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  • October 5, 2015
  • 07:02 AM

Is there an effective strategy that reduces a conspiracy  theorist’s intense beliefs?

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

According to new research with a large sample from all across the United States, the answer is yes! If you have read this blog for long, you know we love a good conspiracy theorist and use their idiosyncratic associations in pretrial research to plug holes in case narratives. The researchers briefly review the past literature […]

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Conspiracy beliefs and the relation to emotional uncertainty
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Think conspiracy theorists live on ........ Read more »

  • October 5, 2015
  • 02:34 AM

The ASQ-3 and autism screening: has the UK already started?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

'Can Screening with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire Detect Autism?' was the research question posed and partially answered in the paper by Sarah Hardy and colleagues [1] recently.Drawing on data from a very healthy sized cohort (~2800 toddlers) who were "screened with the ASQ-3 [Ages and Stages Questionnaire] and M-CHAT-R across 20 pediatric sites" in the United States, researchers suggested that there may be more to see when it comes to the use of ASQ-3 and the complicated topic of ........ Read more »

Hardy S, Haisley L, Manning C, & Fein D. (2015) Can Screening with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire Detect Autism?. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP, 36(7), 536-43. PMID: 26348972  

  • October 4, 2015
  • 01:39 PM

Brain networking: behind the cognitive control of thoughts

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The human brain does not come with an operating manual. However, a group of scientists have developed a way to convert structural brain imaging techniques into “wiring diagrams” of connections between brain regions. Three researchers from UCSB’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences — Michael Miller, Scott Grafton and Matt Cieslak — used the structure of neural networks to reveal the fundamental rules that govern which parts of the brain are most able to exert cognitive control ........ Read more »

Gu, S., Pasqualetti, F., Cieslak, M., Telesford, Q., Yu, A., Kahn, A., Medaglia, J., Vettel, J., Miller, M., Grafton, S.... (2015) Controllability of structural brain networks. Nature Communications, 8414. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9414  

  • October 3, 2015
  • 03:39 AM

One more time... the interpregnancy interval and risk of offspring autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Children born after an IPI [interpregnancy interval] of <12 months or ≥72 months had a 2- to 3-fold increased ASD [autism spectrum disorder] risk compared with children born after an interval of 36 to 47 months."So said the study results published by Ousseny Zerbo and colleagues [1] looking at the increasingly interesting area of the autism research landscape: the interpregnancy interval (the time from the birth of an index child to the next conception/pregnancy of........ Read more »

Zerbo, O., Yoshida, C., Gunderson, E., Dorward, K., & Croen, L. (2015) Interpregnancy Interval and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders. PEDIATRICS. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-1099  

  • October 2, 2015
  • 12:35 PM

Poop on a Stick Tests Penguins' Sense of Smell

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Who doesn't enjoy waking to a pleasant smell wafting past? Unfortunately for them, the penguins in a recent study woke up not to pancakes frying nearby, but to less appetizing aromas—for example, feces on a stick. But scientists promise the experiment taught them valuable lessons about a penguin's capabilities. Besides, they let the birds go right back to sleep.

"Research into the sense of smell in birds has a bit of a dubious history," says Gregory Cunningham, a biologist at St. John F........ Read more »

  • October 2, 2015
  • 05:12 AM

How jurors can be misled by emotional testimony and gruesome photos

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

As a juror in a criminal trial, you are meant to make a judgment of the defendant's guilt or innocence based on the evidence and arguments presented before you. In many trials, however, alongside the facts of the case, material and statements are allowed that don't in themselves speak to the culpability of the defendant. In a murder trial, for instance, a parent may take the stand and describe how their life has been destroyed by the loss of their child (the victim in the case). Similarly, the p........ Read more »

  • October 2, 2015
  • 04:41 AM

Toddlers have an instinct for fairness and generosity

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Anecdotally, anyone who's spent time around toddlers knows that they mostly don't like sharing their toys. Together with research showing that toddlers, like adults, get pretty attached to their things and are reluctant to give them up, this has led to a popular belief that toddlers are selfish by nature.But a team of developmental psychologists led by Julia Ulber has published new evidence in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology that paints a more heart-warming picture. These psychologi........ Read more »

Ulber, J., Hamann, K., & Tomasello, M. (2015) How 18- and 24-month-old peers divide resources among themselves. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 228-244. DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2015.07.009  

  • October 2, 2015
  • 02:37 AM

ADHD primes for psychosis and/or schizophrenia?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

My efforts turn once again to Taiwan today and the results reported by Yu-Chiau Shyu and colleagues [1] that: "Compared to the control group, the ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] group showed significantly increased risk of developing any psychotic disorder... and schizophrenia."As per the multitude of other instances where Taiwan is mentioned as a research powerhouse, the source data for the Shyu findings was the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database&n........ Read more »

  • October 1, 2015
  • 02:41 PM

Coincidence or conspiracy? Studies investigate conspiracist thinking

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

In pop culture, conspiracy believers — like FBI agent Fox Mulder on The X Files or professor Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code — tend to reject the notion of coincidence or chance; even the most random-seeming events are thought to result from some sort of intention or design. And researchers have suggested that such a bias against randomness may explain real-world conspiracy beliefs. But new research from psychological scientists shows no evidence for a link between conspiracist thinking ........ Read more »

  • October 1, 2015
  • 04:35 AM

Immune endophenotypes in paediatric autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Today I'm serving up the paper by Milo Careaga and colleagues [1] for your blogging delight, who concluded that: "Children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] may be phenotypically characterized based upon their immune profile." Further that there may be: "several possible immune subphenotypes within the ASD population that correlate with more severe behavioral impairments."With many thanks to Natasa for the paper, participants - 50 boys with a median age of 3.2 years diagnosed wi........ Read more »

Milo Careaga, Sally Rogers, Robin L. Hansen, David G. Amaral, Judy Van de Water, & Paul Ashwood. (2015) Immune endophenotypes in children with autism spectrum disorder. Biological Psychiatry. info:/10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.08.036

  • September 30, 2015
  • 10:09 PM

Scientists identify key receptor as potential target for treatment of autism

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have uncovered a significant–and potentially treatable–relationship between a chemical that helps transmit signals in the brain and genetic mutations present in a subset of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The new research findings focus on the role that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays in the development of social behavior.... Read more »

  • September 30, 2015
  • 04:11 AM

They deny it, but the middle classes have a subconscious positive bias toward the rich

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

"Eat the rich, it’s all that they’re good for" is a refrain familiar to my growing-up-in-the-90s ears. To many people today, the upper classes remain fair game for criticism, whether derided as Ivy-League elites, tax-dodging CEOs, or the undeserving gentry. But although many of us may claim to hold negative views about the wealthy, a new study published in Group Processes and Intergroup Relations says our implicit preferences tell a different story. A story we might call "Confessions of a se........ Read more »

  • September 30, 2015
  • 02:53 AM

Regular exercise and motor skills training for autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I approach the study results presented by Serge Brand and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) with some caution given the preliminary nature of the findings suggesting that: "regular AET [aerobic exercise training] and MST [motor skill training] impact positively on sleep, MSs, and mood among children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]." The caution is due to the fact that the Brand results report on an uncontrolled pilot study (we've all done them) and included only........ Read more »

  • September 29, 2015
  • 02:37 PM

Scientists to bypass brain damage by re-encoding memories

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Researchers at USC and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have developed a brain prosthesis that is designed to help individuals suffering from memory loss. The prosthesis, which includes a small array of electrodes implanted into the brain, has performed well in laboratory testing in animals and is currently being evaluated in human patients.... Read more »

  • September 29, 2015
  • 05:26 AM

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection and cognitive ability

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

So: "our findings indicate that infection with HSV-1 [Herpes simplex virus] is associated with reduced cognitive functioning in healthy individuals."That was the conclusion reached in the study by Eyal Fruchter and colleagues [1] who based on a "representative, random sample of 612 soldiers before active duty in the Israeli military (Israeli defense force — IDF)" looked at cognitive functioning and language abilities as a function of HSV status ("62.2% HSV positive (n = 381) and 38.8%........ Read more »

  • September 29, 2015
  • 04:59 AM

New genetic evidence suggests face recognition is a very special human skill

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Example stimuli from Shakeshift and Plomin, 2015.A new twin study, published today in PNAS, of the genetic influences on face recognition ability, supports the idea that face recognition is a special skill that's evolved quite separately from other aspects of human cognition. In short, face recognition seems to be influenced by genes that are mostly different from the genes that influence general intelligence and other forms of visual expertise.The background to this is that, for some time, psyc........ Read more »

Nicholas G. Shakeshaft, & Robert Plomin. (2015) Genetic specificity of face recognition . PNAS . info:/

  • September 28, 2015
  • 12:48 PM

What Animals Contageously Yawn?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Does this sight make you want to yawn? A yawning Japanese macaque by Daisuke Tashiro at Wikimedia Commons.Do you think it would make other animals want to yawn? Many animals yawn spontaneously, but yawning in response to sensing or thinking about someone else doing it may be a completely different thing. Contagious yawning requires a sense of social connection and emotional empathy that not all species share. So far, scientists have found experimental evidence of contagious yawning in humans, ch........ Read more »

  • September 28, 2015
  • 07:02 AM

Ten minutes of uninterrupted eye contact causes hallucinations and other important things 

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

There are many things we read and discard rather than sharing them (and our take on them) with you, but other things we read and grin and think you might want to know. We’ve described these before as odd facts for sharing over drinks or dinner or around the office. It isn’t the most pivotal […]

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  • September 28, 2015
  • 05:07 AM

Extraverts are surprisingly good at mind-bending puzzles

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The solitary inventor, buried away in garage or shed, is the classic depiction of introvert as born problem-solver. But new research, published recently in Psychological Studies, suggests that it’s extraverted people who perform better at classical tests of problem-solving, thanks to their tendency to be motivated in ways that are helpful for achieving.Vidya Athota at the University of Notre Dame, Australia and Richard Roberts at the Center for Innovative Assessments in New York ran compu........ Read more »

Athota, V., & Roberts, R. (2015) How Extraversion Leads to Problem-Solving Ability. Psychological Studies, 60(3), 332-338. DOI: 10.1007/s12646-015-0329-3  

  • September 28, 2015
  • 03:11 AM

Autism traits in older adults with depressive disorders

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"ASD [autism spectrum disorder] might be overlooked in older adults and especially within geriatric psychiatry when diagnosing and treating depression and anxiety in older patients one should be attentive to ASD."So concluded Hilde Geurts and colleagues [1] as a function of their results looking for the presence of autistic traits in older adults with and without depressive disorders participating in the Netherlands study of depression in older persons (NESDO) initiative. Based on........ Read more »

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