You Can’t Unsee That: When Social Media Gives Us Something To Fear

April 2017

On Easter Sunday, a man shot and killed a 74-year-old man in Cleveland, Ohio, then posted the video on Facebook, where it spread widely. It was only the latest act of violence to surge through social media networks.

Though Facebook has since closed the alleged killer's account, the video remains branded in the minds of countless viewers. What does the easy accessibility to unforgettable, violent images do the mind? And should social media websites police such content? Psychology and Social Behavior Professor Roxane Cohen Silver discussed those questions with NPR affiliate WAMU in Washington, D.C.

Did California prison reform lead to an increase in crime?

April 2017

In 2011, Assembly Bill 109 transferred 60,000 felony parole violators a year from state to local control, saving the state $100 million. But the bill has sparked a backlash, with some prosecutors and law enforcement officials blaming it for a recent rise in violent crime.

Charis Kubrin, professor of Criminology, Law and Society, disagrees that AB 109 is to blame. She conducted the first scientific analysis of AB 109 last year, accounting for other factors such as unemployment, and found that while the bill contributed to a rise in property crimes, particularly auto thefts, there was no evidence it led to a rise in assaults, rapes or murders. The research was featured in a Fox News segment on the California's recent rise in crime.

Eyewitness identifications not always shaky: confidence predicts accuracy.

April 2017

Not all eyewitness identifications should be discarded, because in certain circumstances they are accurate, according to a new report in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

The key: eyewitnesses have to feel confident and the timing and conditions of when they identify suspects have to be "pristine." But law enforcement agencies don't always use methods that create such pristine conditions, according to School of Social Ecology professors Beth Loftus and Rachel Greenspan, who wrote a commentary for the new report. The report and commentary were mentioned in an article in Forensic Magazine.

Matthew Desmond wins Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction

April 2017

Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond has won the Pulitzer Price for nonfiction for his book "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City." The School of Social Ecology's Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation awarded Desmond its 2017 Human Security Award.

In the book, Desmond tells the story of eight Milwaukee families living on the edge who are spending almost all they have on rent, and are falling behind. In years past, evictions used to be rare. Today, most poor renting families spend more than half their income on housing and are frequently evicted. They're forced into shelters, increasingly squalid apartments and more dangerous neighborhoods.

Rylan Simpson advances to finals of Grad Slam challenge

April 2017

Rylan Simpson, a graduate student at the Irvine Laboratory for the Study of Space and Crime, advanced to the files of the UCI Grad Slam Research Program for his research on the public perceptions of police officers. Grad Slam is a systemwide competition that showcases and awards the best three-minute research presentations by graduate scholars. Finals will be held on April 11 in the Newkirk Alumni Center at 3 p.m. Contestants will give their three-minute research presentations in front of a panel of judges and a live audience.

How experiencing awe in nature can promote altruistic behavior

April 2017

Stand small in a redwood forest and feel awed by the enormity of the trees around and above you. Such a feeling -- awe in nature -- can promote altruistic, pro-social behavior, according to research by Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior.

Piff's research was recently cited in Psychology Today. Such an experience in nature, the article says, "puts our individual lives in perspective by helping people realize that there is something much bigger than yourself in the universe."

Read the article.

Wrongful conviction registry now housed at School of Social Ecology

April 2017

The 2,000-plus wrongful convictions compiled in UCI's National Registry of Exonerations are just scratching the surface, according to Maurice Possley, a senior researcher for the registry. Tracking down and verifying those wrongful convictions -- which stem from misleading evidence, mistaken witness identification, false accusation, official misconduct and inadequate legal defense -- is a laborious process that relies on published news reports and exonerated defendants coming forward.

"We don't know how many cases there are," Possley told the Los Angeles Times. "We don't know how representational it is of the system. But the more we look, the more we find."

Social Ecology April 2017 E-Newsletter

April 2017

The April 2017 Social Ecology E-Newsletter has been published. Don't miss this issue's story on Ph.D student Janice Phung, who is researching how a martial arts program helps kids cope with autism. Also, check out a study by Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychology and social behavior, that found that people who experience adversity are likelier to become more extreme in their political beliefs.

Sparring with autism: Social Ecology Ph.D student studies how martial arts training helps kids with autism cope


Be like water. Change. Adapt to shifting circumstances.

These kid martial artists don’t spar with each other. But they do learn a host of martial arts techniques – boxing, kickboxing, grappling – to use correctly in different situations. They learn to kick gentler if training partners aren’t holding protective pads. They learn never to use their skills at home or school, but that it’s acceptable to defend themselves against attackers and flee.