Monday, January 31, 2011

Unofficial Acceptance #1

I have just received an email from a professor I talked to at the conference that I should be receiving official notification of my acceptance to their PhD program soon.  This program is also putting me up for a fellowship, which is nice because it would mean not having to TA, thus leaving more time for research.  Yay! 

Yep, it feels good.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Contact #4

I now have made arrangements to meet another potential advisor (i.e., interview) at the conference this weekend, another top 20 social psychology program in the Big 10 (actually, the same state as the other one).  It's shaping up to be a busy weekend.

To recap my position:

Marketing - 1 interview (completed)

Psychology - 2 interviews (this week); 1 wait-list; 2 likely-to-be-rejections (because invitations appear to have already gone out for their interview weekends coming up very soon and I didn't get one)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Official vs. Real Position

My official position on the PhD application decision process by programs is that I am in no big hurry to find out the results of my applications, that mid-to-late January is still early days yet, and that I have plenty (i.e., my thesis) to keep me busy over the coming months so I needn't worry about what is going to happen in the summer or the fall.

In reality, the wait is sort of driving me crazy and it's very easy to get distracted from schoolwork by thinking about the outcome of my applications, checking various online forums where people report their results, etc.

If these forums are accurate, three psychology programs to which I've applied but heard nothing from have contacted other applicants with interview requests or acceptances.  Two of these I feel pretty confident about, because multiple people have reported being contacted, but the other one (an acceptance without an interview) I'm not so sure about.  I can't quite tell how I feel about hearing this news other than I am feeling a bit anxious.  Of course, I would be feeling anxious about all of my programs if I didn't have access to this information, so I think it's been a good thing on net.

Appropriately enough, I've been spending the day looking up articles for my thesis on the topic of how certainty affects information search and information processing.  I'd say my own experience here supports the general finding in the literature that uncertainty is associated with greater information search and more extensive, systematic processing of information.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New & Improved Mental Schema

Tonight I have been re-reading some articles for my research (that I initially read up to 18 months ago) because I am trying to both (1) finish the manuscript based on my first year project, and (2) work on the literature review for my thesis, which covers similar topics but in a different way (as well as entirely new topics).  My plan at the beginning of the week had been to complete (1), then proceed to (2), but I'm finding that difficult to do because my advisor would like me to include a brief head's-up about my thesis idea in the manuscript's "future research" section.  That means I need to develop a short, straightforward, and clear paragraph about the purpose of my thesis and the evidence from existing literature that supports my hypotheses. 

Even though I've done my thesis proposal, my proposal wasn't all that great in terms of telling a compelling story, based on previous theory and research, that makes my hypotheses seem intuitively obvious.  This is because in reality, the hypotheses are kind of crazy, convoluted, and not obvious at all, and I had not (and still have not) done the thorough reading, thinking, and writing necessary to either justify them or make them easy to understand.  (When developing this thesis project with my advisor, I did not realize at first just how many new literatures I would need to read up on or how much I would need to reframe and/or refocus the literatures I had already discussed in my first year paper.  In other words: Damn, this is a lot more work than I expected!  Let's just hope that the hypotheses are supported so I won't have to dig around to find other theories etc. that my results are consistent with instead.  Hey, I'm in psychology - you don't like this theory, I've got others.)

So I'm finding myself both reading new articles and going back to familiar articles.  I've really surprised myself this evening with how differently I am thinking about these articles the second time (or the third or fourth or whatever for some of them).  I'm surprised even though I know that my schema (organizing knowledge structure or mental framework for understanding things) for this stuff must be much more complex and awesome now than it was when I first started my program. 

In this respect, I feel a bit like a nutritionist in one of those calorie-estimation studies who's all like, "Yeah, everybody drastically underestimates the calorie content of large servings" and guesses that the chocolate cake has 800 calories only to find out that it has 1200.  "What?!  Get out of town!"

Anyway, it's good that it's getting easier to understand this stuff because I have a lot to understand, synthesize, and then (the great challenge) write about in a way that people (other psychologists) can make sense of without reading it five times and without wanting to bash their heads against a brick wall.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Contact #3

This afternoon I received an email from a top 20 social psychology program in the ACC that I have been wait-listed for their program.  I had assumed I was out of the running at this program because some people received their acceptance or wait-list notification a week ago, but I guess it's just taking them some time to get emails out to all of us.  They are aiming for an incoming class size of 4 students out of over 160 applications.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Another Contact

I got an email this weekend from a psychology professor who wants to meet with me at the conference later this month to talk about my application.  It's good to have another school in play.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ominous Birding

Tam sent this confused, seemingly pointless Slate article about "the ominous rise of amateur ornithology." 

It's a surprising compendium of erroneous and/or unsupported assertions, such as:

Interest in birdwatching is "renascent" (i.e., reborn) or "re-emerging."  I know of no actual evidence suggesting that interest in birds in general or watching birds in particular was high at one point, then low, and is now high again.  (Indeed, I have previously smacked down some bad interpretation of data that suggested an increase in birding's popularity, but even those guys didn't misconstrue the data to posit that this is a re-emerging popularity.)  It's particularly odd given that the author later dates the birth of birdwatching to the 20th century.

"To the uninitiated, a bird-watcher's motives can seem puzzling, if not downright suspect."  Really?  How many people, other than the author of this article, would actually find themselves puzzled or suspicious of this activity?  A lot of people would be like, I don't have any interest in getting up early and looking at birds, but I doubt they would find it unimaginable that some other people would want to do so.

"Birding is a steam valve for anxiety about nuclear-age strength and habits."  Umm...right. (Back slowly away from the speaker.)

"...the birding community, these days, has moved on to gather, check, and share sightings across great distances using the fruits of technological industry."  Exactly!  This particular group of people has begun to incorporate technology into their daily lives and let it change somewhat how they undertake and communicate about their activities.  Unlike, well... the Amish?

"A birder is a person who enjoys privileged aloneness."  Nice spurious use of the adjective "privileged" - but how is this person's "aloneness" more privileged than anyone else's who isn't, you know, in a prison isolation unit?  It's also odd that this statement is followed up by a description of the two birders who are taking him on a bird walk at a popular birding location in NYC. 

"Some keep life lists (birds they want to see before they die)."  Actually, a life list is a list of all birds that a person has seen in her lifetime, not a birding bucket list.

Overall, I think my favorite unsupported assertions relate to the motivations behind birding - that it is a) puzzling or suspect to the normal person, but b) relates to anxious concerns about living in a nuclear age, etc. 

This article is a truly outstanding instantiation of the idea, discussed in lecture this week by the professor of the undergraduate research methods class I TA for, that psychological research is not journalism. 

I guess I could go all Slate-y here and note that this list of 530 ideas for creating a bucket list includes one entry about birds - "Go bird watching in Costa Rica" - and 3 about golfing, 2 about sailing, 6 about running, 6 about martial arts, and 10 about dancing.  And don't overlook the significance of "Dancing with the Stars" and other dance-related reality TV shows (of which there are none related to birding, as far as I know.)  Oh my god.  Let us all be concerned about the ominous rise of amateur dancing!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Site Visit

I'm back from my site visit to a marketing PhD program in the Big East and have started my first full, normal day of the semester.  Over the break, I didn't think all that much about hearing back from schools, but now I have joined the legions of impatient grad school hopefuls who are semi-obsessed with their applications.

Here's where I stand:

1 site visit (mentioned above).  I am expecting to hear back from them in a couple of weeks.

I have also seen "action" reported on the forums for two psychology programs I applied to - one has sent out admissions and wait lists (which puts my chances down to near 0 since I have not heard from them) and another has started conducting phone interviews.

The other two social psych applicants in my program have started hearing from schools, but not any of the ones I applied to.

It's early days, of course, but I'm still eager for news.  I just need to settle the hell down and work on remaining details, like my thesis and my poster for the conference I'm going to in a couple weeks.  Bah!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Very Special Holiday

To my dad:

Happy 14th Day of Christmas!

Here's hoping nobody gets you this University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Christmas ornament set!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Serious Disapproval

As you may know, I am an avid fan of the Disapproving Rabbits web site, a repository of awesome grumpy rabbit photos.  But this photo demonstrates a level of Extreme Disapproval not frequently captured on film.

You can kiss my lily white ...

When your rabbit shows his heels to you, he's really not happy with you.  As the amusing and informative Language of Lagomorphs page explains, the foot flick registers on the Offensiveness Scale as a 5 of 7 - "I am shaking your dust off my heels."

I confess to getting this sort of disapproval from Leo (an easily offended dominant rabbit) several times.  Robert and I also got the top level of disapproval - "You are the scum of the earth" - from Leo when he would be released from his carrier after a visit to the vet or the bunny sitter.  Katy was a much more phlegmatic bun.  However, I cannot remember a time that our rabbits were angry enough at us to rebuff the offer of a raisin; their hunger was bigger than their disapproval, I suppose.

Anyway, I thought this was an exceptionally adorable disapproving bun (get it, "bun").

(Note: The Disapproving Rabbits people should not be blamed for the tasteless caption on the photo.  That's my fault.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Baaaack: A Few Numbers

Drove through 12 states in about 12 days.

Drove through 3 (or 4?) mountain ranges.

Listened to country music on the radio due to non-functional CD player for about 10 million years.

Listened to special bluegrass Christmas music program on a Kentucky radio station for the last 30 minutes.

Saw American crows in 10 states.

Looked for life birds 1 time.

Saw 0 life birds.

Ate lunch at Braum's 2 times.

Ate dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kentucky 1 time.

Ate 2 slices of pumpkin pie, 2 slices of chocolate pie, 1 slice of apple pie, and 1 bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup.

Gained 0 pounds (not sure how that happened).

Petted 4 cats. 

Was bitten and scratched by 1 cat.

Have been rejected by 0 PhD programs.

Have arranged a flyout interview (at program's expense) with 1 PhD program (the same one that I spoke to on the telephone before).