Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Development of the Self, Human Development, Psychological Health, Student Success, The Self.

Description: Did you every keep a diary? How about now? Do you write regularly in a diary or, perhaps so as not to suggest a dramatic teenager, do you journal regularly? Just think for a minute, not about the stereotypes associated with keeping a diary but, from a psychological (adjustment, reflection, self-care, and/or a developmental) perspective, what advantages might arise from reflectively putting pen to paper or cursor to word processing program on a regular (daily!) basis. If you were going to research the impacts and benefits of journaling what might you look at and how might you measure it and who would you recruit to participate in the research? Once you have a few hypotheses and research approaches in mind (and dismissing this as stooooped and childish IS channeling a dramatic teenager — so get over that) have a read through the article linked below and see what sorts of angles people and researchers have taken in understanding the value and impacts of journaling.

Source: What’s All This About Journaling? Hayley Phelan, Self-Care, The New York Times.

Date: October 25, 2018

Photo Credit: The New York Times

Article Link:

So? I bet you did NOT predict that journaling would reduce the time it takes for physical (not just psychological) wounds to heal! When I am lecturing about identity development and life planning I find myself coming over and over again to one or another version of telling students they should find some ways to regularly reflect upon what they are thinking about, worrying about, trying to figure out, and where they are going with all that. A HUGE part of what it means to positively enter into adulthood (whatever that means) these days requires the application of reflective powers and perspectives that only become available to us in the stage of emerging adulthood (18 to 25 to 29 year of age). Journaling really does facilitate that sort of self-design developmental work. Likewise, mindfulness (you cannot have missed the recent huge spike in postings on this topic) involves both working at being more “in the moment” and being more reflective and personally philosophical (all aided by journaling). So, I don’t not think we necessarily need to leap into seeing journaling as a means of spiritual self-illumination, rather, I see it as a way to take more conscious control of the natural developmental emergence of an ability to reflect upon our place and purpose and navigational direction in the world (and in a world that IS more complex and diverse than it was for previous generations). So take up a pen, a keyboard or your agile thumbs and get going on a regular journaling habit, wo knows where it will take you!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is journaling and how does it differ from writing in a diary (if it does)?
  2. How does journaling relate to mindfulness?
  3. Describe 3 to 5 areas of research into things like self-awareness, career planning, and life adaptation and satisfaction that journaling could play a vital role in?

References (Read Further):

Murray, Bridget (2002) Writing to heal, Monitor on Psychology,

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

Petrie, K.J., Booth, R.J., & Pennebaker, J.W. (1998). The immunological effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(5) 1261- 1272.

Rodriguez, Tori (2013) Writing Can Help Injuries Heal Faster, Scientific American,

Falahati, R. (2010). The relationship between students’ iq and their ability to use transitional words and expressions in writing. Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle, 17, 11-19.

Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotions. Guilford Press.

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Anxiety OC PTSD, Child Development, Consciousness, Development of the Self, Health Psychology, Human Development, Motivation-Emotion, Prevention, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: This is the last of three posts relating to anxiety and research into its prevalence and management. For students in high school and especially in college or university, anxiety can be a regular occurrence. Particularly as one moves beyond high school and out into post-secondary life there are many things that can give rise to thoughts of and physiological reaction to stress and stressful situations and to feelings of anxiety, both short and longer term. While emerging adulthood – starting aroudn18 years of age – can be approached as the starting point of a life-long personally managed journey it can (and actually should) also come with challenges like uncertainty and, yes, anxiety. The other posts this week dealt with things you can do to manage or to reframe anxiety either as manageable or a guide to challenge and excitement. There is a LOT of Psychological research on the prevalence and management of anxiety disorders among emerging adults (college and university students) but most of that research, perhaps understandably, focusses on anxiety and related disorder categories within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and not on the subjective experiences emerging adults may have with anxiety or on the ways in which those subjective experience of anxiety might increase, decrease or otherwise morph and change as you move into emerging adulthood. Before you have a look at the articles linked below think a bit about your experiences with anxiety in your recent life. Have things changed in this area since you left high school? For the better or for worse? How do you think about, approach and, hopefully, manage the situations that make you feel anxious and/or your feelings of anxiety when they bubble up? The first linked article is very general and talks about recent research looking at the prevalence of mental health issues among first year college or university student world-wide. The second article, hopefully, will relieve any, or at least some of the, anxiety potentially generated by the first article by talking about the difference between “simple” feelings of anxiety and anxiety disorders. Between the two articles lies one of the tasks of emerging adulthood – figuring out when you need help and how to get that help with anxiety as a symptom and when some of your new inner experiences of anxiety are reflective of or arise from things that YOU need to understand and figure out how to deal with for yourself (though there can be help for that too!).

Source: One in three college freshmen worldwide reports mental health disorder, Science News, ScienceDaily. And The difference between regular feelings of anxiety and a true anxiety disorder, ULifeline.

Date: October 21, 2018

Photo Credit:

Article Links:  and

I suppose one take-away from a read through these two articles is that being a first-year student is hazardous to one’s mental health and that even when that is avoided there is still plain old anxiety to struggle with. More constructively, however, another interpretive option is to view much of your recent or current life anxieties as transitory or, perhaps better, as developmental. If you can reframe your current life experiences and the feelings and stresses related to them as identity relevant sources of data that you can build upon or with as you start to chart out and then embark upon your personal/adult life journey I suspect you will find that your anxieties will diminish as you take them on and move past them. For some tips on how to go about doing that enter the search term “life design” into the site’s search bar up at the top of this screen and see what you find. Good luck!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the difference between feelings of anxiety that are part of life in emerging adulthood and an anxiety disorder?
  2. In what ways have your experiences with anxiety changed since you left high school?
  3. What are some of the ways in which feelings of anxiety might lead to positive life experiences (experiences of personal growth)?

References (Read Further):

Auerbach, R. P., Mortier, P., Bruffaerts, R., Alonso, J., Benjet, C., Cuijpers, P., … & Murray, E. (2018). WHO world mental health surveys international college student project: Prevalence and distribution of mental disorders. Journal of abnormal psychology, 127(6), 1-16.

Goodman, Ken University of fear and anxiety: How to pass your freshman year of college. Anxiety and Depression Association of America,

Eisenberg, D., Gollust, S. E., Golberstein, E., & Hefner, J. L. (2007). Prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality among university students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77(4), 534-542.

Renk, K., & Smith, T. (2007). Predictors of academic-related stress in college students: An examination of coping, social support, parenting, and anxiety. Naspa Journal, 44(3), 405-431.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Health and Prevention In Aging, Health Psychology, Psychological Health, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: What do you, or how do you, think about anxiety? When you feel anxiety rising is that a sign you should stop what you are doing, or do less of it? Anxiety is typically seen as a sign that something potentially threatening or dangerous is starting or is about to happen and we can easily see anxiety as a sign to withdraw from the field, as it were. But what if we were to think about the signaling system that is made up of our physical and associated psychological experiences with anxiety as a sort of wild horse that, if tamed, might be bent to our advantage? Think about the similarities between the feelings associated with anxiety and those associated with (anticipatory) excitement. Ignoring the future event involved can you describe, in detail, the differences between the two? If not, what might that suggest to you as a way different way of thinking about or a different mindset related to anxiety? Think about that and ant other mindset shifts that may come to mind and then read the article linked below, written by a psychologist who has thought a LOT about these questions.

Source: How to Harness Your Anxiety, Alicia H. Clark, Mind, The New York Times.<

Date: October 16, 2018

Photo Credit: Aart-Jan Venema

Article Link:

Alicia Clark, in the article linked above and in her book on the same topic suggests we work on thinking differently about anxiety. What is anxiety? A signal that something bad is possible going to happen? Or perhaps it is just a signal that we need to pay attention to an impending challenge/opportunity. Anxiety is anticipatory, but what if we view it as an indication that we need to gear up our problem-solving resources? Reframing your thoughts about anxiety not as a portent of doom but as a sign of potentially positive change can be helpful. Stepping into rather than away from our feeling of anxiety can make a big difference in your outcomes. Sound too simple, or too good to be true, well have a look at some of research linked in the article and in the residence list below because you should never just take my or anyone’s word for this sort of thing. Look at the data!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do you respond when you start to feel anxious?
  2. What does the author of the article linked above suggest you do when you start to feel anxious that is different than how you responded to the first question above?
  3. Did the research articles below and linked in the main article discussed above provide you with support to make changes in how you think about anxiety? If not, what additional research would you like to see done?

References (Read Further):

Clark, A. H. (2018). Hack Your Anxiety: How to Make Anxiety Work for You in Life, Love, and All That You Do. Sourcebooks, Inc.

Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L. E., Maddox, T., Cheng, E. R., Creswell, P. D., & Witt, W. P. (2012). Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychology, 31(5), 677.

Crum, Alia, (2018) The science of how mindset transforms the human experience, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Burklund, L. J., Creswell, J. D., Irwin, M., & Lieberman, M. (2014). The common and distinct neural bases of affect labeling and reappraisal in healthy adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 221.

Moore, M., Culpepper, S., Phan, K. L., Strauman, T. J., Dolcos, F., & Dolcos, S. (2018). Neurobehavioral Mechanisms of Resilience Against Emotional Distress: An Integrative Brain-Personality-Symptom Approach Using Structural Equation Modeling. Personality Neuroscience, 1.
Strack, Juliane; Lopes, Paulo; Esteves, Francisco; Fernandez-Berrocal, Pablo (2017) Must We Suffer to Succeed?: When Anxiety Boosts Motivation and Performance, Journal of Individual Differences. 38(2):113-124.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Research Methods in CP, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: There are indications that the number of young adults dealing with high levels of anxiety or worrying about their current levels of stress and anxiety have jumped up quite a bit in recent years (see Reference Section below). In this and a related post to follow shortly I am going to look at a couple of research questions regarding anxiety and coping with anxiety I particular. I will likely return to this area again soon as it is an important one in relation to the life experiences, satisfaction and adjustment of emerging adults (18 to 25 or 29 years old’s). This post looks at an article discussing a study into social anxiety, or at the anxiety that many people feel as they approach a social event, situation, or performance that they are anxious about. The question that drove the study may seem like a simple one – Why do some people’s anxiety levels seem to ramp up dramatically as the event approaches? And more importantly, what sorts of things might they be doing, or not doing that either contribute to this ramping up of social anxiety or that, at least, do not seem to be helpful in reducing it? Think about a social event that you were or are anxious about and think about the sorts of things you do as it approaches. What do you think about? What do you think about your feelings of anxiety and what sorts of things (if any) do you do to try and manage your feeling of (blossoming) anxiety? Once you have your thoughts in order read through the article linked below and see what the researchers looked at and what they found (and how they designed their study).

Source: The Latest Way to Conquer Social Anxiety Uses a New Mindset, Susan Krause Whitbourne, Fulfillment at Any Age, Psychology Today.

Date: October 20, 2018

Photo Credit: VectorStock

Article Link:

So, did you see the finding about negative rumination coming? As the author of the article linked above points out, research has shown that cognitive behavior therapy can be quite helpful in dealing with social anxiety issues, but it has not been clear what aspects of CBT actually provides the beneficial effects. Relatedly, it is interesting that going over and over what might go wrong at the social event is actually NOT a good strategy for ensuring bad things do not happen but is, rather, negative rumination that tends to escalate rather than reduce social anxiety. What the research suggests is that trying and practicing detached mindfulness – noticing yourself starting to ruminate about an upcoming event and telling yourself to stop or to now think about it seems to be quite helpful. It is important also to think a bit about the design of the study — using undergraduate students who did not actually have anxiety disorder issues – and think about ways in which we should be cautious about how widely we apply the results and about what research we still need to do in this area. The research is, most certainly, a promising start not only in helping those with social anxiety issues but also clarifying our understanding of how social anxieties emerge and propagate in peoples’ lives.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is social anxiety and in what sorts of situations does it arise?
  2. What sorts of things do people with social anxiety issues do in the time leading up to a social event (the anticipation of which) that is causing then anxiety to amplify or reduce their feeling of anxiety?
  3. What is detached mindfulness and what specifically would you do to use a version of it if you had a social event coming up that was starting to make you feel quite anxious?

References (Read Further):

Twenge, J. M. (2000). The age of anxiety? The birth cohort change in anxiety and neuroticism, 1952–1993. Journal of personality and social psychology, 79(6), 1007.

Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83.

Nepon, T., Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., & Molnar, D. S. (2011). Perfectionism, negative social feedback, and interpersonal rumination in depression and social anxiety. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 43(4), 297.

Brozovich, F. A., Goldin, P., Lee, I., Jazaieri, H., Heimberg, R. G., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The effect of rumination and reappraisal on social anxiety symptoms during cognitive‐behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71(3), 208-218.

Modini, M., & Abbott, M. J. (2018). Banning pre-event rumination in social anxiety: A preliminary randomized trial. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry, 61, 72-79.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Neuroscience, Physiology, Sensation-Perception, Substance-Related Disorders.


Marijuana is going to become legal in Canada in a few days (October 17, 2018). Here is a timley question. What do you know about the affects of marijuana on human behavior and performance? Well, linked below is a review article from the journal Forensic Science with that exact title and it contains, I would bet, more information that you feel you need to know about issues of impairment, testing, medicinal uses and much more related to Cannabis (Marijuana). While you may not wish to read the whole article I would suggest that you take a few moments and think about what you do and do not know about the affects of marijuana on driving and on flying (among pilots, not metaphorically or poetically speaking) and then download the article and at least read through the section on impairment starting on page 33 and see how what you know or think you know about that topic relates to what there is to know.

Source: Cannabis (Marijuana) – Effects on Human Behavior and Performance, M. A. Huestis, Intermural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Mental Health, Baltimore, Maryland.

Date: October 14, 2018

Photo Credit: Toronto Star File Photo

Article Link:

So, how did what you knew or thought you knew about the impact of marijuana on human performance stack up against the data summarized in the review article? The research reviewed in the article clearly indicates that there are problems with toking and driving world-wide. What is also clear that it is difficult to figure out just how we should define and assess that impairment for regulatory (enforcement) purposes. But, while that work is still ongoing a simple message is already clear in the research done to date. Don’t toke and drive (or fly)!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the three ways in which the questions of the impact of alcohol and/ or marijuana on human functioning have been addressed in research?
  2. Of the three ways in which these questions have been looked at which one did you find the most compelling (or interesting)?
  3. What additional research do we need to do to get the questions in this area sorted out?

References (Read Further):

Huestis, M. A. (2002). Cannabis (Marijuana)- Effects on Human Behavior and Performance. Forensic science review, 14(1), 15-60.

Compton, R. P. (2017). Marijuana-impaired driving-a report to congress (No. DOT HS 812 440). United States. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Davis, S. J., & Sloas, K. L. (2017). Driving while High: College Student Beliefs And Behaviors. Journal of Addictive Behaviors, Therapy & Rehabilitation, 2017.

Leadbeater, B. J., Ames, M. E., Sukhawathanakul, P., Fyfe, M., Stanwick, R., & Brubacher, J. R. (2017). Frequent marijuana use and driving risk behaviours in Canadian youth. Paediatrics & child health, 22(1), 7-12.

Posted by & filed under Health Psychology, Language-Thought, Neuroscience, Physiology.

Description: With marijuana becoming legal in Canada this week (on Wednesday Oct 17, 2018) a wide array of questions (not many of them actually very new) are being asked about the effects of marijuana on human functioning and human health. If you have been in Canada you have probably seen some of the ads advising people not to “toke and drive” and while this is not a new issue, the legalization of marijuana raises the profile and perhaps adds some urgency to the question of how “impairment” due to marijuana should be define, quantified and enforced. Police have the ability to take action if a driver seems impaired for any reason (drugs, alcohol, sleep deprivation, prescription drug side effects, mental illness etc. One of the links below describes the Standard Field Sobriety Test which looks for indicators that a driver should NOT be driving. Breathalyzer testing followed by blood tests are used to determine blood alcohol levels for which there are legally defined numbers that indicate chargeable levels (.08) of alcohol in the blood and while there ARE individual differences in how people respond to that level of alcohol in their blood the law is clear and the data on the impacts of alcohol on driver performance are also fairly clear. Things are far from clear in relation to marijuana and driving. Some people claim if does not affect their driving while some even say it improves their driving. There IS a recently announced test of blood THC levels that involves roadside testing of a saliva sample but there are concerns about the reliability of the testing units (not the least of which, for Canada, that they do not work well when they are cold) and it is not clear what blood levels of TCH should be set as the legal limits for impairment. So, think a bit about what research you would want to see or to do in order to hopefully move to a defensible standard for determining if or when a driver is legally impaired by marijuana and read through the articles linked below and see if they clarify things for you.

Source: Alberta RCMP want 1 in 3 officers trained to test for cannabis impairment by 2020, CBC News: How will Canada’s new drugged-driving rules actually work? Jason Tchir, The Globe and Mail; Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driving, RCMP; Standardized Field Sobriety Test, DUI Justice Link, American Automobile Association; Even if cannabis is legal, please don’t toke and drive: U of T expert, U of T News

Date: October 12, 2018

Photo Credit: CBC News

Article Links: and and and  and finally

So, were all of your questions answered? Were any of your questions answered? Police have always had the ability to determine if, in their informed opinion using roadside sobriety testing, they should allow a driver to stay on the road. However, there are a lot of questions still about how we might define, and measure impairment based on marijuana use. With the legalization of marijuana in Canada we have an increasing need to do the research necessary to get us closer to answers to the questions of how we define and assess marijuana impairment.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How should we define impairment by marijuana in relation to operating motor vehicles?
  2. How might we answer the question above in   relation to workplace related issues of risk and liability?
  3. What are some of the issues that potentially make these question more complicated in relation to marijuana than they have been in relation to alcohol?

References (Read Further):

Peretti‐Watel, P. (2003). Neutralization theory and the denial of risk: Some evidence from cannabis use among French adolescents. The British journal of sociology, 54(1), 21-42.

Hartman, R. L., & Huestis, M. A. (2013). Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clinical chemistry, 59(3), 478-492.

Asbridge, M., Hayden, J. A., & Cartwright, J. L. (2012). Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk: systematic review of observational studies and meta-analysis. Bmj, 344, e536.

Ramaekers, J. G., Kauert, G., van Ruitenbeek, P., Theunissen, E. L., Schneider, E., & Moeller, M. R. (2006). High-potency marijuana impairs executive function and inhibitory motor control. Neuropsychopharmacology, 31(10), 2296.

Papafotiou, K., Carter, J. D., & Stough, C. (2005). The relationship between performance on the standardised field sobriety tests, driving performance and the level of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in blood. Forensic science international, 155(2-3), 172-178.

Battistella, G., Fornari, E., Thomas, A., Mall, J. F., Chtioui, H., Appenzeller, M., … & Giroud, C. (2013). Weed or wheel! FMRI, behavioural, and toxicological investigations of how cannabis smoking affects skills necessary for driving. PloS one, 8(1), e52545.

Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Child Development, Consciousness, Health Psychology, Human Development, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Legal Ethical Issues, Neuroscience, Stress Biopsychosocial Factors Illness, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Substance-Related Disorders.

Description: This next Wednesday the use of cannabis or marijuana will become legal in Canada. If you live in Canada you cannot have missed the torrent of media on things like the formation and marketing of companies to produce, market and sell marijuana or the public service ads pointing out that toking/ingesting and driving are illegal and dangerous (we are even seeing some of the old style drink-driving tv adds showing people having fun and then having a collision as a result of toking/ingesting and driving.  As a way of marking this large-scale change in legal restrictions I thought I would post this week on research and media articles talking about research relating to the effects of marijuana on human psychology and behaviour. One big change in moving marijuana into the “legal but with limitations” category along with alcohol is the imposition of an age restriction. Prior to legalization, as long as people were prepared to ignore the illegality of using marijuana there were no hard and fast age restrictions on its use. Now that you need to be 19 or over in every province in Canada except Quebec and Alberta where, like alcohol the age will be 18, to legally use marijuana the question of the impacts of marijuana use on “minors” become a more defined concern. So, what do you think? Are there negative effects on teenagers who use marijuana compared to its use by older individuals? Think about it and then read the article linked below that talks about a recently published study looking at this precise question.

Source: Cannabis ‘more harmful than alcohol’ for teen brains, Health, BBC News.

Date: October 3, 2018

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Article Link:

The Canadian study discussed in the article linked above indicated that their results suggest that marijuana use in the teenage years may negatively impact cognitive or thinking skills, memory and behavior and may do so to greater extent than drinking alcohol. The researchers point to a larger amount of work that has clearly shown that the frontal lobes of the brain are still developing throughout AND beyond the teenage years and are involved in important executive functions like working memory, impulse control, risk management, and general planning. One of the most important aspects of this study is that it takes a developmental perspective. This means that it will contribute to our ability to understand how cannabis use might have particularly important impacts on the still growing and developing brains of teenagers and, if so, would provide strong support for maintaining and perhaps even considering adjustment to the age at which the use of marijuana becomes legal in Canada.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How was it that 18 or 19 was picked as the age at which substances like alcohol and, now marijuana become legal?
  2. What sorts of research should, and perhaps now with legalization, can we do that looks at the impacts of marijuana use on human brains, minds and bodies?
  3. Why is it important, in designing research to look at these sorts of questions, to make sure to include some work from a developmental perspective?

References (Read Further):

Morin, J. F. G., Afzali, M. H., Bourque, J., Stewart, S. H., Séguin, J. R., O’Leary-Barrett, M., & Conrod, P. J. (2018). A Population-Based Analysis of the Relationship Between Substance Use and Adolescent Cognitive Development. American Journal of Psychiatry, appi-ajp.

Mark Anderson, D., Hansen, B., & Rees, D. I. (2015). Medical marijuana laws and teen marijuana use. American Law and Economics Review, 17(2), 495-528.

Weir, K. (2015). Marijuana and the developing brain. Monitor on Psychology, 46, 48-52.

Reardon, S. (2014). Teen drug use gets supersize study. Nature News, 512(7513), 123.

Rabin, R. C. (2013). Legalizing of marijuana raises health concerns. NY Times.

Facts, F. What Parents Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Teens 2017.

Trafficking, R. M. H. I. D. (2015). The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact.

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.