Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Disorders of Childhood, Neuroscience, Uncategorized.

Description: The film The Imitation Game features the seriously talented Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing an unlikely British Second World War hero. From his signs of being somewhere along the Autism Spectrum Disorder Continuum (DSM-5) intellectual genius, his challenges with social interaction, and to his development of the Turing test (of either computer intelligence or humanity depending on your perspective) Alan Turing and the Imitation Game provides us with a LOT to think about from a Psychological perspective.

Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2084970/

Date: Released December 25, 2014

Imitation Game

Photo credit – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2084970/

Links:     IMDb Link – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2084970/

There is a LOT to see from a Psychological perspective in the film The Imitation Game, featuring the seriously talented Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing, who was a real, though unlikely, British Second World War (secret) hero. From his signs of being somewhere along the Autism Spectrum Disorder Continuum (DSM-5) to his design of a computing machine that cracked the German Enigma signaling code to his eventual suicide after the war, Alan Turing, is brought to the screen with crystal clarity by Benedict Cumberbatch, and challenges us to think about him and the psychological and social forces that shaped (and challenged) him.

It seems like a side line in the film but Turing developed the Turing test for deciding when a machine (computer) could be said to be “thinking” and perhaps be deemed to be, to some extent, “human” (this is what the title of the film refers to). Competitions to see if this test can be passed occur annually and in 2012 a “program” called Eugene Goostman finished first by convincing 29% of those who interacted with it that it was human. The primary focus of the film is the urgent rush by Turing and other mathematician “code breakers” to crack the German Enigma code with the course of the war as the stakes. Against that plot line, though, we get an opportunity to study Alan Turing, his serious intellect, his struggles with social interaction and convention, and his coping with being gay in a historical time when it was illegal. He is playing the Imitation game with us and asking us to consider what it is to be human. His first line in the film invites us to participate in the Turing test. Alan Turing: “Are you paying attention?”

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What might we point to in Alan Turing’s behaviour that would be consistent with the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for the Autism Spectrum Disorder Continuum?
  2. If (when?) a computer (program) passes the Turing test what might it suggest to us about the nature of human consciousness and cognition? What should we do with such a “machine”?
  3. Given what Alan Turing accomplished, if we were to decide he met the diagnostic criteria for the Autism Spectrum Disorder Continuum what might that lead us to think about the DSM and Abnormal Psychology in general?

References (Read Further):

Christian, Brian (2012) The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us about being Human, Anchor, Knopf Doubleday, New York.  http://brian-christian.com/the-most-human-human/

McPartland J, Klin A (2006). “Asperger’s syndrome”. Adolescent Medical Clinics, 17(3), 771–88.

Turing, Alan (1948), “Machine Intelligence”, in Copeland, B. Jack, The Essential Turing: The ideas that gave birth to the computer age, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-825080-0

Turing, Alan (October 1950), “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, Mind LIX (236): 433–460, doi:10.1093/mind/LIX.236.433, ISSN 0026-4423, retrieved 2008-08-18

Turing, Alan (1952), “Can Automatic Calculating Machines be Said to Think?”, in Copeland, B. Jack, The Essential Turing: The ideas that gave birth to the computer age, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-825080-0

Eugene Goostman and the Turing Test http://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR583836.aspx

Posted by & filed under Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Sensation-Perception, Social Influence, Uncategorized.

Description: Food shopping when hungry leads to more food buying (no surprise there) but doing ANY type of shopping when hungry may well lead to more buying.

Source: Health Day (US news)

Date: February 20, 2015

HD696547shopping1 photo from the Us New Article Online

Links:     Article Link – http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2015/02/20/hungry-in-the-department-store-your-spending-may-rise

I suspect you have heard that people who go to the grocery store when they are hungry end up buying more food. While this may not be a surprise a recent study conducted by Alison Jing Xu Norbert Schwarz and Robert Wyer Jr suggests we should avoid all kinds of shopping if we are hungry if we want to save our money. The researchers conducted 5 studies, 4 laboratory simulations and one real-world study and were able to clearly show that people were more inclined to buy anything (to shop) when they were hungry. Their 5th study, the real-world one, was the most telling. In the fifth study people were stopped as they exited a department store that did not sell food and were first asked how hungry they felt. They were then asked to show their sales receipts indicating how much money they had spent in the store. The main finding was that the hungrier people said they were the more they had bought and the more they had spent in the department store. Why might that be?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Describe the research methods used in each of the 5 studies these researchers conducted and explain how each looked at (operationalized) hunger and spending (shopping).
  2. Are there other factors that the researchers might have addressed in designing their studies?
  3. What advice might you give to consumers and to the retail industry based on the results of these studies?

References (Read Further):

Xu, A. J., Schwarz, N., & Wyer, R. S. (2015). Hunger promotes acquisition of nonfood objects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201417712.

Dietz, Thomas (2015) Understanding environmentally significant consumption PNAS 2014 111 (14) 5067 – 5068 ; published ahead of print March 25, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1403169111

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

Description:

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation involves stimulating a person’s brain with a mild electric current. What happens if the frontal lobes of people’s brains are stimulated while they are working on problems.

SD TransCDS
Source: Science Daily

Date: February 23, 2015

Links:     Article Link – Bar-Ilan University. “Neuroscientists literally change the way we think: Advantages of a wandering mind.” Science Daily, 23 February 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150223164531.htm>.

One of the ways in which we can study the role of specific brain regions in mental functioning is to use a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in which brain regions are stimulated by low electric currents. In the article found at the link above Israeli neuroscientist Moshe Bar describes a series of studies in which participants were asked to work on mental problems while different area of their brains were stimulated using tDCS. Two very interesting findings were first that stimulation of the frontal lobes of the brain produced mind wandering or day dreaming. The second finding seemed initially to be a bit unexpected in that participants who were engaged in stimulated mind wandering actually performed better on the problem solving tasks they were asked to work on than did non-stimulated participants. Dr. Bar suggests that it really is not that surprising in that perhaps the stimulated mind wandering actually “opened up” the or fired up participants minds in ways that lead to more favorable performance. We can all recall times when we came up with solutions to often quite complex problems while day dreaming or not apparently thinking about our problems at all.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why did Dr. Bar think that day dreaming or mind wandering might sometimes help in cognitive problem solving?
  2. Do you think there might be limits to the sorts of problem solving tasks that would be helped by tDCS(timulation) of the frontal lobes?
  3. What might be some possible applications of this sort of research?

References (Read Further):

Vadim Axelrod, Geraint Rees, Michal Lavidor, Moshe Bar. Increasing propensity to mind-wander with transcranial direct current stimulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201421435

Posted by & filed under Clinical Health Psychology, Eating Disorders, Nutrition Weight Management, Uncategorized.

Description:

Look over the list of facts regarding eating disorders on the National (American) Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website for an overview of issues arising from these disorders then watch the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) Video and go to the NEDA site and find out some of the things you can do or at least think about during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this week.

Source: National Eating Disorder Information Center

Date: February 22, 2015

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Links:     Lead web site – http://www.nedic.ca/

CTV News Eating Disorder Video

Fact List: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

Follow-up Site: – National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Website: http://nedawareness.org/

There are a number of myths about eating disorders. This CTV news video presents the organization and work of the National Eating Disorder Information Center on Canada explores some of those myths and talks about some things people can do to help themselves or others.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the social factors that contribute to the social problems associated with eating disorders?
  2. What are some of the warning signs for eating disorders?
  3. What can or should you do if you think a friend of yours might be struggling with an eating disorder?

References (Read Further):

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Website: http://nedawareness.org/

National Eating Disorder Information Center http://www.nedic.ca/

Posted by & filed under Personality, Uncategorized.

Description: Listen to this piece from the CBC radio program “The Current” that provides general account of how Personality types and theories actually map onto us and the world around us.

Source: CBC Radio – The Current

Date: December 23, 2014

personality-featurePhoto from the CBC The Current website

Introverts and Extroverts: Determinants of Your Personality Type

Links:     Lead article/broadcast – http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/current_20141223_57261.mp3

Program Website: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/believing-in-santa-ebola-fears-and-personality-type-1.2907008/introverted-or-extroverted-what-determines-our-personality-type-1.2907009

(please contact Mike Boyes – boyes@ucalgary.ca if download link is not working)

How does our personality impact our day-to-day lives? Brian Little, a Canadian Psychologist has spent his research career examining this question. In this interview he talks about his book Me, Myself and Us – The Science of Personality and the Art of Well Being and abopu8t some of the ways in which personality does and does not impact our day-to-day lives. He speaks about the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (see link to her TED talk below) which addresses the historical bias for Extroverts and extroverted behaviour and against Introverts and introverted behaviour. Dr. Little’s summarizes the current state of personality science and points out the cutting edges of research into personality.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of situations or problems or tasks would be better managed by Introverts than by Extroverts?
  2. What is Self-monitoring? When would it be better to be a high as opposed to a low self-monitored?
  3. What are some of the ways that we can be flexible or use “degrees of freedom” in deciding how to behave socially?

References (Read Further):

Susan Cain’s TED Talk (February, 2012) http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en

Take Brian Little’s Personality Quiz:

* Mobile users make sure to have phone in landscape mode to view full test questions. *

 

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Depression, Neuroscience, Stress, Stress Biopsychosocial Factors Illness, Stress Coping - Health, Uncategorized.

Description: Listen to this piece from the CBC radio program “The Current” that reports upon a novel way to think about clinical depression.

Source: CBC Radio – The Current

Date: January 12, 2015

Depression CBC the Current

Depression Might be an Allergic Reaction to Stress

Links:     Lead article/broadcast – http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/current_20150112_82971.mp3

(please contact Mike Boyes – boyes@ucalgary.ca if download link is not working)

Within Psychology and especially at the introductory level, we typically describe clinical depression as a neurochemical problem. Certainly the effectiveness of drugs aimed at adjusting the neurochemistry of individuals struggling with depression (e.g., Selective Serotonin Reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac) suggest that a brain chemical imbalance is a viable account of what is going on in depression. Of course, the bigger questions involve speculating about what induces brain chemical changes and how is it that life experiences might be linked to things like clinical depression. This story on The Current broadens our thinking about the complexity of experiential and biological forces involved in the appearance of the symptoms of clinical depression.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does the theory of depression discussed in the story differ from the neurochemical theory discussed in most introductory textbooks?
  2. Did the approach to studying depression using rats being bullied by aggressive rats make sense as a model for studying depression?
  3. What sorts of things does this theory suggest we ought to be thinking about in relation to depression (e.g., in terms of causes, treatments, and preventative mental health advice)?

References (Read Further):

Jones, Kenneth A. and Thomsen, Christian (2013) The role of the immune system in psychiatric disorders. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, 53, 52-62. Abstract -http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1044743112001844

Slavich, George M. and Irwin, Michael R. (2014) From stress to inflammation and major depressive disorder: A social signal transduction theory of depression. Psychological Bulletin, 140(3), 774-815. Abstract — http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-01013-001

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Early Social and Emotional development, Families and Peers, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Human Development, Uncategorized.

Description: Read these articles describing and discussing the findings of a recent study on the epigenesist of childhood obesity and linking it to maternal and grand-maternal activity patterns (or the lack thereof) during their adolescences.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Date: November 30, 2014

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 9.49.50 AM

Links:     Lead article – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/studying-obesity-through-maternal-health-before-and-during-pregnancy/article21834086/

Comment on Article- http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/flipping-a-non-motherly-gesture-at-sexist-science/article21833778/

Earlier related article – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/obesity—now-another-thing-you-can-blame-on-your-mother/article613728/

We often bemoan the historical fact that early psychological theories of various sorts involved a nasty amount of “mother blaming”. Ice-box mothers who were emotionally unresponsive to their infants were said to causally contribute to the development of autism and Schizophrenigenic mothers were said to contribute to the development of schizophrenia in their offspring by behaving in emotionally and behaviourally contradictory ways towards them. Given how odd and frankly sexist these Freudian era hypotheses sound today one would think that current researchers would be reticent to invoke any hypotheses that look like mother blaming. A new theory in the general area of nature/nurture effects on outcomes is called epigenisis and it involves looking at the way certain aspects of the prenatal environment such as maternal nutrition and activity levels can affect developing fetuses by turning off or turning on certain genes. While no one is opposed to this type of research there are those who are pointing out that the media is quick to revert to versions of mother blaming and that less work has been done (and less reporting has been done on work that HAS been undertaken) on the roles that fathers play in epigenisis.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of things do researchers studying epigenisis look at?
  2. Are there gaps between the claims being made by researchers in their studies and how those studies are reported in the media or picked up by the general public?
  3. What sorts of critical questions might we ask about stories like this that would make it more likely that the results of such studies will not be over stated?

References (Read Further):

Archer, Edward (2014) The Childhood Obesity Epidemic as a Result of Nongenetic Evolution: The Maternal Resources Hypothesis, http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196%2814%2900740-X/abstract

Richardson, Sarah S, Cynthia R Daniels, Matthew W Gillman, Janet Golden, Rebecca Kukla, Christopher Kuzawa, and Janet Rich-Edwards. “Don’t Blame the Mothers” Nature 512 (2014): 131-132. http://www.nature.com/news/society-don-t-blame-the-mothers-1.15693?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20140814

 

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Development of the Self, Human Development, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Prevention, Psychological Intervention, Uncategorized.

Source: Project Wild Thing Website, see links below

Date: November 24, 2014

Links:   http://projectwildthing.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rJ260-JWcY

The current generation of children is predicted to be the first generation in a VERY long time that is predicted to NOT live longer than their parents. David Bond, in this very engaging film Wild Thing, seeks to correct that by making himself the “Marketing Director for Nature” and taking on the selling of many unnatural things to our children by selling Nature or simple time outdoors. Along the way he points out the many studies that show positive effects of mental health, wellbeing and development of spending time in nature.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What effects might our electronically mediated lifestyles have on currently developing children and adolescents?
  2. We usually talk about Nature within the context of our historical debates about the roles played by Nature (genetics) and Nurture (upbringing and social experience) but what sorts of things should we study or consider if we want to include Nature (as in Mother Nature) in our consideration of human development?
  3. What are some of your experiences with the potential role of Nature in your general sense of wellbeing?

Other Sources of Information on this Issue:

Coplan, Robert J. et al., (2014) The Restorative qualities of being alone with nature. The handbook of Solitude: Psychological Perspectives on Social Isolation, Social Withdrawal, and Being Alone. (eds R. J. Coplan and J. C. Bowker), John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118427378.ch20/summary

Russell, Roly et al., (2013) Humans and Nature: How knowing and experiencing nature affect wellbeing. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 38, 473-502.

Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, Disorders of Childhood, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Legal Ethical Issues, Persuasion, Psychological Intervention, Social Influence, Substance-Related Disorders, Uncategorized.

Source: YouTube and others, see links below

Date: November 24, 2014


Links:     Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqctG3NnDa0

Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/20/opinion/chinas-web-junkies.html?_r=0

Review Blog from Sundance Festival: http://www.hitfix.com/the-fien-print/sundance-review-web-junkie-explores-internet-addiction-in-china

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2064745/

The video clip linked here and the larger documentary film from which it was taken shows the approach to treatment of Internet Addiction among teenagers taken within China. China was the first country to formally declare the existence of Internet Addition and develop state supported treatment programs and centers. The film shows activities within the Chinese Teenagers Mental Growth Center. It shows a somewhat militaristic approach which, none the less, is not so very far removed from forms of “secure treatment” provided to teens dealing with issues such as addiction or eating disorders in Canada. The program claims a 70% successfully treatment rate though it is unclear precisely what this reflects (e.g., completion of treatment, successful reintegration with family, more positive adjustment and less internet gaming, etc.?). The cultural context of addictive behaviour is also indirectly shown in the film where the youth being treated often lost all friendships, left school, and spent days at a time gaming continuously in internet cafes.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is the Chinese definition of addiction and its application to internet gaming appropriate? What about their approach to treatment?
  2. Given that internet gaming addiction is now included in the DSM-5 (see editorial links below), how should we think about and approach this issue here in Canada (North America)?

Other Sources of Information on this Issue:

Block, Jerald J., (2008) Issues for DSM-V: Internet Addiction, American Journal of Psychiatry, 165(3) 306-307. Pdf download: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07101556

Petry, Nancy M. and O’Brien, Charles P. (2013) Internet gaming disorder and the DSM-5, Addiction, 108(7) 1186-1187. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.12162/full

Kuss, D.J.; Griffiths, M.D.; Karila, L.; and Billieux, J. (2013) Internet Addiction: A systematic review of epidemiological research for the last decade, Current Pharmaceutical Design, 20(25), 4026-4052.

 

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Disorders of Childhood, Disorders of Childhood, Physical Development: Birth, Motor Skills, and Growth, Physiology, Prenatal Development, Uncategorized.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Date: November 24, 2014

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 9.38.20 AM

Links: Video: http://bcove.me/q1bb3zon

Article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadian-doctor-averted-disaster-by-keeping-thalidomide-out-of-the-us/article21721337/

The drug Thalidomide, which was found to be a powerful teratogen, was approved for use in Canada in the 1960’s largely on the strength of it already having been approved for use in the UK, other commonwealth countries and Germany. It was never approved for use in the United States because a Canadian, Francis Kelsey, only one month on the job in Washington, was concerned that there was not enough data on the drug’s effects provided by the drug company wanting to market it in the United States. Her concerns were validated in tragic ways by the extent of the effects of the drug seen in infants born in Canada and elsewhere. Kelsey’s training and career and accomplishments (including an award from President Kennedy for her stand on Thalidomide) make her a pioneer of women in science.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What role did Francis Kelsey play in the review of Thalidomide in the United States? What standards and expectations should regulators hold drug companies to in moving drugs towards human use? How have these changed historically?
  2. Should we be more or less concerned about the potential effects of drugs in prenatal development today as compared to the 1960’s when Francis Kelsey was working?