Posted by & filed under Clinical Psychology, Cultural Variation, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Personality, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: Of course the holiday period in late December is supposed to be a time away from work and engaged in other activities such as spending time with loved ones, friends and family. This does NOT mean that it is a time to be away from Psychology (in fact maybe just the opposite)! It can, in fact, be particularly important to plan or to consider some of what we might call holiday research. Last week, for example, I posted about some ongoing research into the myth that suicide rates climb during the holiday period (it is NOT true). What other holiday season issues could use a research look? In another post this week I took a look at the clinical and self-help approaches to dealing with intense feelings of loneliness. This post looks in another direction. What about intensely introverted individuals? What might their experiences withing the holiday season be like? As in a number of areas there is a general assumption that the best or the most adaptive way to be in the world is to be extroverted. Think about this in relation to the holiday season and then think a bit about what this might mean for introverts and might, could, or should be done to help them at this time of year. After you have your thoughts in order, read the article linked below for some suggestions.

Source: How introverts can stay sane this holiday season, Kristen Rogers, CNN.

Date: December 17, 2022

Image by sasint from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, there was not a lot of psychology in articles was there. One thing to consider is why, despite noting that our culture seems to place a higher value on extroversion over introversion, there is no discussion of how we might (or should) change that, if only in support of and respect for diversity. Might psychology be a bit too individualistic, and extraversion focused as well? Perhaps instead of suggesting more ‘how to duck and hide in or out of plain sight’ advice for introverts we need to find some ways to note and begin to address the stigma against introversion that seems to be supported by western culture. Maybe that would make a good New Years resolution for psychology, psychologist and those interested in psychology!?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the things we can observe that suggest that western culture may have a bias towards extroversion over introversion?
  2. What are some of the suggestions offered in the linked article to introverts as ways of holiday coping?
  3. What sorts of things might we do or work towards if we decide we might want to try and reduce the sense of stigma possible associated with introversion in western culture?

References (Read Further):

Condon, M., & Ruth-Sahd, L. (2013). Responding to introverted and shy students: Best practice guidelines for educators and advisors. Open Journal of Nursing, 3(07), 503. Link

Bowers, L. N. (2017). Stigmas that Exist Regarding Technology. Link

Cain, S. (2012). The power of introverts. TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. Link

Zelenski, J. M., Sobocko, K., & Whelan, A. D. C. (2013). Introversion, solitude, and subjective well‐being. The handbook of solitude: Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone, 184-201. Link

Gohil, A. (2020). inVisible: a guide to understanding & designing for introverts. Link

Thomas, L. E. (2011). Introverted perspectives on happiness: A phenomenological inquiry (Doctoral dissertation, University of Calgary, Divison of Applied Psychology). Link

McCord, M. A., & Joseph, D. L. (2020). A framework of negative responses to introversion at work. Personality and Individual Differences, 161, 109944. Summary

Pannapacker, W (2012) Screening Out the Introverts. Chronicle of Higher Education. Link


Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Death and Dying, Health Psychology, Legal Ethical Issues, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Psychological Disorders, Research Methods, Social Influence, Stress, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Be honest, have you heard or think you heard from somewhere or someone that suicide rates jump up during the holiday season? It seems to make sense doesn’t it that people at risk for suicide might be more at risk during the time a year that focusses upon things like family connections (good or bad), giving (even if you don’t have any money or get anything), and consumer pressures wrought by Black Friday or Boxing Day sales blitzes? Makes sense doesn’t it? Except that there is NO data supporting this claim or belief. Think for a minute about why such a thought or belief might be circulating around in our head or out there in the social world and then have a read through the article linked below to see what the data really does have to say.

Source: Myth The Suicides Peak During the Holidays Could Cause Harm, Alan Mozes, Health News, U.S. News and World Reports.

Date: December 7, 2022

Image by HASTYWORDS from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, only a minority of news articles that talk about suicide and the holiday season properly indicate that there is NOT a rise in suicidal behavior over the holidays. The article indicates that this could be a way to get people to care more for those near them who may be having difficulties in general or with the season. However, the article also suggests that this could actually have the opposite effect if the misreporting of a holiday bump in suicidal behavior acts as a contagion effect. Perhaps it is time to actually pay attention tyo the data and find other ways to encourage people to help those around them during the holiday season (and beyond)!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the relationship between stress and suicidal behavior?
  2. Why might news stories so consistently and wrongly link suicide rate bumps to the holiday season?
  3. What sorts of things should people consider doing over the holiday season to address the sentiment or false beliefs around the factors that are considered related to suicide this time of year?

References (Read Further):

Annenberg Public Policy Center (2022) The Undying Holiday-Suicide Myth. Link

Nishi, M., Miyake, H., Okamoto, H., Goto, Y., & Sakai, T. (2000). Relationship between suicide and holidays. Journal of Epidemiology, 10(5), 317-320. Link

Woo, J. M., Okusaga, O., & Postolache, T. T. (2012). Seasonality of suicidal behavior. International journal of environmental research and public health, 9(2), 531-547. Link

Morken, G., Lilleeng, S., & Linaker, O. M. (2002). Seasonal variation in suicides and in admissions to hospital for mania and depression. Journal of affective disorders, 69(1-3), 39-45. Link

Christodoulou, C., Efstathiou, V., Bouras, G., Korkoliakou, P., & Lykouras, L. (2012). Seasonal variation of suicide. A brief review. Encephalos, 49(73), 9. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Child Development, Clinical Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Disorders of Childhood, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders.

Description: I am certain that you know that the most prescribed medication for those with ADHD is a version of methylphenidate which is a stimulant. A common question which arises when people encounter this fact is to ask how an individual with hyperactivity (the H in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) could possibly be helped by a stimulant. A typical answer often involves suggesting that the stimulant increases the activity in brain areas involved in attention and focus and in the inhibition of behavior unrelated to the current task focus.

However, that is a very general hypothesis, and it does not speak directly to the question of which brain areas or networks are impacted by stimulant medications and how the medications create the positive effects they have been shown to have on behaviors associated with ADHD. Would it surprise you to read that researchers are not entirely clear on how such stimulus medications actually work in the brain? This may have been remedied by the search discussed in the article linked below. However, as you read through it be prepared to make a few notes about brain systems or networks that you will want to know more about in order to better understand what the article is saying.

Source: Researchers gain a better understanding of how the most commonly used ADHD medication works, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: December 8, 2022

Image by chenspec from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, methylphenidate stimulants work by increasing the activity in the dopamine signaling system located within the nucleus accumbens. That’s a lot clearer right? Well, not so much really. Here are a few additional bits of information that might help.

The nucleus accumbens is located in the basil forebrain.

The dopamine reward pathway is part of the dopamine signaling system.

The mesolimbic or salience network is a dopamine system that is involved in selecting which stimuli are deserving of our attention.

The frontoparietal network is involved in sustained attention and complex problem solving.

The default mode network is a system in the brain that is most active when we are not attending to outside world like if we are daydreaming.

OK well, now you may not yet fully understand how stimulants work in the brain but you DO have a broader understanding of the dopamine systems that are likely involved.


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of symptoms are involved in ADHD?
  2. Why might stimulant medications help symptoms of ADHD?
  3. What systems withing the brain run using dopamine and how might they be involved in ADHD?

References (Read Further):

Mizuno, Y., Cai, W., Supekar, K., Makita, K., Takiguchi, S., Silk, T. J., … & Menon, V. (2022). Methylphenidate enhances spontaneous fluctuations in reward and cognitive control networks in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. Link

Prasad, V., Brogan, E., Mulvaney, C., Grainge, M., Stanton, W., & Sayal, K. (2013). How effective are drug treatments for children with ADHD at improving on-task behaviour and academic achievement in the school classroom? A systematic review and meta-analysis. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 22(4), 203-216. Link

Curatolo, P., D’Agati, E., & Moavero, R. (2010). The neurobiological basis of ADHD. Italian journal of pediatrics, 36(1), 1-7. Link

Viggiano, D., Vallone, D., & Sadile, A. (2004). Dysfunctions in dopamine systems and ADHD: evidence from animals and modeling. Neural plasticity, 11(1-2), 97-114. Link

Tripp, G., & Wickens, J. R. (2009). Neurobiology of ADHD. Neuropharmacology, 57(7-8), 579-589. Link


Posted by & filed under Aggression, Child Development, Families and Peers, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Social Influence, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Imagine, just for a moment, that we have just now decided to take seriously and to do something about physical child abuse. With any ‘from scratch’ effort to design an intervention a first step is to see what you can find out about both risk and protective factors in relation to whatever it is you want to intervene in. Risk factors include individual, situational, and relationship factors that are shown to be associated with increased likelihood that what you are worried about (e.g., child abuse) will occur or is occurring. Protective factors are individual, situational, and relationship factors that either make it less likely that one or more risk factors will emerge or, if they do, that will mitigate or reduce the impact of those risk factors (e.g., no or less child abuse). How do you find out what risk and protective factors have been shown, in research, to be at play in relation to child physical abuse? Well, you could obtain access to a University library or use online resources like Google Scholar and search the research literature on child physical abuse to see what you can find. What you will find is a rather larger number of studies of varying size and with varying design quality looking at the issue. What if, however, someone else did that for you and what if they used a review technique that mad eit possible from them to roll-up together studies looking at similar things so that, instead of a bunch of small studies, you were able to see the bigger picture across a number of studies? Wouldn’t that be a better starting point for the task of designing intervention strategies? What I have just described is a meta-analytic study that does not just gather relevant studies together and list them, but which rolls them together in ways which allows the researchers to not only identity risks and protective factors related to child physical abuse but also to speak to the size of those effects (e.g., small or medium). Effect sizes help people wanting to intervene decide what to focus upon in order to maximize the impact of their intervention efforts. How would that work in relation to physical child abuse? Well, have a read through the article linked below that describes just such a meta-analysis and, looking at the results it presents, think a bit about what opportunities might be there for interventions.

Source: Research Reveals 25 Risk Factors for Childhood Abuse, Arash Emamzadeh, Psychology Today.

Date: December 16, 2022

Image by Geralt from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, as helpful as the meta-analytic study is in providing an overview of risk and protective factor, with effect sizes, related to physical child abuse it is clear that a single simple intervention strategy is not obvious. Some of the parent risk factors could be addressed with parenting classes or other forms of support for at-risk parents and families taking on the challenges of being parents. However, some of the factors are more social. A tough economy and or/and declining job market could contribute to more than a few of the parental risk factors and require a higher level (economic) intervention. Another problem involves the question of how at-risk parents and families can be encouraged to engage with the intervention and how to present the intervention so it does not sound negative as most if not all potential participants have not yet and may never physically abuse their child or children (risk factors are predictors but not certainties). The list of protective factors is promising in these regards. It is longer, and it lists things that can be positively presented or offered to new parents without also communicating a feeling that they are being suspected of being potential child abusers. We have to be cautious when looking at protective factors as well. For example, the list of individual (child) protective factors include easy temperament, positive disposition and above average intelligence. Arguably these characteristics are, at least somewhat, genetically determined and thus need to be considered very carefully so that their inclusion does not give rise to victim blaming. Can good interventions be designed and implemented? Happily, the answer is yes. For large- and small-scale examples search things like Head Start, Home Visitation Programs, and Early Intervention that, while not eliminating child abuse DO seem to be having a positive impact.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are risk and protective factors?
  2. What does a meta-analytic study involve?
  3. What did your intervention program or strategies involve when you put them together, hypothetically, based on the information in the linked article?

References (Read Further):

Milner, J. S., Crouch, J. L., McCarthy, R. J., Ammar, J., Dominguez-Martinez, R., Thomas, C. L., & Jensen, A. P. (2022). Child physical abuse risk factors: A systematic review and a meta-analysis. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 101778. Link

Putnam-Hornstein, E., Needell, B., & Rhodes, A. E. (2013). Understanding risk and protective factors for child maltreatment: The value of integrated, population-based data. Child abuse & neglect, 37(2-3), 116-119. Link

Langevin, R., Marshall, C., & Kingsland, E. (2021). Intergenerational cycles of maltreatment: A scoping review of psychosocial risk and protective factors. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 22(4), 672-688. Link

Holzer, P. J., Bromfield, L. M., Richardson, N., & Higgins, D. J. (2006). Child abuse prevention: What works. The effectiveness of parent education programs for preventing child maltreatment. Link

Healy, K., Darlington, Y., & Feeney, J. A. (2011). Parents’ participation in child protection practice: Toward respect and inclusion. Families in society, 92(3), 282-288. Link

Bauer, L., & Schanzenbach, D. W. (2016). The long-term impact of the Head Start program. The Hamilton Project. Link

Sweet, M. A., & Appelbaum, M. I. (2004). Is home visiting an effective strategy? A meta‐analytic review of home visiting programs for families with young children. Child development, 75(5), 1435-1456. Link

Daro, D., McCurdy, K., Falconnier, L., & Stojanovic, D. (2003). Sustaining new parents in home visitation services: Key participant and program factors. Child abuse & neglect, 27(10), 1101-1125. Link

Arruabarrena, I., & De Paúl, J. (2012). Early intervention programs for children and families: Theoretical and empirical bases supporting their social and economic efficiency. Psychosocial intervention, 21(2), 117-127. Link


Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Depression, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, mental illness, Neuroscience, Prevention, Psychological Disorders, Psychological Health, Sensation-Perception, Stress Coping - Health, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Even if you like winter (I do not) and you can manage the cold and have winter things you like to do, like skating or skiing, you may find that you have less energy in winter or you may notice other symptoms. For those of us who live at northern latitudes one thing we cannot help but notice is that the days get shorter and shorter. As I write this in Calgary in mid-December the sun is rising at 8:30 and setting at 4:30 giving us just 8 hours of daylight which is less than half of the daylight hours we enjoy in June. Does that affect people? Well, you have probably heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is more prevalent in the winter months and especially so at northern latitudes such as we live at in Canada. We sometimes hear people talking about winter blues among those who do not like what winter brings in the way of lower temperatures, winter weather, and less light but, more than winter blues SAD IS depression. One way to better understand the distinction is to gather and reflect upon the personal accounts of people who deal with SAD in their winter months. Think for a moment about what such accounts might include and then have a read through the article linked below which could be seen as the early steps in a qualitative study of the impact of SAD on peoples’ winter lives.

Source: ‘Better Off Hibernating’: What It’s Really Like to Live With Seasonal Depression, Kyli Rodriquez-Cayro, The Huffington Post.

Date: December 1, 2022

Image by qimono from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, did the collected accounts of the people who contributed their stories to the linked article help you to see distinctions between winter blues and SAD. Did it occur to you that we used to diminish the experiences of new mothers by labelling their experiences with post-partum depression (another version of real depression) and baby blues? All things to think about as you track your own mood states this winter and those of the people around you. Help IS available. There is good research support for the efficacy of light therapy and cognitive behavior therapy alone and in combination (see the References – Read Further section below).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are winter blues and how are they related to SAD?
  2. How is SAD related to clinical or major depression?
  3. What sorts of research could/should be done to better understand SAD and to make it more likely that those who encounter it will be provided appropriate support and assistance?

References (Read Further):

Canadian Psychological Association (2020) “Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Seasonal Affective Disorder (Depression with Seasonal Pattern). Link

Roecklein, K. A., Rohan, K. J., & Postolache, T. T. SADIs seasonal. Current Psychiatry, 9(2), 43. Link

Nussbaumer, B., Kaminski‐Hartenthaler, A., Forneris, C. A., Morgan, L. C., Sonis, J. H., Gaynes, B. N., … & Gartlehner, G. (2015). Light therapy for preventing seasonal affective disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (11). Link

Rohan, K. J., Roecklein, K. A., Tierney Lindsey, K., Johnson, L. G., Lippy, R. D., Lacy, T. J., & Barton, F. B. (2007). A randomized controlled trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy, light therapy, and their combination for seasonal affective disorder. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 75(3), 489. Summary

Rohan, K. J., Lindsey, K. T., Roecklein, K. A., & Lacy, T. J. (2004). Cognitive-behavioral therapy, light therapy, and their combination in treating seasonal affective disorder. Journal of affective disorders, 80(2-3), 273-283. Link

Rohan, K. J., Meyerhoff, J., Ho, S. Y., Evans, M., Postolache, T. T., & Vacek, P. M. (2016). Outcomes one and two winters following cognitive-behavioral therapy or light therapy for seasonal affective disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 173(3), 244-251. Link

Meyerhoff, J., & Rohan, K. J. (2016). Treatment expectations for cognitive-behavioral therapy and light therapy for seasonal affective disorder: Change across treatment and relation to outcome. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 84(10), 898. Link

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Clinical Neuropsychology, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Health and Prevention In Aging, Health Psychology, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Intelligence, Memory, Neuroscience, Research Methods, Research Methods in ADA, Research Methods in AP, Research Methods in ChD.

Description: Do you have an aging relative who is still remarkably sharp mentally, who can remember details of many things, is quick to respond to comments with humour and insight and who, from a mental point of view seems much younger than their years? Well, if so, there is a name for that sort of person now: SuperAger. Think about what sorts of experiences (past and present) and what sorts of biological and neurological characteristics might be involved in someone becoming a SuperAger. Once you have your hypotheses in order have a read through the article linked below to see what researchers at Northwestern’s SuperAging Research Program have been looking at and finding.

Source: Secrets of ‘SuperAgers’ who possess brains as sharp as people 20 to 30 years younger, Sandee LaMotte, CNN.

Date: November 27, 2022

Image by smokefish from Pixabay

Article Link:

As with many long-term developmental questions it is very difficult to sort out the causal factors or the genetically given factors of SuperAging. This is especially true when considering the neural factors observed in the brains of SuperAgers. Did their brains start out that way given the genes they inherited or did, as we are finding with many more things, their brains get shaped that way but the experiences they acquired over their lives or even as a result of how they approached those experiences? The proper, but perhaps confusing, answer to these questions is something like yes, yes and yes. Increasingly we are coming to appreciate brain structures and feature and experiences are bi-directionally related, making it something of an unanswerable chicken and egg problem to try and decide which came first as both developed together over (life) time. There is still a LOT of work to be done to sort these sorts of question out regarding SuperAgers and in many other areas as well.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is a SuperAger?
  2. How does someone become a SuperAger? What developmental factors are involved?
  3. What sorts of research could/should be done to work towards a better understanding of SuperAgers and of the relationships between life experiences and neural structures more generally?

References (Read Further):

The SuperAging Research Program at Northwestern. Link Active studies Link.

De Godoy, L. L., Alves, C. A. P. F., Saavedra, J. S. M., Studart-Neto, A., Nitrini, R., da Costa Leite, C., & Bisdas, S. (2021). Understanding brain resilience in superagers: a systematic review. Neuroradiology, 63(5), 663-683. Link

Gefen, T., Shaw, E., Whitney, K., Martersteck, A., Stratton, J., Rademaker, A., … & Rogalski, E. (2014). Longitudinal neuropsychological performance of cognitive SuperAgers. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 62(8), 1598. Link

Huentelman, M. J., Piras, I. S., Siniard, A. L., De Both, M. D., Richholt, R. F., Balak, C. D., … & Rogalski, E. J. (2018). Associations of MAP2K3 gene variants with superior memory in SuperAgers. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 10, 155. Link

Gefen, T., Kawles, A., Makowski-Woidan, B., Engelmeyer, J., Ayala, I., Abbassian, P., … & Geula, C. (2021). Paucity of entorhinal cortex pathology of the Alzheimer’s type in SuperAgers with superior memory performance. Cerebral Cortex, 31(7), 3177-3183. Link

Rogalski, E. J. (2019). Don’t forget—Age is a relevant variable in defining SuperAgers. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 11, 560. Link

Goldberg, T. E. (2019). Comments about superaging and superagers. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 11, 564. Link

Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Personality, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: Think for a moment about what a Psychology of gift-giving might involve and include. No, there is no Psychology of Gift-Giving research journal but there has been a fair bit of relevant thought and research directed towards gift-giving. What might it involve? Perhaps questions like, what makes for a good (appreciated) gift? or what makes for a bad (unappreciated) gift? Or how about, is there a relationship between what are good gifts and what are bombastically advertised this time of year? So, if this interests you at all, think for a few moments about what a psychology of gift-giving might or should include and then have a read through the article linked below that asks that very question.

Source: Unpacking the Psychology of Gift-Giving, Kate Murphy, The New York Times

Date: November 18, 2022

Image by anaterate from Pixabay

Article Link:

Well, OK, there was not a lot of research discussed in the article. However, there were some core psychological constructs examined in relation to gift-giving. One might say that in these times of social media and broad access to information about the world and those around us (or not so close to), that an important corrective is to see the value in perspective-taking skill in effective gift-giving AND in positive relationship engagements and, perhaps, in getting along better with our neighbors (even if their politics differ from ours). Or maybe it will just make us better gift-givers, which would not be a bad thing, would it?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of things make for not so good or even bad gifts?
  2. What sorts of things make for good or ‘likely to be well received and appreciated’ gifts?
  3. What sorts of research could/should be done (by researchers or by you on a smaller scale) to improve gift selection and giving?

References (Read Further):

Givi, Julian (2022) The 4 biggest gift-giving mistakes, according to a consumer psychologist. The Conversation. Link

Galak, J., Givi, J., & Williams, E. F. (2016). Why certain gifts are great to give but not to get: A framework for understanding errors in gift giving. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(6), 380-385. Link

Givi, J., & Galak, J. (2019). Keeping the Joneses from getting ahead in the first place: Envy’s influence on gift giving behavior. Journal of Business Research, 101, 375-388. Link

Givi, J. (2021). When a gift exchange isn’t an exchange: Why gift givers underestimate how uncomfortable recipients feel receiving a gift without reciprocating. Journal of Business Research, 129, 393-405. Link

Givi, J., Williams, E., Chen, N., Petersen, F. E., Lowrey, T., Ganesh Pillai, R., … & Weinberger, M. (2021). The Multifaceted Nature of Gift-Giving: Spanning Multiple Perspectives, Motives, Orientations, and Stages. ACR North American Advances. Link

Givi, J., Galak, J., & Olivola, C. (2017). Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Givers’ Oversensitivity to Other Givers’ Gifts. ACR North American Advances. Link

Posted by & filed under Aggression, Development of the Self, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Personality, Social Cognition, Social Perception, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: Are you a confident person? It is not really a simple yes or no question is it, as how you answer it will depend on the task you are considering or the situation you are in. However, what if there is a trait of confidence? You likely know people or have read about people, who have boundless confidence and who as a result succeed fantastically or, perhaps also as result repeatedly fail colossally. So, consider this question: is it possible for a person to be dangerously overconfident and if that IS a possible trait people could possess some of, how would you measure it? What sort of scale would you use?  How about this approach. Ask people to indicate which would win in an unarmed fight between themselves and a bear. Then ask how they would fare against a crocodile and then against an eagle. If that sounds like an outlandish set of questions, think for a minute about whether it would potentially identify seriously overconfident people. Maybe? Have a read through the article linked below to see how this line of research has been approached by several research psychologists.

Source: The dangers of being overconfident, Claudia Hammond, The BBC.

Date: Feb 3, 2022

Image by Bond111 from Pixabay

Article Link:  You can listen to an audio interview with one of the researchers whose work is discussed in the linked article here:

I suspect it did not surprise you to see that narcissists are more likely to be seriously overconfident but what was your general reaction to the reported findings? One possible take-away is that being significantly overconfident is dangerous and we should avoid doing so. That is a pretty good take away as thinking you stand even a small chance of beating a bear in hand to paw combat is not a very good mindset to possess. However, what about more day-to-day situations? The finding that over 90% of drivers believe their driving skills are above average is a bit different than bear fighting. It is different partly because it is true of almost everyone (i.e., only 6% thought they might be able to beat a bear) and it is also the case that driving is a much more common activity than looking for fights in the woods or in bear bars. So, maybe a slightly different hypothesis is needed in relation to driving skill overconfidence. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that while there ARE a worrisome number of collisions and driving fatalities each year such events are actually very rare when considered in terms of incidents per kilometers driven. In the United States, for example, state by state the rate of fatalities per one million miles driven is typically somewhere between 1 and 2. Given this, it is not really at all surprising that most drivers, based upon their own experiences on the road, believe that they are above average drivers, which, of course, contributes to the development of the sorts of bad driving habits that DO lead to collisions. So, perhaps future research into overconfidence can look to sort out the bear fighters from the drivers, as the research into untrained plane landing success predictions seems to be doing. In the meantime, follow Parks Canada’s advice regarding bear encounters AND have your driving habits checked from time to time.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do you distinguishes between confident, overconfident and dangerously overconfident?
  2. Did the research methods used to look at overconfidence make sense to you? Why or why not (and what would you do differently)?
  3. Can you think of possible terms to better distinguish between experiential overconfidence (e.g., almost all drivers think their driving skills are above average) and crazy dangerous overconfidence (e.g., I could take a bear!)?

References (Read Further):

Jordan, K., Zajac, R., Bernstein, D., Joshi, C., & Garry, M. (2022). Trivially informative semantic context inflates people’s confidence they can perform a highly complex skill. Royal Society Open Science, 9(3), 211977. Link

Svenson, O. (1981). Are we all less risky and more skillful than our fellow drivers?. Acta psychologica, 47(2), 143-148. Link

Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of personality and social psychology, 77(6), 1121. Link

Nuhfer, E., Fleisher, S., Cogan, C., Wirth, K., & Gaze, E. (2017). How Random Noise and a Graphical Convention Subverted Behavioral Scientists’ Explanations of Self-Assessment Data: Numeracy Underlies Better Alternatives. Numeracy: Advancing Education in Quantitative Literacy, 10(1). Abstract

Paulhus, D. L., Harms, P. D., Bruce, M. N., & Lysy, D. C. (2003). The over-claiming technique: measuring self-enhancement independent of ability. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(4), 890. Link

Dunlop, P. D., Bourdage, J. S., de Vries, R. E., McNeill, I. M., Jorritsma, K., Orchard, M., … & Choe, W. K. (2020). Liar! Liar!(when stakes are higher): Understanding how the overclaiming technique can be used to measure faking in personnel selection. Journal of Applied Psychology, 105(8), 784. Link

Bensch, D., Paulhus, D. L., Stankov, L., & Ziegler, M. (2019). Teasing apart overclaiming, overconfidence, and socially desirable responding. Assessment, 26(3), 351-363. Link

Posted by & filed under Families and Peers, General Psychology, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience, Nutrition Weight Management, Research Methods, Social Influence, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, Stress Coping - Health, The Self.

Description: Consider this general statistic: in the years between 1975 and 2016 the rate of obesity globally has almost doubled. Why might this be? Without doing any online digging, just think about what you have heard and about what you know about factors that contribute to obesity and about how these factors have increased, multiplied, or otherwise changed since 1975. There are metabolic factors, there are lifestyle factors, there are nutritional (choice) factors, and many many other factors. A lot of contributing factors. Now think about what obese people should or need to do to drop weight. Yes, I know there are literally mountains of books, websites, videos and other media out there that are telling obese people what they should be doing but what do you think? More specifically, what types of possible solutions come to mind? One more thing, given the mountain of advice around us why does the rate of obesity seem to be continuing an upward climb rather than diminishing in light of all that weight loss advice? OK, so, how many of your thoughts regarding these last few questions involve versions of things like, obese people need to eat less, exercise more, do things to change their metabolism, build their will power, try harder, stop doing self-defeating things? These are, for the most part, individually focused ‘solutions’ that mostly boil down to versions of “it is their fault” (personal failing) statements regarding obesity. But what if that is the wrong way to look at this issue, think about this issue, and most importantly, deal with this issue? Have a read through the article linked below to explore this line of theory and research.

Source: Scientists Can’t Agree on What Causes Obesity, but Thery Know What Doesn’t, Julia Belluz, The New York Times.

Date: November 21, 2022

Image by  cocoparisienne from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, do you agree with the Times of London and Bill Maher (whose work as a comedian I quite like despite his views on responsibilities for obesity) that obese people deserve to be shamed and even that shaming could be seen as a viable approach to addressing the doubling of the global obesity rate? Generally and in a lot of psychology theory and research we tend to think in terms of individual causes, reasons and fixes for problematic behavior and problematic outcomes. It sort of makes sense that as individuals, concerned about our individual wellbeing and outcomes that we would have a sort of bias towards individual-focus on problems and on route to improvement of health and wellbeing. The problem is that in terms of things like obesity and many other things like addiction we seem inclined to the routes to recovery and wellbeing grounded in individual choice, willpower and actions do not seem to work and, often make things worse (e.g., fat shaming). So, what else should we consider? Now THERE is an important research question!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some factors that may have contributed to the doubling of the global obesity rate between 1975 and 2016?
  2. What sorts of weight loss strategies or interventions have been proposed to address the factors you noted in response to the previous question, and have they worked?
  3. What are some examples of less individually focused possible approaches to addressing current obesity rates and how might they be implemented?

References (Read Further):

Swinburn, B. A., Kraak, V. I., Allender, S., Atkins, V. J., Baker, P. I., Bogard, J. R., … & Dietz, W. H. (2019). The global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change: the Lancet Commission report. The lancet, 393(10173), 791-846. Link

Jaacks, L. M., Vandevijvere, S., Pan, A., McGowan, C. J., Wallace, C., Imamura, F., … & Ezzati, M. (2019). The obesity transition: stages of the global epidemic. The lancet Diabetes & endocrinology, 7(3), 231-240. Link

Baker, P., Machado, P., Santos, T., Sievert, K., Backholer, K., Hadjikakou, M., … & Lawrence, M. (2020). Ultra‐processed foods and the nutrition transition: Global, regional and national trends, food systems transformations and political economy drivers. Obesity Reviews, 21(12), e13126. Link

Puhl, R. M., Himmelstein, M. S., & Pearl, R. L. (2020). Weight stigma as a psychosocial contributor to obesity. American Psychologist, 75(2), 274. Link

Adams, J., Mytton, O., White, M., & Monsivais, P. (2016). Why are some population interventions for diet and obesity more equitable and effective than others? The role of individual agency. PLoS medicine, 13(4), e1001990. Link

Liu, Z., Xu, H. M., Wen, L. M., Peng, Y. Z., Lin, L. Z., Zhou, S., … & Wang, H. J. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the overall effects of school-based obesity prevention interventions and effect differences by intervention components. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 16(1), 1-12. Link

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Neuroscience, Research Methods, Sensation-Perception.

Description: Here is a scenario for you to think about. Imagine that you are volunteering in a psychology research lab, and it is your first day and you do not yet know what it is that they are researching in the lab. Your orientation is going to happen shortly, but first you are asked to help out with the collection of some data from a volunteer who arrived in the lab just before you. You are taken to a wide hallway and are introduced to the research participant who is sitting in a chair with their white cane across their lap answering some questions being asked by one of the researchers in the lab. You listen to the volunteer explain that they are totally blind, that they can see nothing, no shadows or images at all. You then watch as another researcher moves quietly down the hall and moves a number of boxes, chairs and small tables so that they are randomly spread out along the hallway. After this you watch as the blind volunteer is asked to stand up, is turned slightly by the researcher so that they are aiming down the hallway, asked to surrender their white cane (which they do) and to then slowly walk down the hallway. You watch in amazement as the volunteer slowly walks the length of the hallway to the end where one of the researchers awaits them and does not bump into a single object the whole way down (by moving from side to side and NOT by ‘blind luck’ it seems. At that point what would you think? That they lied about being blind? That they lied when asked at the end of the hall if they saw the objects they did not bump into? How might this be possible and what might it tell us about human consciousness? No idea? Well, have a read through the linked article and learn a bit about blindsight.

Source: Blindsight: A Strange Neurological Condition Could Help Explain Consciousness, Henry Taylor, The Conversation.

Date: December 3, 2022

Image by Mitrey from Pixabay

Article Link:

What is consciousness? Tough question. But we tend to think it involves awareness, as in we are consciously aware of what we see, what we feel, and what we think. So, is the volunteer I described above conscious of the object they avoided bumping into as they walked down the hall? They must have been at some level, but they did not think they were. One way to start to grow a broader theory of consciousness is to realize that a LOT goes on in our minds that we do not pay conscious attention to. Add to that the suggestion that processing something at the level of the brain and monitoring that processing may be located in distinct neural areas or systems. So, for example, processing visual information about the world around us may take place in the brain in systems distinct but related to the areas or systems that allow us to consciously monitor those processes. If this is the case then stroke damage could lead to a loss of that aspect of consciousness without losing the spatial information processing function leading to blindsight. Hard to get your mind around this? Well, welcome to theorizing and trying to figure out how to study human consciousness. Fascinating stuff!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is (human) consciousness?
  2. What is blind sight?
  3. What might blindsight help us to start to figure out about consciousness?

References (Read Further):

De Gelder, B., Tamietto, M., Van Boxtel, G., Goebel, R., Sahraie, A., Van den Stock, J., … & Pegna, A. (2008). Intact navigation skills after bilateral loss of striate cortex. Current biology, 18(24), R1128-R1129. Link

Kentridge, R. W., Heywood, C. A., & Weiskrantz, L. (1999). Attention without awareness in blindsight. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 266(1430), 1805-1811. Link

Jiang, Y., Costello, P., Fang, F., Huang, M., & He, S. (2006). A gender-and sexual orientation-dependent spatial attentional effect of invisible images. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(45), 17048-17052. Link

Phillips, I. (2021). Blindsight is qualitatively degraded conscious vision. Psychological Review, 128(3), 558. Link

Overgaard, M. (2011). Visual experience and blindsight: a methodological review. Experimental Brain Research, 209(4), 473-479. Link

Celeghin, A., de Gelder, B., & Tamietto, M. (2015). From affective blindsight to emotional consciousness. Consciousness and cognition, 36, 414-425. Link

Overgaard, M., & Mogensen, J. (2015). Reconciling current approaches to blindsight. Consciousness and Cognition, 32, 33-40. Link