Other new research and reviews of note:

Why extraverts are happier than introverts.

The use of toys in clinical interviews with children.

A behaviourist criticism of the DSM manual.

A quick guide to Tourette's. And see here.

The effect on kids of seeing their mum or dad be violent to their partner.

More evidence showing the efficacy of dilectical behavioural therapy for borderline personality disorder - this time in an in-patient setting. See here for more on DBT and here for more on BPD.

Choice and uncertainty clog the bottleneck of central processing.

Body maps don't facilitate children's reports of where they've been touched - with implications for court procedure.

More evidence for the fallibility of human memory - 63 per cent of participating undergrads said they remembered seeing video footage of the assassination of the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn - footage that actually doesn't exist.

In psychopathology research, people's self-reports differ wildly from how other people report on them - this has implications for relying on self-report data in research.

And quite a few this fortnight on animal cognition:

Trust in fish.

It's not all learning by association - animals really are cognitive.

Dolphins can go a month without sleep.

Social animals prove their smarts.

Man's best friend(s) reveal the possible routes of social intelligence.
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The Special Issue Spotter

Science magazine looks at 'life': some of the insights that social scientists are making as they study humans at different stages of the life cycle. (Science).

Four papers that showcase the power and promise of cognitive neuropsychology approaches to selective developmental disorders, with an introduction by Bradley Duchaine at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in London. (Cognitive Neuropsychology).

How can research in applied developmental psychology best inform policies that will promote human welfare? (Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology).

Humans can only process so much information at once - where and why do such limitations arise? (European Journal of Cognitive Psychology).

A four-day workshop entitled 'Health-related Stigma and Discrimination' held in the Netherlands in 2004 led to the formation of the 'International Consortium for Research and Action Against Health-Related Stigma' and to this special issue - understanding and tackling health-related stigma. (Psychology, Health and Medicine).

Crisis! Its aftermath and its psychological treatment. (Journal of Clinical Psychology).

This special issue is dedicated to Elizabeth Loftus, and is full of research inspired by her work on the fallibility of human memory. (Applied Cognitive Psychology). Loftus' webpage is here.
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Why you should invest in shares with simple names

When it comes to predicting short-term share price fluctuations, it appears a simple psychological explanation has succeeded where countless complex economic theories have failed. The human tendency to respond positively to easily processed information means buyers are drawn to shares in companies with simple names, thus driving their value up over the short term.

Using real stock market records, Adam Alter and Daniel Oppenheimer at Princeton University have shown that, over a year, new shares in companies with fluent, easy-to-pronounce names like ‘Barnings Inc.’ tend to outperform shares in companies with awkward names like ‘Aegeadux Inc’.

Alter and Oppenheimer asked 29 students to rate the fluency of a random sample of real company names. They then calculated that over their first year’s performance, $1000 invested in the 10 companies rated to have the most fluent names would have netted $333 more profit than $1000 invested in the 10 companies with the least fluent names.

Further analysis showed the association between a company’s name and its share performance was not due to larger companies, or companies in a certain industry sector, tending to have simpler names.

Nor was it due to simpler company names conveying some kind of appealing meaning – the researchers found companies with pronounceable ticker codes (used for abbreviation on TV and on websites) like KAR tended to outperform companies with an unpronounceable ticker code like RDO.

In fact, across the entire NYSE and AMEX markets, Alter and Oppenheimer calculated $1000 invested in shares with pronounceable ticker codes would have netted $85.35 more profit after one day compared with an equal amount invested in companies with an unpronounceable ticker code.

“Given that investors traded shares valued at roughly $2 billion on the average day in 2006, these differences have dramatic practical consequences”, they said.

“Researchers’ intuitive attempts to understand complex real-world phenomena with equally complex models may not always be the best approach” Alter and Oppenheimer concluded, adding: “Keeping in mind that humans are forced to seek a simple thread of understanding when bombarded with excessive information, sometimes a surprisingly simple theory is a successful predictor of human behaviour”.

Alter, A. & Oppenheimer, D.M. (2006). Predicting short-term stock fluctuations by using processing fluency. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 103, 9369-9372.
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Body psychotherapy for hard-to-treat schizophrenia

We all know about the hallucinations and delusions, but it’s actually schizophrenia’s so-called ‘negative symptoms’ – the emotional withdrawal, slowing of movement, and lack of responsiveness – that are the most difficult to treat. Now a new study suggests ‘body psychotherapy’ could succeed where so many drug treatments fail.

Over a course of body psychotherapy, patients describe how their bodies feel; perform ‘travelling movements’ – walking in different directions at different speeds; mirror each others’ movements; and create group sculptures.

Frank Rohricht and Stefan Priebe, who conducted the trial, said body psychotherapy is based on the premise that “movement and emotional experiences are biologically and experientially associated”. This is supported by the fact the brain’s emotional centre – the limbic system – is anatomically and functionally linked with the basal ganglia, a brain region involved in movement control.

Of 24 patients with schizophrenia who, on top of treatment as usual, received 20 sessions of body therapy over 10 weeks, half showed a clinically significant (i.e. 20 per cent) reduction in their negative symptoms relative to a pre-treatment baseline – they were less emotionally blunted and performed more spontaneous movements. By contrast, just 21 per cent of a control group of 21 patients who received supportive counselling on top of their treatment as usual, showed a significant improvement in their negative symptoms relative to baseline.

Both groups were equally satisfied with the treatment and therapeutic relationship, suggesting the superior effect of body psychotherapy was not due to these non-specific factors.

Rohricht, F. & Priebe, S. (2006). Effect of body-oriented psychological therapy on negative symptoms in schizophrenia: a randomised controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, 36, 669-678.

Link to the European Association of Body Psychotherapists.
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The 'power of one' - why larger portions cause us to eat more

The effect of portion size on how much people eat is something of a mystery – why don’t they simply leave what they don’t want, or alternatively, where possible, why not help themselves to more? Andrew Geier and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania think it has to do with ‘Unit bias’ – “…the sense that a single entity (within a reasonable range of sizes) is the appropriate amount to engage, consume or consider”.

To test this, the researchers left a bowl of M&M sweets in the hallway of an apartment building with a sign that read “Eat Your Fill: please use the spoon to serve yourself”. Some days they left a tablespoon-sized scoop, other days they left a quartercup scoop that was four times as big. Passers-by could obviously help themselves to as little or as much as they wanted regardless of which spoon was provided, but on average, 1.67 times more M&M’s were taken on the days the big scoop was left compared with the tablespoon-sized scoop.

In another experiment, the researchers found that, measured by weight, significantly more pretzels were taken by passers-by when a complimentary bowl of 60 whole pretzels was left in an apartment building, compared with when a bowl of 120 half-pretzels was left. And it was a similar story when either a bowl of 80 small Tootsie rolls (an American snack bar) or a bowl of 20 large Tootsie rolls was left in an office building.

In other words, throughout the study, people took more food when the unit on offer was larger. “Consumption norms promote both the tendency to complete eating a unit and the idea that a single unit is the proper portion”, the researchers said. However, they also acknowledged that other factors must have been at play because the amount of food taken did not vary in direct proportion with the increase in unit size on offer.

The researchers concluded that this ‘unit bias’ applies in other walks of life too – they cited the example of films: “double features are rare, but very long movies are not”, and amusement-park rides: “one ride on a particular attraction is usually enough, whether it takes one or five minutes”.

Geier, A.B., Rozin, P. & Doros, G. (2006). Unit bias. A new heuristic that helps explain the effect of portion size on food intake. Psychological Science, 17, 521-525.
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An eye for an eye...

Image by dweeklyWhen people are deciding the appropriate punishment for a crime, they’re most interested in ensuring that the perpetrator gets the payback they deserve. They’re less interested in practical issues relating to whether the perpetrator needs to be locked up to protect the public, or in how much of a deterrent to other potential criminals the punishment will be.

Kevin Carlsmith at Colgate University asked 42 students to imagine they were responsible for deciding the punishment to be given to a criminal. To help them come to a decision, they had five chances to choose different categories of information about the criminal and the crime.

They could select information relevant to issues of retribution (e.g. how much harm the criminal caused; how much intent they had), incarceration (e.g. how likely the criminal was to offend again), or deterrent (e.g. how much publicity the crime attracted).

Carlsmith found the students were more likely to choose information pertinent to retribution first, and that choosing such information led them to be more confident in their sentencing decision. In a further experiment, students were allocated a random selection of information to help them make their sentencing decision – in this case, those students given information pertinent to retribution tended to be more confident in their punishment decision than the other students.

“Although people say they value utilitarian goals, when it comes to actually seeking information and assigning sentences, their behaviour reveals that they care most about retribution”, Carlsmith concluded.

Carlsmith, K.M. (2006). The roles of retribution and utility in determining punishment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 437-451.
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Heroin craving not like thirst for water

Image by gaetan lee When an addict craves another shot of their chosen drug, how similar is this urge to the basic human drives for sex, food and water? One way scientists have approached this question is to look at the neurocircuitry underlying craving for drugs and compare it with the neurocircuitry underlying these other drives. A previous study suggested there might be a great deal of overlap – 10 out of the 13 brain areas associated with craving for cocaine were also activated when addicts and control participants watched erotic films.

Now Zhuangwei Xiao and colleagues in China have compared the brain activation triggered when 14 heroin addicts looked either at pictures of people drinking water, people injecting heroin, or at neutral pictures, such as of furniture. The addicts were both thirsty and drug-deprived, having been denied water for 6 hours before scanning, and heroin for an average of 8.5 hours.

The researchers didn’t find the overlap they expected. Compared with looking at neutral pictures, looking at drug-related pictures triggered increased brain activation in frontal, occipital and cerebellar regions. By contrast, looking at water-related pictures didn’t increase activity in any of those regions, but triggered activity in the anterior cingulate.

The researchers concluded: “Our results show an important role of prefrontal cortex in heroin craving and suggest that heroin craving may involve different neural substrates than do desire from basic physiological drives”.

Xiao, Z., Lee, T., Zhang, J.X., Wu, Q., Wu, R., Weng, X. Hu, X. (2006). Thirsty heroin addicts show different fMRI activations when exposed to water-related and drug-related cues. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 83, 157-162.
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Unpleasant words and pictures make us move more slowly

Image by Sir Mildred Pierce In much the same way that an animal freezes or slows at the sight of a predator, humans are automatically slowed down when they see or read something unpleasant.

That’s according to Benjamin Wilkowski and Michael Robinson at North Dakota State University. They presented 38 students with a series of pictures that were either positive (e.g. a passionate couple), negative (e.g. a gun placed to someone’s head) or neutral (e.g. a basket). After the presentation of each picture, the students had to identify whether the screen was showing one or two dots, and then press the appropriate number on a button box as quickly as possible. They had to do this three times after each picture to ensure any effects weren’t simply due to difficulty disengaging their attention from the last picture.

The researchers found that, on average, the students’ responses were significantly slower after they’d just seen a negative picture than if they’d seen a neutral picture (475 ms average response time vs. 423 ms). A similar slowing effect was found after the presentation of violent words (e.g. murder) compared with neutral words (e.g. walk). In contrast, there was no difference in their response times after viewing positive pictures or words compared with after viewing neutral pictures/words.

A final experiment featuring a joystick, showed negative words slowed the speed with which participants moved the joystick up and down, but did not slow the actual onset of their movement. The researchers said this makes evolutionary sense because it means that in the presence of danger we still decide which movement to make quickly, but “that avoidance behaviours, once initiated, are performed in a stealthful and thus less detectable manner”.

Wilkowski, B.M. & Robinson, M.D. (2006). Stopping dead in one’s tracks: Motor inhibition following incidental evaluations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 479-490.
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Studies that didn't make the final cut this fortnight:

Questions are more often misremembered as statements, than vice versa.

Do anti-depressants cure or create abnormal brain states?

What lies beneath homophobia - defensive loathing or a secret attraction?

The pros and cons of labelling chronic fatigue syndrome.

The mental health of husbands and wives becomes more similar across the first five years of their relationship.
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The Special Issue Spotter

A new service from the BPS Research Digest:

New insights into how we process the spatial relations between objects, and how we recognise objects regardless of viewing angle. (Neuropsychologia).

All about imitation, from its role in child development to its use in communicating with dementia sufferers. (Infant and Child Development).

A comprehensive overview of the emerging profession of counselling in Australia. (International Journal of Psychology).

All about the importance of rest and recovery after work. (European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology).

The effect of when a word is learned on its processing later in life, otherwise known as age of acquisition effects. (Visual Cognition).

Delusional beliefs and criminal responsibility - an international perspective. (Behavioural Sciences and the Law).

Consciousness and self-representation - is it true that for a mental state to be conscious, it must both represent something else while also being represented itself? (Psyche).

If you're aware of a forthcoming journal special issue in psychology, please let me know.
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How babies go sole searching

image by Omernos'From the Archives': first published in the Digest 16/02/04

Babies start using their feet to explore the world before they use their hands. That's according to James Galloway and Esther Thelen at the Universities of Indiana and Delaware, USA.

Six babies first used their feet to touch toys dangled in front of them when they were on average just 11.7 weeks old, compared with first using their hands at 15.7 weeks. The babies' foot contact wasn't accidental - when the toys were absent, the babies' feet spent significantly less time in the toy-dangling area. This finding was confirmed in a second experiment with 10 infants, in which the toy-to-limb distance (4 inches) was standardised for each baby.

These observations directly violate the classic 'cephalocaudal rule' that states infant movement control progresses in a head-to-toe fashion. They also contradict the idea that in the first months of life, the legs only move in a reflexive, non-purposeful fashion.

The authors argued "the finding that young infants repeatedly aimed their feet to contact the toy suggests the use of supraspinal (i.e. brain) centers for purposeful control much earlier than traditionally envisioned".

Galloway, J.C. & Thelen, E. (2004). Feet first: object exploration in young infants. Infant Behaviour and Development, 27, 107-112.

Did you know? - Jean Piaget also noticed his baby son used his leg to kick a toy. See Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children. New York: International Universities Press.
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Rare counting ability induced by temporarily switching off brain region

A minority of people with autism have one or more extraordinary intellectual talents, such as the rapid ability to calculate the day of the week for a given date, or to count large numbers of discrete objects almost instantaneously - they're often called 'autistic savants' or 'idiot savants'. Now Allan Snyder and colleagues have shown that by placing a pulsing magnet over a specific area of the brain, these kind of abilities can, to some extent, be induced in people who aren’t autistic.

Twelve healthy participants were given several chances to estimate, from 50 to 150, how many blobs appeared on a computer screen. The blobs appeared for just 1.5 seconds, and the number of blobs changed on each attempt. Remarkably, the performance of ten of the subjects improved drastically after Snyder’s team applied 15 minutes of low frequency transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to their left anterior temporal lobe, a brain region that’s been implicated in autistic people with rare counting and calcluating abilities.

For example, before the TMS, one participant had 20 goes at estimating the number of blobs onscreen, and each time she was more than 5 away from the true figure. Yet immediately after receiving the TMS, she made 6 out of 20 guesses that were within 5 blobs of the true figure. Before TMS, another participant scored 3 estimates out of 20 that were within 5 of the true figure, compared with 10 out of 20 immediately after the TMS.

The enhanced ability was gone within an hour, and moreover, no such improvements followed application of a sham version of the TMS that made all the same noises, but was applied only weakly over a different brain region. In fact, the participants’ performance deteriorated slightly in this condition.

The researchers think that by temporarily inhibiting activity in the left anterior temporal cortex, the TMS allowed the brain’s number estimator to act on raw sensory data, without it having already been automatically grouped together into patterns or shapes. In other words, they believe it caused the 'normal' brain to function more like an autistic 'savant' brain. “We argue that it removes our unconscious tendency to group discrete elements into meaningful patterns, like grouping stars into constellations, which would normally interfere with accurate estimation”, the researchers said. “By inhibiting networks involved in concepts, we may facilitate conscious access to literal details, leading to savant-like skills”.

Snyder, A., Bahramali, H., Hawker, T. & Mitchell, D.J. (2006). Savant-like numerosity skills revealed in normal people by magnetic pulses. Perception, 35, 837-845.

Update: Not all people who show the rare counting and calculating abilities discussed in this report are autistic. However, according to the source paper, most are.
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A case of pseudologia fantastica, otherwise known as pathological lying

The events that led to Lorraine being incarcerated on a secure forensic unit at age 22 are mind-boggling. It began when she reported to police that a colleague had been sending her death threats in the post. Then about a year later she reported to police that her best friend Abby had developed a lesbian infatuation with her and was stalking her. Two weeks later, her friend Abby appeared to have abducted Lorraine at knifepoint and was subsequently charged and imprisoned. Fast forward another year and Lorraine now reported receiving death threats from her fiancĂ©’s ex wife, and soon after that she blamed her fiancĂ©’s three-year-old son for the starting of two fires in relatives’ homes.

The thing is, there were no death threats, Lorraine had made it all up. She had persuaded her best friend Abby that by appearing to abduct her, she would actually be doing Lorraine some kind of favour. And she set the fires that she accused the three-year-old of starting.

According to Cheryl Birch and colleagues, Lorraine has pseudologia fantastica – a disorder that is characterised not only by the quantity of lies, but also by their fantastical quality. The lies are typically harmful to the liar and are not part of a manipulative plan with a clear objective in mind. Instead they are motivated by internal psychological desires – to boost self-esteem or characterise oneself as a hero or victim. The person with pseudologia fantastica often struggles to distinguish between fiction and reality, but does not experience true delusions and does not have an organic memory impairment. Consistent with this, Lorraine did eventually confess to everything she’d done.

The authors concluded that through better understanding and more awareness of cases like this “…some of the exceedingly costly medical, legal, and social consequences often associated with it can be avoided. [In Lorraine’s case] improved awareness of pseudologia fantastica may have hastened the administration of justice and helped avert some of the attendant social tragedy”.

Birch, C.D., Kelln, B.R.C. & Aquino, E.P.B. (2006). A review and case report of pseudologia fantastica. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 17, 299-320.
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Forget STROOP, here's the SNARC

You’ve probably heard of the Stroop effect (if not, see here), now let me introduce you to the SNARC.

The Spatial Numerical Association of Response Codes (SNARC) effect is the observation that people are faster to make a judgment about a number if the hand they use to respond is congruous with the size of the number in question – with the left hand being quicker for smaller numbers and the right quicker for larger numbers. It suggests we automatically associate smaller numbers with the left side of space and larger numbers with the right-hand side, and it reinforces the age-old notion that mentally we represent numbers as if they are located along a line.

For example, when instructed to respond to even numbers by pressing a button with their left hand, and to respond to odd numbers by pressing a button with their right hand, people will be quicker responding to ‘2’ compared with ‘98’, whereas they will be quicker responding to ‘97’ compared with ‘3’.

The SNARC effect can also operate in the vertical dimension, with people associating larger numbers with upper space and smaller numbers with lower space.

Now Wim Gevers and colleagues have shown that the vertical and horizontal effects interact. Imagine a lower left-hand key must be pressed for even numbers and an upper-right hand key must be pressed for odd numbers. In this case, the SNARC effect will be particularly large when responding to small, even numbers.

However, the researchers also showed that a given spatial advantage (i.e. left versus right; upper versus lower) is only activated if it is relevant to the response. For example, if people are instructed to press an upper button in response to an odd number, and a lower button to an even number, with no left/right dimension, the usual left-hand advantage for small numbers will disappear or be reduced.

Gevers, W. Lammertyn, J., Notebaert, W., Verguts, T. & Fias, W. (2006). Automatic response activation of implicit spatial information: Evidence from the SNARC effect. Acta Psychologica, 122, 221-233.

For more on the SNARC, see full-text seminal paper here.
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Social phobics' memories are focused on themselves

People with social phobia experience extreme anxiety when they mix with other people. Now a study has shown their memories for social events tend to be experienced as if looking in on themselves from another person’s perspective. And they also contain more information about their own thoughts and behaviour at the expense of detail on what other people were saying or doing, and other sensory detail.

Arnaud D’Argembeau and colleagues made these observations after asking 17 sufferers of social phobia and 17 non-anxious controls to recollect four specific experiences from the last year: a positive and negative social event, and a positive and negative non-social event. The memory differences they observed applied to both negative and positive social events, but not to non-social events.

“As suggested by cognitive models of social phobia, people with social phobia may focus their attention on themselves both while experiencing social situations and while reviewing these situations afterwards, thus favouring the encoding and consolidation of self-referential information in memory”, the researchers concluded.

Speaking to the Digest, lead author Arnaud D’Argembeau explained the implications of these findings for treating social phobia: “Encouraging patients to remember their social experiences in a more balanced manner, by focusing less on themselves and more on how others actually behaved in the situation, may help them to reinterpret their experiences in a more positive manner and may therefore contribute to reduce negative beliefs and expectations regarding their social environment”.

D’Argemeau, A., Van der Linden, M., d’Acremont, M. & Mayers, I. (2006). Phenomenal characteristics of autobiographical memories for social and non-social events in social phobia. (2006). Memory, 14, 637-647.
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Compose new music? In your dreams

The source of professional musicians’ creativity could lie in their dreams, report Piero Salzarulo and colleagues at the University of Florence.

They asked 35 professional musicians and 30 non-musical students to complete a record of their dreams and musical activity for 30 days. Over that period, the musicians, who either played an instrument or sang for a living, experienced twice as many dreams featuring music compared with the students (40 vs. 18 per cent of nights).

And 28 per cent of the time, the music that featured in the musicians’ dreams was an original piece. “The occurrence of unknown musical pieces shows that new musical productions could be created in dreams”, the researchers said.

You might say it’s obvious for musicians to dream about music because we often expect the content of our dreams to reflect our waking activities. But actually, past research has shown more complex activities like reading, writing or calculating seldom occur in dreams. The researchers surmised: “This could be an additional argument for the difference between music and the other cognitive skills”.

And moreover, in this study, the likelihood of dreaming of music was not linked to hours of musical activity on the previous day. Instead, frequency of musical dreams was associated with the age at which the musician began their musical instruction. “This finding is in agreement with the notion that the early years of childhood are crucial for establishing the lifelong development of musical skills”, the researchers said.

Uga, V., Lemut, M.C., Zampi, C., Zilli, I. & Salzarulo, P. (2006). Music in dreams. Consciousness and Cognition, 15, 351-357.
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Watch a movie, learn a new language...?

Image by Fortune Cookie How cool would it be if you could learn a new language simply by watching subtitled foreign films? So far, research has shown that you can certainly learn new vocabulary this way, but not grammar. Now Sven Van Lommel and colleagues at the University of Leuven have again tested whether subtitled films can be used to learn grammar, following their belief that prior research was hindered by methodological shortcomings, such as the lack of suitable control groups.

Van Lommel’s team showed a film in Esperanto (‘En Somera Vilao’), with Dutch subtitles, to half of 94 Dutch-speaking primary school sixth-formers and 84 secondary school sixth-formers. Unfortunately, watching the film brought the pupils no advantage in a subsequent test on Esperanto grammar.

In fact, watching the film actually impaired grammar test performance among those pupils who were previously read a short story that introduced some rules of Esperanto grammar. Overall the pupils who heard the story tended to perform better on the grammar test, but among the pupils who heard the story, those who also watched the film did worse than those who didn’t. “Inserting a movie between the advance rule presentation and the test increased the retention interval and may have caused some interference, leading to more forgetting of the presented rules” the researchers said.

When it comes to learning, it seems there’s no substitute for practising speaking a new language yourself. In the researchers’ words “…grammar acquisition may remain minimal without verbal production of the to-be-acquired language forms”. However, they also said the possibility remains that the film shown in this study was too short to be of any benefit, and that a sequence of several films spread over an extended period of time could be useful.

Van Lommel, S., Laenen, A. & d’Ydewalle, G. (2006). Foreign-grammar acquisition while watching subtitled television programmes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 243-258.

Update: I've added the name of the film they used, following the query posted under comments.
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Studies that didn't make the final cut this fortnight:

Teenagers who do one or more of the following - take drugs, commit crimes, gamble, skip school, join gangs - are more likely to have tattoos and body piercings.

The last century's most important quantum physicists - Niels Bohr, Erwin Schroedinger, Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauliwere - were all interested in the mind-body problem.

Introducing the brilliantly-named 'Warpy Thoughts Scale' for measuring dysfunctional attitudes.

The decision-making process underlying whether to restrain violent patients in a horizontal position.

Middle Eastern shoppers enjoy the crowds more than North America shoppers.

How the prestige of the university that clinical psychologists train at affects where they end up working.
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The Special Issue spotter

A new service from the BPS Research Digest:

The mental health of African American women. (Journal of Clinical Psychology).

Autobiographical memory and psychopathology. (Cognition and Emotion).

Self-regulation. (Applied Psychology).

The use of experiments in Political Psychology. (Political Psychology).

Indigenous psychologies. (The International Journal of Psychology).

Is the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology any use to practitioners?

If you're aware of a forthcoming journal special issue in psychology, please let me know.
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Not such a bad night's sleep

Photo by MaliasFrom 'The Archives', first published in the Digest 2/2/2004

For the 33 percent of Americans who suffer from insomnia, a good night's sleep is no more than a dream. Part of the their problem could be that they overestimate how long it takes them to get to sleep, thus sustaining a self-perpetuating cycle of sleep-related anxiety.

Nicole Yang and Alison Harvey (Oxford University) recruited 40 students with primary insomnia from two Oxford universities. All the participants said that for at least a month they had suffered difficulty sleeping as frequently as three nights per week.

The participants were kitted out with a watch-like gadget - an actigraph - that provided an objective measure of sleep, based on how much they tossed and turned in the night. For three nights they wore the gadget and kept a sleep diary. Afterwards, half of the participants were shown, based on the actigraph's measurements, how they had overestimated in their diary how long it took them to get to sleep. The procedure was then repeated for a further three nights.

For the second three-night session, the participants who had seen the discrepancy between their own and the actigraph's measure of how long they took to drift off, now estimated this period more accurately and reported significantly less sleep-related anxiety than did the other participants.

"The findings support the proposal that distorted perception of sleep functions to maintain insomnia by fuelling anxiety and preoccupation with sleep" the authors claimed. And use of an actigraph "provides a non-intrusive, easy to administer method" of correcting these distortions.

Tang, N.K.Y. & Harvey, A.G. (2004). Correcting distorted perception of sleep in insomnia: a novel behavioural experiment? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42, 27-39.
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