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

Description: After having two strokes a man has lost his sight. When you ask him what he can see, he says “Nothing”. Now, imagine that you ask him to walk down a corridor that contains a number of objects, pieces of furniture etc., without the use of his white cane. What will happen if you are able to convionce him to give it a try? Will you get yelled at for endangering a blind man? He will certainly bump into things, won’t he? But what if he doesn’t? If he navigates the corridor without bumping into anything would you decide he was lying to you about his lack of sight? What if he insists YOU were lying to HIM about there having been anything in the corridor he just walked along? What would be up with that? And how might that be explained in terms of the man’s brain-based visual processing system and his consciousness? Meet blindsight and read the linked article for a fascinating speculative ride!

Source: Blindsight: A strange Neurlogical Condition Could Explain Consciousness, Henry Taylor, The Conversation.

Date: July 1, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by Mote Oo Education from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, what do you make of blindsight? One of the points I try to make when I speak about how sensations, perceptions, and internal controls are managed in the brain is that if you find yourself thinking of the brain as a large committee containing individuals with specific responsibilities; so with one entity driving and monitoring your mood state another monitoring and managing your hunger, another your thirst etc. then you have two possible explanatory challenges. One is that you do not have nearly enough “people” (or homunculi) in your brain functioning theory as it turns out that the functions of manipulating things like mood, hunger or thirst are distinct from the functions of monitoring such things (e.g., to mix theoretic metaphors, you need a furnace AND a thermostat to manage heat in a house). A second challenge is that you really need to stop thinking about little people in your head at all. Consciousness has been a huge part of our human life experience that Psychology continues to really struggle with. Blindsight is a fascinating opportunity to focus upon as the question of whether the blind man is or is NOT conscious of his ability to avoid bumping into things and, while it may seem simply confusing at first, it may provide an edge for Psychology to begin to worry away at the nature of human consciousness.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the features of blindsight?
  2. What might it mean to ask if the blind man who can avoid bumping into things is conscious of their presence in from of him?
  3. How might blindsight get Psychology moving in its question to have something sensible to say about human consciousness?

References (Read Further):

De Gelder, B., Tamietto, M., Van Boxtel, G., Goebel, R., Sahraie, A., Van den Stock, J., … & Pegna, A. (2008). Intact navigation skills after bilateral loss of striate cortex. Current Biology, 18(24), R1128-R1129. Link

Jiang, Y., Costello, P., Fang, F., Huang, M., & He, S. (2006). A gender-and sexual orientation-dependent spatial attentional effect of invisible images. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(45), 17048-17052. Link

Norman, L. J., Akins, K., Heywood, C. A., & Kentridge, R. W. (2014). Color constancy for an unseen surface. Current Biology, 24(23), 2822-2826. Link

Phillips, I. (2020). Blindsight is qualitatively degraded conscious vision. Link

Irvine, E. (2019). Developing Dark Pessimism Towards the Justificatory Role of Introspective Reports. Erkenntnis, 1-26. Link

Stanbury, C., OJEDA, E. A. V., GOH, T. F., & NISBET, I. R. (2020). Do we have Unconscious Perception?. perception, 35, 47Z. or STANBURY, C. Do we have Unconscious Perception? (Doctoral dissertation, Monash University).  Link

Ajina, S., & Bridge, H. (2017). Blindsight and unconscious vision: what they teach us about the human visual system. The Neuroscientist, 23(5), 529-541. Link

Mazzi, C., Bagattini, C., & Savazzi, S. (2016). Blind-sight vs. degraded-sight: different measures tell a different story. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 901. Link

Koenig, L., & Ro, T. (2019). Dissociations of conscious and unconscious perception in TMS-induced blindsight. Neuropsychologia, 128, 215-222. Link

Persuh, M., LaRock, E., & Berger, J. (2018). Working memory and consciousness: the current state of play. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 12, 78. Link

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Health Psychology, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: I have posted previously about the non-obvious ways in which the social isolation imposed upon us by the Coronavirus pandemic have added to our levels of stress and anxiety. However, my focus in those posts was on the atypical or unnatural nature of alternative forms of social engagement such as video conferencing using Zoom. What I had not considered was the possibility that social isolation, in and of itself, could have an impact upon our social orientations and wellbeing. So, what sorts of things have you run across or can hypothesis as possible impacts of social isolation with people who spend long periods of time in solitary confinement, serving remotely (as in Antarctica), or on distant military deployment? Turns out there has been quite a bit of Psychological research into such things so, collect your recollections and hypotheses and then read the article linked below (related research links are  further down in the References section) to see what research into such experiences might be suggesting about outr current circumstances.

Source: We’re All Socially Awkward Now. Kate Murphy, New Analysis, The New York Times.

Date: September 1, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by NinzDrawing from Pixabay

Article Link:

Perhaps you have heard accounts of released prisoners who, after a short period of time “out in the world” re-offend so they can return to prison or soldiers who opt for re-deployment shortly after returning home from a live-fire setting. Explanations typically involve focusing on poverty and lack of coping skills among released prisoners and a desire for the adrenaline rushes associated with live-fire situations among some soldiers. However, while such things may be contributing factors it is worth seriously an additional possible factor of social isolation and its effects on us given our basic social nature. Particularly in western cultures where we have focused heavily upon individual factors and experiences it can be difficult for us to properly attend to things that may well reflect social rather than individualistic aspects of ourselves. In some ways we are inherently social, and, in those areas, we can see negative impacts of social isolation. No, our Covid-19 related social limitations are NOT the same as the solitary confinement of prisoners but there may be similar systems effected by both experiences. Perhaps thinking about the status of your social links when reflecting on your subjective wellbeing would be both instructive and helpful.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of experiences, other than Covid-19 related lock-downs, involve potentially significant experiences of social isolation?
  2. What are some things that we could do to make returning home or to the outside world easier and more positive for soldiers coming of deployment or prisoners being released from custody?
  3. What sorts of things might we suggest that people think about or do in order to note and mitigate potential effects of Covid-19 related social isolation?

References (Read Further):

Haney, Craig. “Restricting the use of solitary confinement.” Annual Review of Criminology 1 (2018): 285-310. Link

Haney, C. (2018). The psychological effects of solitary confinement: A systematic critique. Crime and Justice, 47(1), 365-416. Link

Hodgetts, D. J., Stolte, O., Chamberlain, K., Radley, A., Groot, S., & Nikora, L. W. (2010). The mobile hermit and the city: Considering links between places, objects, and identities in social psychological research on homelessness. British Journal of Social Psychology, 49(2), 285-303. Link

Hawkley, L. C., & Capitanio, J. P. (2015). Perceived social isolation, evolutionary fitness and health outcomes: a lifespan approach. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1669), 20140114. Link

Nikolskiy, P., & Pitulko, V. (2013). Evidence from the Yana Palaeolithic site, Arctic Siberia, yields clues to the riddle of mammoth hunting. Journal of Archaeological Science, 40(12), 4189-4197. Link

Stickley, A., & Koyanagi, A. (2018). Physical multimorbidity and loneliness: A population-based study. PloS one, 13(1), e0191651. Link

Haney, C. (2020). The Science of Solitary: Expanding the Harmfulness Narrative. Northwestern University Law Review, 115(1), 211-256. Link

Hawkley, L. C., Cole, S. W., Capitanio, J. P., Norman, G. J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2012). Effects of social isolation on glucocorticoid regulation in social mammals. Hormones and behavior, 62(3), 314-323. Link

Singer, C. (2018). Health effects of social isolation and loneliness. Journal of Aging Life Care, 28(1), 4-8. Link

Posted by & filed under Emerging Adulthood, Language-Thought, Motivation-Emotion, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Quick! Off the top of your head, why do people (perhaps you yourself) procrastinate? Procrastination is perceived to be a huge problem generally, and when I ask students to name a few things they think they need to work on in order to improve their academic and life performance, procrastination (doing less of it) tops the list. Being able to say something sensible about why people procrastinate is an important first step towards being able to tell them what they need to do in order to stop procrastinating. So, why do people procrastinate? Form your own answer to that question and then reads the article linked below for a look at what some current psychological research suggests.

Source: Procrastination isn’t your fault, but it’s your responsibility, Piers Steel, UCalgary News.

Date: August 14, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by kmicican from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, perhaps, “It makes me more creative” or “It gets me focused and motivated” are not ideal answers to the question of what procrastination is. That certainly explains why simply deciding not to do it or deciding you will stop doing it when the thing you have to get done really matters do not work very well. It is helpful to view procrastination as natural but not functional and to see that the skills involved in goal striving can help AND can be learned. The distinction between onset delay and goal striving skills is useful if you think about it and work on it. As Peirs Steel says, “procrastination is not your fault,” he says, “but it is your responsibility.” So, own it and get help if needed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why did you think people procrastinate before you read the article?
  2. What is the difference between onset delay and goal striving?
  3. What might help you avoid or reduce procrastination (now that you have read the linked article)? Or perhaps you can worry about that tomorrow?

References (Read Further):

Steel, P. (2010). The procrastination equation: How to stop putting things off and start getting stuff done. Random House Canada.

Svartdal, F., Klingsieck, K. B., Steel, P., & Gamst-Klaussen, T. (2020). Measuring implemental delay in procrastination: Separating onset and sustained goal striving. Personality and Individual Differences, 156, 109762. Link

Svartdal, F., Granmo, S., & Færevaag, F. S. (2018). On the behavioral side of procrastination: Exploring behavioral delay in real-life settings. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 746. Link

Zuber, S., Cauvin, S., Haas, M., Daviet, A. S., Da Silva Coelho, C., & Kliegel, M. (2020). Do self‐reports of procrastination predict actual behavior?. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, e1843. Link

Steel, P., Svartdal, F., Thundiyil, T., & Brothen, T. (2018). Examining procrastination across multiple goal stages: a longitudinal study of temporal motivation theory. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 327. Link

Lee, F. K., Sheldon, K. M., & Turban, D. B. (2003). Personality and the goal-striving process: The influence of achievement goal patterns, goal level, and mental focus on performance and enjoyment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(2), 256. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Consciousness, Health Psychology, mental illness, Psychological Disorders, Psychological Health, Social Psychology, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: September is Suicide prevention awareness month in both Canada and the United States. Suicide rates have risen in the United States through the current year and seem to be and are projected to increase in Canada as well. The additional burdens of social, economic, employment, isolation, stress and uncertainty arising from factors associated with the Covid-19 pandemic are contributing to serious concerns about the current and immediate future suicide rates and associated mental health issues. September is typically a month where we get back to things after a summer break but this year what we are getting back to is much less settled and less clear than in any year in memory. As such, anyone with any capacity remaining to reflect and plan future actions should include some reflection upon the factors that threaten to bump up societal suicide rates and to think about some of the things we can potentially do about it at our local social levels. Have a read through the linked article for some suggestions and consider attending the webinar noted below, happening of September 22 and including a friend of mine, Keith Dobson, professor of Clinical Psychology from the University of Calgary.

Source: Mental Health, Suicide and the Covid-19 Pandemic, Carlin Barnes and Marketa Wills, Suicide, Psychology Today

Navigating Mental Health: Protecting employees in the post-pandemic world, The Globe and Mail Events September 22, 1:30 PM EDT (Free event, Registration Required)

Date: September 1, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by Лечение Наркомании from Pixabay

Article Link:

Centre for Suicide Prevention

The first place to consider the suggestions offered is through self-reflection. How are YOU doing right now? If you are not sure or if you ARE sure and it is not good, please talk to someone. If you do not have a friend you can talk to call (In Canada call 1-833-456-4566; In the United States call 1-800-273-8255). If you are OK then reflect on the suggestions and try to keep them close to the front of mind as you engage with friends, relatives, co-workers, fellow students, or anyone and if anything tweaks your thoughts, reach out. Our social safety nets are potentially seriously stretched these days and as such it is advisable that ALL of us switch our empathic, social monitoring skills up a notch or two as someone may needs us to be there.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the factors currently at play that make these times potentially more hazardous for people’s mental health and wellness?
  2. What sorts of things should be watching and listening for in those around us and close to us these days and this month in particular?
  3. What resources are available in your community that may be able to provide support and care for those who need it these days?

References (Read Further):

Gunnell, D., Appleby, L., Arensman, E., Hawton, K., John, A., Kapur, N., … & Chan, L. F. (2020). Suicide risk and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(6), 468-471. Link

Kawohl, W., & Nordt, C. (2020). COVID-19, unemployment, and suicide. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(5), 389-390. Link

Thakur, V., & Jain, A. (2020). COVID 2019-suicides: A global psychological pandemic. Brain, behavior, and immunity. Link

Sher, L. (2020). COVID-19, anxiety, sleep disturbances and suicide. Sleep Medicine. Link

Pakpour, A. H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2020). The fear of COVID-19 and its role in preventive behaviors. Journal of Concurrent Disorders. Link

Brown, S., & Schuman, D. L. (2020). Suicide in the Time of COVID‐19: A Perfect Storm. The journal of rural health. Link


Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Motivation-Emotion, Social Cognition, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: In my previous post I talked about functional prosopagnosia or the notion that we seem to become “face blind” when we try to recognize people we know when they are wearing masks. What if, however, this is a moment in evolving time where we have to take an automated process (the complex processes involved in scanning and recognizing whole human faces), make it a conscious process and change the process and/or the data we are using to recognize people when they wear masks and their “mouth data” is unavailable to us. Do you believe you can tell a LOT from other people’s eyes? Likely you think this is true BUT what Can you tell and how can you tell it? If we are going to be living in a masked world for a while yet these are things we need to know about. So what does Psychology research have to say about what the eyes can tell us? We might as well start with data rather than our intuitions, at least until we find out whether or not our intuitions are correct or, more importantly when and where they ARE correct and when and where they are not. What are your beliefs regarding your “eye-reading” skills? Once you have them in mind have a look through the linked article and see if your beliefs are supported by hard data.

Source: Face masks: Why your eyes might be saying more than you realize. Nigel Holt, The Conversation, Creative Commons.

Date: September 1, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by sippakorn yamkasikorn from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, did it surprise you to see that we are good at some aspects of eye-reading and not any good at all at other aspects like lie detection? The ability to read emotions from eyes fts with Ekman and Friesen’s early work suggesting that there are a set of facial expressions of emotion that may be universally expressed and readable. Our current challenge is that we need to practice looking past what we lose with mask wearing and focus in on what we retain which is access to people’s eyes and to what their eyes might be putting out there for us to read. So, get focused and start practicing or, like many poker players, put on your dark glasses and relax.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What can and can’t we read in other people’s eyes?
  2. What sorts of (social) things might be issues as we are “learning” how to pay closer attention to and read other people’s eyes?
  3. What sorts of things might manipulative people do to thwart our efforts to recalibrate our people reading skills?

References (Read Further):

Lee, D. H., & Anderson, A. K. (2017). Reading what the mind thinks from how the eye sees. Psychological science, 28(4), 494-503. Link

Kawashima, R., Sugiura, M., Kato, T., Nakamura, A., Hatano, K., Ito, K., … & Nakamura, K. (1999). The human amygdala plays an important role in gaze monitoring: A PET study. Brain, 122(4), 779-783. Link

Steimer, T. (2002). The biology of fear-and anxiety-related behaviors. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 4(3), 231. Link

Hooker, C. I., Paller, K. A., Gitelman, D. R., Parrish, T. B., Mesulam, M. M., & Reber, P. J. (2003). Brain networks for analyzing eye gaze. Cognitive Brain Research, 17(2), 406-418. Link

Guastella, A. J., Mitchell, P. B., & Dadds, M. R. (2008). Oxytocin increases gaze to the eye region of human faces. Biological psychiatry, 63(1), 3-5. Link

Kekecs, Z., Szollosi, A., Palfi, B., Szaszi, B., Kovacs, K. J., Dienes, Z., & Aczel, B. (2016). Commentary: Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human–dog bonds. Frontiers in neuroscience, 10, 155. Link

Wiseman, R., Watt, C., ten Brinke, L., Porter, S., Couper, S. L., & Rankin, C. (2012). The eyes don’t have it: Lie detection and neuro-linguistic programming. PloS one, 7(7), e40259. Link

Vellante, M., Baron-Cohen, S., Melis, M., Marrone, M., Petretto, D. R., Masala, C., & Preti, A. (2013). The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test: systematic review of psychometric properties and a validation study in Italy. Cognitive neuropsychiatry, 18(4), 326-354. Link

Ekman, P. & Friesen, W. V. (1971). Constants Across Cultures in the Face and Emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 17(2) , 124-129. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Aging-Psychological Disorders, Clinical Neuropsychology, Health and Prevention In Aging, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Social Cognition, Social Perception, Social Psychology.

Description: Have you ever heard of prosopagnosia? It is the term for something called face blindness or the inability to recognize people based on looking at their faces. It can be found among individuals on the Autism Spectrum, who may not process social cues as others do, or it can arise following a stroke. The incidence of prosopagnosia is thought to be in the neighbourhood of 2 to 3%. These days, however, we can also consider what we might call functional prosopagnosia when we look at the difficulties we have in recognizing people we know when their faces are masked due to social distancing and related Covid safety measures. While we all likely have a story or two about not recognizing a friend due to mask wearing or, perhaps, worrying that people will not think of us as our typically friendly selves when they cannot see our smile think about how you might design a study to assess the extent of functional prosopagnosia people may be experiencing these days. Once you have a design or two in  mind have a look through the linked article to see what some Psychologists have tried in this regard.

Source: In an Era of Face Masks, We Are All a Little More Face Blind, Elizabeth Preston, Health, The New York Times

Date: August 31, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Article Link:

When you see a friend out in the world and you recognize them what is it about them that makes it possible for you to do so? Recognition and in particular facial recognition is not a process that we are able to break down very easily. We might notice that our hockey playing friend has no front teeth, but we can still recognizer them with their mouth closed. Facial recognition is a complex process that we do almost instantly without breaking down the components. Do we do worse when others wear masks because the masks distract us? Or perhaps it is because seeing their mouth and smile (one hopes if it is a friend we encounter) is critical to recognition? Showing that people do not do well recognizing people wearing masks does not tell us what the challenge involves. Perhaps we just need a bit of practice? More research is needed and it is looking pike we will have the chance to do some as winter approaches and time in enclosed spaces increases.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How did the researchers mentioned in the article assess facial recognition with and without masks?
  2. What might some additional variables in this area be that could be worthy of additional study?
  3. If the studies described in the linked article were conducted 6 months from now might you expect different results? If so, why?

References (Read Further):

Freud, E., Stajduhar, A., Rosenbaum, R. S., Avidan, G., & Ganel, T. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic masks the way people perceive faces. Link

Behrmann, M., & Avidan, G. (2005). Congenital prosopagnosia: face-blind from birth. Trends in cognitive sciences, 9(4), 180-187. Link

Barton, J. J., Albonico, A., Susilo, T., Duchaine, B., & Corrow, S. L. (2019). Object recognition in acquired and developmental prosopagnosia. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 36(1-2), 54-84. Link

Cook, R., & Biotti, F. (2016). Developmental prosopagnosia. Current Biology, 26(8), R312-R313.  Link

Humphreys, K., Avidan, G., & Behrmann, M. (2007). A detailed investigation of facial expression processing in congenital prosopagnosia as compared to acquired prosopagnosia. Experimental Brain Research, 176(2), 356-373. Link

Shah, P. (2016). Identification, diagnosis and treatment of prosopagnosia. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 208(1), 94-95. Link

DeGutis, J. M., Chiu, C., Grosso, M. E., & Cohan, S. (2014). Face processing improvements in prosopagnosia: successes and failures over the last 50 years. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8, 561. Link

And here is another complication:


Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Wiley Weekly Psychology Updates is a blog maintained for Wiley Publishers by me (Mike Boyes) in relation to the topical contents of nine Psychology textbooks aimed at different content areas within Canadian Psychology courses and covering Introductory Psychology, Child, Adolescent and Life Span Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Health Psychology.

The blog focusses on Psychological stories and research that arise in the news through a wide array for formal and online media sources. I post three times each week on stories, topics and recently published research that may be of interest to, or of personal use by, students participating courses in any of the areas of Psychology noted above. As one of the authors on Psychology Around Us, I am committed to the core focusses of that book including making sure that students can see the relevance of Psychology to their current and future lives, that they can understand how links can be seen and explored across Psychology’s subdisciplines and in so doing become more useful in reflecting upon and making sense of their experiences and the world around them. Each post is cross-sorted according to the topic sections it links to across the nine textbooks noted above. As well, each post is key word tagged so that students, instructors or anyone can search Psychology topics that interest them and find things to pique their curiosity within the over 600 postings on the site.

Each post contains an introduction to the issues raised or addressed by an article or research paper and suggests some things the potential reader might want to consider in order to optimize their experience in reading the article or paper. A link to the article or paper is then provided. Following the article link some closing observations are offered followed by three questions that could be used by individuals to focus their reflection on the article, by classes or groups to get a discussion of the article and its points and issues started or as possible starting places for a student paper or an instructor lecture segment relating to the article’s topic area. There are links to a number of relevant Psychology research articles provided at the bottom of each post for those who would like to dig more deeply into the topic.

I (Mike Boyes) am a Developmental Psychologist with 35 years of experience teaching Introductory and Child, Adolescent and Life Span Developmental Psychology. I have conducted, and continue to conduct, research into Identity Development and issues involved in positive (or not so positive) student transitions to Post-Secondary life and through and beyond college or university educational experiences into adult life.

With that as background I want to tell you about what I have been doing lately on the Wiley Weekly Psychology Updates site. Since early March I have been posting almost exclusively in a general topic area I have called The Psychology of Covid-19. As of today there are 38 posts in this topic area and you can see them all by searching “Covid-19” using the search bar at the top of the opining page of the Wiley Weekly Psychology Updates site ( ). Whether you are a student taking a Psychology course, an instructor teaching a Psychology course, or anyone interested in what Psychology might be able to tell us about our experiences related to Life the in the Time of Covid-19 (or in what the Time of Covid-19 might suggest to us about our Psychology), The Psychology of Covid-19 looks at some areas where Psychology can help us to make sense out of and perhaps to cope effectively with our personal, social and societal experiences over the past 6 to 7 months.

The purpose of this post is to point out what seem to me to have been a number of recurrent issues or themes in our individual and general responses to Life in the Time of Covid-19 that that might be illuminated effectively with a few Psychology links or which might, as they have played out, provide good examples of Psychology in action within us and in the world around us.

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

How do we Think about a Pandemic?

We know from research in cognitive psychology that thinking is only logical and rational at the best of times and sometimes not even then. Our thinking is rife with biases and expectations based on past experience and those sorts of things can get in the way when we try to come to terms with a “100 year” event like a pandemic. For example, we do not do a good job thinking clearly about and making decision in relation to risk data and our thing about risks associated with Covid-19 has proven to be no exception:

The Psychology of Risk Assessment: The Case of the Coronavirus

Especially in the early going we tended to be overfocussed on the numbers (rates of infection, illness and death) without a context in which to make sense of those numbers and without a means to link those number back to our personal experience:

Psychology of COVID 19 Part 3: Statistical Overfocus

The Psychology of Covid-19: Of Masks, Math, and Bias

Direct and Indirect Stress, Anxiety, and Uncertainty

The pandemic has given rise to many, many things that are stressful and that raised our anxiety levels. Many of the stress related effects have arisen from direct/obvious concerns to do with personal health, the health of friend and relatives, personal and societal losses of employment and income, the disruption of school and work and the deep loss of any sort of work/life balance we may have managed prior to Covid-19. What is harder to see are the indirect, less obvious ways, in which Covid-19 has added to our levels of stress and anxiety. These include having to spend much more time with family and house-mates than we were used to, it involved NOT being in direct face-to-face contact with extended families, friends, and co-workers  and it involved innumerable ways in which we were required to get on with life while doing many things differently such as attending classes and meetings via Zoom, wearing masks when shopping, watching for direction arrows in stores, and most impactfully, dealing with significant jumps in uncertainty about how to do previously basic stuff, about what is going to happen next, about what even the short term let alone the medium and long-term futures are going to be like for us, for our families and for our communities, our country and the world. How can we cope and how will we adapt and cope going forward? Here are some sorted links to posts in these areas:


Direct Covid-Related Stress and Anxiety

Psychology of COVID-19 Part 1: Some Psychological Facts

Psychology of COVID-19 Part 2: Coming to Terms with Anxiety

Psychology and Covid-19: Stress and Disorder (Depression)

Psychology and Covid-19: The Big Psychological Picture

The Psychology of Covid-19: Anxieties and Uncertainties, What You Can DO About Them

Psychology and Covid-19: A Mental Health Check-up

Psychology and Covid-19: Isolation Insights from Solitary Confinement

Psychology and Covid-19: Self-Care is Vital

Psychology of COVID-19 — Coping Tune-up

Psychology and Covid-19: How is This Changing Us Psychologically?

Psychology and Covid-19: Stress and Change

Psychology and Covid-19: There IS a Manual for This!

The Psychology of Covid-19: Wellbeing of Introverts and Extroverts

Indirect Covid-Related Stress and Anxiety

Psychology and Covid-19: The Loss of Touch

Psychology and Covid-19: What is the Deal with Masks?

Psychology and Covid-19: Social Norms – Lost but not Stupid

Psychology and Covid-19: When We Did Not Know We Had the Rugs That Were Yanked

The Psychology of Covid-19: Depression or Boredom?

Psychology of COVID-19 SES – We Have Functional Prosopagnosia

Psychology of COVID-19 – Reading Masked Faces: The Eyes

Psychology of Covid-19 – Effects of Social Isolation

Focus on the Broad Impacts of Uncertainty

The broad uncertainties associated with shifts in the social norms that we have assumed and acted under since childhood and the uncertainties associated with the foggy and unpredictable nature of the future are a huge parts of the category of Indirect Covid-related Stresses and Anxieties. It is potentially very instructive to note that the uncertainties we are all facing right now  actually provide us with an opportunity to see, experience and reflect upon a key feature of the Identity struggles of many emerging adults (18 to 25-year-olds) these days – our students. While there are a large number of factors contributing to the increases we have seen in levels of anxiety and stress among emerging adults over the past 5 to 10 years, such as social media and smart phone use, drops in face-to-face contact, overprotective parenting etc. another large contributor to this sub-population anxiety bump is the increasing pace and breadth of changes in the social landscape and in possible career paths and job markets. Covid-19 has given us all a change to glimpse what emerging adults are having to content with wholesale in the process of forming up their personal identities, mapping out their ways forward and getting engaged in that process.  Uncertainty is a bigger deal that we have previously noted.

Psychology and Covid-19: Mind Control and Identity Development Opportunities

Psychology and Covid-19: Uncertainty is Certain

Psychology and Covid-19: The Toll of Uncertainty

Psychology of COVID-19 — Looking Forward from Here

Psychology and Covid-19: Resilience is a Crucial Part of Going Forward

The Psychology of Covid-19: Uncertainty about Uncertainty Itself

Zoom Is Not New Anymore

Many of us had to jump onto a steep learning curve in March and figure out how to use Zoom to do facsimiles of what we were doing before Copvid-19 such as teach, meet with students or colleagues or to have a beer with some friends. While business told us that virtual meetings via videoconferencing could work as well as face-to-face meetings AND could save commuting time and bring more diverse teams together than before. The problem with Zoom that contributes to our Indirect levels of stress and anxiety is that it is NOT face-to-face social engagement or at least Zoom does not work well in faithfully transmitting the sorts of social cues that social and developmental psychology tells us we learned about as children and practiced into adulthood in order to be able to do well in face-to-face interactions. Things like social norms of eye-contact, body language, pause length, side-conversations, turn taking, many of which can be managed in business settings with a clear pre-meeting org-chart and a detailed meeting agenda are not managed well in new or less formal group sessions. Zoom is NOT normal (yet or perhaps ever). As a consequence, many of us began to talk about things like Zoom fatigue. Agencies and institutions that rely on meeting new people and building trust and engagement in group settings (from parenting programs to university courses) are not finding that Zoom or related videoconferencing platforms work for them the way good old face-to-face engagements did. Meeting outdoors is a short-term option but winter is coming and Covid is not going away and so our indirect stress and anxiety levels increase.

We can address uncertainties and shortfalls in engagement if we can name them and share them and work together to come up with work arounds. The fall is going to be interesting indeed.

Psychology and Covid-19: Now We Be Zoomers

Psychology and Covid-19: Zoom Fatigue

Psychology and Covid-19: More Zoom Fatigue

Psychology and Covid-19: Good, Online Meetings

Developmental Issues: Children and Covid-19

My own interests in developmental Psychology had me keeping an eye open for pieces that spoke to the impacts the situation was having on children. Here are a few links to posts in that area:

Psychology and Covid-19: Talking to Kids

Psychology and Covid-19: Young Teen Resets

The Psychology of Covid-19: Impacts on SES and Children

The Psychology of Covid-19: Schooling and Cognitive Health

Other stuff

Beyond the thematic areas noted above there were a few areas that were more stand alone but still, in my estimation, with considering:

Research Design, Ethics, and the Future

Psychology and Covid-19: Research Ethics and Vaccine DevelopmentPsychology and Covid-19: Breaking Psychological Research and Advice

Psychology and Covid-19: It is a HUGE Psychology Experiment

Suicide Prevention

Psychology of COVID-19– Suicide Prevention

And last, but not least, what did people dream about while in locked down social isolation?

Psychology and Covid-19: Pandemic Dreaming?

Are there other areas of Covid-19 related impact you would like to see addressed from a Psychological perspective? If so use the comment function on this site (below) or send me an email (  and I will see what I can find.

Mike Boyes, PhD

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Consciousness, Depression, Emerging Adulthood, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, mental illness, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Think about this distinction for a moment in relation to your own experiences within and related to our time with the Covid-19 pandemic. How much of our negative emotional, social and cognitive experiences could or should we attribute to bad things that have happened to us (e.g., health challenges, job losses, life disruptions) and how much might we better attribute to things just being different now than they were 6 months ago? It is a tough question because things in the “different” category are often harder to see, harder to name, and as such harder to process. Measures of stress such as the Homes-Rahe Life Events Stress Scale, for example, have been criticized for not considering life events that did not happen (e.g., not getting a promotion, not having anything to do on a weekend evening). Loss and grief associated with missed opportunities are also examples of the impact of non-events. If the distinction is still hard to see think about this as an example. If you are or were feeling down as a result of Covid-19 related social isolation, how much of what you are feeling might appropriately do attributed to aspects of depression and how much might, more simply, be attributed to boredom? This question highlights a clear example of a possible distinction between what could well be an emerging mental health epidemic associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and what could be a general social adjustment challenge associated with the many ways in which life is or will be different during and after Covid-19. Think about your own emotions, thoughts and experiences over the past few months in terms of depression versus boredom and then read the article linked below for a Psychology research grounded reflection on this question.

Source: Is the Lockdown Making You Depressed or Are You Just Bored? Richard A. Friedman, Sunday Review, Ney York Times.

Date: August 21, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Article Link:

The main point in the questions I suggested above was not that we need to decide which is right and which is wrong. Covid-19 has provided many of us with challenges to mental health and wellness AND is requiring us to do a lot of what we used to do differently. What the questions, and the linked article, suggest is that by becoming aware of the distinctions between depression and boredom, between stress or anxiety due to negative life events and stress and anxiety related more to uncertainty due to things, social things mainly, being different opens up ways of looking at, at least some of what we are facing differently, as things we have the ability to DO something about which draws on aspects of our self-efficacy and through that leads to positive coping. All of this is a big part of what makes up resilience which is not simply coping with stress and anxiety better than other people but sorting through your situation and finding the parts of it you can do something about and taking them on. Isn’t that much better than being so bored you decide that giving yourself a shock is better than nothing?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some examples of ways in which things are just different today rather than being inherently stressful or noxious to our mental health?
  2. What are some of the important differences between boredom and depression?
  3. What might you do to check on your own wellbeing in this area from time to time? What sorts of things might you look at or reflect upon in order to cope more resiliently as opposed to remaining enmeshed in stress, anxiety and uncertainty?

References (Read Further):

Wilson, T. D., Reinhard, D. A., Westgate, E. C., Gilbert, D. T., Ellerbeck, N., Hahn, C., … & Shaked, A. (2014). Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind. Science, 345(6192), 75-77. Link

Fernandez, Luke and Matt, Susan J. (2020) Americans’ inability to cope with boredom is spurring the spread of coronavirus, Salon, Aug 2. Link

Bajaj, B., & Pande, N. (2016). Mediating role of resilience in the impact of mindfulness on life satisfaction and affect as indices of subjective well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 63-67. Link

Ramasubramanian, S. (2017). Mindfulness, stress coping and everyday resilience among emerging youth in a university setting: a mixed methods approach. International Journal of adolescence and youth, 22(3), 308-321. Link

Goldberg, Y. K., Eastwood, J. D., LaGuardia, J., & Danckert, J. (2011). Boredom: An emotional experience distinct from apathy, anhedonia, or depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30(6), 647-666. Link

Wolniewicz, C. A., Rozgonjuk, D., & Elhai, J. D. (2020). Boredom proneness and fear of missing out mediate relations between depression and anxiety with problematic smartphone use. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 2(1), 61-70. Link

Bargdill, R. W. (2019). Habitual Boredom and Depression: Some Qualitative Differences. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 59(2), 294-312. Link

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Health Psychology, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Research Methods, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: How does Covid-19 effect children? Wait! Before you answer, set aside the fact that children are less likely to experience serious negative symptoms should they contract the Covid-19 virus. Think of children at the population level (as a group or groups). Now, how does or might the Covid-19 pandemic as a while effect children? In addition, consider that children are not simply a voting block of short people (they cannot vote and most will be taller before very long), they are a group that is particularly vulnerable to effects of largescale events like Covid-19 by virtue of the fact that they are engaged in rapidly emerging developmental processes that are laying the foundations for their own later development and for their very future lives. SO, now, how does Covid-19 effect children and low SES (poor) children in particular? The number of children living in poverty today is significantly higher than it was just 6 months ago in Canada and especially in the United States and while the situation may get better over the next 12 to 24 months that period of time is huge when considered from the perspective of the development of young children. What should we do? Well, the complexity of the relationship between poor developmental outcomes and poverty could cause you to believe that even a hypothetical answer this that question is beyond you and I would agree if we want a full account of all of the poverty linked forces and factors that could influence child development (even without considering parental Covid-19 related stress and anxieties). However, what if we threw some money at the problem? Sounds too simple? Sounds like something that would simply amplify to individual, family and social problems that lead families into poverty in the first place? Well, keep an open mind for a few minutes and read the article linked below that looks at this simpler option with the benefit of quite a bit of research data.

Source: The Coronavirus Generation, Jason DeParle, New Analysis, The New York Times.

Date: August 22, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by sippakorn yamkasikorn from Pixabay

Article Link:

Canada has provided child allowances to low SES families for a while now (pre-Covid) resulting in significant reductions in the number of children growing and developing in poverty. American programs such as Food Stamps have addressed core consequences of living in poverty for many children and the fact that such programs have been administered locally has provided much evidence (as did research on the local impacts of Casino benefits to Indigenous children) of the positive impacts of such direct anti-poverty interventions. There has not been much discussion of the impacts of Covid-19 on young developing children beyond potential direct health effects. Perhaps we should consider that today’s young children are tomorrow’ adult citizens (and voters) as we consider short and longer-term economic aid initiatives related to the current pandemic.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some ways in which Social Economic Status (SES) impacts development?
  2. When we talk about the impact of Covid-19 on families what should we consider in particular when we think about the situations of low SES families?
  3. What are some of the potential implications of (Covid-19) back to school initiatives for low as opposed to mid to high SES children and families?

References (Read Further):

Akee, R. K., Copeland, W. E., Keeler, G., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2010). Parents’ incomes and children’s outcomes: a quasi-experiment using transfer payments from casino profits. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2(1), 86-115. Link

Costello, E. J., Copeland, W., & Angold, A. (2016). The Great Smoky Mountains study: developmental epidemiology in the southeastern United States. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 51(5), 639-646. Link

Duncan, G. J., Magnuson, K., & Votruba-Drzal, E. (2014). Boosting family income to promote child development. The Future of Children, 99-120. Link

Yoshikawa, H., Aber, J. L., & Beardslee, W. R. (2012). The effects of poverty on the mental, emotional, and behavioral health of children and youth: implications for prevention. American Psychologist, 67(4), 272. Link

Cooper, K., & Stewart, K. (2017). Does money affect children’s outcomes? An update. CASEpapers (203). Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK Link

Le Menestrel, S., & Duncan, G. (2019). A roadmap to reducing child poverty. National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine Link

Schwandt, H., & Von Wachter, T. (2019). Unlucky cohorts: Estimating the long-term effects of entering the labor market in a recession in large cross-sectional data sets. Journal of Labor Economics, 37(S1), S161-S198. Link

Guldi, M., Hawkins, A., Hemmeter, J., & Schmidt, L. (2018). Supplemental Security Income and child outcomes: Evidence from birth weight eligibility cutoffs (No. w24913). National Bureau of Economic Research. Link

Hoynes, H., Schanzenbach, D. W., & Almond, D. (2016). Long-run impacts of childhood access to the safety net. American Economic Review, 106(4), 903-34. Link

Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, General Psychology, Language-Thought, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Cognition, Social Psychology, Student Success.

Description: Given your direct and indirect experiences with Covid-19 and its impact on the world overt the past 6 months you are something of an expert on the subject, right?  Well, here is a pop quiz on that subject. Imagine there are a large number of people who regularly interact closely without masks or what is now considered appropriate social distancing, indoors. Assume we start with just one person who is infected with Covid-19 and is contagious. Off the top of your head, how many people will be infected with Covid-19 by the end of one month? Six weeks? Seven weeks? Eight weeks? When you have your estimates in mind (maybe write them down). Have a look down below the picture below to see how your estimates match what epidemiology tells us is the potential reality and then have a look at the article linked below to see why your estimates (or maybe those of folks who are resistant to mask wearing) are off.

Source: Exponential Growth Bias: The numerical error behind Covid-19, David Robson, Future, BBC.

Date: August 12, 2020

Photo Credit:  Image by _Alicja_ from Pixabay

Article Link:

After 1 month just over 1000 people would be infected; after 6 weeks nearly 33,000; after 7 weeks over 130,000 and after 8 weeks over 1 million people would be infected. Infection rates are exponential not linear so when you think just a little bit beyond you and your immediate contacts, well, you should wear a mask and practice social distancing right? We are NOT alone, oh my no we are most certainly now alone and we need to stop acting like we are.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might it be that many people do not do a good job estimating viral infection rates?
  2. How might the errors in estimation noted in your answer to the previous question impact things like mask wearing and social distancing practice adherence?
  3. How might we use the information provided by the linked article to increase conscious commitment to social distancing and mask usage in the general population?

References (Read Further):

Siegel, Ethan (2020) Why ‘Exponential Growth’ Is So Scary For The Covid-19 Coronavirus, Forbes, Link

Lammers, J., Crusius, J., & Gast, A. (2020). Correcting misperceptions of exponential coronavirus growth increases support for social distancing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(28), 16264-16266. Link

Banerjee, R., Bhattacharya, J., & Majumdar, P. (2020). Exponential-growth prediction bias and compliance with safety measures in the times of COVID-19. arXiv preprint arXiv:2005.01273. Link

Schonger, M., & Sele, D. (2020). How to better communicate exponential growth of infectious diseases. medRxiv. Link

Robson, D. (2019). The intelligence trap: Why smart people make dumb mistakes. WW Norton & Company. Link