Amber Dedeaux at the Mississippi State Research Symposium

Amber Dedeaux at MS State symposium
Pictured here is Amber Dedeaux, a psychology major at the University of Southern Mississippi who has been working with us as an undergraduate research assistant. She has been working closely with Philip Stoner on a project through the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab dealing with jealousy and relationship satisfaction in romantic relational aggression among college women. The data used for this project were collected previously as part of a larger study on relational aggression. Amber and Philip focused on variables that had not yet been examined and found that relationship satisfaction moderated the relationship between cognitive jealousy and relational aggression in intimate partnerships.

Their work led to a poster presentation at Mississippi State University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium (poster available here as a .pdf file). Both Amber and Philip were able to attend the symposium at Mississippi State and found it to be a positive experience. Congratulations to both on their success.

Introducing the Lab on SlideShare

Here is a brief SlideShare presentation introducing the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab.

The Dark Side of Personality

The Dark Side of Personality
I recently picked up a copy of The dark side of personality: Science and practice in social, personality, and clinical psychology, edited by Zeigler-Hill and Marcus (2016). As you can likely infer from the title, it focuses on dark personality traits, starting with the Dark Triad but including others (e.g., sadism, spitefulness, authoritarianism). What is less apparent from the title is just how far beyond the traditional dark personality variables the book goes, addressing topics around the periphery of dark personality (e.g., self-esteem, dependency, urgency). I was pleasantly surprised at how much more comprehensive it was than what I was expecting.

The book is easy to recommend to anyone wanting to improve their knowledge of dark personality research. Here are a few of the things I found most impressive:
  • Many of the most influential researchers in the dark personality literature contributed chapters to the book, providing an excellent representation of the scope and complexity of this area of study.
  • Readers are presented with information on both the adaptive and maladaptive features of each dark personality trait. This provides important context and helps one reconcile what can sometimes appear to be inconsistent findings in the literature.
  • Dark personality traits are addressed in the larger context of broad models of personality (e.g., the Five Factor Model). Again, this helps readers new to the dark personality literature understand how these traits fit into systems with which they will be more familiar.
  • The book is organized using some of the recent work on pathological personality traits reflected in DSM-5. This is effective here because it helps the reader group variables that might not initially seem connected into broader domains.
I have been surprised by how few scholarly attempts there have been to synthesize the vast number of studies including dark personality variables during the last decade. This book is a major step in that direction and should be helpful in making this literature more accessible.

Gaining Research Experience in Psychology as an Undergraduate

Undergraduate students thinking about applying to graduate programs in Psychology are often advised to obtain research experience to strengthen their applications. This is good advice, especially if the student does not wait until his or her last year of college to do so. Most graduate programs in Psychology find research experience to be desirable for their applicants, and working as an undergraduate research assistant (RA) is one of the most effective things students can do to strengthen their applications.

Believe it or not, working as an RA in a Psychology research lab can be valuable for a number of other reasons too. Here are just a few examples that come to mind:

  • Some students do not discover their passion for research until they have the opportunity to be part of a research lab.
  • Obtaining research experience allows students to develop the sort of portfolio of skills many employers are seeking (e.g., knowledge of the research process, interpersonal awareness, the ability to contribute to a team, effective problem solving, organization and time management).
  • By working as an RA, a student provides a faculty member with the opportunity to get to know him or her in a meaningful way, and this often results in a more relevant letter of recommendation (i.e., the professor is able to address the student’s potential to succeed in the research-related aspects of graduate training and/or address many of the job-relevant skills noted above).
  • Being part of a research lab often gives students a clearer understanding of the research process, and this can translate into improved performance in Psychology courses.
  • Working as an RA in a lab that includes graduate students provides undergraduates with an accurate idea of what it is like to be a graduate student, what to expect from graduate training, and additional opportunities for mentoring.
  • Students can sometimes opt to earn elective course credit by working as an RA in a lab.
In short, gaining research experience as an undergraduate by working as a research assistant in a faculty member’s lab can be valuable for many reasons.

Undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus can learn more about joining the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab and explore other opportunities for gaining research experience in the department.

Five Tips For Managing Anger While Driving

Traffic jam Rio de Janeiro 03 2008 28
We have all experienced feelings of anger toward others while driving. These range from mild annoyance or frustration to intense rage. For some, it is the vehicle in the left lane driving slower than the posted speed limit. For others, it is the reckless driver weaving in and out of traffic. It is in these moments that we may become tempted to do something stupid, something that could place us in danger.

Here are five tips for staying safe in anger-provoking driving situations:

  1. Don't take it personally. It often seems like other drivers must be deliberately messing with you, but this is rarely the case. The "rude" driver who veered into your lane probably did not see you. The person merging onto the freeway slowly enough that you had to brake wasn't waiting for you on the on-ramp just to ruin your day. Others' bad driving is rarely aimed at you.
  2. Avoid name-calling. Even if you manage to refrain from yelling out your window at other drivers, research suggests that calling them inflammatory names (even just to yourself) makes you more angry rather than less angry.
  3. Let go of the need to be right. Your safety is more important than being right. Maybe you were the first to arrive at the 4-way stop and you have the right-of-way. If the other vehicle blasts through the intersection anyway, the fact that it was your turn will not be much consolation when it hits you.
  4. Recognize that if someone else is determined to have an accident, you don't need to be part of it. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to slow down and let the other driver pass you. Maybe the other driver is intoxicated or playing with his or her smartphone. These are drivers you do not want to be close to. If they have an accident, it is better that it does not involve you.
  5. Remember that it is not your job to punish other drivers. We have all had the urge to honk, slow down in front of someone tailgating us, cut in front of another driver, or make obscene gestures to "teach them a lesson." This sort of retaliation may feel good, but it increases the likelihood that you could end up the target of someone else's road rage.
Keeping one’s cool on the road is not always easy, but it is an important part of safe driving. We have no control over how others drive, but we can learn to manage our responses to other drivers’ behavior.