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Personality and spaces, remaking love, meaning in life, and commonsense morality

People and spaces, the tragedy of commonsense morality, myths about meaning of life, and remaking love were four themes at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) conference in Austin. Researchers presented new work, showing how psychology reaches into our everyday lives. Video from four of these talks is now available online.

Highlights include:

  • Sam Gosling of the University of Texas-Austin described how the link between our emotions and spaces is is inseparable. As such, our spaces say a lot about us. In new work, Gosling and colleagues identified the emotions and traits that people systemically invoke to create their home spaces. Restoration, kinship, stimulation, productivity , storage, and intimacy are the six organizing constructs their found. Each of those words has many sub-traits that describe how people want to evoke a particular ambiance in a particular space.

    In his study of about 200 people, for example, 60% of participants chose one of the following words to describe the ambiance they most wanted for their kitchens: organization, family, productivity, abundance, and togetherness. And they found that 62% of participants wanted their bedrooms to evoke a sense of romance, comfort, relaxation, love, and privacy. Watch the video:

  • Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina discussed her new research that shows how love affects us not only psychologically but also physiologically. She pointed to vital, fleeting "micro-moments" in which we connect with others. The more you experience micro-moments, the more it will change you for the better.

    Take the case of the vagus nerve, which, in part, regulates our emotions and is responsible for associated changes in our heartbeat. The nerve calms our racing hearts after a fight and helps keep our hearts on a healthy rhythm. It affects the body's ability to regulate glucose and our biological capacity for connection, Fredrickson said. Her research has found that increasing micro-moments boosts the functioning of the vagus nerve. Watch the video:

  • Joshua Greene of Harvard talked about how moral questions can be broken down into "me vs. us" and "us vs. them." When we're thinking about "me vs. us," our intuitions are good. We automatically tune into guilt, gratitude, and empathy to lead us to cooperate with others. But when it comes to questions of "we vs. us," we run into clashes between communities and how we perceive fairness. The very forces that bring us closer together also build group loyalties that are difficult for us to break free of. To think about the greater good, we have to switch into "manual mode." Watch the video:

  • Laura King of the University of Missouri discussed five myths of meaning in life, pointing toward recent work that shows that, contrary to popular belief, meaning in life is common. Easy, simple thing can bring us meaning, King said, like having a good mood, making social connections, and having routine associations with our environments. Realizing that our lives are indeed meaningful has manifold benefits for quality of life, satisfaction, and health. Watch the video:

Contact: Lisa M. P. Munoz
Society for Personality and Social Psychology

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