Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social, and Health Correlates

hmm… could you envision these maps in a tourist guide book??

Psychological Regions

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From the 17 October 2013 summary at Full Text Reports 

There is overwhelming evidence for regional variation across the United States on a range of key political, economic, social, and health indicators. However, a substantial body of research suggests that activities in each of these domains are typically influenced by psychological variables, raising the possibility that psychological forces might be the mediating or causal factors responsible for regional variation in the key indicators. Thus, the present article examined whether configurations of psychological variables, in this case personality traits, can usefully be used to segment the country. Do regions emerge that can be defined in terms of their characteristic personality profiles? How are those regions distributed geographically? And are they associated with particular patterns of key political, economic, social, and health indicators? Results from cluster analyses of 5 independent samples totaling over 1.5 million individuals identified 3 robust psychological profiles: Friendly & Conventional, Relaxed & Creative, and Temperamental & Uninhibited. The psychological profiles were found to cluster geographically and displayed unique patterns of associations with key geographical indicators. The findings demonstrate the value of a geographical perspective in unpacking the connections between microlevel processes and consequential macrolevel outcomes.

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Are the Brains of Introverts and Extroverts Actually Different?

From the 27 August 2013 post at Discover Magazine

By Ben Thomas

introvert extrovert

Introversion, it seems, is the Internet’s current meme du jour. Articles on introverts are nothing new, of course—The Atlantic’s 2003 classic “Caring for Your Introvert” still gets passed around Facebook on a regular basis—but the topic has gained some sort of strange critical mass in the past few weeks, and has been popping up everywhere from Gawker to Forbes.

This latest swarm of articles ranges from glorified personality quizzes (31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert”) to history lessons (“16 Outrageously Successful Introverts”) to business essays (“Why Introverts Can Make Excellent Executives”) to silly, self-aware send-ups of the trend itself (“15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You’re an Extrovert”). The vast majority of them also come packaged with the assumption the reader understands the basic concept of introversion, and already has a pretty clear idea of whether he or she is an introvert or an extrovert.

The Science of Personality

In short, although the science of personality is still in the relative Dark Ages, researchers have begun to draw links between what these structural and functional brain differences between personality types might mean in terms of their respective peccadilloes.

But brain differences that correlate with introversion or extroversion don’t necessarily show which of these differences—if any—cause introversion or extroversion. “We don’t have experiments that really address whether those brain differences play a causal role,” Castro says. “We’re still pretty far from having … a scientific description of personality differences at the level of cells and synapses.”

And it’s important to keep in mind that our brain structures vary from person to person along all sorts of axes that inform our personalities—not just introversion and extroversion. As the science of brain mapping develops, maybe we’ll have a myriad of new spectrums we can use to describe our personalities in terms of our gray matter.

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

[Repost] Personality and social psychology highlights from the 2013 APA Convention

From the 2 August 2013 Medical News Today article

From how secrets influence our emails to personality traits that increase the risk ofobesity - a guide to some talks with new research in personality and social psychology at the APA Convention in Honolulu, July 31 – August 4, 2013 …

Linguistic Fingerprints of Secrets[1]

Keeping a secret not only burdens someone with the guilt of withholding information but also changes the way the person interacts with others, according to new research. In two studies, researchers looked at linguistic changes in the emails of people harboring secrets. They found that interactions with friends became more deceptive and detached, while interactions with acquaintances became more superficially positive and frequent.

Judging Health Based on Behavior, Personality[2]

Can you accurately size up someone’s health just by watching them? In a recent set of studies, researchers sought to answer this question by filming research participants and asking research assistants to assess their health or behavior. In one study, researchers judged participants on 15 health dimensions – including general health, tobacco use, alcohol use, physical activity, sleep quality, cholesterol, and blood pressure – based on just 5 minutes of film. They found that intuitive snap judgments of health can be surprisingly accurate.

Personalty Traits That Increase Risk of Obesity[3]

A complex mix of biological and social factors affects a person’s likelihood of becoming obese. Across four studies that looked at more than 8,900 people, researchers have found significant links between personality traits and obesity – showing that that high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, among other traits, are consistently associated with increased risk for obesity. These associations are similar across samples that vary in ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status.

The Benefits of Confronting Bias[4]

Confronting discrimination may boost your well-being, according to new research. In three studies, researchers found that while experiencing discrimination is associated withdepression, confronting that bias gives people more autonomy, which helps to moderate the stressful situation. These results were true not only for minorities but also for Whites.

Being Grateful Trains Our Brains for the Good[5]

Feeling grateful can train us to feel better, finds a new study. Asking people daily for one week to write about three good things that made them grateful increased their well-being after the week, and even five weeks later. Researchers think that the gratitude exercise trains the brain for cognitive processes that support well-being, such as increasing attention so that individuals are more likely to notice benefits in their lives.

Two Hormones Together Explain Status-Seeking[6]

Looking at only testosterone as a hormonal measure of status-seeking behaviors is incomplete, argues new research. Testosterone’s influence on status-related behavior critically depends on levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Six studies suggest that researchers must consider the effects of testosterone and cortisol together. The studies show that a profile of high testosterone and low cortisol is associated with leadership, social dominance, risk-taking, emotional stability, and monetary reward maximization. On the other hand, a hormone profile of high testosterone and high cortisol is associated with subordinate behaviors, socioemotional sensitivity, anxiety, and monetary loss.

Positive Anticipation Helps Overcome Stress[7]

Past research has shown that eliciting positive emotions immediately to offset stress can ameliorate the negative effects of the stressor. Now researchers are testing the effects on stress of anticipating positive events – as that more realistically mirrors how people use emotion to regulate stress in daily life. In two studies, they found that anticipating a positive event leads to improved recovery after stress and is more effective in coping with stress than experiencing a positive event just prior to being stressed.

Recognizing that Life is Meaningful[8]

In our never-ending quest to understand the meaning of life, social psychologists are bringing a different perspective: urging us to think of meaning as an experience that involves seeing, recognizing, and noticing rather than something to search for or struggle to create. Simply maintaining a positive mood, for example, can facilitate meaning in our everyday lives and connect us more to the world.

The convention program is here

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

‘Personality Genes’ May Help Account for Longevity

From the 24 May 2012 article at Science News Daily

It’s in their genes” is a common refrain from scientists when asked about factors that allow centenarians to reach age 100 and beyond. Up until now, research has focused on genetic variations that offer a physiological advantage such as high levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. But researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology of Yeshiva University have found that personality traits like being outgoing, optimistic, easygoing, and enjoying laughter as well as staying engaged in activities may also be part of the longevity genes mix….

“When I started working with centenarians, I thought we’d find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery,” said Nir Barzilai, M.D., the Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert Chair of Aging Research, director of Einstein’s Institute for Aging Research and co-corresponding author of the study. “But when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life. Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network. They expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up.” In addition, the centenarians had lower scores for displaying neurotic personality and higher scores for being conscientious compared with a representative sample of the U.S. population.

“Some evidence indicates that personality can change between the ages of 70 and 100, so we don’t know whether our centenarians have maintained their personality traits across their entire lifespans,” continued Dr. Barzilai. “Nevertheless, our findings suggest that centenarians share particular personality traits and that genetically-based aspects of personality may play an important role in achieving both good health and exceptional longevity.”..

May 25, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives

Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives

Excerpt from a summary of the report at Pew Internet (February 29, 2012)

Teens and young adults brought up from childhood with a continuous connection to each other and to information will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who count on the Internet as their external brain and who approach problems in a different way from their elders, according to a new survey of technology experts.

Many of the experts surveyed by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Internet Project said the effects of hyperconnectivity and the always-on lifestyles of young people will be mostly positive between now and 2020. But the experts in this survey also predicted this generation will exhibit a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes, a loss of patience, and a lack of deep-thinking ability due to what one referred to as “fast-twitch wiring.”….

…This publication is part of a Pew Research Center series that captures people’s expectations for the future of the internet, in the process presenting a snapshot of current attitudes. Find out more at:http://pewinternet.org/topics/Future-of-the-internet.aspx andhttp://imaginingtheinternet.org.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Why People Mispredict Their Behavior In Embarrassing Situations

Why People Mispredict Their Behavior In Embarrassing Situations

From the 18 January 2012 Medical News Today item

Whether it’s investing in stocks, bungee jumping or public speaking, why do we often plan to take risks but then “chicken out” when the moment of truth arrives?

In a new paper* in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder and Carnegie Mellon University argue that this “illusion of courage” is one example of an “empathy gap” – that is, our inability to imagine how we will behave in future emotional situations. According to the empathy gap theory, when the moment of truth is far off you aren’t feeling, and therefore are out of touch with, the fear you are likely to experience when push comes to shove. The research team also included Cornell University’s David Dunning and former CMU graduate student Ned Welch, currently a consultant for McKinsey. …

…”Because social anxiety associated with the prospect of facing an embarrassing situation is such a common and powerful emotion in everyday life, we might think that we know ourselves well enough to predict our own behavior in such situations,” said Leaf Van Boven, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. “But the ample experience most of us should have gained with predicting our own future behavior isn’t sufficient to overcome the empathy gap – our inability to anticipate the impact of emotional states we aren’t currently experiencing.”

The illusion of courage has practical consequences. “People frequently face potential embarrassing situations in everyday life, and the illusion of courage is likely to cause us to expose ourselves to risks that, when the moment of truth arrives, we wish we hadn’t taken,” said George Loewenstein, the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Economics and Psychology within CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Knowing that, we might choose to be more cautious, or we might use the illusion of courage to help us take risks we think are worth it, knowing full well that we are likely to regret the decision when the moment of truth arrives.” …

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How You Envision Others Says A Lot About You In Real Life

How You Envision Others Says A Lot About You In Real Life

From the 14 January 2012 Medical News Today item

Quick, come up with an imaginary co-worker.

Did you imagine someone who is positive, confident, and resourceful? Who rises to the occasion in times of trouble? If so, then chances are that you also display those traits in your own life, a new study finds.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers have found that study participants who conjured positive imaginary co-workers contributed more in the actual workplace, both in job performance and going above and beyond their job descriptions to help others.

The results showed that your perceptions of others – even ones that are made up – says a lot about what kind of person you really are, said Peter Harms, UNL assistant professor of management and the study’s lead author. Imagining coworkers instead of reporting on how you perceive your actual coworkers produces more accurate ratings of having a positive worldview, he said, because it strips away the unique relational baggage that one may have with the people they know.

“When you make up imaginary peers, they are completely a product of how you see the world,” Harms said. “Because of that we can gain better insight into your perceptual biases. That tells us a lot about how you see the world, how you interpret events and what your expectations of others are.” ….

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Psychology, Workplace Health | , , | Leave a comment

What are Job Candidates Really Like? Interview Techniques by an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist

 


From the homepage of the Society of Industrial and Industrial Psychology

Little things can be revealing in an interview, and a skilled interviewer can look beneath the surface to discover the real candidate
 
By Clif Boutelle, SIOP Public Relations
Selecting the right people to lead and build effective executive teams is critical to developing successful organizations, and the interviewing process can be the most important step.
Hiring ineffective leaders can lead to a variety of negative outcomes for an organization, including diminished morale and business performance. That’s why companies will often turn to executive selection experts like Dean Stamoulis, who heads the Global Executive Assessment Practice for New York City-based Russell Reynolds Associates.
He has conducted hundreds of interviews for top-level positions during the past 18 years. Employing his background in industrial-organizational psychology, he has the ability to delve beneath the superficial surface to determine the real substance and skills of candidates.
“What you see is not always what you get, and that’s why it is important to be able to provide a full assessment of a candidate including traits and characteristics not readily apparent in an interview or with provided background information,” said Stamoulis, who is author of Senior Executive Assessment: A Key to Responsible Corporate Governance.
He noted that too often interviewers become enamored with a charismatic candidate who makes a good first impression, instead of looking at relevant past performance and other indicators of leadership. It can work the other way as well. Some of the best executives do not make great first impressions. Looking deeper than the initial perception of a candidate can reveal skills needed for the position as well as leadership talents.
“Many interviewers truly do not focus on the key elements needed for the position,” Stamoulis explained. “It’s not that hard, but a lot of people don’t do it.”
One reason is that job descriptions are often too broad, he said. I-O psychologists can help organizations conduct a job assessment outlining the kind of skills needed for the position. They also possess the knowledge that can identify genuine leadership and personality traits of effective leaders and make valid predictions of likely success.
What are some of the traits Stamoulis looks for in candidates? There are many, he says, but certainly breadth of knowledge and attention are important. A full and rich conversation covering different facets of the business, including both the historical and sociological elements, shows breadth about the business.

Read the entire article

January 4, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Actions And Personality, East And West

From the April 12 2011 Medical News Today article

People in different cultures make different assumptions about the people around them, according to an upcoming study published inPsychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The researchers studied the brain waves of people with Caucasian and Asian backgrounds and found that cultural differences in how we think about other people are embedded deep in our minds. Cultural differences are evident very deep in the brain, challenging a commonsense notion that culture is skin deep.

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

Relationships With Friends May Hinge On How Well You Know Them

Relationships With Friends May Hinge On How Well You Know Them

From a March 26, 2011 Medical News Today item

How does your best friend feel when people act needy? Or, about people being dishonest? What do they think when others seem uncomfortable in social situations? According to an upcoming study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, if you don’t know – your relationship may pay a price. There are lots of ways to know someone’s personality. You can say “she’s an extrovert” or “she’s usually happy.” You may also know how he or she reacts to different situations and other people’s behavior…
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Related article

Social Rejection And Physical Pain

[Medical News Today] March 29, 2011 4:00:00 AM EDT Share

Physical pain and intense feelings of social rejection “hurt” in the same way, a new study shows. The study demonstrates that the same regions of the brain that become active in response to painful sensory experiences are activated during intense experiences of social rejection. “These results give new meaning to the idea that social rejection ‘hurts’,” said University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…
Psychological problems experienced during childhood can have a long-lasting impact on an individual’s life course, reducing people’s earnings and decreasing the chances of establishing long-lasting relationships, according to a new study. Analyzing information about large group of British residents followed for five decades from the week of their birth, researchers found that family income was about one-fourth lower on average by age 50 among those who experienced serious psychological problems during childhood than among those who did not experience such problems…

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Genes of the immune system are associated with increased risk of mental illness

Genes of the immune system are associated with increased risk of mental illness

From a February 3, 2011 Eureka news alert

Genes linked to the immune system can affect healthy people’s personality traits as well as the risk of developing mental illness and suicidal behaviour, reveals a thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Inflammation is part of the immune system and is responsible for defending humans against infection as well as fascilitating the healing of injuries, and is therefore vital for our survival. Research has demonstrated that inflammatory processes also have other roles to play as inflammatory substances produced by the body influence mechanisms in the brain involving learning and memory.

Inflammatory substances produced in moderate quantities in the brain can be beneficial during the formation of new brain cells, for example. However, an increase in the levels of these substances as is the case during illness, can result in damage to the brain.

“Previous studies have shown that individuals suffering from various mental illnesses have an increased peripheral inflammation, but the reason behind this increase is not known,” says Petra Suchankova Karlsson, who wrote the thesis. “It has been suggested that the stress that goes with mental illness activates the body’s immune system, but it is also possible that inflammation in the body affects the brain, which in turn results in mental illness.”

Previous studies have focused on how environmental and psychological factors affect the immune system’s impact on the brain. Suchankova’s thesis presents, for the first time, results that suggest that several different genes linked to the immune system are associated with healthy people’s personality traits. It also demonstrates that some of these genes are associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia or suicidal behaviour….

 

 

February 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scientists Suggest Links Between Personality, Size of Brain Regions

The news item may be found here

Some highlights

  • Four out of the five principle personality “factors” as typically characterized by psychologists — conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness and openness/intellect — were associated with differences in regional brain mass
  • Participants who described themselves as extroverted had a significantly larger medial orbitofrontol cortex — a part of the brain active in considering rewards. Perhaps not surprisingly, those self-described as conscientious had a bigger lateral prefrontal cortex
  • Personality is not an immutable force, given that the brain grows and changes in reaction to experience
  • Openness and intellect didn’t correspond to any particular brain structure

June 25, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | | Leave a comment

   

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