Posted by & filed under Development of the Self, Emerging Adulthood, Health Psychology, Human Development, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Student Success, The Self.

Description: How quickly can you come up with a personal example of a situation where you’re a choice that you made (or did not make) resulting in regrets, wishing you had done something different or simply wondering if perhaps you should have done something different or not acted at all. If people are honest then they can usually come up with an example or two pretty quickly. It seems that having regrets (even if it just a few, …. too few to mention; according to Frank Sinatra in his classic “I did it my way”) is a part of being human. But can our experience of regret be managed and where does the whole business of regret come from? The brief article linked below provides a light overview of how we might begin to answer these questions. Give it a look and if anything there peaks your curiosity then have a look in the Further Reading section down at the bottom of this post for a few places to start expanding your understanding of regret.

Source: How to Have Fewer Regrets, Malia Wollan, The New York Times, Magazine.

Date: December 8, 2017

Photo Credit:  Radio, The New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

So, the onset of the ability to experience regret is developmental. That is, we have to be able to consider counterfactuals (coulda, woulda, shoulda…..) before regret is possible. From there it can be quite demanding. We can think of OCD as perhaps at least partially driven by regret (going back over a behavioural scheme over and over and over again). Regret can also figure in life choices. Leaving romance aside for another time, regret can play a central role in how we make decisions about things like our career directions. Think about this standard life process: you generate a list of career options, you gather data about what each is like, what each involves, and you think about what each would be like if you picked it and you narrow your choices down to 2 to 4 of the better options and then you  …. What?…….., you agonize…. Well, if you have difficulty letting go of counterfactuals you do and you especially do if you decide or believe that you have only made the right choice of a career path if it is, in fact, the very best possible career path for you (be the best you, you can be) and as a result your life could be quite miserable. This is a good example, however, of how we can benefit greatly from a mental set change. I think of this as akin to the travelers’ dilemma ( . You are planning a trip to an exotic part of the world and you are going to stay for 2 weeks. You read extensively about what there is to do there you research accommodations, historical sites, day trips to nearby amazing places and you plan an itinerary. At some point either before you go or after you get there you will likely be hit with the paralyzing realization that you are not going to be able to “do it all” and there are going to be some wonderful things you are going to miss in or around your destination. So what are you to do? How are you going to be sure you put together the “best possible” itinerary? Agonize, agonize, agonize and regret regret, regret. Counterfactuals have you firmly in their life sapping grip! Except, you do not have to be in that place, full of mental/emotional agony and regret. The solution to the travelers’ dilemma that also applies to career and other life decisions is to shift you thinking and to start with the understanding that while there ARE many possible voyages or journeys, if you build one based on what interests you, what engages you and what energizes you, the results will be a wonderful trip (and a wonderful life). In my own work on identity development and life planning and decision making among people of all ages but particularly among emerging adults (18 to 28) an appreciation of this mind set adjustment virtually eliminates the “agonize” stage of the process and also virtually eliminates pre-and post-decision regrets. It is well worth thinking about.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are regrets and how do they arise in the course of human decision making?
  2. How do regrets arise in the course of trip or life planning?
  3. What sorts of strategies make sense to you as ways of dealing with regret?

References (Read Further):

Krott, N. R., & Oettingen, G. (2017). Mental contrasting of counterfactual fantasies attenuates disappointment, regret, and resentment. Motivation and Emotion, 1-20.,%20N.%20R.%20&%20Oettingen,%20G.%20(2017).%20Motivation%20and%20Emotion.pdf

Byrne, R. M. (2016). Counterfactual thought. Annual review of psychology, 67, 135-157.

Roese, N. J., & Epstude, K. (2017). The Functional Theory of Counterfactual Thinking: New Evidence, New Challenges, New Insights. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology.

McCormack, T., O’Connor, E., Beck, S., & Feeney, A. (2016). The development of regret and relief about the outcomes of risky decisions. Journal of experimental child psychology, 148, 1-19.

Feldman, G., & Albarracín, D. (2017). Norm theory and the action-effect: The role of social norms in regret following action and inaction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 111-120.


Posted by & filed under Cultural Variation, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination.

Description: Here is a good example of how we need to think a bit when we are going to try and conduct research into something like a social behaviour that we are fairly sure we already understand completely. If you were having a conversation with someone and, throughout the conversation while you were speaking they nodded their head regularly. How would you feel about that interaction? What about if you did not actually consciously notice the head nodding? Yes, of course, it would suggest that they agree with you but how might that behavior effect your liking of that person or your ratings of their attractiveness and approachability? Once you have hypotheses in mind in relation to these questions read the brief article linked below that discuses research into these questions. BUT, as you read the article, pay close attention to questions about the research and its generalizability, among other things, that occur to you as you read it. Those sorts of thoughts/questions are an important part of what it means to hold yourself, and others, to criteria of scientific validity and credibility in terms of our thoughts and beliefs about the social world and THAT is a big part of doing Psychology properly.

Source: Nodding raises likability and approachability, Science Daily, Science News.

Date: November 27, 2017

Photo Credit:  Kawahara J. and Osugi T., Perception, September 24, 2017

Links:  Article Link —

So, what additional studies do you think are needed in this area? It is particularly important to be able to think clearly about what other research is needed in areas where the behaviors in question are so much a part of typical social interaction. While we might not think of ourselves as biased when looking at research or theories about the impact of nodding on social interaction and social beliefs and expectations it is certainly true that when we think that we understand something (a social behaviour) outside of any knowledge or awareness of research looking at that behavior we DO run a risk of assuming we know all there is to know about that social, behavior and THAT IS a form of bias. No we do need to read or conduct research in advance of every single social move we make but we DO need to be aware that knowledge based on our personal experiences may NOT be generalizable. So, did you think of the need to replicate the described study with male anima’s and with real people? Good for you if you did (before the researcher raised those issues). But what else might we need to think and potentially do research about? Well how about the fact that the study described was conducted in Japan, a culture where nodding and bowing ( are important and subtly nuanced features of formal social interaction. And what about if the study were done in India where a nod signifies disagreement? Cultural variation is often something we need to remember to consider especially when reflecting upon research into aspects of social interaction.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does nodding or head shaking impact our perceptions of others in social interaction?
  2. How might Jung’s view of dreams be viewed as different than that of Freud?
  3. What might we gain by taking some time to reflect upon our dreams (on those we can recall upon waking up)?

References (Read Further):

Takayuki Osugi, Jun I. Kawahara. Effects of Head Nodding and Shaking Motions on Perceptions of Likeability and Approachability. Perception, 2017; 030100661773320 DOI: 10.1177/0301006617733209

Kawato, S., & Ohya, J. (2000). Real-time detection of nodding and head-shaking by directly detecting and tracking the” between-eyes”. In Automatic Face and Gesture Recognition, 2000. Proceedings. Fourth IEEE International Conference on (pp. 40-45). IEEE.

Fukunaga, N. (2006). “Those anime students”: Foreign language literacy development through Japanese popular culture. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(3), 206-222.



Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Child Development, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Learning, Legal Ethical Issues, Psychological Intervention.

Description: If you have had an introductory psychology course you have likely learned something about phobias. Phobia’s are usually described as irrational fears. Learning theorists (John Watson foremost among them) argued that phobias are learned when a situation or object or animal is associated with a fear inducing stimulus such as an unexpected loud sound. Watson demonstrated the formation of such an association in his work with “Little Albert” (if you do not know that name then have a look at the links in the Further Reading section below and prepare yourself for a textbook description of unethical research behavior). A major challenge to the learning theorists’ view of phobias is the observation that some phobic associations are much much easier to establish than others. In simple term this means that phobias to snakes are common and easy to establish whereas phobias to chairs or bowties are either nonexistent or at least very difficult to create via associative terrors. What might that be? Well, perhaps we have genetically linked fears that were created through evolutionary forces. Think of it this way. Would children in hunting and gathering societies who though all snakes were cute and huggable likely survive to reproduce (and thus pass on their genes)? How about children who so love to look at vast open views that they rush right up to the edge of every cliff top they find to better see the new view? What about children who so love confined spaces they craw into every bear sized cave they find without a moment’s hesitation? I think you probably get the picture. But how to assess this claim? After all, as it sits, it is really just a good story, much like the origin myths of many cultures. So what sorts of things might we do, empirically, to at least partially test this evolutionary theory? Well, think about that and then, once you have, read the article linked below to see how the researchers who designed the study discussed went about addressing this question.

Source: Scaring Babies for Science, Bill Andrews, D-Brief, Discover.

Date: October 20, 2017

Photo Credit:  Sutterstock

Links:  Article Link —

Ethical considerations aside (no babies were harmed in the conducting of this study.?) the researchers demonstrated that very young infants show more signs of trepidation or fear when shown pictures of snakes or spiders that other things. While not entirely conclusive it seems likely that such early fears may well be “primordial” or genetically wired in.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are phobias?
  2. Can phobias be learned? Are all phobias learned?
  3. What sorts of ethical considerations might apply or at least be at play in relation to the study described in the article linked above?

References (Read Further):

Hoehl, S., Hellmer, K., Johansson, M., & Gredebäck, G. (2017). Itsy bitsy spider…: Infants react with increased arousal to spiders and snakes. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 1710.

Harris, B. (1979). Whatever happened to little Albert?. American psychologist, 34(2), 151.

Beck, H. P., Levinson, S., & Irons, G. (2009). Finding little Albert: A journey to John B. Watson’s infant laboratory. American Psychologist, 64(7), 605.



Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Depression, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Neuroscience, Physical Illness, Psychological Disorders, Psychological Health, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: In Egypt, rates of clinical depression are highest in December and rates of mania are highest in June. Why might that be? ….“Sunlight on my shoulders makes me happy” to quote John Denver. A signature line in a kitschy song but is there some truth to it from a clinical perspective? What do you think? How does being in sunlight make you feel? How might being in sunlight relate to things like mood and rates of recovery from physical illness, surgery and even depression? How do you think they might be related? Once you have a hypothesis in mind read the article linked below that will take you back to detailed observations made by non-other than Florence Henderson (nursing pioneer and inveterate data gatherer) and provide an overview of research into the possible impact of sun and of light therapy on a range of conditions and disorders.

Source: Sunlight is the Best Medicine, Abigail Strubel, in blog of Michael Terman, Chronotherapy, Psychology Today.

Date: December 1, 2017

Photo Credit:  wikipedia

Links:  Article Link —

So what do you think about the relationship between sun/light exposure and many many positive things? If the results did not surprise you, what thoughts do you have about how it is that sunlight has the effects it seems to have? The work described is a good example of how certain things that have demonstrably positive clinical value can be used as part of treatment even if we do not actually know why they seem to help and what their mechanism of action actually is. The key is the collection of consistent and copious data that can support our treatment plans and remaining open to figuring out just why the treatment is having a positive effect.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the conditions and situations that seem to be helped by sunlight?
  2. How is it that sunlight has the effects it has been shown to have?
  3. What sorts of evaluation research design considerations should we have in mind if we were to attempt to evaluate the effects and impacts of sunlight therapy on disorders like depression, surgical patient recover rates and schizophrenia?

References (Read Further):

Hobday, R. (2007). The Light Revolution: Health, Architecture and the Sun. Findhorn Press.

Benedetti, F., Colombo, C., Barbini, B., Campori, E., & Smeraldi, E. (2001). Morning sunlight reduces length of hospitalization in bipolar depression. Journal of affective disorders, 62(3), 221-223.

Lambert, G., Reid, C., Kaye, D., Jennings, G., & Esler, M. (2003). Increased suicide rate in the middle-aged and its association with hours of sunlight. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(4), 793-795.

Walch, J. M., Rabin, B. S., Day, R., Williams, J. N., Choi, K., & Kang, J. D. (2005). The effect of sunlight on postoperative analgesic medication use: a prospective study of patients undergoing spinal surgery. Psychosomatic medicine, 67(1), 156-163.

Labban, L. (2017). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Vitamin D Deficiency and Diabetes Mellitus. of, 2, 2.

Swanson, V., Sharpe, T., Porteous, C., Hunter, C., & Shearer, D. (2016). Indoor Annual Sunlight Opportunity in Domestic Dwellings May Predict Well-Being in Urban Residents in Scotland. Ecopsychology, 8(2), 121-130.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Early Social and Emotional development, Language Development, Language-Thought, Learning, Neuroscience.

Description:  You may have heard in and an Introductory Psychology course or in a Child Development course that when a mother talks to her infant (fathers too) the parent changes their vocal patterns by exaggerating aspects of their speech in what we sometimes call “Motherese.” You may have also heard or even seen video examples of how infants will babble conversationally and takes turns with their parent while the parent is talking to them. As well infants will synchronize their physical movements, so they match with the pace and tonal patterns in their parent’s speech when they are speaking to their infant. Given all of this, what might you predict about an infant’s brainwave patterns when their parent is looking at them and talking to them? Have a read through the article linked below and see what brainwave recordings of parents and infants interacting tell us about these interactions.

Source: Eye contact with your baby helps synchronize your brain-waves, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 29, 2017

Photo Credit:  University of Cambridge

Links:  Article Link —

So infant and parent brainwaves become synchronized when the parent is singing nursery rhymes to the infant but ONLY when they are making eye contact. What might we make of that? They key seems to be a mutual intention to communicate, signaled by eye contact. The synchronization did not occur when the parent was not making eye contact with the infant. It also seems that infants pick up on the deliberateness of the parent’s eye contact (when the parent’s face is slightly averted but they are still making eye contact). The infants also responded to eye contact by vocalizing more (again in turn-taking fashion). What might we make of this synchronization? One of the rsearchers indicates that while they are not sure what is driving the synchronization they are not yet thinking it is a form of telepathy. But is IS fascinating to consider what might be going on. Related work on empathy and mirror neurons might suggest that humans are prepared to engage in face-to-face communication and that the synchronization is an adaptive part of that process that assist with the processing of communicative context including things like body language. I was discussing this study with my wife, Erika, and she suggested a fascinating question. Given that one of the signature features of Autism Spectrum Disorder is a regular failure to make eye contact during social interactions it would also suggest that ASD individuals do not engage in this synchronization process while interacting with their parents or others. This gives rise to the question of what the impact of that lack of synchronization might be on the development of social understanding and on communication development and functioning in general for those with ASD. And, of course, one could also wonder if the lack of eye contact is simply a symptom of the disorder or, to some unknown extent, a contributory factor.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of things “synchronize” when infants interact (have “conversations”) with their primary caregivers?
  2. How might vocal and movement synchronization relate to brainwave synchronization between infants and their primary caregivers?
  3. What might the relationship be between the lack of eye contact by children with ASD and others in social interaction and the development of communicative competence and social understanding on the part of the individual with an ASD diagnosis?

References (Read Further):

Leong, V., Byrne, E., Clackson, K., Georgieva, S., Lam, S., & Wass, S. (2017). Speaker gaze increases information coupling between infant and adult brains. bioRxiv, 108878.

Delaherche, E., Chetouani, M., Mahdhaoui, A., Saint-Georges, C., Viaux, S., & Cohen, D. (2012). Interpersonal synchrony: A survey of evaluation methods across disciplines. IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, 3(3), 349-365.

Feldman, R. (2007). Parent–infant synchrony: Biological foundations and developmental outcomes. Current directions in psychological science, 16(6), 340-345.

Tunçgenç, B., Cohen, E., & Fawcett, C. (2015). Rock with me: The role of movement synchrony in infants’ social and nonsocial choices. Child Development, 86(3), 976-984.

Posted by & filed under Assessment: Intellectual-Cognitive Measures, General Psychology, Intelligence, Intelligence-Schooling, Legal Ethical Issues, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination.

Description: You may not have known of Joseph White, a psychologist who died recently, but you should know about what he spent his life trying to do. White spent much of his career and life pointing out that the core theories within the discipline of psychology were blindly eurocentric. By this he meant that the theories were built both with research and with theoretic perspectives that only considered the perspectives of white people of European origins. Those eurocentric theories were then assumed to be universal and as such applied without adjustment to blacks and to people of other cultural backgrounds with the typical result that they were depicted negatively. I have written about parts of this issue in the Intelligence chapter of our textbook, Psychology Around Us, I wrote about the debates between David Suzuki and Philip Rushton (Rushton argued that blacks, on average, score lower than white on IQ tests and Suzuki pointed out that poverty impacts intelligence development and poverty is an issue of color in North America). In the same chapter I wrote about the “Chitlin” test and about the “You think you know Ghetto” test both developed to highlight forms of racial bias associated with IQ tests (see links in the References section below). Joseph White convincingly argued that assuming bias and cultural diversity issues only arise in Psychology when exotic groups are considered meant that some large biases at the core of many psychological concepts and theories involving Blacks (or Hispanics or aboriginal people) are ignored and harm results. Think a bit about areas or theories in Psychology where this might be an issue and then read the obituary/article linked below to see a bit about what Joseph White had to say. You can also read the sections from Chapter 10 in our new edition od Psychology Around Us by downloading the pdf file from the link in References (Read Further) section below.

Source: Joseph White pioneering black psychologist who mentored students at UC Irvine, dies at 84, Anna M. Philips

Date: December 1, 2017

Photo Credit:  UC Irvine Communications

Links:  Article Link —

While psychology has somewhat systematically addressed issues of cultural bias in relation to intelligence testing, Joseph White pointed out a great many other areas in Psychology that still require work. Essentially, we must be cautious when we directly or more importantly when we implicitly take positions on what is “normative.” If the full extent of human diversity has not been properly considered, then establishing normative positions (even data supported ones) can be stigmatizing, racist and exclusionary. The discipline owes it to the work of Psychologists like Joseph White to continue to keep questions and issues like this firmly in mind as we move forward.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are two or three areas within Psychology where racial biases might be of particular concern?
  2. Assuming Psychologists working in the above noted areas are not trying to be racist how might such biases, nevertheless be at play in work in those areas?
  3. What sorts of policies should, perhaps, be considered by associations such and the Canadian and American Psychological Associations or by Psychology journal editors in order to address the issue of these sorts of biases?

References (Read Further):

Excerpts from Chapter 10: Intelligence, Comer, R., Ogden, N., Boyes, Michael, and Gould, E. (2018) Psychology Around Us, 3rd Canadian Edition, Wiley.

Eberhardt, J. L., Goff, P. A., Purdie, V. J., & Davies, P. G. (2004). Seeing black: race, crime, and visual processing. Journal of personality and social psychology, 87(6), 876.

Parham, T. A., Ajamu, A., & White, J. L. (2015). Psychology of Blacks: Centering our perspectives in the African consciousness. Psychology Press.

Parham, T. A., White, J. L., & Ajamu, A. (1999). The psychology of Blacks: An African-centered perspective. Pearson College Division.

Naidoo, A. V. (1996). Challenging the hegemony of Eurocentric psychology. Journal of community and health sciences, 2(2), 9-16.

Dawes, A. (1998). Africanisation of psychology: Identities and continents. Psychology in society, 23, 4-16.

Posted by & filed under Aggression, General Psychology, Group Processes, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Intergroup Relations, Persuasion, Social Psychology, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Canadian Thanksgiving is earlier than American Thanksgiving but Boxing Day and its associated sales is later than Black Friday. I am not making any point there but leading up to suggesting that there are seasonal learning moment opportunities in the recent experience of Black Friday (which used to be more vicarious in the Canada but which is quickly being imported in to our shopping year calendars – assuming that the current NAFTA talks do not have anything to say about it!). After all Boxing Day sales are only about 1 month away! So Why DO so many people seem intent to stand in line for days or even weeks to be one of the early shoppers at Black Friday and by extension (as it is NOT much of a generalization leap) at Boxing Day sales? Got any hypothesis? Well if you do, dredge them up and then read the article linked below to see some research based suggestions.

Source: Why stand in line on Black Friday? The Psychology Explained. Tiffany Hsu, Business Day, The New York Times

Date: November 23, 2017

Photo Credit:  Sarah Mazzetti, The New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

Family bonding by prolonged line standing? Really? Wow. Well that is one possibility but the reward value of the serious bargains awaiting the patient line stander seem to make more sense to me. The power of “gotta have it” has even lead to death and destruction when lines lose patience and become mobs. A fascinating juxtaposition between a season of community and family warmth and one-on-one consumer contending! Ah well, what to do? Oh, and Boxing Day is coming!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What factors might contribute to people’s willingness to spend d hours or days in line for major sales?
  2. What sorts of Psychology might we employ if we wanted to reduce the risk of shopper stampedes and related carnage at these sorts of big seasonal sales?
  3. Or should we just leave the Psychology at work or home in such holiday seasons? And we haven’t even begun to consider the stress of the upcoming holiday season…..

References (Read Further):

Boyd Thomas, J., & Peters, C. (2011). An exploratory investigation of Black Friday consumption rituals. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 39(7), 522-537.

Swilley, E., & Goldsmith, R. E. (2013). Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Understanding consumer intentions on two major shopping days. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 20(1), 43-50.

Simpson, L., Taylor, L., O’Rourke, K., & Shaw, K. (2011). An analysis of consumer behavior on Black Friday. American International Journal of Contemporary Research.

Lennon, S. J., Johnson, K. K., & Lee, J. (2011). A perfect storm for consumer misbehavior: Shopping on Black Friday. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 29(2), 119-134.

Raymen, T., & Smith, O. (2015). What’s deviance got to do with it? Black Friday sales, violence and hyper-conformity. British Journal of Criminology, 56(2), 389-405.

Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, Consciousness, Intelligence, Intelligence-Schooling, Language-Thought, Persuasion, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: Was the Apollo moon landing a hoax filmed entirely on Earth? There are quite a few people around who claim that it was just that. Assuming for a moment that the moon landing was NOT a hoax or that the American Government does NOT have frozen aliens and flying saucer wreckage hidden in Area 59 in Roswell, New Mexico why are some people more inclined to believe in such conspiracy theories? Are the non-believers smarter than the believers? Is it a personality thing?  Really, what is your hypothesis (again assuming the hoaxes are NOT true)? Once you have a hypothesis or two in mind have a read through the article linked below to see what a recently published research paper has to say on this matter.

Source: High cognitive ability not a safeguard from conspiracies, paranormal beliefs, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 13, 2017

Photo Credit:  NASA/Lee Krystek

Links:  Article Link —

So, it is not just level of cognitive functioning alone that correlates with belief in conspiracy theories (while that IS part of it). The other variable suggested by the researchers is the extent to which people are personally committed to forming their beliefs on rational grounds. Perhaps this is not surprising given how articulate some of the people arguing that vaccines cause autism (and other such unfounded/disproven things) sound. It is important to understand the variables that contribute to belief in conspiracy theories as some of them lead to seriously unhealthy behaviour. We have to think about such things AND we have to be committed to forming beliefs on the basis of and acting on the available scientific data.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why do some people seem to believe in conspiracy or other unlikely or even disproven ideas?
  2. How might we address these issues in science classes? How about in Psychology classes?
  3. Are there any school policy issues here?

References (Read Further):

Ståhl, T., & van Prooijen, J. W. (2018). Epistemic rationality: Skepticism toward unfounded beliefs requires sufficient cognitive ability and motivation to be rational. Personality and Individual Differences, 122, 155-163.

Schmack, K., Rössler, H., Sekutowicz, M., Brandl, E. J., Müller, D. J., Petrovic, P., & Sterzer, P. (2015). Linking unfounded beliefs to genetic dopamine availability. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 9.

Belleville, G., Foldes-Busque, G., Dixon, M., Marquis-Pelletier, É., Barbeau, S., Poitras, J., … & Marchand, A. (2013). Impact of seasonal and lunar cycles on psychological symptoms in the ED: an empirical investigation of widely spread beliefs. General hospital psychiatry, 35(2), 192-194.

Schmack, K., de Castro, A. G. C., Rothkirch, M., Sekutowicz, M., Rössler, H., Haynes, J. D., … & Sterzer, P. (2013). Delusions and the role of beliefs in perceptual inference. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(34), 13701-13712.


Posted by & filed under Human Development, Language Development, Language-Thought, Learning, Sensation-Perception.

Description: Before you read any further go and listen to these two YouTube linked videos ( and They feature birdsong, an specifically Zebra Finch birdsong. Now you have not likely thought of this but birds have to sing the right songs the right way if they are to get by in their worlds. The male Zebra Finch in the first clip above has to know the right mating song and know how to perform it well if he is to successfully reproduce. How do they do this? Well, they are NOT simply born with their songs wired in. They pick them up and the songs vary in some ways not just by species as you might expect but across geographic regions in ways suggestive of cultural (learned) variation. So, there IS SOME learning involved in birds learning bird song and humans learning spoken language. But, what sort of learning IS involved? Think about what might be the answer to this question and then read the article linked below to see what recent research with Zebra Finches at McGill University is suggesting.

Source: Do birdsong and human speech share biological roots? Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 22, 2017

Photo Credit:  Duncan Noakes/Fotolia

Links:  Article Link —

So, birdsong and language learning is NOT simple learning. BF Skinner suggested that human infants and toddlers learn the language spoken by their parents and older siblings be being rewarded for successively better approximations to local speech utterances (think shaping). Parent’s Do occasionally correct their young children’s utterances, don’t they? Well, no actually, parents typically correct children’s utterances for meaningfulness rather than for exact correctness. Noam Chomsky pointed out that if you look at how (in)consistently parents correct their children’s utterances from a linguistic point of view AND take into account how many rewards are needed to establish a pattern of consistent behaviour it turns out it would take a human child about 3000 years to “learn” the speech that a typical 5-year-old has picked up in their 5 years of life. Chomsky’s idea that infants arrive with a universal grammar wired in that facilitates their acquisition of whatever language is being spoken around them has been much debated and may be a bit too wired in. The research discussed in the article linked above, however, is suggesting that something IS there in both birds and humans in the way of language learning preparedness. Perhaps there are certain patterns we are “biased” towards seeing (as seemed to be the case with the Zebra Finches). Figuring out what those biases are attuned to may be the key to understanding language (and bird song) learning.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Do toddlers “learn” spoken language the same way they might memorize a nursery rhyme?
  2. What part of speech or of birdsong may be universal?
  3. What might a “bias” for picking up on certain speech characteristic involve? And why might having one or more such bias(es) be important?

References (Read Further):

Logan S. James, Jon T. Sakata. (2017) Learning Biases Underlie ‘Universals’ in Avian Vocal Sequencing. Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.10.019

Berwick, R. C., Okanoya, K., Beckers, G. J., & Bolhuis, J. J. (2011). Songs to syntax: the linguistics of birdsong. Trends in cognitive sciences, 15(3), 113-121.

Jarvis, E. D. (2004). Learned birdsong and the neurobiology of human language. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1016(1), 749-777.

Bolhuis, J. J., Okanoya, K., & Scharff, C. (2010). Twitter evolution: converging mechanisms in birdsong and human speech. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11(11), 747-759.

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Consciousness, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: You may have heard, perhaps in a part of a Psychology course on Consciousness, about the positive effects of meditation. For some people, however, meditation, with its connections to eastern perspectives and spirituality seems a bit too exotic. So how about this: What do you think the effects would be (if any) of your spending just 15 minutes a day sitting quietly and alone without any electronics and doing nothing but thinking. How do you think this would make you feel? What impact, if any, might it have on your level of calmness? Stress? Why not try it and see? What effects might you find in studies that had many people do this regularly for a while? Once you have thought about it (perhaps reflecting on it without devices of any sort for 15 minutes) read the article linked below and see what some psychologists found recently when they conducted 4 studies on this question.

Source: Pure solitude, away from devices, is calming: New Research. Bella DePaulo, Living Single, Psychology Today.

Date: November 17, 2017

Photo Credit: and

Links:  Article Link —

So, solitude for only 15 minutes made people feel calmer, peaceful and more relaxed. Some also felt sadder, bored, or lonelier, but those feelings could be mitigated by being given a choice as to what to think about. The effects of these positive feelings also seemed to rollout over time if people kept up the practice of taking some solitude each day. Now we can start speculating as to just why this might be the case. What is it about our brains, or ourselves that seems to benefit from 15 minutes of unplugged downtime each day? There is a LOT of room here for more research.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What did having 15 minutes of unplugged downtime seem to do for the participants in the research described in the article linked above?
  2. Beyond solitude what other factors were investigated in this research?
  3. What might be some useful and interesting next research steps that we might take in relation to this line of research on the effects of brief periods of unplugged solitude each day??

References (Read Further):

Nguyen, T. V. T., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Solitude as an Approach to Affective Self-Regulation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0146167217733073.

Thomas, V., & Azmitia, M. (2014). Motivation Matters: Development of a Short Form Measure of Solitude for Adolescents and Emerging Adults.

Epley, N., & Schroeder, J. (2014). Mistakenly seeking solitude. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(5), 1980.

Leung, L. (2015). Using tablet in solitude for stress reduction: An examination of desire for aloneness, leisure boredom, tablet activities, and location of use. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 382-391.

Averill, J. R., & Sundararajan, L. (2014). Experiences of solitude. The handbook of solitude: Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone, 90-108.