[News item] Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways — ScienceDaily
March 28, 2014
Oregon State University
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.
…many supposed psychological differences between the sexes are as illusory as the physical ones. In 2005, Janet Hyde, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, analyzed data from studies of apparent sex differences in traits such as aggression, social ability, math, and moral reasoning. Nearly four fifths of the traits showed only a minor or negligible difference between men and women.
In the rare cases where actual psychological differences exist, they cannot be attributed to innate neurology alone. Everything in the brain is a combination of nature and nurture. Culture comes into play, which affects behavior, which then affects the brain. From birth (and even in the womb), a baby is labeled as a girl or boy and treated a certain way as a result. For example, a 2005 study of 386 birth announcements in Canadian newspapers showed that parents tend to say they’re “proud” when it’s a boy and “happy” when it’s a girl. Anne Fausto-Sterling, a biologist at Brown University, has shown that mothers talk to infant girls more than infant boys. This could partly explain why girls tend to have better language skills later on. “Some differences end up fairly entrenched in adult human beings,” Fausto-Sterling says. “But that doesn’t mean that you were born that way or that you were born destined to be that way.”
Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social, and Health Correlates
hmm… could you envision these maps in a tourist guide book??
There is overwhelming evidence for regional variation across the United States on a range of key political, economic, social, and health indicators. However, a substantial body of research suggests that activities in each of these domains are typically influenced by psychological variables, raising the possibility that psychological forces might be the mediating or causal factors responsible for regional variation in the key indicators. Thus, the present article examined whether configurations of psychological variables, in this case personality traits, can usefully be used to segment the country. Do regions emerge that can be defined in terms of their characteristic personality profiles? How are those regions distributed geographically? And are they associated with particular patterns of key political, economic, social, and health indicators? Results from cluster analyses of 5 independent samples totaling over 1.5 million individuals identified 3 robust psychological profiles: Friendly & Conventional, Relaxed & Creative, and Temperamental & Uninhibited. The psychological profiles were found to cluster geographically and displayed unique patterns of associations with key geographical indicators. The findings demonstrate the value of a geographical perspective in unpacking the connections between microlevel processes and consequential macrolevel outcomes.
- U.S. Regions Exhibit Distinct Personalities, Research Reveals (sciencedaily.com)
- US Regions Linked to Different Personalities (counselheal.com)
- US regions exhibit distinct personalities, research reveals (psypost.org)
- Most Neurotic & Creative States Revealed in US Personality Map (livescience.com)
- Study: Different Regions Of The U.S. Exhibit Distinct Personality Traits (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
- War is not inevitable; psychology research should promote peace (sciencedaily.com)
First-time mothers who pay attention to their emotional and physical changes during their pregnancy may feel better and have healthier newborns than new mothers who don’t, according to research to be presented at American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention.
“These findings continue more than 40 years of research that has made clear that whether you are mindless or mindful makes a big difference in every aspect of your health and well-being — from competence to longevity,” Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University and a pioneer in researching mindfulness, said in an interview. Langer is a past recipient of APA’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest.
For Langer’s recent study, researchers trained women pregnant with their first child in mindfulness with instructions to notice subtle changes in their feelings and physical sensations each day, she said. When compared with two other groups of first-time pregnant mothers who did not have the mindfulness training, these women reported more well-being and positive feelings and less emotional distress. “They had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction during this period of their pregnancy and up to at least a month after birth,” Langer said. “And this also had a positive impact on their deliveries and overall health of the newborns.”
“Noticing even subtle fluctuations in how you feel can counter mindlessness, or the illusion of stability. We tend to hold things still in our minds, despite the fact that all the while they are changing. If we open up our minds, a world of possibility presents itself,” she said.
Author of the popular books “Mindfulness,” “The Power of Mindful Learning,” “On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity,” and most recently, “Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility,” Langer is known for her work on the illusion of control, aging, decision-making and mindfulness theory.
In her lecture, Langer will describe her research to test possibilities rather than find out what is typical. “Psychologists have traditionally studied the ‘norm’ rather than exceptions that could show that we are capable of far more than we currently realize,” she said. Among other research, she will describe her work showing how a change in mindset has resulted in weight loss and improved vision and hearing, and how subtle differences in choice of words can improve health.
Langer first demonstrated the psychology of possibilities in her landmark 1981 “counterclockwise” experiment in which a group of elderly men spent time immersed in a retreat created to reflect daily life in the 1950s and where they were told to speak of the past in the present tense. Men in a comparison group reminisced for the week and were given no instructions regarding verb tense. The experimental group showed greater improvement in vision, strength, joint flexibility, finger length (their arthritis diminished and they could straighten their fingers more) and manual dexterity. On intelligence tests, 63 percent of the experimental group improved their scores, compared to 44 percent of the control group, Langer said.
BBC television recently replicated the study with British celebrities in a program that has been viewed in Great Britain, Australia, India and Hong Kong. It’s currently being replicated with local celebrities in Germany and the Netherlands, Langer said.
“It is important for people to realize there can be enhanced possibilities for people of all ages and all walks of life,” Langer emphasized. “My research has shown how using a different word, offering a small choice or making a subtle change in the physical environment can improve our health and well-being. Small changes can make large differences, so we should open ourselves to the impossible and embrace a psychology of possibility.”
- Mindfulness: Psychology Of Possibilities Can Enhance Health, Happiness (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Mindfulness Training Boosts Health of Pregnant Women and Their Babies (sciencedaily.com)
- Mindsight: the new science of personal transformation? (psychologytoday.com)
- Psychology of possibilities can enhance health, happiness, research says (eurekalert.org)
- Put Positive Psychology to Work for You (psychologytoday.com)
(What if we would only covet anther’s qualities that would lead to community building??
Maybe this is what spirituality and religion is all about? seeking the good not only for ourselves, but others..)
Coveting, or wanting what others have, may be hardwired in the brain, according to new research from France. We see it in children at play, the toy the other child is enjoying is more desirable. We do it with fashion items, accessories, cars, “keeping up with the Joneses”, where the value assigned to an object increases when it is desired by others.
Now a team from INSERM in Paris has shown that this tendency is not just psychological, but due to specific brain mechanisms that are essential for what has long been known as “mimetic desire”, a characteristic first described by French philosopher René Girard in the 1960s when he began to write about desires and proposed that we borrow our desires from others, and this explains much of human behavior.
Co-author Mathias Pessiglione and colleagues write about their study of how they unravelled mimetic desires in the brain in the 23 May online issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
The idea of mimetic desire is that we value objects not only in terms of their intrinsic qualities, such as how useful they are, what they do, and what they look like, but also in terms of how much they are desired by others. …
- Thou can’t not covet (sciencenews.org)
From the January 2012 Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical criminology article at http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/group/busslab/pdffiles/Evolutionary-psychology-and-crime.pdf
Evolutionary psychology provides a powerful set of tools for understanding human behavior, including criminal behavior and responses to criminal behavior. One set of tools entails furnishing hypotheses about the underlying psychological mechanisms that could plausibly be part of the causal chain leading to criminal behavior and responses to it. Because all psychological mechanisms require environmental input for their activation, these hypotheses include a specification of circumstances in which criminal behavior is likely to be enacted or inhibited. A somewhat different set of the tools, also potentially quite valuable, is that evolutionary psychology provides heuristic value, guiding criminologists to examine domains previously unexplored or to uncover elements in the causal chain that otherwise might be missed by existing criminology theories. By introducing evolutionary explanations, Durrant and Ward (this volume) provide a valuable service in opening the door for both sets of tools provides by evolutionary psychology in the understanding criminal behavior.
According to evolutionary psychology, all human behavior, criminal or otherwise, is a product of psychological mechanisms (instantiated in the brain) combined with environmental input that activates them or inhibits their activation. Consider calluses. Explanatory understanding the thickness and distribution of calluses on the human skin within individuals over time and across individuals and cultures at any point in time requires (1) knowledge that humans have evolved callus-producing adaptations whose proper function is to protect the underlying physiological and anatomical structures beneath the skin, and (2) knowledge that the environmental input of repeated friction to skin is required for activating the callus-producing mechanisms. Evolutionary psychology, in short, is fundamentally an interactionist framework.
“Military recruits are a little less warm and friendly to begin with and the military experience seems to reinforce this – as after service, men score even lower on agreeableness when compared to individuals who did not go into the military,” Jackson says. “Interestingly, this influence appears to linger long after the soldier has re-entered the workforce or returned to college.”
Jackson points out that being less agreeable is not always a negative human trait. While it may make it more challenging to maintain positive relationships with friends and romantic partners, it can be seen as a positive influence on career success.
“On the flip side,” he says, “people with lower levels of agreeableness are often more likely to fight their way up the corporate ladder and to make the sometimes unpopular decisions that can be necessary for business success.”
- Military service changes personality, makes vets less agreeable (eurekalert.org)
- Military service changes personality (scienceblog.com)
- Does The Military Make The Man Or Does The Man Make The Military? (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Does the military make the man or does the man make the military? (eurekalert.org)
From the NY Times 23 June 2011 article (includes video)
The patient wanted to know, and her therapist — Marsha M. Linehan of theUniversity of Washington, creator of a treatment used worldwide for severely suicidal people — had a ready answer. It was the one she always used to cut the question short, whether a patient asked it hopefully, accusingly or knowingly, having glimpsed the macramé of faded burns, cuts andwelts on Dr. Linehan’s arms:
“You mean, have I suffered?”
“No, Marsha,” the patient replied, in an encounter last spring. “I mean one of us. Like us. Because if you were, it would give all of us so much hope.”
“That did it,” said Dr. Linehan, 68, who told her story in public for the first time last week before an audience of friends, family and doctors at the Institute of Living, the Hartford clinic where she was first treated for extreme social withdrawal at age 17. ….
The article goes on to tell Dr. Linehan’s journey to “radical acceptance” on how she uses this concept in therapy.
DETROIT – Brigid Waldron-Perrine, Ph.D., a recent graduate from Wayne State University, and her mentor, Lisa J. Rapport, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Wayne State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, found that if traumatic brain injury (TBI) victims feel close to a higher power, it can help them rehabilitate. The study was recently published in Rehabilitation Psychology.
[Abstract only, Paid subscription needed to access full text of the article.
Traumatic brain injury is a disruption of normal brain function after a head injury and affects 1.7 million Americans annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those struggling with the long-term effects of TBI are at a heightened risk for mental and physical problems. Such problems can significantly inhibit rehabilitation outcomes and are therefore important to address in the context of rehabilitation efforts. And when TBI leaves people feeling stressed, less satisfied with life and functionally dependent on others, rehabilitation is the only option.
“Among healthy adults, religion and spirituality have shown strong association with improved life satisfaction and physical and mental health outcomes,” said Waldron-Perrine. But research about religion’s effect on TBI rehabilitation in particular is lacking….
- Brain surgeons analyze traumatic brain injuries in comic books (medicalxpress.com)
- Traumatic Brain Injuries – The Case of Asterix & Obelix (paul.kedrosky.com)
- Acupuncture Makes Strides in Treatment of Brain Injuries, PTSD (VIDEO) (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
“We read to know we are not alone,” wrote C.S. Lewis. But how do books make us feel we are not alone?
“Obviously, you can’t hold a book’s hand, and a book isn’t going to dry your tears when you’re sad,” says University at Buffalo, SUNY psychologist Shira Gabriel. Yet we feel human connection, without real relationships, through reading. “Something else important must be happening.”
In an upcoming study inPsychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Gabriel and graduate student Ariana Young show what that something is: When we read, we psychologically become part of the community described in the narrative – be they wizards or vampires. That mechanism satisfies the deeply human, evolutionarily crucial, need for belonging. …
From the Medical News Today article, 20 April 2011
We are fascinated with the lurid details of sensational murder trials. Horror fiction and slasher movies thrill us – the gorier the better. When we drive by the scene of an accident, we’re compelled to slow down. And it’s no secret that brutal video games are solid moneymakers. Why do we thirst for the frighteningly grotesque? In The “LUST FOR BLOOD: WHY WE ARE FASCINATED BY DEATH, MURDER, HORROR, AND VIOLENCE” (Prometheus Books, $25) veteran psychologist Jeffrey A. Kottler explains our dark desire for guts, gore, and the gruesome. …
…[Kottler] ably explores our paradoxical lust and revulsion as a cathartic means of restraint, with specific attention to its psychological impact: seeing violence within a media frame makes us feel alive, recharging us to face our private anxieties about life-and-death issues. This book offers something for everyone, from media psychologists to fans of splatter-films,” said Ramsland.
Kottler considers ideas from a variety of theories and research to explain our responses to violence, raises questions about the shifting line between normal and abnormal, evaluates the confusion and ambivalence that many people feel when witnessing others’ suffering, and suggests future trends in society’s attitudes toward violence.
About the Author:
Jeffrey A. Kottler, PhD, is a practicing psychologist, professor of counseling at California State University, Fullerton, and the author of more than seventy-five books, including the New York Times best seller “The Last Victim: A True-Life Journey into the Mind of the Serial Killer.” He is also head of Empower Nepali Girls, which provides educational scholarships for at-risk, lower-caste girls.
Psychologists are offering new insight and solutions to help counter climate change, while helping people cope with the environmental, economic and health impacts already taking a toll on people’s lives, according to a special issue of American Psychologist, the American Psychological Association’s flagship journal.
[The May-June issue is not yet online, as of 19 April 2011, the articles are by paid subscription only.
For information on how to get medical/scientific articles for free or at low cost, click here]
Climate change “poses significant risks for and in many cases is already affecting a broad range of human and natural systems,” according to the May-June issue’s introductory article, “Psychology’s Contributions to Understanding and Addressing Global Climate Change.” The authors call upon psychologists to increase research and work closely with industry, government and education to address climate change.
The role psychologists can play may be different from what many people expect. “Psychological contributions to limiting climate change will come not from trying to change people’s attitudes, but by helping to make low-carbon technologies more attractive and user-friendly, economic incentives more transparent and easier to use, and information more actionable and relevant to the people who need it,” wrote Paul C. Stern, PhD, of the National Research Council.
In the United States, “motor vehicle use and space heating are the most significant causes of climate change and therefore the most important targets for emissions reduction,” according to Stern’s article, “Contributions of Psychology to Limiting Climate Change.”….
…The issue updates and builds upon the findings and recommendations of APA’s 2009 Task Force report, Psychology and Global Climate Change: Addressing a Multi-faceted Phenomenon and Set of Challenges
- Teens Have Mixed Understanding of Climate Change (livescience.com)
The Counterbalance Interactive Library*** offers new views on complex issues from science, ethics, philosophy, and religion. Here you’ll find extensive resources on the evolution/creation controversy, biomedical ethical challenges, and much more.
A sampling of health and medical related topic sets
From the About page
About Counterbalance Foundation
Counterbalance is a non-profit educational organization working to promote counterbalanced perspectives on complex issues. It is our hope that individuals, the academic community, and society as a whole will benefit from a struggle toward integrated and counterbalanced views.
Counterbalance provides design, consulting, and technical services. It is our intention to use our considerable experience in these areas to serve as a catalyst by.
- Helping make existing multidisciplinary research work accessible to a wider audience, principally though the use of interactive technologies.
- Helping collaboration within, and among research groups by providing on-line technology services, such as the shared Meta-Library andAutoReference tools.
Our services are used by PBS Online, The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, the AAAS, Science and Religion Forum (UK), and others.
Counterbalance is funded by donations and the Adrian M. Wyard Charitable Trust.
- Ethics of Stem Cell Research: i (somescientistsbelieve.wordpress.com)
- Ethics Education Library | Ethics education resources in engineering & the sciences (ethics.iit.edu)
The British Psychological Society has welcomed the Office of National Statistics (ONS) programme aiming to measure the nation’s well-being. Responding to a national consultation (closing date 15 April) the Society commented that well-being amounts to more than mere happiness, and involves a wide range of personal and social domains. Psychologists also commented that positive relationships and a sense of meaning and purpose in life are crucial to genuine well-being.
The ONS consultation is part of an overall programme to develop new measures of national well- being. These are intended to cover the quality of life of people in the UK, the environment and sustainability as well as economic performance. The ONS is seeking views on what well- being means and how it is affected both for the individual and the nation overall. ..
…The full consultation response can be viewed in the Consultation section.
- Charity says spreading joy is they key to happiness (bbc.co.uk)
- You: PM’s ‘optimism expert’ changes mind (guardian.co.uk)
‘Gut Instinct’ May Stem From the Heart
Study probes what prompts people to make the decisions they do
From a January 6, 2011 Health Day news item by Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) — Everyone feels gut instincts at one time or another: Marry that guy! Don’t take that job. Stay inside during this snowstorm! Now, a new study suggests there is indeed a link between your heartbeat and the decisions you make.
“These findings can help explain how we make key choices in life — for example, which house to buy, which job to go for — for better or for worse,” explained study author Barnaby D. Dunn, a clinical psychologist who works with the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England.
The findings don’t indicate that your heart is very good at giving you insight into what to do. And the research doesn’t point to any particular way to get better at decision making. Still, the study does manage to find evidence that there’s something to the idea of trusting your heart.
“I work as a clinical psychologist, and I have been struck in my therapy practice how clients often describe their emotions and decisions in terms of what is happening in their bodies — for example, feeling brokenhearted or following their gut instincts,” Dunn said. “I wanted to see if there was a scientific basis to the idea that what happens in our bodies shapes our minds.”
The researchers tried to find a link between heart and mind by first testing participants to see if they could estimate how fast their hearts were beating. “Participants are instructed to try to ‘feel’ their heart internally and not to directly measure their pulse with their fingers,” Dunn said. “Most people say they are guessing at the tracking task and are unconfident in their performance, and yet there are marked differences in how accurate their estimates are. Only around one-fifth of people show high levels of accuracy.”
Researchers then tried to elicit emotions from the participants by showing them photos of happy things (like a cute puppy) and not-so-happy things (a disgusting plate of food). They then tried to link people’s responses to their ability to monitor their heart rates.
“People’s arousal turned out to be related to changes in their heart rate,” Dunn said. “And this link was stronger in people who were more aware of their own heartbeat. So how people felt depended in part on how well they could sense the status of their own bodies.”
“This suggests that what happens in our bodies really does shape how we feel emotionally,” he said.
In a second experiment, the participants played a card game that emphasized intuition instead of strategy. “The quality of the advice that people’s bodies gave them varied,” Dunn said. “Some people’s gut feelings were spot on, meaning they mastered the card game quickly. Other people’s bodies told them exactly the wrong moves to make, so they learned slowly or never found a way to win. This link between gut feelings and intuitive decision making was stronger in people who were more aware of their own heartbeat.”
What’s the connection between the heart and brain? Dunn said one theory goes like this: “The ‘emotional’ parts of the brain generate the bodily response in the first place. The ‘rational’ parts of the brain then listen in to these bodily responses to find out what the ‘emotional’ parts of the brain are doing. This allows both logic and emotion to shape our choices.”
Dunn said better understanding of the link between the body and the mind might eventually help people who struggle with depression and anxiety.
“We know that anxious people are hyper-aware of the body, whereas those who are depressed are out of touch with the body,” he said. “Training the ability to tune in and out of the body may be beneficial for these individuals.”
The study was published in the December issue of Psychological Science.
SOURCES: Barnaby D. Dunn, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, England; December 2010 Psychological Science