Web Exercises

  1. Social Psychology in the News. You have probably seen lists of the “happiest” or “most livable” cities, states, and nations. They appear regularly on news sites. In Table 13.2, your text, similarly, lists the five nations highest and five nations lowest in life satisfaction. Identify two factors that seem to contribute to national or cultural differences in life satisfaction. In 2014, several Louisiana cities landed on a list of the ten “happiest” American cities; Louisiana was the only state with more than one city on the list. View the brief NBC News video at http://www.nbcnews.com/watch/nightly-news/top-5-happiest-cities-in-america-are-all-in-one-state-311886403688 and read the Today article a thttp://www.today.com/money/why-people-louisiana-are-so-happy-how-can-you-be-1D79966402 . Based on the Today article, suggest several reasons for Louisianans’ happiness. Do these reasons reflect hedonic happiness, eudaimonic happiness, or both? Justify your answer. What relationship, if any, might you expect between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness, or between the short- and long-term components of subjective well-being? To what extent do the reasons for Louisianans’ happiness reflect the antecedents of happiness described in your text? While the 2014 rankings may be gratifying to Louisianans and while they may seem to contain a kernel of truth, why might one be advised to take them with a grain of salt? After all, Louisiana is perennially ranked 49th or 50th of all the states in most measures of social welfare—income, access to health care and education, physical health, gender equality, and so on. Louisiana offers little of the social safety net at least partly responsible for the fact that the Scandinavian nations, Canada, and Australia always outrank the United States in subjective well-being. Do the 2014 results suggest that these societal factors are unimportant for happiness? Or do the 2014 results seem dubious? Consider the challenges inherent in distinguishing between and operationalizing types of hedonic, short-term satisfaction or pleasure on the one hand, and eudaimonic, long-term happiness, satisfaction, or well-being on the other. This exercise helps you contrast hedonic and eudaimonic happiness and subjective well-being and to summarize the research regarding how social relationships, children, personal wealth, and culture can affect happiness.
  2. According to the sustainable happiness model, to what extent can we influence our day-to-day happiness? Based on your textbook’s suggestions, identify one thing we can do to boost our happiness. Visit http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/sustainable-happiness-6-ways-to-get-there. How does the article connect the themes of happiness, satisfaction, and sustainability mentioned in your textbook? How does it reflect the emphasis of positive psychology? Read the description of six techniques to develop sustainable happiness. Do you currently cultivate appreciation or embrace your natural highs? If so, do you find these techniques helpful? If not, how might these techniques be of benefit to you? Select and briefly describe one of the techniques numbered three through six. Perform the activity described in the technique you select—for example, you might create an interdependence map or make a happy list. Report your experience using the technique. This exercise will help you explain the sustainable happiness model and what people can do to become happier.
  3. Doing Research; Social Psychology, Social Media, and Technology. Define random sampling and explain how it contributes to external validity. Make explicit reference to the notion of a representative sample in your answer. In most psychological research, it is the participants who are sampled from a population. For a novel twist on the use of sampling, go to Kosslyn et al.’s (2012) study of PowerPoint presentations at http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00230/full. In Kosslyn et al.’s research, it is the materials, not the participants, that are sampled.

    Kosslyn et al.’s paper is long, so we’ll touch only on certain elements of it in this exercise. Use the links under the heading “Table of Contents” on the left-hand side of the page to access specific sections of the paper. For each section below, answer the associated question(s).


    1) Explain in your own words why Kosslyn and his colleagues believe that professionals can benefit from explicit instruction in presentation design.


    1) Do you like the PowerPoint presentations you have seen in your college courses? Which features do you like, and why? Which do you dislike, and why?

    2) Do you feel as if you learn more when lectures are accompanied by PowerPoint presentations than by terms or notes written on the board (the old-school “chalk and talk” lecture method) or by a lectures with no visuals or use of the board? Why or why not?

    Eight Cognitive Communication Principles

    1) Choose one principle from each of Kosslyn et al’s three categories: encoding, working memory, and accessing long-term memory. Suggest how each principle you choose might be applied effectively to present information relevant to the social psychology of religion. For example, one of the principles in the category of accessing long-term memory is the Principle of Relevance. In their discussion of this principle, Kosslyn et al. suggest that presenting an initial “roadmap” such as an outline or overview helps people organize the information. A presentation on the social psychology of religion might begin with an outline listing the major topics (e.g., religious orientation) in the order in which they are addressed.

    Study 1

    1) Kosslyn et al. note that they used a “stratified random” sample. Based on their description, what do you think is meant by a stratified random sample? How might using a stratified sample contribute to the sample’s representativeness? How might one use a stratified technique to sample the population of the United States?

    2) Kosslyn et al. additionally mention that they excluded presentations with the extensions .pptx or .key from their sample. Why might the inclusion of such files reduce the representativeness of their sample?


    1) Which cognitive communication principles are most often violated by those who create PowerPoint presentations?

    2) Identify two or three “take-home” messages that you will try to remember when you create PowerPoint presentations in your own course work.

    This exercise reinforces your understanding of random sampling and its relationship to external validity.

  4. Social Psychology Applied to Health: Religion. Although it may be practiced without adherence to or awareness of specific theological tenets, meditation is rooted originally in Buddhism. The text notes that meditation may improve mood, aid one in achieving a balance between negative and positive emotions, and help one find meaning and satisfaction in life. For a more detailed review of meditation’s cognitive and emotional benefits, read the Forbes article at http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/. If this link fails to direct you to the article, try a Google search for a phrase such as “Forbes 7 ways meditation.” Making reference to specific changes in specific brain areas, discuss the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation. How might the practice of meditation reduce reliance on psychotropic drugs or medications? Provide at least one concrete example. Which of the benefits of meditation described in the Forbes article is most compelling to you? Why? Would you be willing to try meditation given the potential benefit you identified? Why or why not? This exercise helps you explain how religion impacts physical and mental health as well as happiness.
  5. It is the last week of April and you are STRESSED, with papers due and finals looming. You are so looking forward to a week off after exams … hiking in the mountains, camping in the desert, or sitting on a secluded beach. This experience finds scientific expression in attention restoration theory, described in the articles at http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr01/greengood.aspx and http://positivepsychologyprogram.com/attention-restoration-theory-nature-lets-solve-problems/. Read the articles. Cite two findings reported in your textbook that support attention restoration theory. How does your experience of “burnout” reflect directed attention fatigue? According to attention restoration theory, how does nature relieve directed attention fatigue? How does attention restoration theory reflect the themes of positive psychology? Consider the implications of attention restoration theory for education, work, and health, and wellness. List one or two ways that you might harness the theory to facilitate your learning in your college courses. List one or two ways that work activities and environments might be rearranged or redesigned to increase your productivity and satisfaction at your current job, or at a job in your recent past. Finally, list one or two ways that nature experiences might improve health and wellness. Cite relevant research from the two articles where appropriate. This exercise contributes to your ability to explain how the environment contributes to well-being.