Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Child Development, Depression, Early Social and Emotional development, Emerging Adulthood, Families and Peers, Health Psychology, Human Development, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Answer two questions: Where you born before or after 1995? How old were you the first time you were allowed, by your parents, to out of your house and into your neighborhood by yourself? If you were born after 1995 you are more likely to have said 10, 11 or 12 years of age in response to the second question while if you were born a decade or two earlier you more likely said 5 or 6 years of age. Even if this was NOT true for you, general data on American young adults suggests that these ages were largely normative for the recent generation (I-Gen or Gen Z) compared to earlier generation (millennials on back). So, what? Well, as those born after 1995 have started to head off to college or university and over the past few years, we have observed startling jumps in the rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm (cutting) and suicide in that part of the population.  These trends could be related to a lack of developmental experience with independence (out on own in neighborhood) as well as to the earlier use of social media and higher rates of screen time than previous generations. Sound a bit simplistic? Well, yes, correlational observations often are but the changes in the rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm (cutting) and suicide are real and are very worrying. What do you think might be going on and what should we (everyone not just parents) be doing about it? Watch the video record of a talk about these matters delivered recently by social and cultural psychologist Johnathan Haidt at the London School of Economics.

Source: The Coddling of the American Mind, A talk by Johnathan Haidt at the London School of Economics and Political Science, November 23, 2018

Date: November 23, 2018

Image Credit:

Video Link:

If you search the internet for reaction to the book (The Coddling of the America Mind) you will see that much of it is focussed upon the parts of the book (spoken to in part of the talk linked above) that concern the observed jump in student stated concerns about safety (fragility) and requests for trigger warnings and the shouting down of speaker (including professors) whose positions or views are perceived as unsafe or threatening. It is NOT that I think those lines of inquiry and discussion are uninteresting, rather I am currently more interested in how the points raised in the talk link to the reported jump I anxiety levels among undergraduate students. I have written about this issue previously in this blog (search Life Design) and I am quite fascinated with the possibility that the jump in anxiety may be related to sociohistorical changes in the contexts in which members of I-Gen and with how those contexts are potentially influencing how 18- to 25-year old’s are navigating the developmental opportunities and challenges of emerging adulthood. Typically, we focus more on developmental shifts and challenges as though they are universal (the same for young people today as they were for their parents and grandparents). Sometimes that is warranted, but changes in social norms associated with parenting and the emergence of social media and it’s “television-like” uptake mean that they may well reflect (or be) socio-historical factors that are changing the normative course of development. I do not now if this is the case, but I am going to look into it and I think that anyone with an interest in the development of emerging adults (parents, instructors/professors, and employers) and emerging adults themselves should consider coming along for the ride. It could be quite fascinating!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In addition to the age at which they typically were allowed to be out on their own in their neighborhoods what other ways are the developmental (socio-historical) experiences of young people born after 1995 different than those of previous generations?
  2. Why might those differences lead to higher levels of anxiety after a transition to post-secondary developmental life?
  3. What are some ways in which those of us working in, or growing through, post-secondary educational institutions or other post-secondary developmental settings can facilitate the healthy development and adaptation of emerging adults born after 1995?

References (Read Further):

Lukianoff, G., & Haidt, J. (2015). The coddling of the American mind. The Atlantic, 316(2), 42-52.

Twenge, J. M. (2017). IGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. Simon and Schuster.

Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among US adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3-17.

Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Decreases in psychological well-being among American adolescents after 2012 and links to screen time during the rise of smartphone technology.

Twenge, J. M. (2018). Amount of Time Online Is Problematic if It Displaces Face-to-Face Social Interaction and Sleep. Clinical Psychological Science, 2167702618778562.

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 12, 271-283.


Posted by & filed under Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: Does failure lead to more failure or to success? You have probably heard from one source or another that we learn more from failure than from success which would suggest some sort of a link between failure and subsequent success. But is that true and if so just how is it that failure could lead to success? Is it just that we learn something that we did not know before and, based on that new knowledge, do well enough next time to succeed? What other factors might be at play in the production of success after failure? Think about your own experience and about what you think might be involved in this failure – success sort of link and then read the article linked below to see what some recent research suggests.

Source: Turning Failure into Fuel for Success, Nick Hobson, Leandra McIntosh and Maryam Marashi, Ritual and the Brain, Psychology Today

Date: December 5, 2018

Image Credit: Pexels

Article Link:

So, failure may well be a pre-cursor condition for success.  The key, however, is to figure out who shows this sort of pattern, under what conditions do they show it, and what, exactly do they do that increases the likelihood that they will succeed after failure (and is that trainable)? This sort of insight would be very helpful as it could help us to flesh out related concepts like resilience, girt and perseverance and things like growth mindsets. While we, of course, need more search in this area the authors of the article linked above suggest 4 steps we can try and take after failure that could help us to leverage our emotional response to failure in ways that could increase our chances for subsequent success. As the author’s suggest after failure you should: (1) see it for what it is (do not let your defense mechanisms “hide” your failure from you; (2) don’t think your failure away through excuses or rationalizations; (3) Turn on and pay attention to your feelings, not to wallow in them be to experience and understand them; and (4) lean towards taking action and reconfigure any emotions that seem to be pushing for inaction (sulking, wound-licking, or rumination) and get ready to try again and, perhaps, to succeed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is success or more failure most likely to follow failure on a task?
  2. What sort of things can/should we do after a failure in order to increase the likelihood that our next efforts will lead to success?
  3. What others sorts of research might we do that would build on the results discussed in the linked article on post-failure emotion work and expand our understanding of resilience, grit and perseverance and suggest post failure trainable actions?

References (Read Further):

Lebeau, J. C., Gatten, H., Perry, I., Wang, Y., Sung, S., & Tenenbaum, G. (2018). Is failing the key to success? A randomized experiment investigating goal attainment effects on cognitions, emotions, and subsequent performance. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 38, 1-9.

Healy, L. C., Ntoumanis, N., Stewart, B. D., & Duda, J. L. (2015). Predicting subsequent task performance from goal motivation and goal failure. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 926.

Nelson, N., Malkoc, S. A., & Shiv, B. (2018). Emotions know best: The advantage of emotional versus cognitive responses to failure. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 31(1), 40-51.

Ntoumanis, N., Healy, L. C., Sedikides, C., Smith, A. L., & Duda, J. L. (2014). Self-regulatory responses to unattainable goals: The role of goal motives. Self and Identity, 13(5), 594-612.

Jones, N. P., Papadakis, A. A., Orr, C. A., & Strauman, T. J. (2013). Cognitive processes in response to goal failure: A study of ruminative thought and its affective consequences. Journal of social and clinical psychology, 32(5), 482-503.

Posted by & filed under Assessment: Intellectual Cognitive Measures, Gender-Role Development Sex Differences, General Psychology, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Neuroscience, Personality, Physiology, Research Methods, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination.

Description: Book titles such as Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus (John Gray) suggest that there are some fundamental differences between men and women. What might that hypothesis or sentiment suggest about the brains of men and women? Well, the idea that, at the level of the brain, men and women are essentially different kinds of people has been around for many many years. While we might not be surprised at such a view existing 100 years ago at the height of the sorts of views advanced by Freud that there are fundamental, basic and large differences between the sexes which are very likely reflective of brain based differences what are we to make of the fact that such a view can be found today at a time when brain scanning abilities might allow up to address the brain difference question directly. So, ARE there sex differences in brain structure, organization, or function? First, sort out what YOU think. What have you heard? What do you think you know? What do you think might be “the truth”? After you have reflected briefly on these questions read through the article linked below for an overview of recent research and discussion in this area.

Source: Can We Finally Stop Talking About ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ Brains? Daphna Joel and Cordelia Fine, Opinion, The New York Times.

Date: December 3, 2018

Image Credit: Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images

Article Link:  

So, it seems that even the data does not tend to get in the way of us playing with a hypothesis (or assumption) that we are comfortable with including the suggestion that autism reflects and “extreme male brain”. One of the authors of the article linked above (Daphne Joel) examined a huge number of brains and concluded that claims about general differences in brain structure or organization along sex lines cannot actually be seen at the level of individual brains. What does that mean? Well it is like what we should be reminding ourselves about a lot when we talk about any “sex-differences” in things like mathematics performance – even when there are significant differences in the population averages on scores or abilities in any area of human endeavor the distribution overlaps are massive. So, in math skills for example, there are many, many females who outperform males and as such knowing only that an individual is male or female does not make possible any sort of prediction (that would be accurate or useful) about their math skills. Add that to the increasing pile of aggregated findings that there are even fewer mean differences than we used to think (see the APA blog reference below in Further Reading) and it becomes clearer that we perhaps need to examine our assumptions about how deep or brain-based (or real) sex differences really are. The bottom line is that some of our assumptions are not matters of simple personal biases but are, rather, reflections of deeper, socio-cultural belief systems. Rather than blaming individuals for sustaining or advancing them we need to more carefully examine our shared assumptions and look more objectively at the data!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does the title Men and from Mars and Women are from Venus suggest about the nature males and females and about males’ and females’ brains?
  2. What does looking at (researching) population means on things like math skill, social skill, or leadership tell us about individual males or females (when there ARE population mean differences)?
  3. What should I be teaching students in my introductory psychology classes about male and female brains and about male and female skill or performance differences?

References (Read Further):

Fine, C. (2017). Testosterone rex: Myths of sex, science, and society. WW Norton & Company.

Fine, C. (2010). Delusions of gender: How our minds, society, and neurosexism create difference. WW Norton & Company.

Fine, C. (2010). From scanner to sound bite: Issues in interpreting and reporting sex differences in the brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(5), 280-283.

APA (2005) Men and Women: No Big Difference, , Accessed December 9, 2018.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Early Social and Emotional development, Families and Peers, Group Processes, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Neuroscience, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: In developmental psychology the term resilience has an interesting recent history. It debuted in research in the 1970’s in studies such as one looking at the children of Kuai.  That important study gathered detailed data regarding the prenatal, birth and post-natal experiences of every child born on the island of Kuai in Hawaii in a year year (1955) period and then followed then developmentally for 40 years. The goal was to see what early developmental issues and influences were associated with later emerging developmental challenges, delays or performance shortfalls. A large number of results followed including that birth complications were associated with later emerging learning issues and/or ADHD and diminished school success. One general result was that children who amassed 4 or more developmental risk factors early in life were much more likely to struggle academically and socially in school and other outcomes. One surprising finding, however, was that there were quite a few children who had four of more risk factors who, nonetheless were doing fine and even thriving in school and one through adolescence. For succeeding developmentally despite the presence of risk in their early years these children were called resilient and the researchers dove back into their data to see if they could figure out what things or sorts of things contributed to those children’s’ resilience. What they found was that resilient children had higher IQ scores, were more upbeat and socially outgoing, more perseverant, and despite likely having a dysfunctional family, had one adult (not necessarily a relative) who took special, positive interest in them. These children were said to have resilience almost a kind of trait. Partly as a consequence of the particular array of child specific variables the researchers gathered the idea that resilience was something that individual children had was a large part of the early definition of resilience – viewing them as tough, superkids. More recently, over the past 15 years, research and conceptual work around the concept of resilience has expanded. One important insight into the relationship between early risk and development is that early negative life events or experiences in and of themselves have very little impact upon children’s development. Essentially risks only seem to turn into developmental harms if they are, in some way, carried along with the developing child. That is, early risk only become developmental harm when it damages some ongoing developmental support of cognitive or social developmental process such as a disruption in early literacy and vocabulary development or a disorders or sub-optimally competent parent who acts in ways the thwart the development of a secure attachment relationship. Poor literacy foundations or an insecure base attachment are essentially examples of noxious developmental baggage that travel with the developing child either through concepts or outlooks or abilities they have internalized or in the form of ongoing negative or noxious relationships. This led to the realization that resilience is better thought if in relational terms, as a through development process. Resiliency researchers and theorists now speak of ecologies of resilience that surround and engulf or support developing children rather than being a set of internal characteristics that children may or may not possess. Now…. I have provided this rather wordy introduction to this article post as I believe it is important the that larger developmental conceptualization of resilience be kept in mind as a sort of outrigger to keep you from tipping too strongly into a new version of the old resilience in inside of certain children view when you read the article linked below. Think of what the stress related implications might be for a child growing up in a neighbourhood rife with violence, threats and dangers. The researchers looked at children living in an array of Chicago neighbourhoods, many of which, indeed, are quite dangerous as reflected in the rates of gun violence and other indicators. So, how are those children doing in terms of the sorts of stress related reactions that have been linked to things like PTSD? Most specifically, are there differences in the brain structures of those children that seem to be more resilient while living and developing under these sorts of conditions? Read the article and see what they found.

Source: Brain Imaging Unearths Neurobiological Roots of Resilience, Christopher Bergland, The Athlete’s Way, Psychology Today.

Date: November 29, 2018

Image Credit: goa novi/Shutterstock

Article Link:

Questions for Discussion: OK, this brain scan research suggests that resilience “under fire” may be related to superior executive function driven by the parietal frontal areas of the brain. What might this mean? Well, it is important to reflect carefully on the researchers’ (very appropriate) statement that their findings are correlational. Are the resilient children resilient because they had better functionality in the particular regions of their brains (genetically) or did those parts of their brains get that way as the result of the particular resilience ecologies that surrounded them as they developed to the point at which their brain structure and function were assessed. The researchers mention the potential value in developing training that would support the development or augmentation of those brain areas and the most important question is what would that “training” look like? How closely would it end up looking like the sorts of relational experiences researchers have been looking at in recent years as part of their work on the ecologies of resilience. It would be rather interesting to link these different levels of analysis!

  1. How does the functioning of the CEN brain region seem to be related to resilience?
  2. How is the definition of resilience invoked in the research linked above related to the definitions or conceptualizations of resilience discussed in my opening statement above?
  3. What does the approach to resilience discussed in the research article linked above suggest that might be useful in helping to design interventions to help children living in the sorts of violent neighborhoods looked at in the study? Or what doesn’t it provide in this area?

References (Read Further):

Gregory E. Miller, Edith Chen, Casey C. Armstrong, Ann L. Carroll, Sekine Ozturk, Kelsey J. Rydland, Gene H. Brody, Todd B. Parrish, and Robin Nusslock. “Functional Connectivity in Central Executive Network Protects Youth Against Cardiometabolic Risks Linked with Neighborhood Violence.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (First published online ahead of print: November 5, 2018) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1810067115

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

Waller, M. A. (2001). Resilience in ecosystemic context: Evolution of the concept. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(3), 290-297.

Werner, E. E. (1992). The children of Kauai: Resiliency and recovery in adolescence and adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health, 13(4), 262-268.

Werner, E. E. (1987). Vulnerability and Resiliency: A Longitudinal Study of Asian Americans from Birth to Age 30.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Depression, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Legal Ethical Issues, mental illness, Neuroscience, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Ok here we go…. This sounds like science fiction BUT … what if we could implant electrodes into our brains into specific locations and then, when necessary, such as when were are clinically depressed, we could use the implanted electrodes to stimulate those areas of the brain and by doing so normalize the functioning of those or of related areas of the brain and stop the depression in is tracks? Think about what you would need to see in the way of research and ethical reflection before you would be comfortable with something like this being perused. Sure, we could simply say “go for it” but really? Think about what we need to know especially because there is a way of reading the account of the research study discussed in the link below that sounds like this study of individuals with epilepsy who had electrodes implanted in various areas of their brains in order to track seizures is describing a process that essentially turns off depression and turns on good moods. Ta da! So, get your “yah buts…” and your “what ifs….” in order and then give the article a read and see what you think.

Source: Effective new target for mood-boosting brain stimulation found, Science News ScienceDaily.

Date: November 29, 2018

Image Credit: Ben Speidel, Chang Lab, UCSF

Article Link:

Questions for Discussion: So, what do you think? A cure? A new recreational brain changer? A fascinating but not yet fully understood set of results? A massive ethical and health policy dilemma? Well I think it is all of these things at once. So, while I will not do it here, it is worth thinking about what sorts of things should be on the list of things that need to be done, further investigated, better understood, and reflected on from a medical ethics perspective as this line of research is rolling out.

  1. If this a miracle cure for depression?
  2. What else needs to be understood/known about the area of the brain the research stimulated especially in relation to depression?
  3. Science fiction writers have written about the possibility implications of recreational brain stimulation (direct via electrode implantation rather than drug driven) and they usually do not show it as going very well. What do you see as some of the legal and ethical issues in this area?

References (Read Further):

Delaloye, S., & Holtzheimer, P. E. (2014). Deep brain stimulation in the treatment of depression. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 16(1), 83.

McInerney, S. J., McNeely, H. E., Geraci, J., Giacobbe, P., Rizvi, S. J., Ceniti, A. K., … & Kennedy, S. H. (2017). Neurocognitive predictors of response in treatment resistant depression to subcallosal cingulate gyrus deep brain stimulation. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11, 74.

Cheng, W., Rolls, E. T., Qiu, J., Xie, X., Wei, D., Huang, C. C., … & Lin, C. P. (2018). Increased functional connectivity of the posterior cingulate cortex with the lateral orbitofrontal cortex in depression. Translational psychiatry, 8.

Huber, R. S., Subramaniam, P., Kondo, D. G., Shi, X., Renshaw, P. F., & Yurgelun‐Todd, D. A. (2018). Reduced Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC) Volume and Suicide Behavior in Youth with Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar disorders.

Smeets, A. Y., Duits, A. A., Horstkötter, D., Verdellen, C., De Wert, G., Temel, Y., … & Leentjens, A. F. G. (2018). Ethics of Deep Brain Stimulation in Adolescent Patients with Refractory Tourette Syndrome: a Systematic Review and Two Case Discussions. Neuroethics, 11(2), 143-155.

Hamilton, R., Messing, S., & Chatterjee, A. (2011). Rethinking the thinking cap: ethics of neural enhancement using noninvasive brain stimulation. Neurology, 76(2), 187-193.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Emerging Adulthood, Health Psychology, Human Development, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Psychological Intervention, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Substance-Related Disorders.

Description: There are many issues and problems that can benefit from a developmental perspective. We can try and find ways to address reduce or fix problems when they arise. For example, we can address the problems associated with some risk-seeking young drivers by suspending their licenses after fewer demerit points than would be true for adult drivers and then requiring them to take remedial driving courses. A developmental perspective might have us look at the developmental precursors to higher collision rates among young novice drivers and lead us to institute developmental solutions such as graduated licensing which restricts young drivers’ exposure to risky driving situations until they have acquired more experience and, hopefully, become less risky drivers. Now that strategy might not address the issue of young risk-seeking drivers but perhaps another developmental intervention could (more research is, of course, needed). With that sort of developmental framework in mind, think about what we might need to do to make a developmentally early intervention possible for dealing with the issue of drinking by high school students (which is a problem given all the negative outcomes associated with it). What sorts of developmentally earlier things might you consider looking at in order to gather data that would allow you to design such a targeted developmental intervention? Think about it and then read the article linked below to see what the researchers who designed this study decided to measure.

Source: Predictors of Drinking Problems in High School Students, Arash Emamzadeh, Finding a New Home, Psychology Today.

Date: November 28, 2018

Image Credit: kaicho20/Pizabay

Article Link:

Longitudinal developmental research designs potentially have great power to show us the developmental pathways children and youth move along. They can also provide insight into where intervention efforts might best be deployed especially when the target negative behaviours are things are not yet seen at earlier points in development, like drinking among high school students (though drinking in grade 5 WAS a predictor). In this case the consistent use of ineffective emotional coping strategies by those grade 5 students who ended up drinking more in high school was especially interesting as better coping styles can be taught and once acquired could lead to lower rates of problematic drinking when the developing individuals involved reach high school. Of course, more research is needed but with this study in hand we have a very promising place to start as we design developmental intervention strategies to try and lower rates of drinking among high school students.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of things measured among grade 5 students predicted problematic drinking 5 years later when they reached high school?
  2. Of the variable identified as predicting high school drinking levels, why was coping strategies selected by the researchers as the one most promising for interventions?
  3. What are some other issues or problems, that are developmentally time-bound in terms of when they arise, that might benefit from research using this sort of longitudinal search for developmental predictors and precursors?

References (Read Further):

Cole, H. A., Peterson, S. J., & Smith, G. T. (2018). Elementary and middle school predictors of high school drinking problems and maladaptive coping. Addictive Behaviors, 87, 177-182.

Cyders, M. A., & Smith, G. T. (2008). Emotion-based dispositions to rash action: Positive and negative urgency. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 807–828.

Arria, A. M., Kuhn, V., Caldeira, K. M., O’Grady, K. E., Vincent, K. B., & Wish, E. D. (2008). High school drinking mediates the relationship between parental monitoring and college drinking: A longitudinal analysis. Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy, 3(1), 6.

Esser, M. B., Clayton, H., Demissie, Z., Kanny, D., & Brewer, R. D. (2017). Current and binge drinking among high school students—United States, 1991–2015. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 66(18), 474.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Depression, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Legal Ethical Issues, Prevention, Psychological Disorders, Psychological Health, Research Methods, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, The Self, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Suicides are preventable, but, ….. predicting suicide attempts so that timely assistance and support can be offered is incredibly difficult. Part of the problem, from an epidemiological perspective, is that suicide is a statistically rare event (annually 11 per 100,000 per year in Canada currently) but still, 10 people a day commit suicide in Canada. Another part of the problem, related to suicide’s statistical rarity, is that there is no single or small number of factors or variables or signs or symptoms that predict both the possibility and the timing of suicide attempts. The number of potentially contributory factors is huge and as such very hard to gather, monitor through time, and, for the clinicians doing that work, very hard for even well-trained clinicians to get their heads around and offer help to people at the right times. What to do? Well, hmmm, big complex data and a need to make individually relevant predictions… how about writing an algorithm and having a machine do the job? Have a read through the article linked below to see where this possibility is current at and to see some of the ethical and technical challenges currently at play. Oh and see what one such algorithm had to say about Anthony Bourdain’s tweet stream over time and in the days leading up to his suicide.

Source: Can an algorithm stop suicides by spotting signs of despair? Erin Anderssen, The Globe and Mail.

Date: November 24, 2018

Image Credit: Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press

Article Link:

One of the core challenges of clinical psychology and of working in areas of mental health is that much of the data needed to connect and work with people is inside or psychological and thus hard to access, especially if the person in question is socially withdrawn and considering suicide. Simply making contact and then deciding who needs assistance NOW is very difficult. Many risk factors can be at play and most are actuarial, meaning that they simply say that relative to the general population a subset of people is more likely to think or do X, Y, or Z. And, in the case of low frequency actions like suicide, many of those in the “at-risk” sub-group will NOT take the feared action. Looking at tweets and other forms of social media potentially provides us with, over time, glimpses into people’s thoughts and moods and as such processes like Dr. Kaminsky’s algorithm might provide us with opportunities to offer timely assistance to those with suicidal thoughts. Of course, there are ethical issues related to privacy and related to the still present and strong stigmas associated with mental illness and thoughts of self-harm that will need to be considered. Computer algorithms cannot relieve us of those ethical responsibilities. However, possibility of reaching those with suicidal thoughts and plans and reducing their suffering and that of their friends and relatives is a powerful motivating force.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why is suicide so hard to predict?
  2. What are some of the ethical issues that arise from sing an algorithm to monitor twitter streams or of having Facebook search for word phrases associated with psychological pain, illness, or despair?
  3. Health Canada is funding research into how an algorithm approach might work in Canada. What might/should some of the guiding parameters of that work be?

References (Read Further):

Franklin, J. C., Ribeiro, J. D., Fox, K. R., Bentley, K. H., Kleiman, E. M., Huang, X., … & Nock, M. K. (2017). Risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors: A meta-analysis of 50 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, 143(2), 187.

Guintivano, J., Brown, T., Newcomer, A., Jones, M., Cox, O., Maher, B. S., … & Kaminsky, Z. A. (2014). Identification and replication of a combined epigenetic and genetic biomarker predicting suicide and suicidal behaviors. American journal of psychiatry, 171(12), 1287-1296.

Walsh, C. G., Ribeiro, J. D., & Franklin, J. C. (2017). Predicting risk of suicide attempts over time through machine learning. Clinical Psychological Science, 5(3), 457-469.

The Globe and Mail (August 30, 2018) Federal health agency to mine social media for study on suicide trends, risk factors, accessed November 25, 2018.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Research Methods, Schizophrenia, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: We have drugs that treat mental disorders like schizophrenia and depression so do we have cures for those disorders? One of the reasons given for the focus shift taken by Martin Seligman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and others to Positive Psychology (optimizing things for everyone) is that we have addressed mental illness and can move on. The problem is, we really haven’t yet “solved” mental illness. The article linked below walks through our hopes and assumptions about what the biological shift in thinking and research into mental illness was going to do for us and points out that we are not there yet in terms of understanding and dealing effectively with mental illness. Give it a read.

Source: When Will We Solve Mental Illness? Benedict Carey, 11 Things We’d Really Like to Know, Health, The New York Times.

Date: November 19, 2018

Image Credit: Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

Article Link:

So, describing mental illnesses as chemical imbalances in the brain has not yet yielded an understanding of causes nor has it produced cures. What we have is an increased complexity in our understanding of the brain biology of mental disorders and a realization that many categories, such a depression, are in fact many categories within themselves. As well, biology does not easily get us to a place where we are able to usefully consider the complex but likely important role of the life experiences of those dealing with mental illness including trauma, substance use, and identity crises. While we are not as far along as we would certainly wish we were in understanding and managing and, at some point, curing mental illness things ARE moving and there are any promising new avenues of investigation. The significant reorganization of our research and thinking about mental illness is both encouraging and fascinating. Stay tuned.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why is that we cannot say we have cures for mental illnesses that we have many drugs to treat?
  2. What is wrong with the idea that certain mental illnesses can be linked to having too much or too little of specific neurotransmitters?
  3. What might it mean to say that thee are MANY different types of depression and what role might the individual experiences of those “with depression” in the development of a butter understanding of this and other conditions or illnesses?


References (Read Further):

Sekar, A., Bialas, A. R., de Rivera, H., Davis, A., Hammond, T. R., Kamitaki, N., … & Genovese, G. (2016). Schizophrenia risk from complex variation of complement component 4. Nature, 530(7589), 177.

Thompson, V. L. S. (2018). Moving Beyond Mental Illness to Mental Health and Wellbeing. Transition.

Dean, C. E. (2017). Social inequality, scientific inequality, and the future of mental illness. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 12(1), 10.

Michaels, P. J., López, M., Rüsch, N., & Corrigan, P. W. (2017). Constructs and concepts comprising the stigma of mental illness. Psychology, Society, & Education, 4(2), 183-194.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Human Development, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Student Success.

Description: Are you a lucky person? Are there regular situations where you do or do not do things like buy a raffle ticket or get a job where you do or do not act based on your beliefs about how lucky you are? Such thoughts come up at least once and a while for most people but would you think of “luckiness” as something that psychologists could or should study? I don’t mean studying why people trust in the voodoo that is luck, but rather why it might be that some people actually seem to be (or might really be) luckier than others. Put aside your cynical thoughts that luck is in the same category and fate or magic and as such beyond scientific psychological inquiry and think about it a bit. What sorts of things might be true of people or what might they be doing (perhaps not entirely consciously or on purpose) that makes them luckier than the rest of us. After you have pondered that question, read the article linked below to see what some psychological researchers have done in this area.

Source: The Key to Good Luck is an Open Mind. Theresa Iafolla, Nautilus.

Date: November 24, 2018

Image Credit:

Article Link:

When I get questions in my introductory psychology classes about the veracity of things like mindreading, future telling, fortune telling, or telepathic connections and other paranormal phenomena I try to make clear that while I may not be able to talk about research data that directly confirms the behaviour or experience in question I am only prepared to question the explanation offered and not the fact that something VERY interesting might be going on. Look what the idea of mirror neurons could do for our thoughts about mind reading as but one example of news ways to look at paranormal phenomena that can be as amazing as believing in magic, mind reading, or telepathic connections. There is still a LOT of psychological research, thinking, and theorizing to be done. So, maybe we should all go to “luck school” and put ourselves in a position to find those $20 bills that psychological researchers leave lying around (though how any of that might apply to buying lottery tickets is still a complete mystery to me).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is luck?
  2. Why might some people be luckier than others (or unluckier than others)?
  3. Are there limits to the sorts of luckiness that we might study from a Psychological perspective (be careful how you answer this one)?

References (Read Further):

Wiseman, R., & Watt, C. (2004). Measuring superstitious belief: Why lucky charms matter. Personality and individual differences, 37(8), 1533-1541.

Chotai, J., & Wiseman, R. (2005). Born lucky? The relationship between feeling lucky and month of birth. Personality and Individual Differences, 39(8), 1451-1460.

Wiseman, R. (2003). UK superstition survey. Psychology Department, University of Hertfordshire (Publication no. http://www. richardwiseman. com/resources/superstition_report).

Wohl, M. J., & Enzle, M. E. (2003). The effects of near wins and near losses on self-perceived personal luck and subsequent gambling behavior. Journal of experimental social psychology, 39(2), 184-191.

Lackey, J. (2008). What luck is not. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 86(2), 255-267.

Xu, A. J., Zwick, R., & Schwarz, N. (2012). Washing away your (good or bad) luck: Physical cleansing affects risk-taking behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(1), 26.

Posted by & filed under Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Personality, Personality Disorders, Personality Disorders, The Self.

Description: Unless you have been asleep for the past 2 to 3 years you could not have missed the serious bump in interest in narcissism and the related dark triad or tetrad of personality. Certainly the implications of narcissism for social functioning and for occupying and acquitting the duties of  …. well …  senior public office are being bandied about at many levels (few of which involve research or references to research). The reach discussed in the article linked n below takes a new look at narcissism and starts with a distinction between clinical narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder) and something called “sub-clinical” narcissism. No, I haven’t heard of it either. So, get your head around this thought. Sub-clinical narcissism when associated with mental toughness leads to higher levels of academic success so maybe we need to consider removing narcissism from the dark triad (and leaving Machiavellianism psychopathology and maybe sadism, out here is the evil cold by themselves. How does that sound? Well, withhold judgment for a couple of minutes and read the article.

Source: Narcissism May Have Some Previously Unrecognized Upsides, Christopher Bergland, The Athlete’s Way, Psychology Today.

Date: November 14, 2018

Image Credit:

Article Link:

So, what do you think? Do we go ahead and start changing the names on the door of the offices of the Dark Side? And would doing so change your views of current world politics? (not mine!!).   I think rather than answering that question yes or no it would be better to think about what else we might want to know before deicing. For example, I am still very unclear as to just what non-clinical narcissism IS. Does it sound to you like that slightly delusional sense of optimism non-depressed people have? Is mental toughness a part of SN? Or just an occasional correlate? And does SN shade back into high self-efficacy or esteem at some point? How about it shading back to a simple thing like self-interest which virtually everyone DOES have and which is not as icky to ascribe to all as narcissism. Ah, isn’t personality psychology fun?? What IS useful, in all of this mucking about, is the implication that we would perhaps benefit from looking at both the adaptive value associated with ALL personality traits/dimensions AND looking at how those dimensions stretch from the fat middle of the normal distribution of personality out to the dark and scary fringes of personality disorders.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is sub-clinical narcissism and how does it relate to plain old narcissism or to narcissistic personality disorder?
  2. If there is a point where narcissism ‘gets normal’ or becomes adaptive should we still call it narcissism?
  3. Does narcissism get to stay with its dark triad buddies or must it forge out on its own in the land of ‘normalcy’?


References (Read Further):

Malkin, C. (2015). Rethinking narcissism: The bad-and surprising good-about feeling special. Harper Collins Publishers.

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.

Green, A. (2002). A dual conception of narcissism: Positive and negative organizations. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 71(4), 631-649.

Resick, C. J., Whitman, D. S., Weingarden, S. M., & Hiller, N. J. (2009). The bright-side and the dark-side of CEO personality: examining core self-evaluations, narcissism, transformational leadership, and strategic influence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(6), 1365.

Grijalva, E., Harms, P. D., Newman, D. A., Gaddis, B. H., & Fraley, R. C. (2015). Narcissism and leadership: A meta‐analytic review of linear and nonlinear relationships. Personnel Psychology, 68(1), 1-47.

Humphreys, J., Zhao, D., Ingram, K., Gladstone, J., & Basham, L. (2010). Situational narcissism and charismatic leadership: A conceptual framework. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 11(2), 118. 

Papageorgiou, K. A., Malanchini, M., Denovan, A., Clough, P. J., Shakeshaft, N., Schofield, K., & Kovas, Y. (2018). Longitudinal associations between narcissism, mental toughness and school achievement. Personality and Individual Differences, 131, 105-110.

Papageorgiou, K. A., Denovan, A., & Dagnall, N. (2019). The positive effect of narcissism on depressive symptoms through mental toughness: Narcissism may be a dark trait but it does help with seeing the world less grey. European Psychiatry, 55, 74-79.