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

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.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Masks can put cognitive performance in check

The study found that while masks had a negative impact, the effect subsided over time. 
Photo Credit: Alena Beliaeva

Wearing a face mask can temporarily disrupt decision-making in some situations according to University of Queensland research.

Dr David Smerdon from UQ’s School of Economics analyzed almost three million chess moves played by more than eight thousand people in 18 countries before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and found wearing a mask substantially reduced the average quality of player decisions.

“The decrease in performance was due to the annoyance caused by the masks rather than a physiological mechanism, but people adapted to the distraction over time,” Dr Smerdon said.

“The data showed masks were more likely to decrease performance in situations where there was a demanding mental task with a high working memory load.

“This is something to keep in mind for occupations in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as other professions that demand a high level of working memory such as language interpreters, performers, waiters and teachers.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Neurotic personality trait a key risk factor for stress perception

While all of the “Big Five” personality traits – agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness – are related to experiencing stress, neuroticism showed the strongest link, according to research co-written by Bo Zhang, a professor of labor and employment relations and of psychology at Illinois. 
Photo Credit: Fred Zwicky

A new paper co-written by a team of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign experts who study the science of personalities points to the important role of personality traits to account for individual differences in experiencing stress.

In a meta-analysis synthesizing more than 1,500 effect sizes from about 300 primary studies, the team showed that while all of the “Big Five” personality traits – agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness – are related to experiencing stress, neuroticism showed the strongest link, said Bo Zhang, a professor of labor and employment relations and of psychology at Illinois and a co-author of the paper.

“Stress is a significant mental and physical health issue that affects many people and many important domains of life, and some individuals are more likely to experience or perceive stress disproportionately or more intensely than others, which can then play a role in mental and physical health problems such as anxiety or depression,” he said. “We found that individuals high in neuroticism” – a heightened tendency toward negative affect as well as an exaggerated response to threat, frustration or loss – “demonstrated a relationship with both stressor exposure and perceived stress that was stronger than the other four personality traits.”

Cognitive flexibility enhances mathematical reasoning

Multiple categorizations involves presenting students with mathematical problems that can be solved from different perspectives.
Illustration Credit: Calliste Scheibling-Sève

At school or in everyday life, proportional reasoning is essential for many activities. This type of reasoning allows us to adapt the quantity of ingredients in a recipe or to calculate the distance traveled as a function of speed by relying on ratios and proportions. In school settings, certain intuitive conceptions of proportions can mislead students and hinder their learning. A team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) shows that multiple categorizations in mathematical problems - the ability to adopt several points of view on the same problem - makes it possible to go past this obstacle. These results open up new perspectives for the learning of mathematics but also for other disciplines. They can be found in the Journal of Numerical Cognition.

Proportional reasoning is a cognitive process that involves ratios and proportions to solve a mathematical problem. This reasoning is regularly practiced and applied in school, but it is also very useful in our daily lives. It allows us to calculate the price of certain products when we shop, to adapt the quantity of ingredients in a recipe, and to convert foreign currencies. It is at play when we understand that a speed of 30mph is equivalent to a distance of 15 miles travelled in 30 minutes. It is also involved in assessing our risk-taking: for example, when we make choices about our health by weighing the effectiveness of a treatment or vaccine against the risks of the disease.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Young lives under pressure as global crises hits mental health and well-being

Photo Credit: Marco Torrazzina

The well-being and mental health of young people in low - and middle - income countries have been dramatically affected by the series of crises hitting the world.

As the international community continues to struggle with the impact of COVID-19, conflict and climate change, the latest report from the Young Lives project shows a long-running upward trend in young people’s well-being has been sharply reversed alongside widespread anxiety and depression. Young people are less confident about their futures for the first time in their 20-year study.

Before the pandemic, there had been a steady but notable upward trend in young people’s sense of well-being across all four countries in the Young Lives study - Peru, Vietnam, India and Ethiopia. But new data from the most recent survey, collected during the pandemic, shows young people reported a significant decline in well-being - and high levels of anxiety and depression.

New data shows young people reported a significant decline in well-being - and high levels of anxiety and depression...at a critical period in [young] lives - because long-term mental health issues often begin in adolescence and early adulthood

Most young people’s well-being falls sharply in first years of secondary school


Most young people in the UK experience a sharp decline in their subjective well-being during their first years at secondary school, regardless of their circumstances or background, new research shows.

Academics from the Universities of Cambridge and Manchester analyzed the well-being and self-esteem of more than 11,000 young people from across the UK, using data collected when they were 11, and again when they were 14.

The adolescents’ overall ‘subjective well-being’ – their satisfaction with different aspects of life (such as friends, school and family) – dropped significantly during the intervening years.

It is widely accepted that young people’s well-being and mental health are influenced by factors such as economic circumstances and family life. The research shows that notwithstanding this, well-being tends to fall steeply and across the board during early adolescence.

That decline is probably linked to the transition to secondary school at age 11. The study identified that the particular aspects of well-being which changed in early adolescence were typically related to school and peer relationships, suggesting a close connection with shifts in these young people’s academic and social lives.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Friendly monkeys have friendly microbes


More sociable monkeys have a higher abundance of certain beneficial gut bacteria, and a lower abundance of potentially disease-causing bacteria, new research has found.

The study involved analyzing social network data from a population of non-captive macaques on the island of Cayo Santiago, off Puerto Rico, and combining this with sequencing data to assess their individual gut microbiota.

The researchers found that monkeys that engage in social interactions were more likely to have an abundance of gut microbes that are known to benefit the immune system, and were less likely to have an abundance of potentially harmful bacteria. The analyses controlled for other factors that could affect the microbiome, including age, season, sex and rank within the group’s hierarchy.

The study was conducted by Dr Katerina Johnson at the University of Oxford's Department of Psychiatry, in collaboration with Dr Karli Watson from the University of Colorado Boulder, alongside Oxford professors Robin Dunbar and Philip Burnet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Workplace cafeteria study finds no evidence that physical activity calorie-equivalent labeling changes food purchasing

PACE labels alongside menus 
Credit: University of Cambridge

More than three in five UK adults are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. A major factor that contributes to this is excess energy intake – in other words, eating too many calories. Measures that can help reduce energy intake could help tackle the obesity problem.

In the UK, adults eat as many as a third of their meals out of home, including in workplace cafeterias, and these meals are often much higher in calories than meals eaten at home. Since April 2022 calorie labelling is now required on food and drink served out of the home in businesses employing 250 or more people. While many people welcome this information, evidence for its effectiveness in reducing calories purchased or consumed is limited in quantity and quality. For example, two previous studies conducted by the authors in nine worksite cafeterias found no evidence for an effect of simple calorie labelling (kcal) on calories purchased.

Another option is to show the amount of exercise required to burn off these calories – so-called PACE (physical activity calorie-equivalent) labels – for example, a 1014kcal ‘large battered haddock’ portion would take upwards of five hours walking (278 minutes) to burn off. A recent systematic review – a type of study that brings together existing evidence – concluded that PACE labels may reduce energy selected from menus and decrease the energy consumed when compared with simple calorie labels or no labels, but only one of the 15 studies reviewed was in a ‘real world’ setting.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Develop effective psychotherapies faster

Simon Blackwell of the Research and Treatment Center for Mental Health
Credit: Research and treatment center for mental health

The increasing number of mental illnesses is a growing problem for society. The development of psychotherapies on the traditional path cannot keep pace with this.

Researchers at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) asked themselves whether there could be a faster and more efficient way to develop and improve psychological interventions. In the journal "Psychological Medicine" they present the so-called Leapfrog design, with which various interventions can be compared efficiently without having to carry out several clinical studies one after the other. The Bochum team around Dr. Simon Blackwell together with a colleague of the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich in the journal "Psychological Medicine", published online.

Adapted method from cancer research

"Clinical studies are mostly time consuming and inefficient," says Blackwell of the RUB's Research and Treatment Center for Mental Health. “You can take years and require hundreds of participants - and in the end it may turn out that the intervention tested is not effective. And even if the intervention were effective, it would probably be wanted to improve it again quickly, because in the meantime, for example, new relevant research data have been published. This in turn means that you have to plan and conduct another, probably even larger and more time-consuming clinical study."

Monday, November 7, 2022

New international study concludes digital media can fuel polarization and populism

Image Credit: Thomas Ulrich

The question of whether the rise in usage of digital media is contributing to the erosion of democracy is a source of popular debate, with tech companies arguing the findings are inconclusive.

But now a team of international researchers has carried out a comprehensive review of hundreds of studies globally, the biggest of its kind, exploring this claim and found that while social media is not exclusively bad, it can certainly stoke starkly conflicting views, populism, and political mistrust especially in established democracies.

The researchers, from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Hertie School in Germany, and the University of Bristol in the UK, systematically assessed studies investigating whether and how digital media impacts people’s political behavior. Studies show that although some effects may be beneficial for democracy, for instance digital media can increase political knowledge and diversity of news exposure, they also have detrimental effects, such as fostering polarization and populism.

Furthermore, the way consequences such as increased political mobilization and decreasing trust in institutions play out depends largely on the political context. Such developments were found to be beneficial in emerging democracies but can have destabilizing effects in established democracies.

Summer camps promote altruism in children

After two weeks of camp, the participants’ level of altruism had increased significantly, while that of the other children had decreased.
Photo Credit: Anna Samoylova

Being able to control oneself, cooperate or help others: having socio-emotional abilities is essential for those who wish to interact positively with their peers. These skills are largely acquired during childhood and can be trained in different contexts, such as school, family or leisure. A team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has shown that holiday camps Favour their development. They found an increase in altruism among children returning from camps, unlike those who did not participate in this type of stay during their holidays. These results can be found in the journal PLOS ONE.

Knowing how to recognize and manage our own emotions, as well as those of others, and adapting our behavior accordingly: socio-emotional abilities play a key role in our daily lives. They enable us to make decisions that are beneficial to our own well-being and that of our peers, and to establish quality relationships with them. Fostering the development of children, from an early age, is therefore essential.

These skills can be acquired and trained directly or indirectly. They can also be learned in a variety of contexts, such as school, family or leisure. By stimulating prosocial acts such as altruistic behavior, they are a prime target for the prevention of antisocial behavior, i.e. behavior that is confrontational towards others and society. A team from the UNIGE has studied the development of these abilities in a specific context: holiday camps.

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