. Scientific Frontline: Psychology
Showing posts with label Psychology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psychology. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Evidence of ‘pandemic brain’ in college students

“This study provides additional information to understand why students may have been having difficulty coming to class, focusing on class and getting things turned in – because there was this global event affecting every part of their lives,” lead researcher Melissa Buelow says.
Photo Credit: RF._.studio

Decision-making capabilities of college students – including some graduating this spring – were likely negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, new research suggests.

Students in the small study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University were less consistent in their decision making during the 2020 fall semester compared to students who had participated in similar research over several previous years.

The researchers compared responses to a hypothetical situation made by students during the pandemic to responses made by students in earlier studies. They found evidence that students in 2020 were more likely to cycle between going with their gut and more thoroughly mulling over their answers depending on how the scenario was described.

“Our theory is that feeling stressed by everything going on was limiting students’ resources to really evaluate the information that was presented to them,” said lead author Melissa Buelow, professor of psychology at Ohio State’s Newark campus. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Nebraska-led study first to define anxiety spiraling from national election

Illustration Credit: Clint Chapman / University of Nebraska–Lincoln / University Communication

Researchers are beginning to better understand the toll of polarized politics on mental and physical health, and a new study in Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties suggests that Americans’ political anxiety crescendos before a major election.

Led by University of Nebraska–Lincoln political scientist Kevin Smith, with Aaron Weinschenk of the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay and Costas Panagopoulos of Northeastern University, the study is the first to examine anxiety tethered to a specific political event — the 2020 presidential election, touted as the most consequential in recent history by both sides.

Using a two-wave panel survey measuring political anxiety, given two weeks prior and two weeks following the 2020 election, the study found that overall Americans were more anxious before the election, as researchers had hypothesized. Further, following the election, it was those who specifically voted for Donald Trump, conservatives and African Americans who reported lower levels of anxiety.

“We found a lot of political anxiety right before the election, and that the election was an intervention to treat some of that anxiety — how much, we don’t know because of some of the craziness around the election,” Smith, chair and Olson Professor in political science, said. “But, pretty much across the board, political anxiety went down following the election, and it went down surprisingly in some groups.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Eating disorder burden weighs on parents

Parents of recovered children had significantly better ratings of physical health, psychological health
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska

With eating disorders on the rise among young people, a Flinders University expert is calling for an urgent increase in support for parents as new research reveals the immense burden they often endure. 

Dr Simon Wilksch, a Senior Research Fellow at Flinders University and Clinic Director of Advanced Psychology Services, conducted an Australia-wide survey of parents whose child (under 18 years-old) experienced an eating disorder. The findings are now published in a special report in the International Journal of Eating Disorders

“While extensive research reveals the devastating toll of eating disorders on the young person, it has been far less common to investigate the burden on parents. This is a significant gap, given that the leading treatment for pediatric eating disorders heavily involves parents,” says Dr Wilksch, a credentialed eating disorder clinician. 

“However, the parent role extends beyond active treatment to also include first identifying signs of the illness; initial help seeking with a GP; pursuing referral to treatment services; and, navigating physical and psychological health challenges in their child.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Pregnant women diagnosed with cancer don’t get the emotional support they need due to research gap

Photo Credit: Lucas Mendes

Support for pregnant women diagnosed with cancer is limited because of insufficient research into the specific emotional consequences and needs associated with a diagnosis at this time, according to a new report from the University of Surrey.

Researchers have also found that pregnant women diagnosed with cancer often delay seeking medical help because they believe their symptoms are due to natural changes in their body.

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, researchers from Surrey, in collaboration with the charity Mummy’s Star, reviewed causes of psychosocial issues (distress, depression, and anxiety) affecting pregnant women diagnosed with cancer and what supportive care is available to them and their partners.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

I say dog, you say chicken? New study explores why we disagree so often

Celeste Kidd, assistant professor of psychology and the study’s principal investigator.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Celeste Kidd | University of California, Berkeley

Is a dog more similar to a chicken or an eagle? Is a penguin noisy? Is a whale friendly?

Psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, say these absurd-sounding questions might help us better understand what’s at the heart of some of society’s most vexing arguments. 

Research published online Thursday in the journal Open Mind shows that our concepts about and associations with even the most basic words vary widely. At the same time, people tend to significantly overestimate how many others hold the same conceptual beliefs — the mental groupings we create as shortcuts for understanding similar objects, words or events.

It’s a mismatch that researchers say gets at the heart of the most heated debates, from the courtroom to the dinner table.

“The results offer an explanation for why people talk past each other,” said Celeste Kidd, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and the study’s principal investigator. “When people are disagreeing, it may not always be about what they think it is. It could be stemming from something as simple as their concepts not being aligned.”

Simple questions like, “What do you mean?” can go a long way in preventing a dispute from going off the rails, Kidd said. In other words, she said, “Just hash it out.”

Monday, March 6, 2023

COVID Fears and Long-Term Planning Play Key Roles in Vaccine Hesitancy

Young boy receiving a vaccine
Photo Credit: Heather Hazzan. Shared under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

A recent study finds that concerns about the health effects of COVID-19 are a key variable in determining whether people are hesitant to get vaccinated against the virus. The study also found that an individual’s tendency to plan for the future plays a surprising role in people’s vaccine hesitancy.

At issue is a psychological trait called proactive coping that refers to a person’s tendency to think about and plan for the future.

“We found that the people who were least hesitant about getting vaccinated were people who were at least somewhat concerned about COVID-19 and had high scores on proactive coping,” says Shevaun Neupert, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University. “However, we also found that the people who were most hesitant about getting vaccinated also had high scores on proactive coping, but were not very concerned about contracting COVID-19.

“Basically, proactive coping seems to serve as an amplifier for vaccine hesitancy at both ends of the spectrum.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Infants Outperform AI in “Commonsense Psychology”

New Study Shows How Infants Are More Adept at Spotting Motivations that Drive Human Behavior

Infants outperform artificial intelligence in detecting what motivates other people’s actions, finds a new study by a team of psychology and data science researchers. Its results, which highlight fundamental differences between cognition and computation, point to shortcomings in today’s technologies and where improvements are needed for AI to more fully replicate human behavior. 

“Adults and even infants can easily make reliable inferences about what drives other people’s actions,” explains Moira Dillon, an assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology and the senior author of the paper, which appears in the journal Cognition. “Current AI finds these inferences challenging to make.”

“The novel idea of putting infants and AI head-to-head on the same tasks is allowing researchers to better describe infants’ intuitive knowledge about other people and suggest ways of integrating that knowledge into AI,” she adds.

“If AI aims to build flexible, commonsense thinkers like human adults become, then machines should draw upon the same core abilities infants possess in detecting goals and preferences,” says Brenden Lake, an assistant professor in NYU’s Center for Data Science and Department of Psychology and one of the paper’s authors.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

AI could improve mental health care

Photo Credit: SHVETS production

Patients are often asked to rate their feelings using a rating scale, when talking to psychologists or doctors about their mental health. This is currently how depression and anxiety are diagnosed. However, a new study from Lund University in Sweden shows that allowing patients to describe their experience using their own words - is potentially viewed as more precise and preferred by the patients. The Lund researchers have developed an AI-tool that could help doctors analyze their patients’ answers.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, shows that clinicians and patients differ somewhat, as clinics often prefer rating scales when diagnosing a patient (e.g., little interest in doing things: not at all, sometimes, often, daily) whereas patients prefer free language (e.g., Describe your mental health).

The researchers surveyed a group of 150 patients with self-diagnosed depression or anxiety, posing the same questions to a control group of 150 other participants.

Monday, February 13, 2023

A sense of purpose may have significant impact on teens' emotional well-being

Educational psychology professor Kaylin Ratner found in a study of more than 200 adolescents that feeling a sense of purpose had a significant impact on their emotional well-being. Those who scored high on purposefulness were more satisfied with their lives and experienced more positive emotions in general. 
Photo Credit: Fred Zwicky

Adolescents who feel a greater sense of purpose may be happier and more satisfied with life than peers who feel less purposeful, suggests a recent study of more than 200 teens.

Studies with adults have suggested that a sense of purpose in life is an integral component of well-being that fuels hope and optimism and has a variety of positive effects on individuals’ physical and mental health.

However, less is known about the effects of purposefulness in adolescents, who, while characteristically hopeful, are in the throes of developing their identities, making choices that reflect who they are and aspire to be, according to the study.

Educational psychology professor Kaylin Ratner of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign led the current study, which examined how youths’ feelings of purposefulness related to their daily levels of life satisfaction and subjective well-being.

Stress levels sky high for families of neurodiverse kids

Almost 80 per cent of caregivers experienced poor wellbeing, high levels of stress and poor mental health
Photo Credit: Jordan Whitt

New Curtin University-led research has found caregivers of neurodivergent children are more likely to experience clinically significant levels of stress, poor mental health, financial hardship, and negative relationships.

The research, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, explored the health and wellbeing of caregivers of children living with neurological conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/ hyperactive disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities, and whether current support services were sufficient to meet their needs.

Lead researcher Dr Ben Milbourn, from the Curtin School of Allied Health, said children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental conditions often require significant levels of support from their caregivers and meeting their emotional, physical, social and learning needs can be challenging.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Learning with all your senses: Multimodal enrichment as the optimal learning strategy of the future

Illustration Credit: John Hain

Neuroscientist Katharina von Kriegstein from Technische Universität Dresden and Brian Mathias from the University of Aberdeen have compiled extensive interdisciplinary findings from neuroscience, psychology, computer modelling and education on the topic of "learning" in a recent review article in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. The results of the interdisciplinary review reveal the mechanisms the brain uses to achieve improved learning outcome by combining multiple senses or movements in learning. This kind of learning outcome applies to a wide variety of domains, such as letter and vocabulary acquisition, reading, mathematics, music, and spatial orientation.

Many educational approaches assume that integrating complementary sensory and motor information into the learning experience can enhance learning, for example gestures help in learning new vocabulary in foreign language classes. In her recent publication, neuroscientist Katharina von Kriegstein from Technische Universität Dresden and Brian Mathias of the University of Aberdeen summarize these methods under the term "multimodal enrichment." This means enrichment with multiple senses and movement. Numerous current scientific studies prove that multimodal enrichment can enhance learning outcomes. Experiments in classrooms show similar results.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Children have not recovered learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic

Learning online: 'We find a substantial overall learning deficit…which arose early in the pandemic and persists over time… The pooled effect…implies that students lost out on about 35% of what they would have learned in a normal school year…This confirms initial concerns the pandemic would cause substantial harm to student learning.'
Photo Credit: Amr

Each year during the pandemic, school children lost one third of what they would have learned – and this has still not been recovered, according to a study published today in Human Nature Behaviour.

According to the paper, A systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning, ‘We find a substantial overall learning deficit…which arose early in the pandemic and persists over time… The pooled effect…implies that students lost out on about 35% of what they would have learned in a normal school year…This confirms initial concerns the pandemic would cause substantial harm to student learning.’

In particular, the paper finds, Math learning has been affected as well as children from lower income groups, ‘The pandemic has exacerbated educational inequalities between children from different socio-economic backgrounds, which were already large before the pandemic.’

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Where you live and what cardiometabolic conditions you have affects risk of developing dementia

Image Credit: Gerd Altmann

People in the United States and England who have multiple cardiometabolic conditions such as diabetes and high systolic blood pressure are more likely to develop dementia than their peers who are relatively healthy, according to new research from the University of Surrey.

The study also found that people living in China have an increased risk of developing dementia if they have obesity and hypertension when compared to those in their country who are relatively healthy.

Panagiota Kontari, a post-graduate researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey, said:

“Dementia affects 55 million people worldwide and there is currently no cure, so prevention is key. Cardiometabolic conditions have been shown to increase likelihood of developing the syndrome due to their link with vascular, biological and neurodegenerative diseases, which might accelerate brain ageing and cognitive decline.

“Understanding how cardiometabolic conditions are clustered and which particular combination of them leads to a greater risk of dementia across the world is important as such knowledge could help design tailored prevention strategies that target varying risk factors in different countries.”

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Why faces might not be as attention-grabbing as we think

Data from the study’s 30 participants revealed they looked at the faces of just 16 per cent of the people they walked past.
Photo Credit: John Cameron

Research combining wearable eye-tracking technology and AI body detection software suggests our eyes aren’t drawn to the faces of passers-by as much as previously thought.

Faces are key to everyday social interaction. Just a brief glance can give us important signals about someone’s emotional state, intentions and identity that helps us to navigate our social world.

But researchers studying social attention – how we notice and process the actions and behaviors of others in social contexts – have been mostly limited to lab-based studies where participants view social scenes on computer screens. Now, researchers from the School of Psychology at UNSW Science have developed a new approach that could enable more studies of social attention in natural settings.

The novel method correlates eye-movement data from wearable eye-tracking glasses with analysis from an automatic face and body detection algorithm to record when and where participants looked when fixating on other people. The methodology, detailed in the journal Scientific Reports, could have a range of future applications in settings from clinical research to sports science.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Rapid cognitive decline uncommon in ageing people with HIV on stable treatment

We need to determine whether people with HIV may require additional care as a result of mental and cognitive health changes as they reach their 60s.
Photo Credit: Sabine van Erp

As with all chronic conditions, a focus on cognitive and mental health should be part of ongoing care.

With successful treatment, HIV has become a chronic health condition which can be managed with life-long care.

Treatment reduces the amounts of HIV in the blood to an undetectable level and most people with the infection who take their medication live as long as people without HIV.

While there have been successful developments in treating the virus, it’s important to understand how it may impact the long-term cognitive function of those ageing with HIV.

Associate Professor Lucette Cysique at the School of Psychology, UNSW Sydney, and her team conducted a long-term study of cognitive function in people who are ageing with chronic stable HIV infection, from 17 care facilities across Australia, published in eClinicalMedicine.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Females perform better than males on a ‘theory of mind’ test across 57 countries

Over the decades, many independent research studies have found that females on average score higher than males on theory of mind tests
Photo Credit: Yuri Levin

Researchers found that females, on average, score higher than males on the widely used ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test, which measures ‘theory of mind’ (also known as ‘cognitive empathy’). This finding was observed across all ages and most countries.

The research, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is the largest study of theory of mind to date.

A fundamental part of human social interaction and communication involves putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, to imagine another person’s thoughts and feelings. This is known as ‘theory of mind’ or ‘cognitive empathy’.

For decades, researchers have studied the development of theory of mind, from infancy to old age. One of the most widely used tests with which to study theory of mind is the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test (or Eyes Test, for short), which asks participants to pick which word best describes what the person in the photo is thinking or feeling, just by viewing photos of the eye region of the face.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Mouse pups cry for help most urgently while active

Mouse pups produce ultrasonic vocalizations, called isolation USVs, when they are separated from the nest. It’s a survival mechanism – baby mice need their parents to regulate their temperature and feed them – that diminishes with age.

But before the USV reflex peters out around 20 days after birth, the rate at which mouse pups cry varies a lot, even within the same individual at the same age, according to Katherine Tschida, the Mary Armstrong Meduski ’80 Assistant Professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Exploring this variation, researchers in the Tschida Lab found a link between mouse pup USV rates and their activity levels; the greater amount of body movement, the higher the rate of vocalizations. The connection is important for understanding mouse neural circuitry and development and provides a richer understanding of behavioral differences in mouse models of communication disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD.)

“Rates of Ultrasonic Vocalizations are More Strongly Related Than Acoustic Features to Non-vocal Behaviors in Mouse Pups” was published Dec. 19 in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. Tschida and doctoral student Nicole Pranic are first authors. Contributions were made by Thomas Cleland, professor of psychology; Chen Yang, programmer and analyst in the Cleland Lab; and by Caroline Kornbrek ’23.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Not everyone aware sustainable diets are about helping the planet

Sustainable diets
Photo Credit: yilmazfatih

A new study has found that young Brits would be willing to change to a more sustainable diet, but a lack of understanding about what that actually means is preventing many from doing so.

Many people are also uncertain about what changes they should make.

Sustainable diets are defined by the UN as “diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations.”

Previous research has suggested that 20-30% of environmental impacts in Europe and the UK originate from our diets, including impacts from food production, processing and retail. It is also now widely accepted that the consumption of meat and animal products typically has a higher environmental impact than plant-based foods.

“When thinking about how to live more sustainably, people seem to understand that this can mean taking fewer flights, using the car less, recycling more, but it seems that not everyone is aware of the difference that changing their diet can make as well,” explained Katherine Appleton, Professor of Psychology at Bournemouth University, who led the study.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Internet treatment for anger works

Two emotion regulation strategies, mindful emotion awareness and cognitive reappraisal, can help people with problems in managing anger.
Photo Credit: Obie Fernandez

Problems with managing anger can have severe consequences for the afflicted individual and their loved ones. A new study from the Centre for Psychiatry Research at Karolinska Institutet shows that four weeks of therapy delivered over the internet can help people with anger and aggression. The results have been published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

The study, which the researchers have chosen to call the “anger study”, is the first to compare different internet-mediated emotion regulation strategies against anger. The results are expected to be important for understanding emotion regulation and for the dissemination of evidence-based methods.

What is driving the high suicide rate among farmers?

Mental health outreach programs geared toward farmers also need to provide services for their teens, who have similar rates of anxiety and depression, said agricultural and biological engineering professor Josie Rudolphi. The co-director of the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center, Rudolphi is conducting a five-year study on the mental health needs of people who live and work on farms. 
Photo Credit: Fred Zwicky

Josie Rudolphi is a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign whose research examined suicide among farmers and ranchers, as well as the mental health of their children. She is the co-director of the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center, a 12-state, 15-partner collaborative based in Illinois Extension that offers stress management and mental health interventions. Rudolphi spoke with News Bureau research editor Sharita Forrest about the mental health needs of people in the farming industry.

Recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that farmers are twice as likely as people in other occupations to die by suicide. What are the unique stressors affecting the mental health of farmers?

While most farmers in the Midwest had a good harvest this year and commodity prices are strong, they are faced with incredibly high input costs. Unpredictable commodity prices have so much impact on the viability of a farm. There’s a lot to celebrate, but the future is so uncertain.

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