Research conducted in the aftermath of a devastating Chinese earthquake has uncovered a paradoxical psychological phenomenon - survivors living in the most devastated regions appear to be the least concerned by the ongoing risks. Shu Li and colleagues dubbed this the 'Psychological Typhoon Eye' in a paper published last year and now they've reported follow-up investigations that suggest the effect was still in evidence a year after the disaster.The 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake registered 8 on the Richter scale and killed over 68,000 people. More than four million people were also injured. In their initial paper, Shu Li's team observed that survivors living in the most devastated regions were the least concerned, as measured by their estimates for: how many relief workers were needed, the likelihood of a epidemic outbreak, the need to take safety measures against aftershocks, and the level of dose needed if a fictitious psychological medication were made available for an earthquake victim.The new study of over 5000 residents finds that this association held after four and eleven months and it also replicates the finding when using a 'relational distance' measure of involvement in the quake. That is, people who reported having closer rather than more distant relations who'd been affected by the quake tended to report less ongoing concern with the threat. One of the explanations for the Psychological Typhoon Eye mooted in Li's 2009 paper was psychological immunity - the idea being that exposure to danger builds psychological resilience. However, the new study undermined this explanation - people living in the most devastated regions still showed the same level of Psychological Typhoon Eye regardless of whether they themselves had suffered physical or economic harm from the quake. Another possible explanation is cognitive dissonance. The idea here is that continuing to live in a dangerous area is psychological uncomfortable - to justify this decision people have to downplay the risks in their own mind. Li's team said more research was needed to test this explanation.These studies are not the first to find paradoxical psychological responses to danger. Research published in the 1970s found that people living nearer to French nuclear power stations perceived the risk to be lower than people living further away._________________________________Li, S., Rao, L., Bai, X., Zheng, R., Ren, X., Li, J., Wang, Z., Liu, H., & Zhang, K. (2010). Progression of the “Psychological Typhoon Eye” and Variations Since the Wenchuan Earthquake. PLoS ONE, 5 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009727Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
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Li, S., Rao, L., Bai, X., Zheng, R., Ren, X., Li, J., Wang, Z., Liu, H., & Zhang, K. (2010) Progression of the “Psychological Typhoon Eye” and Variations Since the Wenchuan Earthquake. PLoS ONE, 5(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009727
This post is sparked by a pre-print paper I read yesterday, but follows a long time cogitating about the use and value of “just doing it”.
Behavioural reactivation is a set of techniques often used for mood management. It usually incorporates activity monitoring, assessment of life goals and values, activity scheduling, skills training and problem solving, [...]... Read more »
Dimidjian, S., Hollon, S., Dobson, K., Schmaling, K., Kohlenberg, R., Addis, M., Gallop, R., McGlinchey, J., Markley, D., Gollan, J.... (2006) Randomized Trial of Behavioral Activation, Cognitive Therapy, and Antidepressant Medication in the Acute Treatment of Adults With Major Depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(4), 658-670. DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.74.4.658
The party isn't over yet! Here's another helping of Monday Pets. Enjoy!
Wild Dog crawled into the Cave and laid his head on the Woman's lap... And the Woman said, "His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend."
--Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling.
Archaeological evidence indicates that dogs were already a part of human society around the end of the Ice Age. Small dog skeletons have been unearthed in human communities as far back as 6- to 12-thousand years ago in Europe, the Middle East, and China. The jawbone of a domestic dog was found in a late Paleolithic grave in Germany, and dated to around 14 thousand years ago. And there is the famous site at Ein Mallaha (Eynan, in Hebrew), in Northern Israel where an elderly human and a 4-5 month old puppy were buried together, 10- to 12-thousand years ago.
Figure 1: From the site at Ein Mallaha. The person's left hand is placed on the body of a 4-5 month old puppy.
Some evidence exists that dogs were the first animals to be domesticated, and until now, humans have only succeeded in domesticating around 20 different animal species. Compared with those other species (such as sheep, goats, pigs, cows, horses, donkeys, and camels), only dogs (and to some extent, cats, though at the risk of alienating readers, I maintain that cats are evil) have established for themselves a social niche within human society. Dogs were not only bred for companionship; some dogs were bred for hunting, guarding, or herding. More recently, dogs have worked as service dogs or drug-sniffing dogs. The question remains: Why do dogs have such apparent psychological effects on humans? Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Pinkhasov et al. (2010) discuss why it is that in developed countries around the world, life expectancy for men is several years less than for women. Their attention to actual disease states such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer, excludes a broader, sociocultural approach to the problem. I should think that if you want to reduce the 'gender disparity', as the authors call it, between the life expectancy of men and women, you first need to understand how gender practices influence health. ... Read more »
Pinkhasov, R., Shteynshlyuger, A., Hakimian, P., Lindsay, G., Samadi, D., & Shabsigh, R. (2010) Are men shortchanged on health? Perspective on life expectancy, morbidity, and mortality in men and women in the United States. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 64(4), 465-474. DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02289.x
The biologist WD Hamilton famously said that he would lay down his life for two brothers... or eight cousins. That's kinship altruism - the idea that it makes evolutionary sense to sacrifice yourself to benefit close relatives (who share a lot of your genes). But there's another side to kinship altruism, as described by two Oxford University biologists, Stuart West and Andy Gardner, in a recent paper in Science.They point out that spiteful behaviour - acting cruelly for no gain to yourself - actually makes sense (in certain circumstances) for the same reason kinship altruism does. If your relatives benefit from your spiteful behaviour (or even if the target of your spite is less related to you than the average stranger) then then your genes could benefit.In fact, from an evolutionary perspective, spite and kinship altruism are the same thing (they're both explained in mathematical terms using 'Hamilton's Rule').Now, West & Gardner don't mention religion, but this fact has interesting implications. As the anthropologist Lyle Steadman has pointed out, almost all the world's religions use kinship terms (mother, father, brother, sister) to refer to their co-religionists.The idea is that religion helps to stabilise large societies by subverting our intuitive kinship altruism and extending it to non-relatives. Which is all well and good for co-religionists, but the downside is that people of a different religion then become emphatically non-kin (failing both real and religious kinship criteria).Which might help to explain the spiteful actions that often occur between followers of different gods.West and Gardner also discuss so-called 'green beards'. This refers to genes (or gene-complexes) that code for an altruistic trait and also for a signal. Dawkins coined the term to describe the hypothetical case of a gene that simultaneously codes for the green beard itself and also for co-operative behaviour towards fellow green beards.It's been suggested that just such a linkage could explain the rise of religion - if religious displays are a reliable guide to honest behaviour.However, West & Gardner put the kybosh on that idea. Green beards are unlikely to be relevant to human evolution, because personality traits are complex and not due to genes that could also code for a visible signal:Some models for altruism in humans and social insects implicitly invoke greenbeard mechanisms without realizing this, such as the suggestion that altruistic individuals differ from individuals who are not altruistic in some observable characteristic [such as being more likely to smile and laugh] or models of “strong reciprocity” that assume punishment and altruism to be genetically linked. However, there is no reason to suspect that traits such as smiling or punishment will be encoded by the same gene or closely linked genes as those that lead to altruism. Consequently, falsebeards could arise, and these proposed explanations for altruism would not be evolutionarily stable.And finally... I actually learned about this article from a Christian blogger, who picked up on one sentence about how kinship altruism can lead to a particular kind of social behaviour. He says the authors:... point out that "strict lifetime monogamy, in which females only mate with one male in their entire life, is crucial for the evolution of eusociality." This provides a very natural scientific basis for understanding the critical importance of "thou shalt not commit adultery"Now, this is very funny when you know that 'eusocial' is a very specific term used to describe the kind of society exemplified by honey bees - one dominant queen, with a slavish workforce comprising her sterile daughters. It sounds like adultery is the only way to save us from a bleak future!I don't think the blogger is actually hoping for a bible-based eusocial future for humans. Most likely he simply doesn't realise what eusocial means - hard to believe when the paper illustrates it with pictures of termites and sterile worker shrimps!West SA, & Gardner A (2010). Altruism, spite, and greenbeards. Science (New York, N.Y.), 327 (5971), 1341-4 PMID: 20223978 This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.
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This is the fifth in a series of articles on Emotional Intelligence for Personal Growth.
Probably all of us have asked our self from time to time if our thoughts, feelings, or behavior at any single moment is "normal". Actually, there are different answers for each one of these.
Normal behavior is, like it or not, defined by our legal, community (family, neighborhood, social group) and religious institutions. The law is enforced by our local police, and sanctioned by our courts. Religious values might be said to be collectively defined by our church going population and it's leadership. If we are observed behaving outside of legal boundaries, we may find ourselves in a court room facing a judge. If we stretch our community or religious values, we might be ostracized, and separated from the kind of support we have been reliant on through our life.
Our internal life, our thoughts and feelings, that which goes on within ourselves may be our last real privacy. And that is indeed fortunate. Our internal creativity is uncomfortably broad. We are capable of thinking and feeling most anything from time to time. Under provocation, we are capable of thinking about things we would never do. Angry enough, we may think of assault, even murder. Seeing a pretty woman, a married man might think about cheating on his wife, but never act on that thought. Shocked about a death in the family, our first thoughts may be directed at the inconvenience of disrupting out usual routine and our feelings might be closer to annoyed. Our thoughts and our feelings often contradict each other. In a real sense, we live a dual existence.
Our body speaks to us through our feelings. Messages are typically fast, automatic, effortless, associative, not available to reflection, and often emotionally charged. Messages are also governed by habit and are therefore difficult to control or modify without time and significant effort. Curiously, since the messages do not require conscious awareness, they do not cause or suffer much interference when combined with other tasks.
Our thoughts, however, are relatively slower, serial, effortful, more likely to be consciously monitored and deliberately controlled. Compared to feelings, thoughts are relatively flexible and thus change readily and can be directed by conscious or habitual rules. Because thoughts are effortful, they tend to disrupt each other. Thus monitoring mental operations for quality interferes with monitoring overt behavior. People who are occupied by a demanding mental activity are more likely to respond to another task by blurting out whatever comes to mind.
Intuitive judgments combine the function of feelings and thoughts. The perceptual system and intuitive about perceptions generate impressions of the attributes of objects. These impressions are neither voluntary nor verbally explicit. Judgments are always intentional and explicit even when they are not overtly expressed. Thus, thinking is involved in all judgments and can be reflected upon, whether they originate in impressions or in deliberate reasoning. Monitoring of intuitive judgments is normally quite lax and allows many to be expressed, including some that are erroneous (Kahneman, 2003).
We perceive reality by these two interactive, parallel processing systems.
The rational system , a relative newcomer on the evolutionary scene, is a deliberative, verbally mediated, primarily conscious analytical system that functions by a person's understanding of conventionally established rules of logic and evidence. The experiential system, which is considered to be shared by all higher order organisms (although more complex in humans), has a much longer evolutionary history, operates in an automatic, holistic, associationistic manner, is intimately associated with the experience of affect, represents events in the form of concrete exemplars and schemas inductively derived from emotionally significant past experiences, and is able to generalize and to construct relatively complex models for organizing experience and directing behavior by the use of prototypes, metaphors, scripts, and narratives. Although the experimental system is generally adaptive in natural situations, it is often maladaptive in unnatural situations that cannot be solved on the basis of generalizations from past experience but require logical analysis and an understanding of abstract relations.
[B]ehavior is guided by the joint operation of the two systems, with their relative influence being determined by the nature of the situation and the degree of emotional involvement. Certain situations (e.g., solving mathematical problems) are readily identified as requiring analytical processing, whereas others (e.g., interpersonal behaviors) are more likely to be responded to in an automatic, experientially determined manner. Holding such situational features constant, the greater the emotional involvement, the greater the shift in the balance of influence from the rational to the experiential system (Denes-Raj & Epstein, 1994).
One might ask, why are there two systems? Many of us have at times wished that our emotions could quiet themselves or even go away. Our culture has a bias towards logic and is suspicious of our emotional side. To quote Ayn Rand:
A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation - or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a bail and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown...
Not matter how much we wish we could be logical and rational, there is a burgeoning literature that says otherwise. Our decisions are evident in our brain activity long before we are consciously aware (For example, see Libet et al., 1983 and Dennett, 2003). We have a dual system of decision making because it works. Think about it. How often to we make decisions where we have all the information we need to be absolutely sure that our logical deduction is correct? I would venture to say that being sure is limited to only our most simple and concrete decisions. Most every other decision involves weighing facts, impressions, intuitions, and feelings and making as best a decision as possible.
Image via Wikipedia
Phineas Gage is perhaps the most famous neurology patient of all time. After a gruesome injury in which he was impaled through his skull by a metal rod and then miraculously recovered, poor Phineas retained all the logic he ever had, but was completely unable to make a decision. He was also left without any awareness or expression of emotion (Demasio, 1994). The very act of making a decision is an emotional process. We choose our decisions among competing alternatives based not only the evidence, but what feels best to us, our "gut level" reaction.
The story behind this dual system is most evident in normal social development.
The Attachment Relationship
John Bowlby (1969/1982) is credited as the founder of Attachment Theory, based on his observations that the quality of a child's social development was largely determined by the quality of the child's relationship with her caregiver. Mary Ainsworth and Mary Main began the research that would ultimately follow children over their first 20 years of development demonstrating Bowlby's concepts to be true and elaborating that theory to account for how, as a child and adult, how freely and effectively she can think, feel, remember, and act (Ainsworth et al., 1978, Main et al., 1985 & Fonagy et al., 2002). Fonagy went on to find that a pa... Read more »
Ambady N, & Gray HM. (2002) On being sad and mistaken: mood effects on the accuracy of thin-slice judgments. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(4), 947-61. PMID: 12374446
Back MD, Schmukle SC, & Egloff B. (2009) Predicting actual behavior from the explicit and implicit self-concept of personality. Journal of personality and social psychology, 97(3), 533-48. PMID: 19686006
Denes-Raj V, & Epstein S. (1994) Conflict between intuitive and rational processing: when people behave against their better judgment. Journal of personality and social psychology, 66(5), 819-29. PMID: 8014830
Finkel EJ, DeWall CN, Slotter EB, Oaten M, & Foshee VA. (2009) Self-regulatory failure and intimate partner violence perpetration. Journal of personality and social psychology, 97(3), 483-99. PMID: 19686003
Kahneman D. (2003) A perspective on judgment and choice: mapping bounded rationality. The American psychologist, 58(9), 697-720. PMID: 14584987
Klauer KC, Teige-Mocigemba S, & Spruyt A. (2009) Contrast effects in spontaneous evaluations: a psychophysical account. Journal of personality and social psychology, 96(2), 265-87. PMID: 19159132
Libet B, Gleason CA, Wright EW, & Pearl DK. (1983) Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness-potential). The unconscious initiation of a freely voluntary act. Brain : a journal of neurology, 623-42. PMID: 6640273
Rottenberg, J. (2003) When Emotion Goes Wrong: Realizing the Promise of Affective Science. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 227-232. DOI: 10.1093/clipsy/bpg012
Gog, T., Paas, F., Marcus, N., Ayres, P., & Sweller, J. (2008) The Mirror Neuron System and Observational Learning: Implications for the Effectiveness of Dynamic Visualizations. Educational Psychology Review, 21(1), 21-30. DOI: 10.1007/s10648-008-9094-3
Image by Randy Son of Robert.
I love simple physical activity interventions. We all know that physical activity is a good thing, and yet it can be really difficult for people to increase their physical activity levels, especially over the long-term. So it's exciting whenever any intervention is shown to be effective, but even more so when it is simple. And an intervention that is both simple and inexpensive is pure gold. I wrote about one such intervention a few weeks ago, when I described a British study that showed that simply painting lines on a school-yard playground resulted in a dramatic increase in physical activity levels during recess. The intervention was simple, it was inexpensive and extremely easy to implement, and yet it had an impressive positive impact. What more could you ask for?
Earlier this week I came across a similarly simple intervention published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, this time focused on adults. In this new study, Megan Grimstvedt and colleagues placed signs near the elevators of 4 university buildings in San Antonio. The sign said simply "Walking up stairs burns almost 5 times as many calories as riding an elevator" and included an arrow directing people to the nearest staircase, as well as a cartoon of the school mascot walking up a flight of stairs. Two of the buildings had very visible staircases, while two of the buildings had staircases that were relatively hidden. The buildings with hidden staircases had an additional sign on the staircase door to tell people that the stairs were accessible (e.g. no fire alarm would sound). The researchers then positioned themselves in "inconspicuous" locations for 2 hours per day, Monday-Thursday, and tallied the number of people using the staircase and elevator.
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Megan E. Grimstvedt, Jacqueline Kerr, Sara B. Oswal, Donovan L. Fogt, Tiffanye M. Vargas-Tonsing, & Zenong Yin. (2010) Using Signage to Promote Stair Use on a University Campus in Hidden and Visible Stairwells. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 232-238. info:/
Mirror neurons are one of the most hyped concepts in psychology and neurocience. V.S. Ramachandran famously wrote that they will 'do for psychology what DNA did for biology'. Although recordings from single cells in the brains of monkeys have identified 'mirror' neurons that respond both to the execution of a movement and the observation of another agent performing that same movement, the existence of such cells in humans has, up until now, been inferred only from indirect evidence, particularly brain imaging. Now, for the first time, Roy Mukamel and colleagues have provided direct evidence, using implanted electrode recordings of single cells, for the existence of mirror neurons in humans.Mukamel's team seized the opportunity for single cell recording provided by the clinical investigations that were being carried out on patients with intractable epilepsy. These patients had electrodes implanted into their brains to identify the loci of their seizures. Mukamel and his colleagues recruited 21 of these patients and had them look at videos of hand gestures or facial expressions on a laptop in one condition, and perform those same gestures and expressions in another condition.Most of the 1177 cells that were recorded showed a response either to the execution of an action or the sight of that action, not both. However, there was a significant subset of 'mirror' neurons in the front of the brain, including the supplementary motor area, and in the temporal lobe, including the hippocampus, that responded to the sight and execution of the very same actions.Critics could argue that rather than having mirror properties, these cells were responding to a concept. For example, according to this argument, a cell that responded to the sight of a smile and the execution of a smile, was actually being activated by the smile concept. Mukamel's group reject that argument. They had a control condition in which the words for actions appeared on a screen, rather than those actions being seen or performed. The postulated mirror neurons responded to the sight and execution of an action, but not the word.Another potential criticism is that the execution-related activity of a postulated mirror neuron is triggered by the sight of one's own action, rather than by motor-output per se. However, this can't explain the mirror neurons that responded both to the sight of a given facial expression and one's own execution of that facial expression (although proprioceptive feedback could still be a potential confound). Mirror neurons make functional sense in relation to empathy and imitative learning, but a drawback could be unwanted imitation and confusion regarding ownership over actions. The researchers uncovered another subset of cells that could help reduce these risks - these cells were activated by the execution of a given movement but inhibited by the sight of someone else performing that same movement (or vice versa). 'Taken together,' the researchers concluded, 'these findings suggest the existence of multiple systems in the brain endowed with neural mirroring mechanisms for flexible integration and differentiation of the perceptual and motor aspects of actions performed by self and others.' _________________________________Roy Mukamel, Arne D Ekstrom, Jonas Kaplan, Maraco Iacoboni, & Itzhak Fried (2010). Single-Neuron Responses in Humans during Execution and Observation of Actions. Current Biology [In Press].
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Roy Mukamel, Arne D Ekstrom, Jonas Kaplan, Maraco Iacoboni, & Itzhak Fried. (2010) Single-Neuron Responses in Humans during Execution and Observation of Actions. Current Biology. info:/
We shall begin with an homage to the great Lady Gaga:
Now that that has been taken care of, let us continue…
A few days ago I wrote about an initial attempt to create an animal model of the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). Initial attempts are always tough, and I think they overall did a good job, [...]... Read more »
Zeeb, F., Robbins, T., & Winstanley, C. (2009) Serotonergic and Dopaminergic Modulation of Gambling Behavior as Assessed Using a Novel Rat Gambling Task. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34(10), 2329-2343. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2009.62
In an unusual study with potentially revolutionary implications, Austrian biologists Wilkinson et al show evidence of Social learning in a non-social reptile.Social learning means learning to do something by observing others doing it, rather than by doing it yourself. Many sociable animal species, including mammals, birds and even insects, have shown the ability to learn by observing others doing things. It's often seen as a distinct form of cognition, separate to "normal" learning, which evolved to facilitate group living. It's one of the things that everyone's favourite brain cells, mirror neurons, have been invoked to explain.But if observational learning is a specifically social adaptation, then non-social animals would be predicted to lack this ability. One distinctly unfriendly animal species is the South American red-footed tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria), which is naturally solitary. In the wild, they hatch from their eggs alone, and get no parental care; they live most of their lives without interacting with others.Wilkinson et al found that red-footed tortoises can, nevertheless, learn by observation. They took four tortoises and got them to watch another "demonstrator" tortoise completing a difficult task: walking around an obstacle to get to some food (it's hard if you're a tortoise).The observing animals all learned to do the task. In most cases, they walked around the obstacle to the right, which is what the demonstrators did, but sometimes they went left, showing that they were not simply copying the movements of the demonstrators. The wood chips on the floor of the floor of the cage were mixed up after each trial, to rule out the possibility that the tortoises were just following the smell of the demonstrator. None of four control tortoises, who got no demonstrations, managed to figure it out on their own.The authors conclude thatThe dominant hypothesis in this field claims that social learning evolved as a result of social living and therefore predicts that the tortoises would have difficulty with this task. They did not. The findings suggest that, in this case, social learning may be the result of a general ability to learn. Although the brain mechanisms that underlie the tortoises’ ability to learn socially remain unclear, it seems most likely that it is the product of a general learning mechanism that allows the tortoises to learn, through associative processes, to use the behaviour of another animal just as they would learn to use any cue in the environment.This is a nice experiment, and the result is important: the idea that social learning is somehow evolutionarily and neurally "special" underlies a lot of modern social neuroscience. However, I'm not fully convinced that these tortoises can be accurately described as "non-social". Even the most anti-social species have to socialize in order to mate: no animal is an island. According to Wikipedia the red-footed tortoise has some quite elaborate (and hilarious) mating behaviours...male to male combat is important in inducing breeding in redfoots. Male to male combat begins with a round of head bobbing from each male involved, and then proceeds to a wresting match where the males attempt to turn one another over. The succeeding male (usually the largest male) then attempts to mate with the females. The ritualistic head movements displayed by male red-foots are thought to be a method of species recognition. Other tortoise species have different challenging head movements....The unique body shape of the male redfooted tortoise facilitates the mating process by allowing him to maintain his balance during copulation while the female walks around, seemingly attempting to dislodge the male by walking under low-hanging vegetation.Wilkinson, A., Kuenstner, K., Mueller, J., & Huber, L. (2010). Social learning in a non-social reptile (Geochelone carbonaria) Biology Letters DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0092... Read more »
Wilkinson, A., Kuenstner, K., Mueller, J., & Huber, L. (2010) Social learning in a non-social reptile (Geochelone carbonaria). Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0092
tags: evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, molecular ecology, personality, novelty seeking, exploratory behavior, dopamine receptor, dopamine receptor D4 gene, DRD4 gene polymorphism, ornithology, birds, Great Tit, Parus major, bpr3.org/?p=52,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper
Bold or cautious? Individuals with a particular gene variant are very curious --
but only in some populations.
Image: Henk Dikkers.
Research shows that personality variations are heritable in humans and other animal species, and there are many hypotheses as to why differences in personality exist and are maintained. One approach for investigating the heritability of personality lies in identifying which genes underlie specific personality traits so scientists can then determine how the frequencies of specific variants of personality-related genes change in both space and time as well as in relation to changing environmental influences. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
KORSTEN, P., MUELLER, J., HERMANNSTÄDTER, C., BOUWMAN, K., DINGEMANSE, N., DRENT, P., LIEDVOGEL, M., MATTHYSEN, E., van OERS, K., van OVERVELD, T.... (2010) Association between DRD4 gene polymorphism and personality variation in great tits: a test across four wild populations. Molecular Ecology, 19(4), 832-843. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04518.x
What do you think would motivate people more — getting them to focus on what they will do or asking them to think about whether they will do it or not?... Read more »
Ibrahim Senay, Dolores Albarracín, & Kenji Noguchi. (2010) Motivating Goal-Directed Behavior Through Introspective Self-Talk: The Role of the Interrogative Form of Simple Future Tense. Psychological Science. info:/10.1177/0956797610364751
Vohs, K., & Schooler, J. (2008) The Value of Believing in Free Will: Encouraging a Belief in Determinism Increases Cheating. Psychological Science, 19(1), 49-54. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02045.x
Greenwald, A., Carnot, C., Beach, R., & Young, B. (1987) Increasing voting behavior by asking people if they expect to vote. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72(2), 315-318. DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.72.2.315
Emails feel so transient, so disembodied, that we're more tempted to lie when sending them compared with writing with pen and paper. That's according to Charles Naquin and colleagues who tested the honesty of students and managers as they played financial games.Forty-eight graduate business students were presented with an imaginary $89 kitty and had to choose how much they'd tell their partner was in the kitty, and how much of the kitty to share with their partner. Crucially, some participants shared this information by email, others by pen and paper. You guessed it - those who shared the info by email were more likely to lie about the kitty size (92 per cent of them did vs. 63 per cent of the pen and paper group), and they were also more unfair in how they shared the money. Participants in the email group also said they felt more justified in misrepresenting the amount of money to their partner. A follow-up study ramped up the ecological validity. One hundred and seventy-seven full-time managers took part in a group financial game. Participants formed teams of three with each member pretending to be the manager of a science project negotiating for grant money. This game was played with real money, the players all knew each other, and any lies would be revealed afterwards. Once again, players who shared information by email were more likely to lie and cheat than were players who shared information by pen and paper.Charles Naquin's team said their results chime with previous research showing, for example, that peer performance reviews are more negative when conducted online rather than on paper. 'Moving paper tasks online either within or across organisational boundaries should be undertaken with caution,' they said. For example: 'Taxes using the increasingly popular e-filing system could be even more fraught with deception than the traditional paper forms.'_________________________________Naquin, C., Kurtzberg, T., & Belkin, L. (2010). The finer points of lying online: E-mail versus pen and paper. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95 (2), 387-394 DOI: 10.1037/a0018627
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Naquin, C., Kurtzberg, T., & Belkin, L. (2010) The finer points of lying online: E-mail versus pen and paper. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(2), 387-394. DOI: 10.1037/a0018627
Part three of our exploration of the DSM-5 and psychiatric diagnosis - focusing on the proposed inclusion of Coercive Paraphilic Disorder (which could perhaps be considered the medicalisation of rape).... Read more »
Knight, R. (2009) Is a Diagnostic Category for Paraphilic Coercive Disorder Defensible?. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(2), 419-426. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-009-9571-x
Thornton D. (2010) Evidence regarding the need for a diagnostic category for a coercive paraphilia. Archives of sexual behavior, 39(2), 411-8. PMID: 19941047
A few posts ago I discussed a motivational strategy that had been shown to help people be specific about the benefits of exercise and plan to overcome obstacles that may prevent them from engaging in it (Christiansen, Oettingen, Dahme and Klinger,2010). Today’s post relates to this as I read an editorial written by Schrooten [...]... Read more »
Schrooten, M., & Vlaeyen, J. (2010) Becoming active again? Further thoughts on goal pursuit in chronic pain. Pain. DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.02.038
A few months ago, I asked Why Do We Sleep?That post was about sleep researcher Jerry Siegel, who argues that sleep evolved as a state of "adaptive inactivity". According to this idea, animals sleep because otherwise we'd always be active, and constant activity is a waste of energy. Sleeping for a proportion of the time conserves calories, and also keeps us safe from nocturnal predators etc.Siegel's theory in what we might call minimalist. That's in contrast to other hypotheses which claim that sleep serves some kind of vital restorative biological function, or that it's important for memory formation, or whatever. It's a hotly debated topic.But Siegel wasn't the first sleep minimalist. J. Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley created a storm in 1977 with The Brain As A Dream State Generator; I read somewhere that it provoked more letters to the Editor in the American Journal of Psychiatry than any other paper in that journal.Hobson and McCarley's article was so controversial because they argued that dreams are essentially side-effects of brain activation. This was a direct attack on the Freudian view that we dream as a result of our subconscious desires, and that dreams have hidden meanings. Freudian psychoanalysis was incredibly influential in American psychiatry in the 1970s.Freud believed that dreams exist to fulfil our fantasies, often though not always sexual ones. We dream about what we'd like to do - except we don't dream about it directly, because we find much of our desires shameful, so our minds disguise the wishes behind layers of metaphor etc. "Steep inclines, ladders and stairs, and going up or down them, are symbolic representations of the sexual act..." Interpreting the symbolism of dreams can therefore shed light on the depths of the mind.Hobson and McCarley argued that during REM sleep, our brains are active in a similar way to when we are awake; many of the systems responsible for alertness are switched on, unlike during deep, dreamless, non-REM sleep. But of course during REM there is no sensory input (our eyes are closed), and also, we are paralysed: an inhibitory pathway blocks the spinal cord, preventing us from moving, except for our eyes - hence why it's Rapid Eye Movement sleep.Dreams are simply a result of the "awake-like" forebrain - the "higher" perceptual, cognitive and emotional areas - trying to make sense of the input that it's receiving as a result of waves of activation arising from the brainstem. A dream is the forebrain's "best guess" at making a meaningful story out of the assortment of sensations (mostly visual) and concepts activated by these periodic waves. There's no attempt to disguise the shameful parts; the bizarreness of dreams simply reflects the fact that the input is pretty much random.Hobson and McCarley proposed a complex physiological model in which the activation is driven by the giant cells of the pontine tegmentum. These cells fire in bursts according to a genetically hard-wired rhythm of excitation and inhibition.The details of this model are rather less important than the fact that it reduces dreaming to a neurological side effect. This doesn't mean that the REM state has no function; maybe it does, but whatever it is, the subjective experience of dreams serves no purpose.A lot has changed since 1977, but Hobson seems to have stuck by the basic tenets of this theory. A good recent review came out in Nature Neuroscience last year, REM sleep and dreaming. In this paper Hobson proposes that the function of REM sleep is to act as a kind of training system for the developing brain.The internally-generated signals that arise from the brainstem (now called PGO waves) during REM help the forebrain to learn how to process information. This explains why we spend more time in REM early in life; newborns have much more REM than adults; in the womb, we are in REM almost all the time. However, these are not dreams per se because children don't start reporting experiencing dreams until about the age of 5.Protoconscious REM sleep could therefore provide a virtual world model, complete with an emergent imaginary agent (the protoself) that moves (via fixed action patterns) through a fictive space (the internally engendered environment) and experiences strong emotion as it does so.This is a fascinating hypothesis, although very difficult to test, and it begs the question of how useful "training" based on random, meaningless input is.While Hobson's theory is minimalist in that it reduces dreams, at any rate in adulthood, to the status of a by-product, it doesn't leave them uninteresting. Freudian dream re-interpretation is probably ruled out ("That train represents your penis and that cat was your mother", etc.), but if dreams are our brains processing random noise, then they still provide an insight into how our brains process information. Dreams are our brains working away on their own, with the real world temporarily removed.Of course most dreams are not going to give up life-changing insights. A few months back I had a dream which was essentially a scene-for-scene replay of the horror movie Cloverfield. It was a good dream, scarier than the movie itself, because I didn't know it was a movie. But I think all it tells me is that I was paying attention when I watched Cloverfield.On the other hand, I have had several dreams that have made me realize important things about myself and my situation at the time. By paying attention to your dreams, you can work out how you really think, and feel, about things, what your preconceptions and preoccupations are. Sometimes.Hobson JA, & McCarley RW (1977). The brain as a dream state generator: an activation-synthesis hypothesis of the dream process. The American journal of psychiatry, 134 (12), 1335-48 PMID: 21570Hobson, J. (2009). REM sleep and dreaming: towards a theory of protoconsciousness Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10 (11), 803-813 DOI: 10.1038/nrn2716... Read more »
Hobson JA, & McCarley RW. (1977) The brain as a dream state generator: an activation-synthesis hypothesis of the dream process. The American journal of psychiatry, 134(12), 1335-48. PMID: 21570
Hobson, J. (2009) REM sleep and dreaming: towards a theory of protoconsciousness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(11), 803-813. DOI: 10.1038/nrn2716
The Research Digest blog was five years old in February. As part of an ongoing celebratory series, I've asked Dr Gavin Nobes of the University of East Anglia to look back on his research on children's naive models of the earth that I covered in March 2005, to reflect on that study and the field more generally. Here's what he had to say:"Almost 15 years ago the late George Butterworth visited UEL and inspired a group of us to follow up some work he and Michael Siegal had started in Australia. Using a novel, forced-choice question task, they were testing the claim, based on children's drawings, that children have theory-like ‘naive mental models’ of the Earth; that is, children believe it to be (for example) flat, or a hollow sphere in which we live. This area of research has important implications for our understanding of the acquisition of knowledge, and for science education. For example, if children are influenced primarily by their intuitions and observations (as proponents of the naive mental model approach claim), they would be expected to think the Earth is flat; but if cultural communication is the principal source of information, children’s first concept of the Earth should be a rudimentary version of the scientific, spherical model.In the study featured in the Digest five years ago, Georgia Panagiotaki, Alan Martin and I asked children not to draw but to choose, from a set of pictures, those that they thought best represented the Earth. As in the Australian study, we found that children knew much more about the Earth than previous researchers had claimed, and found no evidence of naive mental models.Despite this apparently strong evidence from two different methods, the debate continued. Our recognition (forced-choice questions and picture selection) methods were criticised on the grounds that, unlike the earlier studies based on children's drawings, they failed properly to elicit children’s understanding. We responded to these criticisms by giving the same open-ended, drawing-based questions (used in the earlier studies) to university students. We were amazed to find that many of them drew exactly the same pictures, and gave identical non-scientific answers, as had children who were supposed to have naive mental models. Subsequent interviews revealed that the students had drawn and answered in these ways because they didn’t understand the questions – despite them being designed for 5-year-olds! Further experiments with a new version of the task, in which we rephrased the original open questions to reduce their ambiguity, led both adults and children to give substantially fewer non-scientific answers. We concluded that naive mental models are methodological artifacts: children and adults give these responses to the original instrument because the questions are poorly worded.One recommendation that arises from this work is that, wherever possible, different methods should be used to test the same hypotheses. Another is that, however simple your children’s task might be, try it out first on adults: this is quick, easy, and can be remarkably revealing. And third, don’t be too dispirited by negative reviews: especially early on, editors sent our submissions to proponents of the naive mental model view, whose disparaging reviews resulted in rejections. Had it not been for Michael’s and George’s generous support and encouragement, we would probably have given up and turned to less controversial areas of research." _______________________________Nobes, G., Martin, A., & Panagiotaki, G. (2005). The development of scientific knowledge of the Earth. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23 (1), 47-64 DOI: 10.1348/026151004x20649Look out for more of these 'looking back' guest posts in the coming months.
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Nobes, G., Martin, A., & Panagiotaki, G. (2005) The development of scientific knowledge of the Earth. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23(1), 47-64. DOI: 10.1348/026151004x20649
Does mental disorder spring from the ether or is it the product of unhealthy environments? While biopsychiatrists would favour the former, Morgan and Hutchinson (2009) show that disadvantage and discrimination are behind the exponentially higher rate of mental disorder amongst Black Caribbean and Black African people in the UK (when compared with White people in the UK). The problem, thus, to be fixed, is not 'them' but the social adversity to which those citizens are unfortunately exposed. ... Read more »
Morgan, C., & Hutchinson, G. (2009) The social determinants of psychosis in migrant and ethnic minority populations: a public health tragedy. Psychological Medicine, 40(05), 705. DOI: 10.1017/S0033291709005546
We’ve looked at brain regions and development during word related tasks (word generation, reading and repeating), but we haven’t yet looked at a straight up study of word recognition and development.
What’s the best task to use to study visual word recognition? You can have people read out loud, but that involves processes like speech generation. Likewise, reading sentences or paragraphs
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The Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) is a nasty scary-looking muppethugging monster of a carnivorous bird. Female harpies weigh 14-20 pounds, and males weigh 8.5-12 pounds. They stand between 2.9 and 3.5 feet tall. The wingspan of the harpy eagle can reach 6 feet, 7 inches. The talons – sharp claws to grasp onto [...]... Read more »
Gil-da-Costa R, Palleroni A, Hauser MD, Touchton J, & Kelley JP. (2003) Rapid acquisition of an alarm response by a neotropical primate to a newly introduced avian predator. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 270(1515), 605-10. PMID: 12769460
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