Welcome to my new column, Tangents.  The word tangent can have a variety of meanings, for example, in geometry a tangent refers to "a straight line or plane that touches a curve or curved surface at a point, but if extended does not cross it at that point." Leibniz defined it as the line through a pair of infinitely close points on the curve, but for this column, I will use the definition of a tangent to mean "a completely different line of thought or action." I sometimes will go off on a tangent…I think it's the creative side of me, although some might beg to differ. Regardless, this column will cover topics from A to Z; from social media, technology and play and the effect on a child's development to fostering a "growth mindset" or sharing ways to promote "workplace happiness" through positive psychology, and yes, "growth mindset" and "workplace happiness" are related. You can see how easy it is to go off on a tangent…like a detective following clues.

The concept of “nature versus nurture,” were we born this way or have our experiences made us who we are, is often discussed, however, research shows us it is a combination.  Where we are today, as individuals and as a society, is a direct result of the lives we have led. The way we think, feel and act is our guide or roadmap to future experiences, paved from our history, framed by our current beliefs and attitudes. This column will show the connection psychology has to our daily lives through my tangents. Each article will show some connection to our world, how psychology takes front and center stage in how we respond and react to life's events. Have you ever watched television and thought "who would buy that?" or have you laughed out loud from a commercial.  The ability of advertisers to be able to influence your decision to purchase a product has its roots in psychology. While some are motivated to purchase a product with a serious message due to our response to fear, others might choose to purchase a product because of humor (Allstate mayhem).

Emotional responses are the driving force behind many of our behaviors, in advertising and in other aspects of our lives. Why are some people so quick to get into a fight (physical or verbal) over a seemingly simple situation while others can maintain complete emotional control over a situation?  This same emotional control can help you in one situation but elude you in another, such as in the ability to lose weight or quit smoking. Our bodies response of dopamine or serotonin is released when we are exposed to something good or pleasurable, such as food or drugs, which is too difficult for some to contend with.  Even in other environments, such as work, why do some managers rule with an iron fist while others encourage their employees to fly? For some, it as though their brains are hijacked and this emotional response takes over, while for others the pilot is in complete control. All of these questions circle back to our development and psychology.

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Tangents is a continuation of my articles as a guest columnist in the health and wellness section, (please check them out if you haven’t had a chance!) My column will cover the current psychological research and trends such as; mindfulness, fostering a child's curiosity, positive psychology, mindset: how and why it matters, as well healthy child development.  So stay tuned…there is a lot more to follow.

Lisa Smith, M.A. DEVM, Teachers College-Columbia University, is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Union County College and an Educational Consultant. She can be reached at Ljs2198@TC.Columbia.edu