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

Thursday, November 9, 2023

What’s the story behind ASMR clips?

Quiet noises such as touching a microphone with your fingertips trigger a pleasant feeling in some people.
Photo Credit: © RUB, Marquard

Researchers at Ruhr University Bochum have published the first systematic review of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

Millions of people watch content creators on YouTube and social media platforms such as TikTok as they whisper soothing words, perform simulated role plays such as a visit to the hairdresser, or interact with certain objects such as the keyboard of a computer in a specific rhythm. About 25 to 30 percent of the viewers experience the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) associated with well-being, a characteristic tingling sensation on the scalp and neck. Tobias Lohaus of Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, together with Professor Patrizia Thoma (also Ruhr University) and Professor Silja Bellingrath (University of Duisburg-Essen), published the first systematic review on this topic. This systematic review reveals that, among other things, this phenomenon is associated with short-term positive effects on mental health. The research team published their findings in the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Brain health in over 50s deteriorated more rapidly during the pandemic

Photo Credit: Gabriel Porras

Brain health in over 50s deteriorated more rapidly during the pandemic, even if they didn’t have COVID-19, according to major new research linking the pandemic to sustained cognitive decline.

Researchers looked at results from computerized brain function tests from more than 3,000 participants of the online PROTECT study, who were aged between 50 and 90 and based in the UK. The remote study, led by teams at the University of Exeter and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, and part-funded by NIHR Maudsley BRC, tested participants’ short-term memory and ability to complete complex tasks.

Through analyzing the results from this big dataset, researchers found that cognitive decline quickened significantly in the first year of the pandemic, when they found a 50 per cent change to the rate of decline across the study group. This figure was higher in those who already had mild cognitive decline before the pandemic, according to the research published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Stunting in infancy linked to differences in cognitive and brain function

Photo Credit: bethL

Children who are too short for their age can suffer reduced cognitive ability arising from differences in brain function as early as six months of age, according to new research.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham were part of a team led by the University of East Anglia who compared the ‘visual working memory’ – the memory capacity that holds visual cues for processing – in children who had stunted growth with those having typical growth.

Published today in the journal Nature Human Behavior, the study found that the visual working memory of infants with poor physical growth was disrupted, making them more easily distracted and setting the stage for poorer cognitive ability one year later.

Stunted growth had previously been linked with poor cognitive outcomes later in life, but this is the first time that this association has been found in infancy. It is also the first time stunted growth has been linked to functional differences in how the brain works in early development.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

New Research Suggests Why Males and Females Respond Differently to Social Stress

Emily Wright, researcher, in a UC Davis lab.
Photo Credit: Jerry Tsai

Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but among boys and girls the likelihood is the same. New University of California, Davis, research has identified changes in the brain during puberty that may account for differences in how women and men respond to stress.

A team of psychologists has found that testosterone is the key hormone that drives gender-based differences in responses to social stress. The study encompassed six separate experiments with mice to isolate what changes in the brain drive these differences between males and females. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, today.

“This research shows how the body’s hormones shape the complex interplay between the brain’s circuitry and behavioral responses to stress,” said Brian Trainor, a professor of psychology in the College of Letters and Science at UC Davis and the study’s corresponding author.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Sexism and poorer parenting: Auckland study suggests a link

Professor Nickola Overall (top left) with researchers Dr Annette Henderson, Dr Rachel Low, Dr Valerie Chang, Dr Caitlin McRae and Dr Nina Waddell.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of University of Auckland

Fathers and mothers who believe men should hold the power and authority in society and the family were less responsive to their children during family interactions, according to University of Auckland research.

The study was the first of its type.

“For decades, sexism has been known to predict negative behaviors toward women, from discrimination to violence,” says lead author Professor Nickola Overall, of Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland. “Our study suggests the effects flow through to poorer parenting.”

Video-recording family groups in the laboratory, researchers assessed parents’ responsiveness, including warmth, involvement, engagement, and sensitivity toward their children.

The less responsive parents – both mothers and fathers – had disclosed higher levels of “hostile sexism,” an academic term for attitudes favoring male authority and antagonism toward women who challenge men’s social power.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Cannabis intoxication triggers cognitive mechanism of addiction

Photo Credit: Matthew Brodeur

New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London and the University of Oxford has found that the main component of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), leads to people’s attention being more drawn to other cannabis stimuli when using the drug, which researchers suggest could underpin the cognitive mechanisms behind cannabis use disorder (CUD).

The research, published in Addiction, also found that levels of cannabidiol (CBD) typically found in cannabis had no modulating effects on the participants, despite many users believing this to be the case.

Over the course of four sessions, researchers asked 46 infrequent cannabis users (using cannabis less than once a week) to inhale a cannabis vapour containing 10mg of THC, and either 0, 10, 20, or 30mg of CBD. They were then given a task designed to measure what they focused on more when given the choice between options of images (cannabis stimuli vs neutral and food stimuli vs neutral).

Researchers found that the acute inhalation of THC resulted in people being more drawn to cannabis-related cues without explicitly liking it more.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Post-traumatic stress affects more than one in 10 cardiac device patients

Image Credit: Joshua Chehov

Nearly one-third of patients with an implanted device to prevent sudden death have anxiety in the first year, while depression affects one in five. That’s the finding of a study published this week in EP Europace, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Lead author Professor Hannah Keage from the University of South Australia says implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are effective at extending patients’ lives, “but we need to make sure that is a good quality life”.

“Rates of mood disorders in people with an ICD are much higher than in the general population, suggesting that psychological assessment and therapy should be integrated into the routine care of these patients,” Prof Keage says.

An ICD is recommended for people at high risk of a life-threatening heart rhythm and those who have had a cardiac arrest. Anxiety and depression are associated with a higher likelihood of premature death in patients with an ICD.

The study compiled the best available evidence to determine levels of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in patients with an ICD.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Alcohol harm reduction can also reduce other substance use

Photo Credit: cottonbro studio

Quitting alcohol or drugs was not a top priority for people experiencing homelessness in a harm reduction treatment study, yet participants still reduced their use of both.

A different approach than traditional abstinence-based programs, harm reduction treatment for alcohol use disorder, also called HaRT-A, has patients set their own goals. In a study of 308 people experiencing homelessness, the participants receiving harm reduction treatment set goals of meeting basic needs and improving quality of life well above quitting alcohol and other substances.

Yet harm reduction treatment still led to more reduced use compared to a control group who received regular services. The findings are detailed in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

“It’s a good reminder that all people have the same basic goals: we all want to be safer, healthier and happier, and when we help people experiencing homelessness achieve those goals, they might end up doing the things that treatment providers want them to do anyway,” said Susan Collins, a Washington State University psychology professor and the study’s senior author. “They might end up cutting down their use; they might end up quitting, but it’s on their own terms and their own timeline, so it’s more sustainable.”

Collins and first author Nicki Mostofi analyzed data from an earlier clinical study focused on harm reduction and alcohol use. That study involved people with alcohol use disorder from three Seattle homeless shelters who were divided into different groups: one received harm reduction treatment alone, another treatment with naltrexone which reduces alcohol cravings, and a third group had the treatment and a placebo. A fourth control group received traditional services.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Reindeer can show great performance at following human-given indications

Photo Credit: Courtesy of University of Turku

An international team of researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, and the INRAE of Nouzilly, France, explored the ability of sledging reindeer to follow directional indications from humans. Their results highlight that reindeer, which are well habituated to humans, can make use of gestural cues very well with minimal training.

Working animals, such as equines, shepherd dogs, and logging elephants, spend a significant amount of time interacting closely with humans to fulfil specific tasks. Effective communication plays a crucial role in their working relationship. Animals' understanding of human cues, particularly manual pointing gestures, is an important aspect of this communication. 

The use of pointing gestures to communicate with others and to show them where to look or to go is very natural for humans. For other animals that do not use this means of communication, the gesture may not always be easy to understand. For this reason, the pointing gesture is often used in experiments to see if animals can understand cues that are specific to humans. 

“Many species, such as dogs, primates, horses, goats or elephants, have already shown great potential at following human gestures, but this has never been investigated in any deer species. “, says the lead author of the study, Doctoral Researcher Océane Liehrmann from the Department of Biology at the University of Turku, Finland. 

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Women feel the pain of losses more than men when faced with risky choices

Evaluating risk - are women more risk averse than men?
Photo Credit: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi

Women are less willing to take risks than men because they are more sensitive to the pain of any losses, they might incur than any gains they might make, new research from the University of Bath School of Management shows.

Published in the British Psychological Society’s British Journal of Psychology, the study – “Gender differences in optimism, loss aversion and attitudes toward risk" - also finds that men are ‘significantly’ more optimistic than women, making them more willing to take risks.

Researcher Dr Chris Dawson, associate professor in business economics at the University of Bath School of Management, said the findings were significant and could help explain sex-specific outcomes in different employment sectors, and in financial markets.

‘It is widely acknowledged that men, across many domains, take more risks than women. These differences in how the sexes view risk can have significant effects,” Dr Dawson says.

‘For instance, differences between the sexes in risk taking can explain why women are less likely to be entrepreneurs, are underrepresented in high-paying jobs and upper management, and less likely to invest their wealth in equities markets than men. Despite these important implications, we still know very little about why women take fewer risks than men.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Neurotic people are more likely to suffer from mood swings

Neurotic people experience negative emotions more intensely and have more mood swings than others.
Photo Credit: Gerd Altmann

In everyday life, our emotions often change from moment to moment, and people experience these fluctuations to varying degrees. Psychologists at Leipzig University have studied the relationship between the personality trait neuroticism – a potential risk factor for mental health – and emotional experiences. They found that neurotic people experience negative emotions not only more intensely, but also with more mood swings than others. They have just published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“Previous studies are in agreement that neurotic people experience stronger negative emotions in everyday life. Because of new, contradictory studies, there has been disagreement about whether this is also associated with increased variability in emotional experiences, i.e. mood swings,” says the study’s first author, Nina Mader from the Wilhelm Wundt Institute of Psychology at Leipzig University. Personality psychologists at Leipzig University have developed a new approach to modelling data that solves previous methodological problems. “We use an approach from Bayesian statistics that allows additional flexibility in data modelling. We first successfully tested this approach in simulations and then re-examined 13 longitudinal data sets. The results suggest that neurotic people do indeed experience greater variability in negative emotions,” explains Mader. A total of 2,518 people were asked about their emotions.

New insights into teen sleep

Dr Serena Bauducco with a sleep monitor at the Flinders University Sleep and Psychology Lab.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flinders University

Parents setting bedtime rules can be “protective” of their teenage children’s health and wellbeing, helping them to establish good sleep routines as young adults and in the future, say Flinders University researchers.  

Using feedback from 2500 students aged from 12 to 14 between 2019-2020, the national study found adolescents whose parents set bedtimes had at least 20 minutes more sleep on average which can make “all the difference” to next-day performance – including reaching the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep a night.  

The adolescent sleep researchers at Flinders University are now seeking 30 participants for a new study in Adelaide to record their self-monitored sleep overnight, using electronic devices and other factors to find out more about teen sleep habits.  

“Most young people tend to stay up later and have less sleep when they are left to set their own bedtimes, but qualitative research is finding that adolescents are open to parental guidance to improve their sleep patterns,” says psychology researcher Dr Serena Bauducco, a visiting scholar from Sweden.  

Monday, June 5, 2023

Computational model mimics humans’ ability to predict emotions

While a great deal of research has gone into training computer models to infer someone’s emotional state based on their facial expression, that is not the most important aspect of human emotional intelligence, says MIT Professor Rebecca Saxe. Much more important is the ability to predict someone’s emotional response to events before they occur.
Image Credit: Christine Daniloff, MIT
(CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

When interacting with another person, you likely spend part of your time trying to anticipate how they will feel about what you’re saying or doing. This task requires a cognitive skill called theory of mind, which helps us to infer other people’s beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions.

MIT neuroscientists have now designed a computational model that can predict other people’s emotions — including joy, gratitude, confusion, regret, and embarrassment — approximating human observers’ social intelligence. The model was designed to predict the emotions of people involved in a situation based on the prisoner’s dilemma, a classic game theory scenario in which two people must decide whether to cooperate with their partner or betray them. 

To build the model, the researchers incorporated several factors that have been hypothesized to influence people’s emotional reactions, including that person’s desires, their expectations in a particular situation, and whether anyone was watching their actions.

“These are very common, basic intuitions, and what we said is, we can take that very basic grammar and make a model that will learn to predict emotions from those features,” says Rebecca Saxe, the John W. Jarve Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the senior author of the study.

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.

Featured Article

One Punch Isn’t Enough to Overcome a Common Cancer Mutation

Acute myeloid leukemia as seen under a microscope. Image Credit: Animalculist ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ) Cancer cells are often a mess of mutations. A...

Top Viewed Articles