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CAS in the Media Arts and Sciences Media Headlines

How where you’re born influences the person you become

By Samuel Putnam, Bowdoin College and Masha A. Gartstein, professor of psychology, Washington State University

As early as the fifth century, the Greek philosopher Thucydides contrasted the self-control and stoicism of Spartans with the more indulgent and free-thinking citizens of Athens.

Today, unique behaviors and characteristics seem ingrained in certain cultures.

Italians wildly gesticulate when they talk. Dutch children are notably easygoing and less fussy. Russians rarely smile in public.

Masha Maria Gartstein.
Gartstein

As developmental psychologists, we’re fascinated by these differences, how they take shape and how they get passed along from one generation to the next.

Our new book, “Toddlers, Parents and Culture,” explores the way a society’s values influences the choices parents make – and how this, in turn, influences who their kids become.

The enduring influence of cultural values

Although genetics certainly matter, the way you behave isn’t hardwired.

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WTOP

Does Cannabis Make You More Creative?

A new study on the effects of smoking marijuana and its relation to creativity has some interesting results. As one of nature’s most medicinal plants, it turns out how it makes us feel and think goes beyond logical interpretations.

Emily LaFance smiling while holding a cute puppy.
LaFrance

Emily LaFrance, the co-author of the study and graduate student in psychology at Washington State University, says she first became interested in the topic when she noticed that a lot of her favorite artists admit they smoke marijuana. “This cannabis use was commonly thought to have been a cause of the creative success of many artists,” she explains. “I began to wonder about this commonly held idea—are cannabis users really more creative than non-users?”

Previous research suggests cannabis may enhance some aspects of creativity, although the results remain somewhat equivocal. Moreover, it is unclear whether differences in cannabis users’ personalities may account for any potentially beneficial effects of cannabis on creativity.

When cannabis is used over a period of time, it allows us to witness our many subtle motives which, under normal consciousness, are usually not noticeable. Duality within human consciousness becomes clear as does the ego and alter ego. With this expansiveness which occurs after ingesting cannabis, users may begin to notice infinite possibilities to raise the quality of his/her life that would otherwise have remained hidden from normal, defensive consciousness. And feelings of health and happiness naturally lead to hope and creativity, which of itself can be curative.

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Prevent Disease

CAS faculty receive Office of Research awards

The WSU Office of Research presented awards to eight faculty members, including three in the College of Arts and Sciences, for their outstanding achievements in research, as part of opening ceremonies for WSU Research Week.

Kimberly Christen.
Kim Christen

The Creative Activity, Research and Scholarship Award went to Kim Christen, professor in the Department of English, director of the Digital Technology and Culture Program, director of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, and director of Digital Initiatives for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Christen has generated more than $4 million in external funding, including WSU’s first institutional grant from the Mellon Foundation. She has leveraged this support to create and sustain interdisciplinary projects and workspaces, most prominently establishing with WSU Libraries the new Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation.

She directs several digital humanities projects, including the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, a collaboratively curated site of Plateau cultural materials; Mukurtu CMS, a free and open source content management system and community digital archive aimed at the unique needs of indigenous communities; and the Sustainable Heritage Network, an online community of people dedicated to making the preservation and digitization of cultural heritage materials sustainable, simple, and secure.

Tammy Barry.
Tammy Barry

An Exceptional Service to the Office of Research Award went to Tammy Barry, professor in the Department of Psychology. Barry co-chairs the Research and Arts Committee & the Centers, Institutes, or Laboratories task force, and provides outstanding support for the many Office of Research initiatives.

Peter Reilly.
Peter Reilly

The awards included a prize for submitting the best idea to the National Science Foundation’s 2026 Idea Machine, a competition to help set the U.S. agenda for fundamental research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and STEM education. The winner of this award is Peter Reilly, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, for his idea “Ultra-High Mass Spectrometry: The Next Frontier.”

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WSU Insider

10 Scientific Facts About Spite

Though its benefits may not be immediately obvious, spite isn’t just an aberrant emotion that makes us act with malice: It can be a tool we use to our advantage.

In psychology, the dark triad of personality traits are psychopathy (the inability to experience emotions like remorse, empathy, and be social with others), narcissism (the obsession with one’s self), and Machiavellianism (willingness to be duplicitous and disregard morality to achieve one’s own goals).

David Marcus.
David Marcus

In 2014, researchers at Washington State University, led by psychologist David Marcus, had more than 1200 participants take a personality test, in which they were presented with 17 statements like “I would be willing to take a punch if it meant that someone I did not like would receive two punches” and “If my neighbor complained about the appearance of my front yard, I would be tempted to make it look worse just to annoy him or her,” then had to indicate how much they agreed with those statements.

The results, published in Psychological Assessment, showed that high scores in spitefulness correlated highly with psychopathy as well, along with the other two dark triad traits.

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Mental Floss

Keenan: A man’s guide to marijuana and its potential side-effects

The upcoming Canada-wide legalization of recreational marijuana will have all sorts of consequences, both intended and unintended. But what, specifically, will it do to the male body? Quite a lot, it appears.

Rebecca Craft.
Rebecca Craft

For starters, pot affects males and females differently. A team of researchers from Washington State University, a state where cannabis has been legal since 2012, has given us some answers. Psychology professor and researcher Rebecca Craft found that, in female rats, the effects of THC were closely linked to hormone levels, with a spike in sensitivity right around ovulation.

Craft also notes that “the majority of research in humans suggests that women are more likely to be affected by cannabinoids than men, with reports of enhanced and decreased performance on various tasks.” She has also studied cannabis withdrawal symptoms, and says that women often have a harder time discontinuing pot after heavy use, with symptoms like irritability and sleep disruption. In rats, THC withdrawal has even caused changes in the menstrual cycle timing.

Smoking pot also can also affect the male hormone balance.

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Calgary Herald