Rethinking My Science

A link to my recent post on current topics in social psychology at


Love as self-concern and other-concern

Saint Valentine’s Day evokes some of our strongest emotions.  This is because our close relationships uniquely satisfy two fundamental human motivations.

  • Self-concern (getting things that benefit us)
  • Other-concern (being good to others)

Sometimes our desires for self-concern conflict with our desires for other-concern.

  • We feel good about having a nice car and a good job because these things satisfy our desires for self-concern.  But they do little or nothing to satisfy our needs for other-concern.
  • We may unselfishly help others, perhaps even at a cost to ourselves. We can feel good about doing these things, but these behaviors are at least in part unrewarding, because they do nothing for ourselves.

In other cases self-concern and other-concern work together, and these are the behaviors that make us feel the best, and which are therefore likely to persist.

Loving is prototypical in this regard – we love because it makes us feel good and helps us satisfy our personal desires.  But at the same time we love because we care about those we love.

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.


People care about others.  They want to be liked by others, even loved by them.

When we are separated from others we experience loneliness, one of life’s most unpleasant emotions.

We develop and maintain our relationships with others through the fundamental motivation of other-concern

Other-concern refers to behaviors we engage in that directly help others, including moral behaviors, altruism, and cooperation.

We feel good about ourselves when we engage in other-concern, often even better than we do after doing things that benefit ourselves.

Loving Facebook

It’s hard to avoid the superlatives when it comes to Facebook, the social networking service that is now 8 years old and ready for its Initial Public Offering.

  • 845 million active users
  • Over 40 percent of the US population has a Facebook account
  • Yearly revenue of over $4 billion

And Facebook has changed the lives of its users. We use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and relatives and to meet new friends. We use Facebook to share our ideas and to get new ones. And we use Facebook to feel good about ourselves – there’s really nothing like logging on and finding you’ve been multiply-friended overnight!

Some people believe that using Facebook and other social media are not adequate replacements for direct face-to-face contact with “real” people, and that spending too much time with social media may blunt our social skills.  But there are now over 400 studies looking at the effects of Facebook on everyday behaviors, in both children and adults, and this research shows that Facebook is in fact a healthy way to connect with others.

One recent study, published in the journal Developmental Psychology,1 found that there was no trade-off between having large networks of Facebook friends and the ability to develop intimacy and social support among face-to-face friends.  In fact, the opposite was true. Using Facebook increased the size of college students’ social networks and these larger networks were related to higher levels of life satisfaction and perceived social support. As the authors put it,

“…social networking sites help youth to satisfy enduring human psychosocial needs for permanent relations in a geographically mobile world.”

And many, many, other studies show similar results.

So don’t worry, moms and dads – Facebook is your friend. Your kids are at least as happy, caring, cared for, and emotionally supported on Facebook as they are in school or out with their friends at the mall.  And you have a much better idea where they are.

1Manago, A. M., Taylor, T., & Greenfield, P. M. (2012). Me and my 400 friends: The anatomy of college students’ Facebook networks, their communication patterns, and well-being. Developmental Psychology. Retrieved from



My Textbooks on MERLOT

I’m pleased to announce that Principles of Social Psychology has joined Introduction to Psychology as selections of top open source material on MERLOT

About Merlot (from: )

MERLOT is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy.   MERLOT is a leading edge, user-centered, collection of peer reviewed higher education, online learning materials, catalogued by registered members and a set of faculty development support services.

MERLOT’s strategic goal is to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by increasing the quantity and quality of peer reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty designed courses.


SPSP2012 – My thoughts

#SPSP2012 has come and gone, and thanks to a small army of Twitterers I feel (except for the warm weather) like I was there.

It was clearly a great conference, with a ton of enthusiasm, particularly among the younger social psychologists.

So what did I learn? I’d say this: Continue reading “SPSP2012 – My thoughts” »

Using Psychology to Make a Difference

I am reading social psychologist Tim Wilson’s new book on changing psychology. Some of the findings related to it are summarized here: Continue reading “Using Psychology to Make a Difference” »

Principles of Social Psychology Published!

Dear Colleagues

I am completely excited to announce that Flat World Knowledge (FWK) has just published a new textbook, Principles of Social Psychology, that I have written.  The book has received outstanding reviews from an advisory board and a large team of reviewers and I am excited to present it to you.

A description of the book and link to the text in its entirety appears at Continue reading “Principles of Social Psychology Published!” »

Liking those who like us

Kurt Gray, Assistant Professor of psychology at the University of Maryland has recently reported another way that we bolster our self-esteem and feel good about ourselves. Continue reading “Liking those who like us” »

What’s missing?

Professor David Dunning, formerly Executive Officer of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology has written an interesting blog that reminds us of a basic principle of psychology:

    ”Things that we can see are more powerful than things that we cannot see.”

He argued that Peyton Manning should be voted the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League in 2011. Why?… because the Indianapolis Colts, who had averaged almost 430 points per season in the past 8 years averaged only 243 points this year and won only 2 games. The difference? Manning was on the sidelines for the whole season with a neck injury.

It becomes clear, when we look at it this way, that Manning was a very valuable quarterback – noted in this case by his absence. But because we focus on players that are on the field rather than those who are not, we might easily miss the fact.

Other examples:

    We notice right away that someone we haven’t seen for a while has grown a beard (“Hey, you’ve got a new beard!”)

    ….but when we see someone who has shaved off a beard we’re less sure

(“Hey, there’s something different about you, but I don’t know what it is”)

    The spice that’s in the food tastes great (“You used a lot of garlic”) or not (“too much paprika!”)

    …but when the food is bland we’re less sure (“something’s missing, but I don’t know what it is.”)

Dunning points out that:

“..the next time you want to test a theory, try not adding the key ingredient you think matters.  Rather, take it out and see what happens.” Often, a negative test is more telling than a positive one.