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Don’t mess with the flow, no, no! Stick to the status quo!

April 17th, 2017 4 comments

Have you been using the same brand of toothpaste for years? Do you tend to eat the same meal everyday? Do you stay on Facebook for hours simply because it was pulled up on your computer when you turned it on?

HSM “Stick to the status quo”

Each of these situations may be a result of your status quo bias. You’ve probably heard of the status quo, maybe that High School Musical song is floating around somewhere in your head. The status quo is exactly how Chad Danforth sang it- it’s the situation that you’re in at each moment in time. For you, right now, it is sitting (or laying or standing) at a computer (or mobile device!) and reading this awesome blog about the status quo bias (whoa your status quo is reading about the status quo!). Now the status quo bias deviates here from High School Musical. Where the Wildcats were singing for everyone to stick to the status quo because it was better or superior to any alternative, the status quo bias is basically sticking with the status quo because it’s the status quo. Read more…

What Do High School Musical and the 2016 Election Have in Common? Status Quo Bias.

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

In 2006, the cast of High School Musical sang and danced wildly in a school cafeteria, preaching the benefits of “sticking to the status quo.” All the students in the school, jocks, academics, musicians, protested the changing school-climate, one becoming increasingly accepting and diverse. In the context of the movie, this song serves to characterize high schools across the nation as afraid of change and difference. To the audience’s later astonishment, the students are able to overcome this bias against change, celebrating the ultimate destruction of the rigid high school social borders! This heroic defeat of the high school caste system is certainly enjoyable for a generation of millennials, despite the 56% rotten tomatoes rating. Yet, in reality, change concerning social systems is far more difficult to achieve. In fact, the fear of change itself has its roots in cognitive and social psychology with what is called the status quo bias.

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Simply put, the status quo bias is known as people’s general preference for the existing and enduring states of the world and one’s own self (Eidelman & Crandall, 2012). Most people would sooner their life stay static than to welcome a new change, big or small. This phenomenon is what often prevents people from people making life changes, such as moving to a new home, trying a new diet, or even changing their preferred route home from work. Because stasis provides feelings of comfort and security, most people tend to avoid the threats of a new change or lifestyle. In High School Musical, super basketball stud Troy Bolton fears that his newfound interest in musical theatre will threaten the social safety in his athletic passions. Similarly, Gabriella is scared that the spotlight of a career in theatre will bring unwanted attention to her quiet, scholarly ways. Both protagonists show a preference for their current social group out of worry that they might be thought less of by other students if they joined another one- a prime example of sticking to the status quo! Read more…

Handwashing, Heliocentrism, and Global Warming: To Reject or Accept?

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

How often do you wash your hands? The Center for Disease Control recommends hand washing in numerous scenarios, such as before, during, and after preparing food, before and after tending to someone who is sick, before and after treating a wound, after going to the bathroom, after touching animals, and the list goes on. Now I know it might seem a little ridiculous to wash your hands as often as it is recommended, but I am crossing my fingers that you at least understand why it is necessary. One of the first things we teach our children is to always wash their hands, and how to do so effectively (such as washing for the duration of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”… twice). If you don’t believe me when I say hand washing is deep-seated in our modern society, just look at the 3.1 billion dollar market for hand soaps (Nielsen 2016). I, for one, certainly get overwhelmed when I walk down the aisle at my local Target and have to choose between the exhaustive collection of soaps with which I can lather up. And if I don’t find any soap I like then I can make my way over to the various types of hand sanitizers nearby. We can credit Ignaz Semmelweis and his microbial discoveries for the normalization of hand washing in our culture, but can you imagine a world where we didn’t wash our hands? And even stranger – can you imagine rejecting the science behind it? 
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Sure, I can afford it: The cognitive principles behind mental accounting

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

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I could really go for a burger and milkshake right now.  It’s the end of the month; rent has been paid, my student loan contribution is accounted for, and I’ve maxed out my self-imposed monthly restaurant allowance. It looks like I’m out of luck.  But, after some quick mental math, I realize that I spent $10 less than expected on groceries this month.  Score!  It’s burger time. We’ve all done this: designating money for specific purposes, guesstimating how much we’ve spent, and mentally moving money around when convenient.  These behaviors, among others, are what psychologist Richard Thaler (1985) calls “mental accounting.”  Mental accounting is the process of creating mental representations (meaningful mental images) of money based on its form, how it was acquired, and how you intend to use it.  Indeed, there was nothing concrete about my monthly restaurant allowance or grocery budget.  They were simply my personal mental accounts.  In other words, mental accounting helps us organize our spending behaviors.  It’s not just about budgeting, though.  Categorizing money for one purpose or another can help us restrict our purchases, or, like my decision to buy the burger and milkshake demonstrated, justify moving money around our mental accounts.

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Don’t get too personal when it’s the all about the situation: Fundamental Attribution Error

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

Fundamental attribution error (FAE) happens when people explain a behavior of another by drawing inferences about that person’s personalities, dispositions or other internal factors, but underestimate the effect of external factors such as the situation the person is in (Gilbert & Malone, 1995). People often make FAE without realizing it. What are some examples of FAE, why does it happen so often outside our consciousness, and how can we avoid it?

Let’s starts with some examples of FAE. Imagine you are traveling in a foreign country and want to buy souvenirs for your friends. After careful selection, you decide to buy seventeen homemade chocolate bars; each is thirteen dollars. Before checking out, you want to know how much do they cost but you are having a hard time calculating the exact number. Then, the little boy next to you says immediately: “Hey, that’s 221 dollars.”

So you take out the cell phone to check the total; you find out that the boy is correct. What would be your first reaction? Read more…

Was the Ugly Duckling Actually Ugly?

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

The ugly ducking, the runt of the litter, odd one out. All of these terms are names for a negative, superficial observation that are accompanied by other negative stigmas. However, as we learn in the tale of the ugly duckling, this creature undergoes a transformation to become a beautiful, elegant swan and gains acceptance into “swan society”. This tale demonstrates how a perfectly normal, kind, character is rejected from society due to one negative quality, his homely appearance. But why is this? Maybe because everyday, humans make subconscious assumptions about people around us.

Ugly Duckling Image

https://www.google.com/search?q=ugly+duckling+picture&source

Another well-known illustration of this can be seen in the familiar tale of Beauty and the Beast…aside from being the Beauty, what other qualities does Belle posses to make her so great? And why is a Beast that *spoiler alert* is not so Beastly, instantaneously shunned from society. Maybe it’s because of his large, frightening appearance that leads the villagers and Belle (well…. at first) to run away in fear. I mean, let’s admit it… we’ve all definitely passed judgments about someone based on their looks or appearance before. Some might even call them snap judgments… you know, judgments or assumptions you make based on someone’s looks, a specific personality trait, or maybe even a rumor you’ve heard about him or her. You can admit it, because it is something that happens more often than you think—and this is what we call the halo effect.

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Decisions – Are you making any?

April 17th, 2017 No comments

Every day, we make countless numbers of small decisions. What am I going to wear? Where should I go for lunch? Should I sign up for a drama class next semester? If you are a high school or college student, you are probably making decisions about these all the time. Remember that time in the High School Musical (the movie), when the lead actor, Troy Bolton, had to make a really tough decision? He had an option to try something new and sing with his crush, Gabriella, but his basketball team, the Wildcats, asked him to stick to the stuff he already knew.

HSM 1 – Stick to The Status Quo

Now, if you love High School Musical as much as I do, you probably remember that the Wildcats asked Troy to stick to the status quo. Now, you probably always wanted to know, what is the status quo? Let me answer that for you.

Status Quo is a cognitive bias that occurs when a person is faced with a complex decision to make and chooses to stay in his or her current state, refraining from looking for an alternative. Our everyday decisions may be the result of the status quo bias.

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Naïve Realism: Our Misinterpretation of How We Interpret the World

April 17th, 2017 6 comments

“I disagree.” Words that make us cringe. We have an innate desire for our worldview to be the correct one. This motivation is further exacerbated by our overconfidence in ourselves. We enter arguments thinking we are correct, but in reality, we have subconscious biases that may lead to us not being as accurate as we think we are.

Imagine that you are having an argument with a close friend about who deserves the title of the best baseball player of all time. You are adamant that the title goes to Barry Bonds, but your friend is dead set on Babe Ruth. You present your respective arguments, stating your opinions and even backing them up with the players’ incredible stats. You wonder to yourself, why doesn’t your friend have the same opinion as you? You figure they must be ill informed, that any logical person would choose Barry Bonds. However, you forget to take into account that your dad brought you to the Giants game on August 7, 2007, when Bonds broke the record for most career home runs (Baseball-Reference, 2017). The crowd went wild, the atmosphere was electric, and this became your favorite sports moment of all time. However, because you experienced this momentous event, you have a strong emotional connection to Bonds that tampers with your ability to objectively analyze him as a baseball player. Even though statistically, he may NOT be the best baseball player, your opinion is subconsciously swayed by your incredible experience that day at the ballpark. This highlights the basis of the cognitive error in psychology called naïve realism.

Naïve realism refers to the notion that our world view is strictly objective and veridical. We also believe that others will interpret information with this same view, and if their view differs, they must be biased or have an irrational thought process (Ross & Ward, 1996). To read about all the different psychological concepts that contribute evidence to naïve realism, click here.

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Have a Little Empathy: How to Overcome the Empathy Gap and Understand Each Other

April 17th, 2017 4 comments

Road rage is an example of a common emotional reaction that we might not understand in others

Picture this: you’re driving on a busy street with your friend. All of a sudden, a car comes out of nowhere and cuts you off. You’re in a hurry to get somewhere, and this makes you angry. So, you take the first opportunity to zoom into the left lane and speed past the car that cut you off, looking at the driver as you pass. Its not until your friend shouts “Watch out!” that you slam on the brakes and realize you almost hit the car in front of you at a red light. Your friend chastises you for overreacting and driving recklessly. They don’t understand why you would do what you did, and after calming down, you don’t either. Sound familiar?

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One Item, Two Prices: How the Endowment Effect Can Explain Different Valuations of the Same Object

April 17th, 2017 No comments

If you are not aware of the United Airlines disaster/debacle/controversy/blunder (take

Figure 1: United Airlines aircraft

your pick), I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself. However, to save you some time, I will provide you with a short recap of what happened. On April 11, 2017 United Airlines had over booked a flight from Chicago to Louisville and needed to make room for four members of the flight crew. You can probably guess where this is going –  an overbooked flight with four additional seats needed means that four passengers have to change to a later flight (math!). No one wanted to volunteer to give up their seat, so United Airlines bumped four passengers who were already seated from this flight. For whatever reason, one man really did not want to give up his seat that he had already paid for. Thus, United Airlines underwent an “involuntary de-boarding situation” and thought that it would be a good idea to physically remove this man while he was kicking and screaming. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for United Airlines, this incident was caught by many people on video and then posted to social media. If you’re curious about what United Airlines missed and how they could have potentially avoided the bad PR they incurred after the event, you should continue reading.
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