Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Emerging Adulthood, Learning, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: I was teaching a summer course called Psychology for Everyday Life last summer in a dual credit format which meant that it was a real university course, but it was being taken by 150 senior high school students who would receive credit for the university course as well as receive a number of senior credits for their high school transcript. This was a high-flying bunch of students. Their average incoming cumulative percentage standing was 94%. One of the assignments in the course is for the students to complete a self-reflection and goal planning task that involved identifying things they wanted to work on and work towards over the next 6 to 12 months. On reviewing the submissions two things stuck out to me. The first was not particularly surprising and that was that nearly half of the students identified an academic goal of attending medical school, they were a high-flying bunch after all. The second thing WAS rather surprising. A near majority of the students indicated that in addition to their education and career goals they expressed a desire to figure out how to stop procrastinating. While I found it difficult to imagine how so many in this very productive group of students could have problems with procrastination, the data was there. Most indicated that they believed they needed to essentially talk sternly to themselves about getting down to work on whatever task demanded their attention as opposed to putting it off, checking social media or watching something. As the assignment was the last thing, they submitted in the course I did not have a chance to spend any time in virtual lecture/discussion on the topic of procrastination and, truth be told, I was not sure what to say. I had looked into the research literature before and basically what was there about procrastination made it rather clear that it is not a matter of needing enough deadline pressure to be sufficiently motivated to get working on a task. Yes, there is deadline pressure as due dates loom, but it does not tend to contribute to people doing their best. No, using your prefrontal brain region to command yourself to get to work does not work well either. Recently I found a source and a line of research that takes a different approach towards, and which offers useful advice regarding how to deal with, the anxiety that is powerfully associated with procrastination. Judson Brewer is a psychiatrist/researcher whose recently published book, Unwinding Anxiety, summarizes his extensive research into habits and brain systems involved in everything from anxiety to smoking and problem eating and procrastination. (see a previous post on this work) Brewer is also intent on finding ways to show people how they can utilize what his, and his colleagues, research is suggesting about the roots of anxiety. Simply put it works like this. When we are stressed our prefrontal cortex, our cognitive or thinking brain shuts down. Evolutionary forces have shaped us to fall back on reactive fight/flight brain systems when stressed taking time to think likely reduces our chances of survival (at least back when our stresses were predators). So, cognitive strategies do not work when we think they will help us, when we are stressed. Now, if we break down anxiety we can see, according to Brewer, that it is not a simple feeling or emotion. It arises in situations where we are uncertain, and uncertainty is another evolutionarily old cue that produces fear. When we sense fear within us arising from uncertainty, we discover that if we distract ourselves by having something sweet to east, by having a cigarette, by checking our email or social media, by scrolling YouTube, Tok-tok or Instagram we feel a little better (less fearful) and THAT is rewarding (plain old operant conditioning). This pattern of Trigger-Behavior-Reward sets up a repeating anxiety loop – a habit. Procrastination is the result of just such an anxiety habit loop. The fix? I will let Jud Brewer explain it in his Ted talk linked below. I will say that his suggestions fit very nicely into some things I am seeing in my own work on identity development in which waiting for a tsunami of passion about a potential career path to carry you forward into your future self is not a viable identity development strategy. Given the, sometimes overwhelming, uncertainty surrounding and shrouding possible pathways into your future it can be much more effective to take one of Brewer’s key suggestions for when fear/anxiety arises in moments of uncertainty and pause and get curious. Curiosity may have killed the cat (as that obtuse old saying suggests) but it can also to the key that opens a door to mindful strategies for dealing constructively with uncertainty, fear and resulting anxiety habit loops like procrastination. To find out about unwinding anxiety and its related habit loops watch Jud Brewer’s Ted Talk linked below or the Ultimate Health podcast interview with him regarding his recently released book Unwinding Anxiety also linked below. I have also provided references to some of the work from his lab on the subject in the References (Read Further) section if you would like to dive into the science.

Source: A simple way to break a bad habit, Judson Brewer, TEDMED 2015 and Unwinding Anxiety, Judson Brewer, Penguin.

Date: April 29, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Article Link:


One of the things I appreciate most about Brewer’s approach to anxiety and mindfulness is that it is based in basic brain science. One of the things we tend to lose sight of within the vast array of suggestions about being more mindful is that mindfulness does not essentially involve thinking harder or asserting cognitive control. The curiosity that Brewer talks about in relation to uncertainty and anxiety and which I and other work with in relation to uncertainty and identity involves pausing and considering the whats and whys of our current feelings and physiological and social situation. Check out Brewer’s book and, if you think his approach might be of interest and of assistance, you can check out his app for unwinding anxiety.

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. Why do you or other people procrastinate and what can you or they do to stop?
  2. How are feelings of anxiety, fear and uncertainty related?
  3. What does it mean to suggest that anxiety is a fear-linked habit loop?

References (Read Further):


Brewer, J. A., Ruf, A., Beccia, A. L., Essien, G. I., Finn, L. M., Lutterveld, R. V., & Mason, A. E. (2018). Can mindfulness address maladaptive eating behaviors? Why traditional diet plans fail and how new mechanistic insights may lead to novel interventions. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1418. Link

Crane, R., Brewer, J., Feldman, C., Kabat-Zinn, J., Santorellli, S., Williams, J. M. G., & Kuyken, W. (2020). What defines mindfulness-based programs?. The warp and the weft. Link

Ludwig, V. U., Brown, K. W., & Brewer, J. A. (2020). Self-Regulation Without Force: Can Awareness Leverage Reward to Drive Behavior Change?. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 15(6), 1382-1399. Link

Brewer, Judson (2021) Unwinding Anxiety: New Sciences Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind, Avery. Link

Brewer, J. A., Mallik, S., Babuscio, T. A., Nich, C., Johnson, H. E., Deleone, C. M., … & Rounsaville, B. J. (2011). Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: results from a randomized controlled trial. Drug and alcohol dependence, 119(1-2), 72-80. Link

Mason, A. E., Jhaveri, K., Cohn, M., & Brewer, J. A. (2018). Testing a mobile mindful eating intervention targeting craving-related eating: feasibility and proof of concept. Journal of behavioral medicine, 41(2), 160-173. Link

Roy, A., Druker, S., Hoge, E. A., & Brewer, J. A. (2020). Physician anxiety and burnout: symptom correlates and a prospective pilot study of App-delivered mindfulness training. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 8(4), e15608. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Health Psychology, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Psychological Intervention, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Have you heard of Long Covid? It involves a number of symptoms that resemble those seen in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) in which individuals recovered from Covid infections experience long-term shortness of breath, fatigue, and body aches and pains. What causes these symptoms? Are they due to lingering Covid effects? If not what else? Media speculation and searches for answers to these questions have raised another version of a recurrent debate in medical/psychiatric/psychological professional circles about the relationship between mental events and physical illness. I observed a bit of this debate 20 years ago while serving on a doctoral research supervisory committee for a PhD candidate who was examining pain management among medical patients with rheumatoid arthritis and included a comparison group comprised of patients tentatively diagnosed with either fibromyalgia or CFS. There were two physicians on the committee and at meeting where the student was presenting their proposal one physician indicated in a side comment that they were unsure how to refer fibromyalgia/CFS for treatment to which the other physician responded rather snidely, “I just refer them to the Psych ward.” Now, to be fair, at the dissertation defense 4 years later the second physician indicated that they were collaborating with the rheumatology clinic to develop a treatment protocol for fibromyalgia patents. The change in perspective was linked to a general shift away from maintaining a hard distinction between physical conditions and mental conditions which typically includes a belief that psychosomatic disorders are “not real.” These days, in theory, it is understood that psychosomatic ailments ARE real. For example, long term stress and anxiety causes things like high blood pressure. Given that this more wholistic approach to illness and wellness it is surprising that we are seeing some of the same old beliefs being offered up in relation to long Covid along with the suggestion that Cognitive Behavior Therapy should be a treatment of first choice for long Covid as the Covid itself has gone. Where do you stand on this matter? For a look at the most recent iteration of the “Bio is real Psycho is not” position on the application of the Biopsychosocial model  to a new condition read the articles linked below which capture several facets reasonably well.

Source: Apparently just by talking about it, I’m super-spreading long Covid, George Monbiot, The Guardian; Long Covid is very far from ‘all in the mind’ – but psychology can still help us treat it, Carmine M Pariante, The Guardian.

Date: April 27, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Article Link:  and and

Research into long Covid is essential and the role of treatments such as CBT needs to be included in that research but with caution given the issues associated with previous such work with CFS/ME patients. We have a way to go yet in the development of a proper understanding of the relationships among biological, psychological, and social factors in diseases and disorders. The biopsychosocial model is not intended to be a category system for sorting disorders as all three factors interact within each and every person struggling or dealing with things like long Covid.

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. What is long Covid?
  2. What treatment options are there for long Covid and if we do not have any currently what research is needed to help us figure out how to assist those who are struggling with long Covid today?
  3. What are some of the issues with how the biopsychosocial model of disorder/illness is currently understood and applied?

References (Read Further):

People, Y. Special issue on the PACE Trial, by David F Marks in The Journal of Health Psychology Vol 22 issue 9 2017 [published online 31 July 2017]. Link

Williams, F. M., Muirhead, N., & Pariante, C. (2020). Covid-19 and chronic fatigue. BMJ, 370.

Meeus, M., & Nijs, J. (2007). Central sensitization: a biopsychosocial explanation for chronic widespread pain in patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Clinical rheumatology, 26(4), 465-473. Link

Geraghty, K. J., & Blease, C. (2019). Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and the biopsychosocial model: a review of patient harm and distress in the medical encounter. Disability and rehabilitation, 41(25), 3092-3102. Link

Geraghty, K. J., & Esmail, A. (2016). Chronic fatigue syndrome: is the biopsychosocial model responsible for patient dissatisfaction and harm?. British Journal of General Practice, 66(649), 437-438. Link

Hulme, K., Hudson, J. L., Rojczyk, P., Little, P., & Moss-Morris, R. (2017). Biopsychosocial risk factors of persistent fatigue after acute infection: A systematic review to inform interventions. Journal of psychosomatic research, 99, 120-129. Link

Halpin, S., O’Connor, R., & Sivan, M. (2021). Long COVID and chronic COVID syndromes. Journal of medical virology, 93(3), 1242-1243. Link

Nabavi, N. (2020). Long covid: How to define it and how to manage it. Webinar Link Text Link

Vink, M., & Vink-Niese, A. (2020, December). Could Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Be an Effective Treatment for Long COVID and Post COVID-19 Fatigue Syndrome? Lessons from the Qure Study for Q-Fever Fatigue Syndrome. In Healthcare (Vol. 8, No. 4, p. 552). Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. Link

Posted by & filed under Cultural Variation, Health Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Personality, Persuasion, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: As the Covid vaccines roll out we general conversation is shifting from when vaccines will be generally available to when will we have enough people vaccinated that we close in on what seems like the almost mythical herd immunity. One of the topics of this more recent line of discussion within the media concerns the fact that some people have stated they will not be getting a vaccine, and some are saying they are not sure, they have concerns. In my province in Canada (Alberta) and in a number of American states these two groups of vaccine refusers and vaccine skeptics account for more than 25% of the adult population. Public health science-based opinion say that every adult should get a jab as soon as one becomes available. Remaining unvaccinated is individually risky and, in areas with significant numbers of no-vax and vaccine skeptics the very notion of controlling the coronavirus and stopping its mutating spread is at risk. So, what to do about vaccine skeptics? Setting aside any thought about legislating the matter, think about what you would hypothesize as a strategy for encouraging or convincing vaccine skeptics to get a jab. If you are thinking they need a bit more, or perhaps a lot more, information/knowledge I will tell you that research data does NOT support that approach. So, what else is going on? What is behind vaccine skepticism if not a lack of knowledge? Sorting that out is a vital first step towards implementing an approach to decreasing vaccine skepticism that might actually get traction. Think about what else might be involved and then read the article linked below that looks at some research into this very question.

Source: Vaccine Skepticism Was Viewed as a Knowledge Problem. It’s Actually About Gut Beliefs, Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times.

Date: April 29, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Article Link:

Social psychologist Jonathan Haight has written extensively about the idea that there are more than one or two moral foundations that guide out behavior and that shape out options and our decisions in areas such as political choice, issue support or vaccine skepticism. A focus on matters of care or harm (to self and others) is just one of 6 moral foundations. The others include fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation (disgust) and liberty/oppression. These foundations are not simple opionions but are, according to Haight, arise from deep evolutionary roots. Which are held as vital is differentially distributed across the but population but also across political lines as well. For example, deep feeling about the fundamental importance of liberty, freedom to make one’s own choices, to not be told what to do can be seen to playout in some people’s vaccine skepticism as well as in social distancing resistance and mask wearing resistance. Strong feelings about purity (disgust at the thought of foreign substance being put into one’s arm) are another moral foundation that likely contributes to vaccine skepticism. What to do? Well, step one is getting beyond assuming it is just due to a lack of knowledge, especially as realizing that added knowledge alone does not seem to help tends to morph rather instantly to “they must be stupid” which is of no help at all. Step 2 is to build an engagement strategy grounded in an awareness of the broader array of moral foundations at work in people’s opinions and in their reactions to public health campaigns. More thought and research IS needed and we certainly have an amazing opportunity to get that work done in relation to our current vaccination push!

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. Why are some people saying they will refuse a Covid vaccine or saying they are skeptical about the idea of getting a jab?
  2. When explaining to vaccine skeptics why they should get vaccinated (to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their fellow citizens) does not work , or makes things worse, which of our assumptions or hypotheses should we reconsider?
  3. What would a broader, noyt just knowledge focused, “Get vaccinated” campaign involve?

References (Read Further):

Hoffman, Jan (2021) Faith, Freedon, Fear: Rural America’s Covid Vaccine Skeptics, The New York Times. Link

KFF (2021) KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor. Link

Haight, J (2021) Moral Link

Kalimeri, K., G. Beiró, M., Urbinati, A., Bonanomi, A., Rosina, A., & Cattuto, C. (2019, May). Human values and attitudes towards vaccination in social media. In Companion Proceedings of The 2019 World Wide Web Conference (pp. 248-254). Link

Doğruyol, B., Alper, S., & Yilmaz, O. (2019). The five-factor model of the moral foundations theory is stable across WEIRD and non-WEIRD cultures. Personality and Individual Differences, 151, 109547. Link

Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage. Summary Link

Amin, A. B., Bednarczyk, R. A., Ray, C. E., Melchiori, K. J., Graham, J., Huntsinger, J. R., & Omer, S. B. (2017). Association of moral values with vaccine hesitancy. Nature Human Behaviour, 1(12), 873-880.

Chan, E. Y. (2021). Moral foundations underlying behavioral compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personality and individual differences, 171, 110463. Link

Whitehead, A. L., & Perry, S. L. (2020). How Culture Wars Delay Herd Immunity: Christian Nationalism and Anti-vaccine Attitudes. Socius, 6, 2378023120977727. Link

Lunz Trujillo, K., Motta, M., Callaghan, T., & Sylvester, S. (2020). Correcting Misperceptions about the MMR Vaccine: Using Psychological Risk Factors to Inform Targeted Communication Strategies. Political Research Quarterly, 1065912920907695. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Consciousness, Depression, Health Psychology, Psychological Disorders, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: Perhaps you have had enough of trying to summarize how you are feeling and doing “these days” as the pandemic rumbles along and has not vanished at the sight of the first few raised vaccination needles. There have been many, many attempts to explain what we, or may be, experiencing: it is a problem with great amounts of uncertainty, it is creeping depression, it is grief over our (hopefully temporality) lost social lives, etc. etc. So, do we need another possible explanation? Well, maybe. When our emotions are novel, uncertain, and we are unsure how or why we are out of sorts it can help to try and mane how it is we are feeling as that can help us focus on our emotions and start to figure out what is going on and how to get moving again more positively. The spate of “we are grieving” articles a few months back helped many people to understand what and how they were feeling in the novel circumstances of the pandemic. We know loss and can use that understanding template to help us sort out our current emotional and social realties. So, how are you doing now? Try the word/concept languishing on for size. When have you languished before? Maybe you were stuck in an airport (remember those?) due to weather elated flight cancellations and you were sitting and languishing in your circumstances. How about these days with ongoing, and intensifying restrictions (here in Canada and elsewhere)? Might the languishing label help sort this a bit? Not sure what the concept involves? Well, have a read through the article linked below in which an organizational psychologist looks at research relating to languishing. It cannot hurt, what else do you have to do?

Source: There is a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing, Adman Grant The New York Times.

Date: April 19, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by prettysleepy1 from Pixabay

Article Link:

I link the way that languishing is situated conceptually between depression and flow. Often, we are stuck with categorical labels which suggest that things are either wonderfully bright (flow) or horribly dark (depression). We need concepts in between and perhaps languish fit the bill at least in part. The dulling of delight and the dwindling of drive, (oh and “revenge bedtime procrastination”)– languishing. A useful concept, especially when it comes with not just relaxation but with suggestions for rediscovering how to engage again – to act. Uninterrupted time, small goals, naming languishing – give them a try!

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. What is languish or languishing?
  2. How is languishing different than being depressed or being in flow?
  3. Beyond short term improvement in wellbeing and functioning what might thinking and talking about languishing do for us all these days?

References (Read Further):

Keyes, C. L. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of health and social behavior, 207-222. Link

Iasiello, M., van Agteren, J., Keyes, C. L., & Cochrane, E. M. (2019). Positive mental health as a predictor of recovery from mental illness. Journal of affective disorders, 251, 227-230. Link

Keyes, C. L., Dhingra, S. S., & Simoes, E. J. (2010). Change in level of positive mental health as a predictor of future risk of mental illness. American journal of public health, 100(12), 2366-2371. Link

Bassi, M., Negri, L., Delle Fave, A., & Accardi, R. (2021). The relationship between post-traumatic stress and positive mental health symptoms among health workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Lombardy, Italy. Journal of affective disorders, 280, 1-6. Link

Feldman Barrett, Lisa (2018) Try these two smart techniques to help you master your emotions. Ideas.Ted.Com Link

Liang, Lu-Hai (2020) The Psychology Behind ‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’ BBC Link

Quinn, R. W. (2005). Flow in knowledge work: High performance experience in the design of national security technology. Administrative science quarterly, 50(4), 610-641. Link

Perlow, L. A. (1999). The time famine: Toward a sociology of work time. Administrative science quarterly, 44(1), 57-81. Link

Weick, K. E. (1984). Small wins: Redefining the scale of social problems. American Psychologist, 39(1), 40. Link



Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Health Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Research Methods, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Have you heard of General Paresis? No, it is not a military officer. It was the name given to a mysterious collection of symptoms that were regularly seen among adults (usually but not always older) in Victorian London. It started with forgetfulness and progressed consistently into memory loss, delusions, hallucinations and eventually into seizures and death. What caused it was unknown but the ways that symptoms emerged and progressed was predictable and physicians were able to tell their patients they likely had it and that they had a limited amount of time to get their affairs in order before they would need increasing strong support. Such recognizable collections of symptoms with a predictable prognosis but without a known cause are called syndrome. Once the underlying causes are discovered, hopefully treatment are developed, the syndrome label is dropped, and they are referred to as illnesses or the result of identifiable neural damage. In the case of General Paresis, the underlying cause was found to be a venereal infection: Syphilis. Once treatments were developed and applied much closer to the point of initial infection, General Paresis vanished. As an aside, the realization that an underlying biological agent could produce symptoms of what was more generally referred to as Madness or Insanity was very helpful in slowly starting to shift general views of madness away from beliefs that it was the result of bad blood (genes) or a lack of character and towards the possibility that madness might be a mental illness or disease. An interesting bit of history related to abnormal psychology but a bit dated as we now have a much broader and clearer view of the causes of symptom collections, right? Well, no, not so much. In New Brunswick there have been small number of cases identified involving a collection of symptoms starting with uncharacteristic irritability, depression and anxiety, followed by pain, insomnia, loss of balance and coordination, hallucinations and in some cases Capgras syndrome (the delusional belief that loved ones have been replaced by imposters) and yes, people have died from it. The cause? Currently unknown. The belief is that an as yet unidentified environmental factor may be causally linked to this syndrome (NOT a venereal disease) but what might it be. Figuring THAT out will be an important part of coming up with a treatment and being able to suggest avoidance behavior. One early hypothesis was a version of Creutzfeldt-Jacob (Mad Cow) disease, but that does not seem to be bearing up. There are other hypotheses being investigated along with other syndromes noted historically such as one in Guam after WWII. It is frightening stuff. To find out about how this investigation to shift a syndrome over to an illness read one or two of the articles linked below and stay tuned for updates and the investigation proceeds.

Source: Various Globe and Mail and CBC Articles on Mysterious Brain Disease in New Brunswick (links below).

Date: April 24, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay Pixabay

Article Link: or or or

It may seem like situations like this one involving a rare, mysterious syndrome or unidentified brain disease are exceptionally rare given how much we know about the brain and brain-based disorder these days. Well, not to be unsettling, but a great many of the things we refer to as mental illnesses or disorders, are actually still closer to syndromes than illnesses that we would like to believe. Many of the treatment used are symptomatically focused while we continue to dig to try and find the underlying causes. Now, that said, we have a LOT more in the way of effective treatments these days than we used to but we do not have many “cures”. Keep watching, it will be interesting for quite a while yet.

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. What is a syndrome?
  2. What is the difference between a syndrome and an illness?
  3. Are the categories described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) syndromes or illnesses? Why?

References (Read Further):

Yanhua, W., Haishan, S., Le, H., Xiaomei, Z., Xinru, C., Ling, L., … & Yuping, N. (2016). Clinical and neuropsychological characteristics of general paresis misdiagnosed as primary psychiatric disease. BMC psychiatry, 16(1), 1-6. Link

Patra, S., & Mishra, A. (2010). General paresis of insane: A rarity or reality?. Industrial psychiatry journal, 19(2), 132. Link

Williams, H. S. (1892). ” Wages of Sin” General Paresis of the Insane. The North American Review, 155(433), 744-753. Link

Giménez-Roldán, S. General paresis in 1880: Jaime Vera and his contribution to neuropsychiatry. Link

Swain, K. (2018). ‘Extraordinarily arduous and fraught with danger’: syphilis, Salvarsan, and general paresis of the insane. The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(9), 702-703. Link

Poole, R. (2004). Medical diagnosis of mental illness. T. Ryan, & J. Pritchard. Good Practice in Adult Mental Health, 127-144. Link

Posted by & filed under Aggression, Persuasion, Social Cognition, Social Psychology.

Description: When social psychologists and other psychologists set up laboratory-based study to try and capture some aspects of a real-world situation or experience they are aiming to try and capture its essence or to set up a situation in the lab that contains the phenomenon of interest (they hope) but within a simplified context so that the phenomenon can be seen more clearly. The key in such research design efforts is to convince operationalize the variable or variables of interest – to model them in ways that are simple but seem clearly to involve the central features of that event in the real world. Make sense? Ok, so, this process usually starts with a real-world phenomenon and then drills down to the operationalization which is used in the more controlled laboratory and the researchers hope that as they do so they do not lose the key features of the phenomenon they are interested in studying and they hope that as they explain what they did you agree that their operationalization makes sense. Let’s see if that process works in reverse. Without know what the study is about, which is sometimes they way things are for participants in social psychology experiments, imagine that you are sitting with a social psychologist (or perhaps just in front of a screen designed by a social psychologist) as you have volunteered to be in a study on “social interactions.” It is explained to you that you are in the study situation with another person who is located elsewhere but who is tied in via the same screen you are sitting in front of. It is explained that in this version of the study an amount of money will be “put on the table” and in your part of the experiment you will be shown on screen how much the amount of money is and then the other person will decide how they think the money should be divided between the two of you and the breakdown will be shown on the screen. You then have to decide if you will accept what is being offered as your share of the money. If you accept then you get what was offered to you and the other person gets the rest. If you decline, then neither of you gets any money. Think about how you would behave in this sort of situation? What do you think is being studied? Not sure? How about if it proceeds this way. As you watch the screen the total amount of money available is shown and it is $100, not bad, huh? Shortly after the total appears the other person’s decision appears and it is that you can have $20 and they will have $80, provided you agree. You do not get to do anything but click yes or no. What would you do? What do you think the study is looking at now? Well, if you had a peak at the article title below then perhaps you saw or guessed that the study was intended to be investigating spite. Not simple spite, such as getting the money but then getting to decide how much of an electrical you delver to the “greedy” other in the study but the deeper spite where your refusal of the deal means neither of you gets anything. So, here is a question; what real-world situations involve such actions, involving spite? Think about that for a minute and then have a look through the lined article where the work of a social psychological researcher in this area is described.

Source: ‘Spite’ Looks on the Bright Side of a Dark Feeling, Sarah Lyall, The New York Times.

Date: April 20, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, did you come up with any of the real-world examples that were suggested by the researcher? Democrats voting for Trump because Clinton edged our Sanders in the primaries? The positions and voting actions of “Leavers” in Britain’s Brexit decision? And what about people who seem to be reacting to being told what to do by refusing to do something that is actually good for themselves and for others, like mask wearing during a pandemic? Or, perhaps, anyone who might be described as having martyred themselves. The martyrdom notions is perhaps the easiest way to see the line of argumentation the researcher (Simon McCarthy-Jones) is using to argue that spite can sometimes be used for good. This argument is worth some additional reflection. Both spite (“cutting off your nose to spite your face”) and martyrdom (dying or losing to draw attention to a cause that is not widely supported) have negative connotations. Perhaps “taking a principled stand” sometimes is the result of positive spin on acts of spite but I am not sure that feels right to me. I am not sure, what do you think? Maybe more research is needed; we need to know more about the context and though processes surrounding people’s decisions when “money is on the table” if we are to clearly see if there are positive facets to spite.

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. What does spite involve?
  2. How effectively does the money-split ultimatum paradigm capture spite? What is missing, if anything, from that operationalization?
  3. From a psychological point of view, how do you think spite, martyrdom, and “taking a principled stand” are related or distinguished?

References (Read Further):

McCarthy-Jones, Simon (2021) Spite: The Upside of Your Dark Side, Basic Books.

Marcus, D. K., Zeigler-Hill, V., Mercer, S. H., & Norris, A. L. (2014). The psychology of spite and the measurement of spitefulness. Psychological assessment, 26(2), 563. Link

Zeigler-Hill, V., Noser, A. E., Roof, C., Vonk, J., & Marcus, D. K. (2015). Spitefulness and moral values. Personality and Individual Differences, 77, 86-90. Link

Garofalo, C., Neumann, C. S., Zeigler-Hill, V., & Meloy, J. R. (2019). Spiteful and contemptuous: A new look at the emotional experiences related to psychopathy. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 10(2), 173. Link

Ewing, D., Zeigler-Hill, V., & Vonk, J. (2016). Spitefulness and deficits in the social–perceptual and social–cognitive components of Theory of Mind. Personality and Individual Differences, 91, 7-13. Link

Ding, Y., Wu, J., Ji, T., Chen, X., & Van Lange, P. A. (2017). The rich are easily offended by unfairness: Wealth triggers spiteful rejection of unfair offers. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 71, 138-144. Link

Kimbrough, E. O., & Reiss, J. P. (2012). Measuring the distribution of spitefulness. PloS one, 7(8), e41812. Link

Gale, J., Binmore, K. G., & Samuelson, L. (1995). Learning to be imperfect: The ultimatum game. Games and economic behavior, 8(1), 56-90. Link

Oosterbeek, H., Sloof, R., & Van De Kuilen, G. (2004). Cultural differences in ultimatum game experiments: Evidence from a meta-analysis. Experimental economics, 7(2), 171-188. Link

Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Child Development, Cognitive Development: The Information-Processing Approach, Consciousness, Learning, Motivation-Emotion.

Description: Here is a scientific creativity problem for you. What might it mean to say that, in terms of how their minds are organized and how they engage with the world, that human adults and human small children are basically different species? Puzzle on that for a little bit, drawing upon what you know or what you imagine about infants/preschooler and adults. Once you have your thoughts and hypothetical answers in mind visit the link below and listen to the thoughts on this question of Alison Gopnik, an immensely accomplished developmental researcher and thinker and the author of, among many other things, a book called The Philosophical Baby. I think you will find it fascinating!

Source: Why Adults Lose the ‘Beginners Mind,’ Allison Gopnik and Ezra Klein, The Ezra Klein Show and the New York Times.

Date: April 16, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Ajay kumar Singh from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, what did you think? Do you still ‘play’ from time to time (playing on purpose does not really count)? Can you see the adaptive value in a developmental shift from exploring to exploiting and does the Buddhist concept of a ‘Beginner’s Mind’ make sense for adults as well and children? I was also taken with Allison Gopnik discussion of how Octopi adapt to their worlds in one short year of life. If you would like to see how that works, and how having a central brain and a brain in each tentacle can invoke a balance of playing and thinking consider watch the documentary My Octopus Teacher that is nominated for an Oscar this year.

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. What does play do for small children?
  2. What can ‘play’ do for adults?
  3. How are the Beginner’s Mind, play, and the distinction between exploring and exploiting related and how does a developmental perspective help answer this question?

References (Read Further):

Gopnik, A. (2020). Childhood as a solution to explore–exploit tensions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 375(1803), 20190502. Link

Ruggeri, A., Walker, C. M., Lombrozo, T., & Gopnik, A. (2021). How to Help Young Children Ask Better Questions?. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 2908. Link

Gopnik, A. (2009). The philosophical baby: What children’s minds tell us about truth, love & the meaning of life. Random House. Article on Issue and Link

Gopnik, A. (2016). The gardener and the carpenter: What the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children. Macmillan. Review

Glausiusz, J. (2016). Child development: A cognitive case for un‑parenting. Nature, 536(7614), 27-28. Link

Soule, J. (2007). Beginner’s mind. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 13(2), 50-55. Link

Younie, L. (2017). Beginner’s mind. London journal of primary care, 9(6), 83-85. Link

Posted by & filed under Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience, Social Cognition.

Description: I am certain that if you heard a scream, you would pay attention to it. However, do you think you would direct different levels of attention to screams of different types? Not sure about what the different types might be? Well, there are, of course, screams of fear or terror but there are also screams of surprise and screams of joy (think lottery wins, seeing old friends, finding a lost kitten). Which type or types of screams do you think we usually process most quickly and efficiently and what might be the evolutionary value in that? Once you have answer, theory and arguments in order read the article linked below to se the rather surprising (to me at least) results of a recent study on this very question.

Source: Joyful screams perceived more strongly than screams of fear or anger, ScienceDaily.

Date: April 13, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Layers from Pixabay

Article Link:

So why might screams of joy be processed so effectively and efficiently in our brains? Wouldn’t it make sense evolutionarily to be primed to process and respond to screams of fear or warning most efficiently? Perhaps the complex nature of human evolution means that there is more to how we respond to screams than simple fight/flight. Think about the implications of a scream of Eureka! That might be rather attention grabbing.

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. Which sorts of screams do our brains respond to most effectively or efficiently?
  2. What value might there be in having an efficient brain response to screams other than screams of fear or pain?
  3. How might the scream responses examined in the research presented in the linked article relate to the evolution of our brains?

References (Read Further): Frühholz, S., Dietziker, J., Staib, M., & Trost, W. (2021). Neurocognitive processing efficiency for discriminating human non-alarm rather than alarm scream calls. PLoS biology, 19(4), e3000751. Link

Arnold, K., & Bar-On, D. (2020). Primate pragmatics, expressive behavior, and the evolution of language. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 7(2), 117-130. Link

Fischer, J. (2017). Primate vocal production and the riddle of language evolution. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 24(1), 72-78. Link

Bryant, G. A. (2020). The evolution of human vocal emotion. Emotion Review, 1754073920930791. Link

Engelberg, J. W., Schwartz, J. W., & Gouzoules, H. (2019). Do human screams permit individual recognition?. PeerJ, 7, e7087. Link

Rakici, S. Y., & Karaman, E. (2019). Colorful screams of silent emotions: A study with oncological patients. Indian journal of palliative care, 25(3), 361. Link

Frühholz, S., Dietziker, J., Staib, M., & Trost, W. (2020). Neurocognitive processing efficiency for non-alarm rather than alarm signaling in human scream calls. bioRxiv. Link


Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Health Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Consciousness, Motivation-Emotion, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: How are your dreams these days? Not so good? Rather frightening? Does it make sense to say that the unsettling nature of your dreams are, in some way or ways, tied to our current Covid circumstances? If that makes sense, what is the mechanism by which our dreams are influenced by our current socially limited Covid reality? What is your theory of dreams? What would your theory suggest you to in order to improve the quality of your dreams these days, or at least to reduce the negative aspects of your dreams? Once you have put your thoughts and hypothesis in order have a read through the article linked below and pay attention to the extent to which it does or does not speak to these questions in ways that satisfy your psychological scientific curiosity.

Source: Dreams during the pandemic driven by anxiety: Psychologist, Adrian McMorris, Global News.

Date: April 11, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Elf-Moondance from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, did the article address the points of your theory and match with your intervention hypotheses? Did it raise any additional questions? There may well be something to the idea that our emotions, particularly our emotions just prior to sleep, influence out dreams. The article is written from a clinical perspective and is offering potentially useful suggestions for people who are experiencing anxiety linked dreams. The article does not provide research linked to the dream theory and intervention suggestions offered. For that, if you are interested, you can check out some of the research articles listed below. I have also put in a couple of links to articles on lucid dreaming or the ability to become aware of the fact that you are dreaming while you are dreaming and to potentially be able to direct your actions in your dreams. Fascinating stuff especially as our opportunities to get out into the world are limited these days.!

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. How might anxiety and other emotions be linked to our dreams?
  2. What does the psychologist quoted in the linked article suggest people do to improve the emotional quality of their dreams these days??
  3. What sorts of things do you think you might try in  relation to your dreams after having read the linked article?

References (Read Further):

Baird, B., Mota-Rolim, S. A., & Dresler, M. (2019). The cognitive neuroscience of lucid dreaming. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 100, 305-323. Link

Vallat, R., & Ruby, P. M. (2019). Is it a good idea to cultivate lucid dreaming?. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2585. Link

Gott, J., Bovy, L., Peters, E., Tzioridou, S., Meo, S., Demirel, Ç., … & Dresler, M. (2021). Virtual reality training of lucid dreaming. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 376(1817), 20190697. Link

de Macêdo, T. C. F., Ferreira, G. H., de Almondes, K. M., Kirov, R., & Mota-Rolim, S. A. (2019). My dream, my rules: can lucid dreaming treat nightmares?. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2618. Link

Mota-Rolim, S. A. (2020). On moving the eyes to flag lucid dreaming. Frontiers in neuroscience, 14. Link

Soffer-Dudek, N. (2020). Are lucid dreams good for Us? Are we asking the right question? A call for caution in lucid dream research. Frontiers in neuroscience, 13, 1423. Link

Denis, D., & Poerio, G. L. (2017). Terror and bliss? Commonalities and distinctions between sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, and their associations with waking life experiences. Journal of sleep research, 26(1), 38-47. Link

Schredl, M., & Bulkeley, K. (2020). Dreaming and the COVID-19 pandemic: A survey in a US sample. Dreaming, 30(3), 189. Link

Sikka, P., Pesonen, H., & Revonsuo, A. (2018). Peace of mind and anxiety in the waking state are related to the affective content of dreams. Scientific reports, 8(1), 1-13. Link

Eichenlaub, J. B., van Rijn, E., Phelan, M., Ryder, L., Gaskell, M. G., Lewis, P. A., … & Blagrove, M. (2019). The nature of delayed dream incorporation (‘dream‐lag effect’): Personally significant events persist, but not major daily activities or concerns. Journal of sleep research, 28(1), e12697. Link

Samson-Daoust, E., Julien, S. H., Beaulieu-Prévost, D., & Zadra, A. (2019). Predicting the affective tone of everyday dreams: A prospective study of state and trait variables. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-10. Link

Conte, F., Cellini, N., De Rosa, O., Caputo, A., Malloggi, S., Coppola, A., … & Ficca, G. (2020). Relationships between Dream and Previous Wake Emotions Assessed through the Italian Modified Differential Emotions Scale. Brain sciences, 10(10), 690. Link


Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Consciousness, Development of the Self, mental illness, Motivation-Emotion, Psychological Disorders, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: I am sure you know about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or, what used to be called, multiple personality disorder. Is is also quite likely that you owe your understanding of the disorder to popularized accounts in books and films like the three faces of Eve or Sybil. Would it surprise you to read that there is currently something of a debate raging regarding DID with one side arguing that it is underdiagnosed as a disorder and the other arguing that it is largely manufactured by therapists’ hints and suggestions coupled with clients’ desires to please their therapists? A polarized, one might say a multiple personality, debate for sure. Think a bit about what sorts of arguments or data the debate might be turning on and, once you have your thoughts in order read the article linked below which covers something of the history of this debate starting back oner 100 years ago with a couple of early historic cases.

Source: Identity Crisis, 1906. Catherine Offord, The Scientist.

Date: March 1, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, the accounts of possible cases of DID do sound more like novels or film plots that clinical case studies. Add in the scores on indicators of suggestibility are strongly related to displays of DID symptoms and things get quite interesting. It is very important to keep in mind when considering this debate that it is far too simple to suggest that some or many individuals might be ‘faking’ their symptoms. If you are able to put that hypothesis aside then the DID debates get quite interesting. Questions regarding the nature if DID relate to questions like what is going on with people who are or appear to be in hypnotic states or what is going on when people use Ouija boards while convinced that despite the fact that their fingers are on the Ouija, they are NOT causing it to move. Fascinating data about the human mind and experience but not quite what we think is going on.

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. Is DID or multiple personality disorder real?
  2. What sort of research or experimental design might you use to address the first question above?
  3. What are the alternate theories about DID that are being debated?

References (Read Further):

Brand, B. L., Sar, V., Stavropoulos, P., Krüger, C., Korzekwa, M., Martínez-Taboas, A., & Middleton, W. (2016). Separating Fact from Fiction: An Empirical Examination of Six Myths About Dissociative Identity Disorder. Harvard review of psychiatry. Link

Hanson, Cynthia (1998) Dangerous Therapy: The Story of Patricia Burgus and Multiple Personality Disorder, Chicago Magazine, Link

Neary, Lynn (2011) Real ‘Sybil’ Admits Multiple Personalities Were Fake Link

Nathan, D. (2011). Sybil exposed: The extraordinary story behind the famous multiple personality case. Simon and Schuster. Review Link

Paris, J. (2012). The rise and fall of dissociative identity disorder. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 200(12), 1076-1079. Link

Gillig, P. M. (2009). Dissociative identity disorder: A controversial diagnosis. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 6(3), 24. Link

Loewenstein, R. J. (2007). Dissociative identity disorder: Issues in the iatrogenesis controversy. In E. Vermetten, M. Dorahy, & D. Spiegel (Eds.), Traumatic dissociation: Neurobiology and treatment (p. 275–299). American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. Link

Piper, A., & Merskey, H. (2004). The persistence of folly: A critical examination of dissociative identity disorder. Part I. The excesses of an improbable concept. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(9), 592-600. Link