Inducing a sense of awe in people can promote altruistic, helpful and positive social behavior according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
“Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function. By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others,” said Paul Piff, PhD, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine. He was lead author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®.
Awe is that sense of wonder we feel in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world. People commonly experience awe in nature, but also in response to religion, art and even music.
The high rate of unemployment among emerging adults (aged 18 to 25 years) is a public health concern. The risk of depression is higher among the unemployed than among the employed, but little is known about the relationship between unemployment and mental health among emerging adults. This secondary data analysis assessed the relationship between unemployment and depression among emerging adults.
Almost 12% of emerging adults were depressed (PHQ-8 ≥10) and about 23% were unemployed. Significantly more unemployed than employed emerging adults were classified with depression. In the final model, the odds of depression were about 3 times higher for unemployed than employed emerging adults.
The relationship between unemployment and depression is significant among emerging adults. With high rates of unemployment for this age group, this population may benefit from employment- and mental-health–focused interventions.
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is the nation’s premier system of health-related telephone surveys that collect state data about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services. Established in 1984 with 15 states, BRFSS now collects data in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. BRFSS completes more than 400,000 adult interviews each year, making it the largest continuously conducted health survey system in the world.
By collecting behavioral health risk data at the state and local level, BRFSS has become a powerful tool for targeting and building health promotion activities. As a result, BRFSS users have increasingly demanded more data and asked for more questions on the survey.
Some types of decision-making have proven to be very difficult to simulate, limiting progress in the development of computer models of the brain. EPFL scientists have developed a new model of complex decision-making, and have validated it against humans and cutting-edge computer models, uncovering fascinating information about what influences our decision-making and ability to learn from it.
Decision-making comes in two major into two types: Markovian and non-Markovian, named after the mathematician Andrey Markov (1856-1922). Simply put, in Markovian decision-making, the next decision step depends entirely on the current state of affairs. For example, when playing backgammon, the next move depends only on the current layout of the board, and not on how it got to be like that. This relatively straightforward process has been extensively modeled in computers and machines.
Non-Markovian decision-making is more complex. Here, the next step is affected by other factors, such as external constraints and previous decisions. For example, a person’s goal might be to travel on the train. But what will happens when he arrives at the door to the train depends on whether or not he has previously visited the ticket booth to buy a ticket. In other words, the next step depends on how he got there; without a ticket, he cannot proceed to the desired goal. In neuroscience, the “buy-ticket” step is referred to as a “switch-state”.
The results of the study drew three major conclusions. First, that human decision-making can perform just as well as current sophisticated computer models under non-Markovian conditions, such as the presence of a switch-state. This is a significant finding in our current efforts to model the human brain and develop artificial intelligence systems.
Secondly, that delayed feedback significantly impairs human decision-making and learning, even though it does not impact the performance of computer models, which have perfect memory. In the second experiment, it took human participants ten times more attempts to correctly recall and assign arrows to icons. Feedback is a crucial element of decision-making and learning. We set a goal, make a decision about how to achieve it, act accordingly, and then find out whether or not our goal was met. In some cases, e.g. learning to ride a bike, feedback on every decision we make for balancing, pedaling, braking etc. is instant: either we stay up and going, or we fall down. But in many other cases, such as playing backgammon, feedback is significantly delayed; it can take a while to find out if each move has led us to victory or not.
Finally, the researchers found that the spiking neurons model matches and describes human performance very well. The significance of this cannot be overstated, as non-Markovian decision-making has proven to be very challenging for computer models. “This is a proof-of-concept study,” says Michael Herzog. “But the study makes an important contribution toward understanding, and accurately modeling, the human brain – and even surpassing its abilities with artificial intelligence.”
A green grassy roof in Toronto, a city renowned for its efforts to balance nature and urban space.
The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, gave 150 students a boring, attention-sapping task. The students were asked to press a key as a series of numbers repeatedly flashed on a computer screen, unless that number was three.
They were given a 40-second break midway through the task to view a city rooftop scene. Half the group viewed a flowering meadow green roof, the other half looked out onto a bare concrete roof.
After the break, students who glanced at the greener vista made significantly less errors and demonstrated superior concentration on the second half of the task, compared to those who viewed the concrete roof.
The green roof provided a restorative experience that boosted those mental resources that control attention, researchers concluded.
Researchers analyzed the results of 53 different experiments (a so-called meta-analysis) involving nearly 8,500 people, done over 44 years. All of these experiments examined some facet of the question of whether sexual or violent media content could help sell advertised products.
When all the results are considered together, the overall conclusion, with some caveats, is that programs featuring violence and sex aren’t the ideal context for effective advertising, said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University.
It’s not that people don’t pay attention to sex and violence in the media, Bushman said. In fact, an evolutionary perspective would say it is just the opposite.
“People are so focused on the sex and violence they see in the media that they pay less attention to the advertising messages that appear along with it,” Bushman said
Originally published on The Conversation by Tim Woodman, Professor and Head of the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at Bangor University, Lew Hardy, Emeritus Professor, Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance at Bangor University and Matthew Barlow, Post-Doc Researcher in Sport Psychology at Bangor University. Read the original article.
The death of famed “daredevil” climber and base jumper Dean Potter has once again raised the idea that all high-risk sportspeople are hedonistic thrill seekers. Our research into extreme athletes shows this view is simplistic and wrong.
It’s about attitudes to risk. In his famous Moon speech in 1962, John F Kennedy said:
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked [by a New York Times journalist] why did he want to climb it. He said, ‘Because it is there.’ Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there …
Humans have evolved through taking risks. In fact, most human actions can be conceptualised as containing an element of risk: as we take our first step, we risk falling down; as we try a new food, we risk being disgusted; as we ride a bicycle, we risk falling over; as we go on a date, we risk being rejected; and as we travel to the moon, we risk not coming back.
Human endeavour and risk are intertwined. So it is not surprising that despite the increasingly risk-averse society that we live in, many people crave danger and risk – a life less sanitised.
Dean Potter exemplified that craving. He was a pioneering climber and base jumper, well known for scaling huge vertical rock faces without ropes and with only a parachute for protection. On May 16 Potter and fellow climber Graham Hunt died in Yosemite National Park after attempting a dangerous wingsuit flight, where base jumpers wear a special suit that enables them to “fly” forwards and control their fall.
Potter’s endeavours and those of George Mallory seem motivated by something very different from hedonistic thrill. Over the past ten years we have interviewed dozens of high-risk sports people and studied their profiles in detail with a view to trying to find out what that “something different” is. Our findings are surprising.
For example, it is now clear that sensation-seeking explains very little about the motive for many of these people. Many high-risk sportspeople do not crave excitement at all – yes they seek out risky environments, but only with a view to minimising any additional risk so that they can remain in control despite the apparent danger of dangling off cliffs or jumping out of planes.
But there are two more striking features of our recent risk-taking research.
From pawns to players
The first is something we call “agentic emotion regulation”. Feeling agency is similar to feeling in control, but more akin to the feeling “I want to be the person who decides how my life pans out”. Some high-risk sportspeople purposefully seek out danger in order to make some sense of their feelings of lack of agency. In other words, in everyday life they do not feel like the chess player of their life but more like the pawn on the chessboard – they feel emotionally constrained and passive.
Legendary climber Patrick Berhault, who later died traversing a steep face of Switzerland’s highest mountain without a safety rope, once said he didn’t think he’d do it if there wasn’t the notion of risk. “Ordinary life lacks intensity and attraction for me”, he said, “I can’t stand it; I believe we should live!”
The fascinating feature of this finding is that the lowest sense of agency is in relationships that are the most emotional: with loving partners. This feeling of low agency is made worse by the difficulty with expressing their emotions.
In this way, the relationship with risk serves as a proxy for the relationship with a loving partner, except that the risk-taker is rewarded – rather than penalised – for not expressing emotion.
Why do good people do bad things? It’s a question that has been pondered for centuries, and new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology may offer some insights about when people succumb to versus resist ethical temptations.
“People often think that bad people do bad things and good people do good things, and that unethical behavior just comes down to character,” says lead research author Oliver Sheldon, PhD. “But most people behave dishonestly sometimes, and frequently, this may have more to do with the situation and how people view their own unethical behavior than character, per se.”
In a series of experiments, participants who anticipated a temptation to act unethically were less likely to then behave unethically, relative to those who did not. These participants also were less likely to endorse unethical behavior that offered short-term benefits, such as stealing office supplies or illegally downloading copyrighted material. The study was published online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on May 22, 2015.
“Self-control, or a lack thereof, may be one factor which explains why good people occasionally do bad things,” says Sheldon, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Rutgers University.
Anticipating temptation may only help, however, if people identify an unethical act as having the potential to jeopardize their self-image, integrity, or reputation.
Participants who were encouraged to anticipate temptation and who thought their behavior was consistent with their future self, were honest
People also may be more likely to engage in unethical behavior if they believe the act is an isolated incident.
“Unethical behavior may not be experienced as something that needs to be resisted if people think it’s socially acceptable or does not reflect on their moral self-image,” Sheldon says. “People often compartmentalize their experiences of temptation, making it much easier for them to rationalize the behavior. They might say, ‘Just because I took office supplies home for personal use one time, that doesn’t mean I’m a thief.'”
If people want to avoid unethical behavior, it may help to anticipate situations where they will be tempted and consider how acting upon such temptation fits with their long-term goals or beliefs about their own morality. “You may not be concerned about getting caught or about your reputation if people found out, but you might be concerned about your own ethical self-image,” Sheldon says. “Keeping such considerations in mind as one enters into potentially tempting situations can help people resist the temptation to behave unethically.”
The same suggestions may apply for employers, Sheldon says. For example, a manager could email employees before a work trip to warn them against the temptation to inflate travel expenses. The reminder about upcoming temptation might help protect the company’s bottom line, especially if employees view the temptation to inflate travel expenses as something they will encounter repeatedly in the future.
From the 26 May 2015 Max-Planck Institute news release
Different languages can have subtly different effects on the way we think and perceive, a phenomenon known as linguistic relativity. In a new paper in the journal Cognition, researcher Monique Flecken from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, together with colleagues, shows that even when we are not speaking, the grammar of our native language may influence the way we perceive motion events.
In the study, Flecken, with colleagues Panos Athanasopoulos (Lancaster University), Jan Rouke Kuipers (University of Stirling) and Guillaume Thierry (Bangor University), measured the extent to which German and English participants allocated attention totrajectory and endpoint of motion events in a task in which they did not have to speak. Participants were presented with short animations of a dot travelling along a trajectory towards a geometrical shape (endpoint), followed by a picture symbolising the event.
…German participants allocated more attention to endpoints than English speakers, in accordance with the grammatical patterns of their language. Prior work has suggested that linguistic relativity effects may only occur when people are (silently) speaking or planning to speak. In a second experiment, Flecken and colleagues were able to show that this was unlikely.
…linguistic relativity extends to the domain of non-verbal motion perception.” So, even in a non-verbal context, the grammatical properties of a language, including the ways in which events are normally encoded in sentences, influence the way people perceive and attend to motion events.
From the 23 June 2015 University of Queensland news release
Extreme music – such as heavy metal – can positively influence those experiencing anger, a study by The University of Queensland has revealed.
In contrast to previous studies linking loud and chaotic music to aggression and delinquency, research by UQ’s School of Psychology honours student Leah Sharman and Dr Genevieve Dingle showed listeners mostly became inspired and calmed.
“We found the music regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions,” Ms Sharman said.
“When experiencing anger, extreme music fans liked to listen to music that could match their anger.
“The music helped them explore the full gamut of emotion they felt, but also left them feeling more active and inspired.
“Results showed levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after music was introduced, and the most significant change reported was the level of inspiration they felt.”
MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression.
The findings, described in the June 18 issue of Nature, offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences. They also suggest new ways to treat depression by manipulating the brain cells where memories are stored. The researchers believe this kind of targeted approach could have fewer side effects than most existing antidepressant drugs, which bathe the entire brain.
“Once you identify specific sites in the memory circuit which are not functioning well, or whose boosting will bring a beneficial consequence, there is a possibility of inventing new medical technology where the improvement will be targeted to the specific part of the circuit, rather than administering a drug and letting that drug function everywhere in the brain,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and senior author of the paper.
In their new study, the researchers sought to discover if their ability to reactivate existing memories could be exploited to treat depression.
To do this, the researchers first exposed mice to a pleasurable experience. In this case, all of the mice were male and the pleasurable experience consisted of spending time with female mice. During this time, cells in the hippocampus that encode the memory engram were labeled with a light-sensitive protein that activates the neuron in response to blue light.
After the positive memory was formed, the researchers induced depression-like symptoms in the mice by exposing them to chronic stress. These mice show symptoms that mimic those of human sufferers of depression, such as giving up easily when faced with a difficult situation and failing to take pleasure in activities that are normally enjoyable.
However, when the mice were placed in situations designed to test for those symptoms, the researchers found that they could dramatically improve the symptoms by reactivating the neurons that stored the memory of a past enjoyable experience. Those mice began to behave just like mice that had never been depressed — but only for as long as the pleasant memory stayed activated.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — If you get a warm, fuzzy feeling after watching cute cat videos online, the effect may be more profound than you think.
The Internet phenomenon of watching cat videos, from Lil Bub to Grumpy Cat, does more than simply entertain; it boosts viewers’ energy and positive emotions and decreases negative feelings, according to a new study by an Indiana University Media School researcher.
The study, by assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick, surveyed almost 7,000 people about their viewing of cat videos and how it affects their moods. It was published in the latest issue of Computers in Human Behavior. Lil Bub’s owner, Mike Bridavsky, who lives in Bloomington, helped distribute the survey via social media.
“Some people may think watching online cat videos isn’t a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it’s one of the most popular uses of the Internet today,” Myrick said. “If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have on us as individuals and on society, then researchers can’t ignore Internet cats anymore.
“We all have watched a cat video online, but there is really little empirical work done on why so many of us do this, or what effects it might have on us,” added Myrick, who owns a pug but no cats. “As a media researcher and online cat video viewer, I felt compelled to gather some data about this pop culture phenomenon.”
Internet data show there were more than 2 million cat videos posted on YouTube in 2014, with almost 26 billion views. Cat videos had more views per video than any other category of YouTube content.
In Myrick’s study, the most popular sites for viewing cat videos were Facebook, YouTube, Buzzfeed and I Can Has Cheezburger.
Among the possible effects Myrick hoped to explore: Does viewing cat videos online have the same kind of positive impact as pet therapy? And do some viewers actually feel worse after watching cat videos because they feel guilty for putting off tasks they need to tackle?
Of the participants in the study, about 36 percent described themselves as a “cat person,” while about 60 percent said they liked both cats and dogs.
Participants in Myrick’s study reported:
They were more energetic and felt more positive after watching cat-related online media than before.
They had fewer negative emotions, such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness, after watching cat-related online media than before.
They often view Internet cats at work or during studying.
The pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed any guilt they felt about procrastinating.
Cat owners and people with certain personality traits, such as agreeableness and shyness, were more likely to watch cat videos.
About 25 percent of the cat videos they watched were ones they sought out; the rest were ones they happened upon.
They were familiar with many so-called “celebrity cats,” such as Nala Cat and Henri, Le Chat Noir.
Overall, the response to watching cat videos was largely positive.
“Even if they are watching cat videos on YouTube to procrastinate or while they should be working, the emotional pay-off may actually help people take on tough tasks afterward,” Myrick said.
The results also suggest that future work could explore how online cat videos might be used as a form of low-cost pet therapy, she said.
A team comprised of scientists at VIB, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven has made significant progress in uncovering the connection between psychological factors and the immune system. Their findings are based on an investigation of a massive drinking water contamination incident in Belgium in 2010, and are now published in the leading international medical journal Gut.
In December 2010, the Belgian communities of Schelle and Hemiksem in the province of Antwerp faced an outbreak of gastroenteritis, with more than 18,000 people exposed to contaminated drinking water. During the outbreak, VIB and KU Leuven set up a scientific task force to study the incident’s long-term effects, led by Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven) and Adrian Liston (VIB / KU Leuven).
Seizing an unexpected opportunity
Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “The water contamination in Schelle and Hemiksem was an ‘accidental experiment’ on a scale rarely possible in medical research. By following the patients from the initial contamination to a year after the outbreak we were able to find out what factors altered the risk of long-term complications.”
Anxiety and depression affect immune system
The scientists found that individual with higher levels of anxiety or depression prior to the water contamination developed gastrointestinal infections of increased severity. The same individuals also had an increased risk of developing the long-term complication of irritable bowel syndrome, with intermittent abdominal cramps, diarrhea or constipation a year after the initial contamination.
Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven): “Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition of chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel movements. This is a common condition with large socio-economic costs, yet there is so much that still remains to be discovered about the causes. Our investigation found that that anxiety or depression alters the immune response towards a gastrointestinal infection, which can result in more severe symptoms and the development of chronic irritable bowel syndrome.”
Psychological factors key in preventing long-term complications
The study’s results provide valuable new insight into the cause of irritable bowel syndrome, and underscoring the connection between psychological factors and the immune system.
Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “These results once again emphasize the importance of mental health care and social support services. We need to understand that health, society and economics are not independent, and ignoring depression and anxiety results in higher long-term medical costs.”
Think you’re a foodie? Adventurous eaters, known as “foodies,” are often associated with indulgence and excess. However, a new Cornell Food and Brand Lab study shows just the opposite –adventurous eaters weigh less and may be healthier than their less-adventurous counterparts.
The nationwide U.S. survey of 502 women showed that those who had eaten the widest variety of uncommon foods — including seitan, beef tongue, Kimchi, rabbit, and polenta— also rated themselves as healthier eaters, more physically active, and more concerned with the healthfulness of their food when compared with non-adventurous eaters. “They also reported being much more likely to have friends over for dinner,” said lead author Lara Latimer, PhD, formerly at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and now at the University of Texas.
“These findings are important to dieters because they show that promoting adventurous eating may provide a way for people –especially women – to lose or maintain weight without feeling restricted by a strict diet,” said coauthor Brian Wansink, (author ofSlim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life). He advises, “Instead of sticking with the same boring salad, start by adding something new. It could kick start a more novel, fun and healthy life of food adventure.” The article is published in the journal Obesity. It is authored by former Cornell researchers, Lara Latimer, PhD, (currently a Lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin) and Lizzy Pope, PhD, RD (currently Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont), and Brian Wansink, (Professor and Director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.
Summary by Brian Wansink
***The Food and Brand Lab is an interdisciplinary group of graduate and undergraduate students from psychology, food science, marketing, agricultural economics, human nutrition, education, history, library science, and journalism along with a number of affiliated faculty.
From the 6 July 2015 article at San Diego Newscape
“Culture teaches us which emotional states to value, which can in turn shape the emotions we experience,” said Stanford psychology Professor Jeanne Tsai, director of the Culture and Emotion Lab on campus. Stanford psychology postdoctoral fellow Tamara Sims was the lead author on the research paper, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Sims noted that a number of studies by other researchers have shown that people from Chinese and other East Asian cultures are more likely to feel both negative and positive – or “mixed emotions” – during good events, such as doing well on an exam.
On the other hand, Americans of European descent are more likely to just feel positive during good events. Tsai said this is explained by cultural differences in models of the “self.” Americans tend to be more individualistic and focus on standing out, whereas Chinese tend to be more collectivistic, focusing on fitting in.
“In multicultural societies like ours, this can lead to deep misunderstandings,” Tsai said.
For instance, Americans might view Chinese who feel bad during good events as being depressed, when in fact they are feeling how their culture expects them to feel.
In an interview, Sims said, “Although Americans know what it’s like to look for the good in the bad – the silver lining – they are less likely to see the bad in the good, compared to Chinese.”
How Inauthenticity Produces Feelings of Immorality and Impurity
The five experiments reported here demonstrate that authenticity is directly linked to morality. We found that experiencing inauthenticity, compared with authenticity, consistently led participants to feel more immoral and impure. This link from inauthenticity to feeling immoral produced an increased desire among participants to cleanse themselves and to engage in moral compensation by behaving prosocially. We established the role that impurity played in these effects through mediation and moderation. We found that inauthenticity-induced cleansing and compensatory helping were driven by heightened feelings of impurity rather than by the psychological discomfort of dissonance. Similarly, physically cleansing oneself eliminated the relationship between inauthenticity and prosocial compensation. Finally, we obtained additional evidence for discriminant validity: The observed effects on desire for cleansing were not driven by general negative experiences (i.e., failing a test) but were unique to experiences of inauthenticity. Our results establish that authenticity is a moral state—that being true to thine own self is experienced as a form of virtue.
Whether people locate their sense of self in the brain or the heart can have a major influence on their decision-making, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Columbia University.
Overall, the study found people tend to locate the self in the brain.
The paper, “Who You Are Is Where You Are: Antecedents and Consequences of Locating the Self in the Brain or the Heart,” will be published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
“We view our research as a first step toward reviving the debate about which part of our body contains the seat of the self – a debate that dates back to the ancient Greek philosophers,” said Hajo Adam, an assistant professor of management at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. “Our findings demonstrate not only that the preference for the brain versus the heart as the location of the self systematically depends on a person’s self-construal — meaning the perceptions that individuals have about their thoughts, feelings and actions in relation to others — but also that the location of the self has important implications for people’s opinions on contentious medical issues as well as prosocial contributions.”
Adam co-authored the paper with Otilia Obodaru, an assistant professor of management at the Jones School, and Adam Galinsky, the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business and chair of the management division at Columbia’s business school.
The authors’ research consisted of eight studies exploring the antecedents and consequences of whether people locate their sense of self in the brain or the heart. Their hypothesis was that although people generally tend to locate their sense of self in the brain, this preference is significantly stronger for people with an independent self-construal than for people with an interdependent self-construal.
People with an independent self-construal tend to assert the autonomous nature of the self, realize their internal attributes and influence their environment. In pursuit of these self-relevant goals, these people often engage in thoughts, conversations and behaviors that are conceptually related to the brain. In contrast, people with an interdependent self-construal tend to be part of a group, maintain harmonious relationships and adjust to others. In pursuit of these self-relevant goals, these people often engage in thoughts, conversations and behaviors that are conceptually related not only to the brain, but also to the heart.
But when children’s temper tantrums or mood swings are beyond the norm, or they are overwhelmed by homework organization, do parents speak up?
Today’s University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health finds that many parents of children age 5-17 wouldn’t discuss behavioral or emotional issues that could be signs of potential health problems with their doctors. While more than 60 percent of parents definitely would talk to the doctor if their child was extremely sad for more than a month, only half would discuss temper tantrums that seemed worse than peers or if their child seemed more worried or anxious than normal. Just 37 percent would tell the doctor if their child had trouble organizing homework.
The most common reason for not sharing these details with their children’s doctors? Nearly half of parents believed that these simply were not medical problems. Another 40 percent of parents say they would rather handle it themselves and about 30 percent would rather speak to someone other than a doctor.
“Behavioral health and emotional health are closely tied to a child’s physical health, well-being and development, but our findings suggest that we are often missing the boat in catching issues early,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics.
“Frontiers in Psychology is an open access journal that aims at publishing the best research across the entire field of psychology. Today, psychological science is becoming increasingly important at all levels of society, from the treatment of clinical disorders to our basic understanding of how the mind works. It is highly interdisciplinary, borrowing questions from philosophy, methods from neuroscience and insights from clinical practice – all in the goal of furthering our grasp of human nature and society, as well as our ability to develop new intervention methods. The journal thus welcomes outstanding contributions in any domain of psychological science, from clinical research to cognitive science, from perception to consciousness, from imaging studies to human factors, from animal cognition to social psychology.”
From the report (The 2015 World Happiness Report and supplemental files are available for download for free at this link)
The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The first report was published in 2012, the second in 2013, and the third on April 23, 2015. Leading experts across fields – economics, psychology, survey analysis, national statistics, health, public policy and more – describe how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations. The reports review the state of happiness in the world today and show how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness. They reflect a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as a criteria for government policy.
The world has come a long way since the first World Happiness Report launched in 2012. Increasingly happiness is considered a proper measure of social progress and goal of public policy. A rapidly increasing number of national and local governments are using happiness data and research in their search for policies that could enable people to live better lives. Governments are measuring subjective well-being, and using well-being research as a guide to the design of public spaces and the delivery of public services.
Harnessing Happiness Data and Research to Improve Sustainable Development
The year 2015 is a watershed for humanity, with the pending adoption by UN member states of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September to help guide the world community towards a more inclusive and sustainable pattern of global development. The concepts of happiness and well-being are very likely to help guide progress towards sustainable development.
Sustainable development is a normative concept, calling for all societies to balance economic, social, and environmental objectives. When countries pursue GDP in a lopsided manner, overriding social and environmental objectives, the results often negatively impact human well- being. The SDGs are designed to help countries to achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives in harmony, thereby leading to higher levels of well-being for the present and future generations.
The SDGs will include goals, targets and quantitative indicators. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, in its recommendations on the selection of SDG indicators, has strongly recommended the inclusion of indicators of Subjective Well-being and Positive Mood Affect to help guide and measure the progress towards the SDGs. We find considerable support of many governments and experts regarding the inclusion of such happiness indicators for the SDGs. The World Happiness Report 2015 once again underscores the fruitfulness of using happiness measurements for guiding policy making and for helping to assess the overall well-being in each society.
IMAGE: VIOLENCE AND GENDER IS THE ONLY PEER-REVIEWED JOURNAL FOCUSING ON THE UNDERSTANDING, PREDICTION, AND PREVENTION OF ACTS OF VIOLENCE. THROUGH RESEARCH PAPERS, ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS, CASE STUDIES, AND OTHER ORIGINAL CONTENT,… view more
Author Michael Stone, MD, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, New York, NY, provides an in-depth look at the scope of mass murders committed in the U.S. during recent decades, describing the crime as “an almost exclusively male phenomenon.” Most mass murderers have a mental illness characterized by a paranoid personality disorder that includes a deep sense of unfairness and a skewed version of reality. Unfortunately, this profile of the men who have committed mass murders has often led to the unwarranted stigmatization of the mentally ill as a group as being inherently dangerous, which is not the case.
Dr. Stone points in particular to the growing availability of semiautomatic weapons as a key factor contributing to the increasing rate of random mass shootings in the U.S. during the past 65 years. The number of events nearly doubles in the 1990s compared to the 1980s, for example.
Certain meditation techniques can promote behavior to vary adaptively from moment to moment depending on current goals, rather than remaining rigid and inflexible. This is the outcome of a study by Lorenza Colzato and Iliana Samara from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition at Leiden University, published in Consciousness and Cognition.
Different meditation types, different effects
Colzato and her fellow researchers were the first to investigate if meditation has an immediate effect on behavior, even in people who have never meditated before. “There are two fundamental types of meditation that affect us differently,” Colzato says, “open monitor meditation (which involves being receptive to every thought and sensation) and focused attention meditation (which entails focusing on a particular thought or object).”
Today at Sarvodaya’s Early Morning meditation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
36 people who had never meditated before participated in this experiment. Half of the people practiced open monitor meditation while the other half practiced focused attention meditation for 20 minutes, respectively. After meditating, Samara asked participants to perform a task during which they were required to continuously adjust and adaptively discriminate irrelevant information from relevant information as quickly as possible.
Meditation optimizes adaptive behavior
Compared to participants who performed OMM, people who performed FAM were significantly better in adapting and adjusting their behavior from moment to moment. Colzato: “Even if preliminary, these results provide the first evidence that meditation instantly affects behavior and that this impact does not require practice. As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of meditation for optimizing adaptive behavior.
If a time machine was available, would it be right to kill Adolf Hitler when he was still a young Austrian artist to prevent World War II and save millions of lives? Should a police officer torture an alleged bomber to find hidden explosives that could kill many people at a local cafe? When faced with such dilemmas, men are typically more willing to accept harmful actions for the sake of the greater good than women. For example, women would be less likely to support the killing of a young Hitler or torturing a bombing suspect, even if doing so would ultimately save more lives.
According to new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, this gender difference in moral decisions is caused by stronger emotional aversion to harmful action among women; the study found no evidence for gender differences in the rational evaluation of the outcomes of harmful actions.
“Women are more likely to have a gut-level negative reaction to causing harm to an individual, while men experience less emotional responses to doing harm,” says lead research author Rebecca Friesdorf. The finding runs contrary to the common stereotype that women being more emotional means that they are also less rational, Friesdorf says. The journal article was published online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on April 3, 2015.
The very public trials of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and the Colorado theater shooting suspect, James Holmes, put images and stories about these traumatic events once again in front of the public.
During both phases of the Boston Marathon bombing trial, testimony from survivors and first responders, as well as graphic images of the bombing, were front and center on television, the internet, and print media. And survivors of the Colorado theater shooting have vividly described in their trial testimony that night in detail and their terror and anguish seeing loved ones next to them dead or dying.
So what are the psychological and health effects of exposure to traumatic events like these?
What is trauma?
Traumatic events are those experiences that are perceived to be threats to one’s safety or stability and that cause physical, emotional and psychological stress or harm. In other words, these are events that fall outside the range of normal human experience and to which reactions vary according to the individual person.
Traumatic events aren’t always violent. They can range from moving somewhere new to a mass disaster or even war.
For most people, trauma is experienced during and immediately after the event. But for many, the trauma may be relived for months or even years, as has been the case, for instance, with the aftereffects of the September 11 attacks.
New trauma can bring back old memories
In addition, people with histories of previous trauma such as combat veterans may be more vulnerable to the effects of new traumatic events.
How can people cope with trauma?
What, then, can people do to alleviate the negative aftereffects of such events in order to return to their normal daily lives? The American Psychological Association recommendsmaking connections with others, accepting change, meeting problems head on and taking care of yourself.
It’s also important to remember that one never completely forgets such events, nor do professionals suggest that is the goal of recovery. Healthy recovery involves acknowledging that the events were terrible but at the same time not allowing them to interfere with daily living. Even if, 10 years later, a sudden noise triggers momentary fear.
From the 15 May 2015 University of Connecticut news release
People’s personalities tend to vary somewhat depending on the season in which they are born, and astrological signs may have developed as a useful system for remembering these patterns, according to an analysis by UConn researcher Mark Hamilton. Such seasonal effects may not be clear in individuals, but can be discerned through averaging personality traits across large cohorts born at the same time of year. Hamilton’s analysis was published in Comprehensive Psychology on May 13.
Psychologists have known that certain personality traits tend to be associated with certain birth months. For example, people born in January and February tend to be more creative, and have a higher chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenia, than people born at any other time of year. And people born in odd-numbered months tend to be more extroverted than those born in even-numbered months.
So it wasn’t unprecedented when a paper appeared in 2013 in the Journal of Social Sciences linking birth month with the likelihood of becoming a celebrity. What was unusual, though, was that one of the authors was an astrophysicist, and the paper’s introduction included an explanation of the physics behind the astrological calendar. The authors argued that astrological ‘signs’ are merely an accident of the sun’s location in the cosmos, but that analysis shows certain zodiac signs have a curious correlation with fame.
The next year, a psychologist published a paper in Comprehensive Psychology purporting to debunk the first paper’s astrological findings. The author claimed that relative age among all the children in the same school grade could explain the zodiac effect, with children who were born earlier in the year, and were comparatively more mature, having more positive experiences overall.
UConn’s Hamilton, a social scientist in the Department of Communication, was unconvinced. He had reviewed the original paper for the Journal of Social Sciences, and considered the data and analysis to be sound. So he set out to debunk the debunking, examine some of the traditional astrological explanations, and see if they could be aligned with known psychological findings.
Traditional Western astrology uses elements (water, earth, air, and fire), sign duality (bright/dark), and sign qualities (cardinal, mutable, and fixed) to describe and categorize seasonal effects on personality. It considers late December through early March as a “wet” time of year, and connects wetness with creativity, for example. “Fixed” signs are said to be more stubborn and persistent than others.
Hamilton looked at the same data from the original paper, a set of 300 celebrities from the fields of politics, science, public service, literature, the arts, and sports. He found that celebrities’ birth dates tended to cluster at certain times of the year. “Wet” signs were associated with a larger number of celebrities, as were signs classified as “bright” and “fixed”.
“Psychologists want to dismiss these astrological correlations,” says Hamilton, “but there are seasonality effects that we have yet to explain.” Hamilton is not arguing that heavenly bodies are the true source of these effects; rather that astrological aspects are just useful tools, or heuristics, that help people remember the timing and patterns of nature.
Hamilton found that relative age of children in a school cohort did have some effect on propensity to become a celebrity. Children who spend their school years slightly older than the average among their peers are somewhat more likely to become famous, perhaps because they have more early success and so have better self-esteem into adulthood.
But Hamilton found that the relative age effect was dwarfed by the effect of being born under a wet astrological sign such as Aquarius or Pisces. Being born under a fixed quality sign – Aquarius, Taurus, Leo, or Scorpio – also increased a person’s chances of achieving celebrity to about the same degree as being older than average in his or her school cohort. In addition, being born under a “bright” sign increased a person’s chances of finding fame.
Hamilton is currently working with other researchers on an analysis of 85,000 celebrities dating from 3000 B.C. to the present era. He says the seasonality effect on celebrity appears to hold true even in this large data set that stretches across millennia and cultures.
For readers fascinated by the intricacies and ins and outs of domestic life in 21st century America, the Atlantic has gathered together its articles on family in a handy, easily accessible – and free – webpage. The articles run from serious investigations of How Nurses Can Help Low-Income Mothers and Kids to entertaining ones exploring The Psychological Reason ‘Billie Jean’ Kills at Weddings. Along the way, readers may explore the pros and cons of apps that help parents track their baby’s napping cycles, why it is that pretending to understand what a baby says can help it learn, and the research-confirmed importance of making deliberate choices in love relationships.[CNH]
From the 18 March 2015 EurkAlert!
“Though trust can have negative consequences, especially among older adults at risk of falling for scams and fraud, the studies found no evidence that those negative consequences erode the benefits of trust.”
A University at Buffalo social psychologist who specializes in the study of prejudice and stigma says that American Indian nicknames and mascots are not neutral symbols, and that their continued use by schools, professional sports teams and other organizations has negative consequences for everyone, not just Native Americans.
In a study of 159 women who had been exposed to at least one assault-related potentially traumatic event, 30% developed major depressive disorder, which may be attributed to self-blame common to survivors of assault. Fewer women (21%) developed chronic posttraumatic stress disorder.
Mastery–the degree to which an individual perceives control and influence over life circumstances–and social support were most prevalent in women who did not develop a trauma-related psychiatric disorder after assault exposure, while mastery and posttraumatic growth were related to psychiatric recovery. These factors were less established in women with a current psychiatric disorder.
The Brain and Behavior findings have significance for the health and wellbeing of women, and for identifying individuals who are most in need of resilience-promoting interventions. “Women exposed to assault may present with post-trauma depression in lieu of posttraumatic stress disorder. Resilience factors like mastery and social support may attenuate the deleterious effects of an assault,” said lead author Heather L. Rusch. “The next step is to determine the extent that these factors may be fostered through clinical intervention.”
by Scott Weybright, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences
PULLMAN, Wash. – Gender and personality matter in how people cope with physical and mental illness, according to a paper by a Washington State University scientist and colleagues at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
Men are less affected by a single-symptom illness than women, but are more affected when more than one symptom is present. The number of symptoms doesn’t change how women are affected, according to Robert Rosenman, WSU professor in the Department of Economic Sciences.
Rosenman worked with Dusanee Kesavayuth and Vasileios Zikos, both at UTCC in Bangkok, Thailand, on the study.
“Women are more impacted by illness than men, unless more than one symptom is present,” said Rosenman. “Then men are more impacted than women. And perhaps more importantly, personality affects how women handle becoming sick, while men of all types react the same.”
Fifteen years ago, the name “Aiden” was hardly on the radar of Americans with new babies. It ranked a lowly 324th on the Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby names. But less than a decade later, the name became a favorite, soaring into the top 20 for five years and counting.
While some may attribute its popularity to a “Sex in the City” character, a new study led by the University of Pennsylvania’s Damon Centola provides a scientific explanation for how social conventions – everything from acceptable baby names to standards of professional conduct – can emerge suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, with no external forces driving their creation.
The research used an original Web-based experiment to test whether and how large populations come to consensus. The findings have implications for everything from understanding why different regions of the country have distinct words for the same product — soda versus pop, for example — to explaining how norms regarding civil rights gained widespread traction in the United States.
“Our study explains how certain ideas and behaviors can gain a foothold and, all of a sudden, emerge as big winners,” Centola said. “It is a common misconception that this process depends upon some kind of leader, or centralized media source, to coordinate a population. We show that it can depend on nothing more than the normal interactions of people in social networks.”
To understand how social norms arise, Centola and Baronchelli invented a Web-based game, which recruited participants from around the World Wide Web using online advertisements. In each round of the “Name Game,” participants were paired, shown a photograph of a human face and asked to give it a name. If both players provided the same name, they won a small amount of money. If they failed, they lost a small amount and saw their partner’s name suggestion. The game continued with new partners for as many as 40 rounds.
Though the basic structure of the game remained the same throughout the experiment, the researchers wanted to see whether changing the way that players interacted with one another would affect the ability of the group to come to consensus.
They began with a game of 24 players, each of whom was assigned a particular position within an online “social network.” The participants, however, weren’t aware of their position, didn’t know who they were playing with or even how many other players were in the game.
Centola and Baronchelli tested the effects of three different types of networks.
In the “geographical network” version, players interacted repeatedly with their four closest neighbors in a spatial neighborhood. In the “small world network” game, participants still played with only four other players, but the partners were chosen randomly from around the network. And in the “random mixing” version, players were not limited to four other partners, instead playing each new round with a new partner selected at random from all the participants.
As the games proceeded, the researchers observed clear patterns in people’s behavior that distinguished the different networks.
In the geographical and small world network games, participants easily coordinated with their neighbors, but they were not able to settle on one overall “winning” name for the population. Instead, a few competing names emerged as popular options: Sarah, Elena, Charlene and Julie all vying for dominance, for instance, with no global agreement.
Analysis of research on the effect of negative stereotypes on older people’s abilities has concluded these stereotypes are a major problem for the demographic.
A research team at the University’s School of Psychology carried out a review and meta-analysis of Aged-Based Stereotype Threat (ABST).
They statistically analysed international evidence from 37 research studies, both published and unpublished. They concluded that older adults’ memory and cognitive performance is negatively affected in situations that signal or remind them of negative age stereotypes. These effects affect both men and women.
The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research council (ESRC), was carried out by Ruth Lamont, working with Dr Hannah Swift and Professor Dominic Abrams. It further found that older people’s cognitive performance suffers more when the threat is induced by stereotypes rather than by facts.
A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) illuminates important trends — many positive — in Americans’ behavioral health, both nationally and on a state-by-state basis.
SAMHSA’s new report, the “National Behavioral Health Barometer” (Barometer), provides data about key aspects of behavioral healthcare issues affecting American communities including rates of serious mental illness, suicidal thoughts, substance use, underage drinking, and the percentages of those who seek treatment for these disorders. The Barometer shows this data at the national level, and for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Barometer indicates that the behavioral health of our nation is improving in some areas, particularly among adolescents. For example, past month use of both illicit drugs and cigarettes has fallen for youth ages 12-17 from 2009 to 2013 (from 10.1 percent to 8.8 percent for illicit drugs and 9.0 percent to 5.6 percent for cigarettes). Past month binge drinking among children ages 12-17 has also fallen from 2009 to 2013 (from 8.9 percent to 6.2 percent).
The Barometer also shows more people are getting the help they need in some crucial areas. The number of people receiving treatment for a substance use problem has increased six percent from 2009 to 2013. It also shows that the level of adults experiencing serious mental illness who received treatment rose from 62.9 percent in 2012 to 68.5 percent in 2013.
The data in the Barometer is drawn from various federal surveys and provides both a snapshot of the current status of behavioral health nationally and by state, and trend data on some of these key behavioral health issues over time. The findings will be enormously helpful to decision makers at all levels who are seeking to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
“The Barometer provides new insight into what is happening on the ground in states across the country,” said SAMHSA’s Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde. “It provides vital information on the progress being made in each state as well as the challenges before them. States and local communities use this data to determine the most effective ways of addressing their behavioral healthcare needs.”
The Barometer also provides analyses by gender, age group and race/ethnicity, where possible, to further help public health authorities more effectively identify and address behavioral health issues occurring within their communities, and to serve as a basis for tracking and addressing behavioral health disparities.
For the first time, the Barometer provides analyses broken down by poverty level (above or below) and health insurance status. This data can help provide researchers, policy makers, public health authorities and others a better understanding of how income and insurance coverage affect access and utilization of behavioral healthcare services.
For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
The goal of the research was not to identify whether individuals are “stubborn,” but rather to understand perceptions of older parents and their adult children regarding such behavior.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Headstrong elderly parents and their adult children may be able to find common ground with proper intervention, according to researchers in human development.
Recent findings suggest that both adult children and their aging parents identify stubbornness in the parents, and that a new approach to conversation may be the answer.
Aging parents may respond to advice or help with daily problems from their grown children by insisting, resisting, or persisting in their ways or opinions — being stubborn. Until now, research has not examined how frequently such behaviors occur and what factors are associated with these behaviors.
The researchers demonstrated that individual and relationship-based factors are linked to the perceived expression of stubbornness by parents and that there is discordance in perceptions within families. Findings suggest a need for intervention to increase understanding.
“Finding better ways to have that conversation is really important,” Zarit said.
The researchers found that stubborn behaviors are reported to have occurred in the past few months at least once, but usually more often for more than 90 percent of families interviewed.
Three-fourths of children and two-thirds of aging parents in the sample say that at least one of the behaviors — insisting, resisting or persisting — is happening sometimes. The children in these families are not providing caregiving support — high levels of support with daily activities or basic needs — but rather the family members are providing everyday support to one another.
A second finding, Heid said, is that adult children link perceptions of parent stubbornness with how children see their relationships with their parents, but parents link their perceptions to who they are as people. If parents see themselves as more neurotic or less agreeable, they report more stubbornness.
There are often basic differences within families about day-to-day goals that could impact how families provide care or support. It is likely, Heid says, that these differences are a barrier to providing support within families.
“Helping families learn how to talk about older adults’ preferences and about goal differences may be important in helping families best support older adults,” she said. “However, this may mean we need to do additional work and research to develop the best strategies to do so.”
“For families providing support to an older adult, this work confirms that these behaviors happen, but also that there is room for continued communication to ensure that there are shared goals in care and support,” Heid said.
Walking classrooms are better for not only for students’ physical health, but classroom engagement, a study from KTH Royal Institute of Technology shows.
Olle Bälter, lecturer in computer science. (Photo: Christer Gummeson)
What began in a response to a physical activity challenge for the computer science faculty at KTH has become a study in how education and fitness can be combined to improve both physical well-being, and classroom discussions.
Instructor Olle Bälter improvised his “walking seminar” in media technology at KTH during the spring of 2014, in response to a competition in which staff were recording the number of hours they and their students spent sitting, as opposed to being active.
Taking his group of 10 students for a stroll through a wooded park near the Stockholm campus, Bälter immediately began to see results.
“Students feel freer to talk when they are outdoors than when they are in the classroom,” Bälter says. His experience seemed consistent with a paper that he cites as an inspiration — a Stanford University study linking creativity with physical activity.
Now Bälter and his colleagues are adding their experience to the body of knowledge supporting more activity in education. In an article presented at the Lund Institute of Technology eighth pedagogical inspiration conference in December, Bälter and coauthors Björn Hedin and Helena Tobiasson reported that a significant majority of the students surveyed preferred the walk seminars over traditional seminars.
Notably, 21 of 23 students surveyed said that after the workshops they felt better than after typical, sedentary seminars; and no one thought they felt worse. Furthermore, 17 of the 23 students believed that communication was better.
“It is noticeable how much easier it is for individual students to express their views on these walking seminars, particularly when the class is split into smaller groups,” Bälter says.
Second-year student Frida Haugsbakk agrees. “Everyone chipped in, even those who were too shy to speak in larger groups,” he says. “On the walk, students can address another student directly, while the others simply listen and enter the discussion later on.”
Peter Larsson, Christer Gummeson and David Callahan
New York, NY, January 26, 2015 — A multi-institution team of sleep researchers recently found that workers who participated in an intervention aimed at reducing conflict between work and familial responsibilities slept an hour more each week and reported greater sleep sufficiency than those who did not participate in the intervention. Their study is published inSleep Health, Journal of the National Sleep Foundation.
“Increasing family-supportive supervision and employee control over work time benefited the sleep of hundreds of employees, and even greater effects may be possible if sleep is overtly addressed in workplace interventions,” explained lead author Ryan Olson, PhD, of Oregon Health & Science University. “The Work, Family, and Health Network Study intervention was designed to reduce work-family conflict. It did not directly address sleep, yet sleep benefits were observed.”
The invention focused on the U.S. employees of an information technology firm. Groups of randomly selected managers and employees participated in a three-month, social and organizational change process that included interactive sessions with facilitated discussions, role-playing, and games. Managers were also trained in family supportive supervision and self-monitored how they applied the training on the job. Data were collected through qualitative interviews 12 months after the intervention was introduced and by actigraphy, the measurement of individuals’ sleeping and waking patterns using a monitor attached to participants’ wrists. Actigraphy measures of sleep quality and quantity were taken at the beginning of the intervention, to establish baseline measures for participants, and 12 months after the intervention. Each of the 474 participants’ activity recordings were evaluated by two scorers, who identified periods of sleep relative to each participant’s waking activities.
“I applaud the methodological rigor of Olson and colleagues’ approach to assessing the Work, Family, and Health Network Study’s effect on the sleep duration and quality of a real world population,” commented Dr. Lauren Hale, Editor-in-Chief of Sleep Health. “This study demonstrates that interventions unrelated to sleep can improve sleep in the population. Furthermore, these findings serve as a reminder that there are opportunities to deploy innovative interventions to improve sleep.”
The authors had hypothesized that both sleep duration and insomnia would be improved in the study’s twelfth month; secondarily, they hypothesized that any improvement in sleep quality and duration would be mediated by employees’ enhanced control over their work time and reduced work-family conflict assessed at the sixth month after baseline. Researchers created a statistical mediation model that accounted for the multiple temporal aspects of actigraphic sleep data and participant characteristics.
“Here we showed that an intervention focused on changing the workplace culture could increase the measured amount of sleep employees obtain, as well as their perception that their sleep was more sufficient,” noted lead investigator Orfeu M. Buxton, PhD, Pennsylvania State University (with secondary appointments at Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital). “Work can be a calling and inspirational, as well as a paycheck, but work should not be detrimental to health. It is possible to mitigate some of the deleterious effects of work by reducing work-family conflict, and improving sleep.”
To control one’s dreams and to live out there what is impossible in real life – a truly tempting idea. Some persons – so-called lucid dreamers –can do this. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when being awake.
Sagittal human brain with cortical regions delineated. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lucid dreamers are aware of dreaming while dreaming. Sometimes, they can even play an active role in their dreams. Most of them, however, have this experience only several times a year and just very few almost every night. Internet forums and blogs are full of instructions and tips on lucid dreaming. Possibly, lucid dreaming is closely related to the human capability of self-reflection – the so-called metacognition.
Neuroscientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry have compared brain structures of frequent lucid dreamers and participants who never or only rarely have lucid dreams. Accordingly, the anterior prefrontal cortex, i.e., the brain area controlling conscious cognitive processes and playing an important role in the capability of self-reflection, is larger in lucid dreamers.
The differences in volumes in the anterior prefrontal cortex between lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers suggest that lucid dreaming and metacognition are indeed closely connected. This theory is supported by brain images taken when test persons were solving metacognitive tests while being awake. Those images show that the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex was higher in lucid dreamers. “Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams,” states Elisa Filevich, post-doc in the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
The researchers further want to know whether metacognitive skills can be trained. In a follow-up study, they intend to train volunteers in lucid dreaming to examine whether this improves the capability of self-reflection.
University of Pennsylvania researchers have found that the words people use on Twitter can help predict the rate of heart disease deaths in the counties where they live. Places where people tweet happier language about happier topics show lower rates of heart disease death when compared with Centers for Disease Control statistics, while places with angry language about negative topics show higher rates.
The findings of this study, which was published in the journal Psychological Science, cut across fields such as medicine, psychology, public health and possibly even civil planning. It’s yet another affirmation that Twitter, despite any inherent demographic biases, is a good source of relatively unfiltered data about people’s thoughts and feelings,well beyond the scale and depth of traditional polls or surveys. In this case, the researchers used approximately 148 million geo-tagged tweets from 2009 and 2010 from more than 1,300 counties that contain 88 percent of the U.S. population.
(How to take full advantage of this glut of data, especially for business and governments, is something we’ll cover at our Structure Data conference with Twitter’s Seth McGuire and Dataminr’s Ted Bailey.)
What’s more, at the county level, the Penn study’s findings about language sentiment turn out to be more predictive of heart disease than any other individual factor — including income, smoking and hypertension. A predictive model combining language with those other factors was the most accurate of all.
That’s a result similar to recent research comparing Google Flu Trends with CDC data. Although it’s worth noting that Flu Trends is an ongoing project that has already been collecting data for years, and that the search queries it’s collecting are much more directly related to influenza than the Penn study’s tweets are to heart disease.
Last month I unfriended (FB) Huffington Post. The postings were increasingly not only sexual in nature, but outright base. Came across this one via a FB friend, and am grateful. While I believe the jury is still out, it does highlight a factor that probably has been overlooked. Caring compassionate communities do make a difference. Reminds me of a story about an inmate. He was very angry with another inmate, so much so he was contemplating murder. He told this to other members of his prayer group. He also related that he did not murder because he didn’t want to let the prayer group members down.
It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned — and all through this long century of waging war on drugs, we have been told a story about addiction by our teachers and by our governments. This story is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we take it for granted. It seems obvious. It seems manifestly true. Until I set off three and a half years ago on a 30,000-mile journey for my new book, Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs, to figure out what is really driving the drug war, I believed it too. But what I learned on the road is that almost everything we have been told about addiction is wrong — and there is a very different story waiting for us, if only we are ready to hear it.
If we truly absorb this new story, we will have to change a lot more than the drug war. We will have to change ourselves.
The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.
At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was — at the same time as the Rat Park experiment — a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was “as common as chewing gum” among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about to head home when the war ended.
But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers — according to the same study — simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.
Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage.
There just might be something to this. Can only speak for myself. There’s a bottle in the house with about 10 oxycodone pills left over from my husband’s hospital admission. Been there from about a year. I’ve taken three when I thought they were needed. Could be argued I’m not physiologically wired for them. But I think I have a relatively stable life and good support…
From the 21 January 2015 University of Basel press release
Women rate emotional images as more emotionally stimulating than men do and are more likely to remember them. However, there are no gender-related differences in emotional appraisal as far as neutral images are concerned. These were the findings of a large-scale study by a research team at the University of Basel that focused on determining the gender-dependent relationship between emotions, memory performance and brain activity. The results will be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
Brain activity when viewing negative emotional images: red and yellow indicates the more active areas of the brain when images are rated as highly stimulating. Green indicates the areas that specifically become more active in women (image: MCN, University of Basel).)
It is known that women often consider emotional events to be more emotionally stimulating than men do. Earlier studies have shown that emotions influence our memory: the more emotional a situation is, the more likely we are to remember it. This raises the question as to whether women often outperform men in memory tests because of the way they process emotions. A research team from the University of Basel’s “Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences” Transfaculty Research Platform attempted to find out.
With the help of 3,398 test subjects from four sub-trials, the researchers were able to demonstrate that females rated emotional image content – especially negative content – as more emotionally stimulating than their male counterparts did. In the case of neutral images, however, there were no gender-related differences in emotional appraisal.
In a subsequent memory test, female participants could freely recall significantly more images than the male participants. Surprisingly though, women had a particular advantage over men when recalling positive images. “This would suggest that gender-dependent differences in emotional processing and memory are due to different mechanisms,” says study leader Dr Annette Milnik.
Increased brain activity Using fMRI data from 696 test subjects, the researchers were also able to show that stronger appraisal of negative emotional image content by the female participants is linked to increased brain activity in motoric regions. “This result would support the common belief that women are more emotionally expressive than men,” explaines Dr Klara Spalek, lead author of the study.
The findings also help to provide a better understanding of gender-specific differences in information processing. This knowledge is important, because many neuropsychiatric illnesses also exhibit gender-related differences. The study is part of a research project led by professors Dominique de Quervain and Andreas Papassotiropoulos at the University of Basel, which aims to increase the understanding of neuronal and molecular mechanisms of human memory and thereby facilitate the development of new treatments.
With so much focus on risk factors for disease, we are living in an era of surveillance medicine, in which the emphasis on risk blurs the lines between health and illness, argue researchers at Yale and Syracuse universities in a study published in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Co-authors Rene Almeling, assistant professor of sociology at Yale, and Shana Kushner Gadarian, assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University, conducted a nationwide survey of American adults to determine if healthy people react to hypothetical genetic risk information by wanting to take action.
The main finding of the study was that as the level of risk increases from 20% to 80%, people are more likely to want to take action of all kinds, including seeking information about the disease, managing risk by taking medications or undergoing surgery, consulting family members, organizing finances, and participating in community and political events.
The results of the survey showed the importance of risk information even to healthy people, suggesting that the experience of living between health and disease is not just limited to those who are already patients. “Social scientists have argued that we are now treating risk as if it were a disease, and these results provide strong evidence for that claim,” says Almeling.
Participants were asked if they have a family member or close friend with the disease to which they had been assigned to assess whether experience with the disease increased their interest in taking action. The researchers were startled to find that seeing a disease up close did not make much difference; across the board, people responded to the hypothetical risk information by wanting to take action.
The survey questions were hypothetical, but the issues that the study raises are real, note the researchers, adding that people use risk information to make significant medical decisions, such as whether to increase the frequency of cancer screenings or undergo prophylactic surgery.
“It is extremely important for social scientists and clinicians to understand how people respond to these risk numbers and how they are being used to make important life decisions,” says Almeling. She added, “Studies like this can aid health care providers in offering genetic information with sufficient context to insure that people make the best decisions for themselves.”
Given that people throughout the population — from the healthy to the sick and those with and without a family history of disease — had largely identical reactions suggests that normality has indeed become precarious and that we are all patients-in-waiting, say the researchers.
UC Berkeley study finds self-worth key to diagnoses of psychopathologies
Donald Trump’s ego may be the size of his financial empire, but that doesn’t mean he’s the picture of mental health. The same can be said about the self-esteem of people who are living from paycheck to paycheck, or unemployed. New research from the University of California, Berkeley, underscores this mind-wallet connection.
UC Berkeley researchers have linked inflated or deflated feelings of self-worth to such afflictions as bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, anxiety and depression, providing yet more evidence that the widening gulf between rich and poor can be bad for your health.
The social self. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“We found that it is important to consider the motivation to pursue power, beliefs about how much power one has attained, pro-social and aggressive strategies for attaining power, and emotions related to attaining power,” said Sheri Johnson, a UC Berkeley psychologist and senior author of the study published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice.
In a study of more than 600 young men and women conducted at UC Berkeley, researchers concluded that one’s perceived social status – or lack thereof – is at the heart of a wide range of mental illnesses. The findings make a strong case for assessing such traits as “ruthless ambition,” “discomfort with leadership” and “hubristic pride” to understand psychopathologies.
“People prone to depression or anxiety reported feeling little sense of pride in their accomplishments and little sense of power,” Johnson said. “In contrast, people at risk for mania tended to report high levels of pride and an emphasis on the pursuit of power despite interpersonal costs.”
Specifically, Johnson and fellow researchers Eliot Tang-Smith of the University of Miami and Stephen Chen of Wellesley College looked at how study participants fit into the “dominance behavioral system,” a construct in which humans and other mammals assess their place in the social hierarchy and respond accordingly to promote cooperation and avoid conflict and aggression. The concept is rooted in the evolutionary principle that dominant mammals gain easier access to resources for the sake of reproductive success and the survival of the species.
Studies have long established that feelings of powerlessness and helplessness weaken the immune system, making one more vulnerable to physical and mental ailments. Conversely, an inflated sense of power is among the behaviors associated with bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, which can be both personally and socially corrosive.
Praying for partners, spiritual intimacy, attending services with parents may improve quality of life
WASHINGTON — Adolescents who attend religious services with one or both of their parents are more likely to feel greater well-being while romantic partners who pray for their “significant others” experience greater relationship commitment, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
These were among the findings of studies published in two special sections of APA’s Journal of Family Psychology® looking at how spiritual beliefs or behaviors have appeared to strengthen generally happy marriages and how a person’s religious and/or spiritual functioning may influence that of his or her family members.
“These studies exemplify an emerging subfield called relational spirituality, which focuses on the ways that diverse couples and families can rely on specific spiritual beliefs and behaviors, for better or worse, to motivate them to create, maintain and transform their intimate relationships,” according to Annette Mahoney, PhD, of Bowling Green State University, and Annamarie Cano, PhD, of Wayne State University, who edited special sections in the December and October issues of the journal. “Hopefully, publishing these articles will spur more research on ways that religion and spirituality can help or harm couples’ and families’ relationships and encourage more interchange between family psychology and the psychology of religion and spirituality.”
The December issue features five studies that offer novel insights into how religiosity or spiritualism affect children’s development and influence the importance of religion in their own lives.
The October section comprises four studies that focus on the ways that couples can draw on religious/spiritual beliefs and behaviors to transform their unions and help them cope with adversity. “Each of the studies in the October special section moves beyond general measures of people’s involvement in organized religion or spirituality and investigates specific spiritual beliefs or behaviors that appear to influence marital adjustment and human development,” according to APA President Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, editor of the Journal of Family Psychology. “All the studies present rigorous research into the roles that religion and spirituality can play in enhancing family well-being.”
Looking at three generations, the researchers found that mothers have the most consistently positive influence on the religious lives of their children “because they are socialized to transmit critical values, beliefs and practices across generations, and because they embrace norms of femininity that reinforce such roles.” Additionally, grandparents — especially grandmothers — play a significant role in the religious socialization of grandchildren in African-American families, according to this research.
A quote “Broken down by state, Utah had the lowest number of children experiencing two or more traumatic experiences (16.3 percent) while Oklahoma had the highest (32.8 percent).” Wondering if religion/spirituality is a factor?
Summary: Researchers link late evenings to repetitive negative thoughts. When you go to bed, and how long you sleep at a time, might actually make it difficult for you to stop worrying. So say researchers, who found that people who sleep for shorter periods of time and go to bed very late at night are often overwhelmed with more negative thoughts than those who keep more regular sleeping hours.
Being in a position of power can fundamentally change the way you speak, altering basic acoustic properties of the voice, and other people are able to pick up on these vocal cues to know who is really in charge, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
We tend to focus on our words when we want to come across as powerful to others, but these findings suggest that basic acoustic cues also play an important role:
“Our findings suggest that whether it’s parents attempting to assert authority over unruly children, haggling between a car salesman and customer, or negotiations between heads of states, the sound of the voices involved may profoundly determine the outcome of those interactions,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Sei Jin Ko of San Diego State University.
The researchers had long been interested in non-language-related properties of speech, but it was former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher that inspired them to investigate the relationship between acoustic cues and power.
The science of psychology is often associated with either carefully controlled lab experiments or the soft-spoken tones of a therapist’s office. But psychologists actually study a huge range of behavioral phenomena. This site from the American Psychological Association (APA) focuses on work and work environments, asking questions such as: What makes work meaningful? How can companies help people love their jobs? And what’s in it for the companies if they invest in making the workplace healthier? There is a lot to discover here, including the Articles & Research section, which links readers to coverage of workplace research by such media outlets as USA Today and Market Watch. The Good Company section is another great find and features Podcasts as well as a Newsletter and Blog that provide focused, research-based content for both employers and workers. Company executives may also want to look into the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award, which has been “shining the spotlight on exemplary organizations” since 1999. [CNH]
Recognizing the emotions other people feel is crucial for establishing proper interpersonal relations. To do so, we look at (amongst other things) facial expressions and body posture. Unfortunately, in some neurological disorders this ability is heavily impaired. This happens, for example, in multiple sclerosis where scientific evidence shows that people affected by the disease often have trouble recognizing expressions that communicate emotions. A new study now demonstrates that the same difficulty may also be encountered with emotions conveyed by posture.
New research by biomedical engineers at the University of Minnesota shows that people who practice yoga and meditation long term can learn to control a computer with their minds faster and better than people with little or no yoga or meditation experience. The research could have major implications for treatments of people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases.
The research is published online in Technology, a new scientific journal featuring cutting-edge new technologies in emerging fields of science and engineering.
In the study, researchers involved a total of 36 participants. One group of 12 had at least one year of experience in yoga or meditation at least two times per week for one hour. The second group included 24 healthy participants who had little or no yoga or meditation experience. Both groups were new to systems using the brain to control a computer. Both groups participated in three, two-hour experiments over four weeks in which they wore a high tech, non-invasive cap over the scalp that picked up brain activity. The participants were asked to move a computer cursor across the screen by imaging left or right hand movements.
The participants with yoga or meditation experience were twice as likely to complete the brain-computer interface task by the end of 30 trials and learned three times faster than their counterparts for the left-right cursor movement experiments.
“In recent years, there has been a lot of attention on improving the computer side of the brain-computer interface but very little attention to the brain side,” said lead researcher Bin He, a biomedical engineering professor in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering and director of the University’s Institute for Engineering in Medicine. “This comprehensive study shows for the first time that looking closer at the brain side may provide a valuable tool for reducing obstacles for brain-computer interface success in early stages.”
Researchers have been increasingly focused on finding ways to help physically disabled individuals who are paralyzed, have lost limbs, or suffer from diseases such as ALS or cerebral palsy. In these cases, brain function remains intact, but these people have to find a way to bypass muscular control to move a wheelchair, control an artificial limb, or control other devices.
Professor He gained international attention in 2013 when members of his research team were able to demonstrate flying a robot with only their minds. However, they found that not everyone can easily learn to control a computer with their brains. Many people are unsuccessful in controlling the computer after multiple attempts. A consistent and reliable EEG brain signal may depend on an undistracted mind and sustained attention. Meditators have shown more distinctive EEG patterns than untrained participants, which may explain their success.
Professor He said he got the idea for the study more than five years ago when he began his brain-computer interface research and noticed one woman participant who was much more successful than other participants at controlling the computer with her brain. The woman had extensive experience with yoga and mediation, referred to by researchers as Mind-Body Awareness Training (MBAT).
The next step for He and his team is to study a group of participants over time who are participating in yoga or meditation for the first time to see if their performance on the brain-computer interface improves.
“Our ultimate goal is to help people who are paralyzed or have brain diseases regain mobility and independence,” He said. “We need to look at all possibilities to improve the number of people who could benefit from our research.”
This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Engineering in Medicine. In addition to He, the University of Minnesota research team included research lab technician Kaitlin Cassady, biomedical engineering undergraduate student Albert You, and biomedical engineering master’s and medical student Alex Doud.
Obtaining access to private outpatient psychiatric care in the Boston, Chicago and Houston metropolitan areas is difficult, even for those with private insurance or those willing to pay out of pocket. Researchers, who posed on the phone as patients seeking appointments with individual psychiatrists, encountered numerous obstacles, including unreturned calls, and met with success only 26 percent of the time.
esponding to the large number of people with serious mental illnesses in the criminal justice system will require more than mental health services, according to a new report.
In many ways, the criminal justice system is the largest provider of mental health services in the country. Estimates vary, but previous research has found that about 14 percent of persons in the criminal justice system have a serious mental illness, and that number is as high as 31 percent for female inmates. Researchers are defining serious mental illnesses to include such things as schizophrenia, bipolar spectrum disorders and major depressive disorders.
“It has been assumed that untreated symptoms of mental illness caused criminal justice involvement, but now we’re seeing that there is little evidence to support that claim,” said Matthew Epperson, assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Specialized interventions for people with mental illness in the criminal justice system have been developed over the past 20 years, such as mental health courts and jail diversion programs, Epperson said.
“But we need a new generation of interventions for people with serious mental health issues who are involved in the criminal justice system, whether it be interactions with police, jails, probation programs and courts,” he said. “Research shows that people with serious mental illnesses, in general, display many of the same risk factors for criminal involvement as persons without these conditions.”
: Criminal Justice Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
PITTSBURGH—Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular way for people to improve their mental and physical health, yet most research supporting its benefits has focused on lengthy, weeks-long training programs.
New research from Carnegie Mellon University is the first to show that brief mindfulness meditation practice – 25 minutes for three consecutive days – alleviates psychological stress. Published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the study investigates how mindfulness meditation affects people’s ability to be resilient under stress.
“More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits,” said lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
For the study, Creswell and his research team had 66 healthy individuals aged 18-30 years old participate in a three-day experiment. Some participants went through a brief mindfulness meditation training program; for 25 minutes for three consecutive days, the individuals were given breathing exercises to help them monitor their breath and pay attention to their present moment experiences. A second group of participants completed a matched three-day cognitive training program in which they were asked to critically analyze poetry in an effort to enhance problem-solving skills.
Following the final training activity, all participants were asked to complete stressful speech and math tasks in front of stern-faced evaluators. Each individual reported their stress levels in response to stressful speech and math performance stress tasks, and provided saliva samples for measurement of cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone.
The participants who received the brief mindfulness meditation training reported reduced stress perceptions to the speech and math tasks, indicating that the mindfulness meditation fostered psychological stress resilience. More interestingly, on the biological side, the mindfulness mediation participants showed greater cortisol reactivity.
“When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it – especially during a stressful task,” said Creswell. “And, these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production.”
Creswell’s group is now testing the possibility that mindfulness can become more automatic and easy to use with long-term mindfulness meditation training, which may result in reduced cortisol reactivity.
In addition to Creswell, the research team consisted of Carnegie Mellon’s Laura E. Pacilio and Emily K. Lindsay and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Kirk Warren Brown.
The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Opportunity Fund supported this research.
This blog presents a sampling of health and medical news and resources for all. Selected articles and resources will hopefully be of general interest but will also encourage further reading through posted references and other links. Currently I am focusing on public health, basic and applied research and very broadly on disease and healthy lifestyle topics.
Several times a month I will post items on international and global health issues. My Peace Corps Liberia experience (1980-81) has formed me as a global citizen in many ways and has challenged me to think of health and other topics in a more holistic manner. (For those wishing to see pictures of a 2009 Friends of Liberia service trip to this West African country, please visit www.fol.org. My photo album is included).
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