Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, mental illness, Psychological Disorders, Research Methods, Research Methods in AP, Research Methods in CP, Stress, Stress Biopsychosocial Factors Illness, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: I have posted a number of times in the past on the topic of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – search PTSD in the Weekly Updates search window). Symptoms of PTSD are worryingly common among retiring military veterans. The rate in the general population is just under 10% while the rate among returning vets is in the neighbourhood of 35 to 40%. A variety of approaches to support and to treatment seem to possibly help — look at the results of the search I recommended above, and you will see references to animal assisted therapy, support animals, EMDR (look it up), and general cognitive behavioral therapy. In addition, medical marijuana has shown some possible positive effects though the Canadian ministry of Veterans affairs recently seriously cut their budget for medical marijuana for vets citing exponential cost increases and the lack of sufficient numbers of vets in Canada to support a properly controlled study of the effects of medical marijuana on the symptoms of PTSD (sound fair?). So, what might research tell us about the possible positive impact of otherwise illicit drugs (and yes marijuana WILL soon NOT be illicit in Canada, but it will still not be free for those that potentially need rather than want it) on the symptoms of PTSD and as an add-in the psychotherapy? Well the article liked below talks about a research study recently published that looked at the effects of different levels of MDMA (yes ecstasy, like what was given to an octopus in the posting I put up last week). Before you read the article think about how you would design a study looking at the effects of MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy with people suffering symptoms of PTSD. Would you want the participants to know if they had been given MDMA? Would you vary the dosage? How would you fold the drug and therapy together? Once you have thought about these design issues have a read through the article linked below to see what the researchers did.

Source: PTSD and Ecstasy: Science and Perception. Eugene Rubin and Charles Zorumski, Demystifying Psychiatry, Psychology Today.

Date: October 3, 2018

Photo Credit:

Article Link:

So, did the double-blind design seem to work? Why try for a double-blind design? Why might it have not worked at all dosage levels? If the results are replicable these results could suggest a powerful approach top therapy for veterans with PTSD. It is worth thinking about what sorts of ethical concerns we might have to address before moving forward with such an approach to treatment (assuming it works). I hesitate to suggest that, if the data bears this approach to treatment out perhaps the relative cost of marijuana and MDMA might also be a consideration in deciding how to proceed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is it about MDMA that might support therapy effectiveness for those with PTSD?
  2. What sorts of research is still needed before this approach the treatment of PTSD get green-lighted?
  3. Are there other disorders or populations that might be considered for similar exploratory treatment research?

References (Read Further):

Mithoefer, M.C., Mithoefer, A.T., Feduccia, A.A., Jerome, L., Wagner, M., Wymer, J., Holland, J., et al. (2018). 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans, firefighters, and police officers: a randomised, double-blind, dose-response, phase 2 clinical trial. Lancet Psychiatry. 5:486-497.

Danforth, A. L., Struble, C. M., Yazar-Klosinski, B., & Grob, C. S. (2016). MDMA-assisted therapy: a new treatment model for social anxiety in autistic adults. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 64, 237-249.

Parrott, A. C. (2007). The psychotherapeutic potential of MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine): an evidence-based review. Psychopharmacology, 191(2), 181-193.

Bouso, J. C., Doblin, R., Farré, M., Alcázar, M. Á., & Gómez-Jarabo, G. (2008). MDMA-assisted psychotherapy using low doses in a small sample of women with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 40(3), 225-236.

Parrott, A. C. (2014). The potential dangers of using MDMA for psychotherapy. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 46(1), 37-43.

Sessa, B., & Nutt, D. (2015). Making a medicine out of MDMA. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 206(1), 4-6.









Posted by & filed under Language-Thought, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Influence.

Description: What is Behavioral Economics? Well it is the area (of Economics) in which a Psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, won a Nobel prize in 2002 for his work (in Psychology) on how human beings make decisions about money and about other things. It is the area of study that looks at the ways in which we (irrationally) make decisions. Think about this question. Which of the following would you feel more strongly about… losing $5 OR winning $5? Behavioral Economics research has suggested that we are more “loss averse” and as such would feel more strongly about losing $5 than we would about winning $5. This is supposed to be (again according to Behavioral Economics) why we can be “nudged” to do more healthy things by being told what we will lose if we don’t and to contribute regularly to a retirement savings plan by being told what we would lose in the way of comfort and security of we do not. So is lose aversion a broadband explanation for a lot of our behavior? Well, think about this “what if”. What if someone gave you a mug (nothing fancy, just a coffee mug). What price would you set the mug at if it were suggested that you try and sell it? What if you did not get a mug? What price would you pay for a mug being offered for sale. Well when social psychologists asked people these questions the results were straightforward. People would sell their mugs for and average of $7 but if they did not have one they would agree to buy one for $3 on average. Why? Perhaps because those with mugs were more averse to losing them that those who did not have a mug thought they would be happier if they bought one – so loss aversion, right? Well think about it. Can you come up with another explanation? Once you have thought about it have a look at the article linked below and see what the author, a social psychologist thought and what he did to test his alternative hypothesis.

Source: Why Is Behavioral Economics So Popular? David Gal, The New York Times.

Date: October 6, 2018

Photo Credit: Michael DeForge

Article Link:

So, what do you think of Dr. Gall’s inertia hypothesis? He is a professor of marketing and so is particularly interested in the application of behavioral economics to marketing campaigns. The loss aversion hypothesis has led a LOT of marketing groups to develop sales campaigns for their products or services that try and focus potential buyers on what they will lose if they do not make use of the proffered product or service. The problem is that a large meta-analytic study found that there was NO statistical advantage to public health campaigns structured around loss aversion – no positive behavior changes. So, here is a challenge for Behavioral Economists (or for Psychologists working on Behavioral Economics questions from a Psychological perspective in search of another Nobel prize). When IS loss aversion at play, when is it NOT at play and what are the situational effects that drive those differences? The marketers and public health advocates of the world are waiting for and need answers to these questions!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is loss aversion? Provide a couple of examples.
  2. What sorts of areas might rely on research done within Behavioral Economics (done by Psychologist or others)?
  3. What alternative explanation was offered to loss aversion in the article linked above? What does the alternative explanation suggest we should do with the notion of loss aversion?

References (Read Further):

Lindsey, V. W. (2010). Encouraging Savings Under the Earned Income Tax Credit: A Nudge in the Right Direction. U. Mich. JL Reform, 44, 83.

Zywicki, T. J. (2016). Do Americans Really Save Too Little and Should We Nudge Them to Save More: The Ethics of Nudging Retirement Savings. Geo. JL & Pub. Pol’y, 14, 877.

Gal, D., & Rucker, D. D. (2018). The loss of loss aversion: Will it loom larger than its gain?. Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1991). Loss aversion in riskless choice: A reference-dependent model. The quarterly journal of economics, 106(4), 1039-1061.

Wang, M., Rieger, M. O., & Hens, T. (2017). The impact of culture on loss aversion. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 30(2), 270-281.





Posted by & filed under Intergroup Relations, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: Think back (perhaps back to your grade school days) and think of a time or situation where you got left out by your peers, where you did not get invited to a birthday party or asked to play in a recess game. How did that make you feel?  Does that sort of thing not happen as much to you now? Well, what about your social media connections? Do you get left out there from time to time? We are a social species and as such we are quite sensitive to noting situations that involve social exclusion and social networks may actually provide more opportunities for social exclusion than old school face-to-face social interaction. So, think about your social networking activities and think about the amount of social exclusion anxiety you encounter on a week to week basis. Also think a bit about what we might do to get people to increase the number of things they do socially on social media networks that could increase rather than decrease social inclusion. After that bit of thinking read through the article linked below to see how the social psychologist author of the article designed studies to look at these questions.

Source: Can Mindfulness Make Us Kinder? Kirk Warren Brown, Being There, Psychology Today.

Date: October 3, 2018

Photo Credit: ‘Social Exclusion’ by Scott Merrick

Article Link:

If you think about it you can see that while social media makes it possible to connect in some ways with many people at a distance such connections also tend to shift you out of the moment or, more specifically, out of the here and now. If connecting socially in the her and now is what we evolved to view as base social connectedness, then perhaps being more mindful would reduce social exclusion and increase social kindness. That is what the author of the article linked about found in his research. People who completed a mindfulness exercise prior to engaging with others over social media di show more kindness and social inclusiveness. Perhaps mindfulness checks are things we could engage in that would make us more “real” by face-to-face social interaction standards and move us towards being more positively social inclusive in our interactions.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is social exclusion and how does it arise in social media-based interactions?
  2. How are social inclusion and kindness related?
  3. What sorts of things should we think about or engage in if we want to ensure that our social interactions over social media do not include a problematic level of social exclusion?

References (Read Further):

Berry, D. R., Cairo, A. H., Goodman, R. J., Quaglia, J. T., Green, J. D., & Brown, K. W. (2018). Mindfulness increases prosocial responses toward ostracized strangers through empathic concern. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(1), 93.

Selten, J. P., Booij, J., Buwalda, B., & Meyer-Lindenberg, A. (2017). Biological mechanisms whereby social exclusion may contribute to the etiology of psychosis: a narrative review. Schizophrenia bulletin, 43(2), 287-292.

Riva, P., Montali, L., Wirth, J. H., Curioni, S., & Williams, K. D. (2017). Chronic social exclusion and evidence for the resignation stage: An empirical investigation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 34(4), 541-564.

Graeupner, D., & Coman, A. (2017). The dark side of meaning-making: How social exclusion leads to superstitious thinking. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 218-222.



Posted by & filed under Aggression, Anxiety OC PTSD, Attitude Formation Change, Memory, Psychological Health, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: As a Psychologist I have to say that events south of our border over the past two years have a source of fascination, confusion and perplexity not to mention anxiety, fear and anger and that is just from considering the actions of the current president. This past week the confirmation hearings focusing on Brett Kavanaugh’s possible appointment to the American Supreme Court opened up a whole new universe of areas and issues for psychological contemplation. Rather than trying to focus too directly on any one area or issue (given the unfolding nature of this array of issues) I though I would just list a number of questions of psychological relevance that have arisen in the media and based on my own reflection on these recent noxious events. In each case I will point you to an article and/or two, but more information will likely emerge as the events and our reflection upon them unfold. As well, you can dig into the relevant psychological research literatures to see what research has been done in these areas. So, here are some questions arising from the American Senate hearings and from the contexts surrounding those events.

In her testimony before the Senate Committee, Christine Blasey Ford said she could recall every detail of Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged attack on her when she was 15 years old but had difficulty recalling related event details. Does this fit with what we know about memory for traumatic events decades past? The research says yes, see link 4 below.

How DO trauma and the passage of time affect our memories for the events they involve? Answers to this question can get complicated. See link number 3 below.

Does asking women to describe and discuss the impacts that alleged sexual assaults had on them have an impact on the likelihood that they will report such events in the first place? The answer to this question seems to be yes. See link 1 below.

Does the storm of media information and coverage of issues related to trauma and sexual assault have an impact upon those who have suffered such events? The answer to this question is most certainly, yes. The news is loaded with triggers for victims of sexual assault and related traumas. See link 2 below.

Source: Various (The New York Times) see links below.

Date: September 28, 2018

Photo Credit: Fox News

Article Link: 1.


These events are occurring at an important time in the history of societal views and thinking about issues associated with sexual assault and gender-based issues. The #metoo movement has started to shine strong lights on issues of male and power privilege and on the fundamental imbalance between “innocent until proven guilty” and the huge burdens of proof placed on victims before they are believed. We do not just need more research in these areas we need more thought and more action.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the psychological issues arising from, or brought out by, media coverage of the Kavanaugh Senate hearings in the United States?
  2. Can you think of any new areas where psychological research is needed? Are there any areas where it may be that some assumptions underlying past research or at least past research questions might need to be revisited?
  3. What approach (research, investigative, etc.) would be preferable in situations like this if senators were interested in understanding and properly addressing the sexual assault allegations in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings?

References (Read Further):

Millon, E. M., Chang, H. Y. M., & Shors, T. J. (2018). Stressful life memories relate to ruminative thoughts in women with sexual violence history, irrespective of PTSD. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9.

Shields, C. (2018). The Traumatic Effects of Sexual Assault: A literature review of the effects of sexual assault on college students. Angelo State University Social Sciences Research Journal, 4(1).

Treanor, M., Brown, L. A., Rissman, J., & Craske, M. G. (2017). Can memories of traumatic experiences or addiction be erased or modified? A critical review of research on the disruption of memory reconsolidation and its applications. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(2), 290-305.

Au, T. M., Sauer-Zavala, S., King, M. W., Petrocchi, N., Barlow, D. H., & Litz, B. T. (2017). Compassion-based therapy for trauma-related shame and posttraumatic stress: Initial evaluation using a multiple baseline design. Behavior therapy, 48(2), 207-221.

Bordere, T. (2017). Disenfranchisement and ambiguity in the face of loss: The suffocated grief of sexual assault survivors. Family Relations, 66(1), 29-45.

Posted by & filed under Health Psychology, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: Quick! Answer this question off the top of your head: Is texting good or bad? Well, assuming your mind did not leap to issues arising from presidential tweets your yes or no answer likely reflected your personal preferences regarding texts or perhaps the Psychological researcher in you suggested that the question was too simplistic and uncontextualized to be addressable. So, here is a potentially better question: If you were designing a program of research looking at texting patterns, habits and (psychological) consequences what sorts of things do you think need to be examined and how should they be examined? Once you have given that a bit of thought read through the article, written by someone who has actually done research on texting, and see what she, and others, have done and see how it aligns with your possible research direction thoughts.

Source: Why are People Dependent on Texting? Elizabeth Dorrance Hall, Conscious Communication, Psychology Today.

Date: September 28, 2018

Photo Credit: Rawpixel/Pexels

Article Link:

While there has been a lot of doom and gloom speculation about the developmental and social impacts of texting and social media in general I, at least, am pleased to see that research is being done that does not begin with a dismissive or terrified stance on these new forms of social interaction. Texting is not going away and Psychology needs to help us to understand how it works and how it differentially impacts or is differentially taken up by its diverse array of users. The research discussed in the article linked above provides data-supported dimensions along which text-users seem to vary. Such work is critical to understanding both the core issues associated with new communication mediums as well as the dimensions along which individual users vary. Work like this and the work of the author of the article will help us to build an understanding of how texting is being taken up by users (or not) and will also help us to see or even to anticipate areas where new or unexpected issues or problems may arose for people using new modes of communication.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What issues do you have or potential issues, from a Psychological perspective, do you have or see with texting?
  2. Do you see any potential developmental issues associated with texting (due to its age-related variability of use)?
  3. What are some other areas or aspects of texting or the texting experience that Psychological researchers should be looking at, in your view?

References (Read Further):

Hall, E. D., Feister, M. K., & Tikkanen, S. (2018). A mixed-method analysis of the role of online communication attitudes in the relationship between self-monitoring and emerging adult text intensity. Computers in Human Behavior, 89, 269-278.

Ledbetter, A. M. (2009). Measuring online communication attitude: Instrument development and validation. Communication Monographs, 76(4), 463-486.

Ledbetter, A. M. (2010). Family communication patterns and communication competence as predictors of online communication attitude: Evaluating a dual pathway model. Journal of Family Communication, 10(2), 99-115.

Rosen, L. D., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2013). Facebook and texting made me do it: Media-induced task-switching while studying. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 948-958.

Schwebel, D. C., Stavrinos, D., Byington, K. W., Davis, T., O’Neal, E. E., & De Jong, D. (2012). Distraction and pedestrian safety: how talking on the phone, texting, and listening to music impact crossing the street. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 45, 266-271.

Caird, J. K., Johnston, K. A., Willness, C. R., Asbridge, M., & Steel, P. (2014). A meta-analysis of the effects of texting on driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 71, 311-318.

Hall, J. A., & Baym, N. K. (2012). Calling and texting (too much): Mobile maintenance expectations,(over) dependence, entrapment, and friendship satisfaction. New media & society, 14(2), 316-331.




Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Personality, Persuasion, Social Influence, Student Success.

Description: If you have spent more than one or two days in a workplace setting you have probably heard of and even completed the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). The MBTI is a personality inventory that, based on your responses, places you somewhere on each of 4 dimensions including Intuitive/Sensing, Introversion/Extroversion, Feeling/Thinking, Perceiving/Judging. If you took the test in a workplace setting think back to what you were told was the purpose of the assessment and about what it was suggested would be the potential uses to which you could put your results. If you think, or were told, that the MBTI is a scientifically based and proven personality inventory then you are misinformed. Industrial Organizational Psychologists who, among other things, work on developing and applying measures and systems for employee section, employee development, and person-organization fit will tell you (in great detail) how the MBTI lack reliability and validity and as such, regardless of its broad use and its broad claims of usefulness is, in fact, not at all scientifically grounded. A measure is reliable if it produces stable, consistent results. This usually assessed by having the same people complete a measure twice in a short period of time so that they have not likely changed much between assessments. To be reliable the measures time 1 scores must correlate with the time scores at about the .9 level of above (1.0 means essentially means the scores are exactly the same). Think about it, if the things being measured should be the same at both assessment times then a much less than perfect correlation likely means that the measure itself is unstable, much like a rubber ruler would be as a length measurement tool. Validity refers to how well the measure predicts what it is supposed to predict (according the relevant theories). Basically, if a measure is not reliable then its validity cannot be assessed. So why use the MBTI? Well listen to the podcast linked below to hear a bit about when, why, and how the MBTI was developed and that may address the question of use (maybe).

Source: Myers-Briggs tests in the workplace help employer, not the employee, says author, The Current, CBC Radio.

Date: September 27, 2018

Photo Credit: Christian Nakarado/Penguin Random House

Article Links:

The Podcast is here:

There are several important points made about the MBTI in the podcast beyond the issues of its lack of reliability and validity. The first is that the dimensions of the MBTI were originally drawn from the work of Jung and tie into his creative thinking about personality and archetypes. Through that work and his related work on things like a collective unconscious, Jung thought deeply and read broadly about the nature and variability of human nature. What Jung did and what the MBTI can do is to get us thinking about who we are and what our basic or preferred social tendencies and needs are as we move about in the world. The results can be broad, dynamic and flexible if not reliable or valid for HR purposes. The historical context of the development of the MBTI is also important. I/O psychology got a huge boost though its contribution to the massive task of assessing and appropriately training and deploying millions of people during the second world war. Just as the massive manufacturing infrastructure built to provision the armed forces in WW2 was repurposed to provision the households and life styles of the retuning veterans and their families so was the I/O Psychological assessment enterprise repurposed to support effective hiring, training, placement and retention practices in organizations. Whether or not this led to an effort, using the MBTI, to convince employees that being personally fulfilled by or at work to the benefit of employers and organizations is debatable. Job and cross-career mobility and contract work have increased massively since the start of the post-war period and a focus of personal well-being and developing a more personal sense of purpose in life, including one’s work-life, is a natural extension of that as well. The bottom line is that if your MBTI results gets you thinking and reflecting then that is likely a good thing but it is also important to note that there are a great many better tools out there not just is the toolboxes of I/O Psychologists and organizations but also available to individuals, like you, who want to take on some of your own talent development initiatives. Go for it!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the MBTI based upon?
  2. Why is the MBTI’s lack of reliability an issue?
  3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages for employees and potential hires of the broad use of I/O Psychology developed measures in the processes of selecting, hiring, training, developing and retaining employees by organizations?

References (Read Further):

Emre, Merve (2018) The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, Doubleday.

Block, Melissa (2018) How the Myers-Briggs Personality Test Began in as Mother’s Living Room Lab, All things Considered, September 22, 1018, .

McCrae, R. R., & Costa Jr, P. T. (1989). Reinterpreting the Myers‐Briggs type indicator from the perspective of the five‐factor model of personality. Journal of personality, 57(1), 17-40.

Pittenger, D. J. (2005). Cautionary comments regarding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 57(3), 210.

Case, P., & Phillipson, G. (2004). Astrology, alchemy and retro-organization theory: An astro-genealogical critique of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®. Organization, 11(4), 473-495.



Posted by & filed under Development of the Self, Early Social and Emotional development, Human Development, Learning, Motivation-Emotion, Personality, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: Do you know what the Marshmallow Test is? (No, it does not involve a campfire and smores).  The test was set up by Walter Mischel who recently passed away at the age of 88. As described in the video embedded in the article linked below, the marshmallow test, I its simplest form, provides young children with a simple challenge. They are seated at a table and a marshmallow is placed on a dish before them. They are told they can have the marshmallow whenever they want BUT, if they wait and delay enjoying the treat until the adult returns to the room (time varies) then they will receive a second marshmallow for a total of two. How do you think young children do I this task? What do you think it would predict if they were able to wait for 10 minutes without waiting the first marshmallow in order to get the second marshmallow? What sorts of things do you think should be included in this sort of test (Mischel added a few things beyond just presenting a marshmallow challenge)? Think about this and them read the article linked below and watch the video it contains to hear what Mischel himself said about the test.

Source: Remembrance for Walter Mischel, Psychologist Who Devised the Marshmallow Test, Julie Carli, NPR.

Date: September 21, 2018

Photo Credit: NPR

Article Links:

Walter Mischel produced a LOT of research over the course of his thoughtful and prolific career.  The great empirical debate he was involved in was concerned with whether or not people’s personalities are fixed or whether they are open to change or to personal manipulation or improvement. The often stated (erroneously) finding from the Marshmallow test was that children who were able to delay gratification long enough to get a second marshmallow, went on to ore productive/successful lives than children who could not wait. In fact, Mischel was NOT a theoretic supporter of a “carved in stone” approach to personality. In his original research with the Marshmallow test what he showed was that if he taught children strategies for putting off eating the first marshmallow AND if they deployed those strategies effectively, THEN they were more successful in life. Walter Mischel believed and demonstrated empirically, that personality change and change for the better are possible. Thank you Walter.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the Marshmallow Test?
  2. What does the Marshmallow Test show us?
  3. How did Walter Mischel think and talk about the idea of personality mailability and what did his views suggest?

References (Read Further):

Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, M. I. (1989). Delay of gratification in children. Science, 244(4907), 933-938.,Shoda,%26Rodriguez%281989%29.pdf

Mischel, W. (1973). Toward a cognitive social learning reconceptualization of personality. Psychological review, 80(4), 252.

Mischel, W., & Shoda, Y. (1995). A cognitive-affective system theory of personality: reconceptualizing situations, dispositions, dynamics, and invariance in personality structure. Psychological review, 102(2), 246.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Peake, P. K. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental psychology, 26(6), 978.

Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Peake, P. K. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification. Journal of personality and social psychology, 54(4), 687.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Intelligence, Language-Thought, Social Cognition, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, The Self.

Description: You have likely heard about the Turing test that is intended as a means of testing whether the entity one is conversing with via typed messages is a human being or an artificial intelligence (a computer program). Alan Turing argued that if a program seemed to those corresponding with it to be “human” then we should grant it some sort of “being” status. The hyperlink above will take you to a previous post talking about this test and about a possible “winner.” Now, rather than thinking about what sorts of questions you would ask and what sorts of topics you would raise in such an interaction/investigation what if you were asked to come with ONE WORD that would most likely sound “human” rather than “machine (AI)” generated? One word would likely not be enough but think about what your one word would be and think about what research involving the collection of many peoples’ one words might tell us that could be interesting or useful. Once you have those answers in mind read the article linked below to see what several social Psychologists di with peoples’ one word “Turing Test” responses.

Source: What a “Minimal Turing Test” Says About Humans, Matthew Hutson, Psyched! Psychology Today.

Date: September 21, 2018

Photo Credit: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Article Links:

The frequency and conceptual patterns of words/concepts invoked in this one-word Turing Test research are interesting. Were you surprised at how well some words did in the head-to-head part of the study where participants were asked to consider pairs of words taken from the first part of the study and pick which word sounded more human. “Poop” beat every other word including “love”! Maybe there is another version of the “shit happens” T-Shirt image to be created here! The approach to examining our concepts of humans and robots or AI’s one word at a time might seem a bit artificial but the results suggest much about the nature of our concepts in this area and the conceptual structures that support them and thr stereotypes they produce.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the Turing Test?
  2. What sorts of things does the single word Turing Test allow us to do from a social Psychological perspective?
  3. What might it mean to say we have “stereotypes” about artificial intelligences, robots etc.?

References (Read Further):

McCoy, J. P., & Ullman, T. D. (2018). A Minimal Turing Test. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 79, 1-8.

Abrams, J. (2017). Is Eliza human, and can she write a sonnet?: A look at language technology. Access, 31(3), 4.

Marcus, G. (2017). Am I Human?. Scientific American, 316(3), 58-63.

de Graaf, M. M., & Malle, B. F. (2018). People’s Judgments of Human and Robot Behaviors.

Oliveira, R., Arriaga, P., Correia, F., & Paiva, A. (2018). Making Robot’s Attitudes Predictable: A Stereotype Content Model for Human-Robot Interaction in Groups.’s_Attitudes_Predictable_A_Stereotype_Content_Model_for_Human-Robot_Interaction_in_Groups/links/5aa91bf7aca272d39cd502a6/Making-Robots-Attitudes-Predictable-A-Stereotype-Content-Model-for-Human-Robot-Interaction-in-Groups.pdf

Posted by & filed under Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Neuroscience, Physiology, Social Psychology.

Description: The octopus is not a particularly social animal. While that might sound like the start to a fairy tale or to a “Just So” story it is actually simply a scientific fact. Octopi typically avoid social contact entirely including avoiding other members of their species. They Do, however, have to engage socially with at least one other octopus at least once in a while in order to mate. It turns out that octopi seem to use a mechanism to flip this social/asocial switch that is virtually identical to how we manage social connections, using the serotonin system. How did they test this? Well, they used the drug ecstasy or MDMA which alters mood in humans by driving a serotonin “dump” which, in the short term provides strong feelings of social connectedness and positive social affect in humans. How did this work in Octopi? Well read through the article linked below to find out. While you read through it pay attention to and think about what research like this with octopi might tell us about ourselves.

Source: Octopuses given mood drug “ecstasy’ reveal genetic link to evolution of social behavior in humans, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: September 20, 2018

Photo Credit: Ton Kleindinst/ Marine Biological Laboratory

Article Links:

So, exposure to MDMA (ecstasy) lead the octopi to spend time being close with a caged male octopus while most octopi not exposed to the drug avoided the caged male octopi. Their behavior while on the drug paralleled that of human rave attendees on ecstasy (not the dancing but the increased frequency of social touching).  It seems that octopuses’ social behavioral tendencies are there most of the time but suppressed in and by non-mating circumstances in ways that produce the “loner” behavior they are best known for. The functioning of the serotonin system, while referred to most often in humans as region related to mood and being primary site of drug intervention in cases of depression, is likely involved in the evolution of our social connectedness as well.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How does ecstasy effect social behavior?
  2. What might studying the effects of ecstasy in octopi tell us about human social behaviors?
  3. Did the octopus “social” behaviors described in the article linked above strike you as genuinely social? Why or why not?

References (Read Further):

Eric Edsinger, Gül Dölen. A Conserved Role for Serotonergic Neurotransmission in Mediating Social Behavior in Octopus. Current Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.061

Fiorito, G., & Scotto, P. (1992). Observational learning in Octopus vulgaris. Science, 256(5056), 545-547.

Turchetti-Maia, A., Shomrat, T., & Hochner, B. (2017). The vertical lobe of cephalopods—a brain structure ideal for exploring the mechanisms of complex forms of learning and memory. In The Oxford Handbook of Invertebrate Neurobiology.


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

Description: I am teaching a course this term on I/O or Industrial Organizational Psychology and I was struck by a quote in one of the sources I was reading in preparation for class that suggested that I/O psychology is a “brainless” science. What might it mean for someone to say that? Well, they were pointing out that while there has been an explosion of research and interest on the brain functioning foundations of many areas and phenomenon in psychology (driven by the cheaper availability of brain scanning etc.), to date there has been little neuroscience informed work in I/O psychology. That is changing. Here is a Neuro-I/O question: How does power change the brains of CEO’s? How does having power change the way you think and behave? Think about what this might involve and then read the article linked below to see where research in this area is going.

Source: How Power Changes the CEO Brain, Jeanne Sahadi, @CNN Money, CNN.

Date: September 4, 2018

Photo Credit: chombosan/Getty Images

Article Links:

So, what does power do to your brain? Well, it may change your perspective making you more self-focused and less empathic. It may cause your perceptions of social constraints to fade and your recall of obstacles to your goals to fade along with them and your behaviours and decisions may become riskier. These and other factors could contribute to incidents of corporate greed and sexual harassment among CEO’s. It DOES seem that what people were like before becoming CEO’s can have a mitigating effect of the potentials for power abuses when at the top. We can and need to look forward to more research into the effects of power on the brains of those who take it up.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are the behavioural patterns and power related tendencies of New CEO’s inborn or a result of the new power they have?
  2. What would a neuroscience of I/O psychology potentially provide us with that we do not already have?
  3. What new areas of research looking at CEO brains should we be undertaking?

References (Read Further):

Galinsky, A. D., Magee, J. C., Inesi, M. E., & Gruenfeld, D. H. (2006). Power and perspectives not taken. Psychological science, 17(12), 1068-1074.

Gruenfeld, D. H., Inesi, M. E., Magee, J. C., & Galinsky, A. D. (2008). Power and the objectification of social targets. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(1), 111.

Bentley, F. S., Fulmer, I. S., & Kehoe, R. R. Payoffs for layoffs? An examination of CEO relative pay and firm performance surrounding layoff announcements. Personnel Psychology.