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

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

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

Date: November 24, 2018

Image Credit: Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press

Article Link:

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work with people is inside or psychological and thus hard to access, especially if the person in question is socially withdrawn and considering suicide.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

Questions for Discussion:

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

References (Read Further):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: November 19, 2018

Image Credit: Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

Article Link:

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

Questions for Discussion:

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


References (Read Further):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: November 24, 2018

Image Credit:

Article Link:

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

Questions for Discussion:

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

References (Read Further):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: November 14, 2018

Image Credit:

Article Link:

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

Questions for Discussion:

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


References (Read Further):

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

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of research in personality, 36(6), 556-563.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by & filed under Emerging Adulthood, Health Psychology, Legal Ethical Issues, Psychological Health.

Description: There are concussions in hockey and football. The data on this is getting clearer and clearer. But the question of what this means for those games remains unclear. Can better helmets be made? Can rules against headshots (consistently enforced) reduce the rate and severity of concussion and related head injuries? Research is ongoing. Here is another question you may have heard tossed about. Should teenagers be playing these sports at all? Would shifting to non-contact versions of those sports up to higher ages than is currently the case be considered? These are more developmental questions and they need to be addressed with developmental research … research with teenage players of hockey and football. What would those sorts of studies need to look at and how would they need to be designed in order to provide useful data to address those questions? Think about that and then have a look at the article linked below that summarized a study looking directly at of those questions…. What happens to the brains of teenagers over a single year of football even if they do not sustain a concussion?

Source: Playing high school football changes the teenage brain, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 16, 2018

Image Credit: Nan-Jie Gong and Chunlei Liu, UC Berkley

Article Link:

Ok now…. What questions would you like to see addressed either by the researchers who conducted the study described in the link above and what research questions remain to be asked after the study was completed? Certainly one question is: what is diffusion kurtosis and does it provide the sort of data the researchers say it provides? Another question might be, what do we know from other studies about the impact of white and grey matter damage to the brain in general AND over time with development from the teenage years onward? Also, how much detail could helmet placed accelerometers they employed in the study provide about the nature and severity of the head insults received by the teenage players studied? Finally, and this is not really a direct research question but, when (after how much of what kind(s)of research will we be in a position to make health, developmental, and/or ethical policy recommendations about hockey and football played by teenagers (and would making such statements make a difference)?


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does playing a single season of football as a teenager do to a teenaged brain?
  2. What issue are there with the generalizability of the results of this study and what do those issues suggest about possible policy statements arising from this study?
  3. From a research and policy perspective in relation to teenage brain health and development what does research and do research hers need to do next?


References (Read Further):

Nan-Jie Gong, Samuel Kuzminski, Michael Clark, Melissa Fraser, Mark Sundman, Kevin Guskiewicz, Jeffrey R. Petrella, Chunlei Liu. Microstructural alterations of cortical and deep gray matter over a season of high school football revealed by diffusion kurtosis imaging. Neurobiology of Disease, 2018; 119: 79 DOI: 10.1016/j.nbd.2018.07.020

Guskiewicz, K. M., Weaver, N. L., Padua, D. A., & Garrett, W. E. (2000). Epidemiology of concussion in collegiate and high school football players. The American journal of sports medicine, 28(5), 643-650.

Monson, P. (2018). Case Report: A Novel Ocular Screening Aid for Detection of Sport-related Concussion in High School Athletes.

Montenigro, P. H., Alosco, M. L., Martin, B. M., Daneshvar, D. H., Mez, J., Chaisson, C. E., … & McClean, M. D. (2017). Cumulative head impact exposure predicts later-life depression, apathy, executive dysfunction, and cognitive impairment in former high school and college football players. Journal of neurotrauma, 34(2), 328-340.

Deshpande, S. K., Hasegawa, R. B., Rabinowitz, A. R., Whyte, J., Roan, C. L., Tabatabaei, A., … & Small, D. S. (2017). Association of playing high school football with cognition and mental health later in life. JAMA neurology, 74(8), 909-918.

Steven, A. J., Zhuo, J., & Melhem, E. R. (2014). Diffusion kurtosis imaging: an emerging technique for evaluating the microstructural environment of the brain. American journal of roentgenology, 202(1), W26-W33.



Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Legal Ethical Issues, Neuroscience, Physical Changes In Aging, Physiology.

Description: The prospect of vision loss is scary and while my parents and grandparents would say things like don’t run with scissors or you cannot have a BB gun (for fear of “putting out an eye”) or make sure you have a good light on when you are reading because “those are the only set of eyes you got”….I have since learned that there are many more things to be afraid of in relation to your vision. How about detached retinas? Retinitis pigmentosa? Or macular degeneration. Now there are some rapid roads to blindness. The scariest thing about all these things is that they are permeant, … not fixable. But what of they were fixable? How cool would that be? Well, read the article linked below for a glimpse of a possible future in this area!

Source: Evidence of restored vision in rats following cell transplant, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 10, 2018

Image Credit: UCI School of Medicine

Article Link:

So, what do you think? While the description of what the researchers actually did is a bit unclear, essentially, they transplanted a sheet of retina materials into a dysfunctional rat retina and got a functioning mouse retina out of the deal…. a retina transplant. Now we need to think about the many steps still to be done before we can even hope that we have a “fix” for macular degeneration but even just the hint of a possibility is amazing. Of course we need replication, expansions out of a rat model, steps to generalize the results to humans AND ethical reflection. Ethical reflection? Well, where are the replacements parts to come from??? Still…. Wow!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What was it exactly that the researchers accomplished?
  2. What are the immediate implications of the results of this study?
  3. What are the broader implications of this study (and the related necessary next steps)?

References (Read Further):

Andrzej T. Foik, Georgina A. Lean, Leo R. Scholl, Bryce T. McLelland, Anuradha Mathur, Robert B. Aramant, Magdalene J. Seiler, David C. Lyon. Detailed visual cortical responses generated by retinal sheet transplants in rats with severe retinal degeneration. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2018; 1279-18 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1279-18.2018

Friedman, D. S., O’Colmain, B. J., Munoz, B., Tomany, S. C., McCarty, C., De Jong, P. T., … & Kempen, J. (2004). Prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in the United States. Arch ophthalmol, 122(4), 564-572.

Hartong, D. T., Berson, E. L., & Dryja, T. P. (2006). Retinitis pigmentosa. The Lancet, 368(9549), 1795-1809.

Davis, R. J., Alam, N. M., Zhao, C., Müller, C., Saini, J. S., Blenkinsop, T. A., … & Lederman, P. L. (2017). The developmental stage of adult human stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium cells influences transplant efficacy for vision rescue. Stem cell reports, 9(1), 42-49.

Garg, A., Yang, J., Lee, W., & Tsang, S. (2017). Stem cell therapies in retinal disorders. Cells, 6(1), 4.

Caplan, A., & Purves, D. (2017). A quiet revolution in organ transplant ethics. Journal of medical ethics, medethics-2015.

Posted by & filed under Emerging Adulthood, Human Development, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Student Success.

Description: If you have been anywhere near a post-secondary education institution in the past 10 years you cannot have missed overhearing discussions or seeing programs aimed at or investigating student engagement – as in, student engagement in the institute, college or university and/or in their studies. It is considered so important that it is measured internationally using a survey called the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) which regularly surveys students at the end of their first year at college or university and again at the end of their 4 year degree programs and asks, among a great number of other questions, things like if you had tit to do over again (go to the college or University you went to) would you? Colleges and Universities live and die by their NSSE ratings and there are many many initiatives, orientations, and programs launched with the main purpose of increasing student engagement and thus institutional NSSE scores. I, personally, think that a lot of the things that are done in the name of student engagement are likely helpful for students working their way not only through their chosen educational instruction but, more importantly, along their own developmental journey. I also think, however, that a great many concepts, theories and not particularly clear ideas have been rolled into these, sometime frenzied actions around student engagement. I mean, here is a question; “What does (educational) engagement mean to you (as a student)?” If you think about it, I bet words like “connection” or “connected” or feeling like having what you do and how you do it “matter” will be part of how you respond to that general question. The researchers who conducted the studies described in the research article linked below began with what seem to me to be a very sensible, if rarely considered in the engagement research, domain premise that it might be a good idea to ask actual students what they see as being involved in feeling connected to their educational institutions and, by extension, to their own ongoing educational and evelopmental processes. So, think a bit more about what it might mean to feel connected to your educational experience and your school and then go and have a look at the research article linked below. Now the article is a bit thick (academic) in spots but basically what they did was ask a bunch of students what being connected meant to them (study 1) and then looked to see if they could capture what they heard in the form of a series of survey questions. So, read as much or as little of the article as your interest level dictates. At a minimum, have a look through the initial introduction to see what research HAS been done already under the engagement banner and then read the results sections for each study to get a sense of what they found then read the last bit of the paper where they tell you what they think it all means.

Source: College Connectedness: The Student Perspective, see full reference in the reference list below.

Date: November 11, 2018

Image Credit:

Article Link:

So, did you see anything interesting? … anything that reflected or spoke to your own post-secondary experiences? Clearly feeling connected to a college or university is about feeling cone ted to the people there. These play out through student connectedness, faculty connectedness, and connectedness with old friends, new friends and diverse friends. All of this reflects the basics of the identity formation process: reflecting on where you have come from, where you are currently, and where you could or might go from there into the future. Connectedness, unlike larger, vaguer notions of engagement IS personal. I will be interested to see where this line of research goes from here and if you are currently at college or university notice your connections and notice which of them make you feel like you matter because they are the important ones.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What might it mean to say that students are engaged in their college or university?
  2. What does the concept of connectedness do for us that the concept of engagement does not?
  3. What does thinking in terms of connectedness do for you and for you own thoughts and feeling about how things are going for you at college or university?

References (Read Further):

Jorgenson, D. A., Farrell, L. C., Fudge, J. L., & Pritchard, A. (2018). College Connectedness: The Student Perspective. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 18(1), 75-95.

Schwartz, S. E., Kanchewa, S. S., Rhodes, J. E., Gowdy, G., Stark, A. M., Horn, J. P., … & Spencer, R. (2018). “I’m Having a Little Struggle With This, Can You Help Me Out?”: Examining Impacts and Processes of a Social Capital Intervention for First‐Generation College Students. American journal of community psychology, 61(1-2), 166-178.

Pascarella, E. T., Seifert, T. A., & Blaich, C. (2010). How effective are the NSSE benchmarks in predicting important educational outcomes?. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 42(1), 16-22.

Gordon, J., Ludlum, J., & Hoey, J. J. (2008). Validating NSSE against student outcomes: Are they related?. Research in Higher Education, 49(1), 19-39.

McCormick, A. C., Gonyea, R. M., & Kinzie, J. (2013). Refreshing engagement: NSSE at 13. Change: The magazine of higher learning, 45(3), 6-15.


Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Neuroscience, Research Methods, Research Methods in ADA, Research Methods in AP, Research Methods in ChD, Research Methods in CP, Research Methods in SP.

Description: What have you heard about what Psychology has to say about dreams? Well, if you have had an introductory course from me you would have heard me say that theories like those of Freud, that our dreams contain deep life insights and meaning, are not supported by research, especially in terms of dream interpretation by psychoanalysts. How does that fit with your own thoughts on the possible meanings in dreams? Have you had a dream and, when thinking about it after waking, felt that you had learned something useful or gained insight or perspective on some aspect of your life? Well, … me too. So, what is that about? Are dreams just internal secret Rorschach tests (ha, there is scientifically under supported Sigmund again!) that we interpret after waking with our first-hand personal access to our experiential life/reality? Or is there something more going on? What do you think? Now, hold that thought and read the article linked below and we will return to that thought later below.

Source: Why Do You Keep Dreaming You Forgot Your Pants? It’s Science, Alice Robb, The New York Times.

Date: November 10, 2018

Image Credit: Cristina Daura, The New York Times

Article Link:

At the very core of the scientific enterprise (in Psychology and elsewhere) is curiosity and questions. What if… What about…. How come…. Etc. So, why is it that we tend to mainly experience negative emotions like anxiety in our dreams? And why is it that we have such negative dreams about the very real-life things that are stressing us (like upcoming exams)? Maybe working through anxiety in a low risk environment? Maybe simulating threats so they do not seem weird or foreign when we actually encounter them for real? And maybe all this reflects an evolutionary advantage or selection and we have just replaced bears and other predators with exams and public speaking events. Something to think about and there IS some research that speaks to the possibilities somewhat, at least.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. While dreams might not be “real” how might they reflect on our realities?
  2. How did the dreams of medical students relate to their performances on their licensing exam?
  3. How are dram emotions related to dream content (and to our lives)?

References (Read Further):

Robb, Alice (2018) Why we Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey, Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY.

Revonsuo, A. (2000). The reinterpretation of dreams: An evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23(6), 877-901.

Martinez-Gonzalez, D., Obermeyer, W., Fahy, J. L., Riboh, M., Kalin, N. H., & Benca, R. M. (2004). REM sleep deprivation induces changes in coping responses that are not reversed by amphetamine. Sleep, 27(4), 609-617.

Stickgold, R., Scott, L., Rittenhouse, C., & Hobson, J. A. (1999). Sleep-induced changes in associative memory. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 11(2), 182-193.

Revonsuo, A., & Salmivalli, C. (1995). A content analysis of bizarre elements in dreams. Dreaming, 5(3), 169.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, General Psychology, Human Development, Moral Development, Personality, Personality Disorders, Personality Disorders.

Description: Before setting up the article that is the focus of this post let me start by saying that, if you have not run across this before, you should look for some of the amazingly descriptive words the German language has for aspects of the human condition. Some have been borrowed into English (like Wanderlust for example). How about Ohrwurm (earworm) as a very apt word to describe a song you cannot get out of your heard or Kummerspeck (grief bacon) to describe the weight bumps that people experience after a breakup. Now, have you heard the word schadenfreude?  It refers to taking pleasure at the misfortune of others and while you would likely not admit it out loud, you have likely felt it at one point or another. If schadenfreude IS a regular (if often denied) human feeling where does it fit into the dimensions of human experience, as in relation to other personality dimensions for example? Think about that for a moment and then go and read the article linked below which talks about an extensive review of research into just what schadenfreude involves and how it fits in human experience and functioning.

Source: Schadenfreude sheds light on the darker side of humanity, Science News, Science Daily.

Date: October 23, 2018

Photo Credit:

Article Link:

So, do you understand the concepts associated with schadenfreude (harm/joy) better now? It has facets tying it to aggression, rivalry and justice. What they have in common, according to the researchers may be dehumanization where the ‘other’ being observed is viewed as not deserving of full human status for a variety of possible reasons. There are possible links as well to the ‘dark’ personality traits (discussed in a previous post and include sadism, narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Some research also shows that aspects of schadenfreude may be VERY basic to the human condition as infants as young as 8 months of age will “punish” a puppet that behaved in an antisocial manner and suggesting that socialization creates social ties and friendships AND outgroup others to whom positive social bonds and graces may not apply. Understanding the temporary loss of empathy for others that can lead to isolated feelings of schadenfreude may help us to better understand the actions of those who, as a result of personality disorders (the dark sides of personality) experience schadenfreude more as a way of life. Fascinating stuff this schadenfreude!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is schadenfreude?
  2. When might the loss of empathy associated with schadenfreude be defensible (if not appropriate)?
  3. How does schadenfreude fit in with our theories of development and with notions of things like the dark side of personality?

References (Read Further):

Wang, Shensheng, Scott O. Lilienfeld, and Philippe Rochat. “Schadenfreude deconstructed and reconstructed: A tripartite motivational model.” New Ideas in Psychology 52 (2019): 1-11.

Takahashi, H., Kato, M., Matsuura, M., Mobbs, D., Suhara, T., & Okubo, Y. (2009). When your gain is my pain and your pain is my gain: neural correlates of envy and schadenfreude. Science, 323(5916), 937-939.

Leach, C. W., Spears, R., Branscombe, N. R., & Doosje, B. (2003). Malicious pleasure: Schadenfreude at the suffering of another group. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(5), 932.

Li, X., McAllister, D. J., Ilies, R., & Gloor, J. L. (2017). SCHADENFREUDE: A COUNTER-NORMATIVE OBSERVER RESPONSE TO WORKPLACE MISTREATMENT. Academy of Management Review, (ja).

Lange, J., Weidman, A. C., & Crusius, J. (2018). The painful duality of envy: Evidence for an integrative theory and a meta-analysis on the relation of envy and schadenfreude. Journal of personality and social psychology, 114(4), 572.




Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Learning, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Student Success.

Description: You may have heard someone somewhere bemoaning their observation that some people treat their pets like they are human beings (sneaking them into restaurants etc.) But, have you heard anyone bemoan the opposite – treating humans like pets (and I am NOT thinking here of consensual dog collar wearing OR examples of abuse). Here is some context to help you consider the above issue. When I lecture about operant conditioning, as part of a typical section on learning theory in intro-Psych, I usually begin by saying that if anyone in the class has or does in the future taken a dog to puppy or dog obedience classes they will hear/ have heard the instructor tell them that they are about to learn the basic principles of operant conditioning. Training a dog IS all about managing rewards, consistencies of reinforcement and limited use of punishment. At the end of that section of the course I also typically point out that the same learning principles work fairly well in shaping the behavior of small children but not so well with older children, youth and adults and then I leave it there. However, we (society, people in general etc.) do not seem to leave it there. From parenting to managing teenagers to corporate management practices there is A LOT said about the importance of the proper use of incentives or rewards. So, ARE rewards the optimal way to shape up and manage human behavior? Really…… think about it and then read the article linked below to see what systematic Psychological science has had to say about this question.

Source: Science Confirms it People Are Not Pets, Alfie Kohn, Opinion, The New York Times.

Date: October 27, 2018

Photo Credit: Zeloot, The New York Times

Article Link:

Did the research results discussed in the article, that rewards effectively kill interest and excellence in assigned tasks, surprise you?  Children paid to play with magic markers stop doing so when the pay stops while those playing with them ‘for fun’ play with them more over time. Paying kids for good grades seems to backfire too as do many work bonus payment (reward) schemes. There is some important stuff to know about just how to reward or whether to reward at all. Actually changing people’s behavior or otherwise creating an ongoing commitment to action is not simple or easy and providing rewards are simple, short term solutions that are NOT effective in the longer term. What this suggests is that parents, teachers, managers, and we ourselves need to find different starting places and different practices if we want to have long term impacts on the positive behaviours of others and ourselves. More research IS needed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why do rewards not seem to work, long-term, in changing or shaping people’s behaviour?
  2. Where do the similarities and utilities of using operant conditioning for shaping a dog’s behaviour and that of child end and why?
  3. What does this article suggest about how we should approach questions of effective management practices in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology?

References (Read Further):

Chao, M. M., Dehejia, R. H., Mukhopadhyay, A., & Visaria, S. (2015). Unintended Negative Consequences of Rewards for Student Attendance: Results from a Field Experiment in Indian Classrooms.

Berns, Gregory (2008) In hard times, fear can impair decision-making. Preoccupations, The New York Times.

Pittman, T. S., Tykocinski, O. E., Sandman‐Keinan, R., & Matthews, P. A. (2008). When bonuses backfire: An inaction inertia analysis of procrastination induced by a missed opportunity. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 21(2), 139-150.

Ramirez, A. (2001). How Merit Pay Undermines Education. Educational Leadership, 58(5), 16-20.

Brewer, T. J., Myers, P. S., & Zhang, M. (2015). Islands Unto Themselves: How Merit Pay Schemes May Undermine Positive Teacher Collaboration. Critical Questions in Education, 6(2), 45-54.

Robertson, L. S. (1984). Insurance incentives and seat belt use. American journal of public health, 74(10), 1157-1158.