Posted by & filed under Consciousness, General Psychology, Research Methods, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: I suspect you have, more than once had this experience. You wake up in the middle of the night, say around 3 AM, and cannot get back to sleep. You mind races, you worry about things that you really may not worry about much during the day, and you also worry that you are not getting the sleep you are going to need in order to manage your next day. Sound familiar? If not, well good for you, but what about the rest of us? In any introductory class focusing on research methods the notion that we should be cautious of any assumptions we may have about the phenomenon we are going to study as those assumptions might seriously limit the range of hypotheses we might consider when we set up our research. What does that have to do with sleep “disturbances”? Well, how about this. Some medieval author, in passing in their writing, mentioned first and second sleeps (think of the Hobbit notion of first and second breakfast). What there seem to have been referring to is a habit of going to sleep when it got dark out then waking up in the middle of the night, getting up and doing a few things and then going back to bed and sleeping until morning. Why? Who knows BUT what if THAT is how were all used to sleep and this current practice of aiming to sleep through the night and freaking out when we cannot do that is essentially not how we have been built or shaped evolutionarily? So, if believing it is right and natural to sleep through the night and that not doing so is odd and problematic is a sort of sleep bias what might we do, in the way of research to investigate this? Once you have your research plan in mind have a read through the linked article that discusses both historical and current research into this question.

Source: Can Medieval Sleeping Habits Fix America’s Insomnia? Derek Thompson, The Atlantic.

Date: January 27, 2022

Image by Conmongt from Pixabay

Article Link:

Isn’t it fun when research does NOT lead us to clear definite conclusions? It suggests that, as in many things, we are habitually adaptive and can do things like out night’s sleep in a number of ways. It is certainly true that the advent of artificial light changed a number of sleep related things and potentially limited or reduced sleep but then, looking farther back, the advent of controlled fire (that we could light and put out as needed) made sustained sleep possible by keeping us warm and keeping predators at bay. SO, we are adaptable and perhaps knowing that we are adaptable might make it easier for us to not get too wrapped up in anxiety on those nights where we wake at 3 AM and have trouble getting back to sleep.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Does waking up in the middle of the night and worrying about things mean that you are not coping well?
  2. What are some things you could do if you find yourself waking up at 3 or 4 AM and worrying?
  3. What sorts of a theory of sleep could we come up with that would be able to include the differences in sleep patterns discussed in the linked article?

References (Read Further):

Yetish, G., Kaplan, H., Gurven, M., Wood, B., Pontzer, H., Manger, P. R., … & Siegel, J. M. (2015). Natural sleep and its seasonal variations in three pre-industrial societies. Current Biology, 25(21), 2862-2868. Link

Samson, D. R., Manus, M. B., Krystal, A. D., Fakir, E., Yu, J. J., & Nunn, C. L. (2017). Segmented sleep in a nonelectric, small‐scale agricultural society in Madagascar. American Journal of Human Biology, 29(4), e22979. Link

Smit, A. N., Broesch, T., Siegel, J. M., & Mistlberger, R. E. (2019). Sleep timing and duration in indigenous villages with and without electric lighting on Tanna Island, Vanuatu. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-16. Link

Ekirch, A. R. (2016). Segmented sleep in preindustrial societies. Sleep, 39(3), 715-716. Link

Hegarty, S. (2012). The myth of the eight-hour sleep. BBC News Magazine, 22. Link

Ekirch, A. R. (2001). Sleep we have lost: pre-industrial slumber in the British Isles. The American Historical Review, 106(2), 343-386. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Legal Ethical Issues, Motivation-Emotion, Psychological Intervention, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: The Canadian cellular services company, Bell, launched the Let’s Talk campaign in 2010. It is focused on reducing/eliminating stigma associated with mental illness. Stigma, related to mental illness, is a social phenomenon involving beliefs about the nature of mental illness (e.g., that it is somehow the fault of the people who struggle with it) and its consequences (e.g., that people who have had issues with mental illness cannot be trusted and perhaps should be avoided or shunned). Such beliefs are not founded on any objective data and they make it difficult for those in need of assistance to access what they need and to stay connected with the very social support networks that they need as they deal with mental health challenges. Bell’s campaign has been very successful, not just in relation to how the general public thinks and talks about mental illness and mental health and wellness but also in terms of the 4121 million dollars the Let’s Talk campaign has committed to mental health in Canada. There has been some criticism of the campaign along the way pointing to the PR payoff Bell has enjoyed from the Let’s Talk campaign. There is no doubt, however that it has done a lot of good in relation to stigma and associated attitudes towards mental illness. One additional issue regarding the campaign involves a bit of concern that it may stop short in some ways as it suggests that just being able to talk to someone, to be told that someone is there and prepared to listen when someone wants or needs to talk about their mental health issues is all people need at such times. Taking nothing at all away from the message that being heard and not stigmatized by those close to us is a vital part coping what about the additional “talk” that is very likely needed in the quest for mental health? Think for a minute about what you know or believe about what sort of therapeutic talk might be needed. Who should provide it? What should it look /sound like? What sorts of signs, criteria or markers should one be looking for and asking about when trying to decide which therapist to engage in healing talk with? Once you have your thoughts in order, read the article linked below in which two Psychologists work through this important aspect of talk related to mental health.

Source: This Bell Let’s Talk Day, let’s talk about how we’re talking about therapy, Skye Fitzpatrick and Candice Monson, Opinion, The Globe and Mail.

Date: January 25, 2022

Image by mohamed_hassan from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, how did your thoughts, criteria and suggested questions map out in relation to those provided by the Psychologists in the linked article? They are right in saying that is should not entirely be the responsibility of those seeking therapeutic assistance to judge the value and validity of what is being offered. The model of practice adopted by the Canadian and American Psychological Associations and legislatively supported, in Canada by provincial Colleges of Psychologists and in the United States by similar state level regulatory bodies is most generally described as the Scientist Practitioner model. At the core of this model is the belief that therapists in clinical practice must have a deep undressing of the scientific roots of their therapeutic practice and an ongoing commitment to remaining current with relevant psychological science, to utilize scientific principles in their ongoing practice evaluation (what is working for who and how well is it working), and, most importantly, to only utilize therapeutic approaches and practices that have been shown by scientific research to be effective. This is seen not just as a good idea but also as a key ethical commitment that psychotherapists must hold to and regularly reflect upon. It is an important part of assuring that therapeutic talk is therapeutically effective talk. So, yes, there IS more to talk about.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sort of talk does the Let’s Talk campaign try to encourage?
  2. Why is the sort of talk address in the previous question important?
  3. What is different about the talk that people have with their psychotherapists and how and why is this (or should this be) an important ethical issue for psychotherapists?

References (Read Further):

Lyra (2022) research suggests most health plan providers are not practicing evidence-based treatments, A White Paper. Link

American psychological Association, Division 12, Society of Clinical Psychology (2016) Psychological Diagnosis and Other Targets of Treatment. Link

Shafi, Hana (January 27, 2016). “Let’s Talk About The Corporatization of Mental Health”. Torontoist. Retrieved October 22, 2018. Link

Krashinsky, Susan; Ladurantaye, Steve (February 13, 2018). “‘Let’s Talk’ campaign a boost for mental health and Bell”. Globe And Mail. Retrieved December 7, 2018. Link

Magder, Jason (October 6, 2014). “Bell Let’s Talk Day: a good deed, or just good PR?”. Montreal Gazette. Retrieved January 24, 2019. Link

Shapiro s, D. (2002). Renewing the scientist-practitioner model. Psychologist-Leicester-, 15(5), 232-235. Link

Rupp, D. E., & Beal, D. (2007). Checking in with the scientist-practitioner model: How are we doing. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 45(1), 35-40. Link

Petersen, C. A. (2007). A historical look at psychology and the scientist-practitioner model. American Behavioral Scientist, 50(6), 758-765. Link

Blair, L. (2010). A critical review of the scientist-practitioner model for counselling psychology. Counselling Psychology Review, 25(4), 19-30. Link

Callahan, J. L., & Watkins Jr, C. E. (2018). Evidence-based training: The time has come. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 12(4), 211–218. Link

Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Child Development, Cognitive Development: The Information-Processing Approach, Consciousness, Development of the Self, Human Development, Social Cognition, Social Psychology.

Description: Do you like magic tricks? Thinking back to your childhood (assuming you say one or two magic shows) can you remember the point in your development where your reaction to seeing a magic trick shifted from “Wow that was amazing magic” to “Wow, how did they do that.” At some point we (well almost all of us) figure out that while it is not “real” Magic is still amazing and trying to figure out how the magician led us to believe something that was not true or the way we thought can be very engaging. Have you ever tried that “pretend to throw the ball or toy but don’t” trick with your dog? Most dogs are quite easy to fool. They believe you have thrown the ball and dash around looking for it until you show it then again, in your hand. Or what about the trick repeated countless times in social media videos where a person plays peekaboo with their pet using a large blanket and then tosses the blanket up in the air slightly and “disappears.” We could call these sorts of tricks “playing with animals’ minds” and that IS what a lot of the video producers are doing but we can also say that the videos involve explorations into the animals’ minds. Watch a few of the videos and see if you can tell whether the animals involved have any hypotheses about what happened to their humans. In the series of videos linked above it looks to me like most of the dogs seem to be looking to one side of the door or other for their human while the cats seem more likely to be looking at the blanket piled on the floor as if the human might still be in there. How might researchers use “magic” to explore questions about how animals’ minds work? Think about how that might work, about what sorts of situations you would set up, what types of tricks you might use, and which types of animals might to include in your studies. After you have your magical research thoughts sorted watch the video linked below to see what some researchers have done by way of magic for birds.

Source: Animal magic: The scientists do magic tricks on jays, New Scientist, YouTube.

Date: January 23, 2022

Image by Bev from Pixabay

Article Link:

The research discussed and shown in the video focused in upon reactions in jays to disappearance or to the unexpected or “magical” transformation of a preferred food into a less preferred food or vice versa. We can use such experiments to build a better understanding of how jays understand their world and navigate their way within it. A related area of research involves looking at whether animals develop Theories of Mind as human preschoolers do. Up to 3 to 4 years of age, preschoolers base their predictions about what they AND others will do in a situation on what they themselves (the 3-year-olds) believe to be true. For example, have a 3-year-old watch a puppet show in which a child puppet helps his or her mother put away some groceries and makes a big deal out of putting some chocolate that was purchased (their favorite thing!) into the red cupboard and then they go outside to play. While they are outside the mother puppet makes some cookies and after using some of the prized chocolate, pouts it away in the other, blue, cupboard then she leaves the room. The child puppet returns saying they are going to have some of that yummy chocolate and at that moment the action is stopped and the watching 3-year-old is asked which cupboard the child puppet is going to look in for the chocolate, the red one where the child puppet put it or the blue one where it really IS because the mother puppet put it there. What do you think they say? Well, 3-year-olds tend to go with what they know to be true and say the puppet will look for the chocolate in the blue cupboard where it actually is while 4-year-olds tend to say the child puppet will look in the red cupboard where they put the chocolate before going out to play. In other words, 4-year-olds can properly “read minds” while 3-year-olds cannot. Now, lastly, here is an animal example (a true story). A troop of monkeys live in a large research enclosure at a research university. The troop has a typical dominance hierarchy which means that if a more dominant monkey sees that a monkey that is below them on the dominance hierarchy has a food prize (a banana), the more dominant monkey will rush over and take it away for themselves. Troop life can suck if you are lower down the hierarchy. However, the treats are sometime delivered in a special way. Throughout the habitat that the troop lives in are “treasure boxes” which are locked boxes big enough to hold things like banana treats. All members of the troop know this a regularly check to see if they can open the treasure boxes as they more around their large enclosure. The locks on the boxes are radio controlled so that researchers can unlock a treasure box without being there but while watching via a video camera. The locks make a slight clicking sound when they are unlocked that is only loud enough to be heard by monkeys that are within a meter or so of the box. Do you see what is coming? A juvenile member of the troop that is rather low in the dominance hierarchy is sitting near a box and hears its lock click to open. What does it do? Well, first it looks around carefully. If it is alone, it retrieves the treasure and eats it quickly or climbs high up in a tree with it and then eats it. BUT, if a more dominant troop member is in sight, but far enough away that they did not hear the click the monkey carefully ignores the box, looking away, fiddling with leaves etc. until the other troop member wanders off and then the monkey retrieves the treasure. They use a theory of mind to deceive their treasure foe so they can get the treat for themselves. They are showing the theory of mind ability of a human 4-year-old! If you ant to find out more about animal mind theories or animal magic use have a look at some of the articles in the References/Further Reading list below.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How do animals respond to magic tricks??
  2. What sorts of things can magic trick responses tell us about the minds of the animals we are showing the tricks to?
  3. What is a theory of mind and how do we use ours? How do animals use theirs (or do they even have one)?

References (Read Further):

Garcia-Pelegrin, E., Schnell, A. K., Wilkins, C., & Clayton, N. S. (2021). Exploring the perceptual inabilities of Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius) using magic effects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(24). Link

Schnell, A. K., Loconsole, M., Garcia-Pelegrin, E., Wilkins, C., & Clayton, N. S. (2021). Jays are sensitive to cognitive illusions. Royal Society open science, 8(8), 202358. Link

Garcia-Pelegrin, E., Wilkins, C., & Clayton, N. S. (2021). The Ape That Lived to Tell the Tale. The Evolution of the Art of Storytelling and Its Relationship to Mental Time Travel and Theory of Mind. Frontiers in psychology, 4623. Link

Frith, C., & Frith, U. (2005). Theory of mind. Current biology, 15(17), R644-R645. Link

Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”?. Cognition, 21(1), 37-46. Link

Wellman, H. M. (2011). Developing a theory of mind. Link

Heyes, C. M. (1998). Theory of mind in nonhuman primates. Behavioral and brain sciences, 21(1), 101-114. Link

Báez-Mendoza, R., & Williams, Z. M. (2020). Monkeys Show Theory of Mind. Cell reports, 30(13), 4319-4320. Link

Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2011). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? 30 years later. Human Nature and Self Design, 83-96. Link

Browne, D. (2004). Do dolphins know their own minds?. Biology and Philosophy, 19(4), 633-653. Link

Tomonaga, M., & Uwano, Y. (2010). Bottlenose dolphins'(Tursiops truncatus) theory of mind as demonstrated by responses to their trainers’ attentional states. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 23(3). Link

Hill, H. M., Dietrich, S., Cadena, A., Raymond, J., & Cheves, K. (2018). More than a fluke: Lessons learned from a failure to replicate the false belief task in dolphins. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 31. Link

Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, Consciousness, Cultural Variation, Industrial Organizational Psychlology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: What is a nudge? Might be a slight poke in the arm used to get someone’s attention or to announce your arrival to a friend who had their back turned to you. But more than a tap, nudges more typically are thought of as things that get people moving in a particular direction. As a child a friend might have nudged you to do something by actually pushing you a bit or by daring you (e.g., to ask someone to dance). Psychologists have studied things that could be called nudges for a long time. How can you get people to eat better, get more exercise, wear a mask, or get vaccinated? Well, you could order them (via rules or legislation) or you could encourage them with incentives (e.g., prizes or flat-out payments). But perhaps you could nudge them? What might that look like, and would it work? Think about these last two questions and then read the article linked below to see what a researchers in applied decision-making has to say about what the research into nudges does and does not suggest.

Source: Nudges: four reasons to doubt popular techniques to shape people’s behavior, Magna Osman, The Conversation.

Date: January 10, 2022

Image by JerzyGorecki from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, were you surprised at the lack of substantial consistent data supporting the use of nudges? Did you note that population level (i.e., big numbers) data on the efficacy of nudges suggests that they are about as effective as placebos? I think the lost importantly lacking thing is that there is no general theory of what nudges are, what they involve and how or when and if they work. Before we say more research is needed, perhaps it would be better to say that more thinking or theoretic reflection is needed in this area.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is a nudge?
  2. How would you distinguish a nudge from an incentive or a from a threat?
  3. What sorts of research need to be done to better ground the concept of nudges and what needs to be taken into account to ensure that new research in this area take into account possible ethical issues associated with nudges?

References (Read Further):

Osman, M., McLachlan, S., Fenton, N., Neil, M., Löfstedt, R., & Meder, B. (2020). Learning from behavioural changes that fail. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Link

Grüne-Yanoff, T., & Hertwig, R. (2016). Nudge versus boost: How coherent are policy and theory? Minds and Machines, 26(1), 149-183. Link

Vugts, A., Van Den Hoven, M., De Vet, E., & Verweij, M. (2020). How autonomy is understood in discussions on the ethics of nudging. Behavioural Public Policy, 4(1), 108-123. Link

Mele, C., Spena, T. R., Kaartemo, V., & Marzullo, M. L. (2021). Smart nudging: How cognitive technologies enable choice architectures for value co-creation. Journal of Business Research, 129, 949-960. Link

Boot, W. R., Simons, D. J., Stothart, C., & Stutts, C. (2013). The pervasive problem with placebos in psychology: Why active control groups are not sufficient to rule out placebo effects. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(4), 445-454. Link

Loewenstein, G., & Chater, N. (2017). Putting nudges in perspective. Behavioural Public Policy, 1(1), 26-53. Link

Hagman, W., Andersson, D., Västfjäll, D., & Tinghög, G. (2015). Public views on policies involving nudges. Review of philosophy and psychology, 6(3), 439-453. Link

Sunstein, C. R. (2017). Nudges that fail. Behavioural public policy, 1(1), 4-25. Link

Schubert, C. (2017). Green nudges: Do they work? Are they ethical?. Ecological Economics, 132, 329-342. Link


Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Social Cognition, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: A lot of the time, when you consider the concepts being discussed, examined and studied in psychological research I suspect that you saying to yourself things like “OK that makes sense” or “I can see how they are looking at that” or perhaps “I might define that a little bit differently.” What I am suggesting is that I bet that a lot of what psychologists talk about, when they are talking about concepts that you are familiar with thorough your lived experience, does not have you disagreeing with how they are defining these concepts and how they are relating them to everyday life. But I also bet that this is not always the case. There are social psychologists who study social concepts such a resentment, grudges, forgiveness and revenge. Can you think of a situation where you and a friend were talking about a situation (or a relationship) that one of you had experienced that had gone wrong and one of you (not the one with the lost relationship) suggests that the other should forgive the partner (though perhaps not to the extent of getting back together with them). How did that go? Does a lack of forgiveness automatically mean that the remaining option will involve revenge of some sort? What sorts of factors would turn things one way or the other? When I read about research in this area, I sometimes find that I am not sure I agree with the researchers in terms of how they are defining their terms or in how they are sketching out optimal social behaviour in such situations. Maybe it is just me. But, as a start to see where you sit have a read through the article linked below and think about whether you agree with the line the author is drawing out distinguishing holding a grudge from feeling resentment.

Source: Why Holding a Grudge Is So Satisfying, Alex McElroy, The New York Times Magazine.

Date: January 18, 2022

Image by nastya_gepp from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, how did the distinction between grudge and resentment land with you? I suggested you start with that because researchers who examine forgiveness and revenge tend to see grudges and resentments and very similar. I DO like the article authors argument that grudges are focused and “smaller” than resentments. The author also implies that while resentments are carried like examples of the sorts of life baggage, we carry whereas grudges are more action based and may be things we will act upon. Perhaps it would have worked to have the article characterized as advice, “Be healthier and less burdened, bear grudges not resettlement.” What do you think? If you want to dig in a bit deeper to this research domain have a look at a few of the article linked below in the References/Further Reading section. It is interesting stuff and sometimes entertaining as you try to decide what definitions you agree with and when ones you do not.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. If you had to how would you distinguish a grudge from resentment?
  2. Do you agree with the linked article author’s distinction between grudges and resentment and why or why not? If you would sort them out differently, how would you do so?
  3. With out without consulting the additional linked article below how would you theoretically sort of grudges, resentments, revenge, anger, and, perhaps, forgiveness? Is forgiveness just another concept in the collection of concepts or is it a sort of developmentally or ethically or spiritually advance higher ground and if so how?

References (Read Further):

Kutz, C. (2015). Forgiveness, forgetting, and resentment. Calif. L. Rev., 103, 1647. Link (yes this is a law review article so this stuff really matters, right?)

Murphy, J. G. (2007). Forgiveness, self-respect, and the value of resentment. In Handbook of forgiveness (pp. 57-64). Routledge. Link

Cherry, M. (2019). The interplay between resentment, motivation, and performance. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 46(2), 147-161. Link

Ahmed, E., & Braithwaite, V. (2006). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and shame: Three key variables in reducing school bullying. Journal of social issues, 62(2), 347-370. Link

Mullet, E., Neto, F., & Riviere, S. (2005). Personality and its effects on resentment, revenge, forgiveness, and self-forgiveness. Handbook of forgiveness, 159-181. Link

Nelkin, D. (2013). Freedom and forgiveness. Free will and moral responsibility, 165-188. Link

Toussaint, L., & Webb, J. R. (2005). Theoretical and empirical connections between forgiveness, mental health, and well-being. Handbook of forgiveness, 349-362. Link

Rye, M. S., Folck, C. D., Heim, T. A., Olszewski, B. T., & Traina, E. (2004). Forgiveness of an ex-spouse: How does it relate to mental health following a divorce?. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 41(3-4), 31-51. Link

Worthington Jr, E. L. (2007). More questions about forgiveness: Research agenda for 2005–2015. In Handbook of forgiveness (pp. 581-598). Routledge. Link

Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, Consciousness, Language-Thought, Learning, Memory, Persuasion, Social Influence, Social Psychology.

Description: Given our direct and media shared experiences surrounding recent events such as the COVID pandemic, American elections and related capital events, climate change and much else you cannot be unaware of the phenomenon of misinformation and related beliefs. You may be aware of concerns over social media “echo chambers” that become sole sources for “information” that fits the desires and beliefs of particular groups. If you are currently of the view that consumers of “fake news” of any sort are simply not bright enough or are too ideologically blind to see routes to truth, then you too have been influenced by forms of misinformation. Rather than wishing such influences on public opinion would go away (not going to happen any time soon) perhaps it is time to take a deep breath and a running dive into the science of misinformation and at what can potentially be done about it. The linked article below is a review, by involved researchers, on the aspects of our psychological make up and functioning that drive our entanglements with misinformation (fake news, echo chambers, etc.). You can read through the article on your own (take your time). Alternatively, I would suggest that you take on the article with a group of people by all reading it but also be dividing up responsibility for the different sections of the article and then having each sub-team lead a group discussion of each section of the article as your move though it. As you do your work think hard about the examples the authors provide to illustrate their points and see how many other examples you can come up with from your own experience. The issue of misinformation is NOT going to simply fade away. It is an issue of our current times and we need to build a solid understanding of it so that we can intelligently address it and the discord and havoc it is driving these days.

Source: The Psychological Drivers of misinformation belief and its resistance to correction. Ullrich K. H. Ecker et al., Nature Reviews, Psychology.

Date: January 12, 2022

Image by Peggy_Marco from Pixabay

Article Link:

I do not have a detailed summary or reflection to offer on the linked article simply because you need to dive into it and work at understanding where the work regarding misinformation beliefs currently sits, what it has to offer in the way of “what to do suggestions, and what it is pointing out that we need in the way of additional research in this important area. I will ask one thing that might help you to see that the issue of misinformation belief is not new (though it IS a bigger deal today, perhaps, that in the past given the power of social media etc.) My question is, did you catch the Star Wars reference in the article? Towards the end of the section on drivers of false beliefs there is this line; “encouraging people to ‘rely on their emotions’ increases their vulnerability to misinformation.” Do you have it yet? After revealing that he is Luke’s father, Darth Vader says to Luke; “search your feelings, you know it is true!” Oh, and yes I know that the status of Vader’s paternity is not misinformation (I saw the other films too) BUT Vader’s strong belief that Luke must join him on the dark side certainly IS based on misinformation beliefs.  Not science but a poignant example, nonetheless.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are misinformation beliefs?
  2. How many examples of misinformation beliefs can you come up with (there are lots and lots out there around us)?
  3. How important is it that we develop a deeper understanding of misinformation bias and what sorts of things should we be doing both the apply what we already know about its psychological drivers and what do we need to research further?

References (Read Further):

Ecker, U.K.H., Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J. et al. (2022) The psychological drivers of misinformation belief and its resistance to correction. Nat Rev Psychol 1, 13–29. Link

Almost all of the research articles cited in the linked article (cited just above) are available via links located in the reference list of the article itself. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of those links to follow your curiosities and interest deeper into this important topic!

Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Memory, Neuroscience, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Decades ago, when I was in grade 7, we had grade-wide exams in a number of subjects. I was particular keen to do well on the science exam. One of the topic areas on the exam was the periodic table and I set out to memorize the names, symbols and atomic numbers of all of the elements in the table. I had no idea whether it would help but I had received a small reel to reel tape recorder as a Christmas gift and so I read the name, symbol and atomic number of all of the tabled elements into the recorder and played them over and over in the background while doing things like homework or watching television. I even persuaded my parents to come into my room each night for 2 weeks after I had fallen asleep (I preset the volume fairly low) and turn on the tape to play while I was asleep. So how did I do with the periodic table questions on the exam? Great! So, did my “sleep learning” experiment work? Well, think about it for a minute. What else might you like to know or what else might you have added into my case-study “experiment” to clarify the results? It might help to know that I did very well on ALL of the questions on the exam, not just on the periodic table questions. It also took me quite a few ties to get the tape-recording set and working well (repetition). Also, science was my best class (both in terms of my interest and my resulting grades) that year. And, no, I had no idea if I even “heard” the recordings playing while I slept. Finally, I only got the second highest mark on the science exam in my school. A classmate beat me by one mark (that still smarts) and he did not have a tape recorder and did not try any sleep learning. Now before you write my 7th grade self off as a science obsessive think for a minute about how you might design a “sleep learning” study that would effectively address the question of whether sleep learning is possibly a thing or not. Once you have your design thoughts in order read the article linked below to see how real (though perhaps also science obsessed) adult researchers designed their study and what they found.

Source: Remembering Faces and Names can be improved during sleep, ScienceDirect.

Date: January 12, 2022

Image by bongbabyhousevn from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, was I onto something in Grade 7? Well, I did not have access to EEG equipment to measure sleep level and I was not systematic in my recorded stimulus materials. As well, I was using the entire periodic table and it was played in the same order each night (as well as at other times during the day when I was awake). The researchers in the linked article study used smaller lists (names of people in two classes) and they varied during sleep exposure to only some names in one of the two classes while also noting the sleep stage of each participant while the names were being recited to them. Participants’ pre-sleep work on the names they were to try and recall later was controlled so all participants had the same pre-sleep experience. The results of a 50% increase in recall for names heard while sleeping, providing that they were in deep stage sleep, are quite impressive. However, before you start making your own sleep learning recordings for your current courses or other memory tasks not that the memory task in the study were limited in scope and were focused upon rote memorization, meaning that the participants were asked to memorize the names of people in a whole class. Pictures WERE provided as paired associate memory clues, but the memory task did not involve any understanding, just memory. So, while this is intriguing, I think it is fair to say that more research is needed before we go out and market sleep learning systems!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Can you think of any life incidents you have experienced that suggest positive support for sleep learning?
  2. What are the details of the design of the study on sleep learning described in the linked article?
  3. What sorts of additional research would we need to do before we could (ethically start designing and marketing a student sleep learning system?

References (Read Further):

Whitmore, N. W., Bassard, A. M., & Paller, K. A. (2021). Targeted memory reactivation of face-name learning depends on ample and undisturbed slow-wave sleep. bioRxiv. Link

Bassard, A. M., & Paller, K. A. (2021). Reactivating Memories from a Mathematical Task over a Period of Sleep. bioRxiv. Link

Witkowski, S., Noh, S., Lee, V., Grimaldi, D., Preston, A. R., & Paller, K. A. (2021). Does memory reactivation during sleep support generalization at the cost of memory specifics?. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 182, 107442. Link

Stickgold, R., Hobson, J. A., Fosse, R., & Fosse, M. (2001). Sleep, learning, and dreams: off-line memory reprocessing. Science, 294(5544), 1052-1057. Link

Paller, K. A., & Oudiette, D. (2018). Sleep learning gets real. Scientific American, 319(5). Link

Maquet, P. (2001). The role of sleep in learning and memory. science, 294(5544), 1048-1052. Link

Tamaki, M., Wang, Z., Barnes-Diana, T., Guo, D., Berard, A. V., Walsh, E., … & Sasaki, Y. (2020). Complementary contributions of non-REM and REM sleep to visual learning. Nature neuroscience, 23(9), 1150-1156. Link

Siegel, J. M. (2001). The REM sleep-memory consolidation hypothesis. Science, 294(5544), 1058-1063. Link

Tarullo, A. R., Balsam, P. D., & Fifer, W. P. (2011). Sleep and infant learning. Infant and child development, 20(1), 35-46. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Neuropsychology, Depression, Health Psychology, Legal Ethical Issues, mental illness, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Using even limited brain wave recording equipment such as externally applied recording electrodes rather than expensive brain scanning devices, it is possible to detect and describe patterns of brain wave activity and to distinguish between brain wave patterns associated with, say, a lack of attention (in ADHD) as compared to between brain wave patterns associated with focused attention. Given that we can do tis what might we do WITH this ability? It would likely not be precise or consistent enough to be used diagnostically. However, what if we could set things up so that we could show people in real time what their brainwave patterns looked like (e.g., focused or unfocused). Could we use that information as a form of biofeedback and let people practice trying to shift their brainwave patterns into a more focused mode, for example? Biofeedback has been used to help people lower their heart rates, their blood pressure, and adjust other body reactions to positive effect. What if we could train people to lower their anxious brainwave patters or their depressed brain wave patterns? NO drugs would be involved so what do you think? Worth a try? Well and importantly, how would we know if it was working? Think about what research design requirements would be involved in looking into such neurofeedback approaches. What ethical (practice) issues would need to be considered? Once you have your thoughts on this sorted read the article linked below to find out about the current state of research and practice in the neurofeedback domain.

Source: Can Monitoring Brain Waves Boost Mental Health? David Dodge, The New York Times.

Date: January 12, 2022

Image by geralt from Pixabay

Article Link:

There is no argument that we can see and track patterns of brainwave activity and note correlations between them and certain, conditions or experiences. What is not clear is whether neurofeedback actually changes patterns of brainwave activity AND whether doing so actually in responsible for what some claim is a related reduction in negative feeling or symptoms.  I am sure you have heard the term placebo in the past but how clear are you on just what a placebo is and just how it works. There was an episode of the old TV show MASH where the mobile surgical hospital ran out of morphine. The doctors conspired quietly to make up some sugar pills which they then prescribed as a “new powerful pain medication.” The results in the show and in research into similar situations was that many patients experienced significant management of their pain when on the placebo medication. It was not that the placebo simply fooled people into lower levels of pain perception but, rather, that believing they had received a pain medication produced neurological responses similar to or the same as morphine would have produced. The deal is that placebo effects are ‘real’ even when the placebos themselves are ‘not real.’ Before seeking out and paying for neurofeedback treatment and before committing money to such treatments we might need a bit more research using placebos and double-blind designs (where neither the client OR their therapist knows if they are getting the real neurofeedback or placebo (or random) feedback. The meta-analytic research discussed in the article suggests more research IS needed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is neurofeedback?
  2. How is neurofeedback related to biofeedback?
  3. What sorts of research (and research designs) are needed if we are to get to a place where we can fully, properly, and ethically discuss and construct practice and payment/insurance guidelines and policies regarding neurofeedback?

References (Read Further):

Van Doren, J., Arns, M., Heinrich, H., Vollebregt, M. A., Strehl, U., & Loo, S. K. (2019). Sustained effects of neurofeedback in ADHD: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 28(3), 293-305. Link

Dudek, E., & Dodell-Feder, D. (2020). The efficacy of real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback for psychiatric illness: A meta-analysis of brain and behavioral outcomes. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. Link

What studies have been conducted about biofeedback, neurofeedback, and neurotherapy? Link

Hammond, D. C. (2007). What is neurofeedback?. Journal of neurotherapy, 10(4), 25-36. Link

Hammond, D. C. (2011). What is neurofeedback: An update. Journal of Neurotherapy, 15(4), 305-336. Link

Gruzelier, J., Egner, T., & Vernon, D. (2006). Validating the efficacy of neurofeedback for optimising performance. Progress in brain research, 159, 421-431. Link

Sitaram, R., Ros, T., Stoeckel, L., Haller, S., Scharnowski, F., Lewis-Peacock, J., … & Sulzer, J. (2017). Closed-loop brain training: the science of neurofeedback. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 18(2), 86-100. Link

Thibault, R. T., Lifshitz, M., & Raz, A. (2017). Neurofeedback or neuroplacebo?. Brain, 140(4), 862-864. Link

Micoulaud-Franchi, J. A., & Fovet, T. (2018). A framework for disentangling the hyperbolic truth of neurofeedback: Comment on Thibault and Raz (2017). Link

Thibault, R. T., Lifshitz, M., & Raz, A. (2018). The climate of neurofeedback: scientific rigour and the perils of ideology. Brain, 141(2), e11-e11. Link

Micoulaud-Franchi, J. A., Fovet, T., Thibault, R. T., & Raz, A. (2018). Two part correspondence: A framework for disentangling the hyperbolic truth of neurofeedback; A Consensus Framework for Neurofeedback Research. Link

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Classification Diagnosis, Clinical Assessment, Disorders of Childhood, Health Psychology, Physical Illness, Prenatal Development, Research Methods, Stress, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: How many things (life events, situations, crimes, illnesses, etc.) would it be good to be able to predict? We could take the stance that things are in the hand of fate and there is nothing we can do so why bother trying to predict. But what if we could identify people who will, if nothing is done, suffer a potentially fatal illness (that could be avoided with early prevention/treatment efforts? What if we could identify (bad) driving habits that could result in fatal collisions and fix the behaviors before the collisions happen (think about drunk driving). And, what if we could predict which recently conceived fetuses were carrying particular genetic patterns or abnormalities that would, if present, result in fatal conditions that would lead to the death of the resulting newborn soon after birth? Now, before we get any further in this thought exercise lets add a few variables. There is no arguing that fatal outcomes are bad and should be predicted and prevented if possible. However, we also have to consider that in some, in fact in virtually all, of these situations our prediction efforts and our attempts at early prediction (that would provide more lead time to fix or address problems) are not perfect and, in addition, predictive assessment (tests) can be expensive and for many the cost and side-risks of such tests go up quite dramatically as the accuracy of the tests increases. Add to that the very real possible course of action after a positive test (one that says the potentially fatal things WILL happen) might mean that powerfully troubling decisions may be placed on the table. For example, to be perfectly safe we may have to consider a lifetime driving ban for those who test as “at risk” for drunk driving; or our only possible course of action following a positive screen for a fatal illness is to give the person who was tested the bad news; or, in the case of prenatal genetic abnormalities, the parents may get to consider the option of terminating the pregnancy. Now, lets assume that in any and all such cases the involvement of therapists/counsellors would be a necessity. Let’s also assume that the costs associated with such tests, in terms of both money and test related additional risk, increase as the accuracy of the chosen test increase. Also, we will need to find out about and consider how accurate the possible tests are that we could consider using.

So, here is the several faceted challenge in this thought experiment. First think about how you would want to define accuracy. What data would you want to get or be provided? Second, who would/should be offered a test? Who would be offered which test? Would the test be mandatory? Post-testing, who would/should decide what to do next? Think one more time about the accuracy question. Now read the first of the two articles linked below with your thoughts about these questions in mind and see if the article provides you with most of what you feel you need to know to work through this thought experiment. If not, what is missing? Why is that important? Finally, read the second article linked below written by someone who essentially did a version of this thought experiment in relation to the first article and wrote about what they came up with.

Source: First Read: When Thye Warn of Rare Disorders, These Prenatal Tests are Usually Wrong. Sarah Kliff and Aatish Bhatia The New York Times Jan 1, 2022

Second Read: What the New York Times Got Wrong on Prenatal Screening, Ellen Matloff, Forbes.

Date: January 1 and 6, 2022

Image by Fotorech from Pixabay

Article Link: First Read: Second Read:

When potentially bad things could arise in life, we sometime engage in something called screening. As the second article suggested, we use questions and x-ray equipment to screen people’s carry-on luggage as they move through security at the airport but that is only the beginning as suspicious screens are followed up by detailed searches of luggage and even of the people carrying that luggage which is more expensive but also more intensive and more likely to correctly identify genuine risks. We cut costs by only screening those people who are actually going to get onto planes (rather than everyone at the airport). At the level of first screening, we accept a number of false positives (bags that could contain sharp things or dangerous liquids but actually do not when looked at in a more detailed inspection) because only having to take the time and effort to search “positively screened travelers” saves time and money. However, there is something else we have to consider too isn’t there? What about false negatives? Yes, what about dangerous things or people that do NOT get picked up in screening? Are you thinking that false negative rates could lead to screening tests being seen a useless, right? Now think about these questions not just as they apply to airport screening but as they apply to medical screening (e.g., rapid tests versus laboratory tests); or to potential drunk drivers; or to prenatal genetic abnormalities. So, consider that; Screening assessment are indicative but NOT diagnostic; a test’s ability to identify true positives is called its Sensitivity and its ability to identify true negatives is its Specificity. These definitions and limitations outline the HUGE challenge in planning to address any of the examples discussed above. Who to test, how to test, when to test, and what to do with the results and how to manage the risks associated with the screening and diagnostic assessment and as well as the risks associated with NOT testing with testing and then being right or being wrong? Complicated stuff, huh?


Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some things that we currently regularly screen for?
  2. How well do we screen for each of the thing you came up with in responding to the previous question?
  3. Walk through the issues and details of screening program for a prenatal/congenital issue or other medical condition/illness and detail your data, practical, ethical, and counselling challenges at each stage of the process?

References (Read Further):

Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (2002) Practice Bulletin #226, Screening for Chromosomal Abnormalities, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Link

Benn, P., Borrell, A., Chiu, R. W., Cuckle, H., Dugoff, L., Faas, B., … & Yaron, Y. (2015). Position statement from the Chromosome Abnormality Screening Committee on behalf of the Board of the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis. Prenatal diagnosis, 35(8), 725-734. Link

Gekas, J., Langlois, S., Ravitsky, V., Audibert, F., van den Berg, D. G., Haidar, H., & Rousseau, F. (2016). Non-invasive prenatal testing for fetal chromosome abnormalities: review of clinical and ethical issues. The application of clinical genetics, 9, 15. Link

Westerfield, L., Darilek, S., & Van den Veyver, I. B. (2014). Counseling challenges with variants of uncertain significance and incidental findings in prenatal genetic screening and diagnosis. Journal of clinical medicine, 3(3), 1018-1032. Link

Dondorp, W., De Wert, G., Bombard, Y., Bianchi, D. W., Bergmann, C., Borry, P., … & Cornel, M. C. (2015). Non-invasive prenatal testing for aneuploidy and beyond: challenges of responsible innovation in prenatal screening. European Journal of Human Genetics, 23(11), 1438-1450. Link

Tuohey, R. J., & Repenshek, M. (2008). Ethical Considerations Concerning Screening for Chromosome Aneuploidy: A Response to a 2007 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Practice Bulletin. The Linacre Quarterly, 75(2), 96-111. Link

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Emerging Adulthood, Language-Thought, Learning, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Successful Aging.

Description: I am willing to bet that you think of yourself as a reasonable, rational, thoughtful person and that you do feel that you get emotionally caught up in situations and circumstances in ways that might negatively impact your ability to make rational decisions. It IS true that people (adults in particular) CAN be quite rational, but an important question involves whether we are always really being rational when we think we are thinking rationally. It turns out that there are quite a few things we do consistently that reflect biases or non-rational thought processes that we usually do not realize we are doing. SO, think about what possible biases or non-rational thought processes you might use and about what you might do to use less of them so that your rational thoughts are, we1l, more rational. Once you have done a little bit of self-review read the article linked below in which a psychologist with interests in the evolution of human thinking points out a few VERY common biases or non-rational thinking approaches. Knowing what they involve is the first step to doing less of them.

Source: Three ways to be more rational this year, Prof Steven Pinker, Harvard university, BBC News.

Date: January 1, 2022

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, does it make sense that we tend to shortchange our future selves, see patterns and causality (that we bet money or time on) in random events and that we work harder to win arguments that to actually work at understanding what is right in particular situations and circumstances? While the ability to think rationally emerges as our cognitive abilities develop, we need to become aware of aspects of our thought processes that work against being rational and we then need to develop ways to limit their tendency to derail our rationality. A lot to think about, difficult, but very important in the long run and we owe it to our future selves to work on it diligently.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Can you think rationally??
  2. Can you provide an example from your own experience e where your attempts at rational thought were derailed in each of the ways discussed in the linked article?
  3. Can you identify one or two things you can do, or try to do, regularly to avoid having your rational thought processes derailed (and just saying I will try hard not to is insufficient)?

References (Read Further):

Think with Pinker, Professor Pinker’s guide to thinking better, BBC Sounds. Link

Pinker, S. (2021). Rationality: What it is, why it seems scarce, why it matters. Allen Lane. Book

Stanovich, K. E., West, R. F., & Toplak, M. E. (2013). Myside bias, rational thinking, and intelligence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(4), 259-264. Link

Stanovich, K. E., & Stanovich, P. J. (2010). A framework for critical thinking, rational thinking, and intelligence. Link

Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2008). On the relative independence of thinking biases and cognitive ability. Journal of personality and social psychology, 94(4), 672. Link