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

Description: When I was in graduate school (back in the stone age) I took a seminar course in cognitive psychology that was run by Daniel Kahneman (who would later receive the Nobel Prize in economics for his work on human decision making and cognitive biases) and his wife Anne Treisman (also a noted cognitive psychology superstar). Each of us enrolled in the seminar had to take responsibility for doing a presentation at some point in the course in which we were to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge in an assigned area of cognitive science. I actually do not recall what my assigned topic was (though that likely means I survived without serious criticism) but I do recall the presentation of the unfortunate graduate student (who was actually working with Daniel Kahneman) who was charged with presenting on the topic of consciousness. She seemed quite nervous as she led us through a very informative overview of the concept of consciousnesses address in eastern religions and philosophies and of early “scientific” efforts to locate consciousness within the pituitary gland. She then talked a little bit about sleep research and research into metacognition and then turned to her supervisor and apologized for the fact that she was not able to find any work in cognitive psychology that directly addressed the question of the nature and location of consciousness. Daniel’s comment was to simply shrug and to say something like “No there really hasn’t been anything sensible done on that question yet – what’s next”?” In the nearly 40 years since I took that seminar and during which I have taught introductory psychology which typically contains a section on consciousness and I can tell you that Daniel Kahneman’s summary comment has largely continued to apply, until recently. We are seeing an increasing number of questions being raised about the status of Artificial Intelligence and part of that has begun to involve questions about AI and consciousness, partly just out of curiosity and partly out of concern over what might happen if or when AI becomes conscious (see I Robot, Ex Machina, Transcendence, or even Blade Runner for a sci-fi treatment). We are also seeing a resurgence of versions of the age-old ethical question of whether lobsters experience pain when they are boiled alive for dinner that are broadening into deeper questions about animal consciousness and their ethical standing on our planet. So, where to start on the question of the nature and location of consciousness? Well, enter Giulio Tononi, neuroscientist. Read the article linked below to see where he is proposing we go to try and develop a coherent, testable theory of consciousness (and not just human consciousness but general and even hive and perhaps, at some point, AI consciousness).

Source: Are we close to solving the puzzle of consciousness? David Robson, future,

Date: March 27, 2019

Photo Credit: Emmanuel Lafont

Article Link:

So, what do you think of Integrated Consciousness Theory? There is something compelling, to me at least, about the idea that consciousness is likely about the integration of information – it just seems to fit with what has always seemed to be a necessary part of any account of the nature of consciousness – that ist must be greater than the sum of any amalgam of information gathering parts. As many of the commenters quoted in the linked article say, Integrated Consciousness Theory is a good starting point and it IS explorable AND, to a degree, testable. It is going to be fascinating to see where this line of (conscious) thought and inquiry takes us!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is consciousness?
  2. What does consciousness do for us?
  3. What do you make of Integrated Consciousness Theory and what do you think ir can do for us?

References (Read Further):

Tononi, G., & Koch, C. (2015). Consciousness: here, there and everywhere? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1668), 20140167.

Sarasso, S., Boly, M., Napolitani, M., Gosseries, O., Charland-Verville, V., Casarotto, S., … & Rex, S. (2015). Consciousness and complexity during unresponsiveness induced by propofol, xenon, and ketamine. Current Biology, 25(23), 3099-3105.

Barrett, Adam (2018) We need to figure out a theory of consciousness. The Conversation.

Massimini, M., Ferrarelli, F., Murphy, M. J., Huber, R., Riedner, B. A., Casarotto, S., & Tononi, G. (2010). Cortical reactivity and effective connectivity during REM sleep in humans. Cognitive neuroscience, 1(3), 176-183.

Tononi, G., Boly, M., Massimini, M., & Koch, C. (2016). Integrated information theory: from consciousness to its physical substrate. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 17(7), 450.

Casarotto, S., Comanducci, A., Rosanova, M., Sarasso, S., Fecchio, M., Napolitani, M., … & Gosseries, O. (2016). Stratification of unresponsive patients by an independently validated index of brain complexity. Annals of neurology, 80(5), 718-729.

Toker, D., & Sommer, F. T. (2019). Information integration in large brain networks. PLoS computational biology, 15(2), e1006807.

Engel, D., & Malone, T. W. (2018). Integrated information as a metric for group interaction. PloS one, 13(10), e0205335.


Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Child Development, Cultural Variation, Early Social and Emotional development, Families and Peers, Human Development, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: You cannot have missed at least some of the range of stories regarding the amount of screen time children are spending and the concerns being raised about its possible impact on their development. We should be concerned but we should also be cautious about treating screen time like this month’s Tickle me Elmo, Furby, or whatever is more recently and passingly popular. We most certainly need to look at the impact of screen time and on screen-contents on the development of children and adolescents of all ages. However, especially with the sort of vast scale socio-historical technological changes associated with things like the internet and the ubiquity of screen in out lives, we need to step back from time to time and look at a bigger picture of screen time or whatever else we are concerned about. How to do that? Well, first do not restrict your thinking to children and child development alone. While that might be one of the points of greatest impact, we need to think about what screen time might represent more broadly. What might this involve? Well think about two things: First, how might screen time issues impact the elderly? And second, who is working VERY hard to reduce or eliminate screen time in their young children’s lives? Think about those questions for a moment or two and then read the article linked below and find out who Sox is (in relation to question one) and WWSJD (what Steve Jobs would do).

Source: Human Contact is Now a Luxury Good, Nellie Bowles, News Analysis, The New York Times.

Date: March 23, 2019

Photo Credit: Marta Monteiro, The New York Times

Article Link:

Well, what do you think now? If “real” human contact is only for the wealthy and if we as a species (and the young of our species in particular) have evolved to grow, develop and rely on direct social contact then where will we be developmentally when screen time replaces social contact with real people (not Sox or even Facetime)? Understanding the differences and trade-offs between Sox and human and community contact could turn out to be one of the most important lifespan developmental tasks of our time. So, what research do we need to do?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is Sox a good thing?
  2. What might it mean that very well-off parents who made or are making their fortunes in Silicon Valley are working hard to reduce or eliminate screen time in their children’s lives?
  3. What other areas of interest, concern and needed research in relation to the wholesale jump in the amount of screen-time in people’s lives can you think of ?

References (Read Further):

Asan, O., D. Smith, P., & Montague, E. (2014). More screen time, less face time–implications for EHR design. Journal of evaluation in clinical practice, 20(6), 896-901.

Sigman, A. (2012). Time for a view on screen time. Archives of disease in childhood, 97(11), 935-942.

Subrahmanyam, K., Kraut, R. E., Greenfield, P. M., & Gross, E. F. (2000). The impact of home computer-use on children’s activities and development. The future of children, 123-144.

Parkes, A., Sweeting, H., Wight, D., & Henderson, M. (2013). Do television and electronic games predict children’s psychosocial adjustment? Longitudinal research using the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Archives of disease in childhood, 98(5), 341-348.

Crone, E. A., & Konijn, E. A. (2018). Media use and brain development during adolescence. Nature Communications, 9(1), 588.

Nesi, J., Choukas-Bradley, S., & Prinstein, M. J. (2018). Transformation of adolescent peer relations in the social media context: part 1—a theoretical framework and application to dyadic peer relationships. Clinical child and family psychology review, 21(3), 267-294.


Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Intelligence, Learning.

Description: How do you feel about self-driving cars? Would you trust your safety if they started driving though your neighbourhood (perhaps delivering packages or food)? What is a major challenge to computers (AI) learning to drive and to drive safely? Well, recognizing what they “see” so they can respond appropriately. A common position is that computers make mistakes that humans do not make such as not recognizing objects or animals that should lead to action changes. This leads to the related common belief that computers do not “think” like we do. The researchers whose work is discussed in the article linked below challenge this by trying to see if they could create conditions in which humans would “see things” the same way that computer do. How might our thinking about computer thinking and decision making be changed if we can see communalities in AI and Human perception and information processing? For an understanding of the problem give the article linked below a read (or have a look at the original research articled linked down below in the References section).

Source: Researchers get humans to think like computers, Science News, Science Daily.

Date: March 22, 2019

Photo Credit:

Article Link:

So when humans are asked to respond to what they are seeing using the same options available to computers they look like they “thinking” in very similar ways. The human ability to look at images and decide what they “look like” as opposed to what they actually are (like cloud gazing) may be something humans do that computer are not allowed to do when they are learning how to drive (and other things). Being restricted to decide what everything you see really really is makes sense for learning how to drive and when we restrict ourselves to making those sorts of decisions, we start to act more like computers do in similar circumstances. What this might mean for self-driving vehicles is not really very clear but perhaps it opens an avenue for us to develop a bit more empathy for what the computer in self-driving vehicles are going through!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does thinking about children as orchids and dandelions help us to more effectively examine child development?
  2. What does it mean to say that resilience is relational?
  3. What sorts of things should parents be trying to do for their orchid child(ren)? And what about for their dandelion children?

References (Read Further):

Zhenglong Zhou, Chaz Firestone. Humans can decipher adversarial images. Nature Communications, 2019; 10 (1)

Sivak, M., & Schoettle, B. (2015). Road safety with self-driving vehicles: General limitations and road sharing with conventional vehicles.

Bojarski, M., Del Testa, D., Dworakowski, D., Firner, B., Flepp, B., Goyal, P., … & Zhang, X. (2016). End to end learning for self-driving cars. arXiv preprint arXiv:1604.07316.

Howard, D., & Dai, D. (2014, January). Public perceptions of self-driving cars: The case of Berkeley, California. In Transportation Research Board 93rd Annual Meeting (Vol. 14, No. 4502, pp. 1-16).


Posted by & filed under Child Development, Families and Peers, Human Development, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Think of all the different ways in which you can think about and talk about developing children: shy – outgoing, independent – dependent, leaders—followers and on and on. All such dichotomies tend to focus on a part or aspect of children or child development and do not scale up well, into big pictures of how development can proceed and what differences might be useful in describing the process. So maybe we do not need any more dichotomies but let’s try one more on for size. Think about children you know and then think about which of them are orchids and which of them are dandelions. What images of development come to mind as you think about these two types of flowers? Well, orchids require very particular soils and environments to thrive whereas dandelions sprout up almost anywhere in almost any conditions. After you have thought for a moment or two about what the dichotomy might point to in the way of different developmental processes and outcomes have listen to the radio story that looks into what Thomas Boyce suggests about orchid and dandelion  children.

Source: Is your child an orchid or a dandelion? How one expert’s theory can help us raise better people, Anna Maria Tremonti, The Current, CBC Radio.

Date: March 21, 2019

Photo Credit: Rawpixel/Shutterstock

Article Link:

This dichotomy between orchid and dandelion children is different and more useful that many other “there are two kinds of children” hypothesis mainly because this one does not dwell on basic or characterological differences between children. Instead Boyd asks us to consider the child within their entire developmental environment and, as well, not just how the child responds to their environments but how their environments (Parents, peers, teachers etc.) respond to them. Boyd points out that resilience is not a genetic-like attribute of children but is something that is relational and that exists in and through all of the social connections and relationships that children live in and grow up through. As the last bit of the sub-title of Boyd’s book suggests “All Can Thrive,” and thinking about orchids and dandelions helps us work on making that come to reality.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does thinking about children as orchids and dandelions help us to more effectively examine child development?
  2. What does it mean to say that resilience is relational?
  3. What sorts of things should parents be trying to do for their orchid child(ren)? And what about for their dandelion children?

References (Read Further):

Boyce, W. Thomas (2019) The orchid and the dandelion: Why some children struggle and how all can thrive. Allen Lane

Dobbs, D. (2009). Dandelion Kids and Orchid Children How vulnerability is responsiveness, danger opportunity, and an apparent weakness—genetically conferred sensitivity to environment—may be the secret to human (and humankind’s) success. Atlantic.

Herbert, W. (2011). On the trail of the orchid child. Scientific American Mind, 22(5), 70-71.

Posted by & filed under Aggression, Child Development, Cultural Variation, Early Social and Emotional development, Families and Peers, Indigenous Psychology, Moral Development, Motivation-Emotion, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: A huge part of growing up (well of developing and being “raised”) is learning how to self-regulate. Think of what small children do from time to time – they may have a tantrum when they do not get their way, they may eat all the cookies on the counter, they may be distracted by their toys when asked to go and collect the car keys they “borrowed” for a game in their room, etc. etc. Self-regulation, or the lack thereof covers all of those examples of child behavior. Another example and a participially important one developmentally is anger management. The ability to control or manage ones’ anger is an important prerequisite to being ready to enter the social world starting with preschool and kindergarten but also involving peer relations and all social contacts. A recent radio documentary described an alarming jump in incidents of violence perpetrated towards peers, aides and teachers in early grades within elementary schools in Ontario, Canada (you can listen at the link in the References section below). So, it maybe that parents need some advice about how to help their children develop self-regulation, especially as it relates to anger management. A cultural group that has been astoundingly good at just that sort of self-regulation development is the Inuit of Canada’s north. Read the article linked below for a fascinating account of the early work of Jean Biggs and the follow up by the author of the linked article looking at just how the Inuit address the issues of self-regulation and anger among their young children.

Source: How Inuit Parents Teach Their Kids to Control Their Anger, Michaeleen Doucleff and Jane Greenhalgh, Goats and Soda, NPR.

Date: March 13, 2019

Photo Credit: Jean Biggs Collection / American Philosophical Society

Article Link:

So, do you think the Inuit approach to helping children deal more socially and positively with their anger makes sense? Note that their approach runs at a number of levels. First they indicate that parents need to keep in mind that while their children may well be “pushing their buttons” remaining calm and not responding to child anger with adult anger keeps parental blood pressure low AND models self-control to their children. It works by not responding in the moment that the child is displaying anger but, rather, later and in a story telling (with moral) manner. Finally, their entire approach makes clear to everyone (children included) that acting in angry ways is considered immature and childlike and has no place in the larger social environment of the family and local community. Teaching strength in a playful manner sounds like a very positive approach to facilitating the development of self-regulation. Worth thinking about and perhaps trying out.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is self-regulation and why is it an important issue in development?
  2. List out as many things that you can think of in the way of “signs of emerging maturity” that reflect aspects of developing self-regulation.
  3. How do the Intuit go about helping their young children to develop control over their anger and anger related behavior?

References (Read Further):

Alisa Siegal, Violence in Elementary Schools, CBC Radio, Sunday Edition (starts and minute mark 4:58)

McClelland, M. M., & Cameron, C. E. (2012). Self‐regulation in early childhood: Improving conceptual clarity and developing ecologically valid measures. Child development perspectives, 6(2), 136-142.

Posner, M. I., & Rothbart, M. K. (2000). Developing mechanisms of self-regulation. Development and psychopathology, 12(3), 427-441.

Rothbart, M. K., Sheese, B. E., Rueda, M. R., & Posner, M. I. (2011). Developing mechanisms of self-regulation in early life. Emotion review, 3(2), 207-213.

Raver, C. C. (2004). Placing emotional self‐regulation in sociocultural and socioeconomic contexts. Child development, 75(2), 346-353.

Fry, D. P. (2000). Conflict management in cross-cultural perspective. Natural conflict resolution, 334-351.

Briggs, J. L. (1970). Never in anger: Portrait of an Eskimo family (Vol. 12). Harvard University Press.

Posted by & filed under Depression, Legal Ethical Issues, Psychological Disorders, Stress Coping - Health, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Perhaps hearing or reading that there is a strong relationship between rates of depression and socio-economic status (SES) would not be a surprise to you. While it may lead you to start to ponder what the connections between poverty and depression might involve it is worth stepping back from that important line of potential thought and inquiry for moment and thinking about the implications of this for social policy and particularly for the funding and the provision of mental health care generally. The ongoing debate about health care in the United States is one thing that makes Canadians, such as me, feel a bit smug about what we have in place in our country in the way of universal health care. However, any sense of superiority is short lived when one steps back and considered mental health care in which Canada is pretty much as “everyone for themselves” as is the United States. Across North America, rates of depression are higher among the lower SES ranks and access to treatment is significantly lower there too. Have a read through the article linked below and think about how the srearch findings it discusses may apply to your country of residence.

Source: Education Level Predicts Depression Rates and Access to Care, Guy Winch, The Squeaky Wheel, Psychology Today.

Date: March 16, 2019

Photo Credit:

Article Link:

The issue of access (or rather the lack thereof) to mental health services is discussed in the linked article form the American perspective but, as I noted above, it is a North America-wide issue. I have previous posted a number of times about a set of articles by the Globe and Mail looking at this issue in Canada (see links in the References list below). It is becoming increasingly clear that the line that we seems to have drawn between how we treat mental and physical health issues is a very problematic on and one which needs to be looked at seriously.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the relationship between SES and the incidence and treatment of depression?
  2. Why is there a relationship between SES and the incidence and treatment of depression?
  3. What are some of the things we should be looking into as possible ways to address the SES depression (and mental health in general) relationship?

References (Read Further):

Todd, M., & Teitler, J. (2018). Darker days? Recent trends in depression disparities among U.S. adults. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Advance online publication.

Lorant, V., Deliège, D., Eaton, W., Robert, A., Philippot, P., & Ansseau, M. (2003). Socioeconomic inequalities in depression: a meta-analysis. American journal of epidemiology, 157(2), 98-112.

The State of Canada’s Mental Health Treatment System: Broken? Fixable?

Goldman, N., Glei, D. A., & Weinstein, M. (2018). Declining mental health among disadvantaged Americans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(28), 7290-7295.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, mental illness, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Somatic Symptoms Dissociative Disorders.

Description: If you watched Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker in The Dark Knight (Batman) film you saw an amazing piece of acting – of method acting. Ledger was a method actor meaning that he got into his character by essentially becoming the Joker and, it is said, stayed there on and off set throughout the entire time that filming was going on. For all intents and purposes, he was the Joker. Now it is one thing to say that, based on what it looks like to see Ledger as the Joker or other actors as other characters from the outside as observers but what actually goes on within the brains of method actors when they take on a character? Sort your own hypotheses out and then listen to the radio story in which a researcher who has utilized MRI scans to look into the brains of actors in character and as themselves.

Source: Actors’ brains have different activity patterns when they’re in character, Quirks and Quarks, CBC Radio.

Date: March 16, 2019

Photo Credit: Reuters

Article Link:

So, when they are in character, the parts of the brain that actors use when asked questions about their “real” selves when out of character were less active. The researcher suggests that acting may involve a loss of self. In addition, a brain area called the precuneus is activated when the actors are in character. This area of the brain seems to be involved in the division of attention between two things, in this case between the “real” self and the character the actor is portraying, essentially splitting consciousness in order to play the role but also to continue to keep track of one’s other local professional responsibilities (like where the camera is etc.).  While this is interesting in an of itself, for me at least, it peaks curiosity about what this line of research might suggests about how conditions like multiple personality or dissociative disorder and fugue state amnesia might be found to be mapped within the brain. Now there are some interesting research “next steps”!!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is method acting?
  2. What is involved in an actor playing another character, in terms of how that task might be mapped onto (function within) the brain?
  3. What are some areas of human self-functioning (or forms of mal-functioning associated with mental disorders or conditions) that might be linked with this research on actors’ brains while they are in character?

References (Read Further):

Brown, S., Cockett, P., and Yuan, Y. (2019). The neuroscience of Romeo and Juliet: An fMRI study of acting. Royal Society Open Science 6: 181908.

Yuan, Y., Major-Giradin, J., and Brown, S. (2018). Storytelling is intrinsically mentalistic: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of narrative production across modalities. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 30: 1298-1314.

Brown, S. (2017). Proto-acting as a new concept: Personal mimicry and the origins of role playing. Humanities 6:43.

Cavanna, A. E., & Trimble, M. R. (2006). The precuneus: a review of its functional anatomy and behavioural correlates. Brain, 129(3), 564-583.

Margulies, D. S., Vincent, J. L., Kelly, C., Lohmann, G., Uddin, L. Q., Biswal, B. B., … & Petrides, M. (2009). Precuneus shares intrinsic functional architecture in humans and monkeys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(47), 20069-20074.

Markowitsch, H. J. (2003). Psychogenic amnesia. Neuroimage, 20, S132-S138.

Irle, E., Lange, C., Weniger, G., & Sachsse, U. (2007). Size abnormalities of the superior parietal cortices are related to dissociation in borderline personality disorder. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 156(2), 139-149.

Geuze, E., Vermetten, E., de Kloet, C. S., & Westenberg, H. G. (2007). Precuneal activity during encoding in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Progress in brain research, 167, 293-297.


Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Intergroup Relations, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Social Psychology.

Description: OK, quick, without any reflection, answer these questions: Do animals have emotions? Or do they have the same emotional range and depth that we do? If you are like most people you probably hesitated a bit even if you decided to answer yes to either of those questions. Why hesitate? Well, maybe your feelings about the questions go back to the general notion that we humans like to think of ourselves as special and different and most certainly not just another one of the animals on our planet. A number of years ago my Labrador Retriever took advantage of an open gate and wandered off to explore the neighbourhood. She was apprehended by the city animal control people (the dog-catcher) and I was contacted to come down to the pound and bail her out. When you arrive there (in my fairly large city) you are directed to look at a bulletin board covered with dog “mug shots” to see if you see your dog. I was struck at the time that my dog, who was definitely there on the wall of shame, seemed to me to have a look on her face reflecting an array of emotions that boiled down to “I’m in big trouble”. When I paid the fine and “sprang” her we were both quite happy to be re-united. Anyway, the article linked below asks us to challenge the assumption that some or any emotions are the sole preview of human beings and consider how we might investigate whether animals experience emotions and if so which ones, to what degree, and under what circumstances? Give it a read and see if it shifts any of your assumptions about animals and emotion.

Source: Your Dog Feels as Guilty as She Looks, Frans de Waal, The New York Times.

Date: March 8, 2019

Photo Credit: JooHee Yoon, The New York Times.

Article Link:

So, what do you think now? There are a number of methodological issues to looking at animal emotions beyond examining our own assumption. Certainly our dogs may look ashamed when we speak sternly to them and happily ignore their transgressions when we do but the case of Lorenz’s dog that bit him in the frenzy of a dog fight Lorenz was trying to break up cannot seem to reflect anything else than deep guilt and shame. A quite touching emotional display can be seen in this video of a 60 year old chimpanzee who is old and dying in a zoo and is visited by one of her favourite, retired, caregivers ( ). See that and then tell me you want to withhold emotions from animals. So, perhaps, it is well past time that we all put on our rain faces and get on with an look at emotions that is not humancentric.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Do animals experience emotions?
  2. What are some of the ways in which studies or situations have been designed to look at emotions in animals?
  3. Why is it that we (humans) seem hesitant to attribute to or see emotions in animals??

References (Read Further):

De Waal, Frans, (2019) Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves, Norton.

Boissy, A., Manteuffel, G., Jensen, M. B., Moe, R. O., Spruijt, B., Keeling, L. J., … & Bakken, M. (2007). Assessment of positive emotions in animals to improve their welfare. Physiology & behavior, 92(3), 375-397.

Preston, S. D., & De Waal, F. B. (2002). The communication of emotions and the possibility of empathy in animals. Altruistic love: Science, philosophy, and religion in dialogue, 284-308.

Morris, P., Knight, S., & Lesley, S. (2012). Belief in animal mind: does familiarity with animals influence beliefs about animal emotions?. Society & Animals, 20(3), 211-224.

Dawkins, M. S. (2000). Animal minds and animal emotions. American Zoologist, 40(6), 883-888.

Posted by & filed under Aggression, Child Development, Neuroscience, Personality, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: I have posted about the Dark Triad (Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy) before which suggests how some poor or bad behavior in others might be accounted for, but what about large-scale evil? An ongoing question has been to wonder what array of circumstances, conditions, and characteristics come together to produce truly evil people such a Hitler. If you have wondered about such things then have a read through the article linked below which discusses a recently released book that looks closely at what the available and recent research in Neuroscience, Psychology and other disciplines suggest as possible contributors to the production of evil or evil acting people.

Source: The Science of Evil, Katherine Ramsland, Shadow Boxing, Psychology Today.

Date: March 10, 2019

Photo Credit: Abrams Press.

Article Link:

The main message from the book reviewed in the article linked above seems to be that evil or rather people who act in evil ways, are born AND made, shaped by the contexts in which they grow and develop and in the social and historical contexts in which they find themselves. Social situations CAN be very powerful but then so can the drive within some people to take advantage of the situations they find and those which they nudge or outright create.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might we define “evil” using Psychological theories and research?
  2. Does it make sense to say that some individuals are evil?
  3. Was there anything in the article that surprised you or drew you to reconsider something you used to simply hold to be true?

References (Read Further):

Shaw, J. (2019). Evil: The science behind humanity’s dark side. New York, NY: Abrams Press.

Zimbardo, P. G. (2011). Lucifer effect. The Encyclopedia of Peace Psychology.

Waller, J. E. (2007). Becoming evil: How ordinary people commit genocide and mass killing. Oxford University Press.

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of research in personality, 36(6), 556-563.




Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Consciousness, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Have you ever heard that writing might be good for you? I do not mean that taking English classes is good for you (though it might be) but rather that writing about anything from past traumatic life events to future hopes and aspirations might actually not only help you cope with past trauma or plan a better future, but it may also improve your psychical and psychological health and wellbeing.  The work of James Pennebaker looked at using expressive writing as a means of helping individual struggling with symptoms of PTSD to deal with the traumatic events in their past and to hep them move into a better place of wellness and wellbeing. Since it early days the technique of expressive writing has been expanded to include other writing topics such as future life planning with results typically being reported to be positive and wide ranging, including positive changes in mental and physical heath and welling.  What are we to make of the breadth and depth of the findings reported relating to the positive effects of expressive writing? Well perhaps what we need is a systematic meta-analysis that gathers together the research data from a broad range of studies on expressive writing, focused on dealing with symptoms of PTSD, and tries to pol the results and closely examine not just the results of a number of studies on expressive writing by also the rigor , or lack thereof, with which the studies were designed and whether they were focused upon similar or diverse psychological conditions or situations. That is what a good metanalysis can do and as well it can potentially speak to the actual size of the effects of, in this case, expressive writing on the symptoms associated with PTSD. As you look through the original metanalysis research article linked below pay close attention to the questions it asks, the methodological issues it examines and at what it offers in the way of general findings regarding expressive writing. Oh and do not be daunted by the effect size math in the paper, just skip over that and read the written parts (unless you find it intriguing!).

Source: A Meta-Analysis of Expressive Writing on Posttraumatic Stress, Posttraumatic Growth, and Quality of Life, Jeffery Pavacic et al. Review of General Psychology (see full reference below)

Date: March 1, 2019

Photo Credit: University of New Hampshire, Wildcat Wellness.

Article Link:

Meta-analytic studies can get a bit thick at times given that they are trying to pool the data from a, sometimes large, number of studies in ways that ensure that the right things are being pooled and that distinct things are looked at separately. One of the most interesting findings in this particularly meta-analytic study is that the effects for expressive writing were significantly stronger when the people in the studies were more rigorously screened for a PTSD diagnostic profile suggesting that the technique works better when it is more appropriately applied. Meta-analytic studies can help us get important things like the effectiveness and targeting of treatment programs right and ensure that what IS being done IS working for those that need assistance.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is Expressive Writing and what can/should it be used for?
  2. What is a meta-analytic study and why might it be important to do one (or many)?
  3. What is the relationship between meta-analytic studies and practice policies and ethical guidelines relating to therapy and treatment?

References (Read Further):

Pavlacic, J. M., Buchanan, E. M., Maxwell, N. P., Hopke, T. G., & Schulenberg, S. E. (2019). A Meta-Analysis of Expressive Writing on Posttraumatic Stress, Posttraumatic Growth, and Quality of Life. Review of General Psychology, 1089268019831645.

Kelson, J., Rollin, A., Ridout, B., & Campbell, A. (2019). Internet-Delivered Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Anxiety Treatment: Systematic Review. Journal of medical Internet research, 21(1), e12530.

Clinton, V., & Meester, S. (2019). A Comparison of Two In-Class Anxiety Reduction Exercises Before a Final Exam. Teaching of Psychology, 46(1), 92-95.

Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological science, 8(3), 162-166.