Exercise-induced orgasms?

I just read about a study of 124 women who reported having experienced exercise-induced orgasms (EIOs). These orgasms occur with no help from fantasies or sexual self-stimulation.

My first thought about EIOs was that there must be an Old MacDonald somewhere in the story. My second thought was “EIOs — no way.” But see info about the study at http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/21547.html#2.

I found interesting that ab exercises were the most common type involved in EIOs, especially if done in the “Captain’s chair.” I have used that equipment — individuals let their bodies hang down as they rest their forearms on elevated pads. This setup allows individuals to raise their legs up again and again to exercise their abs. I always have liked this exercise, but these women might like it even more.

There appears to be no sure explanation for why these orgasms occur. My guess: the brain misinterprets exercise-induced arousal and body sensations. Brains make worse mistakes, I assure you.

Unclear is whether men ever experience EIOs. I am the sort of scientist who might study something like that, but I will leave this question for others to answer.

I always end my postings with a question. I will phrase this one carefully: Have any of your friends ever had an EIO? Was it a positive or negative experience?

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology

August 19, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   No Comments.

Why do women tend to prefer tall men?

A recent study showed that women prefer to marry men who are 8 inches (!) taller than they are. Why do women prefer tall men?

One theory is that for evolutionary reasons women unconsciously prefer tall men because these men tend to be more successful in physical altercations with other men. That theory would apply to humans a dominance perspective similar to that experts hold regarding gorillas and many other animals. The idea, from evolutionary psychology, is this:  Modern women tend to have genes that propel them, consciously or not, to favor tall men.  That occurs because women in the past who had this preference tended more than other women to produce children who survived to reproduce.  Were the tall men of yesteryear able to obtain more food?  Able to better protect a woman and children? Could height have indicated health and intellect?  We know that in children proper nutrition makes a big difference for height, health, and intellectual development. The evidence is clear in poor countries where some children come close to starving.

Another possibility is that women favor tallness in men for psychosocial reasons. Looking up to someone literally may translate in the unconscious brain to looking up person figuratively. Also, tall men may give women a sense of being protected by a more powerful person. Studies show that tall men are seen as leaders and are elected to office more often than shorter men who run against them. I would guess that as a group they make more money (even putting aside players in the National Basketball Association!).

Male height, of course, is only one factor in romantic preferences of women. Among other factors, being loving ought to play a role. Some women marry men who are the same height or shorter. Not many women marry a man who is 8 inches (!) taller, in part because on average men are only about 5 inches (no exclamation mark) taller than women and in part because many other factors are important. Also, some women do not care about a man’s height.

Tall men, by the way, tend to favor tall women. Not as tall the man, but tall. To be precise, men in a study favored women 3 inches shorter on average. The desire for a partner who is similar is part of assortative mating — individuals mating with someone who has a similar genotype or phenotype.

Australia, by the way, is a good place to find tall romantic partners — it has the second tallest people of any nation! The tallest nation? The Netherlands.

Where does this height-prefernce situation leave short men? For some, it may leave them hustling to show their personal advantages aside from height — trying to show actual leadership, power, strength, etc. Some tall men pursue these goals too. For some short men, the situation may lead them to marry short women.

What would you consider the ideal height for your romantic partner? How does that compare to your height? My answer for preference: 5 feet, 7 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches. I am 6 feet, 2 inches.

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Associate Professor of Psychology






August 17, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   2 Comments.

Why do we want to win all the time?

One reason we want to win at sports and games and so on is that winning has had evolutionary value for humans. The winner in combat or real-life or staged tests of strength or cunning may have had extra opportunities to reproduce. The winners may have been like modern rock stars and professional athletes. For instance, Wilt Chamberlain, perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time, reported in a biography that he had sexual relations with 20,000 women by the time he reached 55 years of age.  See http://mentalfloss.com/article/12310/did-wilt-chamberlain-really-sleep-20000-women. Our ancestors are likely to have been individuals who were quite competitive and to have benefited reproductively by their competitive successes.

The individuals long ago who were not competitive may not have lived long enough to reproduce, they may not have done enough to help their children survive to reproduce, and they may not have had many opportunities to reproduce. Their non-competitive genes may now be rare among humans.

How does evolutionary pressure toward competitiveness manifest itself in our day-to-day life? We approach challenges and competitions with a strong goal of winning. We feel happy (psychologically reinforced for our efforts) when we win. We feel angry or disappointed (psychologically punished) if we lose. The reactions of others may also reinforce our efforts to win. Cheers and high-5s make us feel good when we win. Our pals shaking their heads or looking at their feet when we lose has the opposite effect. Because our culture endorses winning, we see many models of winners reaping benefits and losers eating crow. These models affect us, consciously and unconsciously.

Can we do anything to reduce our competitiveness when it is counterproductive?  Yes. I wrote about how to do that in a prior posting: http://blog.une.edu.au/usingpsychology/2014/05/02/are-you-a-poor-loser/.

How competitive are you? When is competitiveness helpful? Harmful? Can you turn on the competitiveness when it is helpful and turn it off when it is not? How do you do that?

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology



August 11, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   No Comments.

What specifically does psychological treatment change?

Every year journals publish hundreds of psychotherapy-evaluation articles showing that some treatment or other produced a positive change in the main outcome variable — something such as anxiety level or anger level. Often unclear is what types of changes the clients made that led to emotional changes. Potentially, clients can change (1) situations they enter, (2) their behavior, and (3) their thinking. To measure these types of changes, Nicola Schutte and I developed a brief measure of therapeutically induced change:

Therapeutically Induced Change Scale
Malouff and Schutte (2011)

For each of the three questions, please choose a number from the following response options and mark that number after the question.

Response options
1 = not at all
2 = slightly
3 = between slightly and moderately
4 = moderately
5 = between moderately and very much
6 = very much
7 = extremely

1. To what extent did [insert name of intervention] lead you to change your thinking (your attitudes, how you think, what you believe)? ___

2. To what extent did [insert name of intervention] lead you to change what you did or how you acted or behaved? ___

3. To what extent did [insert name of intervention] lead you to change some situation? ___

In addition to providing information relevant to processes involved in overcoming a psychological problem, the scale can potentially prompt responses that lead to valuable discussions between client and therapist. To validate the scale, we tested it with a total of 281 individuals who went through a psychological intervention and found that total scores on the scale (summing the three responses) were associated with level of involvement in the intervention and level of improvement in the target of the intervention. The results suggest that in general, more movement toward resolution of the original problem will occur when clients change the situations they enter, their behavior, and their thoughts.

Have you completed a psychological intervention, either to overcome a problem or to increase some positive characteristic such as positive affect? If so, you can complete the scale and explore what types of changes you made. What do you conclude? If you are doing better now than before the intervention, it may be that you have maintained changes in situations, behavior, or thinking.

The article:
Schutte, N. S., & Malouff, J. M. (2011). Development and Validation of a Brief Measure of Therapeutically-Induced Change. Behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy, 39(05), 627-630.

John Malouff, PhD, JD
Assoc Prof of Psychology

August 10, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   No Comments.

The board games you like playing say something about you

Different individuals like playing different board games. My favorite used to be Scrabble. That preference suggests that I like words and thinking. Right on both counts — I do like words and thinking. As a scientist, I use words and think for a living.

In recent years I have modified Scrabble to make it more entertaining. The first change was to speed up play by eliminating the board and simply having ea player take seven tiles and make the highest point word possible. Then everyone compares. That completes a round. Players can keep score with each win counting as one point if they want. Others may have thought of this exact activity before me — it is hard to have a completely new idea in a world of 7 billion people! If this version of Scrabble does not go quickly enough, a group could use a timer to set a limit. My developing this version of Scrabble suggests that I have low patience and I like to create. The patience one is right. Also, I do like to create. I have a book coming out in a few months that contains about 90 activities for teaching social, emotional, and problem-solving skills. I made up many of the activities.

I made a second modification of Speed Scrabble for a study a student and I did evaluating whether it is possible to help couples increase the excitement in their relationship. We found that it is! Mostly we focused on their engaging jointly in interesting novel activities. Some were sexual; some were not. One I developed: involves playing Speed Scrabble where the loser of each round discards an item of clothing. That combines elements of Speed Scrabble and Strip Poker.

I developed Version 3 for couples on trains, airplanes, or somewhere else in public: Here the loser of a round merely names an article of clothing that he or she would discard.

For individuals who want excitement without even thinking of discarding clothes, I developed Version 4, where the loser of a round has to choose Truth (answer a very personal question) or Dare (complete some entertaining but possibly embarrassing action).

My creating these versions suggests that I like to synthesize (e.g., combining different activities into one) and I like to cater to different tastes. Right on both ideas. I find it easier to put two good ideas together than to think up an entirely original idea. In teaching, I try to cater to preferences of different students for learning activities. Have I catered to you? Try one of the versions and tell me what you think!

What board games do you most like playing? Do you modify or make up board games? What do your preferences suggest about you?

John Malouff, PhD, JD
Assoc Prof of Psychology

July 11, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   2 Comments.

How do you want to die?

Most people die lying in bed. Do you consider that a boring way to go? I read somewhere about a fellow who wanted to die standing up. I don’t think he succeeded, but I give him credit for trying.

Some individuals might want to die in the saddle (not easy, I am sure). Others might want to die in combat or (at a ripe old age) by assassination. How about dying while saving the life of someone else? Note that in all these latter cases the dying person might be standing up!

Other individuals might seek levity in their final moments, e.g., by saying “buh-buh, buh-buh — that’s all folks” or by kicking an actual bucket. A person could go out telling the punch line to a funny joke.  But if it turns out that the joke is not funny, the joke teller dies twice — once with the joke and once big time.

Sensitive individuals want only to die surrounded by their loved ones. But those lovely people could use a good laugh, so keep in mind the final-joke idea.

How do I want to die? In my sleep, while dreaming that I am playing basketball and every shot I put up goes in. Then I will die happy (and standing — in the dream).

How about you — if you have a choice, how would you like to die? Does your answer relate to how you like to live?

For more about dying, see my prior posts:



John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology

June 22, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   7 Comments.

How would you describe your romantic relationship ?

With other researchers, I set out to determine the fundamental psychological characteristics of romantic relationships. We started by asking hundreds of adults to give us (anonymously)  eight terms that describe their romantic relationship. We boiled those terms down to 75 that were named by at least 5% of the study participants. We then asked hundreds of other adults to rate their romantic relationship on the 75 terms. Using factor analysis (a statistical method of finding underlying factors in a big group of items), we identified four factors: how secure the relationship is, how caring, how exciting, and how stressful. We chose the best items to form a nine-item scale for each factor and then found that scores on the scales correlated with relationship satisfaction and with positive feelings in general. We also found that the longer the person had been in the relationship, the lower the level of excitement and the higher the level of security. Subsequent studies with couples showed that higher excitement scores were associated with less inclination to take actions in the direction of infidelity.

Want to rate your own romantic relationship? I will put below the items for each scale of the Four- Factor Romantic Relationship Scales. To calculate a scale score, sum the ratings for the scale. Below the scales I will describe the average scores we found for each scale.

Choose a number from the following 7-point scale to indicate to what extent your relationship has each characteristic listed below.

1 = disagree strongly, 2 = moderately disagree, 3 = slightly disagree, 4 = neither agree nor disagree, 5 = slightly agree, 6 = moderately agree, 7 = agree strongly




















Boring (reverse score, e.g., change a 1 to 7; change a 6 to 2)


















Hard work







The average scores for the four scales in a sample of 530 adults:

Secure: 54 (2/3 of scores between 44 and 64)

Exciting: 46 (2/3 of scores between 36 and 47)

Caring: 52 (2/3 of scores between 42 and 52)

Stressful: 30 (2/3 of scores between 18 and 42)

In our research we put all 36 items in alphabetical order and did not mention scale names. Your responses may be biased by the scale names and the information provided above about the scales.

How do the scores for your relationship compare with the sample scores? Which of the four characteristics do you consider best about your relationship? Which would you like to change?

Our first research article about the scales was:

Malouff, J., Coulter, K., Receveur, H., Martin, K., James, P., Gilbert, S., Schutte, N., Hall, L., & Elkowitz, J. (2012). Development and initial validation of a four-factor measure of romantic relationships. Current Psychology, 31, 349-364.

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology





June 18, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   2 Comments.

Why do some individuals embrace conspiracy theories?

Conspiracy theories “explain” important events in ways that most individuals reject. For instance, conspiracy theories say that the U. S. faked its moon landings, that a big conspiracy was involved in the assassination of John Kennedy, that the 9/11 attacks were staged by the U.S. government, that Princess Diana’s death was the result of a criminal conspiracy, and that Aussie Prime Minister Harold Holt (who went swimming in the ocean one day and never came back) was snatched and kept by the Chinese. For more conspiracy theories, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conspiracy_theories.

Conspiracy theories have something in common with delusions and with religious beliefs: the lack of convincing evidence in their support. What leads individuals to believe them? Here are several psychological principles that apply: Individuals who believe in conspiracies tend to

1. have low trust in others, especially elites and government officials;

2. reject chance and random occurrences as causing important events;

3. feel anxious about not having control over important events and feel less anxious if they can identify an understandable cause of the events;

4. see themselves as being smarter than others who don’t believe the theories;

5. become biased in the sense of ignoring countervailing evidence and opinion and attending to confirming evidence and opinion;

6. associate with others who share the beliefs and who provide social support in general and specifically with regard to these beliefs.

Another factor that fuels conspiracy theories is that governments and members of the elite do sometimes conspire to enrich themselves through corrupt acts, to fool the public into supporting some action such as going to war, to gain some advantage over supposed enemies, to suppress disclosure of information that would be embarrassing, or to harm a political opponent. Also, conspiracy theories often have some evidence in support of them — the evidence might be twisted or misinterpreted, but it is enough to convince someone who is inclined to see conspiracies.

Does believing in conspiracies cause any harm? Not necessarily. The beliefs likely reduce anxiety in individuals who hold them. As long a person does not overly focus on a conspiracy theory and does not take criminal actions based on the theory, the person may suffer no substantial harm. The person might feel increasingly alienated from a society that does not collectively believe in the conspiracy theory; on the other hand, the person might feel superior to the mass of humanity.

Individuals who incorrectly believe there are conspiracies operating against them at a personal level are different — they have a significant psychological disorder involving paranoia.

In what conspiracy theories do you believe? Do you ever look for disconfirming evidence for your beliefs? You might not know this:  searching for evidence that disconfirms one’s beliefs is the daily work of good scientists, philosophers, journalists, etc.

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology

June 7, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   No Comments.

Does your work group have a personality?

Humans have a personality — a set of relatively enduring psychological characteristics. Some of these characteristics, e.g., emotional stability and conscientiousness, appear very important to enjoying life and being productive.

A work group is a “relatively small group of individuals in an organization who are interdependent in their tasks, who share responsibility for the group’s outcomes, and who see themselves, and are recognized by others, as a single unit in an organization” (Malouff et al., 2013). Do work groups have a personality? Yes, according to research done by Lucy Zucker, Nicola Schutte, and me. We asked hundreds of workers in a wide variety of organizations to describe the psychological characteristics of their work group. We identified terrms that several workers mentioned, created a list of those terms, and asked hundreds of other workers to rate their work group on the terms. Using factor analysis, we identified 30 terms that describe the one main personality trait of work groups: how agreeable the group is. The more agreeable the group, the more job satisfaction workers had and the less inclined they were to want to leave the job. Interestingly, this characteristic is similar to the agreeableness personality characteristic found in individuals.

So how agreeable is your work group? You can use the scale below to rate the group. In our research, we found an average scale score of 160, with a standard deviation of 35. So a work group with scale score under 125 would be unusually low; a group with an score over 195 would be unusually high.

Here are the response options:

1=disagree strongly, 2=disagree moderately, 3=disagree slightly, 4=neither agree nor disagree, 5=agree slightly, 6=agree moderately and 7=agree strongly

Here are the 30 items to use for rating your work group:

1. caring
2. cohesive
3. collaborative
4. communicative
5. considerate
6. cooperative
7 easygoing
8. empathic
9. encouraging
10. enjoyable
11. flexible
12 friendly
13. fun
14. funny
15. happy
16. helpful
17. honest
18. humorous
19. kind
20. loyal
21. nice
22. patient
23. positive
24. relaxed
25. respectful
26. rewarding
27. social
28. supporting
29. thoughtful
30. understanding

Add up your responses. The scale score for your group might tell you something about why you like or dislike your job. Your ratings of the group on individual items might also be meaningful. Do you see room for improvement? How might you contribute to that improvement?

For more information about the research, see the following book chapter:

Malouff, J., Zucker, L., & Schutte, N. (2013). Do work groups have personalities? In E. C. Crossman & M. A. Weiler (Eds.), Personality traits: Causes, conceptions and consequences. Hauppauge, NY: Nova.

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology

June 2, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   No Comments.

The power of praise

When I teach Behavior Modification, I tell my students to include praise in every intervention. When I teach leadership I suggest using praise. Why do I push praise so much?

1. Praise is usually a powerful motivator. It is powerful in part because it is rare in the life of most individuals. If you want to see someone repeat a certain type of behavior in the future, praise it now. About the only time praise has no effect is when it is perceived as not genuine. So praise sincerely.

2. Praise, when given for specific behavior, teaches the praised person what behavior leads to positive outcomes. That is part of what makes it so valuable to children, and also to adults who are trying to learn some new skill. So focus the praise on specific behavior. Thanking a person for doing something has similar educational value.

3. Praising is free, easy, and fast.

4. Praising can be done at almost any time. The exceptions are when the person is focused on some task or is not available.

5. Praising tends to lift the mood of both the praiser and the praisee. It is fun for everyone!

6. Praising others creates a positive social image — it shows self-confidence, awareness, and interest in others.

7. Praising others tends to be reciprocated at some point, just as criticizing others tends to be reciprocated.

8. Praising others sets a positive model for others. They become more likely to praise someone. You can start a domino effect!

9. You can praise your own behavior. Who knows better than you what you did well, what obstacles you overcame, and what sacrifices you made for the good of others?

There is a continuing risk that we will take for granted the positive behavior of others (and ourselves). Fight that — you can accomplish much with praise.

Whom have you praised today? For what? Can you squeeze in any more praise before the day is done?

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology

May 18, 2014.     Category: Uncategorized.   4 Comments.

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