Study Finds Religious Belief Mostly Likely Rooted in Culture Rather Than Intuition

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Miguel Farias, DPhil Reader in Cognitive and Biological Psychology Coventry University

Dr. Farias

Dr. Miguel Farias, DPhil
Reader in Cognitive and Biological Psychology
Coventry University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Over the past 20 years, cognitive psychologists have suggested that believing in the supernatural is something that comes to us ‘naturally’ or intuitively. Previous studies have suggested people who hold strong religious beliefs are more intuitive and less analytical, and when they think more analytically their religious beliefs decrease.

Our new research has challenged this. We used various experimental methods, including field research in the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and neural stimulation. , by academics from Coventry University’s Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science and neuroscientists and philosophers at Oxford University, suggests that is not the case, and that people are not ‘born believers’.

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Men and Women Have Different Perspectives on Infidelity

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Mons Bendixen and Leif Edward Ottesen Kennai
r 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Using infidelity scenarios, we aimed to study coupled women and men’s willingness to forgive their partner’s infidelity and their beliefs about being forgiven when cheating on their partner.

The study therefore reproduces the core findings from an earlier study by Friesen, Fletcher & Overall (2005) that looked at cognitive biases in forgiveness following actual transgressions in couples (some severe, others minor).

The theoretical framework for our study is Error Management Theory (EMT), developed by the evolutionary psychologists Martie Haselton & David Buss. EMT makes specific predictions regarding beliefs about being forgiven for own transgressions. Transgressors will underperceive signals of forgiveness, they tend not to believe they are forgiven despite signals of forgiveness from their partner (e.g., “don’t worry about it” and “I forgive you”).

MedicalResearch.com: This sound a little odd, how can misperception be evolutionary adaptive?

Response: The evolved function of this biased belief is, according to EMT, to guide the organism toward reparative behavior securing that the transgressions are fully mended. Lack of biased beliefs may be a potential threat to the relationship, because reparative behaviors signal remorse, empathy, and willingness to commit. Lack of reparative behaviors increase the risk of the relationship ending up on the rocks.

MedicalResearch.com: Why did you consider forgiveness of infidelity?

Response: We studied reactions to anticipated infidelity. Infidelity represents one of strongest threat to any intimate relationship. Infidelity may be primarily sexual: having a sexual affair, or primarily emotional, being deeply and emotionally involved with somebody else.

We know that women and men differ in their responses to sexual and emotional infidelity. Across studies using a variety of methods and samples, compared to women, men seem to be less upset by imagining their partner falling in love with someone than imagining their partner having sex with someone. Typically, men become more jealousy of sexual infidelity, women of emotional infidelity. This sex difference origins from the “mother’s baby – father’s maybe” dilemma, and the sex difference in minimum parental investment. We have previously published several papers on jealousy.

MedicalResearch.com: Who were the participants?

Response: We invited students and their partners to take part in a study on infidelity and forgiveness. 92 couples participated. At arrival, they were guided to separate rooms to fill in the questionnaires. After completion, each participant returned the questionnaires in a sealed envelope, and the couple received debriefing and two cinema tickets.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We found a robust negative forgiveness bias following one’s own imagined infidelity for both male and female transgressors. Relative to the likelihood of being forgiven, transgressors reported that they believed less that their partner would forgive their cheating.

We found diminished negative forgiveness bias for emotionally unfaithful men, but not for sexually unfaithful women. Emotionally unfaithful men evinced less bias in the analyses of their partner’s expressed forgiveness. Relative to women, men not only seem to be more willing to forgive emotional infidelity by their partner, they also tend to believe more that their emotional infidelity will be forgiven – put more simply: Men underestimate the distress women experience in emotional infidelity, and are maybe a little naïve about the threat their partners emotional infidelity poses.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: What is most striking with our results is how men do not quite understand how serious women perceive and deem emotional infidelity to be; while men cannot be described as naïve about this aspect of their relationship, they certainly are not as concerned with emotional infidelity as women are.

Even though both men and women perceive both emotional and sexual infidelity as relationship threats, they have very different appreciations of the severity of especially emotional infidelity. This is true for both own and partner’s transgressions. This may potentially be a source of misunderstanding, conflict and miscommunication in couples, and maybe a topic that couple counselors need to address.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Rather than studying imagined infidelity, future research may study couples seeking counseling or therapy following actual infidelity, including questions on beliefs of being forgiven, reparative behaviors, signals of forgiveness, and internal (non-communicated) forgiveness.

 

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Forgiving the Unforgivable: Couples’ Forgiveness and Expected Forgiveness of Emotional and Sexual Infidelity From an Error Management Theory Perspective.

Bendixen, Mons,Kennair, Leif Edward Ottesen,Grøntvedt, Trond Viggo

Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, Sep 28 , 2017, No Pagination Specified

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

 

Montessori Education Has Potential To Equalize Performance For Low Income School Children

“Tempura Finger Paint Grand Rapids Montessori School” by Steven Depolo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Tempura Finger Paint Grand Rapids Montessori School” by Steven Depolo

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Angeline Lillard PhD

Professor of Psychology
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Montessori education was developed in the first half of the last century, but has been subject to little formal research. Prior research on its outcomes was problematic in using poor control groups, very small samples, demographically limited samples, a single school or classroom, or poor quality Montessori, or data from just a single time point and limited measurements.

This study addressed all these issues: it collected data 4 times over 3 years from 141 children, experimental children were in 11 classrooms at 2 high quality Montessori schools at which the control children were waitlisted and admission was done by a randomized lottery, family income ranged from $0-200K, groups were demographically equivalent at the start of the study, and many measures were taken.

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Neurobiology of Jealousy Mapped In Monkey Brains

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Monogamous  Titi monkeys

Monogamous Titi monkeys

Karen L. Bales PhD
Professor of Psychology
University of California
Davis, CA 95616

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response:  Titi monkeys are a socially monogamous species in which adults form pair bonds.  In my laboratory we are studying the neurobiology of pair bonding, and understanding jealousy is important because it’s one mechanism by which the pair bond is maintained.  In this study, male titi monkeys viewed their pair mate next to a stranger male, and we examined the neural, behavioral, and hormonal consequences.  Continue reading

Eye-Tracking Uncovers Cognitive Mechanisms Underlying High Level Human Judgments

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Tobias Gerstenberg, PhD

MIT

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The question of how causation is best understood has been troubling philosophers for a long time. As psychologists, we are particularly interested in understanding how people make causal judgments.

In our experiments, we showed participants video clips of colliding billiard balls. Participants were asked to say whether one ball (ball A) caused another (ball B) to go through a gate, or prevented it from going through. We used eye-tracking technology to record participants’ eye-movements as they were watching the clips.

The results showed that participants spontaneously engaged in counterfactual simulation when asked to make causal judgments. They not only looked at what actually happened, but also tried to anticipate where ball B would have gone if ball A hadn’t been present. The more certain participants were that ball B would have missed the goal if ball A hadn’t been there, the more they agreed that ball A caused ball B to go through the gate.

In a control condition we asked participants about what actually happened. In this condition, participants were much less likely to simulate where ball B would have gone. Together, these findings demonstrate a very close link between counterfactual simulation and causal judgment.

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How Can Neuroscience Explain Our Attachment To Consumer Items?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tamara Masters, PhD Marketing Marriott School of Management Brigham Young University

Dr. Masters

Tamara Masters, PhD
Marketing
Marriott School of Management
Brigham Young University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: As a marketing professor I have studied the disparity of what people are willing to sell items/products for and how much that differs from how much others are willing to pay.

I do research in consumer decision making and find the neurophysiological aspects of consumers fascinating.  I read medical and neuroscience research for fun and see many ways individuals may be effected in the use of their limited resources.  We are all consumers – many make purchases of some type daily – even it if it is to play online games or where and how to get our next meal.

The main findings relate to how a person is either attached to or feels an aversion to losing an object.  There has been debate as to which of these factors leads to a difference in buy and selling prices.  This research provides a new and unique look at how BOTH factors must be present for this disparity to emerge.  This research is unique because it uses combines the fields neuroscience, psychology and economics to explain something we all experience.

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Men and Women May Take Different Kinds Of Risks

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Thekla Morgenroth

Preferred pronouns: They/them/their
Research Fellow in Social and Organisational Psychology
Psychology
University of Exeter
Washington Singer Laboratories,
Exeter UK 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Risk-taking is often seen as an important trait that leads to economic success – for example when it comes to investing money – and career success. For example, we often hear that leaders need to be willing to take risks. Risk-taking is also strongly associated with masculinity, which leads to the idea that maybe gender differences in economic and career success can be explained by the fact that women are just too risk averse. When you look at the risk-taking literature, it appears that there is support for this idea with many studies showing that men do indeed take more risks than men.

Our research questions these ideas. We show that current measures of risk-taking are biased. They focus only on stereotypical “masculine” risk taking behaviors such as betting your money on the outcome of a sporting event or going whitewater rafting, and ignore the many risks that women take, such as going horseback riding or donating a kidney to a family member. When this bias is addressed, gender differences in risk-taking disappear or even reverse.

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Efficacy of SSRIs for Anxiety Influenced By Patient’s Expectations

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Vanda Faria PhD
Department of Psychology
Uppsala, Sweden 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: It has been debated whether selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety, are more effective than placebo. Concerns have been raised that the beneficial effects of SSRIs, as measured in double-blind clinical trials, may be explained by expectancies (a crucial placebo mechanism) rather than the biochemical compound. But no study has tested experimentally the extent to which the SSRI treatment effect can be influenced by expectancies induced by verbal suggestions.

We compared the efficacy of overt vs. covert administration of an SSRI (escitalopram) in patients with social anxiety disorder. Rather than comparing the SSRI with placebo, we compared it with itself while manipulating the patients’ expectations of improvement. This was achieved by informing one group correctly about the SSRI and its effectiveness (overt group) whereas the comparison (covert) group received incorrect information. By use of a cover story, the covert group was led to believe they were treated with a so called “active placebo”, an ineffective neurokinin-1 antagonist yielding similar side effects as the SSRI but lacking anxiety-reducing properties. But the treatment, dosage and duration was in fact identical in both groups.

Results showed that overt outperformed covert SSRI treatment, as the number of treatment responders was more than three times higher on the main clinical outcome measure when correct information was given. Using neuroimaging (fMRI) we also noted differences between the overt and covert SSRI groups on objective brain activity measures. There were differences between the groups e.g. with regard to activation of the posterior cingulate cortex with treatment, and the functional coupling between this region and the amygdala which is a brain region crucially involved in fear and anxiety. The fMRI  results may reflect the interaction between cognition and emotion as the brain changes differently with treatment pending on the expectations of improvement.

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Why Do Women Take Fewer Financial Risks Than Men?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Patti J. Fisher, Ph.D. Associate Professor in Consumer Studies AHRM Department Virginia Tech

Dr. Fisher

Patti J. Fisher, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in Consumer Studies
AHRM Department
Virginia Tech

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Risk tolerance is one of the most important factors contributing to wealth accumulation and retirement. It is important to understand why women are less risk tolerant so that financial planners can better serve their needs because women, on average, live longer than men and often need more retirement savings.

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Joint Physical Custody Better For Children’s Psychological Health

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Malin Bergström PhD Center for Health Equity Studies  Karolinska Institutet  

Dr. Bergstrom

Malin Bergström PhD
Center for Health Equity Studies
Karolinska Institutet  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The increase in children who move between their parent’s homes after a divorce is one of the major changes in children’s life circumstances during the last decade. Spending equal amounts of time in both parents’ homes means that these children move fifty times a year. Child experts have claimed this to be stressful and potentially harmful to children’s attachment relations to their mothers. Especially for children this young the practice of joint physical custody has been questioned.

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Positive Emotions Predict Health Lipid Profiles In Western, But Not Eastern Cultures

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jiah Yoo Ph.D. Student in Social Psychology University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI 53706 

Jiah Yoo

Jiah Yoo
Ph.D. Student in Social Psychology
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: A growing number of studies have shown that positive emotions predict better physical health. However, a caveat of these findings is that most studies have been conducted with Western samples. As cultural psychologists, we have learned that European American cultural contexts are particular in that positive emotions are highly valued and emphasized. For example, in East Asian cultures, it is a commonly shared view that positive emotions have some dark sides such as that they are fleeting, may attract unnecessary attention from others, and can be a distraction from focusing on important tasks. Given the cultural differences in emotions, we thought it would be important to test whether the established link between positive emotion and enhanced physical health are relevant to other cultural contexts, such as those in East Asia.

We focused on blood lipids profiles, one of the major risk factors for heart diseases, as objective measures of health. Because of the global prevalence of coronary artery diseases, blood lipids are considered important indices of biological health in many Western and East Asian countries. In addition, blood lipids are largely influenced by lifestyles and behavioral factors so we further tested the role of various health behaviors (i.e., dietary habits, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption) in the lipids-emotion link in different cultures.

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Apologies May Not Help Hurt Feelings

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Gili Freedman, PhD Postdoctoral Researcher Dartmouth College

Dr. Freedman

Gili Freedman, PhD
Postdoctoral Researcher
Dartmouth College

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Social rejection is a common, everyday interpersonal interaction, and most people have been on both ends: being rejected and doing the rejection. There has been a lot of research on how rejection impacts targets (the people being rejected), but we know less about the point of view of the rejector. In this set of studies, we wanted to understand how frequently rejectors include apologies in rejections and what effect apologies have on targets of rejection.

Using both college and community samples, we found that approximately 40% of people spontaneously included an apology when trying to reject in a good way. However, rejections with apologies were associated with more hurt feelings and higher levels of aggression than rejections without apologies. In response to viewing rejections with apologies, participants felt obligated to express forgiveness but did not actually feel forgiveness. Taken together, our results indicate that apologies may not be helpful in softening the blow of a social rejection.

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Exploration During Adolescence Critical To Obtaining Wisdom Needed To Navigate Adulthood

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dan Romer PhD Research director, Annenberg Public Policy Center Director of its Adolescent Communication Institute University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Dan Romer

Dan Romer PhD
Research director, Annenberg Public Policy Center
Director of its Adolescent Communication Institute
University of Pennsylvania

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: In recent years, findings from research in developmental neuroscience indicate that the myelination of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) extends into the third decade of life, proceeding more slowly than in other brain regions. Because subcortical and sensory brain regions appear to mature earlier, this and other findings have been taken as evidence that adolescents may have less ability to control their behavior than children do. These findings spawned theories of “imbalanced” adolescent brain development that were proposed to explain heightened vulnerability to risky behavior and adverse health outcomes during adolescence.

Although there is little doubt that as adolescents enter adulthood, they are at risk for many health outcomes that can accompany the initiation of such behaviors as driving, having sex, using drugs, and playing sports. But most adolescents make it through this period of development without serious health consequences. Thus, the argument that a brain deficit is responsible for such adverse health outcomes seemed to overgeneralize effects that only occur for a minority of adolescents. Furthermore, when my colleagues and I examined the evidence in support of imbalance theories, we found it unconvincing. Indeed, it seemed that findings from neuroscience were interpreted through the lens of stereotypes about adolescents that conflate exploration with impulsivity. That is, many of the risky behaviors that attract adolescents are novel activities that reflect lack of experience rather than lack of control over behavior.  Continue reading

People Accept Lies From Politicians They Like

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Allison Mueller, A.B.D.

Ph.D. Program
Department of Psychology
University of Illinois at Chicago 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In our study, we explored how people react to public figures who bend the truth. We predicted that people’s own moral conviction for a political issue—their strong and absolute belief that this position is right or wrong, moral or immoral—would cloud their judgments of public figures who lie for that cause. We reasoned that when a strong moral conviction is at stake, the transgressiveness of specific kinds of advocacy for the cause may be trivialized.

To test this idea, we first assessed people’s views on a political issue—in this case, whether they supported or opposed federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and the extent to which they viewed the issue as a moral imperative. They were then presented with a political monologue supporting Planned Parenthood that they believed was previously aired over public radio. After reading the monologue, they were randomly assigned to learn that the monologue was deemed true (or false) by several fact-checking organizations. We measured their reactions to hearing this news, including the extent to which they believed the speaker was justified in delivering the monologue and their judgments of the speaker’s moral character.

We found that people’s perceptions of the speaker’s transgressive advocacy were uniquely shaped by their own moral conviction for the cause. Although honesty was positively valued by all respondents, transgressive advocacy that served a shared moral (vs. nonmoral) end was more accepted, and advocacy in the service of a nonpreferred end was more condemned, regardless of its truth value.  Continue reading

Apathy Is a Risk Factor for Mortality in Nursing Home Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Johanna MH Nijsten, Msc
Clinical Neuropsychologist
Archipel Landrijt, Knowledge Center for Specialized Care
Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Department of Primary and Community Care, Radboudumc Alzheimer Center
Radboud University Medical Center
Nijmegen, the Netherlands 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Apathy is common in nursing home (NH) patients with dementia and is repeatedly found to be the most prevalent neuropsychiatric symptom. Apathy is defined by diminished or lack of motivational, goal-directed behavior, and a lack of cognition and emotional affect. Apathy leads to reduced interest and participation in the main activities of daily living, diminished initiative, early withdrawal from initiated activities, indifference, and flattening of affect.

Over the last two decades, more scientific knowledge has become available about specific fronto-subcortical systems in the brain that may be highly involved in apathy. Disruptions in these systems are found in patients with frontal lobe damage resulting from, for instance, (early-onset) dementia, traumatic brain injury, stroke, or multiple sclerosis. Fronto-subcortical circuits also play an important role in neurological disorders involving the basal ganglia such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. The neurodegenerative diseases and acquired brain injuries mentioned here are highly prevalent in patients receiving long-term NH care and the widespread clinical manifestation of apathy in NH-patients is thought to be related.

Since apathy is very common in nursing home-patients and may lead to a poor prognosis, clear insight into its risk for mortality is needed and NH-staff need to understand this risk.

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“Positive Manifold” : Vocabulary and Reasoning Skills Reinforce Each Other In Adolescents

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Rogier Kievit PhD Cambridge Neuroscience

Dr. Kievit

Dr Rogier Kievit PhD
Cambridge Neuroscience

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: One of the most robust findings in psychology is the so-called ‘positive manifold’ – The fact that people who are better at cognitive task A are, on average, also better at task B (and C, D etcetera). Despite over a hundred years of empirical investigations, we don’t really know why this is the case. Here, we aimed to investigate the mechanisms that underlie the positive manifold. To do so, we studied almost 800 adolescents and young adults from Cambridge and London (the NSPN study; Www.nspn.org

We measured both their abstract reasoning skills (e.g. solving a puzzle) and vocabulary knowledge (e.g. example) on two occasions, about 1.5 years apart.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our main finding was that abstract reasoning skills and vocabulary knowledge seem to reinforce each other during development. In other words, the adolescents who started out with higher vocabulary abilities had largest increases in reasoning skills, and those with better reasoning skills gained more vocabulary knowledge. This is exciting as we know mathematically that such a process can (at least partially) help explain the emergence of the positive manifold.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: That cognitive abilities interact with each other during development. It is tempting (also for scientists!) to think about skills like memory, reading and as separate domains. However, in reality they are part of a larger network of cognitive, mental and emotional processes that interact throughout the lifespan. We simple can’t fully understand humans as psychological agents by taking only ‘snapshots’.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The field of psychology has recently realized it needs to increase sample sizes to gain robust knowledge about human behaviour and mental processes. I think the next step is realizing the importance of studying development (i.e. testing people on multiple occasions) as a way to look at longstanding questions in new and exciting ways. Secondly, we find that that mathematical models are a very exciting way to translate theories into directly testable propositions – Although such models are always oversimplifications, they often move scientific debates forward.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: With the emergence of experience sampling methods (e.g. performing cognitive tests on smartphones), ideally combined with longitudinal brain imaging, I think the next two decades will prove an incredibly exciting time for understanding human cognition.

Disclosures: The Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit is part of the University of Cambridge, funded through a strategic partnership between the MRC and the University.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Rogier A. Kievit et al, Mutualistic Coupling Between Vocabulary and Reasoning Supports Cognitive Development During Late Adolescence and Early Adulthood, Psychological Science (2017). DOI: 10.1177/0956797617710785

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

Couples With Children More Likely To Have Conflicts With In-Laws

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Mirkka Danielsbacka PhD, D.Soc.Sci

Senior researcher
University of Turku

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Relations between family generations are widely studied in disciplines such as family sociology and demography. However, relations between in-laws are often neglected in family studies of contemporary societies. Especially conflicts have been surprisingly little investigated. We were especially interested in how parenthood is associated with relations to in-laws in a contemporary Western society.

Using nationally representative survey data from Finland with over 1,200 respondents, we studied conflicts that spouses reported having with their own parents and their in-laws. Overall, Finns more often reported having had any conflict with their own parents than with their in-laws. Compared to childless couples, couples with children were as likely to report conflicts with their own parents. However, couples with children were more likely to report conflicts with their parents-in-law. Our results took into account how frequently family members were in contact with each other and how emotionally close they felt, as well as other sociodemographic factors.

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People Prefer Their Robots To Be Less Than Perfect

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Mag. Nicole Mirnig PhD Research Fellow Center for Human-Computer Interaction University of Salzburg Salzburg, Austria

Nicole Mirnig 

Mag. Nicole Mirnig 
Research Fellow
Center for Human-Computer Interaction
University of Salzburg
Salzburg, Austria 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: From our previous research on social robots, we know that humans show observable reactions when a robot makes an error. These findings result from a video analysis we performed over a large data corpus from different human-robot interaction studies. With the study at hand, we wanted to replicate this effect in the lab in order to explore into more detail how humans react and what they think about a robot that makes a mistake.

Our main findings made us quite excited. First of all, we could show that humans respond to faulty robot behavior with social signals. Second, we found that the error-prone robot was perceived as significantly more likeable than the flawless robot.

One possible explanation for this finding would be the following. Research has shown that people form their opinions and expectations about robots to a substantial proportion on what they learn from the media. Those media entail movies in which robots are often portrayed as perfectly functioning entities (good or evil). Upon interacting with a social robot themselves, people adjust their opinions and expectations based on their interaction experience. We assume that interacting with a robot that makes mistakes, makes us feel closer and less inferior to technology.

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Religious and Non Religious Use Different Cognitive Pathways To Form Opinions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jared Friedman Doctoral Student, Organizational Behavior Research Assistant II, Brain Mind and Consciousness Lab Case Western Reserve University

Jared Friedman

Jared Friedman
Doctoral Student, Organizational Behavior
Research Assistant II, Brain Mind and Consciousness Lab
Case Western Reserve University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: These studies were motivated by our prior work in neuroscience and psychology.  Neuroscience research from our lab has shown that brain areas associated with empathy seem to share a ‘see-saw’ relationship with brain areas associated with analytic reasoning.  As activity in one set of brain areas goes up, activity in the other set of brain areas tends to go down.  This suggests there is a sort of neural antagonism between warm, empathic sorts of thinking on the one hand, and cold, analytic sorts of thinking on the other.

In prior psychological work, we tested the hypothesis that these two different sorts of thinking might share opposing relationships to religious belief.  Over a series of 8 studies, we showed that although religious belief is negatively related to analytic reasoning skills (which many other labs had shown), it shares a much stronger positive relationship to measures of empathy and moral concern.  This suggests that religious belief, measured on a continuum, might emerge from the tension between empathic and analytic forms of thinking.

The current studies expanded on this prior work by examining how dogmatism – strongly holding onto one’s beliefs, even in the face of contradictory evidence – relates to measures of moral concern and analytic reasoning among individuals identifying as religious and non-religious.  The measure of dogmatism we used is neutral with respect to any particular belief system, which means that it measures dogmatism in general (rather than dogmatism towards, for instance, religious beliefs).  We found that analytic reasoning negatively relates to dogmatic tendencies in both groups.  However, the interesting part is that higher levels of dogmatism among the religious were related to higher levels of moral concern, whereas higher levels of dogmatism among the nonreligious relate to lower levels moral concern.  This is very intriguing because it suggests that religious and nonreligious individuals rely differently on these two types of cognition when forming beliefs about the world, in general.  We also found that perspective taking, which is an emotionally detached form of understanding other people’s minds, had a particularly strong negative relationship among the nonreligious.

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Our Eyes Scan Potential Friends and Lovers Differently

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Omri Gillath PhD
Department of Psychology
University of Kansas
Angela Bahns, PhD
Wellesley College

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We tracked the eye movements of 105 heterosexual participants while they viewed photos of strangers and answered questions about their interest in either becoming friends with or dating the person.

We found that in looking at others, people scan the body differently depending on whether a person is judged as a potential friend or a potential romantic partner. Heterosexual men and women looked at the head or chest of an opposite-sex person longer and more often when evaluating dating potential compared to friendship potential.

In contrast, both men and women looked at the legs or feet more for friendship judgments than for dating judgments (although overall legs and feet were looked at less than other body regions).

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VR/AR May Help Physicians Overcome Cognitive Biases To Admitting Errors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jason Han, MD Resident, Cardiothoracic Surgery Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Han

Jason Han, MD
Resident, Cardiothoracic Surgery
Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The inspiration for this study comes from my personal experience as a medical student on clinical rotations. Despite having been a victim of a medical error while growing up myself, I found it extraordinarily difficult to admit to even some of my smallest errors to my patients and team. Perplexed by the psychological barriers that impeded error disclosure, I began to discuss this subject with my advisory Dean and mentor, Dr. Neha Vapiwala. We wanted to analyze the topic more robustly through an academic lens and researched cognitive biases that must be overcome in order to facilitate effective disclosure of error, and began to think about potential ways to implement these strategies into the medical school curriculum with the help of the director of the Standardized Patient program at the Perelman School of Medicine, Denise LaMarra.

We ultimately contend that any educational strategy that aims to truly address and improve error disclosure must target the cognitive roots of this paradigm. And at this point in time, simulation-based learning seems to be the most direct way to do so, but also remain hopeful that emerging technologies such as virtual and augmented reality may offer ways for students as well as staff to rehearse difficult patient encounters and improve.

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Fear of Uncertain Future Linked To Brain Region Associated With OCD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Justin M. Kim, Ph.D

Dartmouth College
Advisor: Paul J. Whalen

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Anxiety (and its co-conspirator ‘worry’) is an active, energy consuming process. You haven’t given up – you are still fighting back, trying to anticipate what might happen tomorrow. The problem of course is that there are an infinite number of ‘what if…’ scenarios you can come up with. For some individuals, the uncertainty of what ‘might happen’ tomorrow, is actually worse than the negative event itself actually happening. These individuals are intolerant of uncertainty.

We were interested in how uncertainty and ambiguity of potential future threat contribute to the generation of anxiety and how they might be represented in our brain. In the psychology literature, how we deal with an uncertain future can be quantified as intolerance of uncertainty (IU). As is the case with any other personality characteristic, we all have varying degrees of IU. For example, individuals high in IU display difficulty accepting the possibility of potential negative events in the future. Importantly, psychiatric disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), whose symptoms are marked with worrying/obsessing, are commonly associated elevated IU. We noticed that while much of the neuroimaging research on IU has been primarily focused on brain function, brain structural correlates of IU have received little attention so far. As such, we believed that it was an important endeavor to assess the relationship between IU and the structural properties of the brain, which can be done through the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques.

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People Prefer Familiar Faces

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Carlota Batres PhD Postdoctoral fellow at Gettysburg College

Dr. Batres

Carlota Batres PhD
Postdoctoral fellow at Gettysburg College

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The background for this study is that previous research has found that individuals from rural areas prefer heavier women than individuals from urban areas. Several explanations have been proposed to explain these preference differences: media exposure, differing optimal weights for different environments, and urbanization. In this study, we investigated familiarity as a possible explanation by examining participants’ face preferences while also examining the facial characteristics of the actual participants.

The main finding of this study is that familiarity appears to be contributing to our facial preferences.

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Virtual Realty Clarifies Location of Empathy in the Brain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Indrajeet Patil PhD

former PhD student at SISSA, Trieste and
currently a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Human societies are built on mutually beneficial cooperation, which relies on our prosocial and altruistic impulses to help each other out. Psychologists have been trying to understand the psychological basis of altruistic behavior for a while now, but studying costly altruism – a kind of helping behavior in which the altruist pays a heavy price to help others – has been difficult to study in lab settings given the ethical problems associated with creating any paradigm where participants stand to get hurt. Thus, the question is how do you study the motivation behind acts that involve a very high risk of physical injury to the self while helping others? Such situations are common in emergency contexts where people can be faced with the choice of either saving their own life or risking it to save someone else’s life.

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Married People Have Lower Stress Cortisol Levels

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Brian Chin, B.S. PhD Student Doctoral Student Department of Psychology Carnegie Mellon University

Brian Chin

Brian Chin, B.S. PhD Student
Doctoral Student
Department of Psychology
Carnegie Mellon University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Numerous studies demonstrate that married people tend to be healthier than those who are single, divorced, or widowed. However, less clear are the psychological and biological mechanisms through which this occurs. To this end, recent research has focused on how the unmarried may experience either greater amounts of stress or different types of stressful situations that put them at increased risk for morbidity and mortality.

Models linking stress and disease often implicate the HPA axis as one pathway through which these stressful experiences can affect health. One way to index HPA axis activity is by measuring cortisol, a hormone that plays a regulatory role for many immunological and metabolic processes in the body. The primary aim of our study was to examine whether cortisol could be one biological mechanism through which marital status impacts health.

Over three non-consecutive days, 572 healthy adult participants between 21-55 years old provided multiple saliva samples that were used to measure cortisol. Relative to their never married or previously married counterparts, married people had both lower cortisol outputs and steeper daily declines – both of which have been shown to be associated with better health outcomes.

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We Spend More Time on Facebook Than We Think

Dr-Lazaros-Gonidis.jpg

Dr Dinkar Sharma and Dr. Lazaros Gonidis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lazaros Gonidis PhD candidate
Postgraduate Researcher
University of Kent

MedicalResearch.com: In general, why do we tend to underestimate time when we are distracted versus when we are doing something boring? Is the adage that “time flies when you’re having fun” true?

Response:  In order to be accurate at time “keeping” we need to attend to it. Anything that distracts us makes us less accurate, and to be more specific, it makes us underestimate the duration of events. In simple terms when we experience an event that last 10 minutes a distraction could make it feel like 5 minutes. On the other hand when we are bored, let’s say during a non-interesting event, we tend to focus more on time keeping looking forward for the event to finish. In this case we would overestimate the event and 10 minutes could feel like 15 minutes.

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Kids Confide More In Their Pets Than Their Siblings

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Matthew Cassels
PhD candidate, Developmental Psychiatry
University of Cambridge
Cambridge UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Around 70% of UK families with young children own a pet. However, the impact of pets on children’s lives is understudied and poorly understood. Researchers in the field of Human-Animal Interaction have been working towards addressing this gap in our understanding by focusing on the role of pets in our lives. Compared to the owners of other pets, dog owners have been found to be more likely to derive a sense of safety, companionship, and security from their pets, and to perceive them as more responsive and affectionate. Factors that contribute to differences in the quality of human-animal relationships are of great interest because the magnitude of the benefits derived from these relationships is related to their quality.

Pets may be especially significant to young people, aiding them in their social and emotional development, and serving as important substitutes for human attachment figures. Children consider their relationships with their pets as among their most important, report strong emotional bonds with their pets, spontaneously list pets when asked to name close friends and providers of social support, report turning to their pets when feeling sad, identify pets more often than humans as providers of comfort, and rely on their pets as playmates and confidants.

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Weight Shaming Can Cause Physical As Well As Mental Harm

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rebecca L. Pearl PhD
Department of Psychiatry, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? 

Response: Weight bias is a pervasive form of prejudice that leads to weight-based discrimination, bullying, and the overall stigmatization of obesity. Some individuals with obesity may internalize weight bias by applying negative weight stereotypes to themselves and “self-stigmatizing.” Exposure to weight bias and stigma increases risk for poor obesity-related health (in part by increasing physiological stress), but little is known about the relationship between weight bias internalization and risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

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Our Personality is Shaped By Wrinkles and Folds of Our Brain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Roberta Riccelli Magna Graecia University Catanzaro, Italy

Dr. Roberta Riccelli

Dr. Roberta Riccelli
Magna Graecia University
Catanzaro, Italy

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In recent years, there has been a growing interest in personality neuroscience, an emergent field of research exploring how the extraordinary variety of human behaviors arise from different patterns of brain function and structure. According to psychologists, the extraordinary variety of human personality can be broken down into the so-called ‘Big Five’ personality traits, namely neuroticism (how moody a person is), extraversion (how enthusiastic a person is), openness (how open-minded a person is), agreeableness (a measure of altruism), and conscientiousness (a measure of self-control).

However, the relationships between personality profile and brain shape remains still poorly characterized and understood.

The findings of our study highlighted that the personality type characterizing each person is connected to the brain shape of several regions implicated in emotional behaviors and control. We found that neuroticism, a personality trait underlying mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, was linked to a thicker cortex (the brain’s outer layer of neural tissue) and a smaller area and folding in some brain regions. Conversely, openness, a trait reflecting curiosity and creativity, was associated to thinner cortex and greater area and folding in the brain. The other personality traits were linked to other differences in brain structure, such as agreeableness being correlated with a thinner prefrontal cortex (which is linked to empathy and other social skills). Overall, all the traits characterizing this model of personality are related to some features (e.g. thickness, area and folding) of brain regions implicated in attention, salience detection of stimuli and emotion processing. This could reflect the fact that many personality traits are linked to high-level socio-cognitive skills as well as the ability to modulate ‘core’ affective responses.

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Amygdala Region in Brain Not So Different in Men and Women

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Lise Eliot PhD Associate Professor of Neuroscience Chicago Medical School Rosalind Franklin University North Chicago, IL 60064

Dr. Lise Eliot

Lise Eliot PhD
Associate Professor of Neuroscience
Chicago Medical School
Rosalind Franklin University
North Chicago, IL 60064

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Studies in rats indicate that the amygdala, which is important for many social behaviors including aggression and rough-and-tumble play, is larger in male animals.  Early MRI studies also reported that the human amygdala is larger in men, even after correcting for males’ larger overall brain size.  Because so many MRI studies are now imaging amygdala volume in matched groups of healthy males and females, we realized that there is a lot of published data that could settle whether the human amygdala is indeed proportionally larger in men.  Another rationale for the study is that many psychiatric disorders that involve the amygdala (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance abuse) differ in prevalence between men and women.

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Stress May Aggravate GI Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

David Q. Beversdor MD Center for Translational Neuroscience University Hospital University of Missouri Health System Columbia, MO 65212

Dr. David Beversdor

David Q. Beversdor MD
Center for Translational Neuroscience
University Hospital
University of Missouri Health System
Columbia, MO 65212

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Altered stress reactivity, alterations in cytokines and a high incidence of gastrointestinal disturbances have all been observed in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We wished to examine the interactions between these factors.

What we found was that patients with greater stress reactivity, as indicated by cortisol response in the testing environment, had greater symptomatology involving the lower gastrointestinal tract, which was predominated by constipation.

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Mental and Physical Disorders Linked at Early Age

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr-Gunther-Meinlschmidt.jpg

Prof. Dr. Gunther Meinlschmidt, Psych
University of Basel, Department of Psychology, Division of Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology
Faculty of Medicine
Switzerland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Physical diseases and mental disorders affect a person’s quality of life. Further, they present a huge challenge for the healthcare system. It has been reported that physical and mental disorders systematically co-occur already early in life. What we wanted to know is whether there are certain temporal patterns between mental disorders and physical diseases during childhood and adolescence. A better understanding of such patterns may help to reveal processes that could be relevant both to the origins of physical diseases and mental disorders and to their treatment.

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God Activates Reward Centers In Brain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jeffrey S. Anderson, MD, PhD Director the fMRI Neurosurgical Mapping Service Principal Investigator for the Utah Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory University of Utah

Dr. Jeffrey S. Anderson

Jeffrey S. Anderson, MD, PhD
Director the fMRI Neurosurgical Mapping Service
Principal Investigator for the Utah Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory
University of Utah

MedicalResearch.com: What is your study about?

Response: Billions of people find meaning in life and make choices based on religious and spiritual experiences. These experiences range from epiphanies that change the lives of celebrated mystics to subtle feelings of peace and joy in the lives of neighbors, friends, or family members that are interpreted as spiritual, divine, or transcendent.

Astonishingly, with all we understand about the brain, we still know very little about how the brain participates in these experiences. We set out to answer what brain networks are involved in representing spiritual feelings in one group of people, devout Mormons.
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Harsh Environment Shifts Men’s Preferences To Heavier Females

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Carlota Batres, Ph.D. Perception Lab School of Psychology and Neuroscience University of St Andrews UK

Dr. Carlota Batres,

Carlota Batres, Ph.D.
Perception Lab
School of Psychology and Neuroscience
University of St Andrews
UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The background for this study is that previous research had found that people in different environments prefer different faces, which suggests that preferences change according to the environment. However, because previous research had never tracked the same participants across environmental changes, such a link could not be confirmed. Therefore, we sought to determine if, and to what extent, face preferences were malleable by repeatedly testing participants whose environment was not changing as well participants undergoing intensive training at an army camp.

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Thinking About Death Motivates Athletes To Do Better

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Colin Zestcott PhD Graduate Student University of Arizona

Colin Zestcott

Colin Zestcott PhD Graduate Student
University of Arizona

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We are very interested in terror management theory, which was developed by Jeff Greenberg (one of the co-Authors of the paper) and his colleagues in the late 80’s. The theory is a very broad motivational theory that may help explain why people do the things they do in many different contexts. The theory explains why people need self esteem and why they care so much about their cultural worldviews.

Athletes use many different motivational techniques to improve their performance in sport. Our idea was to apply an experimental social psychology theory–Terror Management Theory (TMT)–as one novel way to improve performance in basketball. According to Terror Management Theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski & Solomon, 1986) self-esteem and cultural worldviews help human beings avoid worrying about their inevitable mortality, by convincing them that they are more than just material creatures that are destined to die and decay; that they have meaning, purpose and value, and that they may somehow continue to exist after they die, either literally, as in religious beliefs in the afterlife, or symbolically, through their achievements, relationship and identification with groups. According to TMT self-esteem is defined as the feeling that one is a valuable member of a meaningful universe.

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Is Denial Helpful or Harmful in Coping With Heart Attack?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Xiaoyan Fang and
Sophia Hoschar

Institute of Epidemiology II
Mental Health Research Unit
Helmholtz Zentrum München
German Research Center for Environmental Health
Neuherberg

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Time to treatment is a crucial determinant of survival in patients who have suffered an acute myocardial infarction. During an acute myocardial infarction, patients often use denial as a coping mechanism which may provide positive mood regulating effects but may also prolong prehospital delay time (PHD). Indeed, some small exploratory studies, mainly performed over 10 years ago, provided a preliminary evidence that denial contributes to decreased adherence to effective cardiac treatment by disavowing of the diagnosis and by minimizing the perceived symptom burden and symptom severity. Thus, the object of Munich Examination of Delay in Patients Experiencing Acute Myocardial Infarction (MEDEA) study is to find the effect of denial on patients’ prehospital delay.

Our study contributes important new findings to the role of denial in the face of an AMI in an extended data set of STEMI patients.

  • First, the psychological coping mechanism of denial in the face of an AMI turned out to have more beneficial than adverse effects: denial contributed to less suffering from heart-related symptoms and negative potentially traumatizing affectivity without leading the patients to maladaptive behavior (e.g. waiting for the symptoms to resolve).
  • In addition, from an overall perspective, denial only minimally increased the delay time, whereas in the time window of 3-24hrs, denial led to a clinical significant longer delay. Apparently denial did not function in the most favorable time window presumably because of an extreme painful symptom pattern which overcame the effect of denial on prehospital delay. In this case, denial might be an intervention point for those who are without severe symptoms.

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Our Brain Makes Liars Even Better At Lying

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Neil Garrett PhD Student

Affective Brain Lab
Department of Experimental Psychology
University College London
London, UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

1. BEHAVIOURAL FINDING: The amount by which participants lied got larger and larger over the course of the block. Dishonesty escalation was observed only when participants lied for their own benefit, not when they did so solely for the benefit of others.

2. BRAIN FINDING: A network of brain regions associated with emotion responded strongly when participants lied initially. But as time went on, it would respond less and less to the same amount of lying. The greater the drop in sensitivity, the more a person increased their lying the next opportunity they got.

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Need for Congruent Treatment Goals Between Alcohol-Dependent Patients and Caregivers

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kristina J. Berglund Department of Psychology University of Gothenburg

Dr. Kristina J. Berglund

Kristina J. Berglund
Department of Psychology
University of Gothenburg

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In Sweden, care providers do offer different treatment strategies for individuals who have alcohol problems, where some offer a treatment where the goal is abstinence and other offer a treatment where the goal is low-risk consumption. We wanted to investigate how important it was for having a successful treatment when there was congruence between the patient’s goals and the advocated goal of the treatment, and when there was not.

The main findings was that that if the patient had a goal of abstinence than it was much more likely to reach that goal if the patient went to a treatment that advocated abstinence. It was less likely to reach the goal if a patient had a goal of low-risk consumption and went to a treatment that advocated low-risk consumption. The treatment that advocated abstinence was also more effective when the patient were ambivalent of his/her own goal.

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Taking Happy Photos Can Improve Mood and Reduce Stress

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Yu Chen, Ph.D. Post-doc researcher Department of Informatics University of California, Irvine

Dr. Yu Chen

Yu Chen, Ph.D.
Post-doc researcher
Department of Informatics
University of California, Irvine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: College students are facing increasing amount of stress these days. We are interested in leveraging information technology to help them become happier. We week to implement happiness-boosting exercises in positive psychology using technology in a lightweight way. Since college students frequently take photos using their smartphones, we started to investigate how to use smartphone photography to help students conduct the happiness-boosting exercises.

Participants were divided into three groups and instructed to take a photo per day in one of the following three conditions:

1) a smiling selfie;
2) a photo of something that makes himself/herself happy;
3) a photo of something that makes another person happy, which is then sent to that person.

We found that participants have become more positive after purposefully taking the assigned type of photo for three weeks. Participants who took photos that make others happy also became calmer. Some participants who took smiling selfies reported becoming more confident and comfortable with their smiles. Those who took photos to make themselves happy reported becoming more reflective and appreciative. Participants who took photos to make others happy found connecting with strong ties help them reduce stress.

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Brain Scans Can Predict Specific Spontaneous Emotions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kevin S. LaBar, Ph.D. Professor and Head, Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience Program Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neuroscience Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Duke University Durham, NC

Dr. Kevin LaBar

Kevin S. LaBar, Ph.D.
Professor and Head, Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience Program
Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neuroscience
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Duke University
Durham, NC

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Emotion research is limited by a lack of objective markers of emotional states. Most human research relies on self-report, but individuals may not have good insight into their own emotions. We have developed a new way to identify emotional states using brain imaging and machine learning tools. First, we induced emotional states using film and music clips while individuals were in an MRI scanner. We trained a computer algorithm to identify the brain areas that distinguished 7 emotions from each other (fear, anger, surprise, sadness, amusement, contentment, and a neutral state). This procedure created a brain map for each of the 7 emotions. Then, a new group of participants self-reported their emotional state every 30 seconds in an MRI scanner while no stimuli were presented. We could predict which emotion was spontaneously reported by the subjects by comparing their brain scans to each of the 7 emotion maps. Finally, in a large group of 499 subjects, we found that the presence of the fear map during rest predicted state and trait anxiety while the presence of the sadness map predicted state and trait depression.

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Some Personality Traits Revealed In How You Walk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Mr Liam Satchell Research Associate Department of Psychology University of Portsmouth, UK

Mr. Liam Satchell

Mr Liam Satchell
Research Associate
Department of Psychology
University of Portsmouth, UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Most people in general are really interested in trying to understand “body language”, how a person behaves may give clues to their psychology. However, psychology has rarely engaged in an empirical investigation of what information about personality may be available in largely automatic movements, such as walking. We brought together techniques from psychology research and sports and exercise science to investigate what features of personality may be available in gait.

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Genetic Counselling Did Not Increase Anxiety in Breast and Ovarian Cancer Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Mag. Dr. Anne Oberguggenberger PhD
Medizinische Universität Innsbruck
Department für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Psychosomatik
Innsbruck Austria

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Genetic counseling and testing is increasingly integrated in routine clinical care for breast- and ovarian cancer (BOC). Knowledge on follow-up psychosocial outcomes in all different groups of counselees is essential in order to improve follow-up care and counselees’ quality of life.

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Altruistic Men May Get More Sex

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Steven Arnocky, PhD Associate Professor Department of Psychology Nipissing University North Bay, ON CAN

Dr. Steven Arnocky

Steven Arnocky, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
Nipissing University
North Bay, ON CAN 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our work was based on previous findings from hunter-gatherer populations showing that men who hunt and share meat often enjoy greater reproductive access to women.  Research in North America has shown that individuals prefer altruistic partners, especially for long-term mating, and that there may be a sex difference in these preferences such that women exhibit this preference more strongly than men. In line with this, some research has shown that men will sometimes compete with other men in order to make charitable donations to attractive female fundraisers (termed ‘competitive altruism’). Taken together, these findings led us to hypothesise that individuals (and perhaps particularly men) who behave altruistically might experience greater mating success.

In Study 1, undergraduate men and women completed a self-report altruism questionnaire (items such as “I have donated blood”), a personality measure, and a sexual history survey. We found that participants who scored higher on a self-report altruism measure reported they were more desirable to the opposite sex, as well as reported having more sex partners, more casual sex partners, and having sex more often within relationships. Moreover, altruism mattered more for men’s number of lifetime and casual sex partners relative to women’s.

Given the possibility that in any survey research, there is a chance individual’s may report their altruism of sexual history in what they view to be a more positive light (who doesn’t want to think of themselves as altruistic!), in Study 2, we used a behavioral measure of altruism (each participant was entered onto a draw for $100, and at the end of the survey was given the choice to keep their winnings or to donate to a charity). Participants again reported on their sexual histories, as well as completed a personality measure, a scale to capture socially-desirable responding, and a measure of narcissism. Results showed that even when controlling for these potentially confounding variables, that altruists reported having more lifetime sex partners, more casual sex partners, and more sex partners over the past year. Men who were willing to donate also reported having more lifetime dating partners.

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Witnesses More Likely to Confuse Innocent and Guilty Suspects When One Member of Lineup Has Distinctive Feature

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Melissa F. Colloff PhD student and
Kimberley A. Wade PhD,
Department of Psychology
University of Warwick

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Eyewitnesses of crimes often have to attempt to make identification decisions as to whether the police suspect is, or is not, the real culprit of the crime. In an identification parade (UK), or a lineup (US), the suspect is presented alongside similar-looking people (who are known to be innocent) and the witness has to identify the real culprit if he or she is there, or state that the real culprit is not present.

Eyewitness identification decisions can be very influential in how a case progresses through the criminal justice system. An incorrect identification can result in a guilty person going free, or an innocent person being charged of a crime they did not commit. So generally speaking, our research investigates which identification procedures enhance a person’s ability to identify a guilty suspect.

In our study, we wanted to find out how the police should accommodate suspects with distinctive facial features (e.g., tattoos, scars, piercings, bruising) in lineups. If the police suspect stands out in a lineup because he has a distinctive feature, this is not a good test of the witness’s memory. The witness might pick the suspect simply because it is obvious that he is the focus of the police investigation. Alternatively, the witness might pick the suspect just because he is the best match—but not necessarily an exact match—to their memory of the culprit, compared to the other lineup members. Basically, if a distinctive suspect stands out, a witness is likely to pick the distinctive suspect, even if he is not the real culprit. Estimates suggest that over one third of all police suspects have distinctive facial features. But police guidelines on how to accommodate distinctive suspects in lineups are not currently guided by research—in fact, there are thousands of studies on lineups, but only a handful that explore lineups for distinctive suspects.

In our study, we examined three techniques currently used by the police to prevent distinctive suspects from standing out and compared these techniques to doing nothing to prevent the distinctive suspect from standing out. Let’s say the suspect has a black eye. One thing the police might do is digitally add a black eye to all of the other faces in the lineup (i.e., “replication”). Or, they might cover up the suspect’s black eye and cover up a similar area on the faces of the other lineup members. In practice, the police can cover up the feature by either overlaying the area of the feature with a black block (i.e., “block”), or by pixelating the area of the feature (i.e., “pixelation”). In our study, we compared replication, pixelation and block lineup techniques against lineups in which nothing was done to prevent a distinctive suspect from standing out—that is, lineups in which the suspect was the only person with a black eye.

Replication

Replication

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“Bad Genes” plus “Bad Environment” Lead To Brain Abnormalities in Youth With Conduct Disorders

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Dr. Luca Passamonti

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Luca Passamonti MD
Department of Clinical Neurosciences
University of Cambridge

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Passamonti: We wanted to study if the brain of young people with two different forms of conduct disorder (CD) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conduct_disorder), a neuropsychiatric disease associated with severe and persistent antisocial behaviors (weapon use, aggression, fire-setting, stealing, fraudulent behavior), was different from that of young peers with no such abnormal behaviors.

There is already evidence that conduct disorder may have a biological basis (i.e., reduced levels of cortisol under stress) and brain alterations but a whole “map” of the brain in conduct disorder studying cortical thickness was never been done before.

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Anger and Stonewalling Lead To Different Medical Vulnerabilities

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Robert W. Levenson, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Psychology Director, Institute of Personality and Social Research (IPSR) University of California Berkeley, CA

Dr. Robert Levenson

Robert W. Levenson, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
Director, Institute of Personality
and Social Research (IPSR)
University of California
Berkeley, CA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Levenson: This study comes from a 20-year longitudinal study of Bay Area married couples that we began in the late 1980s. The main purpose of the study was to understand the emotional qualities of successful marriages. Couples came to our laboratory every five years so that we could get a snapshot of the way they interacted with each. We also measured their psychological and physical health. This new paper connects the emotional behaviors we observed when couples discussed a problem in their marriage at the start of the study with the kinds of illnesses they developed over the ensuing decades.
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Taking Acetaminophen Reduces Empathy For Others

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dominik Mischkowski, co-author of the study Former Ph.D. student at Ohio State Now at the National Institutes of Health

Dr. Dominik Mischkowski

Dominik Mischkowski, co-author of the study
Former Ph.D. student at Ohio State
Now at the National Institutes of Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Mischkowski: We tested in two double blind experiments whether the popular physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for the pain of other people. In the first experiment (N=80), participants completed measures of empathy (i.e., perceived pain and personal distress) while reading hypothetical about the physical and social mishaps of other people. We found that acetaminophen reduced empathy for pain in these scenarios. In Study 2 (N=114), we replicated and extending these findings, showing that acetaminophen also decreased empathy (i.e., perceived pain, personal distress, and empathic concern) for another study participant experiencing ostracism or painful noise blasts. Furthermore, noise unpleasantness accounted for the effect of acetaminophen on empathy for noise pain.

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Does the Brain Generate or Passively Transmit Thoughts?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ezequiel Morsella, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Neuroscience Department of Psychology San Francisco State University Assistant Adjunct Professor Department of Neurology University of California, San Francisco Boardmember, Scientific Advisory Board Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO), Buenos Aires

Dr. Ezequiel Morsella

Ezequiel Morsella, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Neuroscience
Department of Psychology
San Francisco State University
Assistant Adjunct Professor
Department of Neurology
University of California, San Francisco
Boardmember, Scientific Advisory Board
Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO),
Buenos Aires

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Morsella: The study is based on Passive Frame Theory, which I discuss below in brief, and on ironic processing, in which one is more likely to think about something (e.g., white bears) when instructed to not think about that thing.  Based on this research, the Reflexive Imagery Task (RIT) reveals that, following the activation of certain “action sets” (i.e., dispositions to act one way or another), conscious thoughts can arise involuntarily and systematically when one is presented with certain stimuli.  In the most basic version of the RIT, subjects are presented with visual objects and instructed to not think of the names of the objects, which is challenging.  In the new study, we show that the effect arises not only for automatic processes (e.g., forms of cued-memory retrieval) but also for processes involving more, in a sense, moving parts (e.g., symbol manipulation, in which symbols are mentally manipulated).  In the study, subjects were first trained to perform a word-manipulation task similar to the game of Pig Latin (e.g., “CAR” becomes “AR-CAY”). This task involves complex symbol manipulations.  After training, though participants were instructed to no longer transform stimulus words in this way, the RIT effect still arose on roughly 40% of the trials.

The present experiment provides additional evidence for Passive Frame Theory, a new, comprehensive and internally coherent framework that illuminates the role of conscious processing in the brain. Click here for more information about Passive Frame Theory: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/consciousness-and-the-brain/201604/passive-frame-theory-new-synthesis

Although consciousness is not “epiphenomenal” (meaning that it serves no function) or omnipresent (e.g., as in panpsychism, which states that consciousness is a property of all matter), in Passive Frame Theory, the role of consciousness is much more passive and less teleological (i.e., less purposeful) than that of other theoretical accounts. The framework reveals that consciousness has few moving parts and no memory, no reasoning, or symbol manipulation, which is relevant to the present study. Consciousness does the same thing, over and over, for various processes, making it seem that it does more than it does.  Hence, consciousness, over time, seems to be more flexible than it actually is.

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Screening For Colorectal Cancer Not Linked To Psychological Harm

Benedicte Kirkøen, PhD candidate Bowel Cancer Screening in Norway – a pilot study Cancer Registry of Norway (Kreftregisteret)

Benedicte Kirkøen

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Benedicte Kirkøen, PhD candidate
Bowel Cancer Screening in Norway – a pilot study
Cancer Registry of Norway (Kreftregisteret)

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Randomised controlled trials have demonstrated that screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) can reduce CRC related mortality, but the total benefit and harm of national cancer screening programmes are under debate. Saving relatively few lives requires a large number of people to be screened. Most people who attend screening will never develop cancer, but may be exposed to potential psychological stress by participation. Cancer is one of the largest threats to peoples’ health, and participating in screening for cancer might therefore cause anxiety.

In Norway, colorectal cancer incidence has nearly tripled since the 1950s, and currently a large randomised pilot study of a national screening programme (Bowel Cancer Screening in Norway) is investigating the effect of screening on reduction in CRC incidence and mortality. As part of an evaluation of the benefits and harms of the pilot, we investigated the psychological effect of screening participation in a large group of participants. Of particular interest to us were participants who received a positive screening result and were referred to colonoscopy.

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Internet Delivered Cognitive Behavior Therapy Helps Some With Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Dr. Jesper Enander Department of Clinical Neuroscience Karolinska Institutet

Dr. Jesper Enander

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Jesper Enander
Department of Clinical Neuroscience
Karolinska Institutet

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Enander: Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a common anxiety disorder affecting about 2% of the general population, and is associated with hospitalization, substance dependence and suicidality. The disorder is characterized by a intense preoccupation with perceived defects in physical appearance, despite looking perfectly normal. It is common for people with BDD to seek non-psychiatric care, such as dermatological treatment or plastic surgery, however, such treatments rarely work, and can even lead to a deterioration of symptoms.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK recommends that patients with Body dysmorphic disorder should be offered cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), however, there is a gap between supply and demand of CBT. One way of increasing access to CBT is to deliver it using the Internet. In this randomized clinical trial we tested the efficacy of a Internet based CBT program for Body dysmorphic disorder called BDD-NET and compared it to supportive therapy.

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings?

Dr. Enander: Our study shows that BDD-NET was associated with large and significant improvements in  Body dysmorphic disorder symptom severity. 56% of those receiving BDD-NET were responders (defined as at least a 30% reduction in symptoms), compared to 13% of those receiving supportive therapy. At the six months follow-up, 39% of those who received BDD-NET no longer met diagnostic criteria for Body dysmorphic disorder. No serious adverse events were reported, and most participants were satisfied with BDD-NET, despite no face-to-face contact with a therapist, and deemed the treatment as highly acceptable.

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