Psychology in the News

Quad in Fall

Please contact Jenny Whelan with questions about press releases. For more news from the University of Washington, visit the UW News site.

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Ione Fine’s student, Ezgi Yucel, has just received a WRF Innovation Graduate Fellowship in Neuroengineering, co-funded with the eScience Institute, from the UW Institute of Neuroengineering. These fellowships are highly prestigious and selection is competitive. Congratulations, Ezgi!

September 13, 2017

UWIN’s Washington Research Foundation (WRF) Innovation Graduate Fellowships in Neuroengineering provide support for Ph.D. students whose research relates to both neuroscience and quantitative approaches in math, computer science, or engineering.  Graduate students in any UW degree-granting program who have committed to doing research in the laboratory of one of the participating faculty members are welcome to apply for a fellowship.  Co-mentoring between experimental and theoretical or engineering groups is encouraged.

For more information on the Fellowship, read here.

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Kristina Olson published a story on the development of transgender children in Scientific American.

September 11, 2017

When Sex and Gender Collide

Studies of transgender kids are revealing fascinating insights about gender in the brain. Many trans children show surprisingly firm identities at young ages, for instance, and important differences divide trans girls from boys who like pink.

By Kristina R. Olson

On arrival at a friend's house for dinner one night in the fall of 2008, I joined the evening’s youngest guest, five-year-old Noah, who was playing on the couch. Little did I know he would single-handedly change the course of my career.

As a professor of developmental psychology, hanging out at the kids’ table is not unusual for me. I study how children think about themselves and the people around them, and some of my keenest insights have come from conversations like this one. After some small talk, I saw Noah glance around the room, appear to notice that no one was looking and retrieve something from inside his pocket. The reveal was slow but the result unmistakable: a beloved set of Polly Pocket dolls.

Over the next few years I got to know Noah well and learned more about his past (all names of children here are pseudonyms to protect their privacy). Noah’s parents had first noticed that he was different from his brother in the preschool years. He preferred female playmates and toys more commonly associated with girls, but his parents were unfazed. As he got older, Noah grew out his previously short hair and replaced his fairly gender-neutral wardrobe with one that prominently featured Twinkle Toes—shoes that lit up in pink as he stepped. Unlike many similar kids, Noah’s family, friends and school fully accepted him. They even encouraged him to meet other kids like himself, boys who flouted gender norms. Along with the other adults in Noah’s life, I couldn’t help but wonder: What did Noah’s behavior mean? Was he gay? Could he just be a kid who paid less attention to gender norms than most? At the time I had no idea that these questions would soon guide my scientific research.

Read the entire article here.

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Jonathan Kanter published a study finding that students who deliver microaggressions are also likely to harbor racist attitudes.

September 8, 2017

Insensitive or Racist?

Study finds that students who deliver microaggressions are also likely to harbor racist attitudes.

By Nick Roll

September 5, 2017

What makes someone racist? Is what they say at all indicative of that, or can it be brushed away as a one-off mistake or misperception?

Take, for example, the 2016 presidential election, where leaders from both sides struggled to call Donald Trump an outright racist, even if they insisted some of his remarks were.

“I’m not saying what’s in his heart because I don’t know what is in his heart, and I don’t think he feels that in his heart,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said after Donald Trump attacked an American-born judge of Mexican heritage for harboring a supposed bias against him, based on that heritage. “But I don’t think it is wise or justifiable to suggest that a person should be disqualified from their job because of their ethnicity.”

While Trump’s comments on the judge were overtly racist -- with Ryan, a member of Trump’s party, calling them the “textbook definition of a racist comment” -- assessing whether someone is personally “actually racist” has proved to be almost impossible. Much of the same thinking goes into the way critics debate the substance of microaggressions, the subtle remarks that people of color find offensive but that might be delivered without intentional malice. Even if a microaggression is racist -- which is often up for debate itself -- critics often say the person delivering it isn’t, and those offended by it are being too sensitive.

But a new study backs up those who speak out against microaggressions and questions the attitudes of the people that deliver them.

Read the entire article here.