Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Trust increases with age; benefits well-being

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.”

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , | Leave a comment

Research shows Native American mascots and logos hurt all ethnic groups

Research shows Native American mascots and logos hurt all ethnic groups

From the 12 March Medical Press post

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.

March 16, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] What makes some women able to resist or recover psychologically from assault-related trauma?

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 2 March 2015 press release

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.”

March 7, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Sickness and health between men and women

From the 19 February 2015 University of Washington press release

by Scott Weybright, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences

Rosenman-80PULLMAN, 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.”

 

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[press release] Penn Professor Shows How ‘Spontaneous’ Social Norms Emerge

Thinking this still does not shed any light on “wisdom of crowds” vs rumor mongering.  Consensus isn’t always a matter of truth finding.  Critical thinking skills are important!
Great insight, tho’.

From the 2 February 2015 Penn State press release by Katherine Unger Baillie

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.

The paper, “The Spontaneous Emergence of Conventions,” will appear in the Early Edition of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Feb. 2.

“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.”

Centola is an associate professor in Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Engineering and Applied Science and is director of the Network Dynamics Group at Penn. He partnered on the work with physicist Andrea Baronchelli, an assistant professor at City University London.

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.

 

February 4, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] How negative stereotyping affects older people

From the 2 February 2015 University of Kent press release

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.


Interview

Picture by Alan Cleaver. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

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.

 

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] SAMHSA’s new report tracks the behavioral health of America

From the press release, Monday, January 26, 2015

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.

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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.

 

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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.

To view and download copies of the national or any state Behavioral Health Barometer, please visit the SAMHSA web site at http://www.samhsa.gov/data/browse-report-document-type?tab=46.

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.

Last Updated: 01/26/2015

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release]Communication is key when dealing with aging parents

Communication is key when dealing with aging parents 

elderly stubbornness iStock Squaredpixels_0

From the 27 January 2015 Penn State press release By Marjorie S. Miller

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.

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.

 

 

 

January 31, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] For university students, walking beats sitting

For university students, walking beats sitting

Published Jan 22, 2015 at KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Walking classrooms are better for not only for students’ physical health, but classroom engagement, a study from KTH Royal Institute of Technology shows.

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 

 

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Reducing work-family conflicts in the workplace helps people to sleep better | EurekAlert! Science News

Reducing work-family conflicts in the workplace helps people to sleep better | EurekAlert! Science News.

From the 26 January 2015 press release

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.”

Digicorp workplace

Digicorp workplace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Health News Items, Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Lucid dreams and metacognition: Awareness of thinking — awareness of dreaming

Lucid dreams and metacognition: Awareness of thinking — awareness of dreaming

Excerpt

January 20, 2015

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 del...

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.

 

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News] Scientists say tweets predict heart disease and community health — Tech News and Analysis

map plot - FINAL                                                                        Psychological Science / UPenn

 

Scientists say tweets predict heart disease and community health — Tech News and Analysis.

Excerpt from the 22 January 2015 article

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.)

tweetsheart

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.

Related articles

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Health Statistics, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think | Johann Hari

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.

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think | Johann Hari.

From the 20 January 2015 Huffington Post article

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…

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Men and women process emotions differently

Men and women process emotions differently 

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.

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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.

Original source
Klara Spalek, Matthias Fastenrath, Sandra Ackermann, Bianca Auschra, XDavid Coynel, Julia Frey, Leo Gschwind, Francina Hartmann, Nadine van der Maarel, Andreas Papassotiropoulos, Dominique de Quervain and Annette Milnik
Sex-Dependent Dissociation between Emotional Appraisal and Memory: A Large-Scale Behavioral and fMRI Study
Journal of Neuroscience (2015) | doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.2384-14.2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] ‘Patients-in-waiting’: Even the perceived risk of disease prompts intention to act

From the 3 December 2014 Yale press release

Bubble_rev01_YaleNews(Photo via Shutterstock)

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.

 

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Psychology, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Wealth, power or lack thereof at heart of many mental disorders

From the 8 December 2014 EurkAlert!

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.

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.

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Religion or Spirituality Has Positive Impact on Romantic/Marital Relationships, Child Development, Research Shows

From the 8 December 2014 American Psychological Association press release

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.”

Articles in the December issue

Religious Socialization in African American Families: The Relative Influence of Parents, Grandparents, and Siblings (PDF, 110KB) by Ian A. Gutierrez, MA, University of Connecticut; Lucas J. Goodwin, MA, New York University; Katherine Kirkinis, MA, Teachers College, Columbia University; and Jacqueline S. Mattis, PhD, New York University.

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.

Contact:Ian Gutierrez

Neighborhood Disorder, Spiritual Well-Being, and Parenting Stress in African American Women (PDF, 98KB) by Dorian A. Lamis, PhD, and Christina K. Wilson, PhD, Emory University School of Medicine; Nicholas Tarantino, MA, Georgia State University; Jennifer E. Lansford, PhD, Duke University; and Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, Emory University School of Medicine

Read the entire press release here

On a related note...Nearly half of U.S. kids exposed to traumatic social or family experiences during childhood.

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?

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Don’t worry, be happy: Just go to bed earlier — ScienceDaily

Don’t worry, be happy: Just go to bed earlier — ScienceDaily.

Excerpt

Date: December 4, 2014
Source: Springer Science+Business Media
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.

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

The sound of status: People know high-power voices when they hear them

From the Association for Psychological Science press release

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:

This is a photo of a person holding a megaphone.“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.

….

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Psychology Resource] APA Center for Organizational Excellence

APA Center for Organizational Excellence

·http://www.apaexcellence.org

From the Scout Report

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]

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Psychology, Uncategorized, Workplace Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Recognizing emotions, and what happens when this is interrupted — ScienceDaily

Recognizing emotions, and what happens when this is interrupted — ScienceDaily.

Excerpt

Date:November 10, 2014
Source:Sissa Medialab
Summary:
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.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New study shows that yoga and meditation may help train the brain

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http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-10/ws-nss100314.php

From the October 2014 EurkAlert!

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.

Corresponding author for this study in Technology is Professor Bin He, Ph.D., binhe@umn.edu. This study can be found at http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S233954781450023X.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Psychiatrist appointments hard to get, even for insured, study shows — ScienceDaily

Psychiatrist appointments hard to get, even for insured, study shows — ScienceDaily.

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.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | health care, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] New approaches needed for people with serious mental illnesses in criminal justice system — ScienceDaily

New approaches needed for people with serious mental illnesses in criminal justice system — ScienceDaily.

From the 14 October 2014 article

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

: Criminal Justice Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Only 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation alleviates stress

 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.

For more information, visit http://www.psy.cmu.edu/people/creswell.html.

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Neuroreductionism about sex and love

Neuroreductionism about sex and love | Brian D. Earp – Academia.edu.

Excerpt from the 2014 paper **

Abstract
“Neuroreductionism” is the tendency to reduce complex mental phenomena to brainstates, confusing correlation for physical causation. In this paper, we illustrate thedangers of this popular neuro-fallacy, by looking at an example drawn from the media: astory about “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” in women. We discuss the role of folkdualism in perpetuating such a confusion, and draw some conclusions about the role of“brain scans” in our understanding of romantic love.
* * *There has been a surge of interest in recent years in “the neuroscience of love.” Bylooking at images of people’s brains when they are gazing pictures of their romantic partner, forexample, and comparing those against images of the same people looking at pictures of aplatonic friend, scientists have begun to construct a picture of “what is going on in our brains”when we we’re in love. They’re also starting to identify a number of brain chemicals—such asoxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin—that seem to play in role in whether and how we formromantic and other social attachments.
For some people, this research is exciting—opening upnew frontiers for how we understand some of our most basic human experiences. For others, it’sa little bit unsettling. Doesn’t it suggest that “love”—our most prized and mysterious emotion—is really just a bunch of stupid brain chemicals swirling around in our skulls?The answer is yes and no.
At one level of description,everything that we experience,from, yes, falling in love, to, say, getting a stomach ache after eating a burrito, is (at least in principle) explainable in terms of microscopic events playing out between our neurons. But there are many different levels of description—including psychological, social, cultural, and even philosophical—that are just as important if we want to have a more complete understanding ofthe sorts of things that matter to us in our daily existence.
“Brain chemicals” only get us so far…….
***
Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 5.45.26 AM

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] National Prevention Week – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration

From the press release

National Prevention Week is a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. National Prevention Week 2014 is about Our Lives. Our Health. Our Future. We’ll be highlighting the important role each of us has in maintaining a healthy life and ensuring a productive future.

There are many ways to make a difference. Explore the National Prevention Week website to learn more about how you can get involved, from planning a community event to participating in the “I Choose” Project.

Learn more about National Prevention Week.

 

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May 17, 2014 Posted by | Psychology, Public Health | , , , | 1 Comment

[Research article]Morality Rebooted: Exploring Simple Fixes to Our Moral Bugs

From the abstract

Morality Rebooted: Exploring Simple Fixes to Our Moral Bugs

Ting Zhang ,Harvard Business School

Francesca Gino ,Harvard University – Harvard Business School

Max H. Bazerman ,Harvard Business School – Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit
April 21, 2014

Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 14-105

Abstract:      

Ethics research developed partly in response to calls from organizations to understand and solve unethical behavior. Departing from prior work that has mainly focused on examining the antecedents and consequences of dishonesty, we examine two approaches to mitigating unethical behavior: (1) values-oriented approaches that broadly appeal to individuals’ preferences to be more moral, and (2) structure-oriented approaches that redesign specific incentives, tasks, and decisions to reduce temptations to cheat in the environment. This paper explores how these approaches can change behavior. We argue that integrating both approaches while avoiding incompatible strategies can reduce the risk of adverse effects that arise from taking a single approach.

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the ‘Hidden Brain’ Behind Some Health Disparities? – The NIH Record – May 9, 2014

Is the ‘Hidden Brain’ Behind Some Health Disparities? – The NIH Record – May 9, 2014.

Excerpts

Turns out, it wasn’t the devil that made you do it. It was your “hidden brain.” That’s what Shankar Vedantam suggested at a recent lecture on unconscious bias at work, part of the 2013-2014 Deputy Director for Management Seminar Series. Vedantam said he “coined the term ‘hidden brain’ to describe mental activities that happen outside our conscious awareness.

“Is it possible,” he wondered, “that some of the [health] disparities we’re seeing are not the result of bad people behaving badly, but of well-intentioned people who are unintentionally doing the wrong thing? Is it possible that unconscious biases of well-intentioned people are responsible for these disparities that we observe?”

 

A science correspondent with National Public Radio whose reporting focuses on human behavior and the sciences, Vedantam suggested that sometimes the snap judgments or preconceived notions we exhibit turn out to be wrong not because we’re evil people but because we’re not concentrating on what we’re doing. Our brains are, in a sense, functioning on autopilot.

To illustrate false moves we make automatically, Vedantam showed several optical illusions that indicated how unconscious bias doesn’t just distort perception, but often alters the way things really are.

“Our minds change reality to reflect the biases that we have inside our own heads,” he explained.

Reading, Vedantam said, is a perfect example of the hidden brain at work. Once you learn to read and are accustomed to reading, he said, your mind takes shortcuts. You naturally skip or fill in, without consciously thinking about it. Unlike a new reader, then, you don’t register every single word on a page. Otherwise, you’d spend all day reading just one page.

In the same way, Vedantam argues, your mind in many cases anticipates—pre-judges—situations throughout daily life.

So, how do we overcome the effects that unconscious biases have on us? Vedantam says we can pay closer attention to our decision-making in certain situations, recognize the way we’re leaning and simply tug our minds in the opposite direction. In addition, since our environment shapes our mind, we can surround ourselves with experiences and friendships outside our comfort zone. If you broaden what goes into your thinking, then you broaden what comes out of it.

 

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May 10, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Early depression, anger may taint love life even 20 years later, study shows

 

Emotions show

Emotions show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 7 May 2014 article at ScienceDaily

Negative emotions people may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age, research demonstrates. The study followed 341 people for 25 years, and found that negative emotions they may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age. The fact that depression and anger experienced during the teen years clung to people, even through major life events such as child-rearing, marriages and careers was surprising, researchers note.

Read the entire article here

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May 8, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] 40% of Children Miss Out on the Parenting Needed to Succeed in Life

Janice Flahiff:

Father and child, Dhaka.

Father and child, Dhaka. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:

40% of Children Miss Out on the Parenting Needed to Succeed in Life
Source> Sutton Trust

Four in ten babies don’t develop the strong emotional bonds – what psychologists call “secure attachment” – with their parents that are crucial to success later in life. Disadvantaged children are more likely to face educational and behavioural problems when they grow older as a result, new Sutton Trust research finds today.

The review of international studies of attachment, Baby Bonds, by Sophie Moullin (Princeton University), Professor Jane Waldfogel (Colombia University and the London School of Economics) and Dr Liz Washbrook (University of Bristol), finds infants aged under three who do not form strong bonds with their mother or father are more likely to suffer from aggression, defiance and hyperactivity when they get older.

View original

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders?

Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:

Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders?
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Doctors, lawyers and criminal justice agencies need methods to assess vulnerability to violent radicalization. In synergy, public health interventions aim to prevent the emergence of risk behaviours as well as prevent and treat new illness events. This paper describes a new method of assessing vulnerability to violent radicalization, and then investigates the role of previously reported causes, including poor self-reported health, anxiety and depression, adverse life events, poverty, and migration and socio-political factors. The aim is to identify foci for preventive intervention.

Methods
A cross-sectional survey of a representative population sample of men and women aged 18–45, of Muslim heritage and recruited by quota sampling by age, gender, working status, in two English cities. The main outcomes include self-reported health, symptoms of anxiety and depression (common mental disorders), and vulnerability to violent…

View original 122 more words

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways — ScienceDaily

Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways — ScienceDaily.

Date:
March 28, 2014
Source:
Oregon State University
Summary:
Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health, new research indicates. A new theoretical model defines the two distinct pathways. “Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” explains one of the authors.

 

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March 31, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release – new book] What’s behind near-death experiences — science, myth or miracle?

What’s behind near-death experiences — science, myth or miracle?.

New book Near-Death Experiences explores this controversial topic with historical reports and well-documented cases

In popular understanding, the expression “near-death experience” refers to the transition between the states of life and death. But how should such experiences be interpreted? Are they verifiable with scientific methods? If so, how can they be explained? Attempting to relate matters of scientific knowledge to subjective experience and the realm of belief is a difficult balancing act, and has led to a variety of approaches to the topic.

Near-Death Experiences by Birk Engmann scrutinizes the diverse views, and also myths, about near-death experiences and describes them from a scientific standpoint. Situated at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and religious studies, his book will appeal to a broad audience of both scientists and general readers.

Engmann explains, “The multitude of views and models purporting explanation already indicates that near-death research is something of a tightrope walk between rationally explainable theories and the sphere of belief. There is an urgent need for a critical review, and indeed, one which examines the way the natural sciences can throw light on this matter. This is the main aim of my book.”

Near-Death Experiences provides explanations for the various experiences construed by some as proof of the supernatural. The author discusses this highly controversial topic, using interesting historical reports and recent well-documented cases.

Photographic illustration of a near-death-expe...

Photographic illustration of a near-death-experience. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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March 28, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Male, stressed, and poorly social

Male, stressed, and poorly social.

Stress undermines empathic abilities in men but increases them in women

Stress, this enemy that haunts us every day, could be undermining not only our health but also our relationships with other people, especially if we are men. In fact, stressed women apparently become more “prosocial”. These are the main findings of a study carried out with the collaboration of Giorgia Silani, from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste. The study was coordinated by the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Unit of the University of Vienna and saw the participation of the University of Freiburg.

“There’s a subtle boundary between the ability to identify with others and take on their perspective – and therefore be empathic – and the inability to distinguish between self and other, thus acting egocentrically” explains Silani. “To be truly empathic and behave prosocially it’s important to maintain the ability to distinguish between self and other, and stress appears to play an important role in this”.

Stress is a psycho-biological mechanism that may have a positive function: it enables the individual to recruit additional resources when faced with a particularly demanding situation. The individual can cope with stress in one of two ways: by trying to reduce the internal load of “extra” resources being used, or, more simply, by seeking external support. “Our starting hypothesis was that stressed individuals tend to become more egocentric. Taking a self-centred perspective in fact reduces the emotional/cognitive load. We therefore expected that in the experimental conditions people would be less empathic” explains Claus Lamm, from the University of Vienna and one of the authors of the paper.

More in detail…

The surprise was that our starting hypothesis was indeed true, but only for males. In the experiments, conditions of moderate stress were created in the laboratory (for example, the subjects had to perform public speaking or mental arithmetic tasks, etc.). The participants then had to imitate certain movements (motor condition), or recognise their own or other people’s emotions (emotional condition), or make a judgement taking on another person’s perspective (cognitive condition). Half of the study sample were men, the other half were women.

“What we observed was that stress worsens the performance of men in all three types of tasks. The opposite is true for women” explains Silani.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 7.20.07 AM

Why this happens is not yet clear. “Explanations might be sought at several levels”, concludes Silani. “At a psychosocial level, women may have internalized the experience that they receive more external support when they are able to interact better with others.

This means that the more they need help – and are thus stressed – the more they apply social strategies. At a physiological level, the gender difference might be accounted for by the oxytocin system. Oxytocin is a hormone connected with social behaviours and a previous study found that in conditions of stress women had higher physiological levels of oxytocin than men”.

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March 28, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Shared psychological characteristics that are linked to aggression between patients with Internet addiction and those with alcohol dependence | Full Text Reports…

Shared psychological characteristics that are linked to aggression between patients with Internet addiction and those with alcohol dependence | Full Text Reports….

Background
Internet addiction (IA) is considered as one of behavioral addictions. Although common neurobiological mechanisms have been suggested to underlie behavioral addiction and substance dependence, few studies have directly compared IA with substance dependence, such as alcohol dependence (AD).

Methods
We compared patients with IA, AD, and healthy controls (HC) in terms of the Five Factor Model of personality and with regard to impulsiveness, anger expression, and mood to explore psychological factors that are linked to aggression. All patients were treatment-seeking and had moderate-to-severe symptoms.

Results
The IA and AD groups showed a lower level of agreeableness and higher levels of neuroticism, impulsivity, and anger expression compared with the HC group, which are characteristics related to aggression. The addiction groups showed lower levels of extraversion, openness to experience, and conscientiousness and were more depressive and anxious than the HCs, and the severity of IA and AD symptoms was positively correlated with these types of psychopathology.

Conclusions
IA and AD are similar in terms of personality, temperament, and emotion, and they share common characteristics that may lead to aggression. Our findings suggest that strategies to reduce aggression in patients with IA are necessary and that IA and AD are closely related and should be dealt with as having a close nosological relationship.

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March 28, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dalai Lama: On Science and Emotional Health

 

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dalai Lama, is the leader of the exiled Tibetan government in India. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Photographed during his visit in Cologno Monzese MI, Italy, on december 8th, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dalai Lama: On Science and Emotional Health.

Excerpt

The Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and exiled spiritual leader of Buddhism in Tibet, discussed his admiration for scientists and made some interesting remarks about emotional health during a recent speech at the National Institutes of Health.

The Dalai Lama was effusive in his praise for scientists. He said (and we quote): ‘I deeply admire my scientific friends’ (end of quote). The Dalai Lama pinpointed the open minded of scientists and what he described as a healthy skepticism about evidence and hyperbole. He also emphasized the capacity of scientists from around the world to work together and ignore differences in geography, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and social class.

The Dalai Lama noted these traits set scientists apart and provided an international, professional role model.

However, the Dalai Lama also said he found some scientists were unhappy despite their gifts and intelligence. He briefly discussed the lack of inner peace among scientists with a sense of humor rather than admonishment. The Dalai Lama’s infectious laugh and self-deprecating humor delighted many NIH staff members who packed an auditorium to hear him.

The Dalia Lama’s discussion about emotional inner peace led to broader remarks about the impact of maternal affection in the life long health of children. The Dalai Lama explained he was pleased that scientific evidence seemed consistent with his personal, long-standing observation of the vital role of maternal love and sincerity in the development of a child’s brain and emotional health.

Similarly, the Dalai Lama noted that he had long observed a perceived link between maternal affection, attention, and sincerity for their children and the development of life long compassion for others. He encouraged behavioral and other scientists to further assess the extent of this relationship.

The Dalai Lama also was moved by a series of drawings from young patients at NIH’s Children’s Inn and underscored his appreciation for the artists. Similarly, he praised a project he saw at NIH’s Clinical Center that seeks to restore the ability to walk for young persons with Cerebral Palsy.

In response to a question from NIH Director Francis Collins M.D., the Dalai Lama confessed he sometimes gets frustrated and irritated – and even occasionally loses his temper. For example, he explained he became angry once during an interview when a New York Times columnist asked him four times to describe his probable legacy. Although the Dalai Lama noted he believed he answered the question the first time, the story revealed even renowned spiritual leaders sometimes can get cross. It also deftly reminded the audience there always is room for improvement in how we manage our lives and work.

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March 26, 2014 Posted by | Health News Items, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BBC – Future – Body bacteria: Can your gut bugs make you smarter?

BBC – Future – Body bacteria: Can your gut bugs make you smarter?.

Excerpts from the 21 February 2014 article

The bacteria in our guts can influence the working of the mind, says Frank Swain. So could they be upgraded to enhance brainpower?

I have some startling news: you are not human. At least, by some counts. While you are indeed made up of billions of human cells working in remarkable concert, these are easily outnumbered by the bacterial cells that live on and in you – your microbiome. There are ten of them for every one of your own cells, and they add an extra two kilograms (4.4lbs) to your body.

Far from being freeloading passengers, many of these microbes actively help digest food and prevent infection. And now evidence is emerging that these tiny organisms may also have a profound impact on the brain too. They are a living augmentation of your body – and like any enhancement, this means they could, in principle, be upgraded. So, could you hack your microbiome to make yourself healthier, happier, and smarter too?

..

“Diet is perhaps the biggest factor in shaping the composition of the microbiome,” he says. A study by University College Cork researcherspublished in Nature in 2012 followed 200 elderly people over the course of two years, as they transitioned into different environments such as nursing homes. The researchers found that their subjects’ health – frailty, cognition, and immune system – all correlated with their microbiome. From bacterial population alone, researchers could tell if a patient was a long-stay patient in a nursing home, or short-stay, or living in the general community. These changes were a direct reflection of their diet in these different environments. “A diverse diet gives you a diverse microbiome that gives you a better health outcome,” says Cryan.

Beyond a healthy and varied diet, though, it still remains to be discovered whether certain food combinations could alter the microbiome to produce a cognitive boost. In fact, Cryan recommends that claims from probiotic supplements of brain-boosting ought to be taken with a pinch of salt for now. “Unless the studies have been done, one can assume they’re not going to have any effect on mental health,” he says. Still, he’s optimistic about the future. “The field right now is evolving very strongly and quickly. There’s a lot of important research to be done. It’s still early days.”

 

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March 13, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] American Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults

From the 12 February 2014 Full Text Reports item

American Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults
Source: American Psychological Association

American teens report experiences with stress that follow a similar pattern as adults, according to a new survey released today by the American Psychological Association (APA). In fact, during the school year, teens say their stress level is higher than levels reported by adults in the past month. For teens and adults alike, stress has an impact on healthy behaviors like exercising, sleeping well and eating healthy foods.

Findings from Stress in America™: Are Teens Adopting Adults’ Stress Habits?, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive Inc., (on behalf of APA) among 1,950 adults and 1,018 teens in the U.S. in August 2013, suggest that unhealthy behaviors associated with stress may begin manifesting early in people’s lives.

Teens report that their stress level during the school year far exceeds what they believe to be healthy (5.8 versus 3.9 on a 10-point scale) and tops adults’ average reported stress levels (5.8 for teens versus 5.1 for adults). Even during the summer — between Aug. 3 and Aug. 31, 2013, when interviewing took place — teens reported their stress during the past month at levels higher than what they believe is healthy (4.6 versus 3.9 on a 10-point scale). Many teens also report feeling overwhelmed (31 percent) and depressed or sad (30 percent) as a result of stress. More than one-third of teens report fatigue or feeling tired (36 percent) and nearly one-quarter of teens (23 percent) report skipping a meal due to stress.

Despite the impact that stress appears to have on their lives, teens are more likely than adults to report that their stress level has a slight or no impact on their body or physical health (54 percent of teens versus 39 percent of adults) or their mental health (52 percent of teens versus 43 percent of adults).

 

 

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February 13, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] Brain Scans Show We Take Risks Because We Can’t Stop Ourselves

Major implications in concepts as free will, sin, justice, mental illness, government/medical “intervention”…..

From the 4 February 2014 University of Texas at Austin press release

AUSTIN, Texas — A new study correlating brain activity with how people make decisions suggests that when individuals engage in risky behavior, such as drunk driving or unsafe sex, it’s probably not because their brains’ desire systems are too active, but because their self-control systems are not active enough.

This might have implications for how health experts treat mental illness and addiction or how the legal system assesses a criminal’s likelihood of committing another crime.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 6.59.13 AM

When these brain regions (mostly associated with control) aren’t active enough, we make risky choices. Z-statistic corresponds to predictive ability, yellow being the most predictive regions. Image: Sarah Helfinstein/U. of Texas at Austin.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, UCLA and elsewhere analyzed data from 108 subjects who sat in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner — a machine that allows researchers to pinpoint brain activity in vivid, three-dimensional images — while playing a video game that simulates risk-taking.

The researchers used specialized software to look for patterns of activity across the whole brain that preceded a person’s making a risky choice or a safe choice in one set of subjects. Then they asked the software to predict what other subjects would choose during the game based solely on their brain activity. The software accurately predicted people’s choices 71 percent of the time.

“These patterns are reliable enough that not only can we predict what will happen in an additional test on the same person, but on people we haven’t seen before,” said Russell Poldrack, director of UT Austin’s Imaging Research Center and professor of psychology and neuroscience.

Read the entire press release here

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February 5, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | 2 Comments

[Press Release] Altruistic acts more common in states with high well-being

Altruistic acts more common in states with high well-being.

From the 27 January 2014 press release of the Association of Psychological Science

People are much more likely to decide to donate a kidney to a stranger — an extraordinarily altruistic act — in areas of the United States where levels of well-being are high, according to a new study.

“Anywhere from 11% to 54% of adults say that they’d be willing to consider altruistic kidney donation, but only a tiny fraction of them actually become donors,” says psychological scientist Abigail Marsh of Georgetown University, senior author on the study. “Our work suggests that subjective well-being may be a factor that ‘nudges’ some adults into actually donating.”

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Defining altruism, and determining if it truly exists, has long been a topic of debate. Many seemingly selfless acts of altruism can be explained by indirect benefits to the do-gooder, such as a bump in social status or protection from the negative judgments of others.

Non-directed kidney donation is unique, says Marsh, because it meets the most stringent criteria for altruism. People willingly choose to donate their kidney to someone they aren’t related to, someone they don’t even know — and the process of donating requires considerable time, and the risk of experiencing serious discomfort and pain.

So why do these people donate at all?

Marsh and lead author Kristin Brethel-Haurwitz hypothesized that it might have something to do with subjective well-being, given that well-being is associated with other prosocial behaviors, including volunteering and charitable giving.

To explore a possible link, the researchers used kidney donation data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and nationally representative well-being data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Just as they predicted, the data revealed a positive relationship between altruistic kidney donation and well-being: States with higher per capita donation rates tended to have higher levels of well-being. The positive link held when the researchers combined states into nine broader geographic regions, and also when they examined the data for a single year (2010).

Together, these findings suggest that well-being is not just linked to prosocial behaviors, like charitable giving, but may also promote genuine altruism.

…..

 

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February 2, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release]Do brain connections help shape religious beliefs?

Do brain connections help shape religious beliefs?.

From the 27 January 2014 press release at EurekAlert 

 IMAGE: Brain Connectivity is the journal of record for researchers and clinicians interested in all aspects of brain connectivity.

Click here for more information. 

New Rochelle, NY, January 27, 2014—Building on previous evidence showing that religious belief involves cognitive activity that can be mapped to specific brain regions, a new study has found that causal, directional connections between these brain networks can be linked to differences in religious thought. The article “Brain Networks Shaping Religious Belief” is published in Brain Connectivity, a bimonthly peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, and is available free on the Brain Connectivity website at http://www.liebertpub.com/brain.

Dimitrios Kapogiannis and colleagues from the National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD) and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, IL, analyzed data collected from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to evaluate the flow of brain activity when religious and non-religious individuals discussed their religious beliefs. The authors determined causal pathways linking brain networks related to “supernatural agents,” fear regulation, imagery, and affect, all of which may be involved in cognitive processing of religious beliefs.

“When the brain contemplates a religious belief,” says Dr. Kapogiannis, “it is activating three distinct networks that are trying to answer three distinct questions: 1) is there a supernatural agent involved (such as God) and, if so, what are his or her intentions; 2) is the supernatural agent to be feared; and 3) how does this belief relate to prior life experiences and to doctrines?”

“Are there brain networks uniquely devoted to religious belief? Prior research has indicated the answer is a resolute no,” continues study co-author Jordan Grafman, Director, Brain Injury Research and Chief, Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “But this study demonstrates that important brain networks devoted to various kinds of reasoning about others, emotional processing, knowledge representation, and memory are called into action when thinking about religious beliefs. The use of these basic networks for religious practice indicates how basic networks evolved to mediate much more complex beliefs like those contained in religious practice.”

 

 

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February 1, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sun-induced frowning: a possible cause of aggression? — ScienceDaily

Sun-induced frowning: a possible cause of aggression? — ScienceDaily.

 

From the 27 January 2014 article

 

Research recently published examines how facial expression can trigger an emotional response. The authors set out to test this theory that mood can be governed by facial expression, to the extent that intensity of a person’s smile bears a relationship to well-being, fulfillment and longevity. They conducted a study on involuntary sun-induced frowning and relationship to emotional state of the subject.

frown

frown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

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February 1, 2014 Posted by | environmental health, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Do Religious People Love Their Neighbors? Yes — Some Neighbors

From the January 2014 Baylor University press release

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 6.15.31 AM

Jan. 23, 2014

Follow us on Twitter:@BaylorUMediaCom

Contact: Terry Goodrich,(254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Jan. 24, 2014) — Most religions teach their followers to “Love thy neighbor” — including those of different races, nationalities or beliefs. But is religiousness really related to love of neighbors?

A Baylor University study provided partial support for that idea. When factoring out the level of right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), researchers found a positive association between being religious and having loving attitudes toward other racial and ethnic groups but not toward those who violated their values.

The study was published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

The study was based on analysis of data collected from 389 religiously diverse adult Americans in a 200-question online survey. Among participants were Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, those with no religion and “others.” “Religiosity” generally was defined in terms of frequency of religious activities. Researchers studied positive feelings toward different groups, such as African-Americans, atheists, gay men and lesbians.

Previously, researchers usually tested the “love thy neighbor” hypothesis indirectly by measuring degrees of prejudice or withholding generosity, said researcher Wade Rowatt, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. Prior research indicated that religiousness is not positively associated with love of neighbors.

But that approach did not account for the role of rigid ideologies – such as right-wing authoritarianism – in influencing the relationships, said researcher and lead author Megan Johnson Shen, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Prejudice or not giving resources is different from liking or compassion toward a group that is not one’s own, the researchers noted.

“Until now, we’ve never really tested whether religiosity is related to love of neighbors” as evidenced by positive or tolerant attitudes toward those of different races, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, Rowatt said.

Shen said that the present study addressed prior limitations by examining the relationship between religiosity and liking or “love” of one’s neighbor once the influence of RWA has been removed from this relationship.

The right-wing authoritarians were identified by how strongly they agreed to such statements as “There are many racial, immoral people in our country today, trying to ruin it for their godless purposes, whom the authorities should put out of action;” and how strongly they disagreed with such statements as “Everyone should have their own lifestyle, religious beliefs and sexual preferences, even if it makes them different from everyone else.”

“Statistically speaking, right-wing authoritarianism appears to suppress the positive relationship between religiosity and love of neighbor,” Rowatt said. “The bottom line is that religiousness is linked with love of neighbor, as measured with surveys. The next step is to observe actual rates of volunteerism and helping to see if what people say and do match.”

ABOUT BAYLOR

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 26 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.

 

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January 25, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Losing a family member in childhood associated with psychotic illness

From the 21 January 2014 press release

Highest risk seen in children who experience suicide in close family members

Experiencing a family death in childhood is associated with a small but significant increase in risk of psychosis, suggests a paper published today on bmj.com.

The researchers say that the risks are highest for children who have experienced a suicide in the ‘nuclear family’ (brothers, sisters, parents).

Previous studies have concluded that the risk of adult disease can be influenced by genetics, lifestyle and environmental experience. There is also evidence that maternal psychological stress adversely affects the development of the fetus.

Population studies have so far provided weak support for an association between prenatal maternal psychological stress and later psychosis. Researchers from the UK, US and Sweden therefore set out to examine the association between deaths in the family as a form of severe stress to the individual and subsequent psychosis. Data were taken from Statistics Sweden and the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and children born between 1973 and 1985 in Sweden.

Definitions of psychosis were: non-affective psychosis (including schizophrenia) and affective psychosis (bipolar disorder with psychosis and unipolar depression with psychosis).

Exposure periods were divided into ‘any exposure’ (all pre and postnatal); ‘any prenatal’ (prior to birth) and ‘any postnatal’ (birth up to 13 years of age) and further subdivided by trimester (first, second, third) and by three year periods in childhood between birth and 13 years of age (0-2.9 years; 3-6.9 years and 7-12.9 years). If more than one exposure occurred during the study period, priority was given to the earliest exposure.

Death was categorised into suicide, fatal injury / accident and others (such as cancers and cardiac arrests).

Models were adjusted for year of birth, child sex, maternal and paternal age, maternal and paternal nationality, parental socioeconomic status and history of any psychiatric illness in the family.

The final number of children included in the study was 946,994. Altogether, 321,249 (33%) children were exposed to a family death before the age of 13. Of individuals exposed to any death during the study period, 1323 (0.4%) developed a non-affective psychosis while 556 (0.17%) developed an effective psychosis. 11,117 children were exposed to death from suicide, 15,189 from accidents and the majority, 280,172 to deaths due to natural causes.

No increased risk of psychosis was seen following exposure in any prenatal period. Postnatally, an increased risk of ‘all psychosis’ was associated with deaths in the nuclear family and risk increased the earlier in childhood the death occurred.

Risks associated with exposure to suicide were higher compared with exposure to deaths from accidents which in turn were higher than risks associated with other deaths from natural causes.

The largest risk was seen in children exposed ages 0-3 years and risks reduced as age of exposure increased.

Professor Kathryn Abel, from the Centre for Women’s Mental Health at The University of Manchester, said: “Our research shows childhood exposure to death of a parent or sibling is associated with excess risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life. This is particularly associated with early childhood exposure. Further investigation is now required and future studies should consider “the broader contexts of parental suicide and parental loss in non-western, ethnically diverse populations.”

 

###

Research: Severe bereavement stress during the prenatal and childhood periods and risk of psychosis in later life: population based cohort study

 

 

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January 23, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] Warning! Warning labels can be dangerous to your health

Warning! Warning labels can be dangerous to your health.

From the 16 January 2014 Tel Aviv University press release

AU research shows that some warning labels can make products like cigarettes more appealing

Many products, like cigarettes and medications, are stamped with warning labels alerting consumers to their risks. Common sense suggests these warnings will encourage safer choices.

But now Dr. Yael Steinhart of Tel Aviv University‘s Recanati Business School, along with Prof. Ziv Carmon of INSEAD in Singapore and Prof. Yaacov Trope of New York University, has shown that warning labels can actually have the opposite effect. When there is a time lag between reading a warning and then buying, consuming, or evaluating the associated products, the warnings may encourage trust in the manufacturers of potentially dangerous products, making them less threatening. Published in Psychological Science, the study findings could help improve the efficacy of warning labels.

“We showed that warnings may immediately increase concern and decrease consumption,” said Dr. Steinhart. “But over time, they paradoxically promote trust in a product and consequently lead to more positive product evaluation and more actual purchases.” The findings have important implications for regulators and managers in fields including consumer products, healthcare, and finance.

The best laid plans

The study is based on an idea called “the construal-level theory” (CLT), developed by Prof. Trope and Prof. Nira Liberman of TAU’s School of Psychological Sciences. When thinking about objects over a period of time, people tend to construe them abstractly, emphasizing what they describe as “high-level features” and suppressing “low-level features.” The high-level feature of warning labels is that they build trust in consumers by creating the impression that all the relevant information about the products is being presented. The low-level feature of warning labels is that they make consumers more aware of the products’ negative side effects.

The CLT holds that over long periods of time, consumers deemphasize side effects and emphasize the feeling of trust communicated by warnings over time. Ironically, this may increase the purchase, consumption, and assessment of the associated products.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

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January 23, 2014 Posted by | Psychology, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] The hallucinated demons of intensive care « Mind Hacks

The hallucinated demons of intensive care 

From the 7 January 2014 article at Mind Hacks

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 4.03.52 AM

http://www.maquet.com/images/
thumbs/320_Solutions_Intensive_Care.jpg

I’ve got an article in The Observerabout the psychological impact of being a patient in intensive care that can include trauma, fear and intense hallucinations.

This has only been recently recognised as an issue and with mental disorders being detected in over half of post-ICU patients it has sparked a serious re-think of how ICU should be organised to minimise stress.

Some of the most spectacular experiences are intense hallucinations and delusions that can lead to intrusive and surreal flashbacks that can have effects long after the person has become medically stable.

Wade interviewed patients about the hallucinations and delusions they experienced while in intensive care. One patient reported seeing puffins jumping out of the curtains firing blood from guns, another began to believe that the nurses were being paid to kill patients and zombify them. The descriptions seem faintly amusing at a distance, but both were terrifying at the time and led to distressing intrusive memories long after the patients had realised their experiences were illusory.

Many patients don’t mention these experiences while in hospital, either through fear of sounding mad, or through an inability to speak – often because of medical breathing aids, or because of fears generated by the delusions themselves. After all, who would you talk to in a zombie factory?

One of the interesting aspects is how standard ICU care is incredibly stressful and uncomfortable experience. I quote Hugh Montgomery, a professor of intensive care medicine, who says “If you think about the sort of things used for torture you will experience most of them in intensive care”!

Anyway, more at the link below.
Link to ‘When intensive care is just too intense’ in The Observer.

 

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January 23, 2014 Posted by | health care, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

The ironic (and surprising) effects of weight stigma

The ironic (and surprising) effects of weight stigma.

From the 8 January 2014 Science Daily article

If you’re one of the millions of people who count losing weight among their top New Year’s resolutions, you might want to pay careful attention to some new findings by UC Santa Barbara psychology professor Brenda Major.

It turns out that the weight-stigmatizing messages presented by the media — the ones that characterize overweight individuals as lazy, weak-willed, self-indulgent and contributing to rising health care costs — may be tipping the scales in the wrong direction. Designed to encourage weight loss, they may actually have the opposite effect.

According to Major’s research, which appears in the current online issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, when women who perceive themselves as overweight are exposed to weight-stigmatizing news articles, they are less able to control their eating afterward than are women who don’t perceive themselves that way.

 

Read the entire article here

 

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January 22, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Finnish research team reveals how emotions are mapped in the body

Finnish research team reveals how emotions are mapped in the body.

From the 31 December 2013 ScienceNewsline Biology article

Published: December 31, 2013. By Aalto University
http://www.aalto.fi/en/

Researchers Aalto University have revealed how emotions are experienced in the body.

Emotions adjust our mental and also bodily states to cope with the challenges detected in the environment. These sensations arising from the bodily changes are an important feature of our emotional experiences. For example, anxiety may be experienced as pain in the chest, whereas falling in love may trigger warm, pleasurable sensations all over the body. New research from Aalto University reveals, how emotions are literally experienced through the body.

The researchers found that the most common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations, and the bodily maps of these sensations were topographically different for different emotions. The sensation patterns were, however, consistent across different West European and East Asian cultures, highlighting that emotions and their corresponding bodily sensation patterns have a biological basis.

Emotions adjust not only our mental, but also our bodily states. This way the prepare us to react swiftly to the dangers, but also to the opportunities such as pleasurable social interactions present in the environment. Awareness of the corresponding bodily changes may subsequently trigger the conscious emotional sensations, such as the feeling of happiness, tells assistant professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University.

The findings have major implications for our understanding of the functions of emotions and their bodily basis. On the other hand, the results help us to understand different emotional disorders and provide novel tools for their diagnosis.

The research was carried out on line, and over 700 individuals from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan took part in the study. The researchers induced different emotional states in their Finnish and Taiwanese participants. Subsequently the participants were shown with pictures of human bodies on a computer, and asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing.

he research was funded by European Research Council (ERC), The Academy of Finland and the Aalto University (aivoAALTO project)

The results were published on 31 December (U.S. Eastern time) in the scientific journal Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America (PNAS).

Original publication: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111.full.pdf+html?with-ds=yes

Figure summarizing the main findings of the study http://becs.aalto.fi/~lnummen/Emotionbodies.pdf
Participate in the ongoing experiment : http://becs.aalto.fi/~lnummen/participate.htm
emotionbodies.pdf (2M)
Figure caption: Different emotions are associated with discernible patterns of bodily sensations.
Contact information:
Assistant Professor Lauri Nummenmaa
Aalto University and Turku PET Centre
lauri.nummenmaa@aalto.fi
p. +358 50 431 9931
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January 6, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Why You Think You’re Great at Everything, Even When You Suck

Reblogging this with reservations.
The word “suck” is not part of my vocabulary.  Much like shouting, I think it detracts or even obscures a message.
Also,  there are no references to this article and no sources are quoted.

However, it does seem that the basic arguments ring true. At least they resonate with my life.

Perhaps this article can serve as a gentle reminder to be a bit compassionate with others and ourselves.
Deep down, I believe we are all doing the best we can to survive and thrive. May we do what we can to listen to each other for their good and ours.

From the 2 January 2014 LifeHacker article by THORIN KLOSOWSKI

As humans, we’re pretty bad at judging our own abilities. From exercising to our sense of humor, we’re all certain that we’re the best at everything we do. The problem is, in a lot of cases, we’re way worse at things than we think we are. That can keep us from succeeding the long term.P

On the surface, it’s not a big enough problem that we tend to overestimate our own abilities. However, when we’re blissfully ignorant of our skills, we can’t work toward improving them. We don’t know why our brains do this, but they do. The best you can do is recognize where your brain fails and try to keep it in mind before judging yourself (and others).P

We Overestimate Our Positive QualitiesP

Read the entire article here

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

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