“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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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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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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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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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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