Nuggets from Psychology Today’s “Essential Reads”

From the many articles on, the editors pick a small percentage as Essential Reads.

From the most recent 325, I’ve selected excerpts from 12 that I believe are particularly worthy of your attention. Within those, I’ve made minor cuts for space. For all 12, I include the link to the full article.

What Do We Really Know About Mindfulness by multiple authors from Cornell University’s  Bronfenbrenner Center for the Study of Translational Research

The evidence on meditation is flawed; researchers don’t really know how meditation effects the mind and brain. A new sweeping review makes the case that society’s beliefs about mindfulness as a cure-all are misguided. They found the vast majority of evidence available on mindfulness has two main flaws: There is no consistent definition for mindfulness, and researchers don’t have a consistent way to measure the results of mindfulness.

If ADHD Isn’t Real, How Come So Many Children Struggle by Samuel Veissière

1. Praise your child on their high levels of energy, remind them of the many situations in which they do well, and encourage them to transfer these strengths to other contexts.  Use the child’s interests as an anchor.

2. Use peer-mentoring to increase pride and confidence. All children like to be helpful and feel like they can be mentors. We are also much better at helping others than helping ourselves. 

3. Be consistent in enforcing consequences. Children who whine, fidget, and fuss do it because they learned that it works.  Backing down sometimes and being firm in other moments creates confusing expectations and a chaotic regime of emotions for parents and kids that resembles a slot-machine addiction. The road may be bumpy in the beginning but a mere week of full consistency can help correct a bad behavior.

4. Can my child go off medication? The decision will ideally be made through a child psychiatrist with expertise in attention disorders, and not simply with a general practitioner.

Psychology Textbooks Contain Inaccuracies on Intelligence. By Alexander Blum, Psychology Today Editorial Staff.

 Richard Haier, a Professor Emeritus of Pediatric Neurology at the University of California says, “These textbooks just do not give a fair representation of what the data have been showing (regarding IQ) for the last 30 years.”

Russell Warne, the Utah Valley University Associate Professor of Psychology and a co-author of a new study found that 23 out of 29 textbooks contained “inaccurate statements” and 23 included “logical fallacies” in their content on intelligence…Undergraduates might come away with a false sense that the concept of intelligence is based on arbitrarily chosen tasks.

 “There might be 1,000 genes related to intelligence, each one having a tiny effect,” Haier says. “That’s a lot of genes to manipulate if you want to change intelligence. But it might be that a couple hundred of those genes affect one brain system in different ways, so you might target that brain system to influence intelligence.”

A Passionate Call for a Commitment to the Truth By Gena Gorlin.

People of all political persuasions seem increasingly willing to uphold their “principles” at any price—including the price of bending or disregarding reality.

Without a commitment to grounding beliefs in what is true, we lack a fundamental motivation to check and validate (and, if need be, abandon or revise) whatever principles we happen to ingest from parents, peers, and professors.

Make no mistake, this is hard to do. Consider, for example, how much more pleasant it is to lampoon the most ludicrous version of a view you disagree with, than it is to find and listen intently to its most compelling advocates. Or how much more comfortable it is to get your news from media outlets that share your ideological leanings than to seek out both sides of every story. For that matter, think how much easier it is to showcase your in-group loyalty by unquestioningly supporting your party—or showcase your “caring for the weak” by avoiding words and ideas that might offend someone—than to pursue the facts wherever they lead, even at the risk of disloyalty or hurt feelings.

Sit down and make a written inventory of all the feared or suspected truths you tend to avoid. The next step is to examine them honestly and rationally. For each one, ask yourself: Is this actually true?

Better To Have Loved and Lost than Never Loved At All? By Bella De Paulo

If you stay single all your life, are you better off or worse off than if you marry but then get divorced or become widowed? In my original blog post (on this subject,) I said that lifelong single people were typically better off than divorced or widowed people in the kinds of ways that researchers typically measure, such as their happiness and health. Most often, the results of the new research underscore the same message, only in a more compelling way.

Where the new research becomes even more dramatic is in challenging the longstanding claims that people who marry become happier and healthier and better off in other ways too. At best, people who marry experience a brief increase in happiness early on—a honeymoon effect—but then go back to being as happy or as unhappy as they were when they were single. But even this honeymoon effect is not enjoyed by everyone who marries but only those who marry and stay married. The people who marry and then divorce typically are already becoming a bit less happy as the day of their wedding approaches.

The results for health are even more shattering of the myths we have grown up with. In some studies, by some measures, people who marry end up less healthy than they were when they were single. Even when studies show an initial improvement for those who marry, the decrease for people who divorce is sometimes much bigger.

Why Smarter Men Make Better Partners by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

A new study by Jaako Aspara and colleagues (2018), of the Hanken School of Economics (Finland), suggests that when it comes to picking a male partner, the smarter one is the better bet.

The other piece of the puzzle is whether those brighter men find their partners to be scintillating enough to get them through the long haul. Are they able to have intellectually stimulating conversations, particularly after the early flush of romantic attraction passes by?

Individual Differences: These 9 basic dimensions differentiate us from one another.  By Glenn Geher

These trait dimensions importantly define who we are:

Extraversion-Introversion. How outgoing someone is — and how comfortable someone is in social settings.

Neuroticism-Emotional Stability. how emotionally volatile someone is.

Agreeableness-Disagreeableness.  How easygoing and friendly someone is.

Conscientiousness-Disorganized. Someone who is highly conscientious is reliable, always makes deadlines, and keeps his or her workspace neat.

Openness-Closed-minded.  Someone high in openness is open to new ideas, new people, and new ways of doing things.

Narcissism-Selflessness.  Someone who is high in narcissism spends a disproportionate amount of time thinking about himself or herself.

Psychopathy-Empathic. Someone high in psychopathy does not feel for others or care much about their welfare, while someone who is low in this trait cares for others genuinely and feels a great deal for them.

Machiavellianism-Scrupulous. People high in Machiavellianism will only do the right thing by others to the extent it benefits themselves. Someone low in this dimension has a strong moral compass and will strive to do the right thing regardless of the benefit to oneself.

Slow Life History Strategy Versus Fast Life History Strategy. Someone who has a slow life history strategy will take an approach to life that is slow, taking steps to invest much in the future. Someone with a fast life history strategy focuses more on the here and now, as if expecting that life might end at any point.

Smile, There Is No Hell (Even the Pope Says So) By David Niose

Controversy erupted this week with reports that Pope Francis denied the existence of hell . Quoted by an Italian journalist who is both a friend and frequent interviewer of the pontiff, Francis reportedly said that sinners who die without eternal salvation “are not punished” but that instead of their souls simply disappear. “There is no hell,” he unambiguously declared.”…

Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now, attributes today’s softening of harsh theology to the influence of Enlightenment humanism. With the rise of reason and science as major forces in the world, unimaginable progress has ensued—and not just technological progress, but moral as well.

Five Ways to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage by James J. Sexton

Be a cheerleader for your spouse. You are uniquely positioned to be a voice of support and encouragement for your spouse. Resist the temptation to compare your spouse to an imaginary ideal you’ve created in your head,or what romance films have told you a “perfect” spouse would look and act like. Your partner needs a cheerleader. We all do.

Realize that nobody can do everything. We’ve created an insane notion as a culture, that if your spouse isn’t meeting all your needs in every aspect of life, all the time, they’re failing at the job of spouse…A spouse who meets many of your needs much of the time is a massive win.

Too Much Charisma Is Bad for Leadership by Art Markman

People moderate in charisma were judged as more effective leaders than people who were with very low or very high in charisma… Leaders themselves discount the importance of being operational and overestimate the value of charisma.

Seeking Justice or Enhancing a Victimized Identify by Gregg Henriques

The public group dynamics are pushing for justification-investment-influence toward women’s rights and the outing of male sexual predation. That is the group force. But when does the group force become groupthink overshoot? And when does it morph into turning women into hypersensitive victims or becomes an example of virtue signaling: the thought that every sophisticated person knows this society is racist and sexist and to question that at any level is to reveal either ignorance or nefarious, defensive motives.

Last and perhaps least, the Psychology Today editors selected two of my articles as Essential Reads. Here are excerpts from one:

Ten Tips for Parents of a Smart Child by Marty Nemko

Do nothing. What, do nothing?! Yes. The good news is that bright and gifted kids left to their own devices usually have the brainpower to come up with activities for themselves that are appropriately difficult and of interest at that time. We as parents, or even educators, are just guessing. So don’t over-schedule your child. Allow him or her time to imagine, create games out of nothing, and yes, use the computer.

Use  It offer a wealth of resources: tips for parents to lesson plans for teachers, advice for counselors, and schools and summer camps specializing in smart kids.

Ask more; tell less.  For example, as you’re driving, look for opportunities to ask moderately challenging questions, for example, “What do you see as the pros and cons of having speed limits?” When your child comes home late to dinner, instead of a lecture, you might ask, “How do you think we should deal with this?” Conversely, encourage your child to ask you and others “why” questions.

Choose your child’s school carefully.  Choose a school in which there are lots of smart kids. How to check out a school? Get the principal’s permission to walk down the halls and peek into classrooms. Can you see your child fitting in? Hang out on the playground. Is the peer interaction generally kind?

Get a smart caretaker. If you’re working full-time, get a smart, kind college student to, for example, pick your child up from school, drive to activities, help with homework, and yes, have fun. Often a college student is happy to share a hobby with your child, whether acting, sports, crafts, whatever.

Skip a grade(s?) If your child is significantly more academically advanced than the students in his or her grade, consider asking the principal or counselor about skipping a grade or even more than one. The evidence is clear that it can be a big plus. Even if the child’s social skills aren’t advanced, the benefit often outweighs the liability, especially if the receiving teacher is pleased to accept the child and pairs the child with a bright, popular, kind child in that class.


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