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  • February 9, 2016
  • 06:27 AM
  • 8 views

Baby can see, what an adult can’t

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

Main Point:

Babies have an unusual ability to see those things and differences in pictures that are not visible to adults.

Published in:

Current Biology

Study Further:

In a study conducted by researchers from Japan, it has been reported that infants under 5 months of age have an ability to detect changes in pictures or images that are not visible to adults. However, this ability disappears rapidly, and infants in the age range of 5 months to 6 months are unable to detect image differences and surface changes. By the time, when an infant reaches 7 months of age, he or she starts perceiving surface properties.

This study shows that babies, below 5 months of age, can see far more details and differences in the form of colors and objects in pictures that adults cannot see. Many things that are almost similar to adults appear wildly different to babies – a process known as “perceptual constancy”. Researchers are of opinion that this “is acquired through postnatal learning.” However, the quality disappears within days after 5 months of age – probably to give place to other important abilities.

This ability of looking at minor details is considered as one of the qualities that disappear with time. Among other qualities are speech sounds in languages that are not, usually, audible by adults.

Sources:

Yang, J., Kanazawa, S., Yamaguchi, M., & Motoyoshi, I. (2015). Pre-constancy Vision in Infants Current Biology, 25 (24), 3209-3212 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.053... Read more »

Yang, J., Kanazawa, S., Yamaguchi, M., & Motoyoshi, I. (2015) Pre-constancy Vision in Infants. Current Biology, 25(24), 3209-3212. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.053  

  • February 9, 2016
  • 02:47 AM
  • 18 views

Decreased brain levels of vitamin B12 in autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I have to thank Dr Malav Trivedi for bringing my attention to some recent findings reported by Yiting Zhang and colleagues (including Malav) [1] (open-access) suggesting that: "levels of vitamin B12, especially its MeCbl [methylcobalamin] form, decrease with age in frontal cortex of control human subjects."Further, researchers reported: "abnormally lower total Cbl [cobalamin] and MeCbl levels in subjects with autism and schizophrenia, as compared to age-matched controls." Some media on the findings can also be read here.Working from the lab of Dr Richard Deth (quite a familiar name to this blog), researchers initially analysed a most precious sample medium (postmortem brain samples) obtained from various biobanks and including various patient groups. So alongside samples from 12 children with autism were samples from 9 people diagnosed with schizophrenia and some 43 'controls' with ages ranging between 19 weeks old and 80 years old. "Changes in Cbl species were compared with the status of methylation and antioxidant pathway metabolites" accompanied by data derived from a knock-out mouse model: "the influence of decreased GSH [glutathione] production on brain Cbl levels was evaluated in glutamate-cysteine ligase modulatory subunit knockout (GCLM-KO) mice in which GSH synthesis was impaired, leading to a brain GSH level decrease of 60–70%."Looking at postmortem frontal cortex brain samples, researchers reported that finding on levels of vitamin B12 - particularly the MeCbl vitamer -  decreasing with age. Bearing in mind the relatively small participant numbers included, the idea that lower brain tissue levels of total cobalamin and methylcobalamin were also present (almost unanimously) in the autism and schizophrenia groups could be important. I might at this point direct readers to previous discussions on vitamin B12 and autism on this blog (see here) including the research idea of supplementing (see here) with no medical advice given or intended.There are a few other details worth pointing out from the Zhang findings. Analysis of thiols in brain samples across the autism vs control group revealed some potentially interesting data. So, methionine levels were quite a bit lower in the autism group [significantly lower] as were levels of "the methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAM)." Both these compounds form an important part of the whole 'methylation of DNA' process (see here) among other things.Glutathione, a compound that has seen its fair share of speculation with autism in mind (see here), was also on the research menu in the Zhang study. Interestingly and again bearing mind the small participant numbers, brain levels of this stuff were lower in the autism group as a whole but not significantly so when compared to controls. This finding might map on to other brain studies with autism in mind (see here). Likewise, cysteine (another potentially relevant compound to some autism) produced a similar finding.I would encourage readers to take some time looking at the Zhang paper. In conjunction with other results reporting on some important elements to the emerging story (see here) I believe there are further studies to be done applicable to the notion that: "impaired methylation may be a critical pathological component" for at least some autism (see here). Indeed, other research papers have also discussed this issue [2]. The idea that studies about human ageing may likewise be informative to autism (and schizophrenia) research also carries quite a lot of traction too.----------[1] Zhang Y. et al. Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PLoS One. 2016 Jan 22;11(1):e0146797.[2] Keil KP. & Lein PJ. DNA methylation: a mechanism linking environmental chemical exposures to risk of autism spectrum disorders? Environmental Epigenetics. 2016; 1-15.----------Zhang Y, Hodgson NW, Trivedi MS, Abdolmaleky HM, Fournier M, Cuenod M, Do KQ, & Deth RC (2016). Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PloS one, 11 (1) PMID: 26799654... Read more »

Zhang Y, Hodgson NW, Trivedi MS, Abdolmaleky HM, Fournier M, Cuenod M, Do KQ, & Deth RC. (2016) Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PloS one, 11(1). PMID: 26799654  

  • February 8, 2016
  • 07:26 AM
  • 35 views

How the home crowd affects football referees' decisions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

One of the most thorough investigations into referee bias has found that they tend to award harsher foul punishments to the away team. The new results, published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, suggest that experienced referees are just as prone to this bias as their less experienced colleagues.Andrés Picazo-Tadeo and his team analysed data from 2,651 matches played in the First Division of La Liga, the Spanish Football League between the 2002/3 and 2009/10 seasons, inclusive. Unlike previous research, they were careful to consider the referees' foul decisions separately from the awarding of penalty cards (given as punishment for serious fouls). It's been shown before that referees tend to award more free kicks and cards in favour of the home team, but this is not strong evidence for a home team bias because it's possible that away teams simply tend to commit more fouls. The new research specifically looks not just at the distribution of referees' foul decisions between home and away teams, but it also examines separately how harshly referees punish any fouls.In fact, the research uncovered no difference in the number of fouls that referees attributed to home and away teams. But after a foul, referees tended to punish away teams more harshly with more yellow and red cards, and this was especially the case when the home crowd was larger. The presence of a running track between the pitch and the crowd made no difference, and as mentioned, neither did referee experience. The basic result complements a recent lab study that also found that simulated crowd noise influenced referees to punish fouls more severely.Picazo-Tadeo and his colleagues speculate that perhaps referees' initial foul decisions are made relatively automatically, in the heat of unfolding play, thus making them immune to social pressure from the home crowd. In contrast, after play has halted, the referee has time to decide on the severity of the infringement and here the noise of the crowd may sway their thinking – indeed, they may even, without realising they are doing it, use the noise of the crowd as a cue for the seriousness of the foul. This would inevitably bias their decisions against the away team because of the noisy protests of the larger home crowd whenever one of their players was the victim of a foul.An important caveat is that although the study took account of the number of fouls made by each team, the researchers don't have any objective measure (beyond the referees' card decisions) of the actual seriousness of the fouls committed. It's possible that away teams tend to commit more serious fouls than home teams, which if true would undermine the results.Notwithstanding this possibility, the researchers said their results suggest that local supporters can influence referee decisions after a foul has been called. "One recommendation for supporters is that they should exert more social pressure in the moments immediately after a referee indicates that the away team has committed a foul," they said. Meanwhile, they recommended that referee training incorporate lessons on how to ignore irrelevant cues, such as crowd noise._________________________________ Picazo-Tadeo, A., González-Gómez, F., & Guardiola, J. (2016). Does the crowd matter in refereeing decisions? Evidence from Spanish soccer International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-13 DOI: 10.1080/1612197X.2015.1126852 --further reading--Football fouls more likely to be given when play heads leftRace and foul judgments in football - it's not black and whitePost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!

... Read more »

Picazo-Tadeo, A., González-Gómez, F., & Guardiola, J. (2016) Does the crowd matter in refereeing decisions? Evidence from Spanish soccer. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-13. DOI: 10.1080/1612197X.2015.1126852  

  • February 8, 2016
  • 04:31 AM
  • 45 views

A student with proper sleep performs better in school

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

Main Point:

Decreased or disturbed sleep can result in poor performance of students in school.

Published in:

Journal of Sleep Research

Study Further:

In a study, researchers from Norway (and their collaborators) worked on the affect of sleep duration and its pattern on the academic performance of adolescents in the age range of 16 years to 19 years. Researchers surveyed 7798 adolescents, of whom 53.5% were girls. In the survey, researchers asked them about sleep duration, its efficiency, sleep deficit, as well as bedtime differences between weekend and weekdays. School performance (grade point average (GPA)) of students was taken from official registers in schools.

Researchers found that students with short sleep duration and sleep deficit have more chances of getting poor grades. They also reported that weekday bedtimes were significantly related to performance of students, i.e. adolescents with the habit of going to bed between 22:00 and 23:00 hours got best GPAs. Students’ academic performance also declined because of delayed sleep schedule during weekends.

“The demonstrated relationship between sleep problems and poor academic performance suggests that careful assessment of sleep is warranted when adolescents are underperforming at school,” researchers wrote in the paper.

Sources:

Hysing, M., Harvey, A., Linton, S., Askeland, K., & Sivertsen, B. (2016). Sleep and academic performance in later adolescence: results from a large population-based study Journal of Sleep Research DOI: 10.1111/jsr.12373... Read more »

  • February 8, 2016
  • 02:54 AM
  • 34 views

"People with ASD had lower odds of employment in the community"

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The title of this quite brief post refers to an important finding detailed by Derek Nord and colleagues [1] who, when analysing data from the "2008–09 National Core Indicators Adult Consumer Survey", concluded that there were some important inequalities when it came to employment rates for those diagnosed on the autism spectrum.Employment rates and work opportunities for people diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a hot topic at the moment. The Nord findings build upon report after report published in the peer-reviewed domain and beyond basically telling everyone what was already quite widely known: "despite their capacity and willingness to work, [people with autism / autistic people] face significant disadvantages in the labour market." [2] Like many others, I am happy to see that things are [slowly] changing insofar as increasingly more resources being put into highlighting this issue and most importantly, the translation of talk into action. But such change is not happening everywhere for everyone and, as if to prove a point...Appreciating that the autism spectrum includes a whole tapestry of skills and disabilities that might affect both the ability and desire to seek employment (and no, not everyone with autism automatically wants to work in IT or engineering), there is still quite a lot more to do in this area. Things like making the job application and interview a little more 'friendly' is a good start (see here) and also not assuming that getting someone a job is the end of the process [3] no matter how many 'feel good' boxes this might tick. Indeed, I'm particularly interested in the factors that are linked to the sustainability of employment and how making the workplace 'work' for people on the autism spectrum might be a key part of the benefits employment can bring to the person themselves, their family and society in general.Now, about making the labour market also 'work' for parents of children with autism too (see here)...----------[1] Nord DK. et al. Employment in the community for people with and without autism: A comparative analysis. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2016; 24: 11-16.[2] Baldwin S. et al. Employment activities and experiences of adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Oct;44(10):2440-9.[3] Holwerda A. et al. Predictors of sustainable work participation of young adults with developmental disorders. Res Dev Disabil. 2013 Sep;34(9):2753-63.----------Nord, D., Stancliffe, R., Nye-Lengerman, K., & Hewitt, A. (2016). Employment in the community for people with and without autism: A comparative analysis Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 24, 11-16 DOI: 10.1016/j.rasd.2015.12.013... Read more »

  • February 7, 2016
  • 03:07 PM
  • 58 views

The molecular link between psychiatric disorders and type 2 diabetes

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

There may be a genetic connection between some mental health disorders and type 2 diabetes. In a new report, scientists show that a gene called “DISC1,” which is believed to play a role in mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and some forms of depression, influences the function of pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

... Read more »

Jurczyk A, Nowosielska A, Przewozniak N, Aryee KE, DiIorio P, Blodgett D, Yang C, Campbell-Thompson M, Atkinson M, Shultz L.... (2016) Beyond the brain: disrupted in schizophrenia 1 regulates pancreatic β-cell function via glycogen synthase kinase-3β. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 30(2), 983-93. PMID: 26546129  

  • February 6, 2016
  • 03:49 PM
  • 62 views

Brain plasticity assorted into functional networks

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Plasticity of the brain, what does that even mean? Well the good news is that it isn’t just a marketing ploy, the brain needs to be “plastic” because we need to be able to adapt. Frankly speaking, the brain still has a lot to learn about itself. Scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have made a key finding of the striking differences in how the brain’s cells can change through experience.

... Read more »

  • February 6, 2016
  • 01:16 PM
  • 48 views

"Troubling Oddities" In A Social Psychology Data Set

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A potential case of data manipulation has been uncovered in a psychology paper. The suspect article, Why money meanings matter in decisions to donate time and money, came out in 2012 from University of Arizona psychologists Promothesh Chatterjee, Randall L. Rose, and Jayati Sinha.

This study fell into the genre of 'social priming', specifically 'money priming'. The authors reported that making people think about cash reduces their willingness to help others, while thinking of credit cards has... Read more »

Pashler, H., Rohrer, D., Abramson, I., Wolfson, T., & Harris, C. (2016) A Social Priming Data Set With Troubling Oddities. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 38(1), 3-18. DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2015.1124767  

  • February 6, 2016
  • 03:27 AM
  • 70 views

Sleep as a target of antibiotic use in chronic fatigue syndrome?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The primary finding from the study was evidence of an improvement in several objective sleep parameters in participants in whom the increased colonization of lactic acid producing organisms was resolved after antibiotic treatment."Those were the words written by Melinda Jackson and colleagues [1] (open-access) who, during an open-label trial, looked at whether administration of an antibiotic (erythromycin 400 mg) over the course of 6 days might have some important effects on elements of sleep in a patient group diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Yes, sleep did seem to be [positively] affected was the finding. The suggested mode of action of antibiotic administration was linked to colonisation "with gram-positive faecal Streptococcus (determined by stool analysis and suggestive of abnormal gut functioning)" onwards to the idea that the those trillions of wee beasties that inhabit us all might show some specific connection to elements in cases of CFS.From an initial study population of 70 recruited for study, data for 22 participants (who completed the trial and met study inclusion criteria) were reported on. Those 22 all had "increased colonization of Streptococcus sp. (defined as >3×105 cfu/g of faecal sample)" as a pre-requisite to taking part in the trial based on the results of a "faecal microbiota analysis (FMA)." Actigraphy and sleep diaries were kept for a week before antibiotic use, during use and for 8 days after. Various facets of CFS symptoms were also examined during points of the study.Bearing in mind some 'malfunctions' affecting actigraphy results, the authors describe some interesting findings. First and foremost, is the idea that not everyone who took erythromycin showed the same profile (behavioural or biochemical). The authors talk about "responders" to the intervention (music to my ears) on the basis that: "Thirteen of the patients showed a reduction in Streptococcus counts after treatment, whereas four patients showed an increase level of Streptococcus and four patients had no change at the end of the trial." Outside of the idea that there may be some significant individual variation in the effects of antibiotics on gut flora (remembering the idea of 'swallowing a grenade'), questions abound as to why some people did not seem to be so affected by this strain of antibiotics whilst others did. Further: "While 13 participants showed a reduction in Streptococcus only 7 of these had a significant change as defined by a percentage distribution post-therapy of less than 6% of Streptococcus after antibiotic treatment." Mmm, indeed.Second, and linked back to the idea of 'responders' and 'non-responders' on the basis of microbiological results are the findings that there were: "more improvement in actigraphic sleep with treatment in responders compared to non-responders from baseline to post-treatment 2." Indeed, we are told that responders tended to increase their total sleep time by about 40 minutes between baseline and end of study, whereas: "non-responders slept an average of 15 min less from baseline to post-treatment 2."Finally, and quite importantly: "No significant change in any of the subjective measures was observed between baseline and the two follow-up points for responders versus non-responders." The subjective measures in question were linked to things like self-reported fatigue, mood and the such like. The authors have suggested that there may be some 'correlation' between a subscale on 'vigour' and "Streptococcus viable count" but when you're talking about 7 participants as your responder group, one has to be mighty careful of making too many sweeping generalisations.Although this is a preliminary study, I'd like to think that the Jackson findings might eventually be worked up into a larger, more methodologically sound research agenda encompassing a placebo arm and the like. We know for example, that sleep patterns can be affected by CFS and that at least subjective measures of sleep may affect the presentation of elements of CFS [2]. That children and adolescents with CFS may be particularly vulnerable to sleep disturbances [3] is an area in specific need of further investigation. Moves therefore to improve sleep measures in CFS are perhaps to be welcomed mindful of the idea that persistent use of antibiotics is not exactly a great long-term strategy particularly in these days of growing antibiotic resistance. I could offer a possible alternative to antibiotic use that has been initially tried with CFS in mind (see here) but again, more research is indicated first and perhaps also some PR! Still, the focus on the gut microbiota and CFS/ME continues at a pace (er, maybe a should rephrase that) and with the promise of much, much more to come.I'll also be talking about the paper by Collin and colleagues in the not-too-distant future so watch this space...----------[1] Jackson ML. et al. Sleep quality and the treatment of intestinal microbiota imbalance in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A pilot study. Sleep Sci. 2015 Nov;8(3):124-33.[2] Russell C. et al. Subjective But Not Actigraphy-Defined Sleep Predicts Next-Day Fatigue in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Prospective Daily Diary Study. Sleep. 2015 Dec 22. pii: sp-00453-15.[3] Snodgrass K. et al. Sleep Disturbances in Pediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Review of Current Research. J Clin Sleep Med. 2015 Jul 15;11(7):757-64.----------Jackson ML, Butt H, Ball M, Lewis DP, & Bruck D (2015). Sleep quality and the treatment of intestinal microbiota imbalance in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A pilot study. Sleep Science (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 8 (3), 124-33 PMID: 26779319... Read more »

  • February 5, 2016
  • 04:24 PM
  • 78 views

Would You Stick Pins In A Voodoo Doll of Your Child?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Well? Would you...?

This was the question faced by the participants in a rather extraordinary series of studies described in a new paper from Illinois psychologists Randy J. McCarthy and colleagues. In total, 1081 parents with children aged under 18 were presented with an outline of a person, and asked to imagine that it was their own child. They were told to think of a time when their child made them angry. Finally, they were asked how many pins they would like to stick into the "doll" in or... Read more »

McCarthy RJ, Crouch JL, Basham AR, Milner JS, & Skowronski JJ. (2016) Validating the Voodoo Doll Task as a Proxy for Aggressive Parenting Behavior. Psychology of violence, 6(1), 135-144. PMID: 26839734  

  • February 5, 2016
  • 12:34 PM
  • 50 views

Abnormalities in later cognitive stages of beat processing?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

Beat deafness, a recently documented form of congenital amusia, provides a unique window into functional specialization of neural circuitry for the processing of musical stimuli: Beat-deaf individuals exhibit deficits that are specific to the detection of a regular beat in music and the ability to move along with a beat.... Read more »

Phillips-Silver, J., Toiviainen, P., Gosselin, N., Piché, O., Nozaradan, S., Palmer, C., & Peretz, I. (2011) Born to dance but beat deaf: A new form of congenital amusia. Neuropsychologia. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.02.002  

  • February 5, 2016
  • 07:10 AM
  • 24 views

Cross-cultural studies of toddler self-awareness have been using an unfair test

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

There's a simple and fun way to test a toddler's self-awareness. You make a red mark (or place a red sticker) on their forehead discreetly, and then you see what happens when they look in a mirror. If they have a sense of self – that is, if they recognise themselves as a distinct entity in the world – then they will see that there is a strange red mark on their face and attempt to touch it or remove it.This is called the "mirror self-recognition test" (it's used to test self-awareness in animals too) and by age two most kids "pass" the test, at least in Western countries. Several studies have suggested that the ability to pass the test is delayed, sometimes by years, in non-Western cultures, such as rural India and Cameroon, Fiji and Peru. But now a study in Developmental Science says this may be because the mirror test is culturally biased. Using a more physical and social self-awareness test, Josephine Ross at the University of Dundee and her colleagues actually find more precocious performance in a non-Western (Zambian) group of toddlers.The researchers tested 33 mother-child pairs in Ikelenge, Zambia (a rural culture that emphasises the important of interdependence); 31 in Dundee, Scotland (a typical Western culture that emphasises independence and autonomy); and 22 in Istanbul, Turkey (a mixed culture that emphasises both autonomy and interdependence). The children were all aged between 15 and 18 months.The researchers first filmed the mothers and their children playing and looked for differences in their parenting style: whether it was more "distal" involving more talk and less physical contact, which is typical of Western cultures, or more "proximal", with more physical contact, which is more typical of non-Western interdependent cultures. During play, the mothers put a red sticker on their child's head. Then the children were given the mirror self-recognition test. The Scottish children showed the highest pass rate (47 per cent) followed by the Turkish children (41 per cent) and the Zambian children (15 per cent), consistent with past research.Next, the researchers used a different test of self-awareness that actually originates in the writings of the great developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. The children were asked to push a toy trolley toward their mother while they were standing on a mat that was attached to the bottom of the trolley. To succeed they must realise that their body is holding down the mat and step off it to push the trolley.Whereas the mirror test is about recognising that the self has a distinct visual identity (a concept consistent with Western notions of an independent, autonomous self), the trolley test is more about realising that the self is a physical object like other objects. There is also a more social, collaborative element to the test because it involves pushing the trolley towards another person. The researchers reasoned that children raised in a more interdependent culture would excel at the task and that's exactly what they found. Fifty per cent of the Zambian children passed the test, compared with 57 per cent of the Turkish and 23 per cent of the Scottish.The measures of parenting style that the researchers looked at did not explain much of the cultural variance in performance, but they said that might be because they looked at the wrong things, such as eye contact and physical proximity and future research will need to explore other factors, such as mothers' attitudes towards teaching their children interdependence versus autonomy.The Zambian children were less familiar with mirrors than the other children, but they were given the chance to explore one before the self-awareness test, and anyway, past research has shown that performance on the test is not related to mirror experience. The Zambian children were also more precocious walkers than the other children, which you might think would explain their superior performance (compared with the Scottish kids) on the trolley test, but in fact performance on the trolley test was not related to walking ability. In short, the researchers favour the idea that the cultural differences on the two tests are due to the distinct perspectives on the self that are encouraged in the different cultures, rather than to familiarity with the test equipment or simple physical skill. "Whatever the explanation for the cultural difference," the researchers said, "this study highlights the necessity of recognising that the measurement of self-awareness is inextricably bound with the context of our development. More care needs to be taken in measuring self-awareness if valid cross-cultural comparisons are to be made."_________________________________ Ross, J., Yilmaz, M., Dale, R., Cassidy, R., Yildirim, I., & Suzanne Zeedyk, M. (2016). Cultural differences in self-recognition: the early development of autonomous and related selves? Developmental Science DOI: 10.1111/desc.12387 --further reading--Cross-cultural reflections on the mirror self-recognition testStudy uncovers dramatic cross-cultural differences in babies' sitting abilityPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
... Read more »

  • February 5, 2016
  • 05:28 AM
  • 77 views

People who prioritise time over money are happier

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A lot of has been written about how focusing too much on materialistic ambitions, at the expense of relationships and experiences, can leave us miserable and unfulfilled. In a new paper published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, a team of psychologists at the University of British Columbia in Canada argue that there's another important distinction to be made – between how much we prioritise time versus money. Those who favour time tend to be happier, possibly because this frees them to enjoy pleasurable and meaningful activities, although this has yet to be established. The researchers led by Ashley Whillans first devised a quick and simple way to measure this difference in people. They asked just over 100 students to say whether they prioritised having more time or having more money, and to help them appreciate the distinction the researchers presented them with vignettes of two people – one who prioritises time:Tina (male names were used for male participants) values her time more than her money. She is willing to sacrifice her money to have more time. For example, Tina would rather work fewer hours and make less money, than work more hours and make more money. And one who prioritises money:Maggie values her money more than her time. She is willing to sacrifice her time to have more money. For example, Maggie would rather work more hours and make more money, than work fewer hours and have more time.The students answered this question twice, three months apart and their two choices were highly consistent, which supports the idea that people's prioritisation of time versus money is a stable trait.In several further studies involving thousands more students and adult members of the general public in Canada and the US, Whillans and her colleagues showed that people's answer to this one simple question correlated with their choices over various fictional scenarios, such as: whether they wanted to apply for a hypothetical higher salary/longer hours job or a lower salary/shorter hours alternative; whether they'd prefer a more expensive apartment with a shorter commute, or a cheaper alternative (to save money) and make a longer commute; and whether they actually chose a smaller cash reward for taking part in the study, versus a larger value reward token toward a time-saving service (such as a cleaner).What's more, across the studies, people who said they prioritised time tended to report being happier. This was true based on various ways of measuring happiness and wellbeing, and the association held even after holding constant many other factors, such as people's salary, education, hours of work and age and gender. The researchers also measured people's materialism and the association between happiness and favouring time over money remained after taking this into account.The researchers said that this relationship between prioritising time and being happier was "small but robust" – about half the size of the impact on happiness of things like being married and having more wealth. In an example of exemplary scholarship, the researchers make clear every factor they measured, every participant who was excluded and why, and the recruitment stopping rule for each study (i.e. how it was decided when to stop recruiting more participants). And perhaps most important, all their data is freely accessible via the Open Science initiative.As so often, it's worth remembering that this data was only recorded at a single point in the lives of the participants, so it's not yet been established that having more a time-centric orientation versus money-centric actually causes greater happiness – as the researchers acknowledge, it's possible that being happier allows people to see the value in saving time to do fun things. As well as longitudinal research (that follows people's priorities and happiness over time), future studies could also establish how people's time vs. money priorities change in response to important life events such as having children or retirement (the current data suggest that older people tend to favour time), and whether it's possible to deliberately change one's orientation."Although causality cannot be inferred," the researchers concluded, "these data point to the possibility that valuing time over money is a stable preference that may provide one path to greater happiness."_________________________________ Whillans, A., Weidman, A., & Dunn, E. (2016). Valuing Time Over Money Is Associated With Greater Happiness Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550615623842 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
... Read more »

Whillans, A., Weidman, A., & Dunn, E. (2016) Valuing Time Over Money Is Associated With Greater Happiness. Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI: 10.1177/1948550615623842  

  • February 5, 2016
  • 03:01 AM
  • 77 views

Vitamin D supplementation and 'clinical improvement' in autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Vitamin D deficiency might contribute to the aetiology of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]. Supplementation of vitamin D3, which is a safe and cost-effective form of treatment, may significantly improve the outcome of some children with ASD, especially younger children."More big words have appeared from a research group who seem to be particularly interested in how vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin/hormone) might have some important links to at least some cases of autism. The findings this time around come in the form of the paper by Feng and colleagues [1] who following on from their case-report [2] on what happened when a 2 (nearly 3) year old boy diagnosed with an ASD was given a supplement to correct an underlying vitamin D deficiency, now report on a larger participant cohort.In line with their clinical trial registration (see here) "last refreshed on 2015-05-02" a selection of 37 children from a bank of 215 diagnosed with an ASD "received vitamin D3 treatment" for 3 months alongside various measures of autistic behaviours (CARS and ABC) being delivered. Compared with a control group of 285 'do-not-have-autism' children, serum levels of 25(OH) vitamin D were lower in the children with autism as a group (n=215). Given what has been discussed before in the peer-reviewed literature, and from more than one independent source, these findings are not a great surprise. Further, we are told that: "After vitamin D3 supplementation, symptom scores were significantly reduced on the CARS and ABC. In addition, the data also suggest that treatment effects were more pronounced in younger children with ASD."Whilst potentially important findings, I do think we have to be slightly careful before singing the [universal] praises of what vitamin D might do for all autism at the current time. As far as I can make out, this was not a clinical trial insofar as pitting vitamin D supplementation against a placebo, nor was it the case that comparisons on behavioural or biological measures were made between supplementing children with autism and supplementing controls. This was, in effect, a study of 37 autistic children receiving a vitamin D supplement and the reporting on scores 'of autism' before and after such supplementation, all the while knowing that children were taking a vitamin D supplement.That's not however to say that my cautious view on this might not change in future as more controlled research is on-going in this area (see here and see here) and indeed, even talking about the possibility that vitamin D might affect the recurrence of autism in families where a child has already been diagnosed with autism (see here). We await the results of these various investigations in the peer-reviewed journal press to further inform clinical practice and perhaps also determine who might be the 'best' and non-responders to such intervention.The final question concerns what the possible mechanism(s) could be such that vitamin D supplementation, more traditionally indicated to treat skeletal issues, could potentially impact on the presentation of behaviours pertinent to autism. I don't have any substantial ideas about possible ways of working at the present time, outside of highlighting the various extra-skeletal effects that have been talked about outside of the primary autism research literature (see here and see here). I just might be tempted to suggest that any biological effect is likely to be complicated and not necessarily just related to how much vitamin D a person gets or doesn't (see here and see here). I'm also minded to bring in the idea that vitamin D might show some 'connection' to autoimmune diseases (see here) and where that could potential lead with at least some autism in mind (see here and see here). And then there is the possibility that supplementing with vitamin D might not be the only option to be explored [3] potentially also tied to other autism findings (see here).Speculation abounds and science has a lot more to do to catch up.Music: The Carpenters - Top Of The World.----------[1] Feng J. et al. Clinical improvement following vitamin D3 supplementation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nutr Neurosci. 2016 Jan 18.[2] Jia F. et al. Core symptoms of autism improved after vitamin D supplementation. Pediatrics. 2015 Jan;135(1):e196-8.[3] Jain SK. et al. L-cysteine supplementation upregulates glutathione (GSH) and vitamin D binding protein (VDBP) in hepatocytes cultured in high glucose and in vivo in liver, and increases blood levels of GSH, VDBP, and 25-hydroxy-vitamin D in Zucker diabetic fatty rats. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jan 17.----------Feng J, Shan L, Du L, Wang B, Li H, Wang W, Wang T, Dong H, Yue X, Xu Z, Staal WG, & Jia F (2016). Clinical improvement following vitamin D3 supplementation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nutritional neuroscience PMID: 26783092... Read more »

Feng J, Shan L, Du L, Wang B, Li H, Wang W, Wang T, Dong H, Yue X, Xu Z.... (2016) Clinical improvement following vitamin D3 supplementation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nutritional neuroscience. PMID: 26783092  

  • February 5, 2016
  • 02:34 AM
  • 80 views

Good morning genes

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

Main Point:

Genes could help in determining whether a person likes to rise early in the morning or not.

Published in:

Nature Communications

Study Further:

Researchers, in affiliation with 23andMe, Inc. recently worked on the DNA of 89,283 individuals, and found that genes could show some specific variations more frequently in the people, who self-identify themselves as early risers or morning people. They found 15 different spots in the genetic makeup that can vary between morning people and self-reported evening people. Seven of those variations were found near genes that are involved in controlling a person’s daily cycle, known as circadian rhythm.

Study also showed that many people, i.e. more than 50% consider themselves as night people. Adults and females represent more numbers as morning people, i.e. in the study 39.7% morning people were males and 48.4% were females. If a father is a morning person, his son has 1.9 times higher chances of becoming a morning person and his daughter has 2.4 times higher chances of becoming a morning person. Moreover, morning people suffer less from sleep apnea or insomnia as compared to night people; though, genes or genetic variations may not have any role in this aspect. On a further note, night people have more chances of getting depression as well as other health issues such as obesity.

“With the information we have, we can uncover the genetics behind a variety of conditions and diseases, and hopefully reach a better understanding of how we differ from one another,” noted 23andme senior researcher David Hinds in a press statement.

Source:

Hu, Y., Shmygelska, A., Tran, D., Eriksson, N., Tung, J., & Hinds, D. (2016). GWAS of 89,283 individuals identifies genetic variants associated with self-reporting of being a morning person Nature Communications, 7 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10448... Read more »

  • February 4, 2016
  • 03:27 PM
  • 89 views

Taser shock disrupts brain function, has implications for police interrogations

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

More than two million citizens have been Tased by police as Taser stun guns have become one of the preferred less-lethal weapons by police departments across the United States during the past decade. But what does that 50,000-volt shock do to a person's brain?

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  • February 4, 2016
  • 04:33 AM
  • 95 views

Establishing environmental exposures as risk factors for bipolar disorder: Difficult.

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The findings reported by Ciro Marangoni and colleagues [1] made for some interesting reading recently and their systematic review of longitudinal studies looking at the various environmental exposures put forward as possible risk factors pertinent to the development of bipolar disorder (BD).Trawling through the peer-reviewed material on this topic, the authors were able to 'clump' the various proposed risk factors into one of three categories: "neurodevelopment (maternal influenza during pregnancy; indicators of fetal development), substances (cannabis, cocaine, other drugs - opioids, tranquilizers, stimulants, sedatives), physical/psychological stress (parental loss, adversities, abuses, brain injury)."They did not however, report the presence of any specific 'smoking gun' on the basis of their investigations, concluding that: "Only preliminary evidence exists that exposure to viral infection, substances or trauma increase the likelihood of BD." That also the various risk categories seemed to be 'correlated' with various other psychiatric and/or behavioural labels is also an important point to make in these days of overlap and RDoC.I personally am not surprised by these results. Appreciating that diagnostic labels do not equal homogeneous groups, and that just as when defining the genetics of something like BD, so defining the non-genetic correlates is an equally difficult task, studies of this type remind us just how complicated and individual the paths are bringing someone to such a clinically-relevant label. I say this with the understanding that just because an specific environmental (or non-environmental) risk factor might not be generalisable to all BD does not mean it can't exert a more pronounced effect in smaller groups or individuals. Lessons from other labels teach us this (see here).Whilst important to understand whether there may be specific environmental exposures that might be more generally linked to an enhanced risk of developing BD, I do believe that the [research] future lies in a couple of other areas looking at: (a) how many different types of BD are there and what are the 'other' conditions/labels potentially related? (b) what does the biology of BD look like and does it include some common targets with other labels? and (c) outside of the array of interventions put forward for managing symptoms (see here), are there other intervention strategies that might fit with the findings of (a) and (b)?To close, LEGO do it best...----------[1] Marangoni C. et al. The role of environmental exposures as risk factors for bipolar disorder: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. J Affect Disord. 2016 Jan 1;193:165-174.----------Marangoni C, Hernandez M, & Faedda GL (2016). The role of environmental exposures as risk factors for bipolar disorder: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. Journal of affective disorders, 193, 165-174 PMID: 26773919... Read more »

  • February 3, 2016
  • 03:06 PM
  • 99 views

Investigating potential fetal exposure to antidepressants

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Depression is a serious issue for expecting mothers. Left untreated, depression could have implications for a fetus’s health. But treating the disease during pregnancy may carry health risks for the developing fetus, which makes an expecting mother’s decision whether to take medication a very difficult one. To better understand how antidepressants affect fetuses during pregnancy, scientists studied exposure in mice.

... Read more »

  • February 3, 2016
  • 10:18 AM
  • 95 views

Parenthood seems to have an opposite effect on how men and women perceive babies' emotions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

In our part of the world, a growing proportion of fathers are rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in early child care. This has prompted increased interest from psychologists in any similarities or differences in the way that mothers and fathers interact with their children. One finding is that fathers tend to engage in more physical play, whereas mothers spend more time playing with toys and interacting socially. A new study in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology takes a fresh approach, asking whether mothers and fathers perceive babies' emotional expressions differently. The results, while tentative, suggest that parenthood may lead women to become more sensitive to babies' emotions, while men actually become less sensitive.Christine Parsons at the University of Oxford and her colleagues asked 110 women and men to look at and rate 50 images of 10 babies expressing strongly positive and negative emotions, muted positive and negative emotions, or exhibiting a neutral expression. There were 29 mothers (average age 29), 26 fathers (average age 28), and 29 women who weren't mothers (average age 26), and 26 men who weren't fathers (average age 28). The parents all had infants aged less than 18 months. The participants rated the babies' emotions by using a vertical sliding scale from "very positive" to "very negative".Men and women who weren't parents didn't differ in the way that they rated the babies' emotions. In contrast, among the parents, mothers tended to rate the babies' positive emotions more positively and their strongest negative emotions more negatively, compared with the fathers. Moreover, mothers tended to give more extreme ratings to the babies' emotions than women who weren't mothers, whereas fathers showed a tendency to rate the babies' emotions as less intense than men who weren't fathers.Taken together, the researchers said this suggests that parenthood affects women's and men's perceptions of infant emotions differently: "It may be that motherhood increases women's perception of the intensity of emotion in infant faces, whereas fatherhood decreases men's perception," they said. These results are preliminary and there's a need now for longitudinal research that follows the same participants over time; the current study also doesn't speak to why this gender difference emerges after parenthood. However, the researchers speculated that "If mothers and fathers [really do] perceive the same infant emotional expressions in different ways, this may contribute to the sex differences in interaction styles that are frequently observed."_________________________________ Parsons, C., Young, K., Jegindoe Elmholdt, E., Stein, A., & Kringelbach, M. (2016). Interpreting infant emotional expressions: parenthood has differential effects on men and women The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1-19 DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2016.1141967 --further reading--Men are as motivated by cute baby faces as womenHow becoming a father changes your brain10 surprising things babies can doPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!

... Read more »

Parsons, C., Young, K., Jegindoe Elmholdt, E., Stein, A., & Kringelbach, M. (2016) Interpreting infant emotional expressions: parenthood has differential effects on men and women. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1-19. DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2016.1141967  

  • February 3, 2016
  • 08:30 AM
  • 62 views

Homeless Youth With Pets Are Less Depressed Than Those Without

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A survey of homeless youth finds that pets bring benefits – and difficulties.23% of homeless youth have pets, according to research by Harmony Rhoades et al (University of Southern California). The team surveyed 398 homeless youth at two drop-in centres in Los Angeles. While previous studies have shown that pets can be very important to homeless young people, this is the first quantitative study to look at pet ownership, mental health, and the use of services amongst this group.88% of the young people in the study had attended the drop-in for food during the previous month. Other services they had used included clothes (69%), job help (52%), housing (49%) and health services (47%). Of those with pets, dogs were most common (53%) followed by cats (22%). Other pets included a hamster, rat, chinchilla and iguana. “Companion animals provide emotional support and represent important, loving relationships in the lives of many homeless youth,” say the authors. Pet owners had lower scores for loneliness and depression, and reported many benefits to having a pet. 85% agreed that “my pet keeps me company,” 79% said the pet “makes me feel loved,” and 73% said the pet “makes me feel safe.” There was no difference in having been hurt or threatened on the street, but those with pets were more likely to report having carried a weapon. There were also no differences in being hit or seeing someone be hit at home. However, amongst those who were living with family, there was a trend for those with pets to be more likely to experience or witness violence in the home. This suggests some young people may be staying in a violent situation because it’s better for their pet.The biggest difficulty for those with pets was that half of them (49%) said it was harder for them to stay at a shelter. Most shelters do not allow pets. Although those with and without pets were equally likely to be living on the street, only 4% of those with pets were staying in a shelter or housing program, compared to 17% of those without pets.Other problems included it being tricky to find housing (16%) and hard to see a doctor (11%). Those with pets were less likely than those without to have accessed some services (housing and job help) but not others (including food, clothes and health services).While 60% said they made sure their pets ate before them, a few reported difficulties getting enough food for their pet (11%) and almost a quarter (23%) agreed that “strangers give me a hard time for having a pet.” Most of them did not find it easy to see a vet. These findings show that programs that provide pet food and vet care are an important service for homeless youth.Homelessness includes a range of circumstances. 49% of the participants in this study were living directly on the street and 14% were in a shelter or program for the homeless. Of the other housing situations, some were staying with family, friends, or a romantic partner. Many of them had experienced violence; 55% reported being hurt badly in a fight in the past year, and 46% had been hit at home.Against this backdrop, the fact so many said their pets protected them and helped them feel safe and loved suggests pets are playing an important role. The authors say, “Housing and other services must be sensitive to the needs of homeless youth with pets.”ReferenceRhoades, H., Winetrobe, H., & Rice, E. (2014). Pet Ownership Among Homeless Youth: Associations with Mental Health, Service Utilization and Housing Status Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 46 (2), 237-244 DOI: 10.1007/s10578-014-0463-5 Photo: Brad Steels / Shutterstock.com... Read more »

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