Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 19.04.2021 Interview with: Daniel J. Kruger Ph.D. Research Investigator, Population Studies Center University of Michigan What is the background for this study? Response: Thorstein Veblen coined the terms “conspicuous consumption” and “conspicuous leisure” to describe the wasteful habits of the upper classes in amassing and displaying expensive goods that did not have inherent practical benefits and devoting time to pursuits such as sports and fine arts. The purpose of these socially conspicuous displays and behaviors was to advertise one’s membership in the upper, leisure class, as only the very wealthy could afford them. Veblen was inspired in part by Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution. Darwin himself was greatly puzzled by what he considered wasteful investments of energy in elaborate physiological displays. He saw these features as the greatest threat to his theory of natural selection. Why would something like the peacock’s tail feathers evolve, as they actually threatened survival because of their impediment to foraging and avoiding predators? Darwin was so troubled by this dilemma that the sight of a peacock’s tail feather would make him feel sick. Darwin later realized that these features provided a reproductive advantage, leading to his theory of sexual selection, including the processes of inter-sexual selection and intra-sexual competition.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 15.04.2021 Interview with: Michael J. Poulin, PhD, PhD Associate Professor of Psychology College of Arts and Sciences University of Buffalo What is the background for this study? Response: A great deal of research suggests that practicing mindfulness--full attention to and acceptance of one's experiences--can be good for individuals. Mindfulness seems to reduce stress and has other psychological benefits. But what about its effects on others? Does mindfulness make people more generous and helpful, or does it make them more selfish? (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Sexual Health / 05.04.2021 Interview with: Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, Phd Professor, Department of Psychology Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim, Norway What is the background for this study? Response: We have two important lines of research running parallel: 1) research into casual sex research. Over several papers inspired by previous evolutionary studies on casual sex we map the proximate mechanisms involved in regret. However, the adaptive function of regret: more adaptive future choices, was not addressed. This is something that most people and most regret researchers just take for granted. Bendixen et al 2017, Kennair et al 2016, 2018. 2) Research into how worry and rumination is not adaptive and how changing metacognitions about these mental processes are helpful here and now, and how discontinuing these processes is an efficient treatment of GAD and MDD. Kennair et al 2017. Solem et al 2019. We found that it was important to question whether regret indeed was adaptive and affected more adaptive future short-term sexual choices. However, this demands a longitudinal design and such data are not easy to collect. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Psychological Science / 01.12.2020 Interview with: Gert Martin Hald, PhD Head of Section (Environmental Health), Associate Professor Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen Copenhagen, Denmark What is the background for this study? Response: Basically, much of previous research has investigated mental and physical health of divorcees only after extensive separation periods, which is mandatory in most countries before juridical divorce unless infidelity or violence is involved in the divorce. During the time of data collection (2016-2019), Denmark where data was collected did not require separation periods before granting divorce. This means that as a first, we could investigate the mental and physical health of divorcees within days of them filling for divorce and perhaps better and more accurately pick up well-known adverse effects of mental- and physical health states of divorcees at the time of their divorce.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Melanoma, Psychological Science / 05.03.2020 Interview with: Dr. Sinead Langan. FRCP MSc PhD Professor of Clinical Epidemiology Wellcome Senior Clinical Fellow Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine London, U.K. What is the background for this study? Response: Psychological stress is commonly cited as a risk factor for melanoma, but clinical evidence is limited. We wanted to test the hypothesis that acute severe stress increases the risk of melanoma and melanoma progression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Psychological Science / 11.02.2020 Interview with: Prof. Geoffrey Tofler MBBS MB FRACP FACC Professor of Preventative Cardiology, University of Sydney Senior Staff Cardiologist, Royal North Shore Hospital New South Wales, Australia What is the background for this study? Response: Bereavement due to the death of a loved one is one of the most stressful experiences to which almost every human is exposed. Grief is an unavoidable and natural reaction to the loss.  While in most people the grief reaction gradually diminishes, an increased risk of heart attack or has been described in the early weeks and months following bereavement.   Although this increase in heart attacks is well recognised, until now there have not been any previous studies to provide guidance on how to safely reduce the risk. (more…)
Author Interviews, Global Health, Mental Health Research, Pain Research, Psychological Science / 07.09.2019 Interview with: Dimitris Xygalatas, PhD Assistant Professor, Anthropology (Affiliate) Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) UCONN What is the background for this study? Response: Ever since I was a graduate student, I have been intrigued by the performance of ritual practices that involve pain, bodily harm, and other forms of suffering. These rituals carry obvious risks, including health risks, but despite these risks they are performed voluntarily by millions of people around the world. And even more intriguing is the fact that in various contexts such rituals are often culturally prescribed remedies for a variety of maladies. When I was doing my doctoral fieldwork, I studied the fire-walking rituals of the Anastenaria in Northern Greece, and I heard several people describing their experience of participation as one that involved both suffering and healing. And of course I am not the first anthropologist to document this link. But these observations seemed puzzling to me. Some years later, I met one of the co-authors of this paper, Sammyh Khan, who was asking very similar questions. We got a grant to design this study, and put together a team of researchers that spent two months in the field collecting data for this project. We studied the Hindu kavadi ritual, which involves piercing the body with numerous needles, hooks, and skewers, and various other forms of suffering. Our study took place in the island of Mauritius, where I have been conducting research over the last decade, but this ceremony is performed by millions of Hindus around the world. We used portable health monitors as well as interviews and survey instruments to document the effects of this ritual of psycho-physiological health and wellbeing.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Lifestyle & Health, PNAS, Psychological Science, University Texas / 31.07.2019 Interview with: John M. Griffin PhD James A. Elkins Centennial Chair in Finance McCombs School of Business The University of Texas What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The importance of personal traits compared to context for predicting behavior is a long-standing issue in psychology. Yet, we have limited evidence of how predictive personal conduct, such as marital infidelity, is for professional conduct. We use data on usage of a marital infidelity website as a measure of marital infidelity and find that it is strongly correlated with professional conduct in four different professional settings. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 27.07.2019 Interview with: Robin Kowalski, Ph.D. Centennial Professor, Clemson University Department of Psychology Clemson University Clemson, SC 29634 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: These two studies stemmed from an idea that I had been mulling over for a couple of years. We are so quick to offer advice to others and to seek advice from others, but what about the advice we would offer to ourselves, particularly our younger selves. As it turns out, we have plenty of advice to offer to our younger selves. There wasn’t a single participant in our research who found it impossible to generate advice for their younger self and a third of participants spontaneously think about this advice at least once a week. Although the advice that people offered their younger self fell into a number of different categories, the three most common were relationships (e.g., don’t let her go), education (e.g., finish school), and the self (e.g., you are worthy). Following the advice was important. Approximately two-thirds of respondents said they followed the advice they offered their younger self. Those who did thought their younger self would view them most positively now than those who did not follow the advice. People also said following the advice brought them closer to their ideal selves (the person they ideally wanted to be). The advice that people offered was more often than not tied to a pivotal event that had occurred in their life. Some of these pivotal events were negative and some were positive. Not surprisingly, regret was more often tied to negative than positive pivotal events, and this regret was just as often tied to actions (things people had done) as inactions (things they had not done). (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Pain Research, Psychological Science / 19.06.2019 Interview with: Dr. Markus Rütgen PhD Post-doctoral researcher Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Unit Faculty of Psychology University of Vienna What is the background for this study? Response: Previous research has reported empathy deficits in patients with major depressive disorder. However, a high percentage of patients taking part in these studies were taking antidepressants, which are known to influence emotion processing. In our study, we wanted to overcome this important limitation. We were interested in whether the previously reported empathic deficits were attributable to the acute state of depression, or to the antidepressant treatment. To this end, we performed a longitudinal neuroimaging study, in which we measured brain activity and self-reported empathy in response to short video clips showing people in pain. We measured acutely depressed patients twice. First, before they started their treatment, second, after three months of treatment with a state-of-the-art antidepressant (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 16.06.2019 Interview with: Zachary Witkower University of British Columbia PhD Student What is the background for this study? Response: When we form judgments about other people –what their personality is like, or how they are feeling at the moment– we tend to focus our attention towards their face. This is not surprising, as facial shape and facial expressions contain all kinds of information that can be used to inform judgments. However, faces are almost never viewed in isolation. Instead, faces are almost always viewed as they rest upon the face’s physical foundation: the head. Yet little is known about how head position might influence judgments about personality or social status, or – importantly – how head position might change the way faces are perceived. In the present research, we examined how and why head position might influence social judgments made from the face.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Technology / 12.06.2019 Interview with: Brittany I. Davidson MA Doctoral Researcher in Information Systems University of Bath What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Typically, research interested in the impact of technology, or more specifically, smartphones on people and society, use surveys to measure people’s usage. Almost always, these studies claim potential harms from using smartphones, like depression, anxiety, or poorer sleep. However, these studies simply ask people about  their behaviour rather than actually measuring it. In our study, we took 10 widely used surveys to  measure screen time, which typically asks how often people use their smartphone or how problematic their usage is. We compared this to people’s objective smartphone usage from Apple Screen time (e.g., minutes spend on iPhone, number of times they picked up their phone, and the number of notifications received). We found that there is a large discrepancy between what people self-report and what they actually do with their iPhone. This is highly problematic as the sweeping statements that claim smartphones (or technology more generally) have a negative impact on mental health are not  based on solid and robust evidence at this time, which leaves much to be desired in terms of what we really know about the  impacts of technology use on people. (more…)
Author Interviews, Emergency Care, Mental Health Research, Psychological Science / 03.06.2019 Interview with: Stephen L. Ristvedt, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Anesthesiology Washington University St. Louis, MO  63110-1093 What is the background for this study? Response: Having a usual source of healthcare – either with a regular doctor or a medical clinic – is the best way to manage one’s health in a proactive way.  Doctors and clinics can provide ongoing guidance with regard to the use of preventive medical screenings as well as the management of chronic illness.  Unfortunately, a significant proportion of US adults do not have a usual source of healthcare.  Also, many people often rely for their healthcare needs on a hospital emergency department, where there is neither sufficient continuity of care nor counseling for prevention. We wanted to investigate what factors might contribute to suboptimal utilization of healthcare resources.  We were particularly interested in looking at individual psychological factors that might play a role in the choices that people make when seeking healthcare.  One specific psychological characteristic proved to be important in our study.  That characteristic is called “threat sensitivity,” and it is measured with a simple questionnaire.  People who are relatively high in threat sensitivity are prone to experience high levels of anxiety in potentially threatening situations  (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Sexual Health / 19.05.2019 Interview with: Prof. Leif Edward Ottesen KennairDepartment of PsychologyFaculty of Social and Educational SciencesNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyProf. Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair Department of Psychology Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences Norwegian University of Science and Technology What is the background for this study?   Response: Previous studies on intercourse frequency mainly focused on individual data, with no possibility to verify the perceived initiative or frequency. Couples data gave us that possibility. Previous studies had also mainly treated relationship quality as one measure. Therefore it was also interesting to distinguish between various aspects of relationship qualities to try to disentangle how these different aspects were related to frequency of intercourse. In addition we had some ideas about how a measure of sexual personality or sociosexuality—how interested in short-term sex one is—might be relevant for compromise within the relationship? (more…)
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Psychological Science / 15.05.2019 Interview with: Prof. Wai-Man (Raymond) Liu, PhDAssociate ProfessorResearch School of Finance, Actuarial Studies & StatisticsCollege of Business & Economics BuildingThe Australian National UniversityProf. Wai-Man (Raymond) Liu, PhD Associate Professor Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies & Statistics College of Business & Economics Building The Australian National University What is the background for this study? Response: In our study, we studied survey responses of over 26,000 people from the largest Australian household survey over a period of 14 years. The survey was funded by the government called “The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey”. The survey was conducted by the Melbourne Institute. In the survey more than 9,500 of these respondents had experienced the death of a close friend. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis, Psychological Science, Social Issues, Weight Research / 24.04.2019 Interview with: "Chocolate Brownies" by Kurtis Garbutt is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit: S. Kruger PhD Clinical Assistant Professor Department of Community Health and Health Behavior School of Public Health and Health Professions University of Buffalo Daniel J. Kruger PhD Adjunct Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center. Michigan's Population Studies Center What is the background for this study? Response: The legal environment for cannabis is changing rapidly and an increasing proportion of people are using cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. All policy and practice should be informed by science, yet there is a large gap between evidence and existing practices, and the current scope of research on cannabis users is limited. Public Health has the responsibility of protecting the public, maximizing benefits and minimizing harm in any area. However, the Public Health approach to cannabis has largely been limited to a focus on abstinence, and Federal regulations have restricted the scope of cannabis-related research. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Mental Health Research, OBGYNE, Psychological Science / 20.03.2019 Interview with Haley Kranstuber Horstman, Ph.D. Department of Communication University of Missouri What is the background for this study? Response: Miscarriage is a prevalent health concern, with one in five pregnancies ending in miscarriage, which is a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks’ gestation. Past research has shown that women who have miscarried often suffer mental health effects such as heightened grief, depression, loneliness, and suicidality. Although much of the research on coping with miscarriage has focused on women’s health, many miscarriages occur within romantic relationships and affect the non-miscarrying partner as well. Women in heterosexual marriages report that their husband is often their top support-provider. Past research has shown that husbands suffer with mental health effects after a miscarriage, sometimes for even longer than their wives, but are not often supported in their grief because miscarriage is a “woman’s issue” and they feel uncomfortable talking about it. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, OBGYNE, Psychological Science, Sexual Health / 11.02.2019 Interview with: Dr. Alexander Lischke, Dipl.-Psych. Universität Greifswald Institut für Psychologie Physiologische und Klinische Psychologie/Psychotherapie University of Greifswald, Germany What is the background for this study? Response: We know for a long time that cyclic variations in womens' estrogen and progesterone levels affect their emotion recognition abilities by modulating neural activity in brain regions implicated in emotion processing. We also know that oral contraceptives suppress cyclic variations in womens' estrogen and progesterone levels. We, thus, assumed that oral contraceptives would affect womens' emotion recognition abilities due to the aforementioned suppression of cylic variations in estrogen and progesterone levels that modulate neural activity in brain regions during emotion processing. To test this assumption, at least with respect to the behavioral effects of oral contraceptive use on emotion recognition, we performed the current study. We recruited regular cylcling women with and without oral contraceptive use for our study. None of the women were in psychotherapeutical or psychopharmacological treatment at the time of the study. During the study, women performed a emotion recognition task that required the recognition of complex emotional expressions like, for example, pride or contempt. (more…)
ADHD, Author Interviews, Psychological Science, University of Michigan / 11.10.2018 Interview with: Holly White, PhD Research Scientist Basic and Applied Cognition Laboratory Department of Psychology University of Michigan What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This study was inspired by my previous findings of higher originality and creative achievement among adults with ADHD, as well as my personal observations of individuals with ADHD choosing non-traditional approaches to problem solving. College students with ADHD sometimes ignore task instructions and examples, and while this may lead to errors, it may also lead to extraordinarily unique answers and solutions. I was curious as to whether this tendency of ADHD individuals to think in an unconventional and expansive manner might lead to resistance to conformity during creative tasks. In the present study, college students with ADHD were less likely to copy experimenter-provided task examples, compared to non-ADHD peers, on a product label invention task. ADHD participants were also less likely to create imaginary fruits that resembled typical Earth fruit, compared to non-ADHD participants. Students with ADHD were less likely to conform to pre-existing prototypes of fruit and therefore invented more original creations. Individuals with ADHD may be more flexible in tasks which require creating something new, and less likely to rely on examples and previous knowledge. As a result, the creative products of individuals with ADHD may be more innovative, relative to creations of non-ADHD peers.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Health Care Systems, Psychological Science / 03.10.2018 Interview with: Professor Mary Dixon-Woods Director, The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute (THIS Institute) University of Cambridge What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The challenges around employee voice are well documented. For various reasons, employees in all industries are often reluctant to raise concerns when they witness disruptive or unsafe behaviour from their colleagues. But it’s crucial that they speak up – especially in healthcare. Patient safety may depend on it. Our study focused on a large academic medical centre in the US that wanted to improve employee voice. Despite having reporting mechanisms in place, the organisation still had issues with disruptive behaviour from group of powerful senior individuals that went unchallenged and contributed to a culture of fear. Through confidential interviews with 67 frontline staff and leaders and the organizational actions that followed, we learned it’s important for employees to feel that their concerns will be dealt with authentically. It also helps when healthcare organisations have clear definitions of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and well-coordinated response mechanisms. Once someone does raise a concern, organizations need good, fair and transparent systems of investigations and be prepared to implement consequences for disruptive behaviour consistently.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Weight Research / 26.09.2018 Interview with: Dr Linda Solbrig PhD University of Plymouth What is the background for this study? Response: Diets are restrictive; they work in the short-term, but re-gain is common. Individuals trying to manage their weight find that motivation fades over time and that this is the hardest part about maintain a healthy weight. When given choice to self-set goals we are much more likely to stick with them; they are more sustainable and we can succeed long-term. Using multi-sensory mental imagery supports motivation to change in the long run and also the opportunity to test out in our imagination if the actions we decided will lead to personal goal success actually fit with our lives, or whether we need to tweak, or even change them. Functional Imagery Training (FIT) is based on two decades of research showing that mental imagery is more strongly emotionally charged than other types of thought and that it can directly interfere with unwanted food cravings. It uses multi-sensory mental imagery to strengthen people’s motivation and confidence to achieve their own goals, and teaches people how to do this for themselves, so they can stay motivated even when faced with challenges. It is not about creating a static picture, but encourages the use of all our senses, how a situation may feel, seeing with the mind’s eye and hearing with the mind’s ear and so on, creating a mini movie in our minds where we are the lead actors working on our personal goals, overcoming adversity and succeeding.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Psychological Science / 13.06.2018 Interview with: “Divine Piano” by François Philipp is licensed under CC BY 2.0Zachary Wallmark, Ph.D Assistant Professor of Musicology Directo MuSci Lab SMU Meadows School of the Art Music Division Dallas, TX 75275 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Music making and listening is an intensely social behavior. Individual differences in trait empathy are associated with preferential engagement of social cognitive neural circuitry, including regions of the medial prefrontal cortex, cingulate, and insula, during the perception of socially relevant information. In our study, we used fMRI to explore the degree to which differences in trait empathy modulate music processing in the brain. We found that higher empathy people experience greater activation of social circuitry as well as the reward system while listening to familiar music, compared to lower empathy people.  (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Pain Research, Psychological Science / 07.05.2018 Interview with: Dr. M. Carrington Reid, MD PhD Associate Professor of Medicine Irving Sherwood Wright Associate Professor in Geriatrics Joachim Silbermann Family Clinical Scholar Geriatric Palliative Care Joan and Sanford I. Weill Department of Medicine Weill Cornell Medical College What is the background for this study?   Response: Major guidelines (American College of Physicians, Centers for Disease Control, Veterans Administration) on the management of chronic pain strongly encourage clinicians to use nonpharmacologic approaches to include psychological therapies when managing pain. While many studies have evaluated psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioral theraphy (CBT) in nonelderly populations with chronic pain, far fewer have evaluated these treatments in studies of older adults. We identified 22 randomized controlled trials that evaluated a psychological therapy for chronic pain in older adults and examined the impact of these treatments on salient outcomes to include ability to reduce pain and pain-related disability, improve patients' self efficacy to manage pain, and improve their physical health and function and their psychological health (by reducing rates of anxiety and depression). (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Psychological Science / 11.03.2018 Interview with: Dr. Alexander Fanaroff MD Duke University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Among patients with chronic angina, there are strong associations between depression and clinical outcomes, which illustrates the important interplay between psychosocial symptoms and physical symptoms in this condition. But depressive symptoms are distinct from expectations and optimism regarding recovery and returning to a one’s normal lifestyle. Patients with chronic angina may not be optimistic about their outlook for a number of reasons, including uncertainty about their prognosis or lack of medical knowledge, but for many patients with chronic angina, the outlook is actually quite good. We examined data from RIVER-PCI, a clinical trial that randomized patients with chronic angina and incomplete revascularization to ranolazine or placebo, and were followed for the primary outcome of ischemia-driven hospitalization or revascularization. Patients were asked at baseline, 1 month, 6 months, and 12 months how much they agreed with the phrase, “I am optimistic about my future and returning to a normal lifestyle.” We categorized patients by their responses at baseline – we coded “strongly agree” as very optimistic, “agree” as optimistic, “neutral” as neutral, and “disagree” and “strongly disagree” as not optimistic – and evaluated the association between baseline optimism and the primary outcome over long-term follow-up. We found that most patients were optimistic at baseline – 33% were very optimistic, 42% were optimistic, 19% were neutral, and 5% were not optimistic – and the majority remained optimistic over long-term follow-up. The most optimistic patients had a lower prevalence of prior myocardial infarction, heart failure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease and less severe angina at baseline than less optimistic patients. The rate of the ischemia-driven hospitalization or revascularization was higher in neutral (32.8%) and not optimistic (35.0%) patients compared with the most optimistic patients (24.4%). Even after adjusting for baseline comorbidities and angina frequency, the most optimistic patients had a 30% lower risk of ischemia-driven hospitalization or revascularization compared with neutral or not optimistic patients. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 27.02.2018 Interview with: “Im Spiegel / In the mirror” by njs-photographie is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0William Chopik PhD Department of Psychology Michigan State University East Lansing, MI What is the background for this study? Response: The motivation for the study was that we saw a lot of differences in the way people defined "old age". We also noticed that there is a stigma that goes along with being old. So we had a natural curiosity to see how these perceptions my change as people age. As people aged, the tended to report feeling younger and consider an older adult as "always in the future"--never quite where they are now. We found that our results confirmed a lot of existing theories about how our attitudes toward aging change as we age ourselves. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Psychological Science / 11.02.2018 Interview with: “Homes for Pets - Doggie Dash” by Homes For Pets is licensed under CC BY 2.0Helen Louise Brooks BSc, MRes, PhD Psychology of Healthcare Research Group Department of Psychological Sciences, Institute of Psychology, Health and Society University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: It is increasingly being acknowledged that companion animals can have a positive impact on mental health. However, there has been no systematic review of the evidence related to how pets might benefit people living with mental health problems. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 20.01.2018 Interview with: Shira Offer PhD Associate Professor Department of Sociology and Anthropology Bar-Ilan University What is the background for this study? Response: The major goal of the University of California Social Network Study (UCNets) is to promote our understanding of people’s social lives and their implications for health and well-being. The study collected information about whom individuals are connected to and the characteristics of those connected people. The participants in the study were asked to name the people with whom they usually get together and do social activities, whom they confide in about important things in life, and who give them practical help or assistance during emergencies. They were also asked to name the people whom they find “demanding or difficult.” This question allowed us to explore the negative aspect of personal relationships. Personal relationships are complicated but most research focuses on positive ties, or on the positive side of social ties. In this study we had the opportunity to also examine their negative aspect. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Psychological Science / 18.12.2017 Interview with: Thomas Foltynie MD PhD Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Neurologist Unit of Functional Neurosurgery Institute of Neurology and National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery University College London What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Stimulation of the Nucleus Basalis of Meynert can enhance cholinergic innervation of the cortex in animal models and has been previously reported to have beneficial cognitive effects in a single patient with Parkinson’s Disease dementia. In this double blind crossover trial, six patients with Parkinson’s Disease underwent low frequency stimulation to the NBM bilaterally.  While there were no consistent objective improvements in cognitive performance, there was a marked reduction in visual hallucinations in two of the participants. . (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Technology / 12.12.2017 Interview with: Dr Ian Stephen PhD Senior Lecturer Department of Psychology ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Perception in Action Research Centre Macquarie University, Sydney NSW, Australia What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Since the 1990s, the dominant view of attraction in the scientific community has been that it is an evolved mechanism for identifying appropriate, healthy, fertile mates. People who are attracted to appropriate, healthy, fertile people are more likely to have more, healthy offspring and therefore any genes for having these preferences will become more common. On the other hand people who are attracted to inappropriate, unhealthy, infertile people will be less likely to pass on their genes to the next generation, so genes for this attraction pattern will become less common. However, for this model to be correct, two things have to be true. First, we should be able to identify cues in the face and body that people find attractive/healthy looking. And second, these cues must be related to some aspect of actual physiological health. The first part of this is well established - cues like symmetry, skin color, body shape are all related to looking healthy and attractive. But there is much less research on the second part. The computer modeling techniques that we use allowed us to build a model based on 272 African, Asian and Caucasian face photographs that identifies three aspects of physiological health - body fat, BMI (a measure of body size) and blood pressure - by analysing facial shape. We then used the model to create an app that predicts what different faces would look like if those individuals increased or decreased their fatness, BMI or blood pressure. We gave this app to some more participants and asked them to make the faces look as healthy as possible. We found that, to make the faces look healthy, the participants reduced their fatness, BMI and (to a lesser extent) blood pressure. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 03.12.2017 Interview with: David Chester, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Psychology Virginia Commonwealth University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We wanted to understand what personality traits define people who tend to seek revenge. We observed that the defining personality characteristic of revenge-seekers is sadism, which is the tendency to enjoy the suffering of others. Put simply, the people who seek revenge are the ones most likely to enjoy it. We also found some other interesting results, namely that revenge-seekers are also prone to premeditation. They like to plan out their actions ahead of time, which settles a long-standing debate about whether revenge seekers act on impulse or plan out their vengeful acts. (more…)