Posted by & filed under Intelligence, Learning, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Research Methods in ADA, Research Methods in AP, Research Methods in ChD, Research Methods in CP, Research Methods in SP.

Description: You have likely been told over and over in your psychology classes that when you are thinking about designing a research study or when you are thinking about how to narrow a question you have down to one that is actually testable you need to make sure that you do not let any of your pre-existing assumptions about how that part of the world works get in the way of your asking clear questions or, perhaps more importantly, get in the way of you objectively interpreting the data you gathered in your study. Do you think you could do that? Well we tend to assume that people who are biased are sort of cheating if they are letting their beliefs influence their research data interpretations and that they could be objective if they just wanted to or tried. With that in mind, look at the picture below. Even if that were not your puppy I bet you would have a VERY hard time not attributing all sorts of friendly, positive communicative thoughts to that cute little creature (unless, of course, you are a “cat” person). Anyone who has a dog will likely tell you they are pretty sure their dog understands them when they talk to them and that their dog’s facial expressions are themselves communicative (ask a dog own how their dog’s face looks when their owner asks in a stern voice “Who did this?!!” Think a minute about how you might design a study to see if dogs DO, in fact use their facial “expressions” to communicate with humans. Oh, and simply asking dog owners if they think this is true of their dogs is NOT good science, at least in addressing this question. Once you have a design (including a scheme for interpreting the data) have a read through the article linked below and see how what your proposed compares to what the researchers in this study did.

Source: Dogs have pet facial expressions to use on humans, study finds, Nicola Davis, Science, The Guardian.

Date: October 19, 2017

Photo Credit:  Chris Radburn/PA

Links:  Article Link — https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/oct/19/dogs-have-pet-facial-expressions-to-use-on-humans-study-finds

So maybe dogs don’t just look like that when they feel things and maybe puppies do not simply look cute (they DO but there might be more going on than that). Human faces and not food (an emotional topic for most dogs) produced nuances facial expressions. So maybe dog DO communicate with their owners. But, there are limits and uncertainties to these findings. As the researchers suggest we DO NOT know dog’s intensions and the shaping of dogs by the process of domestication may also be at play.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do dog’s facial expression vary when their owner is or is not looking at them?
  2. If there IS a difference as asked above, what might it reflect?
  3. What does thinking about canine facial expressions suggest about the issues of objectivity, bias, and demand characteristics in psychological research?

References (Read Further):
Kaminski, Julianne, Hynds, Jennifer, Morris, Paul & Waller, Bridget (2017) Human attention affects facial expressions in domestic dogs, Scientific Reports, Published online. http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41598-017-12781-x
Andics, A., Gábor, A., Gácsi, M., Faragó, T., Szabó, D., & Miklósi, Á. (2016). Neural mechanisms for lexical processing in dogs. Science, 353(6303), 1030-1032. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Attila_Andics/publication/307475862_Neural_mechanisms_for_lexical_processing_in_dogs/links/57cd46d108ae3ac722b6041e.pdf

Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health, The Self.

Description: If your engagement with the field of psychology has been through your textbooks and your reading of research articles as part of your experiences in undergraduate (or even graduate) level courses you may not have had opportunity to directly observe the actual people (the researchers) who are designing, conducting, analyzing and writing up the research reported on in journals and textbooks. Lectures and written statements about how to properly design and conduct research or how to use research to properly inform your writing, thinking and actions in the world offered by teachers such as me somewhat obscure the fact that such decisions are an ongoing part of the everyday lives of researchers. Add to this the fact that the failure to replicate crisis in Social Psychology (if you missed my post on that see Crisis? What Crisis? Oh That Crisis!   http://wileypsychologyupdates.ca/research-methods/crisis-what-crisis-oh-that-crisis/ ) is not just a challenge to the foundational knowledge of the discipline but directly impacts the lives of the researchers that contributed to the building of those foundations. The article linked below is a detailed account of the impact that the replication crisis has had on the life of a Social Psychologist (Amy Cuddy, who delivered the second most popular TED talk of all time based on her research into the power posing) whose research on the effect of taking “power postures” on the psychological (replicated) and physiological (not replicated) correlates of social power. The article also introduces us to the key players in developing and advancing the replicability crisis also as human beings who happen to be working on research related issues. A read of the article will both provide a concise overview of the issues that make up the replication crisis and show you the human side of the researchers who do this sort of stuff for a living (and because they engaged in their research disciplines.

Source: When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy? Susan Dominus, Grey Matter, the New York Time Magazine, New York Times

Date: October 22, 2017

Photo Credit:  Alec Soth, New York Times

Links:  Article Link — https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/magazine/when-the-revolution-came-for-amy-cuddy.html

The issues of replicability and p-hacking and the related questions about the actual solidity of the foundations of science (and social science and social psychology) are nicely brought out in the linked article. The human side of the research enterprise is also displayed in ways we rarely get to experience (unless we are on the inside as a member of that or another research community). I hope you found it to be an interesting read.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is p-hacking?
  2. Why is p-hacking an issue for the fields of social psychology? Is it an issue unique to social psychology?
  3. How might or perhaps, how should, the things discussed in the article inform the ways in which we train graduate students in psychology?

References (Read Further):

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological science, 21(10), 1363-1368. http://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/mygsb/faculty/research/pubfiles/4679/power.poses_.PS_.2010.pdf

Cuddy, Amy Your body language may shape who you are. TED Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

Overview of the state of the science on postural feedback, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-overview-state-science-postural-feedback-power-posing-amy-cuddy

Inside the debate about power posing: A Q & A with Amy Cuddy http://ideas.ted.com/inside-the-debate-about-power-posing-a-q-a-with-amy-cuddy/

A colleague of mine (Alex Bierman, thanks Alex!) found these follow up or responce links:

For those interested, there was something of a response to the NYT piece from Andy Gelman, who has been one of the main voices quite critical of the power pose research:
http://andrewgelman.com/2017/10/18/beyond-power-pose-using-replication-failures-better-understanding-data-collection-analysis-better-science/
See also this article from Slate, which in some ways provides a counter-counterpoint to Gelman’s counterpoint:
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/10/did_power_posing_guru_amy_cuddy_deserve_her_public_shaming.html

 

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Human Development, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, mental illness, Stress, Student Success.

Description: Do you have feelings of anxiety especially associated with school, college or University? If you do you are not alone, and in fact, you may actually be in the majority of recent data is valid. Before reading the article linked below think a bit about why it might be that students these days are experiencing significantly more anxiety that was true for students even just 5 to 10 years ago. Once you have a few hypotheses in mind read the article linked below to see what data and some student experiences are saying about this question.

Source: Why are more American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety? Benoit Denizet-Lewis, New York Times Magazine.

Date: October 11, 2017

Links:  Article Link — https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/magazine/why-are-more-american-teenagers-than-ever-suffering-from-severe-anxiety.html

The article linked above does a very good job raising the issue of increased rates of anxiety among adolescents and emerging adults and also provides some case examples of young people struggling with anxiety but provides really nothing in the way of an explanation for the increased rates of anxiety. Typically when rates of anything jump the first hypothesis is related to increased rates of disclosure. That is, more people are coming forward and so it looks like the rate has increased when really we are just more aware of cases than before. But if not that (and I think it is not that) then what? Is the world a tougher place? Well maybe yes maybe no. Is the world as it appears to adolescents and emerging adults readying themselves to head out into that world and do whatever they are going to do a less certain place? Well THAT is most certainly true. But how does sociohistorical change of opportunity rattle down to the level of individual psychology and anxiety? Now there is an interesting and complicated question. I do not have an answer to it but we DO need to look into it more closely. I have tried to find a few links below that may be places to start looking.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the prevalence of anxiety and anxiety related issues among high school, college and university students “these days”?
  2. Do we most need better psychological or better sociological (societal level) hypotheses (or both) for why these changes might be happening?
  3. Is there any value at all in considering the hypothesis that “students these days are just not tough enough for the demands of the world?

References (Read Further):

Holmes, A., & Silvestri, R. (2016). Rates of Mental Illness and Associated Academic Impacts in Ontario’s College Students. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 31(1), 27-46. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0829573515601396

http://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/NCHA-II_FALL_2016_UNDERGRADUATE_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf

http://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/ACHA-NCHA-II_UNDERGRAD_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Fall2011.pdf

https://www.heri.ucla.edu/monographs/TheAmericanFreshman2016.pdf

Munro, M. A. (2017). THE TREATMENT OF YOUTH ANXIETY: HISTORICAL AND CURRENT NARRATIVES (Doctoral dissertation, University of Prince Edward Island). http://access-mentalhealth.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/THESIS.-Treating-Anxiety.-Munro.-FINAL.pdf

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Assessment: Intellectual Cognitive Measures, Child Development, Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, General Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Schizophrenia, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Executive function or the process by which parts of your brain essentially tell other parts of your brain what to do, is a topic of intense interest as executive functioning, or [problems in executive functioning, may be related to a very broad range of issues from ADHD, to anxiety to OCD to name a few. The article linked below describes research by Robert Reinhart that looks at the synchronization of two brain regions, the medial frontal cortex and the right lateral prefrontal cortex. If these functioning of these two brain regions are synchronized we show more executive function (think smarter) and when they are de-synchronized we act with less executive function or dumber. While interesting observationally, Reinhart has developed a way of directly affecting the level of synchronization in an immediate and targeted fashion using a form of electronic stimulation called high-definition transcranial alternating current stimulation (HD-tACS).  When synchronized people show more executive function and more self-control and make better decisions. The quick and short-lived nature of these effects have some interesting implications for treatment possibilities for disorders like autism, ADHD and anxiety. Give the article a read and then think about what would need to be done to even start to examine possible treatment applications of this technique.

Source: Turbo charge for your brain?  ScienceDaily.

Date: October 9, 2017

Links:  Article Link — https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171009154941.htm

The ability and apparent benefit to being able to “turn on” or stimulate executive function without having to use the messy tools that are drugs could well be a valuable management or even treatment tool. The key with suggestive finding like this (as the researcher who wrote the linked article suggests) is to further investigate what works, understand why it works and then to begin to carefully investigate treatment possibilities. More research IS needed but the opposites are quite exciting, given the central role of executive function in so many processes and disorders.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does (HD-tACS) do?
  2. What disorders and conditions might this technique and the functioning of these brain areas be related to?
  3. What do you see as the next steps necessary to looking further into the treatment possibilities of this technique?

References (Read Further):

Robert M. G. Reinhart. Disruption and rescue of interareal theta phase coupling and adaptive behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201710257 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1710257114

Agoston, A. M., & Rudolph, K. D. (2016). Interactive contributions of cumulative peer stress and executive function deficits to depression in early adolescence. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 36(8), 1070-1094. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0272431615593176

Craig, F., Margari, F., Legrottaglie, A. R., Palumbi, R., de Giambattista, C., & Margari, L. (2016). A review of executive function deficits in autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 12, 1191. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4869784/

Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Consciousness, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Language-Thought, Legal Ethical Issues.

Description: An economist named Richard Thaler just won the Nobel prize in Economics for his work in an area called Behavioral Economics. What is behavioral economics? Well it is the study of how human beings make decisions. Sound like Psychology, well yes it does because it really is. I am not getting Psychologically petty and picky here but Daniel Kahneman along with Vernon Smith won the 2002 Nobel prize in economics for his work in behavioral economics based in his cognitive science work on human judgement and decision making. Psychology IS everywhere, but that is not what I want you to think about here. Both Kahneman and Thaler have contributed mightily our understanding of how non-rational and illogical human thinking can be. Despite what we might like to believe (that most of the time we are clear rational thinkers) it turns out we are actually influenced by biases and use heuristics (quick solutions) rather than logic. Thaler built on Kahneman’ s (much done with Amos Tversky prior to his death in 1996) work and developed applications to consumer behavior and to health related human decision making. Basically Thaler has shown that while we typically know what is good for us and we would like to believe that we make decisions in rational ways that are to our short and long term benefit we simply do not. We eat too much we eat the wrong things we do not get enough exercise we do not agree to donate out organs if we die unexpectedly. Economic theorists call the person we are NOT (that we like to think we are) Homo Economicus (rational thinking and rational investor of time, money and other choices). Thomas Leonard, the author of the book (Thaler’s) review linked below suggests we are instead Homer Economicus (after that prototypical self-serving irrational thinker Homer Simpson). Now, while the psychology of human irrationality is become well established and known what Thaler’s work has given rise to is interesting. He suggests that what is needed in order for us to behave better (in ways that are “better” for us and for us to make “better” decisions) we need Nudges. That is, we need to be lightly bumped into better decisions and better behavior. An example? Well when people are asked to check of a box on their driver license application indicating that they would be willing to donate their organs and tissues when they die about 10% of drivers do so and the health care community bemoans the resulting long wait times and lost transplant opportunities that result. However, many jurisdictions have simply moved to a negative option (a kind of nudge) in which license applicants are asked to check a box if they do not wish to donate their organs and in those countries 90% of drivers “agree” to donate their organs. Other “nudges” include outlawing or heavily taxing super large sugared soft drinks as many cities are doing, allowing only fruit, water and milk in school vending machines, and heavily taxing cigarette and alcohol. Arguable all of these things are economics that are good for us. As sometimes happens at various points in the development of a scientific area of enquiry, what a line of research tells us about ourselves raised philosophical questions often having to do with whether we are comfortable not with the results of the research but with what the results lead psychologists and economists to suggest about how we should proceed in dealing with or managing human behavior and human decisions. You can and should read the articles linked below and figure out what your own thoughts are on these questions but let me suggest that what we should consider is how comfortable we are with Thaler’s “Nudge” approach to marketing and human decision driving. There is a paternalistic feel to what Thaler is suggesting. If we are Homer Economicus then someone better nudge us in the direction of better behavior. But who? Do you recall Plato’s allegory of the cave from a philosophy class you may have taken? If I recall correctly (and my philosophy course was a long time ago), he suggested that most people see only the reflections or shadows of the world on the walls of the caves they are living in and that only philosopher kings, the truly enlightened, who have seen the real outside world, should be making decisions for all the rest of us. The third article linked below is by a philosopher and he discusses this particular question. So give the articles a read and then see what you think. Should we resist where psychology done by economists is taking us or should we all embrace it and go in to marketing as there may be a lot of money to be made with this Nobel prize winning research in hand.

Source: Various, see links below

Date: October 14, 2017

Photo Credit:  Scott Olson/Getty Images and PD-USGov-NIH

Links:  Article Links — https://www.forbes.com/sites/frankarmstrong/2017/10/13/richard-thaler-a-giant-in-economics-awarded-the-nobel-prize/#350088323a10

https://blog.nus.edu.sg/henrylim/files/2015/04/Leonard_Review-Nudge-1z2qpyn.pdf

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/like-it-or-not-we-need-a-nudge-to-make-better-choices/article36570743

So, I have no bright snappy conclusions to draw at this point as I believe the questions are too big for quick conclusions to be drawn. It IS, however, important to at least be aware of the philosophical issues arising from well-regarded front line psychological research and it is the case that when philosophy pops up in psychology ethical reflection and possible policy guidelines should not be far behind.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How rational or human decision makers??
  2. Should we try to be rational thinkers?
  3. Should we dive into the task of figuring out what nudges are needed to improve the lives of the general population?

References (Read Further):

Leonard, T. C. (2008). Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. Constitutional Political Economy, 19(4), 356-360. (Second link above)

Thaler, R. H., Sunstein, C. R., & Balz, J. P. (2014). Choice architecture. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/C_Sunstein/publication/269517913_Choice_Architecture/links/548db1850cf225bf66a5f4e6.pdf

Oullier, O., Cialdini, R., Thaler, R. H., & Mullainathan, S. (2010). Improving public health prevention with a nudge. Economic Perspectives, 6(2), 117-36. http://oullier.free.fr/files/2010_Oullier-Cialdini-Thaler-Mullainathan_Neuroscience-Prevention-Public-Health_Nudge-Behavioral-Economics.pdf

Blumenthal-Barby, J. S., & Burroughs, H. (2012). Seeking better health care outcomes: the ethics of using the “nudge”. The American Journal of Bioethics, 12(2), 1-10. http://www.academia.edu/download/7908886/AJOB%20PROOF%20FINAL%20NUDGE.pdf

Posted by & filed under Human Development, Learning, Psychological Health, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: I have done some research looking at factors involved in how (or how not) first year students adapt to their first year of post-secondary study. A LOT of the research into that question focuses on all of the things that can go wrong or be otherwise challenging about being a new college or university student. Stress, anxiety, depression, avoidant coping to name but a few, are commonly measured concepts and variables. While there has been a lot of work done on how to reduce the rates of these issues in the first year student population it is not clear whether things are getting significant better (actually to be fair things ARE better for a LOT of students by the time they enter 2nd or third year) for first year students. The research article linked below describes a single study aimed at shifting focus from a “what can go or is wrong” focus to a focus arising out of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is a relatively recent area of theory and research in psychology that try’s, instead of focusing on problems, challenges, and negative functioning, to focus upon positive aspects of human functioning and looks at ways to increase positive ways of being rather than reduce negative ways of being. So have a look through the article and see what it suggests may be of assistance in increasing the positive experiences of first year students.

Source: Stress and subjective well-being among first year UK undergraduate students (see reference below).

Date: October 8, 2017

Photo Credit:  Piotr Marcinski – Fotolia

Links:  Article Link — http://shura.shu.ac.uk/12114/3/Macaskill%20Stress%20and%20Subjective%20Well-Being.pdf

Much advice to new college and university students involves some version of the statement that “it is up to you”. The article linked above takes that a little bit further by suggesting that learner autonomy and learner self-efficacy and how they play off relative to one another especially when things do not go strongly or well in first year are important parts of understanding how students manage first year and how they can do so more positively. These variables are the ones that shift and change not the stress levels that students experience. The goal of adjustment then is perhaps not making the stress go away but, rather, developing ways to positively address it.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What happens to the levels of stress experienced by students over their first year of college or university?
  2. What are self-efficacy, academic alienation and leaner autonomy and how do they relate to one another and to student stress levels?
  3. What sorts of things might we do to help first year student better manage their transition to first year (according to the results of the linked study)?

References (Read Further):

Denovan, A., & Macaskill, A. (2017). Stress and subjective well-being among first year UK undergraduate students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(2), 505-525. http://shura.shu.ac.uk/12114/3/Macaskill%20Stress%20and%20Subjective%20Well-Being.pdf

Posted by & filed under Language-Thought, Learning, Neuroscience.

Description: How do our brains go about producing our  mind or the experience of thoughts and mind we have? If that sounds like an odd restatement of Descartes’s statement of thinking therefore being you are not far off. How do those of us who do not have specific training in neuroscience learn about how our brains work? Well we can read what neuroscientists have to say on the subject. The problem is that much of what neuroscientists write they write for one another and not for us and reading enough of the scientific research literature to develop a big picture view of how the brain works would be an onerous and time consuming task, assuming it would be doable at all without post-graduate training. Luckily many neuroscientists have come to the realization that some knowledge translation work aimed at assisting the rest of us in building a big picture understanding of how our brains (minds) work would be greatly appreciated, if done well and accessibly. The review linked below looks at 4 books written by neuroscience researchers but aimed at us in the “lay” (non-expert) community. Usefully, the reviewer not only provides a brief overview of what the author of ach book seemed to him to be trying to accomplish but also some comments on the extent to which the authors succeeded in their translation efforts and, in some cases, about what seemed to have been left out that might have helped us build a useful understanding of the areas of brain and mind functioning described. Critical looks and the extent to which efforts to translate expert knowledge in ways that make it usefully available to otherwise bright and well informed community members is becoming more and more necessary and the specialization of our fields of knowledge deepen. So as you read through the review linked below pay attention not just to what you might learn if you were to invest time in reading the books that were reviewed but also, reflect upon what the author of the review raises in the way of concerns about what is issuing or less than optimally handled in the books reviewed. This sort of reflective guidance will be increasing important for us as we try to engage in the important goal of life-long learning in a world of increasing esoteric knowledge specialties.

Source: How We Make Up Our Minds, Book Reviews, Christopher Chabris, The New York Times

Date: September 22, 2017

Photo Credit:  John Gall

Links:  Article Link — https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/books/review/the-influential-mind-tali-sharot-decision-making.html

So how many of the 4 books reviewed do you now want to read (if you can find the time)?) Diverse and complex disciplines like Psychology are going to have to address questions of how they might optimally inform people (non-psychologists) about what they are up to and, most importantly, about how they can make their insights into human functioning (and fixes for human malfunctioning) genuinely available to the rest of the world. The need to properly and effectively inform others about the research done and insights gained in Psychology trough psychological research is an ethical principle advocated by both the Canadian and American Psychological Associations. Reviews of efforts to do so such as that linked above and, form that matter, blogs like this one which I post each week, are potentially important parts of Psychology’s and Psychologists’ efforts to live up to this ethical expectation.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why will the idea that we only use 10% of our brains stay around when Psychology and Psychologists have said it is not true for years now?
  2. How might we change general or typical behaviour (like handwashing by health workers) for the better?
  3. What are some key advantages of having critical reviews of these sorts of books (in this case written by neuroscientists to inform non-neuroscientists about how their own brains work?

References (Read Further):

Shtulman, A. (2017). Scienceblind: Why our intuitive theories about the world are so often wrong. Hachette UK.

Sigman, Mariano (2017) The Secret Life of the Mind, Little Brown.
Kravetz, Lee Daniel (2017) Strange Contagion: Inside the Surprising Science of Infectious Behaviors and Viral Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves, Harper Wave
Sharot, Tali (2017) The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others, Henry Holt and Co.

Levin, D. Z., & Cross, R. (2004). The strength of weak ties you can trust: The mediating role of trust in effective knowledge transfer. Management science, 50(11), 1477-1490. http://www.providersedge.com/docs/km_articles/the_strength_of_weak_ties_you_can_trust.pdf

Adler, C., Hadorn, G. H., Breu, T., Wiesmann, U., & Pohl, C. (2017). Conceptualizing the transfer of knowledge across cases in transdisciplinary research. Sustainability Science, 1-12. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11625-017-0444-2

CPA (2017) Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists. http://www.cpa.ca/aboutcpa/committees/ethics/codeofethics/#

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Child Development, General Psychology, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: When I was in high school (back in the old days of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s) I had a good friend whose mother was a practitioner of Janov’s Primal Scream therapy. Part of the basement in their house was lined with mattresses and there were bins of stuffed animals, boxing gloves and foam bats. Sessions, heard from the main and second floors of their house were full of screams, shrieks and other loud noises. There was no Primal Scream Therapy room in my house but my parents were involved in what was called the Human Potential Movement which included a number of psychologists and other “gurus” who, before many of them shifted to psychologically coaching Olympic athletes ran workshops on getting in touch with one’s inner children and one’s deeper potentials (sometimes with and sometimes without strong emotions and screaming). We lent space every other month or so to a therapist who practiced Rolfing which apparently (I found out with research later on) involves deep massage intended to reorganize the body’s connective tissue, improve posture and thus well-being. What it DID seem to involve, at least from what I heard of sessions on the second floor of our house, was a LOT of screaming that sounded like it was driven by serious pain. My friend and I would often compare notes regarding the “therapeutic” noise levels in our respective houses when “work” was being done. When studying psychology later in life I did not spend really any time at all studying Primal Scream Therapy or Rolfing. I did, however, spend a bit of time in a couple of history of psychology courses reflecting on the socio-historical context of the 1960’s and 70’s and the psychology that it produced. So, why might we think it might possibly be therapeutic for people to delve into early childhood deep emotional reactions tied to fears of parental abandonment? Why might screaming out the anguish of those feelings be good for us? Instead of dismissing theories like this out of hand as “weird” (and yes, they ARE that) have a read through Arthur Janov’s obituary linked below and, in addition to considering the theoretic foundations of Janov’s approach, also consider why and how the socio-historical context of the 1960’s can be viewed as a perfect environment for encouraging the emergence of Primal Scream therapy and Rolfing and the Human  Potential Movement among many other theories, therapies and ideas. Also, be aware, that there is serious debate about whether Primal Scream Therapy should be taken seriously within Psychology at all (see further reading below).

Source: Arthur Janov, 93, Dies; Psychologist Caught World’s Attention with Primal Scream, Margalit Fox, Obituaries, New York Times

Date: October 2, 2017

Photo Credit:  Ann Summa/Getty Images

Links:  Article Link — https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/obituaries/arthur-janov-dead-developed-primal-scream-therapy.html

We do not often think of the socio-historical climates within which our current psychological theories and our current therapy approaches have been developed. Their being immersed in our own current historical moments makes the influences harder to see because they are simply parts of how we see the world that is right in front of us right now. It is easier to see historical contextual effects when we look into the more distant past. Of course Freud and the theory he developed were influenced by the socio-historical forces that were at play in the later 1800’s and early 1900’s. Likewise, Janov’s context of the 1960’s and the profound social changes that were in the works, are reasonable accessible (even if it is hard to get our heads around those ways of seeing the world, human functioning and therapeutic needs).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How would you describe Janov’s theory and therapy to someone who had not heard anything about it?
  2. What is the nature of the relationship between socio-historical contexts and the psychological theories and therapies that arise within them?
  3. Thinking about Janov’s theory and therapy what are some possible connections you could see between them and the current popularity of “Escape Rooms” (https://globalnews.ca/news/1957421/its-like-solving-a-puzzle-escape-room-game-trend-sweeping-canada/ )?

References (Read Further):

Norcross, J. C., Koocher, G. P., & Garofalo, A. (2006). Discredited psychological treatments and tests: A Delphi poll. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37(5), 515. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Norcross/publication/228663686_Discredited_psychological_treatments_and_tests_A_Delphi_poll/links/0912f508a7c65bf8fc000000.pdf

Furnham, A., Pereira, E., & Rawles, R. (2001). Lay theories of psychotherapy: perceptions of the efficacy of different’cures’ for specific disorders. Psychology, health & medicine, 6(1), 77-84. http://www.brown.uk.com/laytheories/furnham3.pdf

Kellermann, P. F. (1984). The place of catharsis in psychodrama. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama & Sociometry, 37, 1-13. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Natan_Kellermann/publication/232577668_The_place_of_catharsis_in_psychodrama/links/567d308e08ae197583879861.pdf

Powell, E. (2007). Catharsis in psychology and beyond: A historic overview. The Primal Psychotherapy Page, 1. http://www.primalmatters.com/images/Catharsis%20.pdf

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, General Psychology, Group Processes, Health Psychology, Neuroscience, Research Methods, Social Influence, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Substance-Related Disorders.

Description: What do you think you know about the addictive nature of opioid drugs like heroin or morphine? Have you heard that they can be addictive on first use? Have you heard that they work on the brain chemistry of all users to create a need for the drug or a dependency that is purely physio logical? Have you heard that they are addictive to mice and lab rats in the same ways they are addictive to humans? Well, it may well be that the last of these the questions (and only the last one) may actually be true. The link below will take you to a novel presentation of research into these questions. The research was conducted by Bruce Alexander from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby BC. The unique presentation is in the form of a comic or graphic novel depiction of Alexander’s research program created by Australian artist Stuart McMillen.  It is a unique and quite informative way to present the key features and findings of this line of research (kudos to the artist, Stuart McMillen!). Have a look through it at the link below and then revisit the questions I started with above.

Source: Rat Park, Stuart McMillen.

Date: October 1, 2017

Photo Credit:  Stuart McMillen

Links:  Article Link — http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comic/rat-park/#page-1

So what did you think of the graphic novel/comic approach top research presentation? Aside from that what did you think of the findings of Bruce Alexander’s research? Does it make sense to view rats in research cages as similar to humans in solitary confinement? When regardless of what that suggestion may or may not give rise to in the way of issues related to animal treatment (have you heard of the documentary film Blackfish? www.blackfishmovie.com ) the research using the “Rat Park” environment raises a number of fascinating issues about addiction and specifically about the nature of addictiveness in relation to opioids. Social factors might be important even in core neuroscience research areas.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How automatically addictive are opioid drugs like heroin or morphine? Are they can be addictive on first use?
  2. Does it make sense to say that the danger with opioids is entirely due to how they work on brain chemistry?
  3. Assuming it makes sense to generalize somewhat from the rat studies described in the link comic above (and maybe comment on the nature and make-ability of that assumption) what would approaches to treatment or approaches to otherwise dealing with drug addiction to illegal narcotics involve? Oh and before answering this question check out this link: https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/portugal-drug-decriminalization-statistics

References (Read Further):

Alexander, B. (2010). The globalization of addiction: A study in poverty of the spirit. Oxford University Press.

Alexander, B. (2017) Addiction: Hopeful prophecy from a time of despair. http://www.brucekalexander.com/articles-speeches/289-addiction-a-hopeful-prophecy-from-a-time-of-despair

Domoslawski, A., & Siemaszko, H. (2011). Drug policy in Portugal: the benefits of decriminalizing drug use. New York, NY: Open Society Foundations. https://www.tni.org/en/issues/decriminalization/item/2725-drug-policy-in-portugal

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Emerging Adulthood, General Psychology, Human Development, Stress Coping - Health, Student Success.

Description: OK, think back to your own early adolescence (when you were 13 to 15 years old).  Thinking about what the world and your place in it looked like back then would you say you had a clear sense of what your purpose in life was (is)? Probably not. What about now? Is the purpose of life, of your life, any clearer now? Think for a little bit about what a sense of purpose in life (that is yours and not one that has been handed to you by others or my life circumstances) might mean for how things go (or will go) for you in your post-secondary developmental adventures (in college or university or in the world in general). After you have those thoughts in order, use this link (https://www.mediafire.com/file/admyn4hzbe39g2p/Purpose%20Scales.pdf ) to download a document containing two measures that assess parts of concept of life purpose (of YOUR life propose). Answer the questions and calculate your scores using the instructions in the document and compare your scores to the scores of a large sample of firth year university students using the average scores contained in the download document. Once you have done that go and have a look through the article linked below. It is a full research article but you do not have to read it in deep detail to find some useful things to think about. Skim through the introduction to see what the study involved. In the methods section have a look at what the researchers measured and how they described what they thought they were measuring (e.g., their operationalizations of the variable of interest). Then, skim the results section and have a closer look at the discussion section to see what they found in the study. What does a sense of life purpose relate to among the university students who participated in the research. Think about whether the finding make sense to you and thinks about what else you might like to know about the variables measured and the concepts studies in this research project.

Source: Purpose in Life in Emerging Adulthood: Development and Validation of a New Brief Measure, see reference below.

Date: October 1, 2017

Photo Credit:  tinybudda.com

Links:  Article Link — hhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4779362/    

So what did you come to by way of conclusions? What purpose in life well defined? Does it seem to be important (matter in real life)?  Did the your results on the two measure you completed (if you did that) make sense? The research article suggested that your scores on the two measures should be quite similar and they reported a correlation of .6 between scores on the two measures in their data. So what next? If the results and the researchers discussion of their results did not make sense to you what research do you think is needed to make things clearer. If the results DID make sense (e.g., that wellbeing is positively correlated with life purpose in this population) what sorts of things might we try and do to help folks develop a clearer sense of life purpose and how would we measure whether or not doing so works and whether doing so makes a difference.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is Life Purpose (both in general terms AND in terms of how it was measured in this study?
  2. Is there a gap, in your mind, between what Life Purpose is and what was measured in this study and if so how might we narrow that gap?
  3. How might you design a study to assess the effectiveness of two of three ways in which, hypothetically, we might strengthen people’s Life Purpose?

References (Read Further):

Hill, P. L., Edmonds, G. W., Peterson, M., Luyckx, K., & Andrews, J. A. (2016). Purpose in life in emerging adulthood: Development and validation of a new brief measure. The journal of positive psychology, 11(3), 237-245. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4779362/