Eye-catching studies that didn't make the final cut:

Explaining differences in international tipping customs in terms of national personality types.

The evolutionary foundations of maths.

A survey of randomly controlled trials (RCTs) in psychology concludes: "that published RCTs focus on statistical significance tests ('Is there an effect or difference'), and neglect other important questions: 'How large is the effect' and 'Is the effect clinically important.'"

Helping patients generate alternative solutions to interpersonal problems may help prevent repeated self-harm.
You have read this article Extras with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/extras.html. Thanks!

Goodbye insomnia, hello warming body-suit

Forget counting sheep or popping pills, a team of Dutch researchers have reported the profound sleep-inducing effect of a warming body-suit.

Eight young adults and sixteen older adults, half of whom suffer from insomnia, spent two nights in a body-suit at a sleep laboratory (see image), with a night at home in between.

Water-filled micro-pipes in the suit maintained the skin temperature of the participants at either 35 degrees celsius in the cool condition or 35.4 degrees in the warm condition, fluctuating gradually between the two every 15 to 30 minutes. Importantly, core body temperature was unaffected by these subtle temperature fluctuations.

The controlled skin temperatures match the typical climate of a person's bed and are close to the levels that people report to be of most comfort, with the warmer condition actually reported to be slightly less comfortable.

Recordings of the participants' brain waves at night showed that warmer skin temperatures resulted in a shift in sleep depth towards deeper sleep and a reduction of their likelihood of being awake at 6am.

For instance, among the non-insomniac older participants, a subtle (only 0.4 degree) increase in skin temperature reduced the probability of being awake at 6am by a factor of 14; for those with a sleep problem, it was by a factor of five. Moreover, with the same subtle increase in temperature, the likelihood of an older insomniac participant being in a deep (slow wave) sleep was doubled for any point in the night.

Roy Raymann and colleagues who conducted the research believe skin temperature affects cells in the hypothalamus of the brain that are responsible for controlling sleep.

The findings have huge practical implications, even before the development of user-friendly body-suits. For example, it is possible that the temperature environment people choose to sleep in, based on comfort, may not be optimal for inducing sleep.

A warm bath before bedtime could help increase skin temperature at the start of the night, and a timed electric blanket could be used to increase skin temperature in the morning. Thick blankets or an all-night electric blanket won't help because they will simply cause overheating, especially of core body temperature, which will disrupt sleep.

"The effects of even very minimal temperature manipulations within the thermoneutral comfortable range are so pronounced that they warrant further research into practical thermal manipulation applications to improve sleep," the researchers concluded.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchRaymann, R.J., Swaab, D.F., Van Someren, E.J. (2008). Skin deep: enhanced sleep depth by cutaneous temperature manipulation. Brain, 131(2), 500-513. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awm315
You have read this article biological / Sleep and dreaming with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/goodbye-insomnia-hello-warming-body-suit.html. Thanks!

How do psychologists study what we know about ourselves?

Dr. Virginia Kwan of Princeton University, with the latest in our ongoing series of guest features for students.

One of the most direct ways in which psychologists learn about how people think about themselves is by simply asking people about themselves (e.g. “How smart do you think you are?”). There are many advantages to self-reports in studying self-perception. They are simple, inexpensive – there are no fancy machines or complicated experimental setups – and revealing; after all, who knows you better than you?

Nevertheless, self-reports have their flaws. One problem is that self-reports are subject to social desirability concerns, making them vulnerable to misreporting. When people know that someone else is going to hear their response to a question, they may change their answer, even unknowingly. Another issue concerning self-reports is whether people are consciously aware of their self-perception and whether they are able to report it accurately.

No single measure is perfect, which is why psychologists often use both self-reports and implicit measures. Implicit measures are designed to be free of social desirability concern by tapping into unconscious aspects of self-perception. For example, during the Rorschach inkblot test, people are presented with ambiguous inkblot images and are asked to interpret them. The interpretation of ambiguous stimuli is thought to reflect personality characteristics and emotional states (see also prior Digest item on implicit test of attitudes).

Why should we care about self-perception? Psychologists have studied self-perception extensively because many believe it is essential for human functioning. One question that has endured, however, is whether we are better off seeing ourselves accurately or through a rose-coloured glass (see Block & Colvin, 1994; Sedikides et al pdf; Taylor & Brown, 1988 pdf). Recent research suggests that overly positive self-perception, known as self-enhancement, may be a mixed blessing for mental health (Bonanno et al; Kwan et al pdf; Paulhus, 1998 pdf).

But overly positive compared to what? Self-perception is an inherently social phenomenon. The way we see ourselves and the ways we are seen by others are closely intertwined. To examine self-enhancement, my colleagues and I (pdf) asked study participants to rate themselves and each other on personality attributes following a group interaction. Comparing all of these ratings allowed us to study the effects of self-enhancement by taking into account the ways people perceive others as well as how they are perceived by them. Our findings suggest that seeing oneself in an overly positive light compared to the social reality leads to maladjustment, but on the other hand, seeing oneself more positively than we see others leads to higher self-esteem and other intrapsychic benefits.
You have read this article Personality / Student features with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-do-psychologists-study-what-we-know.html. Thanks!

Morality under threat as science debunks our sense of free will

Science is uncovering the myriad causal pathways that lead to us to behave the way we do, and it seems free will isn't one of them. Where does that leave people's sense of moral responsibility? Under threat, is the answer from Kathleen Vohs and Jonathan Schooler. Their new study shows that students exposed to arguments against the existence of free will are more likely to cheat.

Thirty students answered maths problems on a computer. A feigned technical glitch meant that they had to press the space bar each question to stop the computer from giving the answers away. Crucially, before the test, half the students read a passage from the late Francis Crick's book about consciousness, in which he argues that free will is an illusion. These students pressed the space bar less often than the students who hadn't read about free will - in other words, they cheated more.

In a second experiment, dozens of students were exposed to either pro free will, anti free will or neutral statements prior to performing a series of mental tests. Afterwards, the students were allowed to score their own answers, shred them for anonymity, and then award themselves a dollar for each correct answer. The students previously exposed to anti free will messages awarded themselves significantly more money than the other students, probably because they cheated more. It's unlikely they had truly performed better. Two further groups of students, one of which was also exposed to anti free will statements, had their answers marked by the researchers and neither of them performed as well as the first group of anti free will students claimed to have done.

These findings complement survey research showing that people's sense of how much control they have over their own lives is diminishing, as well as data from academia showing that cheating is on the increase. "If exposure to deterministic messages increases the likelihood of unethical actions", the researchers said, "then identifying approaches for insulating the public against this danger becomes imperative."

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchVohs, K.D. & Schooler, J.W. (2008). The value of believing in free will. Encouraging a belief in determinism increases cheating. Psychological Science, 19, 49-54.
You have read this article Morality / Social with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/morality-under-threat-as-science.html. Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

We look out for the latest journal special issues so you don't have to:

Immigrant youth in European Countries (European Journal of Developmental Psychology).

The left periphery of sentences (Journal of Neurolinguistics).

Australian counselling and psychotherapy research (Counselling and Psychotherapy Research).

The Assessment of Power Through Psychopolitical Validity (Journal of Community Psychology).
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/the-special-issue-spotter.html. Thanks!

Baghdad teenagers show heightened sense of self in the face of war

For obvious reasons, few social science researchers have ventured into Iraq since the American-led invasion. However, in 2004, a year into the hostilities, the US Army funded a team of Iraqi interviewers, based at the Asharq Centre for Polls and Marketing Research, to go into ten neighbourhoods of Baghdad to survey the concerns and self-esteem of 1000 teenagers.

The results showed that rather than damaging their sense of self, the war appeared to have bolstered the teenagers' self-esteem, especially in those who felt most strongly that their country was under threat.

Co-ordinated by Morten Ender of the United States Military Academy, the interviewers asked the teenagers several items from the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale including "I feel I am a person of worth" and "I am inclined to think that I am a failure".

Overall, the teenagers had reasonably high self-esteem, comparable to the levels reported for teenagers in other predominantly Arab societies such as Palestine. A key pattern to emerge from the self-esteem data was the tendency for teenagers who felt their country was more threatened to also report greater self-esteem, an association not observed for feelings of family threat. The association held even after controlling for other factors such as religious denomination.

The researchers said their finding was consistent with Social Identity Theory, which predicts that people will seek to maintain their sense of self when their identity is under threat. It's also consistent with research on mortality salience, showing that people tend to shore up their sense of self when reminded of, or threatened by, risk of death.

Regarding the issues they felt were most important to their nation, the majority of teenagers said the departure of the multi-national force was most crucial, followed by peace.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchCARLTON-FORD, S., ENDER, M., TABATABAI, A. (2008). Iraqi adolescents: Self-regard, self-derogation, and perceived threat in war. Journal of Adolescence, 31(1), 53-75. DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2007.04.006
You have read this article Mental health / Social with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/baghdad-teenagers-show-heightened-sense.html. Thanks!

Has average intelligence started to decline?

After years on the increase, average intelligence test performance could be in decline. That's according to Thomas Teasdale and David Owen who took advantage of the Danish tradition of testing the intelligence of all 18-year-old men being considered for conscription into military service.

Consistent with the observed world-wide increase in average intelligence - the Flynn Effect - the 25,000 young men assessed for military service in Denmark in 1999 performed significantly better, by about 2 IQ points, than the 33,000 tested in 1988. However, the 23,000 men tested in 2003/2004 performed significantly worse than the 1998 group, at a level almost equivalent to the 1988 cohort. This apparent decline in average intelligence matches a similar observation made in Norway among their conscripts.

So what's causing this reversal in braininess? Teasdale and Owen rule out any effect of diet - after all, there's been no change in average height, which would be expected to suffer if diet quality had deteriorated.

Prior research found that test performance was higher among those men with a negative attitude towards military service. On that basis, Teasdale and Owen also reject the suggestion that the decline could be due to malingering - that is, deliberate poor performance on the intelligence test to avoid military service.

Instead, the researchers surmise that the performance decline is due to "some qualitative change in the emphasis on abstract reasoning and problem-solving within the Danish educational system or a decreased emphasis on speed". They also cite a rising proportion of immigrants in the young population as another possible contributing factor.

Finally, Teasdale and Owen noted that with average intelligence test scores beginning to rise in developing countries, the decline observed here, if representative of a larger pattern, could mark the beginning of the end for any observed differences in average IQ test scores between nations.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchTEASDALE, T., OWEN, D. (2008). Secular declines in cognitive test scores: A reversal of the Flynn Effect. Intelligence, 36(2), 121-126. DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2007.01.007
You have read this article Cognition / Intelligence with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/has-average-intelligence-started-to.html. Thanks!


For when you've had enough of journal articles:

Britain has become the true Prozac Nation, claims Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg.

From New York magazine: Kids lie all the time - they've learned how to from their parents.

A recent episode of Horizon examined how gut instinct leads us to make irrational decisions. There's an accompanying news article. And if you go to the Horizon website, you can watch the programme online, via the button "Click here for full index" (find the episode called "How to make better decisions").

The power of mimicry, from the New York Times.

If your children are going to watch TV, here's what they should watch. Article from Newsweek, with references to American TV shows.

Oliver Sacks describes the visual patterns experienced by some people who suffer migraines. From the New York Times.

Psychoanalysts have tended to receive unkind portrayals in novels, but that looks set to change with the publication of two new books with more endearing psychoanalyst characters at their heart. So argues Lisa Appignanesi in the Guardian.

Lisa was also a guest on a recent episode of BBC Radio 4's Start the Week, where she discusses her new book: "Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present."

In a Royal College of Psychiatry podcast and associated editorial, Psychiatrist Gerald Rosen argues for the diagnosis of PTSD to be dropped, in favour of a more straightforward diagnosis of anxiety or depression. Via MindHacks.

Time magazine on why we flirt.

ABC Radio's All in the Mind show is back, with recent episodes discussing whether Proust was a neuroscientist, and whether nature really is good for the psyche. (Links are to MP3 audio files).
You have read this article Elsewhere with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/elsewhere.html. Thanks!

Childless women are the most productive staff of all, study finds

An investigation into the impact of having children on the productivity of male and female lawyers has found that childless women get the most work done - more than childless male lawyers and lawyers of either gender who have children.

Jean Wallace and Marisa Young studied how many hours 670 lawyers in Alberta, Canada, had billed their clients in the past year. As well as identifying the superior productivity of childless women, they also found that having children impacts the productivity of men and women in different ways.

Male lawyers with children were actually more productive than their childless male counterparts. This is consistent with the dominant cultural view of men as breadwinners, such that those with greater family responsibilities put in more hours to earn more money. By contrast, female lawyers with children were less productive than their childless female colleagues.

Further analysis showed that female lawyers with children usually had to juggle professional and domestic responsibilities because they tended to be married to a partner who also worked. On the other hand, male lawyers with children were likely to have a partner who did not work, and who was therefore able to take responsibility for domestic duties.

Wallace and Young said another unexpected finding was that family-friendly organisational work practices had a negative effect on the productivity of male staff but not female staff. Moreover, the sexes used the benefit of flexible hours differently - professional fathers spent the time pursuing leisure activities, whereas for professional mothers this time was spent largely on domestic duties. It seems the old adage 'a woman's work is never done' still rings true in the twenty-first century.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchWALLACE, J., YOUNG, M. (2008). Parenthood and productivity: A study of demands, resources and family-friendly firms. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72(1), 110-122. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2007.11.002
You have read this article Gender / Occupational with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/childless-women-are-most-productive.html. Thanks!

Alzheimer's patients retain their taste in art

As Alzheimer's disease wipes out a person's identity, their taste in art can remain stubbornly, wonderfully, intact. Andrea Halpern and colleagues hope their finding will bring encouragement to carers of people with the disease.

Seventeen healthy older adults and sixteen older adults with probable Alzheimer's disease were asked to place three sets of eight art post-cards in order of preference. One set depicted representational paintings (e.g. Hopper's People in the Sun), another set depicted quasi-representational paintings (e.g. Picasso's Weeping Woman), while the final set featured abstract art (e.g. Mondrian's Composition).

Two weeks later, the same participants were asked to once again arrange the cards in order of preference. There was relatively little change in the order the cards were put in, regardless of the type of art, and remarkably, the participants with Alzheimer's showed as much stability in their preferences as the healthy participants.

A second experiment with 20 controls and 20 Alzheimer's patients repeated the exact same procedure except that a recognition test for the pictures was included at the second session. The memory test showed that the patients had completely forgotten the pictures and yet, as in the first experiment, their aesthetic preference for the art showed the same stability as did the healthy participants'.

"In judging artworks," the researchers concluded, "people with and without dementia really do know what they like."

The researchers speculated that art preference may remain intact in people with Alzheimer's because aesthetic taste is based on procedural, implicit mental processes rather than the explicit, declarative processes that are so devastated by the disease. However, the patients tested here had mild dementia, so more research is needed to establish whether art preference is also preserved in people with more severe dementia.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchHALPERN, A., LY, J., ELKIN-FRANKSTON, S., O'CONNOR, M.G. (2008). "I Know What I Like": Stability of aesthetic preference in alzheimer's patients. Brain and Cognition, 66(1), 65-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2007.05.008
You have read this article Art / Mental health with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/alzheimer-patients-retain-their-taste.html. Thanks!

Is it time to ditch the Hawthorne Effect?

While use of the term 'Hawthorne Effect' is thriving in journals and textbooks, its meaning is so vague as to be unhelpful. That's according to Mecca Chiesa and Sandy Hobbs, who begin their argument by identifying the first use of the term. This was by John French in 1953, as he described experiments on the productivity of factory workers at the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company, Chicago, between 1927-1933.

"From a methodological point of view," French wrote, "the most interesting finding was what we might call the 'Hawthorne Effect'....it was the 'artificial' social aspects of the experimental conditions set up for measurement which produced the increases in group productivity."

In other words, certain changes were put in place by the factory to increase productivity, but it turned out the benefit to productivity came not from the deliberate changes, but rather from the mere attention of the people investigating.

At least, that is one interpretation of what the Hawthorne effect is. The trouble, Chiesa and Hobbs allege, is that journal articles and book authors all vary in their use of the term. Whereas I mentioned the causal role of the investigators' attention, other accounts refer variously to the "presence of an observer", the setting up of a "warm climate", "concern" or "friendly supervision".

There is similar variation in how the Hawthorne effect is supposed to exert its influence. By some accounts, the effect is unconscious, whereas others refer to "feelings of pride", a "sense of participation" or to "job satisfaction".

The looseness of the term hasn't been helped by the fact that its use has spread from industrial psychology to educational and developmental psychology, and even to medicine where it is sometimes confused with the placebo effect.

What's worse, Chiesa and Hobbs add, when people refer to the Hawthorne Effect, they seldom mention the fact that the original Hawthorne experiments were actually severely flawed. Two of the five participants were replaced mid-study (one of them having allegedly "gone Bolshevik"), so any observed alteration in productivity could have come from a change of personnel.

Given its "multiple, contradictory, and imprecise" meanings, Chiesa and Hobbs conclude that the concept of a "Hawthorne Effect" adds nothing to our understanding of the problems faced when conducting empirical research with human participants, and may actually be a hindrance.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchChiesa, M., Hobbs, S. (2008). Making sense of social research: how useful is the Hawthorne Effect?. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38(1), 67-74. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.401
You have read this article Methodological with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/is-it-time-to-ditch-hawthorne-effect.html. Thanks!

Valentine's tips based on recent psychology research

Use chat-up lines that reveal your helpfulness, generosity, athleticism, and culture. Avoid jokes, empty compliments and sexual references.

If you're male and planning to ask a girl out for a Valentine's date tomorrow night - try touching them lightly on the arm as you make the proposition. Research suggests the gesture will make you appear more dominant and attractive.

If you've recently ended a relationship - cheer up, you could benefit from the experience.

If you're a woman of a larger size looking to attract a potential valentine, try arranging a late dinner date. Research shows that hungry men are attracted to larger women.

Sign up to play as goalkeeper or striker for your local football team. Research shows women consistently rate players in these positions as more attractive - even without knowing the position they play in.

When trying to impress a potential Valentine, get your female friends to smile at you. Research shows this will make you appear more attractive to other women.

If you're good-looking and rich, it might be wise to play down your wealth. Research has shown that women rate men who are good-looking and of medium status as more attractive than men who are good-looking and high status.

Editor's note: Apologies for the male, heterocentric bias. Any other research-based suggestions are welcome via comments.
You have read this article with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/valentine-tips-based-on-recent.html. Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

We look out for the latest journal special issues so you don't have to:

Cognition and Exploratory Learning in a Digital Age (Computers in Human Behaviour).

Psychological and Organizational Climate Research: Contrasting Perspectives and Research Traditions (European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology).

Treating Comorbid Personality Disorders (Journal of Clinical Psychology).

New Research on Acculturation among Diaspora Migrants (International Journal of Psychology).
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/the-special-issue-spotter_13.html. Thanks!

Acceptance, not distraction, is the way to deal with pain

You've got a painful visit to the dentist lined up and what do people advise you to do once you're there? Try to think of something nice, they always say. Imagine yourself lying on a lovely sandy beach. Not only can such advice be annoying, new research suggests it's also ineffective. You're much better off accepting the pain when it comes along and dealing with it.

That's according to Jenny McMullen and colleagues who tested the ability of student participants to cope with unpleasant electric shocks of increasing duration. The students were tested before and after receiving tuition in distraction or acceptance techniques.

To learn distraction, the students were asked to imagine how the first round of electric shocks had felt and to distract themselves from these feelings by imagining a pleasant scene. They were also asked to imagine that continuing with the electric shocks in the next part of the experiment was akin to crossing a swamp, and that the best way to get across was to think of pleasant images.

By contrast, the students taught acceptance were told to walk around the room, repeating to themselves 'I cannot walk'. The idea was to teach them that there is a disconnect between what they say to themselves - their thoughts - and what they actually do; that it is possible to continue enduring pain despite the thought that it is getting more uncomfortable. These students were also told to imagine the swamp metaphor, but in their version, the best way to get across was just to notice any unpleasant thoughts and feelings and carry them with them.

Only the distraction training was effective. In the second round of testing, the students taught acceptance were able to endure more electric shocks than they had in the first part of the experiment, but crucially, no such difference was observed for the students taught distraction.

Moreover, other students taught distraction or acceptance based only on very brief instruction, without use of metaphor or exercises, also showed no greater capacity to endure shocks.

"Of course, the current findings are restricted to a relatively artificial pain-induction task and a relatively small, non-clinical sample [16 people per condition], but the results do call for a careful and systematic analysis of how exercises and metaphors work in future analogue research," the researchers said.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchMCMULLEN, J., BARNESHOLMES, D., BARNESHOLMES, Y., STEWART, I., LUCIANO, C., COCHRANE, A. (2008). Acceptance versus distraction: Brief instructions, metaphors and exercises in increasing tolerance for self-delivered electric shocks. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46(1), 122-129. DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2007.09.002
You have read this article biological / Mental health with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/acceptance-not-distraction-is-way-to.html. Thanks!


Eye-catching studies that didn't make the final cut:

Australian psychologists ask whether it's time for a professional oath in psychology.


Sherlock Holmes and expertise: "Although nearly 120-years-old, Conan Doyle's books show remarkable illustrations of expert behaviour, including the coverage of themes that have mostly been overlooked by current research."

Why do humans kill?

An automatic face-recognition system with 100 per cent accuracy.
You have read this article Extras with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/extras_11.html. Thanks!

We're useless at choosing between time-saving options

From a host preparing for a dinner party to a country constructing a new national stadium, we all tend to underestimate how long things are going to take - an error that's been dubbed the 'planning fallacy'. According to Ola Svenson, contributing to this proclivity for tardiness is our inability to accurately decide between time-saving options.

Consider these increases in speed for a 100km car journey. Don't work out the detailed mathematics. Rather, for both pairs, just make an intuitive judgement about which jump in speed will make the largest difference to your time of arrival (i.e. save the most time):

a)Travelling at 50km/h instead of 40km/h.
b)Travelling at 130km/h instead of 80km/h.

a)Travelling at 50km/h instead of 30km/h.
b)Travelling at 130km/h instead of 60km/h.
If you're like most of the participants in Svenson's study, you will have assumed that option (b) in both pairs is the most time saving. In fact, for the first pair, the time saved is equal (allowing for rounding off), and for the second pair, option (a) saves more time. From analysing participants' judgements, Svenson found that people seem to be mistakenly comparing the ratios of the two changes in speeds - applying what she calls the Ratio Rule.

It can also apply in other contexts. Consider an administration overhaul at a hospital clinic, such that the number of patients treated by each doctor per day is increased. In each pair, which improvement would free up the most doctors to go and work elsewhere?

a)Each day 11 patients treated per doctor instead of 5.
b)Each day, 8 patients treated per doctor instead of 4.

a)Each day, 8 patients treated per doctor instead of 4.
b)Each day, 16 patients treated per doctor instead of 7.
Svenson again found that her participants consistently applied the Ratio Rule, so that most of them said erroneously that option (a) was more time saving for the first pair, and that option (b) was more time saving for the second pair.

So why do we always apply the Ratio Rule if it consistently leads to the wrong judgement? Svenson said the Ratio Rule works when both options start from the same point (e.g. the same speed, or the same number of patients treated). This may then lead it to become a reinforced and favoured rule applied in real-life experiences.

According to Svenson, this bias in the way we compare time saving options has real-world implications. For example, people who are already driving fast will overestimate the time saved by driving even faster. Meanwhile, politicians may be prone to improving an already fast operation, rather than making improvements to a slower operation with more time-saving potential.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchSVENSON, O. (2008). Decisions among time saving options: When intuition is strong and wrong. Acta Psychologica, 127(2), 501-509. DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2007.09.003
You have read this article Cognition / Decision making with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/we-useless-at-choosing-between-time.html. Thanks!


For when you've had enough of journal articles:

Laughter and humour are explored in an exhibition at London's Hayward Gallery: Laughing in a Foreign Language.

"Women are better long-term planners..." The BBC explains why businesses need female managers.

"The brain makes a million connections every second for the whole of our lifetime..." Prof Colin Blakemore argues in the Independent that the brain is an organ so complex we may never understand it.

Behavioural economist Tim Harford appeared on the latest edition of BBC Radio 4's Start the Week, claiming that rational, incentive-driven decision making permeates every aspect of our lives.

The latest issue of Scientific American has free articles on the neuroscience of kissing, and the evolutionary psychology of corporate environments.
You have read this article Elsewhere with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/elsewhere_7.html. Thanks!

A company's profits are linked to the facial appearance of its chief executive

When it comes to big business, appearances it seems, matter a lot. Companies tend to be more profitable if they have a chief executive with a face rated by observers as being more competent, dominant and mature.

Similarly, companies with a chief executive judged to be a good leader, based purely on his facial appearance, also tend to be more profitable. These associations still hold even after controlling for the influence of age and attractiveness.

As Nicholas Rule and Nalini Ambady, who conducted the research, point out: it isn't at all clear whether chief executives with a certain kind of appearance help their company towards profit, or if instead profitable companies choose to employ chief executives who look a certain way.

What is remarkable though is that naive observers are somehow able to extract information (based on more than just age or beauty) from a brief glance at a chief executive's face, which is in some way linked to his company's success.

Rule and Ambady made their observations after asking 100 undergrad students to rate the faces of the chief executives (all were male) from the 25 highest and lowest rated companies for the year 2006 from the Fortune 500 website. Three students recognised one or more of the chief execs, so their data were removed.

Nick Rule told The Digest that it was too soon to speculate on what facial cues observers are using when they extract the kind of information shown in this study, but that more experiments are planned. "Truthfully, I don't think the answer will be a simple one (e.g. 'it's the nose!' or something). But we hope to have a better idea very soon."

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchRule, N.O., Ambady, N. (2008). The Face of Success: Inferences From Chief Executive Officers' Appearance Predict Company Profits. Psychological Science, 19(2), 109-111. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02054.x
You have read this article Faces / Occupational / Social with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/a-company-profits-are-linked-to-facial.html. Thanks!

Sprinters should kick-off with their right foot

All sprinters should start with their right foot in the rear kick-off position on the starting block. Doing so will give them an advantage of about 80ms compared with starting with their left foot in that position. That's according to Adam Eikenberry and colleagues who say the effect of foot position on starting time has to do with differences in the workings of the left and right brain hemispheres.

Ten experienced and ten novice sprinters were timed as they repeatedly launched into a sprint with either their left or right foot in the rear position on the starting block. The rear foot is the one responsible for driving the sprinter forwards. Regardless of the sprinters' favoured foot positioning, or their general 'footedness', two key findings emerged.

When the left foot was in the rear position, the sprinters tended to respond more quickly to the starting signal, with an average reaction time advantage of about 26 ms. This was judged according to when the force of their foot on the starting block first began to decrease. The researchers said this advantage probably reflects the fact that the right hemisphere, which is largely responsible for control of the left foot, has a more specialised role in attention than the left hemisphere.

However, when the right foot was in the rear position, the actual movement of the sprinters off the block was faster by an average of 104 ms. This 'movement time' was measured from the moment that the sprinter's foot started moving (the instant of reaction) to the moment it was completely clear from the block. The researchers said this movement advantage reflects the left hemisphere's (controlling the right foot) specialisation in movement execution relative to the right hemisphere.

Overall, these effects meant there was approximately an 80 ms advantage on average to starting with the right foot in the rear position. "The right foot rear response time advantage found in the present study suggests that teachers and coaches in these events should emphasise a right foot rear stance for their athletes," the researchers said.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchEIKENBERRY, A. (2008). Starting with the right foot minimizes sprint start time. Acta Psychologica, 127(2), 495-500. DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2007.09.002
You have read this article Brain / Sport with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/sprinters-should-kick-off-with-their.html. Thanks!

Foreign languages easier to learn when they're sung rather than spoken

You know what a native speaker sounds like when you're trying to get to grips with a foreign language. The verbal cacophony seems to roll off their tongue so fast that you can't event tell one word from the next. Now Daniele Schon and colleagues have completed a study showing that hearing foreign words sung can help with this segmenting process - a finding that has obvious practical implications for learning new languages.

The researchers created a set of six nonsense words made up from a choice of 11 syllables: Gimysy, Mimosi, Pogysi, Pymiso, Sipygy, Sysipi. Then they used a speech synthesiser to play a continuous stream of these words in random order to 26 French-speaking participants, over and over, for 7 minutes.

Afterwards, the words were presented, one at a time, alongside more made-up words, formed from the same choice of syllables, such as Mosigi and Sypogy. The participants' task was to identify the words that had appeared in the original recording, but it turned out they were hopeless, performing no better than if they had guessed.

Next, a second recording was created of the same six nonsense words used first time around, but in this version each syllable was sung by the synthesiser at a different pitch. A new group of 26 participants had to identify the original words from new ones, and this time they had some success, achieving 64 per cent accuracy.

There are two ways that hearing the words sung could have helped. One is that it is more emotionally engaging. The second is that, together with clues from phonetics, it provides a source of statistical information about which syllables tend to follow each other in words, and which don't.

To test which way singing was helping, a final recording was created in which the nonsense words were sung, but the pitch each syllable was sung at wasn't fixed. This removed the statistical information provided by the singing, leaving only the emotionally engaging aspect.

Performance in this condition was midway between hearing the words spoken and hearing them sung when each syllable always had a fixed pitch. In other words, hearing words sung helps both because it is more emotionally engaging and because it can help identify which syllabic sounds tend to come together.

"Learning a foreign language, especially in the first learning phase wherein one needs to segment new words, may largely benefit from the motivational and structuring properties of music in song," the researchers concluded.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchSCHON, D., BOYER, M., MORENO, S., BESSON, M., PERETZ, I., KOLINSKY, R. (2008). Songs as an aid for language acquisition. Cognition, 106(2), 975-983. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2007.03.005
You have read this article Cognition with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/foreign-languages-easier-to-learn-when.html. Thanks!

How to study

Dr. Nate Kornell of UCLA, with the fifth article in our ongoing series of guest features.

Although as students we have all spent countless hours studying, we receive little guidance in how to study effectively. There are no shortcuts to effective studying, but in general, being actively involved in learning makes studying effective. Some specific points are obvious: pay attention in class, do the reading, don’t procrastinate, while others should be obvious but aren’t: study in a quiet place without distractions, don’t send text messages during class, ask questions if you are confused.

Here are three unintuitive but very effective ways of studying based on findings from psychological research:

Space your study. We humans, and other animals as well, learn more by spacing study sessions out in time (pdf) than we do by massing them together (e.g. by cramming). For example, read a chapter at one time, and review it at another time; if you are studying a set of flashcards, study it every day, instead of intensely all at once. My own research has shown the benefits of spacing in learning about artists’ styles, learning vocabulary words using flashcards, and learning physics concepts, among other topics. If you don’t think spacing will work for you, think again—spacing is virtually always effective, even when it feels counterproductive.

Ask yourself questions. Testing oneself while studying has two advantages: First, it requires retrieving knowledge from memory. Doing so creates powerful memories (pdf) that are not easily forgotten. Second, self-testing allows you to diagnose your learning. If you test yourself before your exams, you can identify and rectify your weaknesses beforehand, instead of regretting them afterwards. A warning though: Self-testing when the information is still fresh in your memory, immediately after studying, doesn’t work. It does not create lasting memories, and it creates overconfidence.

Summarize and integrate. After going to class or reading a chapter, try to summarize the main points, and think about how they relate to the topic at large and to your own experience. This process, known as knowledge integration, creates lasting memories, and has the added benefit of requiring you to recall the information. One way to do so is to “learn by teaching”—that is, tell others about what you have learned, including fellow students or, if you don’t mind being boring, friends and family. Explaining requires integration and summarization, and it is an excellent way to expose the gaps in your own knowledge.

The steps above might seem burdensome, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. A student looking to minimize effort would do well to follow them.

Link to more information.
Link to Nate Kornell's website.
Link to article from this month's Psychologist magazine on how to think like a psychologist (open access).
You have read this article Student features with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-to-study.html. Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

We look out for the latest journal special issues so you don't have to:

New insights in trauma and memory (Memory).

Social Network Analysis and Children's Peer Relationships (New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development).

Cracking the orthographic code (Language and Cognitive Processes).

Developmental Robotics: Can Experiments with Machines Inform Theory in Infant Development? (Infant and Child Development).
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title February 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2008/02/the-special-issue-spotter_1.html. Thanks!