Author Interviews, Lifestyle & Health, Mental Health Research, Sleep Disorders / 30.05.2023 Interview with: Joanna Gorgol PhD Student University of Warsaw What is the background for this study? Response: People differ in the time when they prefer to wake up and fall asleep: some people prefer going to bed and waking up early, while others prefer later hours. Most of the population is somewhere between them. Research indicates that being a morning person is related to reporting higher satisfaction with life and conscientiousness. Studies also show the associations between being religious and having higher life satisfaction and conscientiousness. It seems that religiosity might mediate the relationship between morningness and higher life satisfaction. To better understand these associations we conducted two questionnaire-based studies of Polish adults, one with 500 participants and the other with 728 participants. All participants completed questionnaires measuring their chronotype, satisfaction with life, personality traits, and religiosity (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research / 22.06.2021 Interview with: Lina Begdache, PhD, RDN, CDN, CNS-S, FAND Assistant Professor Health and Wellness Studies Department GW 15 Decker School of Nursing Binghamton University What is the background for this study? Response: My research focuses on understanding the link between the modifiable risk factors (such as diet, sleep and exercise) and mental distress. In this study, adults of different age-groups (18 years and older) were followed for 4 weeks.  Participants recorded their dietary intake, sleep quality, exercise frequency, their physical and mental wellbeing on a daily basis. Another research interest of mine is to assess these factors in relation to sex (different brain morphology) and age-groups (based on brain maturity). The rationale of this categorization is that brain morphology and brain development vs maintenance and repair may require a different repertoire of food and environmental factors. Therefore, we also studied the sex and age-groups effect. We also added the season factor as one of our previously published studies showed a link between season and mental distress. Data were collected for 2 years during the summer and fall seasons. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 19.04.2021 Interview with: Daniel J. Kruger Ph.D. Research Investigator, Population Studies Center University of Michigan What is the background for this study? Response: Thorstein Veblen coined the terms “conspicuous consumption” and “conspicuous leisure” to describe the wasteful habits of the upper classes in amassing and displaying expensive goods that did not have inherent practical benefits and devoting time to pursuits such as sports and fine arts. The purpose of these socially conspicuous displays and behaviors was to advertise one’s membership in the upper, leisure class, as only the very wealthy could afford them. Veblen was inspired in part by Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution. Darwin himself was greatly puzzled by what he considered wasteful investments of energy in elaborate physiological displays. He saw these features as the greatest threat to his theory of natural selection. Why would something like the peacock’s tail feathers evolve, as they actually threatened survival because of their impediment to foraging and avoiding predators? Darwin was so troubled by this dilemma that the sight of a peacock’s tail feather would make him feel sick. Darwin later realized that these features provided a reproductive advantage, leading to his theory of sexual selection, including the processes of inter-sexual selection and intra-sexual competition.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 15.04.2021 Interview with: Michael J. Poulin, PhD, PhD Associate Professor of Psychology College of Arts and Sciences University of Buffalo What is the background for this study? Response: A great deal of research suggests that practicing mindfulness--full attention to and acceptance of one's experiences--can be good for individuals. Mindfulness seems to reduce stress and has other psychological benefits. But what about its effects on others? Does mindfulness make people more generous and helpful, or does it make them more selfish? (more…)
Education, Mental Health Research / 23.02.2021

Perhaps you are considering a career change or want to take the next steps in your counseling career journey. A masters in mental health counseling online could be the perfect way to help you achieve these goals. Becoming a mental health counselor is a very rewarding yet demanding job, and you will need many different skills, both technical and personal, in order to succeed. If you love working with and helping people, becoming a mental health counselor may be the perfect career choice for you. Here are a couple of basics about studying online for a masters in mental health counseling. What is a masters in mental health counseling online degree? Undertaking a masters in mental health counseling online can help you on your journey to becoming a fully licensed mental health counselor. It is a masters degree that is taught through a mixture of in-person fieldwork and online course work. A masters in mental health counseling online prepares you for the various licensing exams you will need to take in order to progress into the next stage of your career. The majority of positions and jobs within mental health counseling require a masters as a minimum, so a masters in mental health counseling online is a great first step in pursuing this career path. (more…)
Author Interviews, Global Health, Mental Health Research, Pain Research, Psychological Science / 07.09.2019 Interview with: Dimitris Xygalatas, PhD Assistant Professor, Anthropology (Affiliate) Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) UCONN What is the background for this study? Response: Ever since I was a graduate student, I have been intrigued by the performance of ritual practices that involve pain, bodily harm, and other forms of suffering. These rituals carry obvious risks, including health risks, but despite these risks they are performed voluntarily by millions of people around the world. And even more intriguing is the fact that in various contexts such rituals are often culturally prescribed remedies for a variety of maladies. When I was doing my doctoral fieldwork, I studied the fire-walking rituals of the Anastenaria in Northern Greece, and I heard several people describing their experience of participation as one that involved both suffering and healing. And of course I am not the first anthropologist to document this link. But these observations seemed puzzling to me. Some years later, I met one of the co-authors of this paper, Sammyh Khan, who was asking very similar questions. We got a grant to design this study, and put together a team of researchers that spent two months in the field collecting data for this project. We studied the Hindu kavadi ritual, which involves piercing the body with numerous needles, hooks, and skewers, and various other forms of suffering. Our study took place in the island of Mauritius, where I have been conducting research over the last decade, but this ceremony is performed by millions of Hindus around the world. We used portable health monitors as well as interviews and survey instruments to document the effects of this ritual of psycho-physiological health and wellbeing.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 27.07.2019 Interview with: Robin Kowalski, Ph.D. Centennial Professor, Clemson University Department of Psychology Clemson University Clemson, SC 29634 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: These two studies stemmed from an idea that I had been mulling over for a couple of years. We are so quick to offer advice to others and to seek advice from others, but what about the advice we would offer to ourselves, particularly our younger selves. As it turns out, we have plenty of advice to offer to our younger selves. There wasn’t a single participant in our research who found it impossible to generate advice for their younger self and a third of participants spontaneously think about this advice at least once a week. Although the advice that people offered their younger self fell into a number of different categories, the three most common were relationships (e.g., don’t let her go), education (e.g., finish school), and the self (e.g., you are worthy). Following the advice was important. Approximately two-thirds of respondents said they followed the advice they offered their younger self. Those who did thought their younger self would view them most positively now than those who did not follow the advice. People also said following the advice brought them closer to their ideal selves (the person they ideally wanted to be). The advice that people offered was more often than not tied to a pivotal event that had occurred in their life. Some of these pivotal events were negative and some were positive. Not surprisingly, regret was more often tied to negative than positive pivotal events, and this regret was just as often tied to actions (things people had done) as inactions (things they had not done). (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 16.06.2019 Interview with: Zachary Witkower University of British Columbia PhD Student What is the background for this study? Response: When we form judgments about other people –what their personality is like, or how they are feeling at the moment– we tend to focus our attention towards their face. This is not surprising, as facial shape and facial expressions contain all kinds of information that can be used to inform judgments. However, faces are almost never viewed in isolation. Instead, faces are almost always viewed as they rest upon the face’s physical foundation: the head. Yet little is known about how head position might influence judgments about personality or social status, or – importantly – how head position might change the way faces are perceived. In the present research, we examined how and why head position might influence social judgments made from the face.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Technology / 12.06.2019 Interview with: Brittany I. Davidson MA Doctoral Researcher in Information Systems University of Bath What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Typically, research interested in the impact of technology, or more specifically, smartphones on people and society, use surveys to measure people’s usage. Almost always, these studies claim potential harms from using smartphones, like depression, anxiety, or poorer sleep. However, these studies simply ask people about  their behaviour rather than actually measuring it. In our study, we took 10 widely used surveys to  measure screen time, which typically asks how often people use their smartphone or how problematic their usage is. We compared this to people’s objective smartphone usage from Apple Screen time (e.g., minutes spend on iPhone, number of times they picked up their phone, and the number of notifications received). We found that there is a large discrepancy between what people self-report and what they actually do with their iPhone. This is highly problematic as the sweeping statements that claim smartphones (or technology more generally) have a negative impact on mental health are not  based on solid and robust evidence at this time, which leaves much to be desired in terms of what we really know about the  impacts of technology use on people. (more…)
Author Interviews / 11.01.2019 Interview with: Gurit E. Birnbaum, Ph.D. Associate Professor Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya Herzliya, Israel What is the background for this study? Response: Sexual desire evolved to serve as a powerful motivational force that brings potential romantic partners together initially and thereby helps to facilitate sexual intercourse and pregnancy. As such, sexual acts may be devoid of affectional bonding, as in the case of one night stands. And yet, sexual desire may play a major role not only in attracting potential partners to each other, but also in encouraging the formation of an attachment between them. Nevertheless, thus far it has been unclear whether desire motivates merely reproductive acts, with attachment between partners developing independently, or whether desire directly contributes to the building of an emotional bond between newly acquainted partners. Indeed, although sexual urges and emotional attachments are not necessarily connected with each other, evolutionary and social processes may have rendered humans particularly likely to become romantically attached to partners to whom they are sexually attracted. The present research sought to provide support for the latter option. (more…)
Author Interviews, Social Issues, University of Pennsylvania / 09.11.2018 Interview with: Melissa G. Hunt, Ph.D. Diplomate - Academy of Cognitive Therapy Chair - PENDELDOT Associate Director of Clinical Training Department of Psychology University of PennsylvaniaMelissa G. Hunt, Ph.D. Diplomate - Academy of Cognitive Therapy Chair - PENDELDOT Associate Director of Clinical Training Department of Psychology University of Pennsylvania What is the background for this study? Response: Lots of prior research has established a correlation, or association, between social media use and depression.  Ours is the first study to establish an actual causal relationship between using more social media, and feeling more depressed.   (more…)
ADHD, Author Interviews, Psychological Science, University of Michigan / 11.10.2018 Interview with: Holly White, PhD Research Scientist Basic and Applied Cognition Laboratory Department of Psychology University of Michigan What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This study was inspired by my previous findings of higher originality and creative achievement among adults with ADHD, as well as my personal observations of individuals with ADHD choosing non-traditional approaches to problem solving. College students with ADHD sometimes ignore task instructions and examples, and while this may lead to errors, it may also lead to extraordinarily unique answers and solutions. I was curious as to whether this tendency of ADHD individuals to think in an unconventional and expansive manner might lead to resistance to conformity during creative tasks. In the present study, college students with ADHD were less likely to copy experimenter-provided task examples, compared to non-ADHD peers, on a product label invention task. ADHD participants were also less likely to create imaginary fruits that resembled typical Earth fruit, compared to non-ADHD participants. Students with ADHD were less likely to conform to pre-existing prototypes of fruit and therefore invented more original creations. Individuals with ADHD may be more flexible in tasks which require creating something new, and less likely to rely on examples and previous knowledge. As a result, the creative products of individuals with ADHD may be more innovative, relative to creations of non-ADHD peers.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Psychological Science / 13.06.2018 Interview with: “Divine Piano” by François Philipp is licensed under CC BY 2.0Zachary Wallmark, Ph.D Assistant Professor of Musicology Directo MuSci Lab SMU Meadows School of the Art Music Division Dallas, TX 75275 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Music making and listening is an intensely social behavior. Individual differences in trait empathy are associated with preferential engagement of social cognitive neural circuitry, including regions of the medial prefrontal cortex, cingulate, and insula, during the perception of socially relevant information. In our study, we used fMRI to explore the degree to which differences in trait empathy modulate music processing in the brain. We found that higher empathy people experience greater activation of social circuitry as well as the reward system while listening to familiar music, compared to lower empathy people.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Social Issues / 09.05.2018 Interview with: Dr. Doug Nemecek, MD MPH Co-chair National Quality Improvement Committee Senior medical director for CIGNA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We know that approximately 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental health condition, and research has noted that mental health issues are one of the most rapidly increasing causes of long-term sick leave. But when looking closer, we found that most people with mental health or chronic conditions have a similar pathology: they also suffer from loneliness. It’s clear that loneliness has a tremendous impact on health – it actually has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We decided we needed to learn more. The key takeaway from our research is that most Americans are considered lonely, as measured by a score of 43 or higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Specifically, we found that nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out, and one in four Americans rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them. We also discovered that younger adults are lonelier and claim to be in worse health than older generations. However, our survey revealed several bright spots that reinforce the social nature of humans and the importance of community. Our results showed that people who report being less lonely are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions; be in good overall physical and mental health; and have found a balance in their daily activities, including getting the right amount of sleep, socialization and work/life balance. We also hypothesized that the workplace played a role in this. It turns out that we were right – being employed and having good relationships with your co-workers is correlated with being less lonely and being more healthy.  (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Pain Research, Psychological Science / 07.05.2018 Interview with: Dr. M. Carrington Reid, MD PhD Associate Professor of Medicine Irving Sherwood Wright Associate Professor in Geriatrics Joachim Silbermann Family Clinical Scholar Geriatric Palliative Care Joan and Sanford I. Weill Department of Medicine Weill Cornell Medical College What is the background for this study?   Response: Major guidelines (American College of Physicians, Centers for Disease Control, Veterans Administration) on the management of chronic pain strongly encourage clinicians to use nonpharmacologic approaches to include psychological therapies when managing pain. While many studies have evaluated psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioral theraphy (CBT) in nonelderly populations with chronic pain, far fewer have evaluated these treatments in studies of older adults. We identified 22 randomized controlled trials that evaluated a psychological therapy for chronic pain in older adults and examined the impact of these treatments on salient outcomes to include ability to reduce pain and pain-related disability, improve patients' self efficacy to manage pain, and improve their physical health and function and their psychological health (by reducing rates of anxiety and depression). (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Psychological Science / 11.03.2018 Interview with: Dr. Alexander Fanaroff MD Duke University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Among patients with chronic angina, there are strong associations between depression and clinical outcomes, which illustrates the important interplay between psychosocial symptoms and physical symptoms in this condition. But depressive symptoms are distinct from expectations and optimism regarding recovery and returning to a one’s normal lifestyle. Patients with chronic angina may not be optimistic about their outlook for a number of reasons, including uncertainty about their prognosis or lack of medical knowledge, but for many patients with chronic angina, the outlook is actually quite good. We examined data from RIVER-PCI, a clinical trial that randomized patients with chronic angina and incomplete revascularization to ranolazine or placebo, and were followed for the primary outcome of ischemia-driven hospitalization or revascularization. Patients were asked at baseline, 1 month, 6 months, and 12 months how much they agreed with the phrase, “I am optimistic about my future and returning to a normal lifestyle.” We categorized patients by their responses at baseline – we coded “strongly agree” as very optimistic, “agree” as optimistic, “neutral” as neutral, and “disagree” and “strongly disagree” as not optimistic – and evaluated the association between baseline optimism and the primary outcome over long-term follow-up. We found that most patients were optimistic at baseline – 33% were very optimistic, 42% were optimistic, 19% were neutral, and 5% were not optimistic – and the majority remained optimistic over long-term follow-up. The most optimistic patients had a lower prevalence of prior myocardial infarction, heart failure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease and less severe angina at baseline than less optimistic patients. The rate of the ischemia-driven hospitalization or revascularization was higher in neutral (32.8%) and not optimistic (35.0%) patients compared with the most optimistic patients (24.4%). Even after adjusting for baseline comorbidities and angina frequency, the most optimistic patients had a 30% lower risk of ischemia-driven hospitalization or revascularization compared with neutral or not optimistic patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 20.01.2018 Interview with: Shira Offer PhD Associate Professor Department of Sociology and Anthropology Bar-Ilan University What is the background for this study? Response: The major goal of the University of California Social Network Study (UCNets) is to promote our understanding of people’s social lives and their implications for health and well-being. The study collected information about whom individuals are connected to and the characteristics of those connected people. The participants in the study were asked to name the people with whom they usually get together and do social activities, whom they confide in about important things in life, and who give them practical help or assistance during emergencies. They were also asked to name the people whom they find “demanding or difficult.” This question allowed us to explore the negative aspect of personal relationships. Personal relationships are complicated but most research focuses on positive ties, or on the positive side of social ties. In this study we had the opportunity to also examine their negative aspect. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Technology / 12.12.2017 Interview with: Dr Ian Stephen PhD Senior Lecturer Department of Psychology ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Perception in Action Research Centre Macquarie University, Sydney NSW, Australia What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Since the 1990s, the dominant view of attraction in the scientific community has been that it is an evolved mechanism for identifying appropriate, healthy, fertile mates. People who are attracted to appropriate, healthy, fertile people are more likely to have more, healthy offspring and therefore any genes for having these preferences will become more common. On the other hand people who are attracted to inappropriate, unhealthy, infertile people will be less likely to pass on their genes to the next generation, so genes for this attraction pattern will become less common. However, for this model to be correct, two things have to be true. First, we should be able to identify cues in the face and body that people find attractive/healthy looking. And second, these cues must be related to some aspect of actual physiological health. The first part of this is well established - cues like symmetry, skin color, body shape are all related to looking healthy and attractive. But there is much less research on the second part. The computer modeling techniques that we use allowed us to build a model based on 272 African, Asian and Caucasian face photographs that identifies three aspects of physiological health - body fat, BMI (a measure of body size) and blood pressure - by analysing facial shape. We then used the model to create an app that predicts what different faces would look like if those individuals increased or decreased their fatness, BMI or blood pressure. We gave this app to some more participants and asked them to make the faces look as healthy as possible. We found that, to make the faces look healthy, the participants reduced their fatness, BMI and (to a lesser extent) blood pressure. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 03.12.2017 Interview with: David Chester, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Psychology Virginia Commonwealth University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We wanted to understand what personality traits define people who tend to seek revenge. We observed that the defining personality characteristic of revenge-seekers is sadism, which is the tendency to enjoy the suffering of others. Put simply, the people who seek revenge are the ones most likely to enjoy it. We also found some other interesting results, namely that revenge-seekers are also prone to premeditation. They like to plan out their actions ahead of time, which settles a long-standing debate about whether revenge seekers act on impulse or plan out their vengeful acts. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 01.12.2017 Interview with: “Rugby” by Jim Ceballos is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr. Yusuke Kuroda PhD Massey University New Zealand What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Similar study, examining motivational personality among rugby players from four different countries (but all from predominantly Anglo-Saxon), was conducted in the late 1980s, and that study showed that elite rugby players, regardless of nationality, possessed serious minded and goal oriented personality. Number of studies examined athletes in different sports and showed similar results. Previously, I had a chance to examine Maori and Japanese people engaged in traditional dance from their own culture; and, the Maori people were predominantly playful and spontaneous oriented, while the Japanese people were predominantly serious minded and goal oriented. Dr Farah Palmer, one of co-authors, and I wanted to examine whether Maori All Blacks and Japanese National Team rugby players and see whether motivational personality of them were driven by being elite athletes or from cultural background. To play for the Maori All Blacks, players have to have a Maori background. The Japanese National Team, on the other hand, was consisted of Japanese and foreign born players. To examine the effect of culture, we also examined cultural identity among players. With the help from Associate Professor Makoto Nakazawa, we got to measure motivational personality and cultural identity from both teams, and results showed that the Maori All Blacks players were more playful minded spontaneous oriented, while the Japanese National Team players were serious minded and goal oriented. Cultural identity showed that the Japanese National Team players, even with foreign born players, showed a greater knowledge of the Japanese culture and higher comfort level in their own culture than the Maori All Blacks players (or their own culture). However, the Maori All Blacks players felt more positive and sustain the Maori culture. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Vanderbilt / 29.11.2017 Interview with: Alex Maier, PhD Assistant Professor of Psychology Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Science Vanderbilt University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We were interested in finding out about how the brain shifts attention from one location to another. We knew that when we attend a certain location, brain activity increases in a specific way. This increase in activity is how we perform better when we use attention. What we knew less about is what happens when attention moves between locations. To our surprise, we found that there is a brief moment in between these attentional enhancements, while attention moves from one location to another, where the brain does the complete opposite and decreases its activity. Shifting attention thus has a brief negative effect on our brain’s ability to process information about the world around us. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Pediatrics, Psychological Science, Science / 26.11.2017 Interview with: Shari Liu Dept Psychology Harvard University Cambridge, MA 02138 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Every day, we look out into the social world and see more than pixels changing across our retinas, or bodies moving in space. We see people brimming with desires, governed by their beliefs about the world and concerned about the costs of their actions and the potential rewards those actions may bring. Reasoning about these mental variables, while observing only people’s overt behaviors, is at the heart of commonsense psychology. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Technology / 23.11.2017 Interview with: “FACEBOOK(LET) Front” by FACEBOOK(LET) is licensed under CC BY 2.0Phillip Ozimek M.Sc. Department of Social Psychology Faculty of Psychology Ruhr-University Bochum UniversitätsstrBochum, Germany What is the background for this study? Response: We started reading the classic book by Erich Fromm „To have or to be“ out of personal interest. I was very much interested in studying social media, so we wondered how materialists would use facebook. After all Facebook seemed to be a perfect tool for people who love social comparisons. Furthermore, Facebook is for free – materialists love tools that do not cost money! (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 12.11.2017 Interview with: Dr. Miguel Farias, DPhil Reader in Cognitive and Biological Psychology Coventry University 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'. (more…)
Author Interviews, Education, Pediatrics, Psychological Science, Social Issues / 31.10.2017 Interview with: Angeline Lillard PhD Professor of Psychology University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 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. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, UC Davis / 19.10.2017 Interview with: Karen L. Bales PhD Professor of Psychology University of California Davis, CA 95616 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.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 19.10.2017 Interview with: Tobias Gerstenberg, PhD MIT 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. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science / 17.10.2017 Interview with: Tamara Masters, PhD Marketing Marriott School of Management Brigham Young University 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. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pharmacology, Psychological Science / 10.10.2017 Interview with: Vanda Faria PhD Department of Psychology Uppsala, Sweden 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. (more…)