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 —

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” ( )?

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.

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.

Kellermann, P. F. (1984). The place of catharsis in psychodrama. Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama & Sociometry, 37, 1-13.

Powell, E. (2007). Catharsis in psychology and beyond: A historic overview. The Primal Psychotherapy Page, 1.

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 —

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? ) 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:

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.

Domoslawski, A., & Siemaszko, H. (2011). Drug policy in Portugal: the benefits of decriminalizing drug use. New York, NY: Open Society Foundations.

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 ( ) 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:

Links:  Article Link — h    

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.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Adult Development and Aging, Consciousness, Language-Thought, Learning, Memory, Neuroscience, Physiology, Psychological Disorders.

Description: Typically when the specific areas of the brain are described and their role in general functioning discussed (at least at the introductory course level) we describe brain areas in what might be called “flat terms”. That’s is, we talk about the behaviours or body fictions that seem to be associated with that area of the brain (like saying the occipital lobes are involved in visual information processing). We sometimes put thing together a bit by noting that while visual inputs are processed in one area of the brain emotional responses are driven from another (the limbic system). What is not typically presented in any detail at the introductory course level is how the brain functions holistically from moment to moment. For example, you may have heard about how the hippocampus has connections (called projections) to the whole array of “higher” areas of the brain referred to as the cortex. We talk about this when discussing how memories are distributed through the brain by the hippocampus, for example. The article linked below talks about research that adds an important layer or level to our understanding of the role of the hippocampus that leads to that are of the brain sometimes being referred to as the “heart” of the brain because of the potential roles played by the low frequency (1 hz) pulses that are generated in the hippocampus and which may play an important role in brain-wide connectivity important for managing sensory information processing. Read the article linked below to find out about this potential critical role played by the hippocampus and the implications of understanding  this role for understanding, predicting and perhaps better managing disorders like Alzheimer’s.

Source: New functions of hippocampus unveiled: Scientists achieve major breakthrough in untangling mysteries of the brain, ScienceDaily,

Date: September 29, 2017

Photo Credit:  DECADE3D/IstockPhoto

Links:  Article Link —

So it may be that the low frequency activity of the hippocampus may drive the higher areas of the cortex and facilitate complex processing related to memory, attention, perception, cognition, language and consciousness as well as the consolidation of learning and memory during deep sleep (leading the hippocampus as the “heart of the brain” observation). Brain-wide connectivity is clearly an important part of how complex processing occurs and the low frequency rhythms driven by the hippocampus may play an important role in how this inter-connectivity works. The thalamus also plays a similar role in initiating and coordinating brain-wide neural interactions. The importance of understanding these brain-wide interactions is underscored by the NIH Human Connectome Project initiative launched in 2010 to coordinate the compilation of the complex datasets necessary to explore issues of brain-wide connectivity. As work I this area expands it will need to be added to our basic (and this our introductory course) understandings of how the human brain functions.


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of things does the hippocampus do for us in terms of our brain functioning?
  2. How do location specific discussions of brain area function differ from those discussing brain-wide activation?
  3. What might an understanding of the role of low frequency pacing of the hippocampus do for our understanding of brain function that our previous understanding of what the hippocampus does not?

References (Read Further):

Russell W. Chan, Alex T. L. Leong, Leon C. Ho, Patrick P. Gao, Eddie C. Wong, Celia M. Dong, Xunda Wang, Jufang He, Ying-Shing Chan, Lee Wei Lim, Ed X. Wu. Low-frequency hippocampal–cortical activity drives brain-wide resting-state functional MRI connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 114 (33): E6972 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1703309114

The Human Connectome Project   or

Redish, A. D., & Touretzky, D. S. (1997). Cognitive maps beyond the hippocampus. Hippocampus, 7(1), 15-35.

Posted by & filed under Families and Peers, Human Development, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Stress Coping - Health, Student Success.

Description: Ok, this post is not going to be anywhere near long enough to convey all that it should. That said, I am going to introduce you to two HUGE developmental concepts and then after only a bare “hello” I am going to toss an article at you that smacks them together in an interesting way. Thirty years ago I completed my doctoral dissertation on Cognitive, Epistemic, and Identity development among adolescents and university students. The general view at that time (early to mid-1980’s) was that young people would and should have their identity developmental business pretty much in hand by the time they started their post-secondary adventures or at least shortly after they took them up (either in a college or university or elsewhere in life itself).

Over the past 6 years I have gathered a lot more data from students taking my introductory psychology courses and things are clearly different now than way way back when I gathered my dissertation data (and please don’t agree with the way way back part so quickly as it makes me feel very old indeed!). One of the big changes is the one that has cleared space for a new developmental stage or life phase called Emerging Adulthood (see the book picture cover and reference below). the world is a more complicated place thanks to globalization and general diversity and also thanks to changes in employment options all of which means that it take longer to for many people in  their 20’s to get it figured out to the extent necessary for them to make proper commitments to career and other life plans or courses. While this can make them seem uncertain or “Diffused” to use a long lived and still viable identity status or style label it may actually be that they are holding off on taking strong life positions while they explore a massively broader array of perspective, options, and opportunities. I will be writing more about emerging adulthood and related developmental issues and possibilities in coming weeks.

But, for now, if emerging adulthood is about taking time to explore and more deeply understand ones options and possibilities how do you think that developmental opportunity might be effected if the one had experienced several significant, prolonged adverse childhood experiences? I am not talking here about not winning a ribbon at sports day in elementary school. Rather, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) involve a number of things like child abuse, parental neglect, being bullied, personal or parental mental illness (for the standard list see the Further Reading list) any or all of which have serious impacts on the developmental pathways and outcomes of those who experience them.  So the article linked below asks what the effects of ACE’s might be on emerging adulthood.

OK, with that thin introduction to the concepts involved, what do you think? What would you hypothesize as possible effects of ACE’s on emerging adulthood (development through the 20’s)?

Oh and welcome to emerging adulthood if you are in the range!

Source: Davis, J. P., Dumas, T. M., & Roberts, B. W. (2017). Adverse Childhood Experiences and Development in Emerging Adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, pdf full text article link is below under the Source heading.

Date: September 20, 2017

Photo Credit:

Links:  Article Link —

I will leave you to evaluate how your hypotheses fared (at least in terms of the data gathered in the article linked above). What I WILL suggest you consider is whether you are comfortable with the interpretations and conclusions drawn by the authors of the linked article as to how ACE’s effect development in emerging adulthood. While there is a lot there to think about and a lot to like I would just offer one more thing to think about. There is substantial evidence in the developmental research literature on resilience that suggests two things. First, that adverse childhood experiences can have serious developmental impacts both because of opportunities lost as a result of exposure and as a result of alternative developmental pathways trodden as a result of early adverse experiences. The resilience literature (search on that key term on this blog if you would like some references) indicates that an important necessary step towards overcoming early adverse experience is a conscious realization that there was a developmental impact of early adverse experiences and a related conscious commitment to doing things differently (e.g., like a young adult contemplating parenthood and realizing they want to and are determined to be a different kind of parent for their own child or children they their own parent or parents were of them). Something of that degree of reflectivity is, in my mind, a central and defining feature of emerging adulthood. So perhaps it is only partly the ACE’s in our lives we need to worry about and what we get more developmental mileage from is focusing on how we are thinking about and focusing upon the developmental baggage that are any ACE’s in our childhood with eyes on how were are working on them and moving forward away from or in spite of them. Anyway, more on emerging adulthood in weeks to come!


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is emerging adulthood?
  2. What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and why do they matter developmentally?
  3. How might we think about the interface and possible interference of ACE’s with development in emerging adulthood?

References (Read Further):

Jensen, J. (2014). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. (2nd Edition) Oxford University Press.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale

Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American psychologist, 55(5), 469.

Foege, W. H. (1998). Adverse childhood experiences. A public health perspective. Am J Prev Med, 14(4), 354-55.


Posted by & filed under Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Human Development, Learning, Moral Development, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: Ok here is a “simple” question. What are the effects of praise (parental praise delivered to children) on those children’s moral development and their moral behaviour? Put more specifically, are children who are praised more or less likely to cheat if given an opportunity? What is your hypothesis reading the nature of this relationship? Ok and yes, I know, it depends. But upon what factors does it (your answer to the question above) depend? A good psychological researcher is as quick, or quicker, with hypothesis caveats than direct question answers. So, once you have yours sorted out read the article linked below and see how your hypotheses fared.

Source: Praising Children May Encourage them to Cheat, Talking Apes, David Ludden, Psychology Today.

Date: September 20, 2017

Photo Credit:

Links:  Article Link —

So how did your hypotheses, caveats and all, fare? Was the type of praise offered something that occurred to you? Did you think about how you might test your hypotheses? Did the research discussed make sense as a test of the questions at hand? Finally, have you heard about the work on “growth mindset”? it seems to fit here and is worth thinking about in relation both the parenting AND in terms of your own performance in academic and life challenge settings.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the relationship between praise and cheating in elementary school children?
  2. The previous question asks for a pretty general conclusion. What else should we consider if we are to properly answer that question?
  3. What sort of parent and teacher advice might arise from an applied developmental consideration of the research discussed in the Article linked above?

References (Read Further):

Zhao, L., Heyman, G. D., Chen, L., & Lee, K. (2017). Praising young children for being smart promotes cheating. Psychological Science, first published September 12, 2017

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

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.

Hochanadel, A., & Finamore, D. (2015). Fixed and growth mindset in education and how grit helps students persist in the face of adversity. Journal of International Education Research, 11(1), 47.



Posted by & filed under Early Social and Emotional development, Families and Peers, General Psychology, Health and Prevention In Aging, Human Development, Stress, Stress Biopsychosocial Factors Illness, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: I am not prepared to offer any sort of political comments on the current rhetoric being thrown back and forth between American president Donald Trump and Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. What I can do is recommend an insightful piece by Daniel Keating about the impacts of stress and anxiety on us that arise from the sort of bombastic, non-diplomatic diplomacy of The Donald and the supreme leader of North Korea. Before you read the article think a bit about what you may already know about the human stress response (short and long term) and about your own stress related issues and anxieties. As neither President Trump nor Kim Jong-un are within our control (at all, in any way, whatsoever!) what might we or should we do to manage any feelings of stress and anxiety we may be experiencing these two odd people play nuclear hardball?

Source: Cartoon Villains, Stress, and Health: Kim and The Donald, Stressful Lives, Daniel P. Keating, Psychology Today.

Date: September 20, 2017

Photo Credit:

Links:  Article Link —

SO do you feel better or worse now that you are somewhat better informed about the details of the stresses and anxieties associated with the uncertain possibilities of nuclear events in the world?  Daniel Keating, being a developmentalist, links the stress response not just to its physiological roots but also to our developmental histories (right back to our pre-natal history) showing or reminding us that our current reactions and feelings are linked back to both our physiology (genetics) and our developmental experiences. He also points out the positive impacts of resilience factors (things that we do or things that are around us) that mitigate the impact of stress situations and events and, potentially lessen anxiety levels. It is worth noting that recent work on resilience encourages us to be cautious NOT to view resilience simply as a sort of individual trait (like character strength) but to recognize the ecological nature of resilience. This approach to resilience would suggest that individuals will do better if we can create cultures or environments supportive of positive stress and anxiety reducing habits and life-style suggestions….. something the current political players in this nuclear standoff are most definitely NOT doing. So, as is often the case, it is up to us (and to psychology) to work at making a difference at the individual level. Good Luck!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How to events like the rhetorical salvos being fired back and forth by Trump and Jong-un impact us in terms of stress and anxiety?
  2. What sorts of resilience related actions and habits can we work on in order to better manage the impacts of relatively uncontrollable impacts of world events (especially of the number and magnitude we are currently experiencing)?
  3. From a psychological (well-being) perspective what is wrong (well what is challenging) about Trump and Jong-un’s forms of “diplomacy”?
  4. A final broad question to consider is to think about the similarities between the above circumstances and Pascal’s wager.

References (Read Further):

Keating, Daniel (2017) Born Anxious: The Lifelong Impact of Early Life Adversity — and How to Break the Cycle, New York, NY: St Martins Press.

Keating, Daniel (2017) 6 Tips to Reduce Your Daily Stress and Anxiety,

Kaplan, Matt How to Laugh Away Stress, (2008) How to Laugh Away Stress

Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227-238.

Meichenbaum, D. (2017). Bolstering resilience. The Evolution of Cognitive Behavior Therapy: A Personal and Professional Journey with Don Meichenbaum, 172.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Neuroscience, Psychological Health, Sensory-Perceptual Development, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health, Student Success, The Self.

Description: Think about a typical weekday in your recent experience. When are your mental highs and lows (of drive, motivation and distractibility)? Do you know your highs and lows well enough that you build your course or work schedule with them in mind? Oh and it is not just BS (no not THAT, blood sugar, based on what you had for lunch, that drives afternoon mental downswings). So if it is not what you ate for lunch (well not entirely at least, though a 2 martini lunch WILL eat into your mental efficiency and focus!) think about what else might be involved. In particular think about what might be involved in terms of how your brain functions. Once you have a hypothesis or two have a look at the article linked below to see what new research has to say on this matter.

Source: Why Your Brain Want to Take a Break in the Afternoon, David DiSalvo, Psychology Today.

Date: September 10, 2017

Photo Credit:  Pexels Public domain images

Links:  Article Link —   

So have you been organizing your schedule of day to day activities correctly? If the research discussed in the article linked above is correct then mid-afternoon cognitive “slumps” may not be things that you can make go away. Understanding how your brain works and the implications that functioning has for your efficacy and for the fluctuations in your cognitive efficacy over the course of a typical day are well worth understanding and planning or adjusting for. While you do not have complete control you can certainly keep them in mind when selecting class times, meeting times and when scheduling different sorts of work tasks in order to optimize your functioning day over day.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. When are your cognitive “highs” and “lows” over a typical work or school day??
  2. In what ways do you typically take your answers to the precious question into account when planning your daily and weekly activities?
  3. How is the cognitive neuroscience concept of “reward” involved in consideration of these questions cognitive focus and efficacy? In this context what do we mean by the term “reward” and how does this map onto our experiences in the world?

References (Read Further):

Byrne, J. E., Hughes, M. E., Rossell, S. L., Johnson, S. L., & Murray, G. (2017). Time of day differences in neural reward functioning in healthy young men. Journal of Neuroscience, 0918-17.

Richards, J. S., Vásquez, A. A., von Rhein, D., van der Meer, D., Franke, B., Hoekstra, P. J., … & Hartman, C. A. (2016). Adolescent behavioral and neural reward sensitivity: a test of the differential susceptibility theory. Translational psychiatry, 6(4), e771.

Manelis, A., Ladouceur, C. D., Graur, S., Monk, K., Bonar, L. K., Hickey, M. B., … & Bebko, G. (2016). Altered functioning of reward circuitry in youth offspring of parents with bipolar disorder. Psychological medicine, 46(1), 197-208.

Gilbert, K. E., Luking, K. R., Pagliaccio, D., Luby, J. L., & Barch, D. M. (2016). Dampening Positive Affect and Neural Reward Responding in Healthy Children: Implications for Affective Inflexibility. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 1-11.
Deep Reinforcement Learning: An Overview

Mental Health: Cognitive Efficacy,

Posted by & filed under Aggression, Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Group Processes, Psychological Health, Social Psychology, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, The Self.

Description: How would you like to spend 8 MONTHS in Hawaii? Are you down with that? OK well what if the 8 months were to be spent on a plateau just below the summit of the still active Mauna Lao volcano on the Big Island on a simulated Mars mission with 5 other people living in a 1200 square foot Martian bubble? Oh you get to go outside but only when wearing a “space suit” and on a science mission. If you are wondering what that would be like keep your eyes on the news over the next couple of weeks because the participants in the 5th of 6 such simulated Mars missions (the latest one was for 8 months and the next will be for a full year) are “coming back to Earth” today (Sunday September 17, 2017). Think about what sort of psychological questions or hypotheses you would like to see addressed by this sort of simulation and think about how the data could be gathered and how it might be applied to the design of actual missions to Mars then read the article linked below that talk about the mission/experiment whose data gathering phase is winding down today.

Source: Psychology experiment kept 6 NASA subjects isolated on a Mars-like volcano for 8 months, Caleb Jones, Associated Press.

Date: September 15, 2017

Photo Credit:  AP

Links:  Article Link —  

So did the article provide you with tidbits of information that addressed at least some of your hypotheses? Well perhaps not if like me you found the article “light” on the psychology. It did, however, provide some interesting bits like the inevitability of conflict in close quarters and the use of virtual reality in ways perhaps like the “holodecks” of the Starship Enterprise as a means of gaining respite while not physically actually getting away. What sort of data should they have gathered (some is described but more information would be more informative).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of social and psychological stressors might arise for participants in this sort of “experiment”?
  2. What sorts of things might be provided, trained, or offered in such situations (real or simulated) to contribute positively to both Psychological the wellbeing and to the cognitive functioning of participants?
  3. What sorts of data gathering methods, including but going beyond those mentioned in passing in the article, would be of assistance in providing data needed to address your questions about psychological issues and impacts of this sort of mission/experience?

References (Read Further):

Ott, T., Wu, P., Morie, J., Wall, P., Ladwig, J., Chance, E., … & Binsted, K. (2016, July). ANSIBLE: A Virtual World Ecosystem for Improving Psycho-Social Well-being. In International Conference on Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality (pp. 532-543). Springer International Publishing.

Anderson, A. P., Fellows, A. M., Binsted, K. A., Hegel, M. T., & Buckey, J. C. (2016). Autonomous, Computer-Based Behavioral Health Countermeasure Evaluation at HI-SEAS Mars Analog. Aerospace medicine and human performance, 87(11), 912-920.

Caraccio, A., Hintze, P. E., & Miles, J. D. (2014). Human Factor Investigation of Waste Processing System During the HI-SEAS 4-month Mars Analog Mission in Support of NASA’s Logistic Reduction and Repurposing Project: Trash to Gas.

Text of a TED-X talk about the Hi-SEA project by Bryan Caldwell

Orndorff, E. (2015). Space Wear Vision: Development of a Wardrobe for Life in Space Vehicles and Habitats.

Leveton, L. B. (2014). Review of Isolated, Confined Extreme Environment Studies.

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

Description: Pardon me briefly for doing what older people do and speak historically for a moment (based on somewhat personal experience – as I was around and an adult back when things that now seem very old actually happened). Now don’t worry I am not going to start telling stories about what my introductory classes were like just before and shortly after email just  invented or about what Blockbuster sold before video tapes and recorders were available. Anyway…. When computers first arrived (were invented) artificial intelligence as born as a corollary field. Early on work in AI split into two streams. One that we can think of as the brute force type of AI involved using computers and their exponentially expanding computing power to see if they could be programmed to do things that humans do better than humans do them. The chess playing computer program Deep Blue (and Alan Turing’s code cracking machine). By being able to rapidly generate and evaluate the downstream consequences of a great many decision options this line of AI used computers large processing capacity to do things faster than humans could do. Importantly, however, in so doing, such brute force AI machines do not approach and solve problems the ways humans do. While advantageous for number crunching this meant that there were certain problems (like speech recognition) that computers did not do very well. The other AI stream involved developing expert systems approaches to problems that would have computers doing things more like the ways humans do them. One hope was that this could lead to computers being able to accomplish passable versions of complex tasks that human experts do well such as medical diagnosis (for a fantasy version look up Emergency Medical Hologram Mark I – online of course). The other potential payoff in this line of inquiry basically gave rise to the Information Processing Theory approach to studying human cognition (remember your intro psych course?) and a related payoff of a better understanding of how human cognitive experts do what they do.

Ok, so that is the contextual digression onto history. Now….. Intel and other computer chip manufacturers have grown their businesses over the past 47 years by virtue of what has come to called Moore’s law (you can look that up too, though Moore was ‘real”) which essentially involved the doubling of the processing capacity of core computing chips each year (that’s why you had to buy a new computer every couple of years to keep up). The problem is that chip developers are now starting to bum p up against the physics limits of how much processing capacity can be squeezed onto a chip. One solution is what is referred to as quantum computing (see link below in Further Reading) which could produce a quantum leap in processing capacity. Another solution is to reverse the historical trend of trying to build computers that can out-think human beings and to start to see if building computers that think (process information) like human beings can produce energy efficient (distributed) processing models. So, equipped with a this thin shaving of decades of general wisdom on computer development and Artificial Intelligence and information processing have a read through the article linked below to see where this trend is going. In addition to starting your own (sooner than you will realize) historical reflections it may also suggest some future investment options as well.

Source: Chips Off the Old Block: Computers Are Taking Design Cues From Human Brains, Cade Metz, Technology, New York Times.

Date: September 17, 2017

Photo Credit:  Minh Uong/The New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

So can you see how the development pathways laid out in the linked article diverge from previous AI development pathways? As with virtually all technological advances, the impact of this one (the use of human processing models for computer processing strategy and hardware development) will very likely take us in unexpected directions. But whichever ways it goes, pay attention, because it is certainly going to be interesting and this one may tell us (within psychology) more about human information processing than we can imagine.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Historically, how have computer developers and the AI field in general linked to or reflected upon human information processing?
  2. Can you identify one or two areas of human information processing or brain functioning that appear(s) to reflect the sort of “design” principles being used in new cutting edge chip and processor developments?
  3. How might these emerging developments in the field of computing (and AI) have impact upon the emerging Psychology sub-field of Cognitive Neuroscience?

References (Read Further):

McCorduck, P., Minsky, M., Selfridge, O. G., & Simon, H. A. (1977, August). History of Artificial Intelligence. In IJCAI (pp. 951-954).

Buchanan, B. G. (2005). A (very) brief history of artificial intelligence. Ai Magazine, 26(4), (the download link is OK)

Heckerman, D., Horvitz, E., & Nathwani, B. N. (2016). Toward normative expert systems part i. Methods of information in medicine, 31.

Sperling, G. (1998). A Century of Human Information-Processing Theory. Perception and Cognition at Century’s End: History, Philosophy, Theory, 199.

Knill, E. (2010). Physics: quantum computing. nature, 463(7280), 441-443.  (this article is a bit thick!)

Quantum Computing 101, Waterloo University,