psychology | KUOW News and Information


Welcome to a new season of Invisibilia! The NPR program and podcast explores the invisible forces that shape human behavior. Episode 3 involves two brothers who are happy about the polite, helpful tenant who moves into their mother's house, until they start to suspect he has sinister motives.

Courtesy of Emile Pitre

Dr. Temple Grandin was diagnosed as brain-damaged at age two. Her mother Anna steadfastly pursued ways to understand her daughter’s condition and ultimately educate her. Anna came to suspect her daughter was on the autism spectrum, at a time when the prescribed treatment was commitment to an institution. She fought that, too.

In this Jan. 29, 1962 file photo, the Spalding family, left, and the Richmond family demonstrate how people of the town would sit out a nuclear attack and its radioactive aftermath in Los Alamos, N.M., birthplace of the atomic and hydrogen bombs.
AP Photo, File

If you follow the news, you might get the impression that things are pretty bad.

Not just "why bother" bad. It's "throw your hands up" bad.

Or even "eat a large bag of Sour Patch Kids in one sitting because we're all doomed anyway" bad.

KUOW photo/Sonya Harris

Marriage conjures up so many things, but here’s a longish shortlist: union, promise, vow, relationship, interdependence, security, sacrifice, contract, commitment, hard work, choice. Why do people get married? According to a Pew Research Center study, the top three reasons are for love, long-term commitment and companionship.

Courtesy of Spelman College/J.D. Scott

In 1997 Dr. Beverly Tatum published her acclaimed book "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race.” The work explores an enduring American reluctance to acknowledge the realities of racial identity development and racism. For the last 20 years, it has served as a catalyst in efforts to address those realities.

President Trump has often accused the news media of not covering terrorist attacks adequately. In a speech in February he said, "Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino [...] It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported."

microphone podium
Flickr Photo/Tom Woodward (CC BY NC 2.0)/

The term "gaslighting" comes from the 1944 film "Gaslight," about an abusive husband who secretly manipulates the lighting in his house in order to drive his wife mad. It has been used more recently to refer to a political phenomenon involving the dissemination of untruths to an extent that causes the public to doubt truth from falsehood.

Flickr Photo/Fernando Gonzalez (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Kim Malcolm talks with Sam Sommers about the science behind why we root for underdogs in sports. Sommers is associate professor of psychology at Tufts University and co author of "This is Your Brain on Sports."

It's a time of year when we're often urged to be grateful; for friends, for family, for presents under the tree. But not everyone experiences gratitude as a positive force in their life.

Editor's note: This story is part of the latest episode of NPR's show and podcast Invisibilia, exploring the power of clothes.

"Whatever! Just leave me alone!"

Tammy stomps her feet up the stairs to the bedroom. A few moments later she slams the door, leaving for work. Jack is exasperated, angry and hurt. He wanted to rush outside and demand that Tammy treat him with respect. He imagined giving her the silent treatment until she apologized. But he knew this would prolong the fight and compound the resentment.

He goes upstairs, tidies their room and does her laundry. He arranges some flowers on their nightstand and goes to work.

Does hope actually motivate us to change? A listener sent in this question, and we thought we would explore the answer.

In this edition of Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke talk about how effective hope is when we want change.

Letting mice watch Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

As a mother of young children, I've heard the following rosy message from more than one slightly more-seasoned mom: "Don't worry, it gets easier!"

It's a message of hope and encouragement, a recognition of how hard some aspects of early motherhood can be. But according to new research, it might also be wrong.

After reporting from Iraq in 2003, NBC’s Brian Williams told the world in great detail about how the helicopter he had been in was shot down.

The only problem was it was not true. We now know that he was in a different helicopter, which was not shot down.

Flickr Photo/Philip Robertson

In recent weeks, the 12th Man has been more ubiquitous in Seattle than rainfall (actually, we’ve been having pretty mild weather).

The flying flags, Blue Fridays and produce displays actually have a psychological and evolutionary basis, according to Eric Simons, author of “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans.”

Former All-Star point guard Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers, the story goes, hated luggage so much he used to buy new outfits every time his team went on a road trip. Needless to say, he's had some financial troubles.

Oxymoronic, isn't it, the idea of a "good psychopath"?

But in their just published book, The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success, Andy McNab and Kevin Dutton argue that relying on some psychopathic traits can lead to a more successful life.

Flickr Photo/Paolo Marconi (CC BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde talks with Jessica Sommerville, psychology professor at the University of Washington, about her recent study that explores how babies perceive justice.

Flickr Photo/C.P.Storm (Cc-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks with psychologist Joel Gold, who co-authored the book "Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness." The book deals in part with the "Truman Show" delusion: a belief that everyone around you is an actor, and you're the star of a TV show. 

Flickr Photo/wajakemek | rashdanothman (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks with psychologist Jonathan Bricker about smartphone apps that claim to help users overcome addiction.

Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen's book. "Thanks for The Feedback."

Ross Reynolds speaks with Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, lecturers on law at Harvard Law School, about their new book, "Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well." In the course of writing their previous best-seller, "Difficult Conversations," Stone and Heen found that getting feedback, at work or at home, often creates the most difficult conversations.

Nicholas Epley's book "Mindwise."

Ross Reynolds speaks with University of Chicago psychologist Nicholas Epley about his new book "Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel and Want." Epley's research suggests we have insight into what others are thinking but only up to a point.

Why It's OK To Fail Well And Fail Often

Feb 19, 2014
Megan McArdle's book, "The Up Side of Down."

Steve Scher talks with Megan McArdle about why she thinks it's OK to fail as long as you learn from the experience. She also discusses what she learned about human failure while writing her book, "The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success."

Flickr Photo/Spirit-Fire

David Hyde talks with UW psychology professor Liliana Lengua, director of the UW Center for Child and Family Well-Being, about her research on delayed gratification.

Flickr Photo/Jared Eberhardt

Imaginary Friends: Can’t Live With 'Em, Can’t Live Without 'Em

Most of us have fond memories of our childhood friends, but what about our friends that weren’t real? Imaginary friends come in many shapes and sizes, and they often provide handy scapegoats. Steve Scher talked with Marjorie Taylor, professor and head of psychology at the University of Oregon and author of "Imaginary Companions." He also talked to Stephanie Carlson, professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, about where our imaginary friends come from and why they leave.

Ruth Reichl On How And What Americans Eat

At the end of 2009, legendary Gourmet Magazine printed its last issue. Steve Scher talked with then-editor and author Ruth Reichl just four days before the announcement of the magazine’s end about how and what Americans are eating.

Robert Olen Butler On Vietnamese Expat Communities

Robert Olen Butler is the author of “A Good Scent from a Stranger Mountain,” a collection of short stories about Vietnamese expats. In his book, Butler recalls many stories from Vietnamese expats around the world and the often, as he deems them, temperamental dynamics of these communities. Steve Scher talked with Butler back in 1992.

The Conversation Goes Mental: Interviews On Psychology And Human Behavior

Aug 19, 2013

This hour on The Conversation we explore the strange and confusing behavior of humans. Why do we act the way we do? And can we change? Psychologists and science writers take us inside the brain to explain our peculiar actions. 

Humans Look Forward To Turning Into Robots

Aug 13, 2013
Tali Sharot's book "The Optimism Bias"

  Are you optimistic about the future of science? A recent Pew Survey found that 71 percent of Americans believe artificial arms and legs will perform better than natural ones by 2050, and 69 percent believe there will be a cure for most forms of cancer by then.

Will most Americans be springing for artificial limbs in 40 years? Maybe not. But we are certainly optimistic about the possibility of it all. Ross Reynolds talks with Tali Sharot, research fellow in the department of cognitive, perceptual and brain sciences at University College London and the author of “The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain.”

The Rationale Of Irrational Fears

Aug 8, 2013
Flickr Photo/roxweb

Maybe you are afraid of clowns or heights, spiders or public speaking. Fears are common, and from an evolutionary stand point fear can be very helpful. But what happens when you are so afraid of something that other find totally harmless, that it cripples you? How can you get over those fears?

Dr. Stacy Welch wants you to be afraid, but it isn’t what you think. Dr. Welch is an exposure therapist helping people work through fears, both rational and irrational. Ross Reynolds sits down with Dr. Welch and discusses where fears come from, how fear can help or hurt us and how to overcome fears. 

Digital Dementia

Jul 18, 2013

Got a question? Ask Google. Can’t remember a name? Go to your smart phone. But are digital conveniences making us more forgetful? Tom Stafford psychologist at the University of Sheffield in the UK says no. He explains why our brains are just actually adapting.