Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Memory, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Cognition, Social Psychology.

Description: Consider the best (fairest and most accurate) way to gather information from eyewitnesses. Specifically, think about the standard police procedure of using line-ups in which, usually, 6 individuals are lined up on the other side of a one way window or 6 photos are gathered together and possible witnesses to a crime are asked to look and say if one of the people in the line-up or photo array was the person (perpetrator) the witness may have observed at the crime scene or committing the crime. What have you heard of in the way of research (not necessarily what you have seen in police shows on TV) about the ways such lieu -ups can or should be done in order to limit false-positives (in which someone is identified but who was not actually the perpetrator) or false negatives, (where the perpetrator is there but not identified)? In the case of false-negatives, fewer such memory errors have been shown to occur when the line-up is sequential (each of 6 people or photos are viewed one at a time on their own) as opposed to simultaneously (all 6 people or photos viewed at once). Now think about how this might play out over time. In many cases involving line-ups witnesses are asked to pick out the assailant or perpetrator a number of times (e.g., early in investigations, in preparation for trial and again during in-court eyewitness testimony). Can you think of some eye-witness memory issues that may arise in relation to such time/timeline scenarios? Once you have your hypothesis in order ready the article linked below that describes some research in this exact question.

Source: One and Done: Researchers Urge Test Eyewitness Memory Only Once, Association for Psychological Science.

Date: November 3, 2021

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, did the “that person looks familiar” effect of multiple instances of the “same” eyewitness assessment occur to you as a problem? The research and the specific case example provided in the article make it clear that is an issue that, like the sequential/simultaneous presentation issue described above should be used (along with supporting research) to review and perhaps reconsider how eyewitness identifications are handled withing the justice system.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the differences between a sequential and simultaneous line-up (which is better)?
  2. How do current practices in eye-witness report management effect the validity of those reports?
  3. What might justice system practice guidelines for managing eyewitness reports look like if the research discussed in the linked article is seriously considered?

References (Read Further):

Wixted, J. T., Wells, G. L., Loftus, E. F., & Garrett, B. L. (2021). Test a witness’s memory of a suspect only once. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 22(1_suppl), 1S-18S. Link

Lindsay, R. C., & Wells, G. L. (1985). Improving eyewitness identifications from lineups: Simultaneous versus sequential lineup presentation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70(3), 556. Link

Wells, G. L., Rydell, S. M., & Seelau, E. P. (1993). The selection of distractors for eyewitness lineups. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78(5), 835. Link

Lee, J., & Penrod, S. D. (2019). New signal detection theory-based framework for eyewitness performance in lineups. Law and human behavior, 43(5), 436. Link

Fitzgerald, R. J., Price, H. L., & Valentine, T. (2018). Eyewitness identification: Live, photo, and video lineups. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 24(3), 307. Link

Oriet, C., & Fitzgerald, R. J. (2018). The single lineup paradigm: A new way to manipulate target presence in eyewitness identification experiments. Law and Human Behavior, 42(1), 1. Link

Smith, A. M., Smalarz, L., Ditchfield, R., & Ayala, N. T. (2021). Evaluating the claim that high confidence implies high accuracy in eyewitness identification. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Link

Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Memory, Sensation-Perception.

Description: Imagine you are chatting with one of your grandparents about a trip you took with them last summer and you are reminiscing about a stop you made at a bakery, and they are saying they still remember the taste of the peanut butter cookie they had while you were there. In thinking about that event, you are certain that your grandparent actually had a chocolate chip cookie. You wonder if their memory failure is a symptom of possible more serious memory issues. How worried should you be? Think a bit about that and then read the article linked below to see if it offers you confirmation of your new concerns or reassurance that all is likely quite well with your grand parent’s memory.

Source: Misremembering might actually be a sign your memory is working optimally, Robert Jacobs, The Conversation.

Date: November 19, 2021

Image by Ylanite from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, the fact that your grandparent had a cookie they very much enjoyed at the bakery stop last summer is the gist of the memory, and likely the most important part of that even for them. As such, the author of the linked article suggests, the fact that the cookie they actually had was really different that what they recall is not really important and their memory may be functioning just fine. A good thing to keep in mind as you think about how we think and how our memory works is that we are limited, as in, the amount and breadth of information that we can take in or call up from memory and keep in mind as we try to solve problems is limited and so while we may make optimal decisions they may not be perfect decisions due to the constraints on our cognitive and memory systems. The type of cookie was perhaps NOT the important part of the memory your grandparent had of the enjoyable bakery visit they had with you last summer and that is not only fine, it is likely optimal from a memory perspective.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is forgetting details of past events a sign of age-related memory deterioration?
  2. What is the gist of a past event and how is it different from the details of that event?
  3. Explain why it might not just be fine that your grandparent got the cookie type wrong in their memory but that it might actually suggest their memory is working optimally?

References (Read Further):

Lieder, F., & Griffiths, T. L. (2020). Resource-rational analysis: Understanding human cognition as the optimal use of limited computational resources. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43. Link

Sims, C. R., Jacobs, R. A., & Knill, D. C. (2012). An ideal observer analysis of visual working memory. Psychological review, 119(4), 807. Link

Hayhoe, M. M., Bensinger, D. G., & Ballard, D. H. (1998). Task constraints in visual working memory. Vision research, 38(1), 125-137. Link

Bates, C. J., & Jacobs, R. A. (2020). Efficient data compression in perception and perceptual memory. Psychological review, 127(5), 891. Link

Gershman, S. J. (2021). Resource-rational decision making Rahul Bhui, Lucy Lai 2 and Samuel J Gershman 3, 4. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 41, 15-21. Link

Ruel, A., Devine, S., & Eppinger, B. (2021). Resource‐rational approach to meta‐control problems across the lifespan. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 12(5), e1556. Link

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Child Development, Depression, Families and Peers, Human Development, Motivation-Emotion.

Description: What is up with kids these days? Ok, I know, an old question asked over and over generation by generation. But what about parents? Quick, without asking any other adults what they think answer these questions? What is the main goal of parenting these days? Is part of it that parents should be working towards making their children happy? Why or why not? Ok, now you can ask a couple of other adults (of largely different ages) to see if the answers they give are different or similar to yours. Can you see any ways in which being a parent these days is perhaps different than it was in previous generations? Now have a read through the interview with Dr. Becky and see what she suggests (oh, and have a close look at the marginal notes that describe recent research findings on these questions).

Source: Dr. Becky Doesn’t Think the Goal of Parenting Is to Make Your Kid Happy, Talk, The New York Times Magazine.

Date: November 14, 2021

Image by smpratt90 from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, does the notion of being a “Good Enough” parent sounds reasonable, or does it sound like a description of a sub-optimal form of parenting? If you lean towards the latter interpretation, how do you square that with the consistent finding that depression and anxiety rates and levels among children and young adults are significantly higher these days compared to previous generations? In the face of the mountain of parenting and related self-help books and websites aimed at helping parents to critique and improve their parenting mojo perhaps considering work by researchers like Michael Unger who points out that the self-help juggernaut has, over recent years, consistently sharpened its focus on within-individual causes and reasons for sub-optimal living, growth and wellbeing. Unger suggests we need to balance and perhaps even rolling back this individual focus with a look at the circumstances, situations, and the worlds in which people are living today. It may be that some of how to better parent (support) developing children might involve less of a focus on happiness (as Dr. Becky suggests) and more of a focus on adjusting the environments (the worlds) to which children are adapting.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might a focus on children’s happiness be different than how parents used to go about raising their children?
  2. How might it be that there has been, in recent years, an increase in time with and attention paid to children by their parents while at the same time there has been an increase in child, teen, and emerging adult levels of anxiety and depression?
  3. Based on the issues discussed in the linked interview/article what advice or guidance would you offer to new parents about how to take up the parenting tasks and responsibilities?

References (Read Further):

Hoghughi, M., & Speight, A. N. P. (1998). Good enough parenting for all children—a strategy for a healthier society. Archives of disease in childhood, 78(4), 293-296. Link

Armstrong, M. I., Birnie-Lefcovitch, S., & Ungar, M. T. (2005). Pathways between social support, family well being, quality of parenting, and child resilience: What we know. Journal of child and family studies, 14(2), 269-281. Link

Ungar, M., Ghazinour, M., & Richter, J. (2013). Annual research review: What is resilience within the social ecology of human development?. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 54(4), 348-366. Link

Ungar, M. (2012). Social ecologies and their contribution to resilience. In The social ecology of resilience (pp. 13-31). Springer, New York, NY. Link

Guryan, J., Hurst, E., & Kearney, M. (2008). Parental education and parental time with children. Journal of Economic perspectives, 22(3), 23-46. Link

Amirah, S. 6 Things Children Shouldn’t Be Responsible For. Link

Craig, L., Powell, A., & Smyth, C. (2014). Towards intensive parenting? Changes in the composition and determinants of mothers’ and fathers’ time with children 1992–2006. The British journal of sociology, 65(3), 555-579. Link

Long, N. (2004). The changing nature of parenting in America. Pediatric Dentistry, 26(2), 121-124. Link

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Clinical Neuropsychology, Death and Dying, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples.

Description: Consider these two questions for a moment. 1. Who uses cannabis, psilocybin, or LSD? and 2. Who should (under a doctor’s supervision) use cannabis, psilocybin, or LSD? Unless your answer to the second question is “Anyone who wants to” the number of people, if any, that you have in your second list will likely be shorter than the number of people in your first list/answer. Certainly, typical answers to thee questions as they relate to cannabis have shifted in countries like Canada where the use of cannabis has been legalized. What about psilocybin (magic mushrooms)? They have been largely viewed as an illegal recreational drug. However, recently, research has been conducted and arguments have been mounted suggesting that psilocybin could have a powerful medicinal role to play in end-of-life palliative care for some terminally ill individuals. You can read about that in the article linked below and in some of the article in the Further Reading section down below. Before you do, or before you decide this is not something to consider and move on, think for a minute about the slightly less recent shift of cannabis from an illegal recreational drug to a drug that could be taken for medical purposes as prescribed by a physician following and number of regulatory shifts to the legal substance it is today in many jurisdictions. Yes, some of those shifts are due to increases in recreational freedoms but SOME are due to the recognition of research supported medical applications. Under what circumstances or situations might psilocybin merit similar treatment? Read the linked article to see what some researchers and clinicians think (and see a bit of the data they have gathered along the way).

Source: Medical psilocybin use should be decided by patient and their doctor, not the government, Bruce Tobin, The Globe and Mail.

Date: November 14, 2021

Image by Adege from Pixabay

Article Link:

Did your thoughts about the should question above shift at all after reading the article? What other information/data did you feel you might want to see before or as you considered shifting your perspective? The idea that a recreational substance might have clinical/medicinal possibilities is not one that arises easily given the hard legal line drawn between legal and illegal substances but, assuming there is good research being done, it is a line that may deserve to be reconsidered from time to time and situation by situation.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Does it make sense to argue that there may be medicinal benefits to some, or perhaps many, substances that have been or are considered illegal?
  2. What sorts of research needs to be done if we are to systematically address the previous question?
  3. The author of the linked article argues for the consideration of the use of psilocybin to be viewed as a matter between a (terminally ill) patient and their physician. What sorts of research, guidelines, and controls would need to be in place if this were to be attempted (or should it be attempted)?

References (Read Further):

Dyck, Erika (2020) Are Canadian ready to accept psychedelics in palliative care? The Globe and Mail. Link

Byock, I. (2018). Taking psychedelics seriously. Journal of palliative medicine, 21(4), 417-421. Link

Kelmendi, B., Corlett, P., Ranganathan, M., D’Souza, C., & Krystal, J. H. (2016). The role of psychedelics in palliative care reconsidered: A case for psilocybin. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1212-1214. Link

Doblin, R. E., Christiansen, M., Jerome, L., & Burge, B. (2019). The past and future of psychedelic science: an introduction to this issue. Link

Rosenbaum, D., Boyle, A. B., Rosenblum, A. M., Ziai, S., & Chasen, M. R. (2019). Psychedelics for psychological and existential distress in palliative and cancer care. Current Oncology, 26(4), 225-226. Link

Penn, A. D., Phelps, J., Rosa, W. E., & Watson, J. (2021). Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy Practices and Human Caring Science: Toward a Care-Informed Model of Treatment. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 00221678211011013. Link

Payne, J. E., Chambers, R., & Liknaitzky, P. (2021). Combining psychedelic and mindfulness interventions: Synergies to inform clinical practice. ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science, 4(2), 416-423. Link

Reiff, C. M., Richman, E. E., Nemeroff, C. B., Carpenter, L. L., Widge, A. S., Rodriguez, C. I., … & Work Group on Biomarkers and Novel Treatments, a Division of the American Psychiatric Association Council of Research. (2020). Psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. American Journal of Psychiatry, 177(5), 391-410. Link

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

Description: Ok here is a question. What do tool use and spoken language syntax have in common? No idea? I do not blame you. What if I provided you with a hint (a bit of data) suggesting that the two are correlated AND that training in one of them (tool use OR processing complex spoken language syntax) leads to improvement in the other? Remember if two things are correlated it may be that one causes the other OR it may be that they are both caused by or linked to a third thing. As it is very hard to imagine how tool use proficiency changes might cause linguistic syntax proficiency changes think about what the third thing that influences both might be and then read the article linked below to see what researchers suggest.

Source: Using mechanical tools improves our language skills, study finds, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 11, 2021

Image by SandeepHanda from Pixabay

Article Link:

It may be a bit baffling to try and figure out why it might be that tool use and syntax proficiency are controlled by the same region in the brain and the researchers who demonstrated the connection are not forthcoming with an explanation other than to point to it in their data. Now, while going beyond one’s data is considered poor form or poor scientific practice, think about what an explanation might involve. How about this. Tool use (by humans and chimpanzees and crows and other species) is discussed and studied historically with as much intensity as is the evolutionary emergence and development of spoken communication. Perhaps it would help to see spoken language for what it is… a VERY powerful tool.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the relationship between tool use and syntactic proficiency observed in the research discussed in the linked article?
  2. What might training with tool use improve syntactic proficiency and vise verse?
  3. What are several clinical/therapeutic application possibilities of the finding you discussed in response to the previous question?

References (Read Further):

Simon Thibault, Raphaël Py, Angelo Mattia Gervasi, Romeo Salemme, Eric Koun, Martin Lövden, Véronique Boulenger, Alice C. Roy, Claudio Brozzoli. Tool use and language share syntactic processes and neural patterns in the basal ganglia. Science, 2021; 374 (6569) Link

Boesch, C., & Boesch, H. (1990). Tool use and tool making in wild chimpanzees. Folia primatologica, 54(1-2), 86-99. Link

Johnson-Frey, S. H. (2004). The neural bases of complex tool use in humans. Trends in cognitive sciences, 8(2), 71-78. Link

Goldenberg, G., & Spatt, J. (2009). The neural basis of tool use. Brain, 132(6), 1645-1655. Link

Krützen, M., Mann, J., Heithaus, M. R., Connor, R. C., Bejder, L., & Sherwin, W. B. (2005). Cultural transmission of tool use in bottlenose dolphins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102(25), 8939-8943. Link

Ackermann, H., Hage, S. R., & Ziegler, W. (2014). Brain mechanisms of acoustic communication in humans and nonhuman primates: An evolutionary perspective. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 37(6), 529-546. Link

Fitch, W. T. (2000). The evolution of speech: a comparative review. Trends in cognitive sciences, 4(7), 258-267. Link

Steele, J., Ferrari, P. F., & Fogassi, L. (2012). From action to language: comparative perspectives on primate tool use, gesture and the evolution of human language. Link

Sterelny, K. (2012). Language, gesture, skill: the co-evolutionary foundations of language. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367(1599), 2141-2151. Link

Herrmann, E., Call, J., Hernández-Lloreda, M. V., Hare, B., & Tomasello, M. (2007). Humans have evolved specialized skills of social cognition: The cultural intelligence hypothesis. science, 317(5843), 1360-1366. Link

Posted by & filed under Eating Disorders, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience, Personality, Stress Coping - Health, The Self.

Description: There have been millions of words written, spoken, and even yelled, about how to lose weight, about how many, many of us in North American MUST lose weight and about how failure of weight loss efforts, or failure to sustain weight loss, likely reflects a lack of will power on the part of the failed losers (a phrase interpreted widely and harshly). What comes to mind when you think about these areas of media chatter? What have you heard or what do you believe is behind the high levels of obesity? Have you heard of the TV show The Biggest Loser and if so have you heard, or what do you think is, the most typical longer term outcome for those who participate in and “do well” on the show? Is key to weight loss eating fewer carbs? Eating less fat? Simply eating less? What do you think would happen, longer term, if a sample of people agreed to spending 8 months, hospitalized and on a low-calorie liquid diet for 8 months and who, at the end of 8 months had lost an average of 100 pounds? “They gained it all, and in some cases more, back,” would be the right answer but would a lack of will power be the explanation? What about a group of people who, as due to cultural norms that highly value an overweight body image, spend weeks “overeating” by a significant amount? Would they keep the weight that they gain? The answer is no. Think about what might be the common causal denominator in these two scenarios involving significant weight loss or weight gain respectively and then, with your hypotheses in mind, read the article linked below to see what researchers have to say.

Source: Don’t blame fat. Don’t Blame carbs. Blame your brain for your weight-loss troubles, Mark Schatzker, The Globe and Mail.

Date: November 14, 2021

Image by Bru-nO from Pixabay

Article Link:

You may have heard previously about the tendency for our bodies (brains) to adjust our metabolisms when they encounter the “famine” of a weight-loss program involving food (calorie or carbs or fat) restrictions. The article suggests that these mechanisms work BOTH ways (with weight loss AND weight) gain to maintain a weight set-point. What is missing from the linked article? Well, its last one suggests it. “… only by understanding that hidden aspect of ourselves [the brain control of weight] can we hope to at last eat well and be well.” More research IS needed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the key to effective weight loss (fat intake, carbohydrate intake, total calorie intact and will power)?
  2. If one of the above choices does not fit, what does?
  3. Outline some research strategies that would potentially begin to shed some light on the brain mechanisms in weight monitoring and suggest strategies to effective adjust weight over time and stabilize those changes longer term?

References (Read Further):

Glucksman, M. L., & Hirsch, J. (1968). The response of obese patients to weight reduction: a clinical evaluation of behavior. Psychosomatic Medicine, 30(1), 1-11. Link

Kolata, G. (2007). Genes Take Charge, and Diets Fall by the Wayside. New York Times, 5(8), 2007. Link

Kolata, G. (2016). After ‘the biggest loser,’their bodies fought to regain weight. New York Times, 2. Link

Hall, K. D., & Guo, J. (2017). Obesity energetics: body weight regulation and the effects of diet composition. Gastroenterology, 152(7), 1718-1727. Link

De Garine, I., & Koppert, G. J. (1991). Guru‐fattening sessions among the Massa. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 25(1), 1-28. Link

Makaronidis, J. M., & Batterham, R. L. (2018). Obesity, body weight regulation and the brain: insights from fMRI. The British journal of radiology, 91(1089), 20170910. Link

Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). The pleasure of food: underlying brain mechanisms of eating and other pleasures. Flavour, 4(1), 1-12. Link

Szabo-Reed, A. N., Breslin, F. J., Lynch, A. M., Patrician, T. M., Martin, L. E., Lepping, R. J., … & Savage, C. R. (2015). Brain function predictors and outcome of weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Contemporary clinical trials, 40, 218-231. Link

Kotz, C., Nixon, J., Butterick, T., Perez-Leighton, C., Teske, J., & Billington, C. (2012). Brain orexin promotes obesity resistance. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1264(1), 72. Link

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Anxiety OC PTSD, Child Development, Early Social and Emotional development, General Psychology, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Motivation-Emotion, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: The self-help book literature and on-line jungle is HUGE. The supply of and demand for “how to live better” advice seem insatiable, but you will not be at all surprised to hear that a lot of it does not actually work very well. You can find out about some of this by reading what I have to say below and by looking through some of the linked articles in the Further Reading section further below. That said, are there examples of self-help books that have had significant positive impacts on how people manage in the world in ways that have at least some endorsements from therapists who are in that very business (of helping people live better, more positive, less troubled, lives)? Well, here is one. Have you heard about Adult Attachment and if so, where from? Developmental accounts of the formation of attachment relationships between infants and their caregivers/parents have been around for a quite a while. More recently (late 1980’s and 1990’s see examples in Further Reading) researchers started to suggest that one could see relationships patterns in adult relationships that seemed to map back to the basic attachment types from the early developmental research. Do Secure, Avoidant and Insecure attachment types sound familiar? In 2010 research into this theory that early attachment relationships influence how later relationships are experienced were collected into a book called Attached (Levine and Heller, 2010). Rather than being a passing fad as have many self-help books, Attached did well and had legs with its sales growing though word of mouth and therapist recommendations and spiked significantly during the isolation phase of the Covid pandemic which amplified many peoples’ examination of their relationship processes and status. Think about why this might be and think about whether or not it is/was a good thing and then read the article linked below to se what a number of researchers, therapists and even one of the authors of the book itself have had to say on these questions recently.

Source: Are You Anxious, Avoidant or Secure? Foster Kamer, The New York Times.

Date: November 6, 2021

Image by jonathan_10_21_6 from Pixabay

Article Link:

Yes, reality and relationships are complicated and nuanced and not likely to be tidily boiled down to just three types or styles. However, research supported accounts of the possible ways in which early relationship experiences could set some basic parameters (think of the common self-help term, baggage) for how subsequent relationships might tend to go (note the tentative wording here) might be good food for reflective though and suggest possible routes to more positive life experiences. Such reflections need and should not involve simply accepting what type of person you are as far as relationships are concerned but, rather to experiencing a broadening of your reflective perspective such that you may start to see more ways forward. Sound like therapy? Well, yes because therapy and good/positive self-help involves insight and commitments to self-work, change and acceptance. So, by all means read the book and possibly find out some things about your past relationship experiences but then use that insight to think a bit about how you are going to move forward. This could lead you to seek psycho-therapeutic support, but it could also lead you to think a bit, to talk with friends and relations a bit and sort out some of your relationship complexity and nuance and THAT is positive self-help.

What should you look for in a self-help book? Here are some things to consider (from Weiten, Dunn & Hammer, 2018):

  1. Look for books or website that do not promise too much. It will take longer than a few minutes and a chapter-read to fix things that matter.
  2. Look to see if the person or person’s writing the book or constructing the site have good credentials as in have they done research, have they done therapy (that was successful), are they open to research by others that might be relevant?
  3. Is there some sort of research base to what is being claimed or promoted? They do not have to walk you through all of their research support, but it should be possible to see that they have some and that you could go and look at it is you are interested. In other words, they are not just making it up.
  4. Look for books and sites that provide you with clear instructions as exactly what you should do to effect change in the area of interest. If they, DO it is likely because they have done their research and are talking about things that have been shown to work consistently with real people. If they DON’T then you will not know exactly what to do and all that will move you forward is wishful thinking (which is only a tiny part of positive life growth or change).
  5. Look for books or sites that are not trying to over-reach. In other words, look for things that are rather specific in what they will help you with as opposed to approaches that claim they will change your entire life. Effective life changes and developments start of focused and are incremental from there, meaning that while they may become life changing over time they do NOT start that way.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Were you aware of the “adult attachment types” model before reading this article? If so, even if not by name, where did you find out about it?
  2. How important is the concern that the attachment type model does not incorporate the complexity or nuances of adult relationships?
  3. What advice would you offer to a friend who tells you they have just heard about the book (Attached) and say they hope that reading it will fix their relationships?

References (Read Further):

Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2010). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and how it Can Help You Find–and Keep–love. Penguin.

Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of personality and social psychology, 52(3), 511. Link

Bergsma, A. (2008). Do self-help books help?. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(3), 341-360. Link

Rosen, G. M. (1987). Self-help treatment books and the commercialization of psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 42(1), 46. Link

Anderson, L., Lewis, G., Araya, R., Elgie, R., Harrison, G., Proudfoot, J., … & Williams, C. (2005). Self-help books for depression: how can practitioners and patients make the right choice?. British Journal of General Practice, 55(514), 387-392. Link

Redding, R. E., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., & Gaudiano, B. A. (2008). Popular self-help books for anxiety, depression, and trauma: How scientifically grounded and useful are they? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(5), 537. Link

Mickelson, K. D., Kessler, R. C., & Shaver, P. R. (1997). Adult attachment in a nationally representative sample. Journal of personality and social psychology, 73(5), 1092. Link

Ravitz, P., Maunder, R., Hunter, J., Sthankiya, B., & Lancee, W. (2010). Adult attachment measures: A 25-year review. Journal of psychosomatic research, 69(4), 419-432. Link

Stein, H., Koontz, A. D., Fonagy, P., Allen, J. G., Fultz, J., Brethour Jr, J. R., … & Evans, R. B. (2002). Adult attachment: What are the underlying dimensions?. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 75(1), 77-91. Link

Coan, J. A. (2010). Adult attachment and the brain. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27(2), 210-217. Link

Weiten, D.S. Dunn, E. and Hammer, Y.  (2018) Psychology Applied to Modern Life, Cengage.

Posted by & filed under Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Cultural Variation, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Group Processes, Health Psychology, Intergroup Relations, Neuroscience, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: What does sitting around a campfire with friends do for you? Yes, it can keep you warm, it can give you something to do after dark when camping with minimal artificial light, it can give you a chance to exchange scary stories but what can it also do for your physical and possibly mental health? Also, if it has positive effects, why might they be? Think about what might be at play and perhaps consider that the word evolutionary is in the title of the linked article. Once you have your fire-side psychology story sketched out, have a read through the article linked below to see if there are things you might consider adding or changing for the next time you are around a fire.

Source: The Evolutionary Reason Why We Love Sitting by a Crackling Fire, Carolyn Gregoire, The Huffington Post.

Date: November 5, 2021

Image by Natasha G from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, did your campfire story include the lowering of blood pressure and the multiplier effect of sociability? Often when we are wondering about evolutionary influences on how we respond to current stresses or challenges such a work pressure, financial issues, or political situations we have to extrapolate from the forces that shaped our evolutionary pasts to or current realities. We often hear that the sorts of stressors that we are evolutionarily prepared to encounter and to cope with (intense, short-term challenges) are different than the stressors we contend with today (moderate and long term). When we are discussing the effect of fire, we are actually looking at what many anthropologists suggest is one of the two most powerful shaping forces in our evolutionary past (language being the other). Spoken language made it possible for us to share individual experiences and wisdom within and across groups as well as making it possible to talk and speculate outside of the immediate here and now, making planning and strategizing possible and bringing and holding groups together. Fire (the control of fire) allowed us to cook our food and if you think that may not be such a big deal read the article linked below in the further reading section on what is involved in eating like a chimpanzee.  Fire provided warmth, security/protection, and extra hours in what would otherwise be total darkness. Those extra hours, drawn close to our “in group” around the fire allowed for the sharing of stories, tales, information, warnings, and wisdom and energized our theories of mind (understanding that others’ experiences and thoughts may be different than our own). As another of the linked articles in the Further Reading section suggests, such regular around-a-fire-gatherings served as foundational to the formation and extension of culture, of our ways of being, living and knowing (what we talked about during the day was likely different than what we talked about around the fire, see the linked article about this in further reading). Given all of this is it any surprise at all that we calm down and our blood pressure (all brainstem controlled, and fight/flight linked) improve as we sit around a fire? Perhaps we should do so more often!?! Oh, and if you are worried that having a real fire will contribute to global warming and climate change consider this: there may well be powerful individual and social benefits to sharing a fire. As well, I have looked into it and the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by a single campfire is equal to about the weight of the wood burned (about 30 to 40 pounds) and a very well-reviewed company like sells carbon offsets for $20 (Canadian) a metric tonne which means that a campfire would cost you between 25 and 35 cents. So, I have already purchased my first tonne of offsets and am looking forward to sharing a few fires with anyone who would like to come by and sit and share in a re-humanizing experience … it is in our genes!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the benefits of sitting around a fire shown by the linked research article?
  2. What sorts of things might be seen as possible positive impacts of language and fire on human society/culture?
  3. How might we utilize campfires today as part of mental health, wellness and resilience (and social stability)?

References (Read Further):

Dana Lynn, C. (2014). Hearth and campfire influences on arterial blood pressure: defraying the costs of the social brain through fireside relaxation. Evolutionary Psychology, 12(5), 147470491401200509. Link

Wiessner, P. W. (2014). Embers of society: Firelight talk among the Ju/’hoansi Bushmen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(39), 14027-14035. Link

Adler, Jerry (2013) Why Fire Makes Us Human, Smithsonian Magazine, Link

Dunbar, R. I. (2014). How conversations around campfires came to be. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(39), 14013-14014. Link

Dunbar, R. I. M. (2017). Breaking bread: the functions of social eating. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 3(3), 198-211. Link

Fitch, W. T. (2005). The evolution of language: a comparative review. Biology and philosophy, 20(2-3), 193-203. Link


Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Health Psychology, Neuroscience, Physiology, Stress, Stress Biopsychosocial Factors Illness, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: Does this sound like an emotionally balanced movie plotline? A cute beagle puppy is killed in a home invasion robbery, but that event leads to the vengeful killing of a large number of Russian mobsters. You may recognize this as the plot of the first John Wick movie which may or may not been a film you liked but for those that did find the film entertaining (like me) what role might a killing spree justified by the killing of a puppy have to say about how we process or utilize painful emotions and pain in general? In other words, when and how might we seek or need pain (without being masochistically disordered)? What might saying that a baby is so cute you want to “gobble it up” or screaming when we see a long-missed friend or relative or seeking out seriously spicey food have in common? Think about that for a minute and then read the article linked below to see what psychology has to offer as possible ways to tie these rather diverse things together.

Source: Sometimes we love to scream in pain. What can science tell us about the reasons why? Paul Bloom (University of Toronto, and the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University) The Globe and Mail

Date: November 7, 2021

Image by (El Caminante) from Pixabay

Article Link:

You have likely heard of or seen infants who have “lost it” meaning that they became so tired or hungry or frustrated that they cried in consolably or in an out-of-control fashion. Emotional regulation is an example of the multitude of ways in which our systems keep us stable and how they adapt when we experience highs or lows in anything from emotion to hunger and thirst. The opponent process model where two systems contend against one another with the result being general balance within typical or usual levels. The actions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic components of our Autonomic nervous systems are prime examples of this sort of system that you may have run across in the stress section of an introductory psychology course. There are many other examples, including how our color vision system works. Think about how good a glass of water tastes and feels after a run or walk of a hot summer’s day or think about how good stiff muscles feel the day after a really good workout or think about the power of happy endings, whatever they involve, in Disney and John Wick movies. We are built of a wide array of balancing systems.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might the John Mellencamp song “Hurts So Good” fit in with what the link article is discussing?
  2. What are some examples of opponent processes within us (physiologically and psychologically) and how do they work?
  3. What is benign masochism and how might it fit into regular, non-disordered, day-to-day functioning?

References (Read Further):

Rozin, P., Guillot, L., Fincher, K., Rozin, A., & Tsukayama, E. (2013). Glad to be sad, and other examples of benign masochism. Judgment and Decision Making, 8(4), 439. Link

Hye-Knudsen, M. (2018). Painfully Funny: Cringe Comedy, Benign Masochism, and Not-So-Benign Violations. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (2), 13-31. Link

Wang, X., Geng, L., Qin, J., & Yao, S. (2016). The potential relationship between spicy taste and risk seeking. Judgment and Decision Making, 11(6), 547. Link

Clasen, M., Christiansen, J. K., & Johnson, J. A. (2019). Horror, personality, and threat simulation. Evol. Behav. Sci. Link

Leknes, S., Brooks, J. C., Wiech, K., & Tracey, I. (2008). Pain relief as an opponent process: a psychophysical investigation. European journal of neuroscience, 28(4), 794-801. Link

Scitovsky, T. (1978). An Opponent-Process Theory of Motivation. The American Economic Review, 68(6), 12-24. Link

Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, Consciousness, Development of the Self, Human Development, Intergroup Relations, Persuasion, Research Methods, Social Psychology.

Description: What might we do to reduce the level of racially based discrimination within a population? You have likely heard of some version of the Exposure hypothesis. It suggests that prejudice might be reduced through exposure to diverse individuals preferably in situations where they work together towards a common goal. Research involving relatively small numbers of individuals seems to support this hypothesis but the step from small, short-term studies to population level outcomes over time is a large one. Can you come up with a study design that might examine this hypothesis at a population level over a long stretch of time (e.g., hundreds of thousands of people over decades of time)? Oh, and relatively inexpensively (e.g., using existing datasets)? Once you have pondered this challenge for a few minutes have a read through the linked article to see what some American researchers came up with a a study design.

Source: Cross-ethnic exposure in childhood predicts behavior 70 years later, study finds, Mane Kara-Yakoubian.

Date: October 27, 2021

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Article Link:

One of the largest challenges with using existing datasets to look at population level questions concerns the lack of control the researchers have over ow their variables are defined, or, more pointedly, how their concepts are operationalized. Given this, what are your thoughts about how this was accomplished by the researchers whose work was described in the linked article? The 7-decade time frame was impressive, however, does having voted Democrat work for you as an operationalization of less prejudiced beliefs? How about living next door to a racially distinct individual or family work for you as an operationalization of exposure to racial diverse people included in the exposure hypothesis? As well, this is a correlational study and as such there could be alternative explanations for the results obtained than the one provided by the study authors. Despite their claim that alternative explanations do not fit their data can you think of some alternative causal hypotheses? Despite these issues the study provides some intriguing data!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the exposure hypothesis as it relates to racial prejudice?
  2. How did the researchers whose study was described in the linked article operationalize exposure and racial prejudice?
  3. What sorts of things would you like to look at more closely within the research article that the linked article described and beyond in order to further investigate the claims made by the researchers?

References (Read Further):

Brown, J. R., Enos, R. D., Feigenbaum, J., & Mazumder, S. (2021). Childhood cross-ethnic exposure predicts political behavior seven decades later: Evidence from linked administrative data. Science Advances, 7(24), eabe8432. Link

Zebrowitz, L. A., White, B., & Wieneke, K. (2008). Mere exposure and racial prejudice: Exposure to other-race faces increases liking for strangers of that race. Social cognition, 26(3), 259-275. Link

Blanchard, F. A., Lilly, T., & Vaughn, L. A. (1991). Reducing the expression of racial prejudice. Psychological Science, 2(2), 101-105. Link

Columb, C., & Plant, E. A. (2011). Revisiting the Obama effect: Exposure to Obama reduces implicit prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(2), 499-501. Link

Sutton, M., Perry, B., & Parke, J. (2007). Getting the message across: using media to reduce racial prejudice and discrimination. Link

Mazumder, S. (2019). Black Lives Matter for Whites’ Racial Prejudice: Assessing the Role of Social Movements in Shaping Racial Attitudes in the United States. Link