently in the current issue of the College of Liberal Arts' "Life and Letters" newsletter. Download "Life and Letters"

High Hormone Levels in Women May Lead to Infidelity, Study Shows

Women with high levels of the sex hormone oestradiol may engage in opportunistic mating, according to a new study by psychology researchers Norm Li and Kristina Durante. Brain Signals Less Satisfaction for Obese People, Research Shows; Blunted Reward Response, Gene May Trigger Over-Eating

Obese individuals may overeat because they experience less satisfaction from eating food due to a reduced response in their brains' reward circuitry, according to a new study by Eric Stice, psychology researcher at The University of Texas at Austin. 

Children Aware of White Male Monopoly on White House

Rebecca Bigler and a team of researchers at the university and the University of Kansas have published their findings in the October issue of the journal, Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy

Children need mentors' help to reject stereotypes

Adults often think children live in a color or gender blind world, but children begin to detect race during their first year of life and show signs of stereotyping by age three, says psychologist Rebecca Bigler, director of The University of Texas at Austin's Gender and Racial Attitudes Lab

Research reveals young children distinguish between fact and fiction

Psychologist Jacqueline Woolley studies how children understand reality and evaluate new information. Her research shows that kids may have a better grasp on reality than adults give them credit for. 

White Children More Positive Toward Blacks After Learning About Racism, Study Shows

Psychologists Rebecca Bigler and Julie Milligan Hughes found white children who received history lessons about discrimination against famous African Americans had significantly more positive attitudes toward African Americans... 

Do Women Really Talk More than Men?

Refuting the popular stereotype that females talk more than men, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found women and men both use an average of 16,000 words each day. 

New Research Reveals Depressed Individuals Linger Longer on Negative Images

When presented with a series of photographs ranging from neutral to distressing, people who are depressed spend more time focused on negative images... 

Researchers Examine Romantic Relationship

Researchers examine the science and sociology of intimate relationships. 

Research Reveals Young Children Distinguish Between Fact and Fiction.

According to Jacqueline Woolley, childen use context to decide real vs. imaginary. 

How Do I Love Thee?

Study shows writing about a romantic relationship may help it last longer. Read more...

New Imaging Research Center brings pioneering science, technology to study of brain disorders

The University's new Imaging Research Center will enable faculty, students, and other investigators to conduct studies of both neural function and structure using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with a state of the art 3 Tesla MRI scanner from GE. UT Office of Public Affairs report...

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