Political Affiliation & Personality

Research indicates that personality is a strong predictor of political affiliation, leading to the question: What personality traits are associated with modern liberalism versus conservatism? This article explores different personality characteristics of the left and the right in America.

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Liberalism Versus Conservatism

Liberalism is “a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed, and equality before the law” (Wikipedia, 2021). Modern liberalism in America “combines ideas of civil liberty and equality with support for social justice and a mixed economy.” 

Meanwhile, the foundations of American conservatism (defined as “a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions” [Wikipedia, 2021]), are based on four fundamental concepts: liberty, tradition and order, the rule of law, and belief in God (Intercollegiate Studies Institute).

Morals & Values

Liberals and conservatives differ in morals and values, with empathy being a notably distinct value that designates the left as ‘bleeding heart’ liberals. In fact, research indicates that when a person’s ability to empathize increases, they shift to having a more liberal perspective.

Conservatives, on the other hand, are more concerned with duty and order, valuing the ability to exert personal self-control to meet the demands of self and others.

Regarding spirituality and belief in God, conservatives are more religious, more likely to pray, and more likely to attend church, while liberals are more likely to lean towards atheism. What’s more, Republicans tend to believe that belief in God is necessary for morals while Democrats believe morals can exist without religion.

In one study, liberals were found to value care and fairness more while conservatives were more likely to value loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Also, Democrats exhibit more creativity than their Republican counterparts, who prefer certainty and clarity.

Additional research suggests that conservatives value structure, simplicity, and tradition. Republicans place greater emphasis on stability. Meanwhile, the ‘bleeding-heart’ liberal cares more about openness, compassion, and equality. Democrats place greater emphasis on progress and innovation.

Intelligence, Thinking Style, & Problem-Solving

Regarding political affiliation and intelligence, one study found that liberals and non-religious individuals have higher IQ’s than conservatives and religious individuals. In contrast, other research suggested that individuals who identified as Republican had greater probability knowledge, higher verbal reasoning ability, and better question comprehension.

Regardless of political affiliation, mental rigidity (i.e., ‘black-and-white’ thinking) is characteristic of individuals who identify as either far left or far right (extremist views).

When it comes to problem-solving, conservatives are more structured and persistent. Conversely, liberals are more flexible, and tend to think outside the box. Also, Democrats are better at tolerating complexity and ambiguity than Republicans, and are more influenced by emotions.

Not surprisingly, both liberals and conservatives struggle to think logically when it comes to arguments attacking their political beliefs. However, researchers found that liberals were better at recognizing flaws in conservative arguments, and conservatives at identifying flaws in liberal reasoning.

Political Affiliation & Fear

Liberals and conservatives experience fear differently. Conservatives have a greater fear of death (which enhances their need for security). While Republicans fear chaos and the absence of order, Democrats tend to fear emptiness.

In one study, when asked about a world where God doesn’t exist, conservatives expressed fear that tradition and order would fall apart, resulting in chaos. Liberals, on the other hand, feared a world without God as barren, lifeless, and devoid of beauty or meaning.

What’s more, neuroscientists found that Republicans and Democrats processed risk differently, although they did not differ in the risks they took. Liberals showed significantly greater activity in the brain region associated with social and self-awareness. Meanwhile, conservatives showed significantly greater activity in the brain region involved in the body’s fight-or-flight system.

Another key difference between Democrats and Republicans is in what they worry about. For example, Democrats are more concerned about climate change while Republicans fear big government and worry more about terrorism.

Temperament, Happiness, & Disgust

A person’s temperament, including how they experience things like happiness and disgust, predicts political affiliation.

Temperament in childhood may predict political ideology in adulthood. Children with fearful temperaments are more likely to be politically conservative as adults. Contrastingly, children with higher levels of activity and focus are more likely to develop liberal views in adulthood.

When it comes to happiness, research indicates that political conservatives are happier than liberals. What’s more, Republicans tend to have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than Democrats.

However, one study found that compared to conservatives, liberals are more likely to smile genuinely and use ‘happier’ (positive) language.

Other research suggests that compared to Democrats, Republicans are more alert to negativity and spend more time focusing on the negative (but do not seem to be negatively impacted by it).

Interestingly, research indicates that compared to liberals, conservatives experience disgust more easily and intensely, and have stronger physiological reactions when they are repulsed. Similar research suggests that disgust may influence moral judgement.

Political Affiliation & Language

There are a few key differences in language and speech patterns of conservatives and liberals. Republicans are more likely to use language that stresses clarity and predictability while Democrats use emotionally expressive language and have a preference for poetry.

In an analysis of U.S. presidential speech transcripts, conservatives demonstrated a preference for nouns, and tended to refer to things by name rather than providing a description of their features. (Example: “He is an adventurer” versus “He is adventurous.”) It was determined that the use of nouns over adjectives was a way to promote stability, familiarity, and tradition.

On Twitter, liberals swear more (with ‘f**k’ and ‘sh*t’ in their top ten most used words) and are more likely than conservatives to use emotionally expressive language and to express both positive feelings and anxiety. Meanwhile, conservatives are more likely to tweet about religion, with ‘God’ and ‘psalm’ as popular words. What’s more, liberals on Twitter are more likely than conservatives to use words like ‘I’ and ‘me,’ while conservatives use ‘we’ and ‘our’ more.

Trust in Science

Liberals and conservatives differ in how trusting they are when it comes to science and empirical data. Some research indicates that compared to liberals, conservatives are less trusting of the scientific community. Additionally, conservatives are more skeptical of the value of empirical data. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to be more optimistic about knowledge gained from scientific research and its potential applications.

Other research found that while Democrats are generally more ‘pro-science’ than other political parties, Republicans trust science with the exception of the following issues: global warming, evolution, gay adoption, and mandatory health insurance.

Regarding science bias, research suggests that both Democrats and Republicans are less likely to trust science when it does not align with their political beliefs.

Additional Traits by Political Affiliation



Conclusion

In sum, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that personality is a strong predictor of political affiliation. Liberals and conservatives tend to have different values, thinking styles, temperaments, and emotional experiences.

While partisan differences may contribute to a polarized divide in America, this doesn’t have to be the norm. Rather, differing perspectives can be complementary and maintain balance.

Liberal… conservative… or somewhere in between… try to learn from opposing viewpoints and aim to value differences, regardless of political affiliation!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


References

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American Psychological Association. (2018, December 20). Certain moral values may lead to more prejudice, discrimination. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181220104506.htm

American Sociological Association. (2010, February 24). Liberals and atheists smarter? Intelligent people have values novel in human evolutionary history, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100224132655.htm

Americans Still See Big Government as Top Threat (gallup.com)

Association for Psychological Science. (2012, October 22). Parenting and temperament in childhood predict later political ideology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162655.htm

Association for Psychological Science. (2013, February 12). Name-brand or generic? Your political ideology might influence your choice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212131953.htm

Bixter, M. T. (2015). Happiness, political orientation, and religiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 72, 7-11. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914004553

Carl, N. (2014). Cognitive ability and party identity in the United States. Intelligence, 47, 3-9. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289614001081

Cornell University. (2009, June 5). Easily Grossed Out? You Might Be A Conservative!. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090604163620.htm

Georgia State University. (2018, September 20). Commitment to democratic values predict climate change concern, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180920161057.htm

Michigan State University. (2020, September 16). The unintended consequence of becoming empathetic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200916131030.htm

Northwestern University. (2008, September 25). Political Conservatives Fear Chaos; Liberals Fear Emptiness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080924124549.htm

Northwestern University. (2016, March 15). Conservatives and liberals do think differently: Research shows different ways of solving everyday problems linked to political ideology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160315120953.htm

Ohio State University. (2015, February 9). Both Liberals, Conservatives Can Have Science Bias. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150209113001.htm

Pew Research Center, June, 2014, “Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology”

Pew Research Center, June, 2014, “Political Polarization in the American Public”

Pew Research Center, September, 2017, “Partisans Differ Widely in Views of Police Officers, College Professors”

Pew Research Center, October, 2017, “Political Typology Reveals Deep Fissures on the Right and Left”

Pew Research Center, August, 2020, “Americans See Skepticism of News Media as Healthy, Say Public Trust in the Institution can Improve”

Pew Research Center, September, 2020, “In Views of U.S. Democracy, Widening Partisan Divides Over Freedom to Peacefully Protest”

Pew Research Center – Democrats more likely to say having an ethical president is very important

Pew Research Center – How use of Facebook, Twitter, other social media sites differs by party (or not)

Queen Mary, University of London. (2015, September 16). Study finds people’s conservative and liberal traits show up in their Twitter vocabulary: Different language used by supporters of different parties reflects psychological understanding. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150916161824.htm

Regnery, A. S. (2018). THE PILLARS OF MODERN AMERICAN CONSERVATISM. Intercollegiate Review.

SAGE Publications. (2015, March 2). Republicans trust science — except when it comes to health insurance and gay adoption. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150302123337.htm

Society for Personality and Social Psychology. (2014, November 7). Liberals are more emotion-driven than conservatives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141107091559.htm

Society for Personality and Social Psychology. (2019, April 17). Logical reasoning: An antidote or a poison for political disagreement?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190417084524.htm

Terrorism Fears Drive More in U.S. to Avoid Crowds (gallup.com)

University of Alabama. (2016, July 13). Study shows stark differences in how conservatives, liberals value empirical data. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160713172717.htm

University of California – Irvine. (2015, March 12). Political liberals display greater happiness, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150312142909.htm

University of Cambridge. (2019, August 29). ‘Mental rigidity’ at root of intense political partisanship on both left and right, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190829081401.htm

University of Cincinnati. (2015, June 22). Conservatives demonstrate more self control than Liberals, studies suggest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150622181857.htm

University of Exeter. (2013, February 13). Red brain, blue brain: Republicans and Democrats process risk differently, research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213173131.htm

University of Kent. (2016, February 24). Conservatives prefer using nouns, new research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160224133417.htm

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (2011, November 9). That’s gross! Study uncovers physiological nature of disgust in politics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025122617.htm

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (2014, July 31). Political attitudes derive from body and mind: ‘Negativity bias’ explains difference between liberals and conservatives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140731145935.htm

University of New Hampshire. (2008, November 2). Does Your Personality Influence Who You Vote For?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081031161623.htm

University of Pennsylvania. (2018, June 19). Liberals do drink more lattes, but maybe not for the reasons you think. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180619122429.htm

University of Toronto. (2010, June 10). Personality predicts political preferences. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100609111312.htm

University of Utah. (2015, August 18). Republicans have happier marriages than Democrats, study indicates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150818090528.htm

Washington University in St. Louis. (2021, March 22). Widening political rift in U.S. may threaten science, medicine: Study finds conservatives less willing than liberals to participate in research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210322120110.htm

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, April 18). Conservatism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Conservatism&oldid=1018563259

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, April 7). Liberalism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Liberalism&oldid=1016510923

Rape Culture in America

According to Wikipedia, “rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.”

Rape-culture attitudes/behaviors include victim-blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification of women, trivialization of sexual assault, denial of widespread rape, and dismissal of the devastating impact of sexual violence.

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

The following comments embody rape culture in America:

“In MOST cases (not all), the women raped are hoes dressed in some sleazy material and whine about being taking advantage of later.”

“There is no rape culture. There is such a small percentage of men that rape women, there cannot be a culture. [Rape] isn’t even remotely common.”

“It doesn’t matter if you urge or try to teach [men not to rape], they are going to do what they are going to do. It’s best to be prepared, it’s that simple.”

“To make the implication that a woman can dress and act how she wants and not expect a wolf to find her… is just damn ignorant… you don’t go flaunting fresh meat in front of a primal animal and expect it not to attack.”


The above quotes (edited for spelling/typos) are statements from two middle-aged men in response to a Facebook post. The Facebook post proclaimed that women are routinely urged to cover their drinks, to not walk alone at night, to carry pepper spray, etc., and then posed the question, “CAN WE PLEASE URGE MEN TO NOT SEXUALLY ASSAULT WOMEN?”

Ironically, the very comments intended to disprove rape culture provided proof of its existence (and ugliness).


Rape Culture in America

“Women are no more important than any other potential victims, but we are the primary targets of the messages and myths that sustain rape culture. We’re the ones asked to change our behavior, limit our movements, and take full responsibility for the prevention of sexual violence in society.”

Kate Harding (Author)

How common is rape and/or sexual assault in America?

To start, what are the statistics on sexual violence in the U.S.?

Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

According to the 2015 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey:

  • 43.6% of American women have experienced some form of sexual aggression.
  • 1 in 5 women are victims of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
  • Each year, there are an estimated 5,600,000 victims of sexual violence in the United States.

81.3% of women who experienced sexual violence said it first occurred prior to age 25.

According to the Association of American Universities (AAU) Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct:

  • 1 in 4 undergraduate women were victims of sexual assault while enrolled in college (compared to 6.8% of undergraduate men).
  • 41.8% of students experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment since enrollment.

Additionally, a 2015 study indicated that 20% of surveyed college men committed some form of sexual assault. Other researchers found that nearly 1 in 10 persons ages 21 and younger perpetrated some type of forced sexual violence.


According to the Uniform Crime Report from the FBI, there were an estimated 139,380 rapes (including attempted rapes) reported to law enforcement in 2018.

It should be noted that the Uniform Crime Report from the FBI under-represents actual incidents of rapes and does not account for other forms of sexual violence. Since most rapes are not reported to the police, the federal government relies on three data collection systems to measure sexual victimization: The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, and the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. (For additional sources of reliable data, look to peer-reviewed academic journals and credible sites such as RAINN.)

Per a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Justice:

  • Only a third of all rape crimes are reported to the police.
  • Reasons for not reporting:
    • Fear of retaliation (from either the perpetrator or society)
    • Believing the police will not (or cannot) help
    • Believing rape is a personal or shameful matter
    • Not wanting to get the perpetrator in trouble

What’s more, reporting rape in itself can be traumatizing, a “second rape.” To avoid this, many women choose not to report.

The Impact of Sexual Violence

As reported by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN):

  • Rape victims are at an increased risk for:
    • Experiencing PTSD symptoms during the two weeks following the incident (94%)
    • Contemplating suicide (33%)
    • Attempting suicide (13%)
    • Using illicit drugs
    • Experiencing problems at work or school (38%)
    • Experiencing relationship problems with family/friends (37%)

According to research and data from the 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey:

  • The estimated lifetime cost of rape is $122,461 per victim, or a population economic burden of nearly $3.1 trillion over victims’ lifetimes.
  • Government sources pay an estimated $1 trillion (32%) of the lifetime economic burden.

What is rape culture?

The concept of rape culture was formulated in the 1970s as a feminist, sociological theory. Rape culture ideology explains how society normalizes male sexual violence while blaming the victim. Additional practices/attitudes that contribute to rape culture include slut-shaming, objectifying women, trivializing rape, denying that widespread rape exists, and minimizing the impact of sexual violence.

Normalizing Rape & Sexual Assault

“[Rape is] unfortunately the nature of the world we live in. Is it not?”

The above comment normalizes sexual violence – it endorses rape as an inevitable fact of life. As a result, emphasis is placed on teaching girls and young women self-defense, vigilance, and modesty. This allows for sexual violence prevention programs to teach “don’t get raped… instead of: don’t rape.” Meanwhile, preventative strategies such as early sex education and interventions for treating aggressive behaviors receive less attention.

For myself, I was taught to yell in a deep voice if assaulted and to not scream. (Supposedly, a high-pitched scream would sexually excite the perpetrator, but a low voice would turn him off.) Also, I carried my keys in hand at night… not so much as to open my car door in a rush, but to stab my attacker in the eye.

“Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.”

Kurt Cobain

Years later, I took a self-defense class. It was both challenging and empowering. The instructor, before teaching any moves, stressed that to avoid being a victim, the best option is always, always… to run. Self-defense should be used as a last resort.

Self-defense may come in handy, but it’s not a solution to sexual violence. The ultimate goal is not to normalize or defend against, but to eradicate. Rape is not the norm.

Victim-Blaming & Slut-Shaming

“In MOST cases (not all), the women raped are hoes dressed in some sleazy material and whine about being taking advantage of later.”

In a single sentence, the above commenter blames the victim, slut shames, objectifies women (which he later refers to as “fresh meat”), and trivializes the harmful consequences of rape. He implies that “hoes” (i.e., women who enjoy frequent or casual sex) who wear immodest attire should expect or even deserve to be assaulted. He trivializes the harmful impact of sexual violence when he uses the word “whine,” as though rape is a detested chore, not a traumatic and life-altering experience.

Both victim-blaming and slut-shaming contribute to rape culture. What’s more, some women choose to not report sexual assault because they fear the backlash (being blamed or labeled as promiscuous).


Victim-blaming defined is the attitude that the victim of a crime, not the perpetrator, is responsible for the attack. It’s assumed that the victim did something to provoke the assailant or that they somehow deserved what happened (because of the way they were dressed, how they flirted, etc.)

“She told me that my rape was not my fault, that I should feel no shame, that – simple as it may sound – I hadn’t caused it. No one causes rape but rapists. No one causes rape but rapists. No one causes rape but rapists. It was true. And it had not been obvious to me. And hearing it from someone else, a professional, someone who should know, helped me believe that soon I would believe it.”

Aspen Matis (Author)
Characteristics and factors associated with blaming the victim include

Male characteristics:

  • Endorsement of traditional views of gender roles,
  • Acceptance of gender stereotypes (i.e., “It’s not ‘ladylike’ for women to desire sex” or “Women who resist are only playing ‘hard to get'”),
  • Conservative religious beliefs,
  • Politically conservative views,
  • Compulsive sexual behavior,
  • The belief that rape isn’t “real” if it occurs in a marriage or relationship, and
  • Believing rape myths to be true.

And other factors contributing to victim-blaming:

  • There is a perceived threat to the assailant’s masculinity,
  • The victim is wearing tight, revealing, or sexually suggestive attire,
  • The victim is viewed as promiscuous,
  • If either the victim or the attacker were intoxicated at the time,
  • It’s perceived that the victim did not resist or fight hard enough,
  • If the assailant uses little or no force,
  • Sexual objectification of women in society, and
  • The media’s portrayal of what constitutes “real” rape (i.e., “stranger rape” vs. date or acquaintance rape).

A more subtle form of victim-blaming is placing all the focus on victim with victim-focused (instead of perpetrator-focused) preventative tips. For example, if a woman is advised to avoid empty parking garages, never leave her drink unattended, etc., and then slips up (i.e., her appointment ran late and she has to walk to car alone or she leaves her drink when taking an urgent call during a date), she is faulted (and may blame herself) for her carelessness.

“Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them.

Jessica Valenti, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women

Only the rapist is at fault for committing a sex crime, never the victim, regardless of circumstances.


The definition of slut-shaming is “the practice of criticizing people, especially women and girls, who are perceived to violate expectations of behavior and appearance regarding issues related to sexuality.”

Slut-shaming seeks to humiliate, admonish, or degrade a person. Women are harshly judged for so-called loose sexual behaviors while men are not held to a similar standard.

Women as Sexual Objects

Objectification of women reduces them to sex objects that exist primarily for sexual pleasure. Interpersonal objectification is commonplace, and occurs in the form of unwanted body evaluation and/or advances (i.e., catcalls, leering, sexually suggestive remarks about a woman’s appearance, etc.) Sexual objectification also occurs in the media when women are depicted as sex symbols. Sex objectification is both harmful and dehumanizing.

Men who view females as sexual objects have a diminished ability to feel empathy for them and an increased rate of aggression towards women and girls. Research also indicates that men who objectify women or see them as animals are more likely to rape and sexually harass women. They’re also more likely to have negative views of female rape victims.

What’s more, women who are objectified may experience increased rates of mental illness; including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders; shame; and reduced productivity.

The Denial of Widespread Rape

We routinely reject unpleasant truths and information that threaten our worldview. This allows for the dismissal of commonplace rape and sexual assault in America. It’s easier to view rape as a rare and/or fully preventable occurrence.

Moreover, humans require more information to believe in something they do not want to believe. For example, if you deny widespread rape based on FBI stats alone or personal experience, you may not accept the reality without multiple, additional sources of information. And due to confirmation bias, you are unlikely to seek it out.

Rape culture normalizes sexual violence as a fact of life while at the same time dismissing how commonplace its occurrence is.

Trivializing Rape

Rape jokes and sexist humor trivialize sexual violence and encourage victim-blaming. Research indicates that exposure to sexist jokes may increase a man’s proclivity for rape. While no one is suggesting that rape jokes cause rape, they do contribute to rape culture.

What’s more, sexist humor may be a way to express real aggressive tendencies or prejudices against women under the guise of a joke.

Rape culture also trivializes the devastating impact of rape. To refer to rape as “just sex” or to tell someone to “get over it already” minimizes the severe consequences of sexual violence.

Traits Associated with Rape Culture

The acceptance of rape myths, which are damaging and unfounded beliefs about rape and sexual violence, contributes to rape culture.

What are some common rape myths?

Rape myths

  • It’s the victim’s fault due to her actions or appearance. (This is victim-blaming.)
  • Men rape women due to sexual desire and the need for sexual gratification.
  • If the woman is drunk or high, it isn’t rape.
  • Women who dress in revealing or tight clothes are “asking for it.”
  • If the woman doesn’t fight back, it isn’t rape. (In reality, severe trauma may cause a “freeze” response.)
  • Individuals that commit rape are unable to stop themselves (due to uncontrollable lust).
  • Most perpetrators are strangers.
  • Women commonly falsify rape out of spite or to get revenge. (An estimated 2-10% of rape allegations are false.)
  • Women frequently lie about rape to get attention.
  • Women frequently lie about rape when they regret having sex with someone.
  • Women secretly enjoy being raped.
  • Women can prevent rape by avoiding dangerous areas.
  • Only certain types of women get raped.
  • “Good guys” don’t rape.

“They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.”

Louise O’Neill, Asking For It

Furthermore, there are certain assailant characteristics/beliefs that contribute to misconceptions about sexual violence, promoting rape culture.

Research indicates that the following traits/views/behaviors are linked to rape myth acceptance:

Rape Culture and Sexual Violence

How does rape culture contribute to sexual violence?

For one, men who subscribe to rape misconceptions are more likely to be perpetrators of rape. Research indicates that the acceptance of rape myths is a risk factor for sexual violence. Furthermore, researchers found that justifying a sexual assault with rape-supporting attitudes predicted future incidents of sexual aggression.

Sex objectification, specifically, is linked to increased incidents of rape and acceptance of sexual violence. What’s more, rape culture in the media predicts the frequency of rape and even influences the criminal justice system.

Bottom Line: Rape culture promotes sexual aggression. And if you contribute to rape culture, you’re contributing to sexual victimization in America.

“Standing behind predators makes prey of us all.”

DaShanne Stokes

Anti-Rape Culture

To create a culture of anti-rape, we must eradicate rape culture beliefs, practices, and attitudes. Furthermore, we must find a solution-focused approach that aims to eliminate or reduce sexual violence.

Empowerment/assertiveness, sexual assault resistance, and self-defense training programs for women can help to reduce incidences of rape and other forms of victimization. Learning self-defense can also help to increase confidence levels.

Additionally, anti-violence education plays a crucial role in dismantling rape culture. Evidence suggests that early education and strength-based prevention strategies, including school-based, community-based, and parent-based interventions, are effective at reducing sexual violence. High-school programs that provide social support may help to reduce incidences of sexual assault. However, research suggests that for prevention programs to be effective, they must be theory-driven and comprehensive with varied teaching methods.

For young adults (post-high school), ongoing educational strategies effectively reduce rape myth acceptance and sexual aggression. Educational training programs for college-aged men have successfully changed harmful attitudes and rape-acceptance beliefs that contribute to rape. One study found that web-based trainings aimed at college-aged men reduced campus rape. Moreover, bystander intervention programs may help to reduce sexual assault. College courses specifically focused on violence against women may also be effective at changing attitudes of both rape and rape victims.


According to the CDC, strategies for ending sexual violence include the following:

  • Promote Social Norms that Protect Against Violence
  • Teach Skills to Prevent Sexual Violence
  • Provide Opportunities to Empower and Support Girls and Women
  • Create Protective Environments
  • Support Victims/Survivors to Lessen Harms

An integrated approach that combines early prevention strategies, sex education, ongoing educational programs, and self-defense and empowerment training for women may be the key to creating a counterculture to rape culture, and ultimately eliminating widespread sexual victimization in America.

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

Conclusion

In sum, sexual violence against women is commonplace and underreported in America. Rape culture contributes to this issue by normalizing male sexual violence, victim-blaming, slut-shaming, sexually objectifying women, trivializing rape, denying the existence of widespread rape, and minimizing the harm caused by sexual violence.

As a way to reduce sexually violent crimes in America, we should focus on strategies that dismantle rape culture, target potential perpetrators, and teach women empowerment and assertiveness. An integrated approach is needed to eliminate rape and sexual assault.

In the very least, take a stand, educate yourself, stay informed, and don’t participate in rape culture!


References

  • American Medical Association (AMA). (2013). Nearly 1 in 10 young people report perpetrating sexual violence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131007162100.htm
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  • Romero-Sánchez, M., Megías, J. L., & Carretero-Dios, H. (2019). Sexist humor and sexual aggression against women: When sexist men act according to their own values or social pressures. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 886260519888518. Advance Online Publication.
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16 Best e-Newsletters for Therapists

This is a list of the 16 best email newsletter subscriptions for therapists, other mental health workers, students, and consumers. These e-newsletters were selected for quality/relevancy of content and usefulness of resources.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

Albert Einstein

Please repost this and/or share with anyone you think could benefit from these resources!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

16 Best e-Newsletters for Therapists

Newsletters are categorized based on target population: General/nonspecific and trauma-informed newsletters for therapists and counseling students, newsletters for addiction professionals, newsletters for both mental health professionals and consumers, and newsletters for research news.


For additional resources for therapists (posted on this site), see Free Online Education for Mental Health Professionals, Professional Membership Organizations for Mental Health Professionals, and Resources for Mental Health Professionals.

Mental Health Counselors & Students

General/nonspecific and trauma-informed e-newsletters

ACEs Connection Daily Digest

Site/Organization: ACEs Connection

Site Statement: “ACEs Connection is a social network that recognizes the impact of a wide variety of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in shaping adult behavior and health, and that promotes trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and policies in all families, organizations, systems and communities. We support communities to accelerate the science of adverse childhood experiences to solve our most intractable problems. We believe that we can create a resilient world where people thrive.”

Best for: News/articles about trauma and Webinar opportunities

Center for Complicated Grief Newsletter for Professionals

Site/Organization: Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia School of Social Work

Site Statement: “Receive the latest in industry news, therapy techniques, and new developments in Complicated Grief. New articles are added and updated regularly.”

Best for: Free Webinar opportunities and news

National Council Newsletter

Site/Organization: National Council for Behavioral Health

Site Statement: “The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 3,381 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery.”

Best for: Webinar opportunities, trainings, news, and other resources

Psychiatric News Update

Site/Organization: American Psychiatric Association

Site Statement:Psychiatric News Update is a weekly e-newsletter bringing you up-to-the-moment news about APA news; services, programs, and educational materials available to APA members; and links to the latest research reports in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatric News, and Psychiatric Services.”

Best for: News/research and training opportunities (free for members)

Psychiatry Advisor Update

Site/Organization: Psychiatry Advisor (from Haymarket Medical Network)

Site Statement: “Psychiatry Advisor offers psychiatric healthcare professionals a comprehensive knowledge base of practical psychiatry information and resources to assist in making the right decisions for their patients. Creating your free account with Psychiatry Advisor allows you access to exclusive content, including case studies, drug information, CME and more across our growing network of clinical sites.”

Best for: News and articles related to psychotropic medications, and training opportunities

Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy e-Newsletter

Site/Organization: Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy

Site Statement: “A strong voice for psychotherapy and home for psychotherapists, the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy is committed to preserving and expanding the theoretical and evidentiary base for psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic relationships, supporting life-long learning of psychotherapeutic skills, as well as making the benefits of psychotherapy accessible to all. The Society is an international community of practitioners, scholars, researchers, teachers, health care specialists, and students who are interested in and devoted to the advancement of the practice and science of psychotherapy. Our mission is to provide an active, diverse, and vital community and to generate, share, and disseminate the rapidly accumulating evidence base in clinical science and practice.”

Best for: News and research

Addiction Professionals

Addiction & Recovery eNews

Site/Organization: Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC)

Site Statement:Addiction & Recovery eNews is a bi-weekly newsletter delivering trending and breaking news, innovations, research and trends impacting the addiction-focused profession to over 48,000 addiction professionals every other Friday.”

Best for: Training (both free and low-cost) opportunities, news, and employment postings

ASAM Weekly

Site/Organization: American Society of Addiction Medicine

Site Statement: “The ASAM Weekly is a source of timely, useful news briefings of top stories for addiction medicine combined with ASAM developments in education, advocacy, state chapter news and more. ASAM Weekly is a great way to keep informed and is delivered to the inboxes of ASAM members every Tuesday.”

Best for: News and articles about addiction medicine

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Emails – Resources for Professionals

Site/Organization: Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Site Statement: “The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs… With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction. Stay up-to-date on the latest addiction treatment trends, research and practices as well as news about Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s facilities, events and staff with Clinical Connection, [a] bi-monthly e-newsletter.”

Best for: Free Webinar opportunities, online courses, news, and podcasts

National Harm Reduction Coalition

Site/Organization: National Harm Reduction Coalition

Site Statement: “National Harm Reduction Coalition is a nationwide advocate and ally for people who use drugs. We are a catalyst and incubator, repository and hub, storyteller and disseminator for the collective wisdom of the harm reduction community.”

Best for: Resources, free Webinars, news

Partnership to End Addiction Emails (for Professionals or Family Members/Caregivers)

Site/Organization: Partnership to End Addiction

Site Statement: “Partnership to End Addiction is a result of the cohesive joining of two pioneering and preeminent addiction-focused organizations — Center on Addiction and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. We combine our depth of expertise with our compassion-driven, hands-on approach to deliver solutions to individuals and families and proactively take action to incite productive change. Together, as Partnership to End Addiction, we mobilize families, policymakers, researchers and health care professionals to more effectively address addiction systemically on a national scale.”

Best for: Policy news and research

Mental Health Professionals and Consumers

DBS Alliance Newsletter

Site/Organization: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Site Statement: “DBSA provides hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders. DBSA offers peer-based, wellness-oriented support and empowering services and resources available when people need them, where they need them, and how they need to receive them—online 24/7, in local support groups, in audio and video casts, or in printed materials distributed by DBSA, our chapters, and mental health care facilities across America.”

Best for: News and resources

Mental Health America Newsletter

Site/Organization: Mental Health America (MHA)

Site Statement: “Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all. MHA’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them; with recovery as the goal.”

Best for: Webinars that offer certificates of attendance, news, recommended articles/podcasts, and downloadable toolkits

Research News

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Weekly e-Newsletter

Site/Organization: Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

Site Statement: “The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is a global nonprofit organization focused on improving the understanding, prevention and treatment of psychiatric and mental illnesses. The Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research.”

Best for: News and Webinar opportunities

Recovery Bulletin

Site/Organization: Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital

Site Statement: “The Recovery Research Institute is a leading nonprofit research institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, dedicated to the advancement of addiction treatment and recovery. The Recovery Bulletin is a free monthly e-publication summarizing the latest and best research in addiction treatment and recovery.”

Best for: Research news related to addiction and recovery

ScienceDaily Newsletters

Site/Organization: ScienceDaily

Site Statement: “ScienceDaily features breaking news about the latest discoveries in science, health, the environment, technology, and more – from leading universities, scientific journals, and research organizations.”

Best for: The latest research findings


Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

How to Spot Fake News

According to Wikipedia, fake news is “false or misleading information presented as news. It often has the aim of damaging the reputation of a person or entity, or making money through advertising revenue.”

How can you spot false information, defend yourself against it, and prevent the spread of fake news?

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

How to Spot Fake News

“The news and the truth are not the same thing.”

Walter Lippmann (American Journalist)

Your Brain on Fake News

Many accept fake news as fact – providing that it matches up with their current beliefs. This is due to confirmation bias, the tendency to look for and accept information that supports and confirms (rather than rejects) existing beliefs. Confirmation bias occurs when people gather or remember information selectively, or when they decipher it in a biased manner.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

    • COGNITIVE DISSONANCE CAN LEAD TO CONFIRMATION BIAS. ACCORDING TO THE THEORY OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE, WHEN SITUATIONS INVOLVE CONFLICTING ATTITUDES, BELIEFS, OR BEHAVIORS, PEOPLE EXPERIENCE MENTAL DISCOMFORT. WHEN ONE’S ACTIONS OR THOUGHTS CONTRADICT THEIR BELIEFS, THEY MAY ATTEMPT TO REDUCE THE DISCORD TO ALLEVIATE GUILT, SHAME, AND ANXIETY.
    • AN EXAMPLE OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE IS AN ANIMAL LOVER WHO FEELS GUILTY FOR EATING MEAT. AS A RESULT, THEY EXPERIENCE DISCOMFORT. TO REDUCE SHAME AND RESTORE A SENSE OF BALANCE, THEY MAY REJECT OR AVOID INFORMATION THAT PROMOTES VEGANISM OR CRUELTY-FREE LIVING.

Your brain happily receives and accepts information that aligns with your belief system while ignoring or distorting information that threatens your views. Research indicates that the effect is stronger for deeply ingrained and/or emotionally-charged biases and beliefs. Deep-seated biases/views that are formed early in life can be difficult to ‘unlearn’ because they reside in your unconscious mind.

To compensate for confirmation bias, a person must develop critical thinking skills and have a flexible (not rigid) thinking style. To challenge long-held (sometimes unconscious) prejudices, expose yourself to different viewpoints and perspectives. Also, question what you learned (or were told) in childhood.

Other ways to increase awareness are through assessment, such as the Implicit Association Test from Project Implicit, and training, such as the Implicit Bias Module Series (from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity).

By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become the master of both inner and outer life.

Deepak Chopra (Indian-American Author & Alternative Medicine Advocate)

The Misinformation TRAP

A second reason our brains are easily influenced by inaccurate or misleading information (even when we know better) is the result of routine cognitive processes involved in memory and comprehension.

When our brains are flooded with large quantities of information (i.e., the onslaught of news stories from multiple sources), we’re wired to quickly ‘download’ material rather than critically evaluate and analyze. This is the brain’s attempt at preserving its more complex functions. Later, the brain pulls up the readily available misinformation first because it’s easier to retrieve.

Moreover, research indicates that we’re more likely to believe fake news when both accurate and inaccurate information are mixed together in a source.

To avoid the misinformation trap, critically evaluate information immediately, always consider the source, and be aware of the brain’s difficulty with processing information that’s a mix of both fact and fiction.

Emotional Reactions & ‘Gut Feelings’

Emotions play a role in how we receive and process new information. Fear and anger are especially influential. Unfortunately, many people stick with their initial reactions or feelings instead of questioning the validity of a source. Attitudes towards a news source may also influence our automatic reactions.

On the other hand, individuals who rely on concrete evidence are less likely to be swayed by fake news. Researchers found that the acceptance of falsehoods and conspiracy theories was linked to having faith in intuition and/or associating truth with politics and power. Trusting our gut leaves us susceptible to misinformation. Alternately, relying on evidence makes us less likely to believe false news.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

John Adams

To avoid being misled, notice any strong reactions you have, consider how you feel about the source, and rely on fact, not feeling.

Political Affiliation & Other Influences

Political affiliation influences how we process information. One reason for this is that strong identification with a political party generates a sense of belonging and loyalty. This leads to valuing party ideals over accuracy. Both liberals and conservatives are more likely to believe false information when it aligns with their political party.

“Blind party loyalty will be our downfall. We must follow the truth wherever it leads.”

Dr. DaShanne Stokes (Sociologist and Social Justice Advocate)

What’s more, political affiliation may impact how likely we are to spread false news on social media. According to research, Republicans are less likely than Democrats to have confidence in fact-checkers, and are therefore more likely to share fake news.

Interestingly, political affiliation may also predict how we react to false information about potential threats or hazards. Researchers found that conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe fake warnings and that liberals are more likely to dismiss false information about endangerment or risk.

Regarding gender and age, some research suggests that men are more likely than women to spread misinformation on social media as are individuals over the age of 65.

When it comes to politics and political news, be aware that partisan identity may lead to believing and/or spreading misinformation. Political views may also impact how likely you are to respond to warnings about potential threats and endangerment. Gender and age are additional factors that may contribute to the spread of fake news.

Check Your Source!

When you utilize social media sites for news, you’re less likely to consider the source and more likely to be misled by fake news. Social media sites like Facebook provide users with entertainment (videos, memes, etc.), community, an online marketplace, job postings, news, and more. The intermixing of content is what makes it difficult to discern fiction from fact.

“The information you get from social media is not a substitute for academic discipline at all.”

Bill Nye (Science Guy)

To reduce the impact of false information you encounter on social media, avoid using Facebook as your primary news platform, and when you do come across a questionable post, always check the source!

Closing Thoughts

In sum, there are many reasons why we’re susceptible to fake news, but there are also evidence-based strategies to avoid being misled.

STRATEGIES FOR SPOTTING FAKE NEWS

    1. 1) Use critical thinking
    2. 2) Remain aware of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance
    3. 3) Develop a flexible thinking style
    1. 4) Increase awareness of your own biases and challenge your beliefs
    2. 5) Rely on fact, not emotion or intuition
    3. 6) Consider your political affiliation and other influences (such as gender and age)
    4. 7) Avoid social media for news
    5. 8) Always check the source!

See below for links to a list of fake news hits (from Buzzfeed) and lists of websites that promote false information (from CBS, Forbes, and Wikipedia).

Fake News Sites

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Marketing Tactic Traps

Marketers use psychological tactics to influence, convince, and even deceive consumers. This article explores some of the lesser-know marketing traps and how you can avoid them.

Image by Aurore Duwez from Pixabay

Marketing Tactic Traps: How Advertisers Use Psychology to Sway

I’m sure it’s no surprise when you Google “bathing suits,” and shortly thereafter, swimwear ads litter your Facebook feed. Wikipedia defines marketing as “the business process of identifying, anticipating and satisfying customers’ needs and wants.” But what about marketing tactic traps?

There’s an entire branch of research dedicated to understanding consumer behavior via psychological, technological, and economical principles. However, you may be less aware of misleading marketing tactics intended to foster false trust or play on subconscious fears.

Here’s a real life example: Recently, I used DoorDash to order breakfast from Silver Diner. I was shocked when the total came to nearly $70. Luckily, my husband was too; he suggested going directly through the restaurant. I selected the equivalent menu items and it was $30 cheaper!! DoorDash not only raised entrée prices, but charged additional fees on top of the delivery fee and tip. To think, I wouldn’t have compared prices had my husband not been (duly) outraged; I almost fell victim to “brand trust.”

Consider the companies you trust. Why don’t you question their products, services, prices, etc.? Are you brand-washed?

To avoid misleading marketing tactic traps, always compare prices, read reviews from verified buyers, avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry, steer clear of end-of-aisles deals, buy off-season, etc.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

This article explores a few lesser-known ways marketers influence consumers by using psychological principles (marketing tactic traps), and how to avoid them. When you, the consumer, know the science behind advertising strategies, you’re better equipped to make educated decisions (and will avoid feeling betrayed by a food delivery app!)


A false sense of health

Advertisers use health-related buzzwords like “gluten-free” or “organic” to lure buyers with an impression of being nutritious. In one study, consumers viewed items stamped with healthy-sounding catchphrases as healthier than non-stamped foods.

Real life example: Years ago, I accompanied a friend to the grocery store. In the dairy section, she grabbed a jug of whole milk. I knew she wanted to lose weight, so I suggested skim. Dubious, she expressed concern because it wasn’t “vitamin D-rich.” Had she consulted the nutrition facts instead of scanning labels, she would know whole and skim have equal amounts of the vitamin.

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

The Health “Buzzword” Marketing Tactic Trap

Avoid this marketing tactic trap by reading nutrition facts and ingredients before buying. (Sure, those Fruit Loops are made with whole grain, but the first ingredient is sugar!)

Beware of fast-paced music in a crowded store… it’s a trap!

Researchers found that consumers’ spending increased as the tempo of the music quickened. In addition to spending more, shoppers purchased additional items (instead of opting for fewer products at higher prices). Interestingly, this effect was only observable when the store was crowded.

To avoid this marketing tactic trap, remain aware of your environment when shopping and if possible, go when crowds are thin (or at least wear ear buds).

An unconscious fear of dying may lead you to buy more bottled water – and water bottle companies capitalize on it!

(Um, what? I thought the occasional 7-Eleven purchase of Deer Park was a combination of laziness and convenience on my part, not an ominous and looming fear of my fragile mortality.)

The Bottled Water Marketing Tactic Trap

In 2018, researchers asserted that “most bottled-water advertising campaigns target a deep psychological vulnerability in humans, compelling them to buy and consume particular products. Bottled water ads specifically trigger our most subconscious fear [of death].” It was also suggested that bottled water symbolizes something safe and pure – compelling when you want to avoid health risks.

Image by Franck Barske from Pixabay

According to the study, bottled water appeals most to people who measure their personal value by their physical appearance, fitness levels, material and financial wealth, class, and status.

Whether or not this study withstands replication, consider a filter!

Don’t shop for beach gear on a sunny day

Save your shopping for poorer weather conditions. Researchers found that consumers place a higher value on associated products respective to the weather.

The rationale: It’s easier for someone to visualize the comfort of a fluffy beach towel or the shade of an umbrella when it’s hot and bright (compared to when it’s pouring rain), thereby increasing the desire to make a purchase.  Interestingly, this seems to hold true for sunny or snowy conditions, but not rainy weather. It was speculated that rain gear is typically purchased to avoid unpleasant conditions, not to increase enjoyment.

Be wary of the weather when shopping for that beach trip or ski vacation in the mountains; you may end up spending more than intended.

Marketing’s subtle siren song is a hidden trap!

If you’re not one who’s influenced by the “logical persuasion” of advertisements, you may still be subconsciously enticed by the “non-rational influence.” Different kinds of advertisements evoke different types of brain activity.

Even the wisest consumer can be “seduced.” Marketers both overtly and subtly influence our buying behaviors. Your brain will unavoidably betray you at times; you can either accept this or become a hermit. (You may also consider shopping where there are lenient return policies, but be wary of policies that seem too lenient, as this may be a ploy.)

The relaxation trap– don’t get too comfortable!

A 2011 study indicated that relaxed consumers perceived items at a higher value when compared to their less-relaxed (although not stressed) counterparts.

Image by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay

If you’re a bargain-hunter, stay alert to how you’re feeling before entering a store or searching on Amazon; otherwise, you may think you’re getting a great deal when you’re not. (And if you use social media, know that ads may have more sway when you’re sleepy.)


In the midst of marketing tactic traps, misleading ads, and #fakenews, stick with the facts and don’t be swayed.


For more research, see 5 Recent Research Findings on Health & Human Behavior.

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Research Findings on Health & Psychology

As a #researchNerd, I’m obsessed with new discoveries and scientific explanations, especially when it comes to human behavior. Here are five interesting studies that have been published this year (and it’s only April!)

5 Recent Research Findings on Health & Human Behavior

I’m something of a #researchNerd. I fell in love with my research and stats class in college. My undergrad study (on tipping behavior) was even published in a peer-reviewed international journal!

It was in grad school that I strayed from the research path to pursue a more clinical route (counseling).

Today, to satisfy my appetite for science, I subscribe to ScienceDaily, an amazing site that posts short summaries of the latest findings in health, technology, and society.

Here are some of the more interesting research findings from ScienceDaily in 2019 (and it’s only April!):

Recipe for Distress

February 21, 2019

We already know there’s a link between junk food and certain medical conditions (i.e. obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes), but more and more researchers are finding a strong correlation between diet and mental well-being.

In this study, researchers found that people who ate more junk food (sugar-sweetened snacks/drinks, fried foods, etc.) had higher levels of psychological stress.

Original Study: Mental health status and dietary intake among California adults: A population-based survey

Why Is It So Difficult to Move on after a Breakup? Because Science

March 11, 2019

It turns out, there’s a reason it’s hard to forget about all the good times with your ex or get that cringe-worthy mishap at work out of your head; it takes more brain power to forget than to remember. According to a recent study, it takes a “moderate amount” of brain power to intentionally forget something. (#worthIt)

Original Study: More is less: Increased processing of unwanted memories facilitates forgetting

“Killer” Style: Men and Women Serial Killers Have Distinct Methods

March 20, 2019

Are you being “hunted”? Or “gathered”? It turns out, male and female serial killers have distinct approaches when it comes to killing. Evolutionary science may explain why men tend to stalk their victims while women’s victims tend to be people they know.

Original Study: Sex differences in serial killers

All about that Bass (Or Not…)

April 3, 2019

…obese persons were considered “less human.”

This unsettling study revealed that individuals with obesity are not only stigmatized, but dehumanized. Researchers found that obese persons were considered “less human.” This type of attitude can lead to ridicule or discrimination.

#fightStigma

Original Study: Blatant dehumanization of people with obesity

A Million Reasons to Read to Your Young Child!

April 4, 2019

Researchers found a “million word gap” for children who weren’t read to at home. In fact, kids who grow up with books hear about 1.4 million more words than their counterparts by kindergarten.

Original Study: When children are not read to at home


Hungry for more? Keep discovering!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Developing Healthy Boundaries

Why is it important to set and adhere to healthy boundaries? How can you tell if yours are weak?

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

Robert Frost

Thoughts on Building & Maintaining “Good Fences”

When I picture a boundary, I imagine drawing a circle with a stick in the dirt… with me in the middle. I stay in; everyone else stays out. Boundaries are protective; they keep us safe. Without boundaries, you have no limits, no sense of direction. Without boundaries, you open yourself up… anyone can come in, with good or bad intentions.

If you have poor boundaries in a dating relationship, you could end up doing things you’re not comfortable with. Or, another example might be with your boss; if you don’t set firm limits, you could end up taking one extra tasks.

I once worked with a client who regularly violated his partner’s boundaries by yelling, “Phone check!” whenever he wanted to check his girlfriend’s cell. She’d hand it over and he’d review her calls/read her texts. It was a boundary violation for sure. Everyone has a right to privacy. (That being said, your partner never has the right to go through your phone, read your journal, request your social media passwords, etc. Those are all boundary violations; they could also indicate that the relationship is in trouble.)

Another way to conceptualize a boundary is to picture mosquito netting. It keeps the mosquitoes out, but it’s flexible and lightweight. It lets in air, sunlight, a cool breeze… A mosquito net is a healthy boundary. If you were to instead build a brick structure, you’d be doing a lot of unnecessary work and you’d probably still get bit.  

It’s best to be up front and honest about the boundaries you set (which requires assertiveness). With your boss, the first time he asks if you can stay late on a Friday, you might end up saying yes. (It’s probably just a onetime thing, right?) Seeing that you don’t say no the first time, he may continue to ask you to stay late or take on extra work. The alternative (boundary-setting) option would be to say (when he first asks), “I’m sorry, although I’d love to be able to, I have a policy against being away from home on Fridays. It’s family night at my house.” It’s unlikely he’ll ask you again because you very firmly (and politely) set a boundary.

On the other hand, if you’re passionate about your career, you could be flexible and stay late (especially if you’re hoping for a promotion or a raise) without feeling as though your boundaries have been violated. The important thing is to know where you stand (i.e. what your boundary is).

Equally important to setting boundaries is adhering to them once they’re established. There are people out there who love to test boundaries. A boundary is useless without follow through. Your boundary becomes meaningless if you say you’re not going to do something and then you do it anyway. If you tell your child “no candy before dinner,” but then finally give in after several bouts of dramatic tears, you’re sending a message. The message is “When I say no, I don’t mean it.” It’s important to be consistent with boundaries.

Signs of Weak Boundaries

  • A lack of assertiveness
  • Altering your personal values for someone (especially in a romantic relationship)
  • Having a sexual relationship with someone when you’re not ready
  • Not being able to say “no”
  • Trusting others quickly (when it’s not warranted)
  • Falling in love quickly or believing an acquaintance is your best friend when you only met the day before

Rigid boundaries, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the spectrum. A person with rigid boundaries doesn’t trust easily or let others in. It would be difficult to be in an intimate relationship with a person with rigid boundaries.

How to Develop Healthy Boundaries

Firstly, know that it will take time. Be patient with yourself and don’t criticize yourself if you fall back into old habits.

Recognize (and accept) your right to establish and adhere to personal boundaries. Read one of Dr. Cloud’s books on boundaries or Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More. Personally, I like Co-dependents Anonymous’ recovery literature. It’s an easy read (four pages) and you can access it for free.

If you haven’t already, take time to clarify your values. You can do a values sort – there are plenty of free resources online. It’s something I frequently do with my clients. What’s most important to you? Family? Integrity? Kindness? Have unhealthy boundaries affected this value in the past? (If kindness is most important to you, and you identify as a “people pleaser,” consider all the times you’ve been unkind to yourself. Explore ideas for practicing kindness to both others and self.)

Also, deliberate on the behaviors you find unacceptable (in terms of how you’re treated). Looking back on past relationships, I dated men who cheated on me, called me names, were mean to my friends, and yes, even checked my phone. Completely unacceptable. At this point in my life, I have a zero tolerance policy.

When you establish boundaries, especially with those who don’t expect it (i.e. your mother-in-law or the neighbor who regularly lets his dog romp through your garden), anticipate some push back. It probably won’t feel good in the moment.

Practice assertiveness. Don’t back down. If someone is particularly resistant, don’t engage in an argument.  You don’t owe an explanation. You don’t even have to respond. Remain calm; walk away if needed. If it helps, pre-plan your exact wording. (“I’m sorry, but I’m no longer able to stay till 9 on Fridays. Unexpected circumstances at home won’t allow it.”) Be concise. Don’t be overly apologetic.

If the person you’re setting boundaries with is a significant other or family member, I’d recommend transparency. Let them know that you’re going to make some changes. Share how unhealthy boundaries have negatively impacted you. (Give specific examples if you can.) Don’t place blame. Talk about how healthy boundaries will positively impact not just you,but the relationship. It may still be difficult. There may be some tension; the relationship might feel strained. (And it’s okay.)

If you set boundaries and find them repeatedly violated; firstly, take a step back and reevaluate the situation. Have you been clear and consistent? If so, you may want to consider spending less time with this person or even ending the relationships. Unfortunately, while you can set boundaries, you can’t force someone to respect them.


In sum, boundaries are imperative. Skin is a boundary that keeps other organs in place; it shields our body systems from toxins, viruses, and bacteria that would otherwise be deadly. It keeps the bad stuff out (and the good stuff in). Healthy boundaries are our emotional skin. If you need a boundaries tune up, it could take some effort, but is well worth it. You’ll experience increased satisfaction in your relationships and will feel more confidence.Your overall well-being will improve; boundaries are freeing – by communicating your needs, it’s less likely you’ll feel angry or resentful. And lastly, you’ll find that others have a greater level of respect for you. “Good fences,” it would seem, are not limited to neighbors!


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

4 Strategies for Better Decision-Making

Individuals with “big picture” styles of reasoning make better decisions. Learn four strategies for “big picture” thinking to get optimal results.

A recent study found that a “big picture” style of thinking led to better decision-making. (“Better” decisions were defined as those resulting in maximum benefits.)

If you took the Myers-Briggs (a personality assessment), and fell on the “Intuition” side of the spectrum (like me!), it’s likely you’re already a “big picture” thinker. If you’re on the “Sensing” side, you’re more apt to examine individual facts before considering the sum of all parts.

“Big picture” thinking is a practical and balanced method of reasoning. It suggests taking a step back (zoom out!)… and looking to see how all pieces fit together for more effective decision-making.

The following strategies promote “big picture” thinking for better decision-making:

1. Get a good night’s rest

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that sleep is essential for “relational memory” (or the ability to make inferences, i.e. “big picture” thinking).

Before making a tough decision, sleep on it; you’ll wake up with a new perspective! In addition to healthy sleep hygiene, the following strategies have been found to improve sleep:

2. Don’t deliberate for long

Research indicates that when weighing out options, it’s ideal to take small breaks. For more effective decision-making, don’t deliberate for long periods of time or you’ll start to lose focus. If things become fuzzy, you won’t see the big picture.

3. Bay day = bad decision

One study found that a positive mood is related to a “big picture” thinking style. Good moods are associated with broader and more flexible thinking. A positive mood enables someone to step back emotionally, psychologically distancing themselves from the decision at hand.

If you’re feeling salty, hold off on making that decision. Instead, try one (or all!) of the following research-based techniques for boosting your mood:

4. Get a second opinion

Ask around to learn how others’ view your situation. Every perspective you collect is another piece of the “big picture” puzzle.

Seek opinions from those you trust (only those who have your best interests in mind). Make sure you ask a variety of people (especially those with whom you typically disagree). The end result is a broader and more comprehensive awareness of what you’re facing.


Employ all four strategies to optimize your thinking style and decision-making skills!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


  • References
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2010, April 4). Maintaining regular daily routines is associated with better sleep quality in older adults. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100401085336.htm
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2008, June 12). Moderate Exercise Can Improve Sleep Quality Of Insomnia Patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611071129.htm
  • American Chemical Society (ACS). (2012, August 19). Good mood foods: Some flavors in some foods resemble a prescription mood stabilizer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 10, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120819153457.htm
  • American Psychological Association. (2018, April 23). Let it go: Mental breaks after work improve sleep: Repetitive thoughts on rude behavior at work results in insomnia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423110828.htm
  • Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. (2012, May 14). A walk in the park gives mental boost to people with depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120514134303.htm
  • Berman, M. G., Kross, E., Krpan, K. M., Askren, M. K., Burson, A., Deldin, P. J., Kaplan, S., Sherdell, L., Gotlib, I. H., & Jonides, J. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.012
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. (2007, April 21). To Understand The Big Picture, Give It Time – And Sleep. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 17, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070420104732.htm
  • Black, D. S., O’Reilly, G. A., Olmstead, R., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances. JAMA Internal Medicine, DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081
  • Curry, O., Rowland, L., Zlotowitz, S., McAlaney, J., & Whitehouse, H. (2016). Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Open Science Framework
  • Demsky, C. A. et al. (2018). Workplace incivility and employee sleep: The role of rumination and recovery experiences. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, DOI: 10.1037/ocp0000116
  • The JAMA Network Journals. (2015, February 16). Mindfulness meditation appears to help improve sleep quality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150216131115.htm
  • Labroo, A., Patrick, V., & Deighton, J. served as editor and Luce, M. F. served as associate editor for this article. (2009). Psychological distancing: Why happiness helps you see the big picture. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(5), 800-809. DOI: 10.1086/593683
  • Northwestern University. (2017, July 10). Purpose in life by day linked to better sleep at night: Older adults whose lives have meaning enjoy better sleep quality, less sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170710091734.htm
  • Ohio State University. (2018, July 13). How looking at the big picture can lead to better decisions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180713111931.htm
  • Spira, A. P. (2015). Being mindful of later-life sleep quality and its potential role in prevention. JAMA Internal Medicine, DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8093
  • Stillman, P. E., Fujita, K., Sheldon, O., & Trope, Y. (2018). From “me” to “we”: The role of construal level in promoting maximized joint outcomes. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 147(16), DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2018.05.004
  • Turner, A. D., Smith, C. E., & Ong, J. C. (2017). Is purpose in life associated with less sleep disturbance in older adults? Sleep Science and Practice, 1(1), DOI: 10.1186/s41606-017-0015-6
  • University of Michigan. (2009, June 3). Feeling Close To a Friend Increases Progesterone, Boosts Well-being and Reduces Anxiety and Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090602171941.htm
  • University of Oxford. (2016, October 5). Being kind to others does make you ‘slightly happier’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161005102254.htm
  • Zisberg, A., Gur-Yaish, N., & Shochat, T. (2010). Contribution of routine to sleep quality in community elderly. Sleep, 33(4), 509-514.

3 Reasons We Keep Toxic People in Our Lives

Why do we keep toxic people in our lives? Despite the emotional costs, many people chose to remain in toxic relationships. This post explores the emotional reasoning behind not letting go.

Recently, an acquaintance told me about breaking up with his toxic girlfriend. Listening to his story, I both cringed and laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it. (Think The Break-Up meets Fatal Attraction.) His humorously-told narrative left me wondering, how on earth did it get to that?

It began when his at-the-time girlfriend “secretly” moved in with him. At first, she’d stay for a night or two, which eventually turned into weeks at a time, until all her stuff was there and my friend found himself with a live-in girlfriend. (It’s worth mentioning he’d seen a few “red flags” early on, but chose to ignore them… as we often do under the spell of infatuation.) Now living with her, he couldn’t turn a blind eye to the fact that she had some serious mental health and interpersonal issues. Furthermore, the relationship had taken a turn for the worse; they were constantly fighting.

So, my friend (wisely) broke up with her and told her to get out. And… she refused. (Really??) She claimed there was a law permitting her to stay since she’d been there for X amount of time. (Note: This is also when he found out she was homeless.)

He kicked her out of the bedroom (and she slept on the couch). To “encourage” her to leave, he took her parking pass, along with her new iPhone (which he undoubtedly bought in a more amiable era). To further “motivate,” he even shut off her cell service.

Despite his efforts, weeks stretched on; she continued to live (rent-free) on his couch.

To make a long story short… she eventually left. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post) … but not until the apartment manager and police got involved. (It turned out her tenant rights claim, while valid, was not actually applicable to her situation.)

My initial reaction to the whole fiasco was incredulity – Seriously, how could he let it go that far? – but after reflecting on past relationships… it was suddenly very easy to understand. (I’ve made my fair share of relationship mistakes.)

The reality is, it’s never as simple as “it’s over, get out.” Relationships require a certain level of emotional investment and commitment. Plus, there are multiple factors (such as debt, illness, or infidelity) that contribute to a relationship’s complexity.

Back to my friend… to be fair, the reason he remained in a toxic relationship was her refusal to vacate the apartment; his options were limited… but, instead of allowing it drag on, he could have taken action earlier.  Anyway, the story has a happy(ish) ending (for my friend, probably not his ex). He has his place back (hopefully a lesson learned) and got free blog inspiration. This post is 100% inspired by my friend’s toxic relationship. (Thank you for letting me share!)

3 Reasons We Keep Toxic People in Our Lives

(Apart from “tenant rights”) what are reasons we allow toxic or difficult people (friends, family, and/or romantic partners) to remain in our lives? Why is it so hard to let go?

1. Either You Need Them (or You Can’t Ignore Them)

A recent study suggests we keep toxic people around simply because their lives are intertwined with ours. For example, your aging mother-in-law, who degrades and insults you, lives at your home, despite the negative impact this has on your life. Your options are limited because your husband is unwilling to put her in a nursing home (and you may also depend on her for things, like childcare or help with the bills).

Another example would be toxic co-workers; you don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to your boss or colleagues, and you can’t entirely avoid them or refuse to talk about work-related stuff (unless you’re okay with losing your job). If pursing a new position isn’t practical, your next best option is to find a way to effectively deal with workplace toxicity.

That being said, you don’t have the power to change anyone else. To manage your reactions and interactions with toxic people, acknowledge the need for self-adjustment, including attitude and role. Examine your personal views. Lower expectations for others; accept that people will do and say things you don’t agree with… and it’s not something you can control. Once you’ve reached the point of radical acceptance, follow guidelines for effective communication (i.e. active listening, avoiding blame, being aware of tone and body language, reflecting for clarity, etc.) in conversations with toxic people, whether it’s your mother-in-law or your boss. By being proactive, you’re doing your part to avoid getting caught up in others’ toxicity.

In the face of unavoidable toxicity, I find switching to a “counselor role” to be a tremendous asset; I set aside my personal viewpoint, opening myself to alternative views, while seeking to understand (not judge) behavior. (You don’t have to be a counselor to do this!) I view individuals in terms of “what happened to you?” instead of assuming they’re malicious or intentional. (People act the way they do for some reason.) I don’t know what’s happening in a “toxic” person’s life or what they’ve been through. (Maybe that snarky co-worker is in an abusive relationship and lives in fear. Or maybe her son is in the hospital with brain cancer. Or, it’s possible she grew up in a home where her parents yelled and disrespected each other, shaping her view of relationships. The snarky attitude makes sense when viewed through different lenses.) While it’s never okay to be an asshole, I can understand why people are jerks. Somehow, this knowledge serves as an immunity when encountering a toxic person. Their behavior is the result of something bad that happened to them; it has nothing to do with me and I can choose whether or not to engage. They don’t have power to negatively impact me unless I give it up.

2. Toxic Love: It Feels Better to Stay

When Joe Strummer of the Clash sang the question, “Should I stay or should I go now?”; he knew the answer. (Note: Firm boundaries and healthy decisions aren’t the stuff of chart-topping hits.) We stay in unhealthy relationships or continue to hang out with toxic friends because it feels good (at times, at least). The boyfriend who yells at you can also be incredibly sweet and caring. Or your gossipy friend who talks about you behind your back also happens to be the most fun person you know. Despite the sense that it’s unhealthy, you (like Strummer) can’t resist. And like my friend, you ignore the red flags because you crave the rush or the intensity… or maybe what you desire most is the feeling of being wanted. (Despite the toxicity, it’s worth it, just to feel wanted… or is it?)

Beyond just feeling good, it’s entirely possible to deeply love a toxic person (no matter how wrong they are for you). You don’t want to give up on the person they could be; maybe you’re in love with their potential (or an idea of what the relationship could be). You believe it’s better to sacrifice your happiness (your dignity, your well-being, your independence) than to be without the person you love.

On the flip side, some people stay in toxic relationships because deep down, they believe they can’t do any better and/or the abuse is a preferable alternative to being alone. It could also mean they believe they deserve to be punished (which sometimes happens when a person remains in an abusive relationship for a long time). Or, they may reason that it’s better to hang out with a “mean girl” than sit and stare at the walls on a Friday night (with only the cat for company).

If you can relate to staying in a toxic relationship because it feels good or are afraid of being alone, carefully consider and weigh out the long-term costs of a toxic relationship. There are far worse and more damaging things than being alone. If the idea of being alone terrifies you, maybe it’s an indication that something’s not right… that you’re not okay. It could be a sign of low self-worth or could point to an intense fear of abandonment. It may also signify a lack of understanding of what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Lastly, an intense fear of being alone is associated with some of the personality disorders and/or could be the result of trauma.

3. It’s (So Much) Easier to Stay

Breaking up is messy and uncomfortable. In my experience, most people avoid conflict when possible. Despite conflict being a natural, everyday occurrence, it can feel unpleasant, even for those with expert conflict resolution skills. However, avoiding conflict in relationships does more harm than good. In a healthy relationship, it’s necessary to address problems in order to resolve them, thereby strengthening the relationship.

In a toxic relationship, conflict should not be avoided, but for different reasons. It may be easier to ignore the reality of your situation than to get honest, but this is detrimental (not only to you, but to your partner, who will never have the opportunity to change so long as you enable the toxicity to continue).

You may wish to avoid the emotional drain that accompanies confrontation, but in the long run, you’ll lose more emotional energy if you remain in a toxic relationship. (A steep, one-time payment is preferable to the ongoing, daily emotional sacrifices/abuses associated with toxicity; you’re slowly poisoned as time goes on.)

If you choose to end a toxic relationship, be realistic; it’s not going to be easy… and it’s going to hurt. A lot. You may love this person a great deal (and maybe you’ve long held on to the hope they’d change). Go into it with low (or no) expectations. When things feel unbearable, remember that the easy things in life matter little; the difficult stuff is what leads to personal growth, success, and resilience.

Conclusion

In closing, I’m sure there are multitudes of reasons people have for staying in toxic relationships; this post is by no means comprehensive. I’m also certain, whatever the reason, it seems justifiable to them. People don’t choose toxicity without some sort of justification (if not for others, than at least for themselves). Unfortunately, rationalizations don’t offer protection from harm. No matter the reason for remaining in a toxic relationship, it’s not worth the cost.


What are other reasons people have for staying in a toxic relationship? Why is letting go so hard? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


  • References
  • Bar-Ilan University. (2018, January 17). Why we keep difficult people in our lives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 14, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180117152513.htm
  • Offer, S., & Fischer, C.S. (2017). Difficult people: Who is perceived to be demanding in personal networks and why are they there? American Sociological Review, 000312241773795, DOI: 10.1177/0003122417737951

8 Types of Liars

Read about 8 common types of liars ranging on a spectrum from the very worst (the pathological liar) to the least harmful, the well-meaning tactful liar.

I find the psychology of lying fascinating. So, while browsing research devoted solely to falsehoods (on which I’ll write a future post), I started to reflect on the different types of liars I’ve met throughout the years.

This led to a Google search (“types of liars”) to see if it’s a thing. And it is… kinda – for example, there’s the sociopathic liar vs. the occasional liar vs. the white liar… all different types of liars.

The different types of liars can be categorized as ranging on a spectrum from pathological (the very worst type of liar) on one end, to tactful (the least harmful type of liar) on the opposite end (while taking into consideration, of course, the various reasons people lie.)


In this article, I describe the 8 types of liars I’ve encountered, both as a professional counselor and in my personal life.

 

Types of Liars

1. The pathological liar

This person lies constantly, for any reason, or for no reason at all. They don’t know when they’re lying and they’re incapable of being honest with not only others, but with themselves. Due to this, it’s impossible to have an authentic relationship with the pathological liar; their reality shifts on a whim.

What I consider pathological lying is what others may refer to as sociopathic. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), repeated lying is a criterion for diagnosing antisocial personality disorder (formerly known as sociopathy or psychopathy).

The pathological liar isn’t necessarily dangerous or cruel, but they’ll never be someone you can trust. The pathological liar, providing they have other redeeming qualities, is a suitable acquaintance, but never a loyal friend, partner, or spouse.

2. The intentional liar

This type of liar enjoys pushing your buttons. They lie for the fun of it – for the sake of entertainment. It makes them feel powerful and in control. The people they lie to are their pawns. They often desire an audience.

While the intentional liar is similar to the pathological liar in some ways, they differ in that they’re fully aware of their untruths. The intentional liar is the high school quarterback who asks the least popular girl to prom… and then tells her it was just a prank – in front of all his friends.

Sometimes, the intentional liar poses as a jokester, but they’re malicious and cruel.

They fib to get a reaction and then say (in a mean-spirited way), “I was just f—ing with you!” Sometimes, the intentional liar poses as a jokester, but they’re malicious and cruel. The only reason they’re not ranked higher than the pathological liar is that by possessing awareness, they at least have the capacity to change.

3. The manipulative liar

They lie to get what they want. They have an end goal and will do or say whatever it takes to achieve it.

They often use flattery or say what they think you want to hear in order to get a promotion, make a sale, get elected… or get in your pants.

Like the pathological liar, you won’t know where you stand with the manipulative liar. (Does she think you’re witty? Or does she like free dinner?) The manipulative liar is not malicious, but they can still cause harm. They have no place in your life.

 

4. The protective liar

They’ll go to any length to protect a secret, be it the murder of their lover’s wife or a demotion at work.

This type of liar is at times dangerous, but can also be perceived as noble; it all depends on what (or who) they’re protecting. They’ll go to any length to protect a secret, be it the murder of their lover’s wife or a demotion at work. They have no moral objections to lying as long as it serves their purpose.

They may protect your secrets as well, making them a loyal friend or spouse.

The danger lies in who or what they choose to protect. This type of liar may posses dark secrets that would shake you to the core if revealed. You’ll never know what they keep hidden and therefore, you’ll never (fully) know who they are. Their secret could be as benign as a childhood stutter… or it could be devastating and unspeakable, such as carrying on a secret love affair with your best friend or a past as a child sexual molester.

5. The avoidant liar

Instead of being straightforward, they make excuses or dance around the truth.

They strive to avoid anything they find unpleasant; instead of being honest, they offer partial truths or deflect. It could be that the avoidant liar is evading conflict or doesn’t want to complete a particular task. Maybe they don’t want to be judged. Instead of being straightforward, they make excuses or dance around the truth.

For example, the avoidant liar who opts out of a family dinner because they can’t stand their mother-in-law pleads a migraine. Or the avoidant liar who oversleeps and is late to work tells their boss they got a flat tire. And the avoidant liar who drunkenly spills red wine on the white carpet blames it on the dog.

Avoidant liars are frustrating because they often don’t say what they mean; you can never be sure if you’re getting the truth, a half truth, or a made-up excuse.

6. The impressive liar

They aim to impress. This person might not see themselves as a liar; they may not even realize they’re being deceitful. They fabricate to gain the approval of others. They may stretch the truth to make a story a bit funnier. They fake a feeling to seem more self-assured than they are.

Lying to impress is more of a habit than a conscious act. The impressive liar believes their own stories after telling them time after time. (For example, after multiple retellings of a bar fight, the impressive liar actually believes that he knocked out three burly bikers, when in reality, he broke his fist attempting to punch the bartender for cutting him off.)

Impressive liars are mostly harmless, but can be annoying, especially when they’re obviously fibbing. They pose little risk… but why spend time with someone who feels the need to pretend to be something they’re not?

7. The lazy liar

Sometimes, speaking candidly requires an explanation. The lazy liar streamlines the truth because it’s less complicated than giving the full narrative.

The lazy liar doesn’t share the full story; rather, they opt to recount the edited “movie version” of the truth as opposed to the 700-page book version.

For example, saying, “I was late because I grabbed the wrong report” is easier than “I’m late because after I grabbed the report, I realized one page was missing, and when I went back, I had to reprint the entire report because the page numbers were off and the heading was on a separate sheet. I then stopped to use the bathroom.” (Not worth the effort, right?)

Lazy lying is (relatively) harmless. The lazy liar doesn’t share the full story; rather, they opt to recount the edited “movie version” of the truth as opposed to the 700-page book version. (The only time lazy lying can be problematic is when the lazy liar deems a detail unimportant when it is, in fact, imperative.)

 

8. The tactful liar

They are considerate and well-meaning. They offer overly-optimistic reassurances when things aren’t going well and find themselves saying things like, “It wasn’t that bad” (even when yes, it was indeed that bad).

They’re pleasant to be around. Your plus-sized butt will never look fat in jeans and your disastrous dye job will be “edgy,” not “traffic-cone orange.”

What they lack in candor, they make up for in amiability.

You also won’t know when there’s spinach in your teeth, if your fly is down, when your breath is bad, or if your PowerPoint presentation was dull.

The tactful liar has the best of intentions; they don’t want to upset you or hurt your feelings. What they lack in candor, they make up for in amiability.


An honorable mention for the heroic (self-sacrificing) liar. This type of liar is exceedingly rare, which is why they’re not included with the eight more common types of liars. The heroic liar is similar to the protective liar in that they’ll go to extremes to protect, but in their case, they lie to defend (or safeguard) someone they love (or to save a stranger even, if they believe it’s the right thing to do).

For example, if two children (brothers) are playing, and the youngest breaks a lamp, the older (heroic liar) will take the blame to save the younger from a spanking.

The heroic liar’s place on the spectrum would fall at the very end, past the well-meaning liar.


Can you relate to any of the above liars? Maybe you’re personally acquainted with one (or several) of them?



Leave your thoughts in a comment and share this post with your favorite liars!


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP