The Psychology of Political Beliefs

December 2015

Peter Ditto, Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, has found that when people hear something that is proved to be negative, such as Donald Trump saying that he saw television footage of Muslims cheering on the 9/11, they have a hard time accepting that the information does not back their point of view. "We hear evidence, and we process it," said Ditto.  "What's clear from decades of social psychological research is that people's emotions get involved in their reasoning, their motivations, their intuitions. Those shape and bias the way we process information. It's not that people believe anything they want to believe. People still think and need rationale," Ditto said. "But the things that we feel change what we count as evidence."

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Proof that positive work cultures are more productive

December 2015

Researchers have found that a cut-throat work enviornment is harmful to productivity over time. Health care expenditures are higher at high-pressure companies and workdays are lost due to stress on the job. Sarah Pressman, Associate Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, discussed in her TEDx talk, that probability of dying early is 20% higher for obese people, 30% higher for excessive drinkers, 50% higher for smokers, but 70% higher for people with poor social relationships.

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Watching cops can be harmful to your health

December 2015

Roxane Cohen Silver, Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, was featured in a New Republic article on the effects of watching police violence and other traumatic events. For the past 15 years, Silver has researched the national impact of media coverage of tragedies such as the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing. Her research has found that repeatedly viewing graphic media images of horror could potentially cause harm. Her research has found that viewing graphic images repeatedly could potentially cause harm. "The kinds of violent events that many, many people are seeing have the potential to impact mental health outcomes beyond the immediate community," says Silver. And, the more violent the image, the greater the impact.

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Why Donald Trump may think he saw people cheering on 9/11

November 2015

Donald Trump is insisting that after the terrorists acts of September 11, 2001, he watched news footage showing "thousands and thousands of people" celebrating in northern New Jersey "where you have large Arab populations." Public officials and journalists have searched to find the footage but have not found any evidence that this happened. Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor of Social Ecology, said that Trump could be misremembering rather than lying. "Just because someone tells you something with a lot of confidence, detail and emotion, it doesn't mean it really happened," said Loftus.

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Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Kubrin quoted in Associated Press article

November 2015

Crime is on the rise this year in Los Angeles and other major cities across the U.S. So far this year in Los Angeles there have been 251 homicides, compared to 225 during the same time frame last year. It's still too early to pinpoint what's driving the increased violence across the country and in Los Angeles, says Charis Kubrin, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society. She said there could be a number of contributing factors, including easier access to guns, the poverty rate, a new state law that reduced penalties for certain crimes, and a growing distrust of police, which can contribute to retaliatory violence."If you don't see the police as a viable option when you have a problem, then you handle things on your own," Kubrin said.

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Social Ecology Alumnus becomes Irvine Police Chief

November 2015

Irvine's new Chief of Police Mike Hamel is an alumnus of UCI's School of Social Ecology, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Criminology, Law and Society. Hamel is the department's fifth chief and the first Irvine police chief to have started at the department as an officer. He transferred to Irvine from LAPD in 1995 and has worked his way up the ranks from sergeant, lieutenant, area commander, and deputy chief.

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Photo credit: Irvine Police Department

UCI-led juvenile justice study gets $1 million grant

November 2015

A study on the best way to handle juvenile offenders has received a $1 million grant from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Led by Elizabeth Cauffman, Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior, the national study is tracking 1,000 first-time juvenile offenders to compare how they respond to formal court system punishment versus informal community service. The goal is to create a research database that could help guide decisions by juvenile justice professionals.

Reiter quoted in LA Times article

November 2015

Keramet Reiter, Assistant Professor in Criminology, Law and Society, was quoted in a Los Angeles Times article about Proposition 47. Proposition 47 changes some nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors and was approved by voters a year ago. The proposition downgraded drug possession and some theft crimes to misdemeanors and the prison and jail populations have been reduced. In some of the California's largest cities the crime rate has risen and property crime has increased in nine of the state's 10 largest cities. Reiter states the ballot measure has been used by critics as a "convenient scapegoat" for the rise in crime. The reality, she said, is more complicated in a state that is undergoing broad changes to its criminal justice system, including a massive shift of inmates from state prisons to local jails.

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Scurich comments on child molestation case

November 2015

Jonathan Robert, whose real name is Roger Alan Giese, has a career in England as a public relations executive. In Orange County, as Giese, he is accused of molesting a teenager and was arrested in 2007 and, while out on bail, fled the country and ended up in England. British authorities have refused to return him to the U.S. because of what might happen to Giese after he serves his potential prison sentence. An American law, civil commitment, says that after a convicted sex offender has served his prison sentence he can be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for an unspecified period in the interest of public safety. Nicholas Scurich, Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and Psychology and Social Behavior, said courts largely have upheld laws on the grounds that civil commitment is a form of treatment rather than punishment, but, paradoxically, most of the committed sexual offenders in California do not participate in treatment. “The fundamental issue is that people don’t want sex offenders living next door to them, and the law has been used as a means to reach that end," states Scurich. While civil commitment may be unconstitutional, he said, California likely won’t see many changes.“It’s not politically smart for anyone to side with sex offenders,” says Scurich.

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Photo credit: Adam Gerrard/Daily Mirror

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