Can’t Fight This Feeling: The Enduring Power of Nostalgia

The purveyors of pop culture, advertising, and politics know well the power of nostalgia, and as each generation gets a bit older, they leverage that power to sell products to those eager to recapture a bit of their glory days. But as research suggests, the power of nostalgia can have ramifications beyond ticket sales and television ratings.

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After Labor Day: Back to the Grind?

by Kristen Knight

The movement to recognize Labor Day started in the late 1880s as a way to honor the achievements of American workers. Today, many employees simply look forward to a three-day weekend, one that unofficially marks the end of summer with barbecues and last strolls on the beach. But we can also use the occasion to reflect on our work and workplaces as the year rolls towards a close.

psych-healthy-workplaceNews stories, studies, and personal anecdotes highlight our frantic schedules, inability to “unplug,” and other unsettling aspects of modern work life.  Researchers agree that satisfying work is one of the crucial ingredients to a happy, healthy life.  But what really makes work satisfying, and what makes a workplace healthy? How do we find or help create those alternatives to the grind?

APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program—part of the Center for Organizational Excellence—is a public education initiative designed to educate the employer community about the link between employee well-being and organizational performance.  Each year, APA bestows its Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award on companies that foster employee health and well-being in a variety of ways.  The program inspired the 2016 book, The Psychologically Healthy Workplace: Building a Win-Win Environment for Organizations and Employees, which focuses on employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, employee recognition, and health and safety.

purpose-and-meaning-workWe employees spend many, if not most, of our waking hours at work during the course of a week—and yet many of us don’t feel fulfilled at our jobs.  In Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace (2013), experts investigate how meaningful work can be fostered and sustained.  Justin M. Berg, Jane E. Dutton, and Amy Wrzesniewski explore the concept of job crafting—described as “the process of employees redefining and reimagining their job designs in personally meaningful ways”—in Chapter 4 of this book. As the authors point out, meaningfulness is one factor associated with work-related benefits such as increased job satisfaction and performance.  And that does sound like a win for both employers and employees.

Other sources

Eisenberger, R., & Stinglhamber, F. (2011). Perceived organizational support: Fostering enthusiastic and productive employees. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4316128.aspx

Quick, J. C., Wright, T. A., Adkins, J. A., Nelson, D. L., & Quick J. D. (2013). Preventive stress management in organizations (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4317292.aspx

 

References 

American Psychological Association Center for Organizational Excellence: https://www.apaexcellence.org/

Berg, J. M., Dutton, J. E., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2013). Job crafting and meaningful work. In B. J. Dik, Z. S. Byrne, & M. F. Steger (Eds.).  Purpose and meaning in the workplace (pp. 81–104). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/14183-005

Grawitch, M., & Ballard, D. (Eds.). (2016). The psychologically healthy workplace: Building a win–win environment for organizations and employees. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4318134.aspx

United States Department of Labor. (n.d.). History of Labor Day. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

 

What Is an Agentic State?

by Kristen Knight

In the summer of 1961 at Yale University, social psychologist Stanley Milgram began a provocative experiment to test individuals’ willingness to obey orders from an authority.

In Milgram’s experiment, explained to the volunteer subjects as a study of the effects of punishment on memory and learning, each participant played the role of a “teacher,” who was instructed by an experimenter to deliver an electric shock to a “learner” for each mistake made when recalling word pairs. In fact, the learner was an aide of the experimenter—a confederate—who did not actually receive shocks for his many deliberate errors.

Milgram experiment v2 The shock generator included 30 switches, labeled with values ranging from a mild 15 volts to a dangerous and potentially lethal 450 volts. The learner sat in an adjoining room, unseen by the teacher once the test began. Surprisingly, 65% of participants were obedient to the instructions of the experimenter, continuing to deliver what they believed were shocks of increasing intensity up to the 450 volt maximum despite the vocal protestations and apparent suffering of the learner. The obedience of the teachers has been described as occurring in an agentic state, a psychological condition in which an individual, as a subordinate to a higher authority in an organized status hierarchy, feels compelled as an agent of that authority to obey the orders issued by it.

Milgram’s experiment remains indelible because of both his findings and his controversial methods—so much so that 54 years after those initial sessions at Yale, the man and his work are the subject of a new feature film called Experimenter: The Stanley Milgram Story, starring Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder. The movie touches on Milgram’s later work as well, which is also fascinating if less widely known.

Those interested in issues of compliance and authority also may turn to APA’s 2013 book The Psychology of Dictatorship by Fathali M. Moghaddam, which discusses the importance of psychological processes such as displacement of aggression, conformity, obedience, fear, and cognitive dissonance as tools that aid the development and maintenance of dictatorships. These have remained crucial topics since World War II, the horrors of which were only in the recent past when Milgram began his study at Yale.

References

Blass, T. (n.d.) Milgram basics. Retrieved from http://www.stanleymilgram.com/milgram.php

Elms. A. C. (2009). Obedience lite. American Psychologist, 64(1), 32–36. doi:  10.1037/a0014473

Moghaddam, F. M. (2013). The psychology of dictatorship. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Obeying and resisting malevolent orders. (2004, May 25.) Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/research/action/order.aspx

Singer, U. (Producer), Golombek, F. (Producer), Schoof, A. (Producer), Robbins, I. (Producer), Abeckaser, D. (Producer), Melita, P. (Producer), Almereyda, M. (Producer), & Almereyda, M. (Director). (2015). Experimenter: The Stanley Milgram story [Motion picture]. USA: Magnolia Pictures.

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

The Mid-Semester Blues: No Student is an Island

by Kristen Knight

This fall more than 20 million people will attend American colleges and universities, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. They will likely experience the satisfaction of learning new things and getting to know peers, among many highlights.

But students also can face a range of challenges, from financial and academic pressure to social and emotional stresses. In fact, the American College Health Association reported in 2014 that about 44% of college students surveyed said they felt above-average stress within the last 12-month period, about 47% said their coursework had been very difficult to handle, and about 86% felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities at some point in the past year.

Even without looking at the statistics, anyone who has ever attended university or helped someone prepare for college recognizes that the beginning of the school year can be exhilarating, but stressful. I know from experience that it is easy to feel rudderless at times. In the midst of the confusion, you may not realize that you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. It’s important to remember that there are many resources to help along the way.

APA author Donald Foss has supplied one such source. After decades spent teaching and in administration at the university level, Dr. Foss took a closer look at the factors that determine success in college. His evidence-based book, Your Complete Guide to College Success: How to Study Smart, Achieve Your Goals, and Enjoy Campus Life (2013), provides students with up-to-date information and insights about how to flourish in school and post-graduation.

Dr. Foss draws on research and the knowledge of professionals in the field—including his own—to address topics across the student-life spectrum, from academic success to career interests. The Guide begins with an “orientation,” covering the basics about the book and college life in general as well as personal space and time management, and it moves on to include sections on acing academics; managing goals, attitudes, and planning; using university resources, such as tutoring and staff expertise; dealing with challenging courses; and addressing specific facets of campus and commuting life.

I wish I’d had access to this book as a new college student. About studying, for example, Dr. Foss writes, “There is no need . . . to rely on trial and error to discover what works best. I’ll provide those pointers in this chapter and the following ones. The good news is that studying smarter is much better than studying longer.” Good news, indeed.

Later on in the book, Dr. Foss tackles attitudes and emotions and how they affect college life and academics. Wisely, he notes that “academic and personal issues can lead to restless nights and worse. Even positive emotions—especially affairs of the heart—can result in loss of focus to the point that class work suffers . . . we’ll take a closer look at your feelings and attitudes, and examine how you can make them work for you, even the feelings that start off being unpleasant.”

In fact, I feel I could still benefit from the book’s advice in my life as a “grown up.” Depending on where you are along the way in your educational journey, you may find one of APA’s many other student-oriented publications just as useful.

References

American College Health Association. (2014). American College Health Association National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2014. Retrieved from http://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/ACHA-NCHA-II_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Spring2014.pdf

Foss, D. J. (2013). Your complete guide to college success: How to study smart, achieve your goals, and enjoy campus life. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Fast facts: Back to school statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372

Good Design is in the Details (With Plenty of White Space in Between)

by Kristen Knight

Released in March 2015 with approximately 1,200 pages and 26,000 entries, the APA Dictionary of Psychology, Second Edition, is a behemoth of a book by any definition. But it was the smaller details in the text that garnered the attention of judges when they awarded it first prize in the typographic text category (large nonprofit) of the 2015 Washington Publishers Book Design and Effectiveness Awards.  Those details included good column width, the use of guide words and rule at the top of each page, and cleanly executed thumb tabs for easy navigation.

“We gave the nod to your dictionary because the design is technically effective and successful in all of the ways that dictionaries need to be,” said awards judge John Guthrie, who is the managing editor of the book program at the American Diabetes Association. “I’ve worked on dictionaries before, so I am fully aware that the apparent simplicity of a well-designed dictionary belies the amount of planning, skill, and expertise that goes into creating an effective one. We commented frequently during the judging process about how good design also exhibits restraint. The design of the APA Dictionary of Psychology represents creativity, attention to purpose, and restraint.”

Guthrie also praised the dictionary’s effective use of font size, boldface, italics, and small caps, along with the “incredibly descriptive” guide to format for readers, which appears in the front matter of the book.

DoP2 Award_Inside spread graphicFor you font nerds out there (yes, they exist!), this second edition of the dictionary was typeset in 9-point Photina. The design and composition of the text were produced by Anne Kerr at Market House Books, Ltd., in Aylesbury, England. With almost 45 years of experience in creating specialty dictionaries for various publishers, Market House is perhaps the premier reference compiler in the United Kingdom.

“The font was selected for clarity and economy of space,” Anne said about the design. “I think the font is easy to read and, as using this font meant we needed less space for the text, we were able to increase the interentry space. From the design point of view, the white space is as important as the text itself!”

Anne typically offers APA reference editors several samples to review prior to the production phase for a dictionary. “Generally, there will be different typefaces and variations in type size, leading, and kerning from which to select,” explained our Reference Director Ted Baroody. “For the APA Dictionary of Psychology, Second Edition, we chose the specs that seemed most generous for ease of reading while also being most closely aligned with our desired overall page length. It was a great plus for APA and Market House Books to be able to land on such an aesthetically pleasing set of specs.”

The collaboration between APA and MHB goes back more than 16 years, dating to work on the critically acclaimed first edition of the dictionary and encompassing several subsequent derivatives, among them the well-received APA College Dictionary of Psychology and APA Dictionary of Statistics and Research Methods. Ted describes the partnership this way: “It is certainly not overstated to note that APA Reference staff has learned substantially about the profession and art of lexicography from our English colleagues, and, perhaps, MHB staff has even learned a little bit about psychology from us!”

As you might guess, producing such a considered and inclusive second edition required years of effort on the part of a large team of psychologists and allied health professionals, editors, and designers. The reference team at APA is pleased that the Washington Publishers Association award recognized the result, and specifically the way in which all of that knowledge is so effectively presented for readers.

Reference

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.