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.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Human Development, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: If you have taken an introductory psychology course you have likely heard a bit about Freud’s psychodynamic theory and about his views on the subject of dreams and the manifest (surface) and latent (deep, symbolic) content he argued that they hold. The idea that dreams are “the royal road to the unconscious” (Freud), in a way sank along with the idea of the unconscious in general for lack of data support. So, what are we to make of our dreams today? Should we simply ignore them as the ramblings of random neuronal firing or of the “noise” of our brain consolidating our previous day’s cognitive work? Or might here be something there worth paying attention to? Think a bit about what dreams might have to tell us (or about what we might tell ourselves about our dreams and then read the article linked below for a number of possible ways to think, today, about our dreams (the ones in our head at night and not our waking aspirations).

Source: Are out dreams trying to tell us something – or should we sleep on it? Oliver Burkeman, Psychology, The Guardian.

Date: November 17, 2017

Photo Credit:  Michele Marconi for the Guardian

Links:  Article Link —

The bottom line in the linked article is that dreams are pretty cool, no matter what we actually think of them or make of them. They have a narrative or story line, they can be complex, they can suggest deep symbology and, when we wake up and reflect upon them, they can help us think some rather amazing thoughts. Jung, a contemporary of Freud, talked about the notion that dreams arise out of a collective unconscious or shared cultural meanings (memories) that tat form the foundation of our experiences. Paying attention to our dreams and reflecting on them, according to Jung, connects us with our culture and our species at a deep existential level. Not much hard science in that, most certainly. However, the author of the article linked above suggests that we can benefit from simply marveling at what our brains do when we sleep. He suggests that we keep track of and, more importantly, that we spend some time reflecting upon what are dreams are or seems to be about and think about what they seem to be showing or saying tells us about our current situation and current circumstances. Essentially this is a form of self-reflection using our dreams as catalysts or tools to reflect upon our inner conscious experiences. A kind of self-therapy. A kind of mindful refection upon ourselves, lives, and directions. All of this can be positive and might lead to increased self-awareness and self-efficacy. Of course, research is needed but we don’t have to wait for research to give it try!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What were Freud’s views on the nature of dreams?
  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):

Matthew Walker Why tour brain needs to dream.

Walker, M. (2017) Why We Sleep: The new science of sleep and dreams. Penguin, UK.

Jung, C. G. (2014). Dream Interpretation Ancient and Modern: Notes from the Seminar Given in 1936-1941. Princeton University Press.

Freud, S. (2013). The interpretation of dreams. Read Books Ltd.

Blumberg, M. S., & Plumeau, A. M. (2016). A new view of “dream enactment” in REM sleep behavior disorder. Sleep medicine reviews, 30, 34-42.

Posted by & filed under Emerging Adulthood, General Psychology, Human Development, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Moral Development, Research Methods, Social Cognition, The Self.

Description: Think about this either based on personal experience or hypothetically. A teenager goes to school in the morning seeming rather relaxed and happy. At the end of the day they return home quiet (sullen) and clearly distracted. When one of their parents asks what is up they respond “nothing” in a grumpy tone and then head to their room. Now think and hypothesize. Why does the teenager not want to talk to their parent about what is so clearly bothering them? Yes, of course, it could be an entirely unique issue or problem but what might some of the reasons be for why teenagers in general might be reticent to speak with their parents about things that are bothering them? Think of this as a hypothesis generating exercise in preparation for conducting a developmental study of adolescents and the things they will and will not share with their parents. Focus in on what you think some of the general reasons might be. Once you have collected your thoughts, hypotheses, and possible developmental theoretic connections have a read through the article linked below. It is written by a clinical psychologist whose practice focusses upon teenagers and she offers her own suggestions based on her clinical experience (a really good place to start when generating hypotheses).

Source: Why Your Grumpy Teen Doesn’t Want to Talk to You, Lisa Damour, Well, Family, Adolescence, The New York Times.

Date: November 15, 2017

Photo Credit:  iStock

Links:  Article Link —

When thinking and hypothesizing about teenagers and when interacting with them it is important to keep in mind that they are in the process of arriving at maturity. They are not there yet but they already have some of the tools necessary for operating in the adult world. One of the big tools is the ability to predict how those who are commonly around you will respond or react to different sorts of social situations or to different kinds of disclosures by those close to them. Such skills are essential for effective relationship management. So, teenagers have begun to figure out how their parents typically react or respond to certain kinds of news and they may not want to experience that response in some cases once they can predict it. In addition, parents have had many years of talking about the (hopefully) cute of funny things their small children said or did. Many parents do not appreciate the point at or near which such easy disclosures need to stop as they violate the typical expectation of mature relationships that not everything that is said in the context of one relationship should be shared in other relationships. The author of the article, as noted earlier, is a clinical psychologist and as such is aware of the need to be clear with clients what she will and will not share. Threats to others or self? Sharable. Negative thoughts about siblings or about school peers? Not-sharable. For the psychologist it is a matter of ethics, meaning it involves conscious and ongoing reflection. For parents it should involve something similar to ethical reflection on how the nature of their relationship with their teenaged sons and daughters should change as the teenagers age and about how this should be part of the ongoing communications between parents and teens. Relationship ethics make relationships stronger and build trust and relationship strength. Now, how might we assess this in a research context? And will how will we be able to get teens to talk to US?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. While it may be that teenagers ARE grumpier that younger children and adults might they have understandable and even valid reasons to be that way sometimes?
  2. What sorts of considerations are or ought to be included in a set of ethical principles for clinical psychologists in therapeutic practice?
  3. What sorts of things should possibly be included in a set of ethical principles for parents of teenagers? What sorts of ethical principles should apply to the teenagers in those relationships?

References (Read Further):

Damour, L. (2017). Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood. Ballantine Books. This link is to a discussion guide for this book:

Kast, N. R., Eisenberg, M. E., & Sieving, R. E. (2016). The role of parent communication and connectedness in dating violence victimization among Latino adolescents. Journal of interpersonal violence, 31(10), 1932-1955.

Rote, W. M., & Smetana, J. G. (2016). Beliefs about parents’ right to know: Domain differences and associations with change in concealment. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 26(2), 334-344.

Haggerty, K. P., Skinner, M. L., Catalano, R. F., Abbott, R. D., & Crutchfield, R. D. (2015). Long-term effects of staying connected with your teen® on drug use frequency at age 20. Prevention Science, 16(4), 538-549.



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.