Posted by & filed under Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Given the time of year/term (mid-November) and if you are a secondary or post-secondary student you are likely just coming out of a mid-term exam period or you are just beginning to contemplate the end of the term assignment and exam demands. So, it is likely your stress levels are a bit elevated. Do you have some reliable ways to cope with that stress? Yes, it IS true that getting down to the business of studying or working on papers before they are due in a day or two are good strategies that everyone should be using but what else have you figured out that helps with stress or that might be worth trying? What about exercise? No doubt you have heard that regular exercise reduces the impact of stress, increases individua “toughness” and endurance, and reduces the impact of that stress can have on sleep patterns, concentration, and general wellbeing. But, do the positive effects of exercise on student wellbeing apply to everyone? Well, as you may have run across before in looking at research on these sorts of things the answer seems to be that “it is complicated”. If I told you that exercise has different impacts upon stress depending upon what year of university students are in what do you think a study looking at that question might find? With your thoughts on this question in mind have a look at the article linked below.
Note that it is an actual research article and, so you can use a few strategies to get information from it more quickly that reading it from start to finish. Start by reading the abstract (the summary of the article written by the study authors) which appears at the beginning of the paper. This will provide you with a general overview of the study. Next skim through the introduction to see how the authors are locating their work in relation to previous work on this topic. If it is well written (and this one is pretty good) then this will provide you with some very useful information on the topic of study. Next skip the middle bits (methods and results) for now and skim the discussion and conclusion sections. This will give you a fairly quick overview of what the study found (or at least of what the researchers though they found). You can go back and look through the methods and results sections if you find you have questions about how they actually defined or measured things like exercise or stress and to see if you think they have missed anything that your think might be important to a proper understanding of what is going on in the research.

Source: The Influence of Exercise Empowerment on Life Stress (reference in reading list below)

Date: November 1, 2017

Photo Credit:  Carlton University Athletics

Links:  Article Link —

So perhaps, as far as it goes for students, exercise buffers stress only for low levels of chronic stress and that in higher stress circumstances the exercise becomes one more demand on one’s time adding to rather than reducing one’s stress. But maybe it still depends on things that have not yet been researched. Oh, and are you comfortable with exercise being defined as attendance at exercise classes? Lots still to think about and lots of research still to do……

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What was your initial belief about the relationship between stress and regular exercise?
  2. What did the researchers conclude about exercise and stress in their article? (No, it is not really very clear, is it?)
  3. What would you like to see in the way of additional research in this area in order to sort these questions out a bit better?

References (Read Further):

Parker, T. M., Lewis, C. A., & Beaudoin, C. M. (2017). The Influence of Exercise Empowerment on Life Stress. International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science, 5(4), 33-37.

Garber, M. C. (2017). Exercise as a Stress Coping Mechanism in a Pharmacy Student Population. American journal of pharmaceutical education, 81(3), 50.

Denovan, A., & Macaskill, A. (2017). Stress and subjective well-being among first year UK undergraduate students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(2), 505-525.

Wunsch, K., Kasten, N., & Fuchs, R. (2017). The effect of physical activity on sleep quality, well-being, and affect in academic stress periods. Nature and science of sleep, 9, 117.

Posted by & filed under Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Consciousness, Early Social and Emotional development, Human Development, Language-Thought, Moral Development, The Self.

Description: At first glance it may seem odd or perhaps inappropriate to conduct research into the nature and even into the brain function associated with religious belief. However, rather than seeing religious belief and science as antithetical think a bit about what sorts of cognitive functioning might be correlated with religious belief. For example, how might strength of religious belief be related to analytic thinking? Once you have a hypothesis or two in mind read the article linked below which reports on a recent finding that is shaking the science in this area up a bit.

Source: Why do we believe in gods? Religious belief ‘not linked to intuition or rational thinking’, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 8, 2017

Photo Credit:  enterlinedesign/Fotilia

Links:  Article Link —

Until this study came along the general consensus seemed to be that religiosity was associated with being more intuitive and less analytic a thinker. This was tied to the possibility that we are born with a tendency to believe in something “bigger than ourselves” at an intuitive level. If this were true, then one might expect that thinking analytically would require the inhibition of intuitive or supernatural beliefs. The study reported in the linked article suggested otherwise. When the researchers used electronic brain stimulation to increase the inhibition function there was no corresponding decrease in religious feelings suggesting that religiosity is more a learned (through socialization or upbringing) factor. The findings provide a lot to think and to hypothesize about and lots of room for more research!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might religiosity be related to cognitive functioning?
  2. What do we have in mind when we say that something is a part of intuitive functioning?
  3. IS it necessary to take an either /or approach to religiosity and science? If not how might we think about the possible relationships between these two things?

References (Read Further):

Miguel Farias, Valerie van Mulukom, Guy Kahane, Ute Kreplin, Anna Joyce, Pedro Soares, Lluis Oviedo, Mathilde Hernu, Karolina Rokita, Julian Savulescu, Riikka Möttönen. Supernatural Belief Is Not Modulated by Intuitive Thinking Style or Cognitive Inhibition. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-14090-9

Kapogiannis, D., Barbey, A. K., Su, M., Zamboni, G., Krueger, F., & Grafman, J. (2009). Cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(12), 4876-4881.

Gervais, W. M., & Norenzayan, A. (2012). Analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief. Science, 336(6080), 493-496.

Atran, S., & Henrich, J. (2010). The evolution of religion: How cognitive by-products, adaptive learning heuristics, ritual displays, and group competition generate deep commitments to prosocial religions. Biological Theory, 5(1), 18-30.

Gervais, W. M., & Norenzayan, A. (2012). Like a camera in the sky? Thinking about God increases public self-awareness and socially desirable responding. Journal of experimental social psychology, 48(1), 298-302.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, General Psychology, Neuroscience, Physiology.

Description: You do not often see serious neuroscience on the sports pages of a newspaper. The article linked below is just such an article. Why might it be in the sports pages? Well, start with the fact that there are significant reasons why neuroscientists were so keen to have a close-up look at the brain the article talks about. The brain was found to be similar to that of a 46-year-old boxer. A neuropathologist examining the brain for deterioration rated it at Stage 3 or similar to the brain of a 67-year-old and one that likely struggled with Alzheimer’s or other brain disorder. Given these comparisons, it is surprising to see that the brain the article is discussing belonged to a 27 year old man who had committed suicide while in jail being convicted on charges of murder. Any thoughts as to what the young man did for a living? Read the article and find out, there is a lot there to think about even if you think you already know his profession.

Source: On the Table, the Brain Appeared Normal, John Branch, Sports, New York Times.

Date: November 9, 2017

Photo Credit:  Mark Abramson for the New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

I suppose you DID guess football, although hockey or bull riding would also have been good guesses as well. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy or C.T.E. has raised increasing concerns not just in relation to professional sports but also in terms of the millions of young people who play those sports recreationally throughout childhood and adolescence. The issues involved are not just of scientific interest though as they are raising questions about the safety of the sports themselves. We have seen rule changes in football and hockey intended to reduce or eliminate “head-shots” and we have seen the establishment of concussion protocols that are being strictly enforced with some sports even using “secret observers” (trained people in the seats at games who can phone in a demand that a player be given an immediate concussion protocol based on what happened to them on the field or on the ice or on their sideline or bench behavior. So, are we doing enough? This is the BIG health policy question that we are going to have to consider as the post-mortem brain data starts to roll in from those sports!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is C.T.E.?
  2. What sports or other activities besides football and hockey may be contributing to rates of CTE?
  3. What sorts of rule and policy changes may be necessary to consider if the data coming in continues to be a scary as that described in the article linked above (that hints at the possibility that a football career may have contributed to a young man becoming involved in murder and then suicide?

References (Read Further):

Omalu, B. I., DeKosky, S. T., Hamilton, R. L., Minster, R. L., Kamboh, M. I., Shakir, A. M., & Wecht, C. H. (2006). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a national football league player: part II. Neurosurgery, 59(5), 1086-1093.

Love, S., & Solomon, G. S. (2015). Talking with parents of high school football players about chronic traumatic encephalopathy: a concise summary. The American journal of sports medicine, 43(5), 1260-1264. (sorry, no download link for this one)

Lehman, E. J., Hein, M. J., Baron, S. L., & Gersic, C. M. (2012). Neurodegenerative causes of death among retired National Football League players. Neurology, 79(19), 1970-1974.

Kale, R. (2012). Stop the violence and play hockey.

McKee, A. C., Daneshvar, D. H., Alvarez, V. E., & Stein, T. D. (2014). The neuropathology of sport. Acta neuropathologica, 127(1), 29-51.

Toy, O., Etienne, M., & Bogdasarian, R. (2014). Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury in Male Ice Hockey Players (P5. 319). Neurology, 82(10 Supplement), P5-319.

Neal, C. W. (2017). The Impact Spectrum of Head Injuries on the Sport of Hockey.

Caron, J. G., & Bloom, G. A. (2015). Ethical issues surrounding concussions and player safety in professional ice hockey. Neuroethics, 8(1), 5-13.

Cusimano, M. D., Nastis, S., & Zuccaro, L. (2012). Effectiveness of interventions to reduce aggression and injuries among ice hockey players: a systematic review. Canadian Medical Association Journal, cmaj-112017.

Most reported concussions occur on pass plays.

Posted by & filed under Cognitive Development: The Information-Processing Approach, Consciousness, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Intelligence, Learning, Motivation-Emotion, Student Success, The Self.

Description: Think about the last time you went into an exam feeling like you had the material down tight and were going to do well on the exam. How did you actually do on that exam? If you did not do as well as you thought you were going to do going in what did you attribute the difference to? What did you do about it? With your answers to these questions in mind read the article linked below that describes research looking at how you SHOULD have answered these questions and how you Can do better on exams by paying attention to the suggestions in the article about managing your metacognitive processes.

Source: Metacognition training boosts gen chem exam scores, University of Utah.

Date: October 20, 2017

Photo Credit:  University of Utah

Links:  Article Link —

Metacognition is the general label for all the control processes in our brains; for all of the things we do or change in response to feedback and how we monitor our performance but also our preparation for important events like exams. It is really worth spending some time reflecting on if and if so how the results of this study apply to you, to your exam preparation, and, most importantly, to your metacognitive reflections upon your exam preparations. The biggest improvment reported in the study was for students scoring in the bottom 25% of the class. If THAT is not an incentive to try these things on for size I don’t know what is!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is metacognition?
  2. How is metacognition involved in exam preparation and on exam performance prediction and review?
  3. What practical steps can you start taking using, and developing, your metacognitive skills to benefit your exam performance?

References (Read Further):

Casselman, B. L., & Atwood, C. H. (2017). Improving General Chemistry Course Performance through Online Homework-Based Metacognitive Training. Journal of Chemical Education.

Miller, T. M., & Geraci, L. (2011). Training metacognition in the classroom: the influence of incentives and feedback on exam predictions. Metacognition and Learning, 6(3), 303-314.

Keith, N., & Frese, M. (2005). Self-regulation in error management training: emotion control and metacognition as mediators of performance effects. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(4), 677.

Coskun, A. (2010). The Effect of Metacognitive Strategy Training on the Listening Performance of Beginner Students. Online Submission, 4(1), 35-50.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Human Development, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Physical Illness, Prevention, Social Influence, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Substance-Related Disorders.

Description: I was at a hockey game the other day and watched the usual video announcement asking fans to refrain from foul language, fighting, drunken behavior or smoking including the use of e-cigarettes. I have occasionally wondered about the equating of cigarettes and e-cigarettes in sporting venues or elsewhere in public places. After all, the output from e-cigarettes is closer to a small fog bank than to a vile cloud of cancer causing second-hand smoke. Now I do not like my view of events occluded by even small fog banks, so I am not complaining about the e-cigarette ban but I have wondered if cigarettes and e-cigarettes should be in the same category of banned public activities. Well, as a developmental psychologist I should have known better, or I should have looked at the relevant research literature earlier.  What do you think? With your thoughts in order on this subject have a look at the article linked below for one piece of research relevant to this question.

Source: Vaping doubles risk of smoking cigarettes for teens, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: September 18, 2017

Photo Credit:  alexshalamov/Fotolia

Links:  Article Link —

There is certainly a lot more we need to know about e-cigarettes but the finding in this Canadian study that e-cigarette use more than doubled the likelihood of “real” cigarette use is concerning. Obviously smoking behavior can be learned without cigarettes (at least initially). Lots to think about.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the relationship between e-cigarette use and “real” cigarette use?
  2. Are there any advantages you can think of to e-cigarettes (to allowing their general use)?
  3. How do you think (if at all) we should regulate e-cigarettes and what other research would you like to see, if any, before making up your mind on this policy issue?

References (Read Further):

Azagba, S., Baskerville, N. B., & Foley, K. (2017). Susceptibility to cigarette smoking among middle and high school e-cigarette users in Canada. Preventive Medicine, 103, 14-19.

Schripp, T., Markewitz, D., Uhde, E., & Salthammer, T. (2013). Does e‐cigarette consumption cause passive vaping?. Indoor air, 23(1), 25-31.

Goniewicz, M. L., Lingas, E. O., & Hajek, P. (2013). Patterns of electronic cigarette use and user beliefs about their safety and benefits: an internet survey. Drug and alcohol review, 32(2), 133-140.

Bunnell, R. E., Agaku, I. T., Arrazola, R. A., Apelberg, B. J., Caraballo, R. S., Corey, C. G., … & King, B. A. (2015). Intentions to smoke cigarettes among never-smoking US middle and high school electronic cigarette users: National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2011–2013. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 17(2), 228-235.

Bullen, C., McRobbie, H., Thornley, S., Glover, M., Lin, R., & Laugesen, M. (2010). Effect of an electronic nicotine delivery device (e cigarette) on desire to smoke and withdrawal, user preferences and nicotine delivery: randomised cross-over trial. Tobacco control, 19(2), 98-103.


Posted by & filed under Child Development, Human Development, Language Development, Language-Thought.

Description: Have you heard a form of speech called “Motherese”? Well even if you do not know it by name it is the pattern or form of speech that mothers AND father and adults in general typically use when they are speaking to infants and it is basically universal. For years in developmental psychology and linguistics we have talked about how adults vary the prosodic information (the emphasis) in their speech when speaking to infants. Like, “ How are YOU today!” or “Isn’t THAT a BIIIIIGG Smile!” Motherese is that lilting, exaggerated pattern of speech the seems to capture and hold infant attention (and which made us feel uncomfortable when elderly relatives used it with us when we were “really old” (like 6 or 7 years of age). Now researchers at Princeton University have identified another possible universal feature of how we speak to infants.  Listen first to this clip of a parent speaking with one of the researchers (an adult, of course!) and now listen to this clip of the same parent talking to their infant: . One of the differences between the two clips, according to the researchers is the vocal timbre of the parental speech: can you hear the difference? Think a bit about what value, developmentally speaking, the variation of tone between Motherese and speech to adults might have for developing infants and then read the article linked below that describers the research.

Source: Uncovering the sound of ‘motherese,’ baby talk across languages, Liz Fuller-Wright, Princeton University.

Date: October 12, 2017

Photo Credit:  Elise Piazza

Links:  Article Link —

So, speech recognition software VERY quickly recognizes the change in timbe of speech directed towards infants and it seems clear that infants recognize it too. Now the important research question is “what is the developmental value of these timbre differences? And remember this is in speech directed towards infants so it is a few years ahead of that particular parental “VOICE” we sometimes remember that was telling us directly AND tonally to stop what we were doing immediately!  This is a line of research worth keeping an eye on.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does speech directed towards infants vary from speech directed towards older children and adults?
  2. What might the purpose or developmental value of those differences be for infants?
  3. Why might it be that Motherese is universal and how do we learn to use it?

References (Read Further):

Piazza, E. A., Iordan, M. C., & Lew-Williams, C. (2017). Mothers Consistently Alter Their Unique Vocal Fingerprints When Communicating with Infants. Current Biology.

Fernald, A., & Kuhl, P. (1987). Acoustic determinants of infant preference for motherese speech. Infant behavior and development, 10(3), 279-293.

Kuhl, P. K., Ramírez, R. R., Bosseler, A., Lin, J. F. L., & Imada, T. (2014). Infants’ brain responses to speech suggest analysis by synthesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(31), 11238-11245.

Tsang, C. D., Falk, S., & Hessel, A. (2017). Infants Prefer Infant‐Directed Song Over Speech. Child development, 88(4), 1207-1215.

Spinelli, M., Fasolo, M., & Mesman, J. (2017). Does prosody make the difference? A meta-analysis on relations between prosodic aspects of infant-directed speech and infant outcomes. Developmental Review, 44, 1-18.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Cognitive Development: The Information-Processing Approach, Consciousness, Human Development, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Student Success.

Description: I have written about Carol Dweck’s research on the “growth mindset’ before. Dweck’s research indicates that when students encounter difficult material (like say in Math) the attributions they make when their performance is not good on exams etc. makes a difference in their future performance. Performing poorly and deciding this reflects one’s basic lack of talent in that area leads to less investment of effort and continued poor performance. On the other hand, deciding the poor performance reflects a challenge for harder work and more focused effort leads to performance improvement. Research supporting this analysis has led to interventions that involve, among other things, teaching students that their brains grow, develop and learn by building on failure and with the application of focus and effort. Nothing wrong with that but, as an intervention strategy, how effective is it? Put another way, does this strategy help all students in all circumstances all the time? (Beware, rarely is ANYTHING that good!). Before you read the article linked below hypothesize about what some of the other variables might be that influence whether the “Growth Mindset” hypothesis works or how well it works if it does. After that read through the article linked below and maybe have a look at the research article it discusses and see how your hypotheses fared.

Source: The Growth Mindset Works, but Not for Everyone, Art Markman, Ulterior Motives, Psychology Today.

Date: October 27, 2017

Photo Credit:  Life Sciences Database/Wikimedia Commons

Links:  Article Link —

How did your hypothesis do?  We have to remember that one of the things we routinely do when we set up research in the controlled environment of a research lab is that we simplify the situations we are interested in (at least initially) in order to better control the number and complexity of the variables at play.  What that means is that we need to conduct additional research that essentially “recomplicates” the situations we are studying as we move them back out of the lab and apply them to the world in all its wonderous complexity. This does not mean that “big” finding is not important for things in the world but just that we need to do the work to find out what works, when, for who under what circumstances and to what extent (just a few questions to consider when applying psychological research!).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the growth mindset and how does it work?
  2. How might the growth mindset be used to improve student lives and student performance??
  3. What else needs to be considered before deciding that interventions based on growth mindset research are going to improve school for everyone? What can you take awy from this and use in your own education?

References (Read Further):

Chao, M.M., Visaria, S., Dehejia, R., & Mukhopadhyay, A. (2017). Do rewards reinforce the growth mindset? Joint effects of the growth mindset and incentive schemes in a field intervention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146(10), 1402-1419.

Growth Mindset

Dweck, C. (2015). Carol dweck revisits the’growth mindset’. Education Week, 35(5), 20-24.

Dweck, C. S. (2010). Even geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-20.

O’Rourke, E., Haimovitz, K., Ballweber, C., Dweck, C., & Popović, Z. (2014, April). Brain points: a growth mindset incentive structure boosts persistence in an educational game. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 3339-3348). ACM.




Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, Health Psychology, Language-Thought, Neuroscience.

Description: When I am teaching about the brain in my introductory psychology classes and I talk about the cerebellum or “little brain” I (as psychology teachers and textbook authors have done for years) talk about the role that the cerebellum plays in “smoothing out” our motor movements and helping us be agile. That remains true but the article linked below tell us a much bigger story about the cerebellum. First, it tells us something I did not know, that this area of the brain got its name because it looks like a small brain (what I have been saying for years) but it also tells us the little brain was described as such my Leonardo da Vinci who, as were many of his fellow artists in the 1700’s was closely studying human anatomy in order to improve his depiction of it in his art. In his article, Christopher Bergland discusses recent research suggesting that in addition to smoothing motor movements the cerebellum may also smooth our “emotional processing, cognitive function, and overall mental health”. Quite an added array of roles for the smaller sibling of our brain! Have a read through the article and, while you are doing so, think a bit about what the research findings it discusses might suggest about how we think about and perhaps treat things like PTSD, anger management issues and stress.

Source: Our “Little Brain” Plays a Big Role in Coping with Distress, Christopher Bergland, The Athlete’s Way, Psychology Today.

Date: October 28, 2017

Photo Credit:  Life Sciences Database/Wikimedia Commons

Links:  Article Link —

The cerebellum accounts for 10% of our brain volume but contains most of our brain’s total neurons so “whatever the cerebellum is doing, it’s doing a lot of it” (Larry Vanderverte). Ok so perhaps I have been somewhat neglectful of the activities of the cerebellum in my lectures about the brain. I will be looking more closely at this research area and we all might benefit form a better understanding for what the cerebellum does and how that fits in the bigger picture of human brain functioning.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What role does the cerebellum play in complex motor activities like walking a straight line?
  2. What additional roles does the “little brain” play in brain function according to the article linked above?
  3. Why might emotional and cognitive “smoothing” be as important as the role of motor movement smoothing attributed to the cerebellum?

References (Read Further):

Monti, D. A., Tobia, A., Stoner, M., Wintering, N., Matthews, M., Conklin, C. J., … & Newberg, A. B. (2017). Changes in cerebellar functional connectivity and autonomic regulation in cancer patients treated with the Neuro Emotional Technique for traumatic stress symptoms. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 1-9.

Schmahmann, J. D. (1998). Dysmetria of thought: clinical consequences of cerebellar dysfunction on cognition and affect. Trends in cognitive sciences, 2(9), 362-371.

Wilkins, A. (2017). Cerebellar Dysfunction in Multiple Sclerosis. Frontiers in neurology, 8, 312.

Sokolov, A. A., Miall, R. C., & Ivry, R. B. (2017). The Cerebellum: Adaptive Prediction for Movement and Cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 

Vandervert, L. (2016). The prominent role of the cerebellum in the learning, origin and advancement of culture. Cerebellum & ataxias, 3(1), 10.

Vandervert, L. Blog entry

Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Health Psychology, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Intelligence, Memory, Psychological Health, Research Methods, Stress Coping - Health, Student Success.

Description: I was walking through my local Psychology department the other day and noticed that just about every Psychologist had a desk in their office with an adjustable top that allowed them to raise their computer up so they could either work sitting at their desk in a office chair OR they could stand at their desks and still work comfortably view their monitor and reach their mouse and keyboard while standing.  I was thinking, something must be “up” if all the academic research psychologists are set up with standing options on their workstations. Health research has been telling us, for a while now, that standing up from our desks and moving around even a little bit at regular intervals over the work day is beneficial from a health perspective. Research from this perspective has tended to look to physiological measures such as blood sugar and blood pressure.  So all well and good, we should move a bit rather than sitting at our computers all day for health reasons. But, how might standing up regularly, or better yet (from a health perspective), how might walking on a treadmill or gently pedaling a stationary bike at our desks for a few minutes each effect our thought processes? Think about how you would design a study to test this question. What would you have people do? Who would you include in the study (at least the first time you ran it). What would you measure to look at thinking or thought processes? Once you have your design in mind, oh and once you have a hypothesis in mind as well, read the article linked below and see what the researchers found.

Source: Thinking on Your Feet, Gretchen Reynolds, Well, Move, The New York Times Magazine.

Date: October 26, 2017

Photo Credit:  Kelsey Dake

Links:  Article Link —

So, the research described in the linked article suggests that the short bits of movement improved thinking in the participants. There are two things we need to do, though, before deciding to simply tell people what sort of treadmill or stationary bike to get for their offices. First, we need to reflect a bit more on the results. Setting aside for the moment that we do not (at least from the linked article) know how the researchers measured thinking, we need to think about their explanations for their results. It may well be that the “physical and mental arousal” of activity DID improve attention, memory and related cognitive skills. But, it may simply have been driven by the novelty of the activity. Psychology has, for years, been aware of “Hawthorne effects” which indicate that basically any change in their environment can affect human performance. This is based on research done in the 1920’s and 1930’s at the Western Electric plant in Hawthorne (near Chicago) where it was discovered that worker production (temporarily) went up if you increased or decreased the light levels, shifted their work hours, their break schedule… any change lead to production increases. This leads to the idea that simply having someone observe and take interest in one’s work seemed to positively impact that work. So perhaps something like that is going on the motion study discussed in the linked article. Second, the participants in this study were selected for being rather sedentary and while that is an important group to reach and to change (behaviorally) it is NOT clear how far the results of the study can be generalized. So, yes, more research is needed but it is something that everyone of us who sit at our desks and computers for long stretches should be interested in. Try a few ideas out yourself such as 10 minutes of activity per hour of desk/studying work and see what is does for you.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What did the study described in the linked article suggest about standing, walking or cycling at your desk for a few minutes each hour?
  2. What sorts of things might you do if you cannot afford the currently rather steeply priced desk and office conversions necessary to do in your office what the people in the study did?
  3. What sorts of studies are needed before we can start to suggest personal health guidelines or organizational standards in this area?

References (Read Further):

The Hawthorne Effect, (with additional reading links included).

Bhammar, D. M., Sawyer, B. J., Tucker, W. J., & Gaesser, G. A. (2017). Breaks in Sitting Time: Effects on Continuously Monitored Glucose and Blood Pressure. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49(10), 2119-2130.

Gaesser, G. A., Tucker, W. J., Jarrett, C. L., & Angadi, S. S. (2015). Fitness versus fatness: which influences health and mortality risk the most?. Current sports medicine reports, 14(4), 327-332.

MacEwen, B. T., MacDonald, D. J., & Burr, J. F. (2015). A systematic review of standing and treadmill desks in the workplace. Preventive medicine, 70, 50-58.

Straker, L., Dunstan, D., Gilson, N., & Healy, G. (2016). Sedentary work. Evidence on an emergent work health and safety issue.



Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Health Psychology, Student Success.

Description: Who do you predict would report sleeping better – someone who has a strong sense of purpose in their life or someone who is wandering around rather aimlessly?  If you picked the former, then your prediction is in line with the results of the study discussed in the article linked below. But even if you were right in your prediction there is a more important question you really should be able to (or wish you could) answer and that is — if there IS a relationship between sleep quality and life purpose why might that be? Think about how you might answer THAT question, or better yet, think about how you would research that question and then read the articled linked below.

Source: The Secret to a better night’s sleep: A sense of purpose? Daisy Grewal, Mental Health, Scientific American.

Date: October 18, 2017

Photo Credit:  Daly and Newton Getty Images

Links:  Article Link —

The author of the article linked above clearly states that the research discussed does NOT speak to the question of the nature of the causal relationship, if any, between life purpose and sleep quality. Given that what would a study that addresses that causal connection possibility look like and, as I ask below, would such a study be ethical? Before giving up on the possibility though think about the note in the article suggesting that other research has shown positive relationships between life purpose and brain functioning, income, and risk of heart attack. The article’s author’s point is well taken, maybe causal uncertainty does not rule out potential clinical usefulness….. or should it??

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are life purpose and sleep quality related?
  2. If so how?
  3. What would a study that would shed light on the direction and degree of causal relationship between sleep quality and life purpose look like? Would it be ethical?

References (Read Further):

Turner, A. D., Smith, C. E., & Ong, J. C. (2017). Is purpose in life associated with less sleep disturbance in older adults?. Sleep Science and Practice, 1(1), 14.

Lewis, N. A., Turiano, N. A., Payne, B. R., & Hill, P. L. (2017). Purpose in life and cognitive functioning in adulthood. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 24(6), 662-671.

Kim, E. S., Sun, J. K., Park, N., Kubzansky, L. D., & Peterson, C. (2013). Purpose in life and reduced risk of myocardial infarction among older US adults with coronary heart disease: a two-year follow-up. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 36(2), 124-133.

Hill, P. L., Turiano, N. A., Mroczek, D. K., & Burrow, A. L. (2016). The value of a purposeful life: Sense of purpose predicts greater income and net worth. Journal of Research in Personality, 65, 38-42.