Thursday, December 22, 2011

Popular Teens, Friendly or Mean?

This past Saturday Dr. Lara Mayeau, a developmental psychologist, came in from Norman to speak to us about her research on teenage popularity. 

Dr. Mayeau explains that being popular is not the same thing as being well-liked.

We had a smaller than usual group - maybe the last weekend before Christmas Break people are busy? - BUT, it was a great group of kids and parents, full of really good questions and insights, as usual!

Dr. Mayeau's research has verified what many of us observed in school - that the popular kids are not necessarily well-liked. She also uses the mathematics of statistics to uncover some unexpected patterns, or correlations in teen popularity. 

For example, popular boys have an easier time staying well-liked than popular girls. Also, popular kids sometimes use physical or social aggression against other kids. These behaviors seem mostly to come about after popularity is achieved. Perhaps it's part of how they stay popular - or perhaps being popular, they can just get away with it more than other kids. (More studies are needed to really understand this!)

Yours truly, pontificating about something.

How does Dr. Mayeau uncover these patterns of teenage life? By asking! We all got to fill out a survey similar to the one she used in a longitudinal study of kids as they went from fifth grade through 9th. The survey includes a roster of names attached to codes. For each question we listed the codes of the kids who fit. The questions included: Who do you like? Who is popular? Who do you not like? Who pushes other kids? Who excludes other kids?

The difference with our survey was that the names on our roster were not fellow students, but famous actors, characters, athletes, musicians, etc - just for fun. Guess who was most often selected as popular but not well-liked? Justin Bieber. Ouch.

My usual photographer and lovely wife Lisa couldn't be with us on Saturday, so my daughter Evalyn stepped into the role. Thank you Evalyn, for taking photos!!

Really, Evalyn? Really?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Popular Teens This Saturday

Dr. Lara Mayeux

Howdy Friends!

You do not want to miss our next Born to Do Science program, because it's all about you! This Saturday the 17th, 10:00 am at the Stillwater Public Library: "Popular Teens, Friendly or Mean?"

Our guest scientist is coming all the way from Norman. She is Dr. Lara Mayeux, a developmental psychologist from the department of psychology at OU.

Dr. Mayeux will speak about her research on social status among teens. We'll discuss a study she ran following students from 5th through 9th grades to determine what kinds of kids become popular.

Her research explores many questions, including: Is there a difference between being popular and being well-liked? What are the benefits and risks to being popular? How do teens' social status change over time? What role does aggression play in gaining and keeping popularity? Does all this work differently for boys than it does for girls?

We'll be asking what methods Dr. Mayeux uses to study teens, and what further questions might she explore. We'll take a survey similar to the kind used in actual research, and with Dr. Mayeux's guidance we'll design our own research on teenage popularity.

As always, I'll kick things off with a brand new song, and I've been having a lot of fun writing this one. It's called "I Wanna Be Popular!"

Please register with the library if you plan to come. Even if you've registered before - they want to know how many to expect. The program is open to kids in 3rd-7th grade and their adults. It's a rare opportunity to enjoy something with your tween-ager! We hope to see you there!

For more information about Dr. Mayeux you can check out her blog: Mayeux Research: Conversations about Peer Relations, Popularity, Developmental Psychology, and Aggression.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Second Podcast Episode Recorded

Many thanks to everyone who has downloaded BTDS Podcast Episode One - more than twelve hundred so far! And extra thanks to those who let me know they liked it! We are off to a great start!

I recorded Episode Two on Saturday with kid host, Evalyn, and guest scientist, Dr. Jennifer Byrd Craven, a developmental psychologist. I'm editing now and I will post the new episode here sometime this week! Please tell your friends!

Kid Host, Evalyn

Dr. Jennifer Byrd-Craven

Evalyn, Monty, Jennifer - photo by Eli