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American Psychological Association, Aug. 4-7

The 124th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association

The annual meeting of the American Psychological Association was held from Aug. 4 to 7 in Denver and attracted more than 10,000 participants from around the world, including psychological scientists, practitioners, and educators. The conference featured the latest advances in psychological knowledge, with presentations focusing on immigration, racism, bullying, eating disorders, clinical practice, social networking, and psychotherapy.

During one presentation, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., of the University of California in Santa Barbara, discussed how people can and do live happy, meaningful, fulfilling lives as single people.

"Everything you've heard about how getting married makes people happier, healthier, more integrated into society, and better off in all sorts of other emotional and interpersonal ways is grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong," DePaulo said. "For example, studies that follow the same people over time find that people who get married end up no happier than they were when they were single. Also, after people marry, they become more insular. It is single people who are more connected to friends, siblings, parents, neighbors, and coworkers. This is just the opposite of the stereotypes that insist single people are isolated and alone."

In some ways, according to DePaulo, life-long single people are doing better than continuously married people. For example, they develop more of a sense of autonomy and self-determination over time. They also experience more personal growth and development.

"If you want to live a single life, you should do so joyfully and unapologetically. Don't let anyone insist that if you want to be happy or healthy or avoid being isolated, you need to marry; you don't. That's not just my opinion -- the best studies show that," DePaulo said. "If you are single and you don't want to be, make the most of your single years. Get past the old fashioned way of thinking about single life -- that it is when you just 'mark time' until you find 'The One.' Instead, live your single life to the fullest. Do those things you always wanted to do. Be your best, most expansive self."

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In another study, Evan Polman, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and colleagues evaluated the strength of curiosity.

"We found that if we piqued people's curiosity, for example with a magic trick or a trivia question or a joke, and then promised we'd satisfy their curiosity if (and only if) they choose one particular healthy option over another more tempting option, then they would choose the healthy option," Polman said. "For instance, in one study we gave people a choice to eat a healthy snack or an unhealthy one. Faced with this choice, 80 percent of our participants chose the unhealthy snack. However, in a separate case where we piqued people's curiosity (by telling participants they would find out something we know about them if they chose the healthy snack), far more participants chose the healthy snack. In this way, we were able to change people's choices and direct them to a healthier one."

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Jessica Strubel, Ph.D., and Trent A. Petrie, Ph.D., both of the University of North Texas in Denton, and colleagues found a connection between Tinder use and negative outcomes associated with indices of psychological health.

"The key findings from our cross-sectional study are that there is an association between using Tinder (two to three times a month or more) and higher levels of body dissatisfaction and body shame, the tendency to compare oneself physically to others, internalization of societal ideals about appearance, and lower self-esteem (compared to those who did not use Tinder at all)," Petrie said. "Also, the negative association between Tinder use and these outcomes was the same for men and women, with the exception of self-esteem, where male Tinder users had the significantly lowest self-esteem."

While the investigator's methodology does not allow for a determination of causality, the fact that the investigators found a connection across male and female Tinder users does support the need for additional studies with larger samples of Tinder users and with men and women from different parts of the United States and throughout the world.

"Given that our study is the first to document this relationship, we hope it stimulates more research on the potential effects of this dating app," Petrie added. "We will then be able to determine, after multiple studies have been conducted, the extent to which our initial findings are validated."

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Sarah Newcomb, Ph.D., of Morningstar in Washington, D.C., and colleagues found that impulsiveness and materialism were associated with negative financial behaviors, and financial knowledge and a strong future concept correlated positively with good financial practice.

"What was interesting to us was the finding that, while the direct effect of financial knowledge was greater than that of impulsiveness, there was no indication financial knowledge affected impulsiveness itself. More knowledge about money does not necessarily translate into improved financial behaviors. However, a person's mental picture of the future (as measured by how far ahead they tend to think and how detailed and clear their mental image is) not only had a direct positive effect on financial behaviors but also had an indirect positive effect by negatively correlating with impulsiveness," Newcomb said. "This means that, while personality traits like impulsiveness are not easily altered through simple mental activities, a person who struggles with impulsive financial behaviors may benefit from learning to think a bit further into the future and adding some clarity and detail to that mental picture."

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