Sep 16

Climate changes and air pollution

For a very long time now, the discussion about the climate changes and the quality of the air on our Ecosystem has caused a lot of commotion. The United States congress has discussed the climate change matter for decades, claiming that the air pollution with natural or harmful gasses is definitely concerning to the public welfare and safety (U.S. government, 2012). Recently, also in 2012 at the Nobel prize the former vice president Al Gore brought into his speech many concerning factors about the damage in our atmosphere and the soon future problems we all have face due to natural disasters (Al Gore, 2012, video). Because of all the environmental problems caused by the super-population in the earth, social scientists study and research in a regular basis for solutions that would be effective for all of us (WC, Psych 484, lesson 4).

First, it is important that all of us understand and embrace causes related to our natural resources dilemmas. The environment that sustain humanity and the generation of life is not endless and for most of the time we are unable to understand this fact, in result, ignore our reality may end up causing our own extinction (WC, Psych 484, lesson 4). Environmental psychologists and most of scientific fields that study our air are consistent with the affirmations that we need to change our habits and help the climate if we want to provide humanity a longer existence. This social dilemma is real and need our urgent attention because our fueling system generate very high levels of pollution into the atmosphere, and very soon we will not be able to control those damages anymore (Al Gore, 2012, video). The El Niño and many other natural disasters are already happening for years, but it is taking us way too long to take action and imply a serious intervention to relief the problems caused by climate changes and air pollution. Last year in December the United Stated had the warmest Christmas registered by the weather center in the past 30 years. This phenomenon is not casual or surprising giving the fact that the congress is trying to take a political act about the matter since 1955 (U.S. government, 2012).

In a social dilemma like this, we all face the choice of contribution to the society (Schneider, Grumman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 299) by changing our behavior towards pollution and getting educated about the matter. In an effective intervention design, we all need to be part of the program and make sure the rules are followed by all members of society. This natural resources dilemma is responsible for all life on the planet (Schneider, et al. 2012, p. 301), so we need to take that in consideration and work in developing environmental conscious individuals who are capable of contribute to the program. The climate problem seems to be getting just worst because our fueling system that put danger gases in the air causing pollution is higher than our efforts to generate natural ways of fuel. We need to work faster on solutions because the number of population in the earth is growing fast and  so is the air pollution (WC, Psych 484, lesson 4).

To develop an intervention that would be useful for this social dilemma we may need to focus in consequence strategies, where rewards that follows behavior always encourage the behavior to happen (Schneider, et al. 2012, p. 307). Not only the climate change is concerning for us right now, there is also many other social problems such the use of energy, recycle of trash and other material, water waste and pollution, fishing, and smart use of food (Schneider, et al., 2012). The list of problems grows daily and we are running out of time to provide efficient solutions. A social design intervention may be useful in those cases, because it involves working with the people involved in the matter. If appropriately developed, this intervention may change the behavior of a whole group and cause a major change in the environment (Schneider, et al., 2012, p. 312). Like Banduras (1986) idealized, if our behavior (behavior) towards natural resources changes we will promote human longevity (environment) by changing our beliefs and actions (personal factors) (WC, Psych 484, lesson 4).


Al Gore (Nobel Prize). (2012, May 17). Al Gore acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Oslo, Norway. YouTube video retrieved from https://youtu.be/ahN50abNc4s

Penn State University, World Campus (Fall, 2016). Psych 424: Lesson 3. Retrieved from:   https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1802487/assignments/8707029?module_item_id=21233935

Schneider, F.W., Grumman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012) Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

United States Congress (84th, 1st session, & United States. (2012). Air pollution control act. Bethesda. MD: ProQuest. Retrieved from: file:///C:/Users/galbo/Downloads/11823H.rp.968.pdf


Sep 16

The Jigsaw Classroom

One of the greatest advancements in teaching and most successful examples of applied social psychology originated in the 1970s with Elliot Aronson’s jigsaw classroom. Aronson’s intervention applied Gordon Allport’s (1954/1979) contact hypothesis, which posited that placing groups in a situation in which they must work together toward a common goal given a supportive environment and equivalent status and power, to the classroom. Yet all great ideas must start somewhere, and for Aronson, his began with a phone call.

By 1971, Aronson had become head of the University of Texas’ social psychology department, and a former student of his reached out to discuss something the professor had taught him years ago (Aronson, 2001). The student, who himself was now an assistant superintendent in the Austin school district, was encountering fights and riots between the black, white, and Hispanic students after desegregation (Aronson, 2001; Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2013). In response, Aronson (2001), with the help of some of his graduate students, developed an intervention inspired by Allport’s (1954/1979) contact hypothesis and Muzafer Sherif and colleague’s (1961) Robbers Cave Experiment (Aronson & Bridgeman, 1979; as cited in Kwantes, Bergeron, & Kaushal, 2012). This intervention would come to be known as the jigsaw classroom.

Jigsaw Classroom

(Jigsaw Classroom, 2016)

Students in a jigsaw classroom may not seem to be all that different on the surface. Like many classrooms, jigsaw students learn together in small groups of four to seven students (Blaney et al., 1977), although six is now a common figure (Aronson et al., 2013). Members are assigned to the group to represent a diverse mix of backgrounds, but what is truly different is that instead of learning from a teacher, jigsaw students learn from each other:  Each member is assigned the responsibility of learning one particular part of the lesson and teaching this part to the others (Blaney et al., 1977; Aronson & Bridgeman, 1979; Aronson et al., 2013). The students, then, are interdependent on each other to reach a common goal, and since each would not know the same information as the others did, their status was made equivalent, just like Allport’s (1954/1979) contact hypothesis would necessitate. In as little as one hour a day (Aronson, 2001), the jigsaw intervention can have wide-reaching implications within and outside the classroom.

These implications have been found and replicated many times over the years since Aronson’s first intervention. Within the group, students actually start to listen to, respect, and like one another (Blaney et al., 1977; Aronson et al., 2013). But the effects of the jigsaw classroom go far beyond intragroup relations. In addition to liking and respect their fellow group members more, students in jigsaw classrooms also show a remarkable decrease in prejudice and stereotyping, perform better on standardized tests, say they like school more, and have higher self-esteem than students in comparison to students in traditional classrooms (Blaney et al., 1977; Aronson et al., 2013). Minority students, in particular, tend to flourish after the jigsaw intervention (Blaney et al., 1977). This may be related to the negative stereotypes with which students from racial and ethnic minorities are often publicly regarded.

Given the remarkable effects of the jigsaw intervention, it is no surprise it is widely implemented. Aronson (2001) estimates that 15 to 18 percent of all schools in America have used his jigsaw classroom intervention, but it might be safe to say he may feel this remarkable number is still insufficient. To Aronson (2001), the “cliquish atmosphere of rejection and humiliation” found in schools makes “30 percent to 40 percent” of students “very, very unhappy,” creating a climate that potentially leads to conflicts ranging from teasing and bullying to suicide and acts of violence. His jigsaw classroom, however, may be one solution to all of these problems. Aronson (2001) thinks his intervention can be used to break down cliques of every kind, from nerds to jocks and from social class to popularity, and “There’s no bigger, stronger clique than race. And we overcame that.” Bold as these claims may be, there is some evidence to back them up.

Remarkable as the aforementioned short-term effects of the jigsaw classroom intervention are, their long-term results may suggest real and lasting behavioral and attitudinal change. Six weeks after a jigsaw classroom intervention, students playing at recess were far more racially mixed than were students at schools without the intervention (Aronson, 2001). Even five or ten years later, Aronson (2001) still receives letters from students and teachers describing lasting effects on empathy and self-esteem. In fact, one notable letter came from one of the students in Aronson’s first jigsaw class.

While a junior at the University of Texas–the same school at which Aronson developed the jigsaw classroom intervention–a man recognized himself, referred to by the pseudonym “Carlos,” in Aronson’s book The Social Animal and wrote to him about the difference the jigsaw experience made in his life. Under that pseudonym, Carlos (1982) wrote that when Aronson came into his 5th grade classroom, “I hated school” and felt “I was so stupid and didn’t know anything,” but “when we started to do work in jigsaw groups, I began to realize that I wan’t really that stupid.” The children he felt were bullies became his friends, “the teacher acted friendly and nice to me and I actually began to love school” so much that, at the time of his letter, he was about to go on to Harvard Law School. To Carlos (1982), Aronson and his jigsaw classroom saved his life. Who knows how many of the thousands of other children exposed to jigsaw interventions might feel the same?



Allport, G.W. (1979). The nature of prejudice (Rev. ed.). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA:  Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Original work published (1954).

Aronson, E. (2001, March 27). A conversation with Elliot Aronson / Interviewer:  Susan Gilbert [Published interview]. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/27/health/a-conversation-with-elliot-aronson-no-one-left-to-hate-averting-columbines.html

Aronson, E., & Bridgeman, D. (1979). Jigsaw groups and the desegregated classroom:  In pursuit of common goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 5(4), 438-446. doi:10.1177/014616727900500405

Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D., & Akert, R.M. (2013). Social Psychology (8th Ed.) Boston, MA:  Pearson.

Blaney, N.T., Stephan, C., Rosenfield, D., Aronson, E., & Sikes, ,J. (1977). Interdependence in the classroom:  A field study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 69(2), 121-128. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.69.2.121

Carlos. (1982). A letter from Carlos. Rpt. by Jigsaw Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.jigsaw.org/history/carlos.html

Jigsaw Classroom. (2016). Logo [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.jigsaw.org/

Kwantes, C.T., Bergeron, S., & Kaushal, R. (2012). Chapter 14:  Applying social psychology to diversity. In F.W. Schneider, J.A. Gruman, & L.M. Coutts (Eds.) Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing
social and practical problems (2nd ed.) (323-347). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.


Sep 16

New POTUS job requirement: “A presidential look”

What, exactly, comprises the “presidential look” that according to Republican candidate Donald Trump, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton lacks? Although he demurs when asked for specifics, stating “I’m just talking about general,” (Parker, 2016), it can be concluded based on his former comments about women in general and former female political opponent Carly Fiorina in particular that there are gender politics at play in his remarks (Estepa, 2015). Unfortunately, Trump is not alone in his doubts about whether someone who looks like Clinton (i.e. female) would be able to project the aura of authority the office of the Presidency requires. The uncomfortable truth is that hidden sexism operates in our society, and many of us are uneasy with seeing women in a powerful role.

Penn State psychology professor Terri Vescio explains the gender bias that operates in the political sphere as a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation, in which “the more female politicians are seen as striving for power, the less they’re trusted and the more moral outrage gets directed at them…[because] if you’re perceived as competent, you’re not perceived as warm. But if you’re liked and trusted, you’re not seen as competent” (Bush, 2016). This catch-22 for women in politics (and in business) undermines their support among both men and women, and because much of it is implicit bias, it is often unrecognized. For example, even within the Obama administration female staffers often had to struggle to make their voices heard until they struck upon a strategy of “amplification” whereby they mutually drew attention to each other’s significant contributions in order ensure that the proper party received credit for the idea (Eilperin, 2016). I point this out in order to be clear that sexism is an issue that transcends political party affiliation, and therefore we all stand to lose out if valuable contributions from women are silenced by oppression either blatant or subtle.

Hostile sexism is easier to recognize for what it is, but there is another side to sexism that is more insidious: benevolent sexism. For example, I would describe myself as a feminist, but when I took the “Are You Sexist” quiz offered by PBS.org, my results indicated that I hold a fair degree of subtle gender prejudice:

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-4-06-57-pmI encourage you to click the link above and see your own results – you might be surprised at what you learn about yourself. Anyone familiar with the Harvard implicit bias tests will recall that we don’t have to hold explicitly negative beliefs about others to be influenced by bias. Our implicit beliefs can lead us to behave in a manner which is discriminatory while we simultaneously think of ourselves as fair and considerate.

When you combine elements of hostile and benevolent sexism you get ambivalent sexism. We can see the interplay of these elements in Donald Trump’s statements about women, both positive and negative. Recently, professor Peter Glick, who along with Susan Fiske proposed the tripartite understanding of sexism stated, “Trump’s views are consistent with conventional ideologies that view women as wonderful…but with a catch” (Glick, 2016).

“Heterosexual men’s intimate interdependence on women (as objects of desire, wives, and mothers), fosters a ‘benevolent’ side to sexism. Benevolent sexism encompasses genuine warmth toward women, but only when they support rather than challenge men’s status, power, and privileges” (Glick, 2016).

Regardless of which candidate we choose to vote for in the upcoming election, I hope that we will all pay closer attention to our own assumptions about gender and competence. Often we hold women to different standards than men without realizing that we are doing so. In light of what I’ve learned in in this course (particularly Swim and Hyer’s (1991) research regarding women’s responses to sexist comments), I will not only strive to resist social pressure to silence myself, but will also do more to support other women as they work to make their voices heard. If enough men and women do the same, perhaps we can arrive at a point sometime in the future when saying that a female political candidate doesn’t look “presidential” will fail to cause some of us to nod in agreement.


Allen, J. (2016, July 21). Anti-Hillary Clinton rhetoric has become dangerous and violent. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from American, http://www.rushhourdaily.com/anti-hillary-clinton-rhetoric-become-dangerous-violent/

Bush, D. The hidden sexism that could sway the election. Retrieved September 26, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/features/hidden-sexism/

Eilperin, J. (2016, September 13). White house women want to be in the room where it happens. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/09/13/white-house-women-are-now-in-the-room-where-it-happens/

Estepa, J. (2015, September 10). Donald Trump on Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face!” . Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/09/10/trump-fiorina-look-face/71992454/

Glick, P. (2016). Benevolent sexism and the art of the deal. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-enquiry/201609/benevolent-sexism-and-the-art-the-deal

Parker, A. (2016, September 7). Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton Doesn’t have “a presidential look.” Politics. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/07/us/politics/donald-trump-says-hillary-clinton-doesnt-have-a-presidential-look.html

Santhanam, L. (2016, August 10). Are you sexist? Take this quiz. . Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/are-you-sexist-take-this-quiz/


Sep 16

No more fresh water for you

For this week blog I will be discussing an article from nytimes.com titled, “In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes melted in 25 years” by Justin Gillis. The article is about the world’s largest tropical ice sheet; the Quelccaya ice cap of Peru and the rate in which ice is melting, in addition to what is being revealed. Lonnie G Thompson, the Ohio State University glaciologist, along with her team has been studying the Quelccaya ice caps for more than 10 years.

Plants that were trapped under ice for thousands of years are now being exposed due to the rapid melting of the Quelccaya cap. These plants were dated by a radioactive form of carbon in plant tissue that decays at a known rate; giving scientist a new precise method of determining the history of the ice sheet’s margins. Several years ago, Dr. Thompson and her team found plants that were about 4700 years old. Now with an additional thousand feet of melting, Dr. Thompson and her team are now finding plants that are 6300 years old.  If we subtract the age of the new plants from the age of the older found plants we see a difference of 1600 years.

Although finding plant species that were thought to be long gone is very exciting, the rate at which the caps are melting is very concerning. Mathias Vuille, a climate scientist at the State University at Albany in New York said, “the ice may not go quick because it is so much ice, but we may have already locked ourselves into a situation where we are committed to losing that ice”

After reading this article I cannot help but wonder what this means for the people of this region. According to the article 50% of the water supply to the people of Lima will be gone if the Quelccaya caps completely melt. I cannot help but wonder why don’t we have technology that would stop the ice from melting?



“In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes melted in 25 years” by Justin Gillis. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/world/americas/1600-years-of-ice-in-perus-andes-melted-in-25-years-scientists-say.html

Sep 16

Passing Gas is No Laughing Matter

If you’re planning on travelling to the southeastern states within the next two months, not only will you not indulge in the moment of economic hallelujah from the gasoline promise land of the east coast, Virginia; you might want to pack your own fuel. Have you ever wondered why Virginians were paying $1.16/gallon, while you were paying $2.30/gallon of gas? One of those reasons is the Colonial Pipeline, an underground gas channel, that stretches from Texas to New York. Being one of the greatest suppliers of gasoline in the southern states, as of Monday, a 250,000-gallon leak in the pipeline has a number of states in a gas shortage emergency (Cusick, 2016). While waiting in line for 45 minutes at my Fayetteville, NC gas station, as the pumps drained empty, I became curious of how this underground disaster was effecting the environment, resource supply, and economics.

In 2010, we all witnessed the devastation that was caused by the infamous BP oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico—in fact, Deepwater Horizon, a film depicting the oil spill, has just been released to theaters. Coined as one of the worst environmental disasters of US history, the Deepwater Horizon spill was a mass extermination of marine species along the Gulf Coast. As the most recent worldwide precedent of petroleum-linked disaster, it was highly doubtful that the Colonial Pipeline Leak of 2016 would yield a comparable amount of damage to Deepwater Horizon. Nonetheless, many residents of the Colonial spill site in Alabama, were apprehensive over how the leak would impact the ecosystem of the Cahaba river, which is home to freshwater marine species and various forms of wildlife.  Member of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Kevin Eichlinger, claims that the detrimental effects of the spill are minimal, and bearing in mind the size of the spill (the Colonial Pipeline’s largest in 20 years), stakeholders of the pipeline should consider themselves lucky (Philips, 2016). The gas, which escaped from the pipe, flowed over 500 feet of land, before being absorbed by two emergency containments ponds, leaving behind only a small amount of plant and animal damage before EPA cleanup crews were on the scene (Philips, 2016).

Although lucky, at best, the Colonial Pipeline leak could have created a much greater environmental impact and should draw attention to the dangers of underground storage tanks (UST’s). There are a number of reasons why UST’s begin to leak, such as poor installation or future corrosion of the pipeline. Of the 1.4 million UST’s filled with gasoline nationwide, it is estimated that 10-35% of them are currently leaking and would fail environmental safety tests (Page, 1988). Composed of dangerous aromatic chemicals and metallic substances, seepage of gasoline into the soil contaminates ground water, a source 50% of Americans, including 100% of rural areas, rely upon for drinking (Sierra, n.d.). In fact, a 1998 survey revealed that leaking pipelines have contaminated over 800 personal groundwater wells with gasoline additives (Schneiderman, 2016). 1 gallon of gasoline has the potential to contaminate 1 million gallons of water. This suggests that the 250,000-gallon Colonial Pipeline leak could have contaminated 250 trillion gallons of water (Sierra, n.d.). When it comes to wasted gasoline or water, we wish we could say, “There’s more where that came from,” but, that would be untrue. Gasoline and fresh water are nonrenewable resources; an endangered species. Humans, and the choices they make, are dangerous predators.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-11-45-44-am­­Figure 1. A chart provided by (Sierra, n.d.), listing potential gasoline composed toxins and their impacts on health, permitted composition of drinking water, origins and mobility in soil.

When forced to make a choice between self-interest and the welfare of the environment, a resource dilemma, humans are much more likely to drive their cars or run their air conditioners, among other resource depleting decisions. Though individual consumption of resources feels too small to make a difference, all of the energy consumption, by individuals with similar mindsets, adds up to world-population sized environmental footprint (Schneider, 2012). While consumption and spilled gasoline exhaust one nonrenewable resource, gasoline-linked contamination of fresh water destroys another—both of which drain our wallets.

With respect to the Colonial Pipeline leak, the financial backlash has already been huge. The notoriously inexpensive gas prices of Virginia and North Carolina are no more. Since Monday, the day which states of emergency were declared, gas prices have increased over $0.50 in most southeastern states. Receiving their inventory from trucks, gas stations have a limited supply of gasoline to offer customers, and are running out daily. Higher gas prices equate to higher expenses needed for delivery trucks to make their way to grocery stores, yielding an inflation of food prices. Gas analyst, Patrick DeHaan, says to expect this financial impact to expand throughout most of the nation for at least two weeks, and potentially up to two months (Philips, 2016). Meanwhile, the obvious question is: how to we protect our environment and our pocketbooks in the future?

One solution is to stop the leakage of UST’s. This could include: educating the public on the commonality of groundwater contamination; development of equipment that monitors for gasoline spills or more inspections of UST and pipeline structures. Revisiting resource dilemmas, we can make a conscious effort to choose the environment over personal desires. Travelling a short distance? Take your bike. Limit your showers to 5 minutes. Just like individual consumption of resources adds up to environmental devastation, why not use the same principle for environmental protection (Schneider, 2012).


Cusick, D. (2016 September 20). What you need to know about the North Carolina gas shortage. ABC: Eyewitness News. Retrieved from URL: http://abc11.com/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-nc-gas-shortage/1518000/

Page, N. P. (1998). Gasoline leaking from underground storage tanks: Impact on drinking water quality.  U.S. Department of Energy: Office of Science and Technological Information. Retrieved from URL: http://www.osti.gov/scitech/biblio/5966974

Philips, R. (2016 September 19). 5 things to know about the colonial pipeline leak impacting the southeast. The Weather Channel. Retrieved from URL: https://weather.com/news/news/colonial-pipeline-spill-impacts-alabama-gas-shortage

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A. & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical projects. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. (pp. 298, 299)

Schneiderman, E T., Attorney General. (2016). The dangers of leaking underground storage tanks. New York State Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved from URL: http://www.ag.ny.gov/environmental/oil-spill/dangers-leaking-underground-storage-tanks

Sierra Club. Leaking underground storage tanks: A threat to public health and environment. Retrieved from URL:http://www.csu.edu/cerc/documents/LUSTThreattoPublicHealth.pdf

U.S. Energy Information. (2016). Gasoline explained: gasoline and the environment. Retrieved from URL: http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=gasoline_environment


Sep 16

Obesity and the American Lifestyle

Two out of every three adults in America are obese (National Institute on Health). The CDC predicts that this will continue to climb each year. The graph presented below shows the steady increase in obesity rates over the past few decades.


Source: https://www.google.com/search?q=obesity+rates+in+america+line+graph&biw=1280&bih=878&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjC7tq3uKPPAhWG24MKHUgsAuMQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=dAQcP-kjJmemfM%3A

There are many factors that contribute to this epidemic in America. In looking at the reasons from the perspective of an applied psychology studying health psychology, one must start by examining the psychological influences of obesity (Schneider et. al.). In my opinion, the best model to use when investigating this issue is the biopsychosocial model (Schneider et. al.). The obesity epidemic in this country can be attributed to biological factors such as genetics, psychological factors such as addiction and self-esteem, and social factors such as societal pressure and stress (Schneider et. al.).

According to the NIH, obesity is a result of an imbalance in energy within the body. The caloric energy being eaten is more than the caloric energy being expended. The American lifestyle is fast-paced, busy, and typically has many time restraints. In today’s culture, convenience is more often preferred than a focus on health. Short term goals tend to be focused on more often than long term consequences. The average American would rather pick up fast food three nights per week because it is the quickest and easiest way to feed a family on the go, while the long term results of all of that fast food is an after-thought. At the same time, the average busy American finds little or no time to exercise due to the constant responsibilities of having a family with two working parents.

Two of reasons for the increase in obesity over the last few decades presented by Public Health I found the most interesting are as follows: increase in portion sizes and diet controversy. Over the years, portion sizes have increased all over the country. Super-size portions became available at fast food restaurants. There are money saving deals if you buy more than one sandwich or more than one meal. Some fast food chains offer small, medium, and large meals. Even an increase in cup size contributes to an increase in calories being consumed.

Dieting has become a household term in American. A diet in the dictionary refers to the habitual nourishment an individual provides the body (merriam-webster). Most people in today’s culture however, think of diet as a method of losing body weight. I wonder how a child would define the word diet if asked. The largest problem, in my opinion, is this misconception of the word diet. There are so many weight loss technique’s available to the consumer, it can be overwhelming. Instead of referring to ones efforts to lose weight as “dieting”, perhaps saying that “I am focusing on a healthy lifestyle” will help reform the misconception of diets. All of these fad diets that are advertised to entice quick results do more harm than good when it comes to the obesity problem in America. Most people that are successful on these methods end up gaining weight back. Weight is not necessarily the issue. Instead, it is health. Focus on proper nutrition should be the primary focus when trying to get Americans back on a healthy track. The only way to correct this epidemic is for Americans to make a conscious effort to make better choices toward a healthier lifestyle.


Merriam-Webster 2016. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diet

Obesity in America: Why are Americans Obese. Public Health. http://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/obesity/

Overweight and Obesity Statistics. NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012) Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Sep 16

Unknown Benefits of Observing

I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. Starting from first grade until the end of high school, I have attended the same international school in Istanbul. Therefore, my classmates and I have a twelve year of shared history together. We grew up together and our families have built very strong friendship bonds. When we all graduated high school and scattered all over the world for college, some of our friends started to change and develop new and different habits. Some of them started drinking and some of them started smoking, while a fewer number of our friends started partying a little “harder”.

When we graduated college and moved back to Istanbul as adults, all but one of my friends were able to quit their newly developed bad habits, one way or another. One of my best friends, Dennis, could have easily been labeled as an addict when he moved back home. He was jobless, made new friends we have never met before, stopped working out and eating healthy completely. He slept all throughout the day while we were at work, and stayed up all night doing drugs. Sometimes he would not sleep for 2 or 3 days straight because of binge drug taking.

As we are a very close group of friends, we have tried many things to help him cope with his problem. We tried many interventions.We tried talking to his cousin. A group of 5 friends even went to a rehabilitation center with him for a week to understand him better. Nothing truly worked! As soon as he was left alone, he was craving drugs, saying he doesn’t like it when the reality sets in. Failing after a couple of tries, we have decided to try something new and more effective.

We rented apartments in the same complex, making sure at least one person was always present with Dennis. We helped him look for jobs and get ready for interviews, which resulted in him getting a job in a field he really wanted to work; sports entertainment. One of our friends was a chef, so she cooked us meals every night and breakfast on weekends, implicitly making Dennis start eating healthy. We played basketball games two nights a week, making sure we were keeping him active and that he was spending energy. After a couple of weeks, he started acting like one of us. He told me that he enjoys how I eat breakfast every morning before work, so we started eating together. He told one of our other friends that he likes how he dresses up for work, so they went shopping together. One day at a time, after being able to observe how his peers do ‘normal’, Dennis started to act like us and slowly quit his habit. Even today, after 5 years, he says that observing the same ritual over and over again made it easier to act upon.

I believe it is wrong to connect observational learning with just negative behaviors. It can also be used to influence positive behaviors. An important chunk of learning depends on us observing and modelling others; this observation and modelling starts when we are just infants. “Indeed, the research and scholarly work conducted by Bandura and colleagues set the occasion for the social cognitive perspective of learning (Bandura, 1986), which seemed to challenge the possibility that all behavior could be accounted for by respondent and operant processes alone (Fryling et al, 2011).” It is just astonishing how social psychology could be applied into our everyday lives so easily.


Fryling, M. J., Johnston, C., & Hayes, L. J. (2011). Understanding Observational Learning: An Interbehavioral Approach. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 27(1), 191–203.


Sep 16

(Clinical/Counseling) Hopelessness Theory of Depression . . . and me!

Who doesn’t need a mental health tune-up from time to time? I know I sure do!

There is a history of depression in my family, so any time I start to feel a little “blue,” I have a counselor that I book a few appointments with. I have been doing this off and on for years with someone whom I trust and have an excellent rapport with. Two days ago, I walked into his office and before he could ask how I was doing, I blurted out, “Hopelessness Theory of Depression (HTD).” Of course, after a very quizzical look, I explained to him that I was studying Applied Social Psychology and this week’s lesson included HTD, so of course, I am now somewhat of an expert (insert sarcastic smile).

I had to reassure him that I was not suffering from any sort of syndrome where I randomly blurt out words, such as Tourette Syndrome, where symptoms include vocal tic(s) (Robertson, 2000). Once he was reassured, he humored my claim of academic knowledge in terms of HTD and we discussed how it applied to me.

Before I give my true to life story, I have a MAJOR spoiler alert: this is a pretty boring, and drama free therapy session. I’m a rather private person, so I will keep my exciting and drama filled sessions off of the public forum!

We decided to see if, with what I have learned this week, if I was at risk for HTD and started with the first element, “a vulnerable person (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).” To label me as a vulnerable person, I would have to have a consistently negative outlook on events that have occurred in my life and their causes (sometimes called the pessimistic explanatory style or the depressogenic attribution style) (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Well, let’s look at what we discovered, shall we? What is my style? Is it stable, meaning do I think the cause of the negative things in my life will be forever unchanging (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012)? Of course, I had to decide what was the biggest stressor in my life at the moment and I came up with one rather quickly: being EXHAUSTED from raising my toddler and going to school full-time. An argument could be made that this condition is stable. The old, unshrunk (my own made up word for “before therapy”) me probably would have perceived it as a stable condition. “Unshrunk me” probably would have felt like there was no end in sight and that these two stressors would always be a constant (and hence stable) part of my life. Years of therapy and countless dollars (actually, the dollar amount I have spent can be counted, but that would require too much time and I have many other things that I should be doing) spent have helped me change my perspective on situations like this. I have learned to view these, not as stable conditions, but as stressors that will some day end, and when it comes to the years raising my son, will end all too soon (sometimes stressors can be an incredibly beautiful thing that you cannot imagine your life without).

We also needed to contemplate whether or not my perception of my level of exhaustion had global attributions, in other words, did this greatly influence a lot of the aspects of the rest of my life (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012)? My therapist and I made the case that my level of exhaustion was considered global; if anyone has been genuinely exhausted, they know that fatigue affects everything in your life. We decided that we had indeed made the case for global attribution.

The second key to HTD is “negative environmental circumstances (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).” This is where everything fell apart. I really had to scrape to come up with what was the most negative thing in my life at the moment, and my goodness, I hate to even attach the word “negative” with the thought of raising my incredibly handsome (seriously, it’s scientifically proven, my child is probably the most adorable child that has ever lived; the “scientists” that made this claim are myself, his father, and his grandparents) son. Please don’t get me wrong, I have had incredibly traumatic experiences in my life and I’m sure I will have more in the future, no one gets off this planet unscathed.

With one eyebrow raised, my therapist asked me if, according to HTD, if I was at risk for hopelessness depression. The answer? No. No I am not. At other times and other circumstances, I may have been, but again, a lot of time and money has been spent in my pursuit to acquire the tools to live a (somewhat) mentally healthy life. I am incredibly thankful for that. I prepared to leave his office with the statement, “Life is what it is, but for me, it is not hopeless.” Of course, his reply?

week-five-blog-picture“It makes me feel just fine!”


Robertson, M. M. (2000). Tourette syndrome, associated conditions and the complexities of treatment. Brain: A Journal of Neurology , 123, 425-462.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California, United States of America: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Sep 16

Where There’s Smoke

For a moment, I’d like to step back in time.

It’s the fall of 2003. I’m 18 years old and living in Maple Hall, one of two freshman dormitories on Penn State Altoona’s campus. The building is segregated: Males live in the north wing of the building, females in the south, but we mingle in the lobby and on the benches out front. On this particular day, as I’m approaching the building, I see a girl I recognize from one of my classes. She spots me, too, and says hi. She’s good looking, which I’ve noticed before—and I’m a single, male teenager—so I try and strike up a conversation. We talk about our class and the projects we have coming up. At some point, she reaches into her purse and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. “Want one?” she asks. Normally, I would hesitate, but I’ve already formed a hypothesis: that by accepting the cigarette I will extend our conversation, which I’m not ready to conclude. “Sure,” I say, and she lights one up for me.

I fell in love that day—not with the girl, whose name I’ve long forgotten, but with the skinny stick of tobacco she offered me. I never expected to love cigarettes. My dad smokes, and as a kid I hated it—whenever they gave anti-smoking lectures at school, I feared for his health, and spent the rest of the day wracked by anxiety. I’d puffed on one here and there in high school—usually around a bunch of other guys, often while drinking underage—but had managed to avoid the all-important inhale until that day in front of Maple Hall. The first time I really smoked a cigarette, I saw in an instant why people ignore the Surgeon General’s warnings and spend thousands of dollars a year on this habit that only hurts you and makes your clothes smell bad: Smoking feels damn good.



Was there ever a chance of stopping my smoking habit before it started? As mentioned, I had been exposed to the standard scare-tactics in school, and I thought they had worked. They certainly taught me, in detail, why smoking is bad for your health. But apparently, this was not enough. Once I tried a cigarette and discovered how much I enjoyed it, that all seemed irrelevant. Importantly, once I started buying my own packs and smoking regularly, I found myself initiated into a whole social world of smokers. In front of the dorms, outside of classrooms, on the porch at parties. Cigarettes forged friendships and conversation and a strange sort of solidarity. Some of the most important friendships I made during those years—many of which last to this day—began with a smoke.

Research seems to indicate that all the health-education programs I was exposed to as a kid may have been for naught. Wakefield, et al. (2006) found that exposure to anti-tobacco television ads has no effect on teenagers’ likelihood to smoke. In fact, the results of that study indicated that kids might be marginally more likely to smoke after they have been repeatedly advised not to, at least when those ads are produced by the tobacco industry itself (which, understandably, raises suspicion) (Henriksen, et al., 2006). Some have suggested that, at least one problem with these ads is that they try to be “hip,” and because they fail utterly in this regard, smoking comes out looking like the cool option, when compared to tone-deaf and “dorky” ads (Stoner, 2002). And for college students in particular, the whole point of smoking may be that it is dangerous. As Neyfakh (2013) notes, “when a behavior is appealing precisely because it is transgressive, telling them they shouldn’t do it… would seem to carry the risk of making it that much more alluring.”

Many adult smokers pick up their habit in college.  According to Schneider, et al. (2012), if I had only waited a few more years (three more, in fact), I may have been able to avoid addiction. Schneider, et al. note that if an adolescent makes it to 21 without picking up the habit, it’s “extremely unlikely” that they’ll become smokers. This means that, as an 18 year-old, I was still vulnerable. All college students are still vulnerable, if Schneider’s claim is true. And yet, when I began college back in 2003, there was little effort by university administration to prevent students from picking up the habit, even as they devoted significant resources to fighting underage and binge drinking (no doubt serious problems on their own). We could not smoke inside, of course, but the rest of the sprawling, wooded campus was ours to light up in.

This dynamic has changed. Administrations and student groups have become more serious about stopping smoking on campus in the intervening years. The college I work for just instituted an on-campus smoking ban last month, which has driven myself and all the other smokers across the street. There is already evidence to suggest that these initiatives are useful, not only in preserving the air quality on campus, but also in preventing students from becoming smokers. Students often begin smoking because it is a “normative” behavior on campus (it’s viewed as normal, and it helps them fit it and make friends, as it did for me), and by banning tobacco use on campus, universities can break up this dynamic; they can “de-normalize” the behavior by “marginalizing smoking (as a behavior) and smokers (as people), socially and spatially” (Procter-Scherdtel & Collins, 2012-2013). As bans become more draconian—often incrementally, to lessen the blow—smoking also becomes an increasingly unpopular pastime, which makes it even easier to extend the bans (Procter-Scherdtel & Collins, 2012-2013).


There are other interventions being staged that target college and high school-aged students. One method is to use “peer educators” to persuade adolescents from smoking. Anti-tobacco messages are much more well-received from a student’s friends than they are from teachers, parents, or other adults, and this method has shown some success at reducing the incidence of students picking up smoking (Campbell, et al., 2008). These programs have actually been shown to have an unintentional cognitive-dissonance element: Although peer-educators do have some effect on their friends, the educators themselves show the greatest resistance to smoking in the future—once they’ve tried to convince their buddies not to smoke, peer educators cannot allow themselves to become hypocrites by lighting up (Campbell, et al., 2008).

Research has also indicated that college students overestimate the proportion of smokers in the general student population—a “normative misperception”—and that the more a student believes that many of their peers are smoking, the more likely they are to do it themselves (Pischke, et al, 2015). Campaigns designed to correct this misperception can go a long way to reducing smoking. Some have also noted that, when college students are presented with data indicating that most smokers are comparatively uneducated and low-income , they may start to believe that smoking is for—let’s be blunt—dumb and poor people, and few college students want to think of themselves as, or lump themselves in with, the dumb and poor (Procter-Scherdtel & Collins, 2012-2013).

Unfortunately for me, I was born a little too early, and began college before these programs began to be implemented en masse. In 2003, as a freshman on campus, smoking still was normative and came associated with a measure of cool. It still was a great way to make friends, and even the non-smokers didn’t seem to mind—there were no dirty looks or campaigns to move us off-campus back then—but I may have been better off if they had. The power of social psychology had yet to be wielded against this problem–but these days, a kid like I was may stand a fighting chance.



Campbell, R., Starkey, F., Holliday, J., Audrey, S., Bloor, M., Parry-Langdon, N., . . . Moore, L. (2008). An informal school-based peer-led intervention for smoking prevention in adolescence (ASSIST): A cluster randomised trial. The Lancet, 371(9624), 1595-602. Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/198999085?accountid=13158

Henriksen, L., Dauphinee, A. L., Wang, Y., & Fortmann, S. P. (2006). Industry sponsored anti-smoking ads and adolescent reactance: Test of a boomerang effect. Tobacco Control, 15(1), 13-18. doi:10.1136/tc.2003.006361

Pischke, C. R., Helmer, S. M., McAlaney, J., Bewick, B. M., Vriesacker, B., Van Hal, G., . . . Zeeb, H. (2015). Normative misperceptions of tobacco use among university students in seven european countries: Baseline findings of the ‘social norms intervention for the prevention of polydrug usE’ study. Addictive Behaviors, 51, 158-164. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.07.012

Procter-Scherdtel, A., & Collins, D. (2013;2012;). Social norms and smoking bans on campus: Interactions in the canadian university context. Health Education Research, 28(1), 101. doi:10.1093/her/cys075

Stoner, Karen. (2002). A burning question ; smoking-prevention ads try to be hip, but do they work? Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from: http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/419690601?accountid=13158

Wakefield, M., Terry-McElrath, Y., Emery, S., Saffer, H., Chaloupka, F. J., Szczypka, G., . . . Johnston, L. D. (2006). Effect of televised, tobacco company-funded smoking prevention advertising on youth smoking-related beliefs, intentions, and behavior. American Journal of Public Health, 96(12), 2154-2160. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2005.083352

Sep 16

Be mindful at your day spa

I just recently spent the day at a spa in California with my best friend and my sister-in-law. It was one of the most amazing and relaxing I had all summer. When you enter this particular spa your whole mood changes. There are water fountains, water walls, and water towers that are constantly flowing as you walk by. Once you check in and get settled into your luxurious white robe, you are gently guided to a large hot pool surrounded by tropical plants. When you need a break from the heat, you have the option to take a quick splash in the cold pool or cool your face with an ice water cucumber washcloth.


The American spa industry utilizes millions of gallons of water per year. The elevated usage of water in day spas around the country is extremely high due to constant growth in the spa industry. There are a total of 20,180 spa locations in North America as of 2013, according to the website experienceispa.com. I stated in the paragraph above all of the exposures I had with water, just imagine how much water is used per spa visit each per year.


Water utilization in spas is high due to the usage of pools, steam rooms, rain showers, soaks, scrubs, and services. In addition to constant water use in the spa setting, there should also be a consideration of the usage of towels, robes, and washcloths within the spa. An easy ways for spas to conserve water is to properly install water saving faucets with sensors, low flow shower heads to decrease water usage. Most companies also suggest to follow a regular maintenance schedule to fix any leaks they may have occurred or even so that the pools and hot tubs maintain the proper ph balance in order to not have them to be emptied and then refilled again.

Ultimately, when day spas implement day-to-day green practices, it is most effective for our water conservation. Demonstrating eco-friendly and mindful water practices displays the day spa’s overall mindful water practices.



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