Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Neurological Disorders, Psychological Science / 27.01.2017 Interview with: Dr. Roberta Riccelli Magna Graecia University Catanzaro, Italy 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. (more…)
Author Interviews, Social Issues / 15.01.2017 Interview with: PD Dr. René Proyer Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg Institut für Psychologie Abteilung Differentielle Psychologie und Psychologische Diagnostik What is the background for this study? Response: I got interested in the study of playfulness and adult playfulness in particular while I was working in the Psychology Department at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. There we worked with the so-called Values-in-Action (VIA) classification of strength and virtues (developed by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman). In this classification humor and playfulness are being used synonymously. One of my first aims was testing whether this reflects their relation or whether they should be used separately. Overall, findings suggest that there is a relationship, but that the two are not redundant and should be studied separately. From there my interest in the field grew and I started reading more and more. It soon was clear that playfulness is an understudied individual differences variable and that current conceptualizations focus primarily on the facets of playfulness that are associated with fun and entertainment, while disregarding others. My research is aimed at narrowing some gaps in the literature and developing a structural model of how adult playfulness could be understood. (more…)