Posted by & filed under Cultural Variation, Learning, Neuroscience, Sensation-Perception, Sensory-Perceptual Development.

Description: Quickly consider and respond to this question. Of all your senses, which is the most important to you and which is the least important to you? Odd are VERY strong that you put smell at the bottom of the list as your least important and the one you would offer up if you had to pick one sense to lose. Historically this has always been the case. As a species we tend not to see ourselves as having an adept sense of smell, especially when compared to our dogs who can smell a BBQ in progress from a great distance (like, 20 kms!!) off. I have to admit to contributing to this sensory disregard. When I am teaching a section on sensation and perception in an introductory psychology class, I spend little or no time on smell (though we DO cover it inn our textbook!). Well, guess which sense is having its moment in the sun as it were? Perhaps you hear something about the HUGE number of complaints makers of scented candles were getting, starting last spring, that their products were defective and had no scent at all. Would it surprise you to hear that the sudden inexplicable loss of smell is actually the BEST symptomatic predictor of Covid-19 infection far better than cough temperature or stuffy nose? Yes indeed, smell is VERY important. And how doe Covid cause this loss of smell? Well, I won’t ask you to hypothesize as, like me, I suspect your knowledge of the olfactory system and brain-based smell processing areas is minimal at best and likely marginal if not non-existent. Instead, read the article linked below or use the second link to listen to an audio podcast version of the article to find out how this meteoric rise to sensory super stardom proceeded for out previously lowly sense of smell.

Source: What Can Covid-19 Teach Us About the Mysteries of Smell? Brooke Jarvis, The New York Times Magazine.

Date: January 31, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Article Link: or listen to a podcasted version here:

So, are you now amazed and entertained by the new importance of our sense of smell? The number of people worldwide who are hanging closely on current research about the timing or the extent of the recovery of smell after Covid infection is vast. It is a huge shot in the arm (metaphorically speaking) for researchers like the author of the linked article who study human smell. While we may not apologize we (and especially people like myself who underplayed my opportunities to talk about human smell and research into it) do smell research, smell researchers and our own sense of smell a GREAT DEAL more respect.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How has the human sense of smell been viewed historically?
  2. How does the loss of sense of smell compare to other self-reported symptoms of Covid-19 infection?
  3. What do you know now about the ways we process smell that you did not know before you read or listen to this article and has what you read or heard changed where you would rank smell in relation to your other senses?

References (Read Further):

Young, Ed (2015) Why do Most Languages Have So Few Words for Smells? The Atlantic. Link

Gerkin, R. C., Ohla, K., Veldhuizen, M. G., Joseph, P. V., Kelly, C. E., Bakke, A. J., … & Group, G. C. C. R. (2020). The best COVID-19 predictor is recent smell loss: a cross-sectional study. MedRxiv. Link

Parma, V., Ohla, K., Veldhuizen, M. G., Niv, M. Y., Kelly, C. E., Bakke, A. J., … & Hayes, J. E. (2020). More than smell—COVID-19 is associated with severe impairment of smell, taste, and chemesthesis. Chemical Senses, 45(7), 609-622. Link

McGann, J. P. (2017). Poor human olfaction is a 19th-century myth. Science, 356(6338). Link

Sorokowski, P., Karwowski, M., Misiak, M., Marczak, M. K., Dziekan, M., Hummel, T., & Sorokowska, A. (2019). Sex differences in human olfaction: A meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 242. Link

Majid, A. (2020). Human Olfaction at the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Biology. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Link

Horn, Leslie (2011) Majority of Kids Would Rather Lose Their Sense of Smell Than Lose Facebook, PCMag, Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Psychology, Depression, Group Processes, Health Psychology, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: The debates and the research focused upon the impacts of video gaming and social media use on developing children and youth are heated and ongoing. The primary difficulty in sorting out the effects of video gaming and social media use is tied up in the comprehensive nature of their uptake in the population. As it was with similar debates regarding television watching in past decades, the problem is virtually everyone is doing it. If you find children and youth who have little or no screen time, they do not represent a good control group in screen time studies as they are not a good match for the main population. For example, it is frequently reported that upper-level executives in the big four online companies of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon do not allow their children access to social media and smart phones which may well be good for them but certainly would not be a well-matched control group for children and youth growing up in families within the lower 95% of the family income distribution. What to do? Well, one option is to do a longitudinal study with a very large representative sample and that way, at least to some extent, participants would serve as their own controls as the study would follow them over time. To prepare yourself to reflectively read the linked article, think for a moment about possible confounds that could arise when comparing video game or social media use at 11 years of age to self-reported depressive symptoms at 14 years of age. Once you have your thoughts sorted have a read through the article and see what you think of their results and of their appropriately detailed discussion of the challenges of attributing causality in such research.

Source: Boys who play video games have lower depression risk, ScienceDaily.

Date: February 18, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Alexandra ❤️A life without animals is not worth living❤️ from Pixabay

Article Link:

One of the most difficult things to do when thinking about the sorts of issues that the research discussed in the linked article examined is that the issues, they are looking at matter to us. Rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm among early teens in North America have surged upward in just the last 10 to 15 years. When an issue matters that much to us (well, and a lot of other times too) we seem to have a bias towards viewing variables or factors that are associated or correlated with the behaviors or symptom collections of concern as causally related to that which is worrying us. It makes some sense to look at what is new (besides the life outcomes of concern) and decide that those things, the video games or social media, MUST be the causes of the things we are concerned about. They may very well be, BUT they may not be the direct or the immediate cause. Boys who play video games may be boys who are fitting in socially while those that do not may be boys who are socially marginalized and perhaps it is the marginalization rather than anything positive to do with the video games that increases rates of depressive symptomology. Similar challenges exist when trying to sort out the relationships between social media use and depressive symptomology among girls. This does NOT mean that we should just give up trying to sort these matters out. The researchers quoted in the linked article lay out a number of variables (such as parenting factors, types and amount of screen time etc.) that, if they are included in subsequent large research surveys, would help sort these causally complex questions out. More research is needed because we need to know more about what is going on in the way of stress, anxiety and depression among young people these days.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does the research discussed in the linked article suggest about the relationship between video gaming at 11 and depression at 14 years of age among boys and girls?
  2. What does the research discussed in the linked article suggest about the relationship between social media use at 11 and depression at 14 years of age among boys and girls?
  3. What are some of the other factors or variables that need to be included in future large scale survey research projects if we are going to get closer to sorting out the causal links among the things being studied?

References (Read Further):

  1. Kandola, N. Owen, D. W. Dunstan, M. Hallgren. (2021) Prospective relationships of adolescents’ screen-based sedentary behaviour with depressive symptoms: the Millennium Cohort Study. Psychological Medicine, 2021; 1 Summary Link

Kelly, Y., Zilanawala, A., Booker, C., & Sacker, A. (2018). Social media use and adolescent mental health: Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. EClinicalMedicine, 6, 59-68. Link

Etchells, P. J., Gage, S. H., Rutherford, A. D., & Munafò, M. R. (2016). Prospective investigation of video game use in children and subsequent conduct disorder and depression using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. PloS one, 11(1), e0147732. Link

Vidal, C., Lhaksampa, T., Miller, L., & Platt, R. (2020). Social media use and depression in adolescents: a scoping review. International Review of Psychiatry, 32(3), 235-253. Link

Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among US adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3-17. Link

Heffer, T., Good, M., Daly, O., MacDonell, E., & Willoughby, T. (2019). The longitudinal association between social-media use and depressive symptoms among adolescents and young adults: An empirical reply to Twenge et al.(2018). Clinical Psychological Science, 7(3), 462-470. Link

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Have you heard of something called the General Adaptation system (GAS)? Hans Selye (1907-1982) working at McGill University in Montreal was trying to find a model with which he could use rats to study the impact of longer-term exposure to moderate to high levels of stress. What he came up with as a rat analogue to human ongoing moderate to high stress did not involve high pressure jobs, bad habits, financial pressure or relationship distress (hard to do that with rats) but instead involved moving rats into a permanently cold environment. He put them in large fridges. What he observed over time in the rats is what he called the GAS. The rats displayed and alarm reaction when first placed in the cold environment. They dashed about trying to find a way out of the cold, showed high levels of stress hormones and were clearly acutely stressed. After a few days they settled down a bit into what Selye called a resistance phase in which they continued to show elevated levels of a number of stress indicators that were not as high as those seen in the alarm phase but were, still, higher than their baseline pre-cold levels. Eventually many of the rats entered what Selye called an exhaustion phase in which their immune systems faltered, and they become ill and some even died. We would now say the rats in this last phase of the GAS were burning out. Why does this bit of stress research history have to say that is relevant? Well, what do you think might happen if one were to take a global population of humans and hit them with a pandemic, the response to which would involve a prolonged period of hypervigilance, social isolation and massive disruptions to “usually” patterns of work, recreation, and life in general? Think about what sorts of symptoms we might be seeing if you were to think of us all as participating in a human version of Selye’s rats in a fridge experience and think about what that might give rise to and about what we might suggest that people do in order to preserver and to get to the post-covid era (whatever that will look like and whenever that will be) intact and with some stress buffers remaining viable. They have a rad through the linked article to see how your thought match those of the author.

Source: It’s Not Just You. A Lot of Us Are Hitting a Pandemic Wall Right Now. Julia Ries, Huffington Post.

Date: February 5, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Article Link:

One of the biggest challenges to coping these days does not involve the many threats and stressors that we can point to including health concerns for ourselves and relatives and friends, work stress, food instability, loneliness etc. It involves the massive amounts of uncertainty associated with the limitations and losses we incur personally as we isolate and socially distance. Stressors are easier to cop with if we can point to them and name them. Uncertainties are insidious in that we cannot see them, may not even be consciously aware of them and yet we are thrown and kept off balance by them in ways that contribute to the onset of burnout.

So, what to do? Notice the uncertainties in your life right now. Name them, to the extent that you can and cut yourself some slack as you are experiencing a consistently higher than usual level of stress/anxiety related arousal. Try some of the advice offered in the article and at least remember that our fight-flight stress response system is deeply wired in and some recreational physical activity – exercise will really help.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the ways that the current pandemic is like rats in Hans Selye’s fridges?
  2. Make a list of your current stresses and anxieties and then try to make a list of your uncertainties. What can you do to either reduce the things of all three lists or to at least make them more manageable?
  3. What are some things we could do at the community or more broadly at the national or international levels to reduce the stresses, anxieties and uncertainties associated with the pandemic??

References (Read Further):

Koutsimani, P., Montgomery, A., & Georganta, K. (2019). The relationship between burnout, depression, and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 284. Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coping with Stress Link

Lindsay Holmes (2020) Got Major Anxiety Right Now? Here Are 6 Cheap Mental Health Resources Link

Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. Link

Selye, H. (1950). Stress. Montreal: Acta, 1955 Link

Neylan, T. C. (1998). Hans Selye and the field of stress research. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 10(2), 230-230. Link

Peters, A., McEwen, B. S., & Friston, K. (2017). Uncertainty and stress: Why it causes diseases and how it is mastered by the brain. Progress in neurobiology, 156, 164-188. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Assessment: Interviewing Observation, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Psychological Intervention, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: How do you deal with someone who you believe is completely unreasonable? Well, one possible answer that makes a lot of sense is simply to not deal with them at all. Who needs the stress and the headaches associated with trying to take on an unreasonable person and try to get them to BE reasonable and change their mind? Well sometimes, the issue involved is too important to allow you to walk away from the unreasonable person. Leaving recent American impeachment proceedings aside (as a Canadian I prefer to walk away from those or to at least view them as a form of cautionary theatre) a more global issue over the coming days and months will be the uptake of the various COVID-19 vaccines that are finally rolling out. Around 39% of Americans are saying that they are definitely pr probably NOT going to be vaccinated. 25% of Canadians worry that the vaccines may not be totally safe and 22% say they will not get the vaccine out of safety concerns and concerns over rollout management. Those sorts of percentages raise questions as to whether or how quickly we wil reach the levels of vaccinated protection needed to allow us some degree of confidence that the pandemic has been reined in. So, image that you have a friend who has indicated that they have decided not to get vaccinated and imagine that you have decided to try and change their mind on that subject. How would you proceed? Let’s leave making it illegal not to get vaccinated off the table. Think about how you would attempt to get your “unreasonable” friend to change their mind, assuming, of course, that you do not agree with them. Once you have your plan in mind read the article linked below which is written by an Industrial/Organizational psychologists who has done research on motivating people to change their minds and who actually has a friend who is leaning hard towards NOT getting vaccinated or having his children vaccinated against the corona virus.

Source: The Science of Reasoning With Unreasonable People, Adam Grant, The New York Times.

Date: January 31, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, the brute force approach to changing someone else’s mind on an issue that you see as very important not just to yourself but to general public health and wellbeing does not generally work very well. The description of Motivational Interviewing and the discussion of how it could possibly be applied to your interactions with your friend over the matter in vaccination is well laid out makes sense. Research in a great many areas (see the list of further readings) has demonstrated that is a very effective way to get people to decide to make and to actually implement personal change. Perhaps we should all pay attention to the suggestions offered as we start to come up against individuals or groups who are part of the not insubstantial portion of the population who are opposed to getting vaccinated. Doing so will help us deal with the current public health crisis and it will potentially help us to back away from some of the other descriptors that we typically associate with unreasonable (such as stubborn, unintelligent, stupid, crazy, or delusional) even if we don’t say them out loud. We could all be better off for it, research suggests.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How would you approach or argue with a friend who told you that they were not going to get vaccinated against Covid-19?
  2. What is Motivational Interviewing and what does it involve?
  3. How might the suggested advantages of Motivational interviewing in relation to getting more people to get vaccinated be put into place (in addition to you using it with your friends)?

References (Read Further):

Rubak, S., Sandbæk, A., Lauritzen, T., & Christensen, B. (2005). Motivational interviewing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British journal of general practice, 55(513), 305-312. Link

Heckman, C. J., Egleston, B. L., & Hofmann, M. T. (2010). Efficacy of motivational interviewing for smoking cessation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Tobacco control, 19(5), 410-416. Link

Armstrong, M. J., Mottershead, T. A., Ronksley, P. E., Sigal, R. J., Campbell, T. S., & Hemmelgarn, B. R. (2011). Motivational interviewing to improve weight loss in overweight and/or obese patients: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obesity reviews, 12(9), 709-723. Link

Resnick, Brian (2020) How to talk someone out of bigotry, VOX, Jan 29, 2020 Link

Boodman, Eric (2019) The vaccine whisperers: Counselors gently engage new parents before their doubts harden into certainty, StatNews, Link

Gagneur, A., Lemaître, T., Gosselin, V., Farrands, A., Carrier, N., Petit, G., … & De Wals, P. (2018). A postpartum vaccination promotion intervention using motivational interviewing techniques improves short-term vaccine coverage: PromoVac study. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 1-8. Link

Lemaitre, T., Carrier, N., Farrands, A., Gosselin, V., Petit, G., & Gagneur, A. (2019). Impact of a vaccination promotion intervention using motivational interview techniques on long-term vaccine coverage: the PromoVac strategy. Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics, 15(3), 732-739. Link

Itzchakov, G., DeMarree, K. G., Kluger, A. N., & Turjeman-Levi, Y. (2018). The listener sets the tone: High-quality listening increases attitude clarity and behavior-intention consequences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(5), 762-778. Link

Magill, M., Gaume, J., Apodaca, T. R., Walthers, J., Mastroleo, N. R., Borsari, B., & Longabaugh, R. (2014). The technical hypothesis of motivational interviewing: A meta-analysis of MI’s key causal model. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 82(6), 973. Link

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Description: Consider this premise. These days (in what we hope is the latter parts of the COVID-19 pandemic) there are troublingly high rates of loneliness, anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges among the general population. Therapy is hard to access both due to isolation and to its not being routinely covered as health care in North America. So, might there be an opportunity to utilize Artificial Intelligence or AI-bots to provide support or perhaps even a form of therapy at little or no cost to users. Now before you dismiss this as science fiction or fantasy go and have a chat with Eliza. Eliza has been around for over 50 years. She may be a bit frustrating as she is a Rogerian and tends to reflect most of what you say back to you so that you can think about it more deeply. Eliza is an AI-bot, though her programming has not been updated for years so perhaps she is not a good example of the potential in AI-bots for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. So, what do you think? Is there potential here? What are its potential pitfalls? Once you have your thoughts sorted in relation to these questions have a read through the article linked below to see what research and what some Cognitive Behavior Therapists (in the video) have to say on these matters.

Source: COVID-19 has made Americans lonelier than ever – here’s how AI can help, Laken Brooks, The Conversation.

Date: February 12, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Stefan Dr. Schulz from Pixabay

Article Link:

SO, what do you think?  I hope you had at least one or two thoughts about the ethical issues in making AI-bot “therapists” generally available (and yes, I know, human therapists will understandably object to their designation being used this way).  Certainly Replika, Tess, and Woebot are more advanced than Eliza and their creators seem to be aware that they are not actually replacements for human therapists so much as they may be aides to those who could be helped to access human therapy. In addition, the research data indicating that people feel better after interacting with an AI-chatbot and vulnerable populations such as young people and the elderly may particularly benefit. Yes, of course, more research AND ethical caution are needed but there are some interesting possibilities here.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Can an AI-Chatbot make people feel better?
  2. When or under what conditions might an AI-Chatbot be an appropriate part of general approached to mental health issues?
  3. What limitations should be put in place with the application of this technology and what additional research is needed in this area?

References (Read Further):

Simonite, Tom (2020) The Therapist Is In – and It’s a Chatbot, Wired. Link

Bendig, E., Erb, B., Schulze-Thuesing, L., & Baumeister, H. (2019). The next generation: chatbots in clinical psychology and psychotherapy to foster mental health–a scoping review. Verhaltenstherapie, 1-13. Link

Fulmer, R., Joerin, A., Gentile, B., Lakerink, L., & Rauws, M. (2018). Using psychological artificial intelligence (Tess) to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety: randomized controlled trial. JMIR mental health, 5(4), e9782. Link

Metz, Cade (2020) Riding Out Quarantine With a Chatbot Friend: ‘I Feel Very Connected’, The New York Times. Link

Bell, S., Wood, C., & Sarkar, A. (2019, May). Perceptions of chatbots in therapy. In Extended Abstracts of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-6). Link

Cameron, G., Cameron, D., Megaw, G., Bond, R., Mulvenna, M., O’Neill, S., … & McTear, M. (2017, July). Towards a chatbot for digital counselling. In Proceedings of the 31st International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI 2017) 31 (pp. 1-7). Link

Lee, Y. C., Yamashita, N., Huang, Y., & Fu, W. (2020, April). ” I Hear You, I Feel You”: Encouraging Deep Self-disclosure through a Chatbot. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1-12). Link

Gentner, T., Neitzel, T., Schulze, J., & Buettner, R. (2020, July). A Systematic Literature Review of Medical Chatbot Research from a Behavior Change Perspective. In 2020 IEEE 44th Annual Computers, Software, and Applications Conference (COMPSAC) (pp. 735-740). IEEE. Link

Cameron, G., Cameron, D., Megaw, G., Bond, R., Mulvenna, M., O’Neill, S., … & McTear, M. (2018, October). Assessing the usability of a chatbot for mental health care. In International Conference on Internet Science (pp. 121-132). Springer, Cham. Link

Posted by & filed under Gender-Role Development Sex Differences, General Psychology, Human Development, Intergroup Relations, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Sexual Disorders Gender Dysphoria, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health, The Self.

Description: Remember how sad Charlie Brown was when he did not get a single Valentine? The social norms of romantic love are burning brightly at the center of all that is involved in Valentine’s Day. Today (well tomorrow actually) having a Valentine is more difficult unless they are already holed up with you in whatever level of Covid related social isolation you are currently under. However, no social norms are universally applicable. It is not actually the case that anyone with someone to call their Valentine must be depressed on February 14th. Why might that be? Well yes, Valentine’s Day has gotten rather over-commercialized and somewhat oppressive but think about what some other reasons might be and then have a read through the article linked below to see in your thoughts align with research into this question.

Source: Single on Valentine’s Day and happily so, Elizabeth Brake, The Conversation.

Date: February 12, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Article Link:

One perspective not discussed in the article involves the pandemic Valentine’s Day fact that some people are enjoying their own company and the opportunity celebrate their relationship with themselves this year. To the point of the article though, the idea that social norms are NOT universal and that this is not a reason to feel badly for or to morally condemn those to whom the social norms do not apply is an important one. More millennials are choosing to live alone. While the percentage of people who are aromantic or asexual may seem small this may be partially be due to the power that social norms have to shape the thinking and the self-identification of aromantic or asexual individuals. In addition, some people have friendships that are just as fulfilling and valuable as romantic partnerships. There has been some discussion (and a movie recently made) about friends-in-law that raise the question of whether there might be situations where a friendship should have legal standing as a significant other relationship and recognized in law. As social psychology has been saying for ages, we need to be aware of the diverse consequences of thinking in terms of social norms as no social norms are universal, even if we and Hallmark Cards pretend they are.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What social norms are at play within the “traditions” of Valentine’s Day?
  2. What are some of the consequences that might be experienced by individuals whose current circumstances or wants, or desires do not fit within the social norms you came up with above?
  3. How should we think about or act toward people who do not fit neatly within social norms associated with moments or events like Valentine’s Day?

References (Read Further):

DePaulo, Bella (2012) Should Marriage be Abolished, Minimized, or Left Alone? Psychology Today. Link

Brake, E. (2011). Minimizing marriage: Marriage, morality, and the law. Oxford University Press. Overview of Book

Fry, R (2017) The share of Americans living without a partner has increased, especially among young adults, Pew Research Center. Link

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network Link

Bicchieri, C., & Muldoon, R. (2011). Social norms. Link

Lapinski, M. K., & Rimal, R. N. (2005). An explication of social norms. Communication theory, 15(2), 127-147. Link

Cialdini, R. B., & Trost, M. R. (1998). Social influence: Social norms, conformity and compliance. Link

Goldstein, N. J., Griskevicius, V., & Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Invoking social norms: A social psychology perspective on improving hotels’ linen-reuse programs. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 48(2), 145-150. Link

Schultz, P. W., Nolan, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N. J., & Griskevicius, V. (2007). The constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms. Psychological science, 18(5), 429-434. Link

Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Legal Ethical Issues, Persuasion, Research Methods, Research Methods in ADA, Research Methods in AP, Research Methods in ChD, Research Methods in CP, Research Methods in SP, Social Influence.

Description: If I asked you to ponder what it is like to be a Guinea Pig, I suspect you would not actually start to reflect on what it might be like to be small and furry. Rather, you would be more likely to contemplate what is would be like to be a participant in a research study that involved having something, perhaps a new treatment for something, tried on you. Now, Psychologists these days, according to the Tri-Council research ethics guidelines surround ing ALL research with human participants are not supposed to refer to their human research participants as Guinea Pigs or as subjects The former is not to be used because it is inhumane and ethics guidelines for research with animals are somewhat different than are those for research with humans and, as well, the latter label “subjects” carries the baggage of the holder being subject to regal decrees and royal whims – not how researchers ought to behave. You may not care about these matters BUT what if you were one of the thousands of humans participating in trials of newly developed Coronavirus vaccines? Think about that. The trials are “blind” which means that, while they are in the trial, they are not told whether the “jab(s)” they received were genuine vaccines or placebos. Think about what sorts of thoughts you would be having if you were in such a trial. Why are trials set up so that participants do not know if they got the vaccine or the placebo? And why are placebo’s used? And when should the researchers tell you which shot you received? Or would they ever? When your turn come up in your general health system should you get whatever vaccine is being offered to you? I bet you would be thinking about some or maybe all of these things even if you were not being asked by me to think about them. That is one of the HUGE differences between studying humans and studying Guinea Pigs and it informs a great many of the codes and clauses in research ethics guidelines. Consider how YOU would ask and answer these questions and then read through the article linked below in which an individual currently in a vaccine trial describes their own thoughts and actions.

Source: Vaccine trials and tribulations: How the Oxford/AstraZeneca experiments put my immunity and my instinct to the test, Tiffany Cassidy, The Globe and Mail.

Date: February 6, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay

Article Link:

Studying humans in any is challenging because they notice, think about, and react to what you do or have them do in your research. The rocks that geologists study don’t do that and neither di Guinea Pigs. I hope, having considered the very current and alive example of participation in vaccine trials you have a better understanding of the complexity and the importance of research ethics guidelines. They are vitally important!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does it mean to call a research study condition “blind”?
  2. Why are blind trials important parts of vaccine research trials and why are they ethical (to only give half of the participants the “real” vaccine”?
  3. Under what conditions would it be ethically essential to stop a clinical trial and give everyone the “real” vaccine?

References (Read Further):

Hill, A. B. (1963). Medical ethics and controlled trials. British medical journal, 1(5337), 1043. Link

Temple, R., & Ellenberg, S. S. (2000). Placebo-controlled trials and active-control trials in the evaluation of new treatments. Part 1: ethical and scientific issues. Annals of internal medicine, 133(6), 455-463. Link

Edwards, S. J., Lilford, R. J., & Hewison, J. (1998). The ethics of randomised controlled trials from the perspectives of patients, the public, and healthcare professionals. Bmj, 317(7167), 1209-1212. Link

Wendler, D., Ochoa, J., Millum, J., Grady, C., & Taylor, H. A. (2020). COVID-19 vaccine trial ethics once we have efficacious vaccines. Science, 370(6522), 1277-1279. Link (2020) Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans – TCPS 2 (2018) Link

Canadian Psychological Association Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (Fourth Edition)

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

Description: Here is a very simple and complex question. Do you see red like I see red? Simple, right? Look at the picture below. The garment and the umbrella are red right? So, what is complicated? Well, yes, we seem to use the same label for our sensory experiences when we see things like the robes and the umbrella in the picture but are we really experiencing “red” the same way? Now that is sounding more like a philosophical question. However, perhaps, neuroscience research into the brain function can save us from the philosophical slippery slopes of questions like what is red anyway? If you had access to the sophisticated brain imaging/scanning systems available today what might you try and do in order to address the “simple” question of whether your red is the same as my red? Think about that for a moment and then read through the article oinked below to see what researchers who really do have access to those serious scanning tools have approached this question.

Source: Do you see red like I see red? Bevil R. Conway and Danny Garside, The Conversation.

Date: February 5, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, colors are not just labels and they are not just tags that help us identify objects. When under a yellow light (so that all colors are different) people can still identify strawberries but they no longer find them appetizing. Add to this the fact that older people bring their own “yellow” visual filters to day-to-day life with the yellowing of their cornea’s with age which effects how they perceive colors like green. Diving into the brain a bit deeper, research suggests that it may be possible to identify what a person is “seeing” without asking them and to have that generalize across reading other people’s brain responses to a color. So, while it takes a lot of work, and we are not there yet, it may be that neuroscience research looking into our brains will show us that “color IS a fact we can agree on.” (Linked article).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How could you know if you and your friend are seeing the same thing (experiencing the same color sensations) when you are both looking at the same red apple?
  2. What does brain scanning research allow us to add to your consideration of the previous question?
  3. So, what ARE colors and what do they do for use (what do we use them for)?

References (Read Further):

Lafer-Sousa, R., Hermann, K. L., & Conway, B. R. (2015). Striking individual differences in color perception uncovered by ‘the dress’ photograph. Current Biology, 25(13), R545-R546. Link

Thierry, G., Athanasopoulos, P., Wiggett, A., Dering, B., & Kuipers, J. R. (2009). Unconscious effects of language-specific terminology on preattentive color perception. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(11), 4567-4570. Link

Lotto, R. B., & Purves, D. (2002). The empirical basis of color perception. Consciousness and Cognition, 11(4), 609-629. Link

Brown, A. M., Lindsey, D. T., & Guckes, K. M. (2011). Color names, color categories, and color-cued visual search: Sometimes, color perception is not categorical. Journal of vision, 11(12), 2-2. Link

Rosenthal, I., Ratnasingam, S., Haile, T., Eastman, S., Fuller-Deets, J., & Conway, B. R. (2018). Color statistics of objects, and color tuning of object cortex in macaque monkey. Journal of vision, 18(11), 1-1. Link

Gibson, Ted and Conway, Bevil R. (2017) Languages don’t all have the same number of terms for colors – scientists have a new theory why, The Conversation. Link

Hasantash, M., Lafer-Sousa, R., Afraz, A., & Conway, B. R. (2019). Paradoxical impact of memory on color appearance of faces. Nature communications, 10(1), 1-10. Link

Henderson, A. J., Lasselin, J., Lekander, M., Olsson, M. J., Powis, S. J., Axelsson, J., & Perrett, D. I. (2017). Skin colour changes during experimentally-induced sickness. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 60, 312-318. Link

Lafer-Sousa, R., & Conway, B. R. (2017). # TheDress: categorical perception of an ambiguous color image. Journal of Vision, 17(12), 25-25. Link

Hatfield, G. (2003). Objectivity and subjectivity revisited: Color as a psychobiological property. Colour perception: Mind and the physical world, 187-202. Link

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, General Psychology, Health and Prevention In Aging, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Neuroscience, Social Perception, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: Being lonely is not an enjoyable experience and in many ways that I suspect you are aware of or could guess at, it is not good for you either. But how does prolonged loneliness effect your brain and why might it be useful and important to know how loneliness impacts people’s brains? Think about possible answers to both of these questions and once you have your thoughts inn order read through the article linked below and, if you are intrigued about the research article in question then read the research article itself which is also linked below.

Source: What does a lonely brain look like? Study offers new answers, Eric Andrew-Gee, The Globe and Mail.

Date: February 6, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Isa KARAKUS from Pixabay

Article Link: or get the research article itself HERE.

So, why might it be important to be able to point to the way that loneliness changes the brain? Well, first it matters that the study in question contained detailed brain scanning data from around 40,000 people, meaning that any consistent differences linked to loneliness will likely be consistent and worth paying attention to. The the age range of the participants (40 to 69 years) is a bit narrow but it contains older individuals which is a group of particular concern in terms of loneliness so that is not a problem. The question of causality is also unclear. Is it that loneliness causes the observed differences if the default pathways in the brains of lonely people or is it that people with that variations in their default pathways are more likely to be lonely? Of course, more research is needed. BUT, the possible links between the observed brain changes and things that lonely people very likely do more of, such as reminisce or imagine or plan possible social connections is very interesting. That finding links very nicely into concerted efforts among physicians in Britain, where the study was done, to encourage the use of social prescriptions, particularly for their elderly patients. Literally prescribing social activities (e.g., taking a gardening class or joining a community group or club) has been shown to significantly improve general functioning among the elderly. In addition, the possible line of enquiry looking at links between loneliness and Alzheimer’s disease is also quite intriguing. We already know a great deal about the impacts of early childhood experiences of social and on physical health, and illness so expanding our research into the health impacts of later life experiences makes sense.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What changes seems to have occurred in the brains of older lonely people?
  2. How and why might those changes occur?
  3. What are some of the possible future implications that we might look forward to if, as the researchers indicate they intend to do, this line of research is expanded?

References (Read Further):

Spreng, R. N., Dimas, E., Mwilambwe-Tshilobo, L., Dagher, A., Koellinger, P., Nave, G., … & Bzdok, D. (2020). The default network of the human brain is associated with perceived social isolation. Nature communications, 11(1), 1-11. Link

Jani, A., & Gray, M. (2019). Making social prescriptions mainstream. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 112(11), 459-461. Link

Jungmann, S., Mistry, P., Conibear, T., Gray, M., & Jani, A. (2020). Using technology-enabled social prescriptions to disrupt healthcare. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 113(2), 59-63. Link

Bird, W., Adamo, G., Pitini, E., Gray, M., & Jani, A. (2020). Reducing chronic stress to promote health in adults: the role of social prescriptions and social movements. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 113(3), 105-109. Link

Gray, M., Adamo, G., Pitini, E., & Jani, A. (2020). Precision social prescriptions to promote active ageing in older people. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 113(4), 143-147. Link

Mercer, C. (2018). Primary care providers exploring value of “social prescriptions” for patients. Link

Posted by & filed under Aggression, Group Processes, Legal Ethical Issues, Persuasion, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: Discussion and debate about the factors that lead up to the violent actions taken by supporters of Donald Trump in Washington on January 6, 2021 are often wrapped in political stances and loyalties. As the Senate trial of Donald Trump on the single article of impeachment of encouraging insurrection approaches it is useful to step back and consider that there are many examples of people and situations where things were said that may have led to groups taking violent actions. In that, Donald Trump is not new. Common across such nasty historical moments is that speakers do not directly ask or tell their “followers” to go forth and commit violence despite the violence that follows their speeches. So, if they do not directly request or demand violence what does research examining past examples of speech that incited violence indicate may be the factors that causally link the speech with the subsequent violent actions? Think about what might be involved and it may help to think about what was said (and how it was said) by Donald Trump at the Ellipse Park in Washington DC on January 6, 2021 if only because it is a recent example that anyone tracking North American events over the past month or so heard something about. After you have reflected a bit on the possible causal impacts of what was said have a read through the article linked below for some examples of what research into past events suggests.

Source: Incitement to violence is rarely explicit – here are some techniques people use to breed hate. H. Colleen Sinclair, The Conversation.

Date: January 26, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Article Link:

for further application see:

SO, did the discussion of some of the research into speech that incites violence clarify anything for you regarding recent events? Certainly, we have, over the past 4 years, heard a lot of top-down talk containing aspects of Anger, Contempt and Disgust aimed at other countries, immigrants, and political opponents (both Democrat AND Republican). Donald Trump’s speech of January 6 may be seen to have ticked a lot of the content points discussed in the article. It will be interesting to see where legal, political and general social debate goes with the speech and related actions in the coming weeks and the available research on previous speech/violence links can be rather informative.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Can a speech contribute to violence without actually containing specific calls to be violent?
  2. What does it mean to “incite” violence and how might we work out issues of moral and legal culpability in such situations?
  3. What areas of Psychology does the research discussed in the article trade in and what other research would be worth doing or at least interesting to do to further expand our understanding of the Psychology of incitement to violence (and how to control it)?

References (Read Further):

United Nations (2018) A New Era of Conflict and Violence, Link

Matsumoto, D., Frank, M. G., & Hwang, H. C. (2015). The role of intergroup emotions in political violence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(5), 369-373. Link

Leader Maynard, J., & Benesch, S. (2016). Dangerous speech and dangerous ideology: An integrated model for monitoring and prevention. Genocide Studies and Prevention, 9(3). Link

Williams, T., & Neilsen, R. (2019). “They will rot the society, rot the party, and rot the army”*: Toxification as an ideology and motivation for perpetrating violence in the Khmer Rouge genocide?. Terrorism and Political Violence, 31(3), 494-515. Link

Marcus, K. L. (2012). Accusation in a Mirror. Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, 43(2), 357-393. Link

Speech, D., & Sudan, S. Dangerous Speech: A Practical Guide. Link

Faris, R., Ashar, A., Gasser, U., & Joo, D. (2016). Understanding harmful speech online. Berkman Klein Center Research Publication, (2016-21). Link

Buyse, A. (2014). Words of violence: Fear speech, or how violent conflict escalation relates to the freedom of expression. Hum. Rts. Q., 36, 779. Link

Bleich, E. (2011). The rise of hate speech and hate crime laws in liberal democracies. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(6), 917-934. Link