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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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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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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“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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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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Age-Related Decrease in Dopamine Linked To Older People Taking Fewer Risks

Dr Robb Rutledge UCL Institute of Neurology and Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research University College London

Dr Robb Rutledge

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Robb Rutledge
UCL Institute of Neurology and
Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research
University College London

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

Dr. Rutledge: As we get older, dopamine levels in the brain gradually decline.

Dopamine has long been associated with risk taking and we have
recently found that it is related specifically to how willing people
are to take risks for potential rewards. It is widely believed that
older people are risk averse, but this is controversial, and it is
unknown whether age-related changes in dopamine are responsible for
changes in risk taking. In this study, we tested over 25,000 people
using a smartphone app called The Great Brain Experiment where players
tried to win as many points as they could by choosing between safe and
risky options. We found that older people were less willing to takes
risks for potential rewards than young people, the same situations
dopamine is known to be involved in.

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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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Negative Comments From Mothers Influence Asian Girls’ Body Image

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Samuel Chng
PhD Researcher in Psychology Applied to Health
University of Exeter Medical School
St Luke’s campus
Exeter, EX1 2LU, United Kingdom

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The study was conceptualised from the curious question from my childhood, “How did my parents influence my behaviours?” Together with my co-author, Dr. Daniel Fassnacht, we decided to explore how a specific form of parental influence, their comments, would influence the development of disordered eating symptoms. From studies conducted with Western samples that parental comments play a role in the development of eating disorder symptoms, and body dissatisfaction is one of the more studied mediator of this relationship. However, we could not find any study that investigated the influential nature of parent comments in Asia. So, we decided to focus our study on Asian parents and their children.

Singapore, a developed Asian country that continues to have strong familial roots, provided an ideal population for our study, and we would expect, the relationships we found indicated some potential differences in amongst Asian families.

We found that young women, compared to young men, in Singapore generally reported higher levels of parental comments (about their weight, body shape and eating habit), body dissatisfaction and disordered eating symptoms. However what we found for both young women and men was that negative comments from mothers (for example, ‘You need to lose weight’) was the only category of comments that predicted disordered eating and this was mediated by the presence of body dissatisfaction. Positive comments from parents, though suggested from past studies to be a protective factor, did not influence body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.

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Being Unhappy Doesn’t Shorten Your Life

Dr Bette Liu MD PhD University of New South Wales Sydney, NSW

Dr. Bette Liu

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Bette Liu MD PhD
University of New South Wales
Sydney, NSW

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Liu: There is a generally held belief that being happier makes you live longer. We wanted to look at this question. We examined over 700,000 women enrolled in the UK Million Women Study. We found that being in poor health was associated with being unhappy but after accounting for an individuals poor health, unhappiness in itself was not associated with an increased risk of death. This finding was true for overall deaths, for deaths from heart disease and from cancer and it was true for stress as well as for unhappiness. 

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Practitioners of BDSM Found To Be Psychologically Healthy

Tess M. Gemberling, M.A. Social Psychology Ph.D. Student Co-Principal Investigator University of Alabama

Ms. Gemberling

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Tess M. Gemberling, M.A.
Social Psychology Ph.D. Student
Co-Principal Investigator
University of Alabama

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Response: Many stereotypes of BDSM (bondage and discipline [B&D], dominance and submission [D/s], sadomasochism [SM],) exist; however, research with practitioners suggests these stereotypes are largely unfounded. Preliminary evidence implies BDSM practitioners are psychologically healthy individuals. This study was conducted to further evaluate these results.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Response: Along with other findings, the majority of results indicates practitioners are well functioning. Overall, participants are healthy in the mental, emotional, and interpersonal aspects of their lives. In addition, practitioners are often victims of violence but are not perpetrators of violence.

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Believing In Yourself Important For Weight Loss Maintenance

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Linda J Ewing PhD RN
Department of Psychiatry and
Lora E Burke PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
Department of Health and Community Systems
University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This study was the product both of work done in Dr. Burke’s lab as well as cumulative findings of other investigators demonstrating that improved self-efficacy is related to positive changes in health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, increased Intake of healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables).  Given that, we designed a behavioral weight loss study that included an intentional focus on enhancing participant self-efficacy for healthy behaviors related to weight loss maintenance.  No previous study had self-efficacy enhancement as a focus of intervention with the long-term goal of increasing weight loss maintenance.  Thus our study focused on mastery performance of weight loss related behaviors.  Findings supported our hypothesis; participants in both arms of the study (standard behavioral weight loss (SBT) and SBT with self-efficacy enhancement (SBT+SE) achieved clinically significant weight loss.  Participants in the SBT+SE group had greater weight loss maintenance while those in the SBT group had clinically significant weight regain.
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Sharing Laughter May Be Key To A Long-Lasting Relationship

Jeffrey A. Hall PhD Associate professor of communication studies University of KansasMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jeffrey A. Hall PhD

Associate professor of communication studies
University of Kansas

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Hall: Men might want to ditch the pickup lines and polish their punchlines in their quest to attract women, new research at the University of Kansas suggests.

Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor of communication studies, found that when two strangers meet, the more times a man tries to be funny and the more a woman laughs at those attempts, the more likely it is for the woman to be interested in dating. However an even better indicator of romantic connection is if the two are spotted laughing together.

Those findings were among the discoveries Hall made in his search for a link between humor and intelligence. For the past decade, research has debated whether women appreciate men’s humor, which is often cited as one of the most valued traits in a partner, because it allows them to suss out the smarts of potential mates. But Hall said finding someone who appreciates your sense of humor is valuable in its own right.

“The idea that humor is a signal of intelligence doesn’t give humor its due credit,” Hall said. “If you meet someone who you can laugh with, it might mean your future relationship is going to be fun and filled with good cheer.”

In the first study, 35 participants studied the Facebook profile pages of a 100 strangers to gauge their personalities. Their evaluations were compared to a survey completed by the Facebook users. Hall found humorous people were much more likely to be extroverted than intelligent, and were seen by strangers that way too. The data also suggested that men and women posted similar amounts of humorous content to their pages.

In the second study, nearly 300 students filled out a survey on humor in courtship. Looking at GPA and ACT scores, the study found that there was no connection between how smart the person was and how funny he or she claimed to be.  But it did find a relationship with humor and extroversion. The study also didn’t find a difference in how men and women comprehended or appreciated humor.

To find out how humor used by men and appreciated by women played a role in romantic attraction, the final study brought together 51 pairs of single, heterosexual college students who didn’t know each other. The pairs sat alone in a room and talked for about 10 minutes. Afterward they filled out a survey.

The results didn’t indicate that one sex tried to be funnier than the other. However, it did suggest the more times a man tried to be funny and the more times a woman laughed at his jokes, the more likely she was romantically interested. The reverse was not true for women who attempted humor.

It also showed that when the pair laughed together, they were more interested in each other.

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Gene Variant May Explain Why Some Children Respond More Aggressively To Stress

Beate W. Hygen PhD Student Department of Psychology Norwegian University of Science and Technology Social ScienceMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Beate W. Hygen PhD Student
Department of Psychology
Norwegian University of Science and Technology Social Science

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Response: The study is part of the Trondheim Early Secure Study (TESS) conducted at the  Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and NTNU Social Science. The main aim of TESS is to detect risk and protective factors with regards to children’s mental health and well-being.  TESS examines multiple factors which may play a role in children`s development.

There is substantial research, based on diathesis-stress theorizing, indicating that some individuals, including children, are more susceptible to the negative effects of contextual adversity than are others. However, according to differential susceptibility theory, such “vulnerable” individuals may also be the ones that benefit the most from positive environmental conditions. Thus, some individuals are more malleable for “better and for worse” to environmental exposures. The article Child exposure to serious life events, COMT, and aggression: Testing differential susceptibility theory was designed to examine if the COMT polymorphism moderated the effect of early-life adversity on aggressive behavior. Thus, we sought to competitively evaluate which model of person X environment interaction best accounted for the anticipated differential effects of life event stress on children’s aggressive behavior.

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Borderline Personality Linked To Lack of Activity In Empathy Areas of Brain

Brian W. Haas, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Psychology University of Georgia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Brian W. Haas, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Georgia

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Haas: We used a new way to study Borderline Personality Disorder.  We studied the traits associated with this condition in healthy people not diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  We found that people that possess more Borderline Personality traits exhibit reduced brain activity in parts of the brain important for empathy.

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In a Group, Who’s Perceived To Be Dominant? Tall, Mid-Thirty and Male

Carlota Batres PhD Candidate at the Perception Lab School of Psychology and Neuroscience University of St Andrews

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Carlota Batres
PhD Candidate at the Perception Lab
School of Psychology and Neuroscience
University of St Andrews

 


Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:  Dominance in men is associated with a variety of social outcomes, ranging from high rank attainment of cadets in the military to high levels of sexual activity in teenage boys. Dominant men are also favored as leaders during times of intergroup conflict and are more successful leaders in the business world. Therefore, we wanted to investigate what exactly it is that makes a face look dominant.

Our main finding was that maximum dominance was achieved by increasing perceived height and masculinity while maintaining a man’s age at around 35 years.

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Perfectionism Leads To Faster Burnout

Andrew P. Hill, Ph.D, CPsychol, FBASES, FHEA Associate Professor and Head of Taught Postgraduate Programmes Faculty of Health and Life Sciences York St John University York UKMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Andrew P. Hill, Ph.D, CPsychol, FBASES, FHEA
Associate Professor and Head of Taught Postgraduate Programmes
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
York St John University
York UK

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Hill: Our research examines the effects of perfectionism in a wide range of contexts and for a number of outcomes. We are particularly interested in the perfectionism-burnout relationship. Perfectionism is a characteristic that is more common than you might think, everyone seems to know someone who is a perfectionist. Burnout is the result of stress and, anecdotally, people seem to be finding modern life more stressful.

The main finding was that perfectionistic concerns, a core feature of perfectionism that reflects doubts and fears relating to the consequences of failure, was positively related to burnout in the workplace, sport, and education. This relationship was stronger in the workplace.

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Men and Women Have Different Preferences in Mates

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Daniel Conroy-Beam

Department of Psychology
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The main finding is that sex differences in mate preferences are much larger than we previously appreciated. So large, in fact, that if we knew nothing about a person but what they desired in a mate, we could predict their sex with 92.2% accuracy.

Previous research has emphasized sex differences on individual preferences: how physically attractive should my mate be? How old should they be? How kind should they be? But we don’t pick our mates based on individual preferences; we use all of our preferences together. It’s not as though we want one partner who is attractive, and another who is intelligent, and another who is kind. We want one partner who is all of those things at once. We looking for partners with patterns of features. It turns out the patterns men and women are looking for are strikingly different. In fact, the patterns men are looking for barely overlap with the patterns women are looking for. Continue reading

Poor Sleep Quality Increases Mood Disturbances

Jaime L. Tartar PhD Behavioral Neuroscience Major Chair Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FloridaMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jaime L. Tartar PhD
Behavioral Neuroscience Major Chair
Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Tartar: We set out to understand how poor sleep quality can influence emotion processing. Our rationale for this study was that although sleep perturbations are known to impair cognitive performance, it is not currently clear how poor sleep alters emotion processes. However, given that poor sleep quality is closely associated with the development of mood disorders, it is important to understand how sleep quality affects emotional functioning. We specifically examined the possibility that poor sleep quality creates a cognitive bias in memory and interpretation for emotionally negative stimuli. This would result in maladaptive emotional experiences- for example, through enhanced memory for emotionally negative events (which is also a common characteristic of depression). The idea that negative cognitive bias occurs with poor sleep quality is also consistent with the finding that sleep loss increases sensitivity to emotional stimuli as well as increases undesirable mood states like irritability, anger, and hostility.  It is particularly noteworthy that sleep perturbations result in increased emotionality since sleep perturbations are shown to result in a decrease in non-emotional cognitive processes (attention and memory).  In order to clarify the role of sleep quality on emotion processing, we tested the relationship between sleep quality and a negative cognitive bias through the use of an emotional memory task.  We also aimed to contrast these findings with performance on a non-emotional attention task since sleep impairments have previously been shown to cause impairments in (non-emotional) sustained attention. An interesting feature of the study was that we also accounted for potential confounding effects of stress sensitivity and chronotype (ones preferred time of day) since these are both factors known to be related to sleep quality. We found that, compared to those who reported good subjective sleep quality, participants who reported poor subjective sleep quality showed a negative cognitive bias towards emotionally negative stimuli. Also in agreement with previous work, we show that poor sleep quality has a negative effect on affective symptom measures- poor sleep quality relates to increased depressive symptoms, greater state and trait anxiety, and higher total mood disturbance (increased tension, fatigue, confusion and less vigor). Consistent with previous findings, we also found that subjective sleep quality was related to a decrease in performance on a sustained attention task. Although previous research suggests that stress sensitivity and chronotype would be important variables to consider in the impact of sleep perturbations on emotion processing, we did not find any stress, chronotype, or time of testing effects on these measures.

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Service To Others May Help Addicted Adolescents Overcome Fear Of Social Humiliation

Maria Pagano, PhD Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child Psychiatry Cleveland, OHMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Maria Pagano, PhD
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child Psychiatry
Cleveland, OH

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Pagano: Socially anxious adolescents quickly figure out that alcohol and drugs can provide ease and comfort in social situations that are anxiety provoking.  Reaching for a substance to change how you feel can quickly become a knee-jerk reaction, can develop into an addiction, and robs youths of learning how to tolerate interpersonal differences and uncomfortable feelings, developing emotional maturity, and cultivating self acceptance.

Adolescents who fear being criticized by their peers are likely to not speak up in group therapies during treatment, which can limit their benefit from treatment.  There is a lot of healing that comes sharing your insides with others. Socially anxious patients may not get this healing nor let others really get to know who they are and give input to their lives

Higher peer helping in AA during treatment means getting active in low intensity tasks like putting away chairs, or making coffee at a 12-step meeting.  It is less about needing peer assistance or expecting praise or recognition from giving service.  It is more about adopting the attitude of “how can I be helpful?”

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Why Is It So Hard To Reach Our Behavior Goals?

Margaret C. Campbell, Phd | Professor | Marketing Chair, Doctoral Curriculum Program Committee 437 Leeds School of Business University of Colorado at Boulder Boulder, CO 80309-0419MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Margaret C. Campbell, Phd | Professor | Marketing

Chair, Doctoral Curriculum Program Committee
437 Leeds School of Business
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0419
 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Campbell: People try to maintain healthy body weights, attain academic and career success, save money for a car, a house, or retirement, and achieve a host of other goals that require repeated, goal-consistent behaviors. Unfortunately, consumers’ efforts often fall short. For example, 68% of Americans are overweight (Weight Control Information Network 2010), 46% who begin college do not graduate within six years (Associated Press 2006), and although 93% say that saving for retirement is important, only about 60% are actually saving (TIAA-CREF 2010) and approximately 50% have accumulated less than $25,000 (Helman, VanDehrei and Copeland 2007). Understanding goal pursuit and consumers’ choices to continue effort toward a goal that requires repeated goal-consistent behaviors is thus important. People need to be able to make progress on important goals that substantially impact their quality of life.

Monitoring the influence of behavior on distance from a focal goal has been identified as important for successful goal pursuit – such as weight loss. In seven experiments, we find that people tend to have a “progress bias” such that they perceive that goal-consistent behaviors (such as avoiding eating a piece of cake) help progress more than equivalent-sized goal-inconsistent behaviors (such as eating a piece of cake) hurt progress. An experiment on exercise and eating shows that the progress bias can lead to poor understanding of progress and thus, premature release of the goal. In this study, the progress bias resulted in people with a goal of expending more calories than they consumed ended up consuming more than they expended.

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Study Shows Men and Women Face Illness Differently

photo_Vasileios ZikosMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Vasileios Zikos
Assistant Professor
Research Institute for Policy Evaluation and Design (RIPED) and School of Economics
University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC)
Bangkok, Thailand

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Zikos: Economic studies that look at subjective well-being typically focus on how and why life circumstances affect an individual’s life satisfaction. While such studies provide valuable insights on the average effects of life changes, they often find substantial variability in the way individuals react to life events. In this study we take a step toward identifying sources of individual heterogeneity by focusing on the link between physical or mental illnesses and health satisfaction and asking whether gender and personality can explain how people cope with becoming ill.

Earlier studies in psychology suggest that personality traits might be relevant to health and health-related behaviors. This allows us to hypothesize what could be the specific role of personality traits when people confront being ill. Our study is based on data collected in the British Household Panel Survey, a national longitudinal data set from the United Kingdom. The survey asked people about their happiness and satisfaction with aspects of their life. It also asked about their physical and mental health and about their personalities, among other things. Our study separates people into three groups: with physical illness only, with mental illness only and with both physical and mental types of illness. Because earlier studies found evidence of personality differences between genders, we conduct our analysis separately for men and women.

We found that illness implies a strong negative effect on the individual’s health satisfaction. Men are less affected by a single-symptom illness than women, but are more affected when more than one symptom is present. The number of symptoms doesn’t change how women are affected. Moreover, women with one of two distinct personality types are less affected by mental illness than all other personality types. The first personality type, high levels of agreeableness, experience high quality relationships in their lives. The second type, women with low levels of conscientiousness, have little need for achievement, order or persistence. For men, however, we did not find statistical evidence that personality affects how they cope with illness.

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