Prop. 47's effect on jail time, drug rehabilitation is mixed so far

February 2015

Elliott Currie, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, was quoted in a Los Angeles Times article regarding Proposition 47, a law that was passed in November, downgrading drug possession and minor thefts to misdemeanors. The idea behind the proposition was to reduce incarceration times for nonviolent offenders and focus on rehabilitation, with a plan to ease jail overcrowding. Currie states "that the key to the law's success will be whether the cost savings are indeed spent on drug treatment." "If it is not going to do that, then we are not going to see any change for the better, and we'll see people out there floundering more than they already are."

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What if we lost the sky?

February 2015

Researchers are looking into reversing climate change by reflecting sunlight away from earth. This process could change the appearance of the sky and could affect our physical health and how we view ourself. In particular, losing the night sky could affect the emotion of awe since a major source of awe is the natural world. Paul Piff, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, says that when he studied awe among the Himba in Namibia, “the night sky was one of the very clear elicitors” of the emotion. The sky “has this really important role, obviously, in all sorts of different historical ways for the development of humankind and human consciousness, but it also has this shared feature of, no matter where you are and where you come from, it seems to brings about this really, really amazing and transformative experience.”

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Class differences

February 2015

Paul Piff, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, begins his "psychology of inequality" courses by asking students about their consumer habits: Do they shop at J.C. Penney or Neiman Marcus? What kind of car do they drive, if they drive at all? What is their preferred breakfast, a fruit smoothie from Starbucks or a donut from Dunkin' Donuts?  "As people reconstruct their days, it's clear that in every decision they make, class is an essential feature," states Piff.

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Learning to end homelessness

February 2015

Project Hope Alliance has partnered with UCI to track the academic and quality of life markers for 320 Orange County homeless students to learn why some excel and others fail. Jennifer Friend is the CEO of Project Hope Alliance and a Social Ecology '95 alumna. Project Hope Alliance is a 25-year-old nonprofit located in Costa Mesa and a Field Study site for Social Ecology students.

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Was Brian Williams a victim of false memory?

February 2015

Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor of Social Ecology, and Steven Frenda, UCI alumnus, were quoted in New York Times Well blog regarding NBS Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' changing his 2003 story from being in a helicopter that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade to being in a helicopter that was right behind the one that was hit. Williams was called a liar and has since been suspended for 6 months without pay. Loftus states “You’ve got all these people saying the guy’s a liar and convicting him of deliberate deception without considering an alternative hypothesis — that he developed a false memory." Frenda has found that false memories "can arise when we mistakenly attribute some other information as a memory. Whether you have exaggerated something in the past, or it's something else that you've seen or experienced, you can pull that into what you consider to be the truth."

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When you're smiling

January 2015

Sarah Pressman, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, studies the link between positive emotion and physical well-being. She is one of the first researchers to demonstrate that happy, optimistic, cheerful people tend to be healthier than those who are sad, angry, depressed, and she is working to understand why. “I’m not really studying what makes people happy or how they can improve their life satisfaction,” says Pressman. “I’m trying to understand why people who are happy do better physically. Why do they live longer? Why are they less likely to get cancer? How do these positive traits protect people and keep them healthy, and how can we take advantage of them to help others?”

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Photo credit: Steve Zylius/ UCI

Study to examine sexual assault in villages

January 2015

Jeremy Braithwaite, a Ph.D. candidate in Criminology, Law and Society, will be interviewing victims of sexual assault in Dillingham, Alaska, as part of a statewide project studying the disproportionate number of sex crimes in rural Alaska. Safe and Fear-Free Environment, Inc. (SAFE) in Dillingham will host Braithwaite. He is interested in learning about the lives and experiences of the victims, especially regarding the victim's identity, sense of belonging in the community and their family life. Braithwaite received an honorable mention award from the Public Impact Fellowship and is using this to fund part of research.

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Cheers!

January 2015

This year's 50th anniversary Homecoming festival will feature a special Anteater Ale created by Brandon Fender, Social Ecology '08 alumnus. Fender is a senior analyst with RSG, a community development consulting firm in Santa Ana but also has a passion for craft brewing and started The Good Beer Company last year. The Good Beer Company is located in downtown Santa Ana in a 130-year-old brick and wood former livery stable next to the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. “I wanted to open an interesting place where people want to be,” Fender says. “Beer, community and a beautiful building – this is the embodiment of my passions.” These passions, he adds, were nurtured at UCI, especially in the School of Social Ecology, which provided him the support and training that led him to RSG, which works with local governments and private entities to build better communities.

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Photo credit: Steve Zylius/ UCI


 

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