Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience, Physiology, Psychological Disorders.

Description: How would you define empathy? Would feeling another person’s feelings capture it or at least part of it? Some sort of positive response would likely also need to be included in the definition, but it could be seen to follow from the first part. So how do we feel what someone else feels? We could figure it out based on our own previous experience or based on what we have heard, seen or read about other people’s feelings. However, that would require conscious reflection and a fair bit of experience not to mention the desire to pay attention to opportunities to learn about others’ feelings and, if all of that is true then would it make sense to say that rats have empathy? If rats DO have empathy how might that work or develop and what might it suggest about human empathy? Think about that for a minute and then read the article linked below to find out about rat empathy

Source: I feel you: Emotional mirror neurons found in the rat, Science News, Science Daily.

Date: April 11, 2019

Photo Credit: Pakhnyushchyy/Fotolia

Article Link:

So, rats have neurons in the cingulate cortex of their brains that fire when they feel pain but that also fire when they see another rat experiencing the same pain. That does, indeed, sound like it could be related to empathy or at least to a necessary prerequisite to a full blown empathic response that involves noticing AND then responding to pain in another. This would suggest that we do not need to figure out what others are feeling and that empathy perhaps need not rely entirely on higher order thinking. It also suggests that the roots of empathy may be more basic and less uniquely human that we may have thought. Oh, and here is another interesting finding. Psychopaths, who seem able to think about what other people feel but who do not seem to empathically share those feelings have structural and functional abnormalities in the anterior cingulate cortex, the area in rats’ brains where the mirror neuron for pain were located (see the Koenigs reference below). Curious huh?.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is empathy and how uniquely human would you say it is?
  2. Does it make sense to call the firing of mirror neurons in rats, empathy?
  3. How do mirror neurons fit within an account of empathy in humans?

References (Read Further):

Maria Carrillo, Yinging Han, Filippo Migliorati, Ming Liu, Valeria Gazzola, Christian Keysers. Emotional Mirror Neurons in the Rat’s Anterior Cingulate Cortex. Current Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.03.024

Fabbri-Destro, M., & Rizzolatti, G. (2008). Mirror neurons and mirror systems in monkeys and humans. Physiology, 23(3), 171-179.

Gallese, V., Eagle, M. N., & Migone, P. (2007). Intentional attunement: Mirror neurons and the neural underpinnings of interpersonal relations. Journal of the American psychoanalytic Association, 55(1), 131-175.

Williams, J. H., Whiten, A., Suddendorf, T., & Perrett, D. I. (2001). Imitation, mirror neurons and autism. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 25(4), 287-295.

Koenigs, M. (2012). The role of prefrontal cortex in psychopathy. Rev Neurosci. 23(3): 253–262.



Posted by & filed under Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Motivation-Emotion, Physiology, Social Psychology.

Description: There are a broad array of human emotions. Think of how many basic emotions you can name. Now, a harder question: Are there feelings or emotions that are hard to name or that, while we know them when we feel them or when we see them being experienced by others, we cannot come up with a name? Have you heard of kama muta? I bet not. Read the article linked below to find out what it is (you WILL recognize the patterns or feelings/emotions associated with it).

Source: The Experience of Being Emotionally Moved, Andy Tix, The Pursuit of Peace, Psychology Today.

Date: April 11, 2019

Photo Credit: 

Article Link:

So now you have a name for that emotion, the warmhearted, soulfelt, goosebumps and tear generating feeling of kama muta and there is even a research lad dedicated to studying just it (see link below in the references section). If there ever was a part of the human experience worthy or “further research” it is certainly kama muta for its grounding in a basic humanity of social connection. I would be interested in participating in that line of research. Oh and the wild thing in the title of this post? Well, it is from a song of that name by the Troggs which contains the line “You move me.”

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is kama muta?
  2. Why might studying kama muta more closely be a good idea?
  3. If you were going to take up the study of kama muta what would be several things (images, movie clips, stories etc.) you could use to generate the emotion and what sorts of things would the stimuli have in common?

References (Read Further):

Zickfeld, J. H., Schubert, T. W., Seibt, B., Blomster, J. K., Arriaga, P., Basabe, N., … & Ding, Y. (2018). Kama muta: Conceptualizing and measuring the experience often labelled being moved across 19 nations and 15 languages. Emotion.

Steinnes, K. K., Blomster, J. K., Seibt, B., Zickfeld, J. H., & Fiske, A. P. (2019). Too Cute for Words: Cuteness Evokes the Heartwarming Emotion of Kama Muta. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 387.

Zickfeld, J. H., Schubert, T. W., Seibt, B., & Fiske, A. P. replicate the authoritative document published in Emotion Review at.

Website of the Kama Muta Lab

Fiske, A. P., Seibt, B., & Schubert, T. (2019). The sudden devotion emotion: Kama muta and the cultural practices whose function is to evoke it. Emotion Review, 11(1), 74-86.

Seibt, B., Schubert, T. W., Zickfeld, J. H., Zhu, L., Arriaga, P., Simão, C., … & Fiske, A. P. (2018). Kama Muta: Similar Emotional Responses to Touching Videos Across the United States, Norway, China, Israel, and Portugal. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 49(3), 418-435.

Schubert, T. W., Zickfeld, J. H., Seibt, B., & Fiske, A. P. (2018). Moment-to-moment changes in feeling moved match changes in closeness, tears, goosebumps, and warmth: Time series analyses. Cognition and Emotion, 32(1), 174-184.


Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Language-Thought, Motivation-Emotion.

Description: If you believe another person is not thinking properly about something what is the best way to get them change their mind and to think more clearly? If you thought that showing them some facts would be a good idea you are not alone as that is what most people think, especially when the thing being thought about is grounded in science, like the value of vaccinations for example. There is ample evidence that we are not as rational as we like to think we are (not by half!). No news there, but here is a question that may not have occurred to you. If thinking irrationally is so wide-spread how did we survive, evolutionarily speaking? Or put another way, how might we look at irrational thinking as an advantage from an evolutionary point of view? Puzzle on that one for a minute and then read the article linked below for an informative overview of the emergence of research on irrationality and several angles on the question of what used to be in it for us, or rather for our evolutionarily distant ancestors.

Source: Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker.

Date: April 14, 2019

Photo Credit: Gerard DuBois

Article Link:

So, our first impressions are powerful enough to survive fact-based refutation and we preferentially perceive data that supports our existing beliefs and fake news continues to influence our beliefs even when we are shown definitively that it IS fake. In what reality could this be of survival value? Well, in a hyper-social, tribally organized one, into which we evolved, where inventions and break throughs created new “realms if ignorance” in which incomplete knowledge is actually empowering. It seems that perhaps we were built (or rather we evolved) more for living in a world with alternative facts than a world of science. Hopefully this makes you want to think harder and more carefully and to rise above where we came from.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the ways that we seem to consistently be irrational?
  2. What sort of survival value might some of these examples of irrational thinking have had for our ancestors?
  3. Individual resolutions to try harder to think more clearly, rationally and scientifically aside what sorts of things might we do to help others who are not trying so hard and why might it be important for us to do such things?

References (Read Further):

Gorman, S. E., & Gorman, J. M. (2016). Denying to the grave: Why we ignore the facts that will save us. Oxford University Press.

Sloman, S., & Fernbach, P. (2018). The knowledge illusion: Why we never think alone. Penguin.

Mercier, H., & Sperber, D. (2017). The enigma of reason. Harvard University Press.

Mercier, H. (2016). The argumentative theory: Predictions and empirical evidence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(9), 689-700.

Trouche, E., Johansson, P., Hall, L., & Mercier, H. (2016). The selective laziness of reasoning. Cognitive Science, 40(8), 2122-2136.



Posted by & filed under Classification Diagnosis, Clinical Assessment, Consciousness, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders.

Description: Answer this question quickly off the top of your head: Is it possible for someone to become addicted to internet gaming? If you said yes, think about whether you mean that it is possible for someone to become genuinely addicted to internet gaming like someone could become addicted to heroin or whether you mean that someone could just be more focused on, and spend more time, internet gaming than you, personally, think is a good idea? The question of whether an Internet Gaming Disorder should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychological disorders was hotly debated during the run up to the 2013 publication of its 5th edition, and the debate is still raging. Whether you answered yes or no to the initial question, have a read through the article linked below for some additional food for thought on this topic.

Source: Reevaluating Internet Gaming Disorder, Christopher J. Ferguson, Checkpoints, Psychology Today.

Date: April 5, 2019

Photo Credit:

Article Link:

So, if we decide to identify Internet Gaming Disorder as a disorder, do we also have start to talk about cat addicts, and running addicts, or even quilting addicts? Those things impact your brain chemistry too. Is the fact that the potential label contains the word “game” (as in something people do that is not a serious part of the “real” world (hockey, football, baseball, and basketball aside, of course – and they are addictive, aren’t they?). The author of the article linked above points out that we are on and perhaps even art way down a very slippery slope in our consideration of Internet Gaming Disorder. Before we simply say more research is needed I think it would be better to say “let’s think about this – think about our assumptions – a bit before proclaiming a new disorder or even before doing more research.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does the proposed Internet Gaming Disorder involve?
  2. Can we see useful similarities between possible Internet Gaming Addiction and heroin addiction?
  3. So, what do you think? Should the DSM follow the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases and Include Internet Gaming Disorder?

References (Read Further):

Przybylski, A. K., Weinstein, N., & Murayama, K. (2016). Internet gaming disorder: Investigating the clinical relevance of a new phenomenon. American Journal of Psychiatry, 174(3), 230-236.

Ferguson, C. J., & Ceranoglu, T. A. (2014). Attention problems and pathological gaming: Resolving the ‘chicken and egg’in a prospective analysis. Psychiatric Quarterly, 85(1), 103-110.

Petry, N. M., Rehbein, F., Gentile, D. A., Lemmens, J. S., Rumpf, H. J., Mößle, T., … & Auriacombe, M. (2014). An international consensus for assessing internet gaming disorder using the new DSM‐5 approach. Addiction, 109(9), 1399-1406.

King, D. L., & Delfabbro, P. H. (2014). The cognitive psychology of Internet gaming disorder. Clinical psychology review, 34(4), 298-308.

Lemmens, J. S., Valkenburg, P. M., & Gentile, D. A. (2015). The Internet Gaming Disorder Scale. Psychological assessment, 27(2), 567.


Posted by & filed under Child Development, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Research Methods, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination.

Description: What do horses that seem to be able to spell and do math, grade school children, and stereotypes of poor people or smokers have in common? The Pygmalion Effect. Well that is not enlightening but what about expectancy effects and not their own expectancies but expectancies or assumptions that other have about them? How might our expectations about other people effect how those people behave in the world? No, telekinesis or other extrasensory abilities are NOT involved. Think for a minute about what might actually be involved that links those things together and then read the article linked below to see what psychological research tells us.

Source: The Pygmalion Effect: Proving Them Right, Shane Parrish, Farnam Street.

Date: April 7, 2019

Photo Credit: Public Domain,

Article Link:

So how many possible examples of the Pygmalion Effect can you come up with from your life? As we are most often acting in a social world, we need to note and acknowledge the social impacts of our expectations of those around us and the situations we and they are acting within if we wish to understand our own and others’ behaviours over time. Our expectations are things that we can change, for the betterment of the behaviors or others around us.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the Pygmalion Effect?
  2. Describe the Pygmalion Effect as it played out in the study of elementary school children but do so without blaming the teachers involved (there is an expectation you can change!)?
  3. Describe one or two places or regular situations in your life where you could potentially use the Pygmalion Effect to general advantage?

References (Read Further):

Samhita, L., & Gross, H. J. (2013). The “Clever Hans Phenomenon” revisited. communicative & integrative Biology, 6(6), e27122.

Ladewig, J. (2007). Clever Hans is still whinnying with us. Behavioural processes, 76(1), 20-21.

Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The urban review, 3(1), 16-20.

Friedrich, A., Flunger, B., Nagengast, B., Jonkmann, K., & Trautwein, U. (2015). Pygmalion effects in the classroom: Teacher expectancy effects on students’ math achievement. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 41, 1-12.’s_cognitive_ability_A_multilevel_analysis/links/5845559808ae8e63e627f799/Teacher-judgments-as-measures-of-childrens-cognitive-ability-A-multilevel-analysis.pdf

White, S. S., & Locke, E. A. (2000). Problems with the Pygmalion effect and some proposed solutions. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(3), 389-415.

Rosenthal, R. (1997). Interpersonal Expectancy Effects: A Forty Year Perspective.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Emerging Adulthood, Neuroscience, Personality.

Description: While it might seem like ancient history to some the 1960’s were not that long ago (well OK, it was over 50 years ago). What have you heard or read that the 1960’s were known for? Student activism, Vietnam war protests, and experimentation with recreational drugs. Related to all of those things was an intense interest in raised consciousness. Students becoming aware of the nature of the social structures around them (e.g., the military industrial complex) was one form of consciousness expansion. The use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD and peyote were also viewed by many as consciousness expanding experiences. Ralph Metzner, who passed away recently, was a psychotherapist and researcher who had an intense interest in the potential implications and applications of psychoactive drugs. He worked with personality psychologist turned counter culture guru and LSD advocate Timothy Leary on experiments on the effects of LSD. They were dismissed from Harvard in 1963 for giving LSD to students as part of their investigations. Later Metzner wrote a book with Leary and Richard Alpert, a clinical Psychologist who took the name Ram Dass (servant of God) called The Psychedelic Experience: A manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. While Leary and Alpert moved wholesale into the counter culture movement Metzner remained in academia writing and conducting research. It was an interesting time and involved some broad speculations about the nature of human consciousness and the potential roles played by psychedelic in expanding consciousness. Have a read thought the article linked below to get a glimpse of the 1960’s influence on thought and experimentation (at a number of levels) into consciousness.

Source: Ralph Metzner, LSD and Consciousness Researcher, Dies at 88, Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times

Date: April 4, 2019

Photo Credit: Ralph Metzner Archive

Article Link:

So, what do you think? Lawrence Kohlberg, a developmental psychologist who studied the emergence and development of moral reasoning looked at the level of moral reasoning used by those university students who were most actively involved in the free speech movement at Berkley in California. He found that while many of those actively involved scored as using the higher moral reasoning levels in his model there were a small subset who scored at one o his lowest stages, focused primarily on self-interest. As a statement about the 1960’s this suggests that while some emerging adults at the time were involved because the parties were good and interesting recreational drugs were available there were also many who were thinking hard and trying to discover new ways to be. Ralph Metzner took that sort of approach to psychedelic drugs and consciousness. You can read further about his explorations by following some of the links below in the References section.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why were individuals like Ralph Metzner and Timothy Leary interested in the effects of psychedelic drugs?
  2. Can you see some ways in which interest in psychedelic drugs is related to interest in drugs that can positively influence the symptoms of psychological disorders like schizophrenia?
  3. What sorts of ethical issues should be considered if one were to be interested in studying the effects of psychedelic drugs on human consciousness?

References (Read Further):

Leary, Timothy, Ralph Metzner, and Ram Dass. The psychedelic experience. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 1966.

Metzner, R. (1998). Hallucinogenic drugs and plants in psychotherapy and shamanism. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 30(4), 333-341.

Metzner, R. (1980). Ten classical metaphors of self-transformation. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 12(1), 47-62.

Adamson, S., & Metzner, R. (1988). The nature of the MDMA experience and its role in healing, psychotherapy and spiritual practice. ReVision, 10(4), 59-72.

Leary, T., Metzner, R., Presnell, M., Weil, G., Schwitzgebel, R., & Kinne, S. (1965). A new behavior change program using psilocybin. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 2(2), 61-72.

Doblin, R. (1998). Dr. Leary’s Concord Prison Experiment: a 34-year follow-up study. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 30(4), 419-426.’s_Concord_Prison_Experiment_A_34-Year_Follow-up_Study/links/0deec533220f38bf01000000/Dr-Learys-Concord-Prison-Experiment-A-34-Year-Follow-up-Study.pdf

KUTNICK, P. (1986). Judgment and Moral Action: Kohlberg’s Theory, Criticism and Revision. Lawrence Kohlberg, Consensus and controversy, (1), 125.

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

Description: As we are entering the time of the academic year where brick walls loom and the s*%# hits the fan it seemed timely to have a look at procrastination. I mean it is not like we have other more pressing things to do, right? Virtually everyone procrastinates in some ways at some times. If you procrastinate (and notice that you do) what do you tell yourself about what it is and what you need to do about it? That you have little willpower and that you need to find some organizational skills and grit? But perhaps that is NOT what procrastination is about and perhaps thinking about it that way will NOT get you going. How about if we were to look at procrastination as a(n emotion-focused) coping strategy? What if we looked at it as strongly related to self-continuity? And what if we were to take on a strategy for dealing with it that essentially tells us to pay attention to everything else we want to do instead of focusing on what we HAVE to do? Think about what these shifts might mean in terms of how you think about procrastination and then read the two articles linked below to see what psychological research has to tell us that could really help us with our procrastination.

Source: The Smart Guide to Procrastination Zaria Gorvett, and Why Your Brain Loves to Procrastinate, Susannah Locke, Vox.

Date: March 26, 2019

Photo Credit: Vox/Shutterstock

Article Links : and

So, did you find some ideas or strategies you can use as finals and other bits of term-end fun loom?  The recent research on procrastination discussed in the linked articles are good examples of how psychological research digging into things we already think we know well and understand can sometimes come up with new, research supported,  ways of looking at, thinking about, and taking action in relation to aspects of our lives that we have been sort of stuck with  based on our unreflected (un unresearched!) assumption and explanations. So, what are you waiting for? Put one or two of the suggested new strategies in place and then get back to work of what you have to get done before term ends!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do you understand and think about procrastination?
  2. What are two things you now know about procrastination (after having read the linked articles) that change or challenge something you knew before?
  3. What are some of the important things that psychological research can do for us in relation to bothersome or sometimes even dangerous thigs like procrastination?

References (Read Further):

Rahimi, S., Hall, N. C., & Pychyl, T. A. (2016). Attributions of responsibility and blame for procrastination behavior. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1179.

Gagnon, J., Dionne, F., & Pychyl, T. A. (2016). Committed action: An initial study on its association to procrastination in academic settings. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 5(2), 97-102.

Shanahan, M. J., & Pychyl, T. A. (2007). An ego identity perspective on volitional action: Identity status, agency, and procrastination. Personality and individual differences, 43(4), 901-911.

Rutchick, A. M., Slepian, M. L., Reyes, M. O., Pleskus, L. N., & Hershfield, H. E. (2018). Future self-continuity is associated with improved health and increases exercise behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 24(1), 72.

Hershfield, H. E. (2018). The self over time. Current Opinion in Psychology.

Martiny-Huenger, T., Martiny, S. E., Parks-Stamm, E. J., Pfeiffer, E., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2017). From conscious thought to automatic action: A simulation account of action planning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146, 1513-1525.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, Pain-General, Physiology, Research Methods, Sensation-Perception.

Description: A big part of the current opioid crisis that does not perhaps get the level of attention it deserves is that many people caught up in it got there through their experiences and issues with pain management. Pain experience and pain management is a very complex area of psychological and medical research and a big part of what makes it challenging is the lack of a full understanding of haw pain is carried and managed within our brain and nervous system. While case studies are typically viewed almost as novelties that tell us interesting stories about individual people which, while sometime fascinating, do not provide us with a lot that we can generalize to other people or to larger populations. But sometimes that can provide us with starting points for potentially hugely valuable lines of research and eventual application of interventions/treatments to a great many people.  The article linked below describes one such case study – that of a woman who, throughout her life, has essentially not experiences any pain or anxiety, not because she has led a lucky or charmed life but because of something in her genetic code or genotype. Think for a minute about what such a case might provide to pain researchers and then give the article a read.

Source: At 71, She’s Never Felt Pain or Anxiety. Now Scientists Know Why. Heather Murphy, The New York Times.

Date: March 28, 2019


Video Credit: Mary Turner for The New York Times

Article Link:

The account of how the women whose experiences (or the lack thereof) with pain and anxiety came to the attention pf pain researchers and what they found when they began to try and account t for her pain/anxiety non-experiences is quite fascinating. While it seems clear that there are downsides to the nature of her pain/anxiety experiences due to the mutations on her FAAH-OUT gene — pain IS usually an important clue to things we need to attend to in life – understanding of how these mutations play out in development and life may provide some deep insights into the human pain process. The researchers quoted in the article do, appropriately, indicate that the route from finding cases like this and the FAAH-OUT mutations do not immediately or easily point to any clear pathways to applications or pain or anxiety related interventions, but they DO provide a new window into part of the processes involved in experiencing and perhaps managing pain. There will be more to see on this in the not to distant research future.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What might some of the day-to-day life implications be of having the gene mutations that resulted in the women discussed in the article not experiencing pain or anxiety?
  2. What are some of the next research steps that might be worth considering in light of the information reported in this case study?
  3. Are there ways in which you can see possible connections between this case study and the opioid crisis?

References (Read Further):

Habib, Abdella M. et al (in press, 2019) Microdeletion in a FAAH pseudogene identified in a patient with high anandamide concentrations and pain insensitivity, British Journal of Anaesthesia.

Waxman, S. G. (2018). Chasing Men on Fire: The Story of the Search for a Pain Gene. MIT Press.

Hayasaki, Erika (2017) End Pain Forever, Wired,

Hansen, G. R., & Streltzer, J. (2005). The psychology of pain. Emergency Medicine Clinics, 23(2), 339-348.

Scholz, J., & Woolf, C. J. (2002). Can we conquer pain?. Nature neuroscience, 5(11s), 1062.

Keane, H., & Hamill, K. (2010). Variations in addiction: The molecular and the molar in neuroscience and pain medicine. BioSocieties, 5(1), 52-69.

Giordano, J. (2010). The neuroscience of pain, and a Neuroethics of pain care. Neuroethics, 3(1), 89-94.


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

Description: When I was in graduate school (back in the stone age) I took a seminar course in cognitive psychology that was run by Daniel Kahneman (who would later receive the Nobel Prize in economics for his work on human decision making and cognitive biases) and his wife Anne Treisman (also a noted cognitive psychology superstar). Each of us enrolled in the seminar had to take responsibility for doing a presentation at some point in the course in which we were to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge in an assigned area of cognitive science. I actually do not recall what my assigned topic was (though that likely means I survived without serious criticism) but I do recall the presentation of the unfortunate graduate student (who was actually working with Daniel Kahneman) who was charged with presenting on the topic of consciousness. She seemed quite nervous as she led us through a very informative overview of the concept of consciousnesses address in eastern religions and philosophies and of early “scientific” efforts to locate consciousness within the pituitary gland. She then talked a little bit about sleep research and research into metacognition and then turned to her supervisor and apologized for the fact that she was not able to find any work in cognitive psychology that directly addressed the question of the nature and location of consciousness. Daniel’s comment was to simply shrug and to say something like “No there really hasn’t been anything sensible done on that question yet – what’s next”?” In the nearly 40 years since I took that seminar and during which I have taught introductory psychology which typically contains a section on consciousness and I can tell you that Daniel Kahneman’s summary comment has largely continued to apply, until recently. We are seeing an increasing number of questions being raised about the status of Artificial Intelligence and part of that has begun to involve questions about AI and consciousness, partly just out of curiosity and partly out of concern over what might happen if or when AI becomes conscious (see I Robot, Ex Machina, Transcendence, or even Blade Runner for a sci-fi treatment). We are also seeing a resurgence of versions of the age-old ethical question of whether lobsters experience pain when they are boiled alive for dinner that are broadening into deeper questions about animal consciousness and their ethical standing on our planet. So, where to start on the question of the nature and location of consciousness? Well, enter Giulio Tononi, neuroscientist. Read the article linked below to see where he is proposing we go to try and develop a coherent, testable theory of consciousness (and not just human consciousness but general and even hive and perhaps, at some point, AI consciousness).

Source: Are we close to solving the puzzle of consciousness? David Robson, future,

Date: March 27, 2019

Photo Credit: Emmanuel Lafont

Article Link:

So, what do you think of Integrated Consciousness Theory? There is something compelling, to me at least, about the idea that consciousness is likely about the integration of information – it just seems to fit with what has always seemed to be a necessary part of any account of the nature of consciousness – that ist must be greater than the sum of any amalgam of information gathering parts. As many of the commenters quoted in the linked article say, Integrated Consciousness Theory is a good starting point and it IS explorable AND, to a degree, testable. It is going to be fascinating to see where this line of (conscious) thought and inquiry takes us!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is consciousness?
  2. What does consciousness do for us?
  3. What do you make of Integrated Consciousness Theory and what do you think ir can do for us?

References (Read Further):

Tononi, G., & Koch, C. (2015). Consciousness: here, there and everywhere? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1668), 20140167.

Sarasso, S., Boly, M., Napolitani, M., Gosseries, O., Charland-Verville, V., Casarotto, S., … & Rex, S. (2015). Consciousness and complexity during unresponsiveness induced by propofol, xenon, and ketamine. Current Biology, 25(23), 3099-3105.

Barrett, Adam (2018) We need to figure out a theory of consciousness. The Conversation.

Massimini, M., Ferrarelli, F., Murphy, M. J., Huber, R., Riedner, B. A., Casarotto, S., & Tononi, G. (2010). Cortical reactivity and effective connectivity during REM sleep in humans. Cognitive neuroscience, 1(3), 176-183.

Tononi, G., Boly, M., Massimini, M., & Koch, C. (2016). Integrated information theory: from consciousness to its physical substrate. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 17(7), 450.

Casarotto, S., Comanducci, A., Rosanova, M., Sarasso, S., Fecchio, M., Napolitani, M., … & Gosseries, O. (2016). Stratification of unresponsive patients by an independently validated index of brain complexity. Annals of neurology, 80(5), 718-729.

Toker, D., & Sommer, F. T. (2019). Information integration in large brain networks. PLoS computational biology, 15(2), e1006807.

Engel, D., & Malone, T. W. (2018). Integrated information as a metric for group interaction. PloS one, 13(10), e0205335.


Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Child Development, Cultural Variation, Early Social and Emotional development, Families and Peers, Human Development, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: You cannot have missed at least some of the range of stories regarding the amount of screen time children are spending and the concerns being raised about its possible impact on their development. We should be concerned but we should also be cautious about treating screen time like this month’s Tickle me Elmo, Furby, or whatever is more recently and passingly popular. We most certainly need to look at the impact of screen time and on screen-contents on the development of children and adolescents of all ages. However, especially with the sort of vast scale socio-historical technological changes associated with things like the internet and the ubiquity of screen in out lives, we need to step back from time to time and look at a bigger picture of screen time or whatever else we are concerned about. How to do that? Well, first do not restrict your thinking to children and child development alone. While that might be one of the points of greatest impact, we need to think about what screen time might represent more broadly. What might this involve? Well think about two things: First, how might screen time issues impact the elderly? And second, who is working VERY hard to reduce or eliminate screen time in their young children’s lives? Think about those questions for a moment or two and then read the article linked below and find out who Sox is (in relation to question one) and WWSJD (what Steve Jobs would do).

Source: Human Contact is Now a Luxury Good, Nellie Bowles, News Analysis, The New York Times.

Date: March 23, 2019

Photo Credit: Marta Monteiro, The New York Times

Article Link:

Well, what do you think now? If “real” human contact is only for the wealthy and if we as a species (and the young of our species in particular) have evolved to grow, develop and rely on direct social contact then where will we be developmentally when screen time replaces social contact with real people (not Sox or even Facetime)? Understanding the differences and trade-offs between Sox and human and community contact could turn out to be one of the most important lifespan developmental tasks of our time. So, what research do we need to do?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is Sox a good thing?
  2. What might it mean that very well-off parents who made or are making their fortunes in Silicon Valley are working hard to reduce or eliminate screen time in their children’s lives?
  3. What other areas of interest, concern and needed research in relation to the wholesale jump in the amount of screen-time in people’s lives can you think of ?

References (Read Further):

Asan, O., D. Smith, P., & Montague, E. (2014). More screen time, less face time–implications for EHR design. Journal of evaluation in clinical practice, 20(6), 896-901.

Sigman, A. (2012). Time for a view on screen time. Archives of disease in childhood, 97(11), 935-942.

Subrahmanyam, K., Kraut, R. E., Greenfield, P. M., & Gross, E. F. (2000). The impact of home computer-use on children’s activities and development. The future of children, 123-144.

Parkes, A., Sweeting, H., Wight, D., & Henderson, M. (2013). Do television and electronic games predict children’s psychosocial adjustment? Longitudinal research using the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Archives of disease in childhood, 98(5), 341-348.

Crone, E. A., & Konijn, E. A. (2018). Media use and brain development during adolescence. Nature Communications, 9(1), 588.

Nesi, J., Choukas-Bradley, S., & Prinstein, M. J. (2018). Transformation of adolescent peer relations in the social media context: part 1—a theoretical framework and application to dyadic peer relationships. Clinical child and family psychology review, 21(3), 267-294.