LiveStrong & SFGate Media for “Psychologist” Christine Whelan

On August 6th, 2010

Two fun media mentions recently:

LiveStrong’s advice section quotes me as an expert on how to date a smart woman. And picked up a quote of mine from Cosmopolitan last year about splitting the bill in relationships.

The quotes are accurate. I love getting media attention.

But what’s amusing is that both publications say I’m a psychologist. I’m not. I’m a sociologist.

Privately, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting some psychology credentials as well… so thanks to LiveStrong and SFGate for the vote of confidence!

Mad Men & The Truth About Divorce

On August 6th, 2010

I’m a huge fan of Mad Men, the A&E show about advertising executives (and their personal lives) in the 1960s. So when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called to chat with me about whether Betty and Don Draper’s divorce was accurately portrayed, I had a lot to say. Check out my quotes — quite a few of them — and how the art folks at the Post-Gazette spiffed up my boring PowerPoint slide of divorce trends (PDF) into a visual treat. It also got picked up by Contexts, my favorite Sociology magazine, so that made me proud.

I’m not so sure what I think of this dark, pathetic Don Draper or of Betty living in the old house with the new man, but that’s a story for another post.

Goodbye Character Sketches, Hello BQO

On August 6th, 2010

After blogging for a few months for Character Sketches (see the blog scroll on the right) I’ve now moved over to be a regular columnist at the new website BigQuestionsOnline.

Check out my first column — Living the Fact-Value Distinction — and stay tuned for my next post on whether teaching virtuous behaviors as tools to achieving a good life devalues the idea of virtue itself. (OK, that sounds really deep, but I promise the columns aren’t confusing reads.)

Wellbeing, Gallup Style (Plus, an addictive-as-crack website)

On May 25th, 2010

Think you’re living a pretty happy life? The good folks at Gallup would like you to know that there’s room for improvement. According to a comprehensive global study of wellbeing, only seven percent of us are thriving in all areas of our lives.

In Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter have synthesized hundreds of small large-scale opinion polls, empirical studies and time-use data to argue that wellbeing isn’t just about some amorphous sense of being happy. It’s about thriving in career, social, financial, physical and community life.

The best part of the book, though, is the little gray pouch in the back that contains a personalized code for the Wellbeing website. For us me-focused Americans, it’s as addictive as crack. First you take a survey to get a baseline on wellbeing. Then, you can create a customized plan to increase your own wellbeing, and take shorter daily surveys to track your progress on a daily basis. Periodically, you can go back and retake the bigger survey and tell your friends, with smug satisfaction of your accomplishments.

Gallup knows we all go giddy over customized surveys and websites: Rath’s previous book, Strengthsfinder, included a similar personalization code, and I’d wager that most people bought the hardcover just to get the code so they could get online and learn more about their yet-to-be-discovered strengths. I tip my hat to their marketing genius.

Check out my full review on the Huffington Post.

Defining the College Hookup

On May 18th, 2010

What is a hook-up?

Yesterday I posted a piece on with survey results from an online poll of young-adults. What is a hook-up? When does it happen? Is it all in good fun–for both men and women? And what happens the day after the hook-up?

Here’s an excerpt — and read the whole piece here. And see what Psychology Today had to say about the piece yesterday, too.

What happens after the hook up? To me, this is where it gets really depressing. According to respondents, 47.5% say a woman should expect nothing from a hook up – no call, no date, no relationship, nada. And the man shouldn’t expect anything either. It was just casual. Only 15% of respondents say the woman should expect a call from the guy. Check out this un-romantic chart. The chart for what guys should expect looks pretty similar.

One respondent suggested that there should be rules and time limits to hook ups – physical contact for a set period of time – to manage expectations. Others described a hook up as a way to “test the waters” to see if there should be future contact. Not romantic stuff.

“I do believe the definition has shifted from ‘make-out’ to more intense physical connection,” mused Samantha, 30. And as for what happens next, “If you expect nothing except physical pleasure than you won’t be disappointed by the short-term.”

Says J, a 22-year-old single guy, said in one of his hook ups, “I walked a girl-friend home, we hooked up passionately on the street, texted and so on since, went out once, but it was awkward so we’re just friendly acquaintances now…”

(I think the key word there is “awkward.”)

Should a hook up be emotionally meaningful? The majority of respondents want a hook up to be emotionally meaningful. I asked whether people agreed or disagreed with this statement: “Hooking up is just fun, and doesn’t have to be emotionally meaningful.” Some 59% of respondents disagree. Which is really nice, except… how does that add up with the previous chart about the low expectations of post-hook-up interactions? Romance isn’t dead, but it seems most young adults are shielding their hearts and preparing for the worst after these interactions.

“As long as the hook-up doesn’t evolve into meaningless sex, it’s harmless and fun for both parties,” says Tara, 17.

But Patrick, 27, who defined a hook up as meaning sexual intercourse, disagreed: The whole “hook-up culture is a shame,” he said. “Too many men and women have come to look upon the human body as a tool for pleasure. It’s also a shame that the popular idea of sex is void of a deeper meaning.” features Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women

On May 18th, 2010

On yesterday, Stephanie Chen’s piece on women marrying men with less education and income mentioned my research–and quoted one of the SWANS in my book.

Complementary matches are the name of the game for smart, successful women!

Visit me at my Character Sketches blog, too

On April 10th, 2010

I’m now blogging for look to the right to see an RSS feed of my latest posts. I post three times a day — around 7 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. — so check often for new material.

Ambition: Vice or Virtue?

On March 17th, 2010

Kate Gosselin is being criticized for leaving her eight children with nannies to appear on “Dancing with the Stars.” Are her ambitions of fame getting in the way of being a good Mom?

While it’s unlike me to defend the overly dramatic, in-the-spotlight poor parenting of Jon & Kate, the latest hubbub raises a fascinating-and thorny-question about ambition: Is it a vice or a virtue?

To read the full post, please visit my blog on Character Sketches.

Flextime: Why Men Don’t Take It

On March 17th, 2010

In an ongoing NPR series this week on flex-time, and work-life balance, NPR reporters have been exploring the push from women and Millennials for results-based rather than face-time work structures, telecommuting and job shares. A chart attached to the series, however, gives the impression that the majority of workers are enjoying the benefits of alternative work schedules. It’s just not true: There’s a big segment of the workforce who’s not chomping at the bit for flextime… men.

Flextime is a policy that allows employees to chose when they will start and finish work, as long as they are still doing the appropriate amount of hours. Not everyone can take flextime – manual laborers and those working in factories can’t decide they want to work from home at 10 p.m. – but you’d think that professional and managerial workers would be flocking to the idea.

Both men and women would love to make their own schedules, have more time with their family, and take advantage of and other much-touted programs like job-sharing, right? In theory, yes, but in practice, it gets tricky.

To read the whole post, visit the Character Sketches blog.

Contagious Virtues… and Vices

On March 17th, 2010

We generally understand how a virus or flu spreads: I’m sick and I shake hands with you. Then, you touch your nose and… oops, now you’re sick, too. Then you kiss your husband and… oops, now they’re sick, too. And so on. But in recent years, social scientists have begun to consider whether behaviors and character traits can spread in a similar way. Are vices and virtues socially contagious?

A while back, we learned that obesity is contagious: Researchers Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist, and James Fowler, a political science professor, found that we’re more likely to gain weight ourselves if our family and friends gain weight. Similarly, we’re more likely to succeed in losing weight if others are trying to do the same.

Then, the same team of researchers found that loneliness might be similarly socially contagious, as could happiness.

The latest from this pair is the finding that acts of kindness can spread rapidly through society, too, giving new power to the idea of “paying it forward” in generosity.

According to WiredScience:

In a game where selfishness made more sense than cooperation, acts of giving were “tripled over the course of the experiment by other subjects who are directly or indirectly influenced to contribute more,” wrote political scientist James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and medical sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University.

But I’d argue that all of these fall under one big umbrella finding that went somewhat unnoticed back in January: Self-control is also socially contagious.

To read the whole post, visit my Character Sketches blog.

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