What proportion of chemical leaks provoke mass hysteria?

Mass hysteria and not leaked chemicals was the likely cause of the symptoms experienced by those exposed in 16 per cent of hundreds of chemical leaks recorded in England and Wales between January 2007 and April 2008.

That's according to an analysis by Lisa Page and colleagues at the Institute of Psychiatry of 280 chemical leaks recorded by the Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards based at Chilton in Oxfordshire.

Otherwise known as 'mass psychogenic illness', mass hysteria is the occurrence of physical symptoms such as dizziness and nausea in more than one person, with no identifiable organic cause.

Page's team presented expert toxicologists and medics with vignettes of the incidents (plus further information where necessary) and had them rate the possibility that the documented symptoms, when present, of those exposed could have been caused by the chemicals involved. Among the incidents were a spillage of phosphoric and hydrochloric acid outside a domestic residence, and the opening of a container from South East Asia at a distribution centre (further examples).

In total, the experts' verdict was that 19 of the incidents involved physical symptoms that were most likely caused not by the suspected leak but by mass psychogenic illness - that equates to 7 per cent of all incidents analysed and 16 per cent of those in which physical symptoms were reported.

Incidents at schools and hospitals and those involving reports of an odour were more likely to trigger mass psychogenic illness. By contrast, factors related to emergency response such as the presence of police or paramedics were not relevant.

This is the first ever attempt to provide a formal estimate of the prevalence of mass psychogenic illness within a given context. 'Our findings suggest that mass psychogenic illness is an important differential diagnosis in a substantial minority of chemical incidents,' the researchers concluded.

'The importance of early diagnosis rests in the considerable difference in management [of mass psychogenic illness] compared with other chemical incidents,' the researchers added. 'Mass psychogenic illness is best managed by reassurance, separating symptomatic from non-symptomatic psychogenic persons, minimising unnecessary medical procedures and providing a credible explanation for symptoms. In contrast, casualties from mass toxic incidents may require decontamination, antidotes, and invasive medical care.'

ResearchBlogging.orgPage, L., Keshishian, C., Leonardi, G., Murray, V., Rubin, G., & Wessely, S. (2010). Frequency and Predictors of Mass Psychogenic Illness. Epidemiology DOI: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181e9edc4

Link to Psychologist magazine feature article on dancing plagues and mass hysteria.
You have read this article Social with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/what-proportion-of-chemical-leaks.html. Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

We trawl the world's journals so you don't have to:

Developing flexible and adaptive leaders for an age of uncertainty (Consulting Psychology Journal: Research and Practice).

Computational models of the brain (NeuroImage).

In Memoriam: Stewart H. Hulse - one of the founders of research on animal cognition (Learning and Motivation).

The future of emotion research (Emotion Review).

Disasters and their impact on child development (Child Development).

Animal models of amnesia (Neuropsychologia).
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/the-special-issue-spotter.html. Thanks!

Football fouls more likely to be given when play heads left

A simple perceptual bias could influence football referees' judgements about whether a foul occurred or not. That's according to Alexander Kranjec and colleagues, who had 12 football players at the University of Pennsylvania look for half a second each at 268 static images of one player tackling another and decide whether a foul had been committed. Unbeknown to the participants, 134 of the pictures were simply mirror opposites of the other 134.

The key finding was that more fouls (66.5 vs. 63.3 - a statistically significant difference) were judged to have occurred when assessing the images in which movement was captured in a leftward direction than when assessing the same images mirror-reversed and therefore featuring implied rightward motion. The researchers think this anomaly may have to do with our bias (at least in cultures that read from left to right) for rightward motion. Motion from right to left is perceived as less natural and this may be responsible for influencing judgements about fouls during play in that direction. Apparently film directors exploit this same bias by having villains arrive on-screen from the right.

Kranjec's team said their finding has implications for refereeing. The most popular system, known as the 'left diagonal refereeing system' (see picture), in which the referee runs a diagonal axis between the two left-hand corners of the pitch, results in the referee witnessing tackles in both goal areas primarily from a right-to-left perspective, thus making judgments of fouls in these areas more likely - an advantage to attackers. This is okay because it applies to both teams. What's important, Kranjec and colleagues warn, is that the referee doesn't switch to a 'right diagonal system' half-way through a match, potentially penalising a losing side that needs to attack yet no longer enjoys the benefits of this perceptual bias when playing in offensive areas.

'These results ... suggest that the effects of a low-level perceptual mechanisms could alter a decision, change the result of a game and perhaps, the fortunes of nations,' the researchers said.

ResearchBlogging.orgKranjec A, Lehet M, Bromberger B, & Chatterjee A (2010). A sinister bias for calling fouls in soccer. PloS one, 5 (7) PMID: 20628648
You have read this article Perception / Sport with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/football-fouls-more-likely-to-be-given.html. Thanks!

What's the link between left-handedness and drinking behaviour?

Back in the 70's, psychologist Paul Bakan published a short research report in which he noted that among 47 inpatients on an alcoholism ward, 7 were left-handed - more than you'd expect based on the approximate 10-per cent prevalence of left-handedness in the general population. Bakan described his observation as 'incidental' but according to Kevin Denny, the idea of an alcoholism-handedness link has proven sticky, with some commentators suggesting the stress of being left-handed in a right-handed world is to blame.

Several studies through the years have attempted to replicate the left-handed-alcoholism link but most have relied on small samples and any way the results have been inconsistent. Denny's contribution is an examination of data from the SHARE survey involving over 25,000 people from 12 countries. Left-handers aren't more prone to risky drinking, Denny finds, but on average they do drink more often.

Denny made his finding after categorising survey participants based on their self-reports as either heavy drinkers (those who drink 'almost everyday' or '5 or 6 days a week') or light drinkers (less than once a month or not at all for last six months). There was no evidence that handedness was related to excessive drinking, but left-handers were significantly less likely to be in the light drinker category than right-handers, suggesting that, on average, a left-hander is more likely than a right-hander to drink at moderate levels.

'There is no evidence that handedness predicts risky drinking,' Denny wrote. 'Hence, the results do not support the idea that excess drinking may be a consequence either of atypical lateralisation of the brain or due to the social stresses that arise from left-handers being a minority group.'

Denny acknowledges his study has limitations - all participants in the SHARE survey are over 50, so it's possible his findings don't generalise to younger people. Related to this, it's possible that some heavy-drinking left-handers died before the age of 50, although their numbers are likely to be small. Another potential shortcoming is that some participants categorised as non-drinkers may have been problem-drinkers in recovery.

ResearchBlogging.orgDenny, K. (2010). Handedness and drinking behaviour. British Journal of Health Psychology DOI: 10.1348/135910710X515705
You have read this article Alcohol with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/what-link-between-left-handedness-and.html. Thanks!

The unsung pioneers in the study of prejudice

When did the scholarly study of prejudice begin? Most people cite Gordon Allport's seminal work 'The Nature of Prejudice' published in 1954, but according to Russell Webster and colleagues the first scholar to propose a working definition of prejudice was actually the English humanist and literary critic William Hazlitt (pictured), writing way back in 1830.

Inspired in part by his visit to France where he discovered the French were not as 'butterfly, airy, thoughtless, fluttering' as conventional stereotypes of the time predicted, Hazlitt proposed that 'prejudice ... is prejudging any question without having sufficiently examined it, and adhering to our opinion upon it through ignorance, malice, or perversity, in spite of every evidence to the contrary' - a definition that accurately anticipated Allport's own definition and research more than a century later. Ironically, Hazlitt revealed his own sexist prejudices in his writing, claiming that women are 'naturally physiognomists, and men phrenologists', by which he meant that women judge by sensations, men by rules.

The first psychologist to define prejudice and urge psychologists to study it, according to Webster and co, was Josiah Morse (born Moses), a student of G Stanley Hall's at Clark University. Morse, a Jew, changed his name after struggling to gain postgraduate employment (as an aside, Harry Harlow, born Israel, is another Jewish psychologist who changed his name to boost his employment prospects). Morse encountered these difficulties despite Hall writing a letter of recommendation, shocking by today's standards, in which he stated that Morse 'has none of the objectional Jewish traits ... and has no Jewish features'. No doubt inspired by his first-hand experience of prejudice, Morse in 1907 wrote a paper in which he drew attention to the ubiquity of prejudice and, with echoes of Hazlitt, defined it as 'when one fails to adjust or correct one's prejudgement in favour of contrary evidence.'

Another early psychologist to write on prejudice was G.T.W. Patrick, also a student of G. Stanley Hall. In 1890 Patrick published a paper in which he defined prejudice as 'individual deviation from the normal beliefs of mankind, taking as standard the universal, the general, or the mean'. Unlike Hazlitt and Morse, he failed to recognise that a key aspect of prejudice is the inability or reluctance to modify judgements in the face of fresh evidence. But like Hazlitt, Patrick betrayed his own sexist prejudices, writing that the 'woman's mind is less adapted than the man's', although to be fair he did concede that this is only 'an indication' and 'not proved'.

What's remarkable about the writings of Hazlitt, Patrick and Morse is their prescience. For example, they recognised the influence of both explicit and non-conscious, implicit beliefs, and they realised that prejudice has some adaptive value in helping strengthen in-group bonds. Writing in 1904, William Thomas, a sociologist and the last scholar mentioned by Webster and colleagues, even anticipated Allport's Contact Hypothesis - the idea that inter-group prejudice can be reduced by members of distinct groups socialising with each other.

'...These early pioneers deserve explicit credit for recognising prejudice as a phenomenon and one in dire need of psychological study,' Webster and colleagues conclude. 'Contemporary psychologists and sociologists who study stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination will hopefully have a renewed appreciation for these individuals who planted the roots of prejudice research in psychology and sociology.'

ResearchBlogging.orgWebster RJ, Saucier DA, & Harris RJ (2010). Before the measurement of prejudice: Early psychological and sociological papers on prejudice. Journal of the history of the behavioral sciences, 46 (3), 300-313 PMID: 20623744

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
You have read this article Social with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/the-unsung-pioneers-in-study-of.html. Thanks!


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

A basic visual perception computer training task shows some beneficial transfer to working memory among older participants. See earlier.

'...more educated [people] on average believe themselves to be more left wing than their actual beliefs on a substantive issue might suggest' [pdf]

Patients with Alzheimer's disease show lack of insight into their memory loss.

'How representative are experimental findings from American university students?' [pdf]

'This study explores the premise that shame episodes can have the properties of traumatic memories'.

Camera angle and amount of detail interact to influence jurors' perception of the authenticity of video-taped suspect confessions. When the video camera is focused on the suspect (rather than on the interrogator or on both interrogator and suspect) and the confession contains greater detail, the confession is judged to be more authentic and the suspect considered more likely to be guilty.

Effects of institutional care on children's brains (as measured with EEG) is reversible if they were removed from the institution and placed in foster care before the age of 24 months. Suggests there is a 'sensitive period after which brain activity in the face of severe psychosocial deprivation is less amenable to recovery'.

Botox to the facial muscles slows people's ability to read emotional sentences. '...our results suggest the need for further research on cognitive and emotional effects of cosmetic BTX injection'.

Disregard for children's developmental delays shown by mothers and medical professionals in a socio-economically deprived US sample.

Rapid induction of false memory for pictures.

Women with higher pitched voices show a stronger preference than average for deeper male voices.

Bookmark and Share
You have read this article Extras with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/extras.html. Thanks!

We're happier when busy but our instinct is for idleness

Forced to wait for fifteen minutes at the airport luggage carousel leaves many of us miserable and irritated. Yet if we'd spent the same waiting time walking to the carousel we'd be far happier. That's according to Christopher Hsee and colleagues, who say we're happier when busy but that unfortunately our instinct is for idleness. Unless we have a reason for being active we choose to do nothing - an evolutionary vestige that ensures we conserve energy.

Consider Hsee's first study. His team offered 98 students a choice between delivering a completed questionnaire to a location that was a 15-minute round-trip walk away, or delivering it just outside the room and then waiting 15 minutes. A twist was that either the same or different types of chocolate snack bar were offered as a reward at the two locations.

If the same snack bar was offered at both locations then the majority (68 per cent) of students chose the lazy option, delivering the questionnaire just outside the room. By contrast, if a different (black vs. white) bar was offered at each location then the majority (59 per cent) chose the far away 'busy' option. This was the case even though earlier research showed both snack bar options were equally appealing, and even though the location of the two snack bar types was counterbalanced across participants. In other words, Hsee said, the students' instinct was for idleness, but when they were given a specious excuse for walking further, most of them took the busy option. Crucially, when asked afterwards, the students who'd taken the walk reported feeling significantly happier than the idle students, consistent with Hsee's theory that we're happier when busy (a repeat of the study in which students were allocated without choice to the idle or busy condition led to the same outcome - the busier students felt happier).

In a variant of this first study, students asked to evaluate a bracelet had the option of either spending fifteen minutes waiting time sitting idle or spending the same time disassembling the bracelet and rebuilding it. Those given the option of rebuilding it into its original configuration largely chose to sit idle - consistent with our having an instinct for idleness. By contrast, those told they could re-assemble the bracelet into a second, equally attractive and useful design tended to take up the challenge - again, an excuse, however superficial, for activity seems to be all it takes to spur us on. As before, those who spent the fifteen minutes busy subsequently reported feeling happier than those who sat idle.

Given that being busy makes us happier but that our instinct is for idleness, Hsee's team say there is a case for encouraging what they call 'futile busyness,' that is: 'busyness serving no purpose other than to prevent idleness. Such activity is more realistic than constructive busyness and less evil than destructive busyness.'

The researchers proceed to argue that, unfortunately, most people will not be tempted by futile busyness, so there's a paternalistic case for governments and organisations tricking us into more activity: 'housekeepers may increase the happiness of their idle housekeepers by letting in some mice and prompting the housekeepers to clean up. Governments may increase the happiness of idle citizens by having them build bridges that are actually useless.' In fact, according to Hsee's team, such interventions already exist, with some airports having deliberately increased the walk to the luggage carousel so as to reduce the time passengers spend waiting idly for luggage to arrive.

ResearchBlogging.orgHsee CK, Yang AX, & Wang L (2010). Idleness aversion and the need for justifiable busyness. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 21 (7), 926-30 PMID: 20548057
You have read this article Decision making / evolutionary psych with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/we-happier-when-busy-but-our-instinct.html. Thanks!

It's never too late to memorise a 60,000 word poem

Pounding the treadmill in 1993, John Basinger, aged 58, decided to complement his physical exercise by memorising the 12 books, 10,565 lines and 60,000 words that comprise the Second Edition of John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost. Nine years later he achieved his goal, performing the poem from memory over a three-day period, and since then he has recited the poem publicly on numerous occasions. When the psychologist John Seamon of Wesleyan University witnessed one of those performances in December 2008, he saw an irresistible research opportunity.

Seamon and his colleagues tested Basinger's memory systematically in the lab. They provided two lines as a cue and then 'JB' (as they refer to him in their report) had to reproduce the next ten. With the exception of books VII, his least favourite, and XI, JB's performance was uniformly exceptional - regardless of whether the researchers revealed which book and book section the cue lines were from or not, and regardless of whether they tested portions of the poem in sequence or picked them randomly, JB displayed an accuracy of around 88 per cent in terms of correctly recalled words. When mistakes were made, they tended to be omissions rather than altered or added words. The researchers also tested JB's everyday memory and found that in all non-Milton respects it was age-typical.

Seamon and his co-workers claim JB's feat shows that 'cognitive expertise in memorisation remains possible even in later adulthood, a time period in which cognitive researchers have typically focused on decline.'

Just how did JB manage to pull off this incredible feat? He studied for about one hour per day, reciting verses in seven-line chunks, consistent with Miller's magic number seven - the capacity of short-term, working memory. Added together, JB estimates that he devoted between 3000 to 4000 hours to learning the poem. Seamon's team interpret this commitment in terms of Ericsson's 'deliberate practice theory', in which thousands of hours of perfectionist, self-critical practice are required to achieve true expertise.

JB didn't use the mnemonic techniques favoured by memory champions, but neither, the researchers say, should we see his achievement as a 'demonstration of brute force, rote memorisation'. Rather it was clear that JB was 'deeply cognitively involved' in learning Milton's poem. JB explained:
'During the incessant repetition of Milton's words, I really began to listen to them, and every now and then as the whole poem began to take shape in my mind, an insight would come, an understanding, a delicious possibility. ... I think of the poem in various ways. As a cathedral I carry around in my mind, a place that I can enter and walk around at will. ... Whenever I finish a "Paradise Lost" performance I raise the poem and have it take a bow.'

ResearchBlogging.orgSeamon, J., Punjabi, P., & Busch, E. (2010). Memorising Milton's Paradise Lost: A study of a septuagenarian exceptional memoriser. Memory, 18 (5), 498-503 DOI: 10.1080/09658211003781522
You have read this article Memory with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/it-never-too-late-to-memorise-60000.html. Thanks!

Talking on a mobile phone, you're less likely to notice the unicycling clown

Countless studies have demonstrated that drivers talking on a mobile are slower to brake, less likely to stay in lane and more likely not to notice information and hazards. However, these studies have been criticised for their lack of realism. When people talk on their mobiles while driving in real life, they're usually in their own car, using their own mobile, perhaps in a familiar street environment, chatting to someone they know. By contrast, the lab studies usually involve car simulators, unfamiliar routes, phones and conversation partners.

Ira Hyman and colleagues at Western Washington University think a key reason for the adverse cognitive effects of talking on a mobile phone has to do with 'inattentional blindness' - the failure to notice new information in the environment. To circumvent the limitations of the car studies, they've performed a stripped-down, naturalistic study of people walking diagonally 375 feet across their university's Red Square. They noted whether people walking this popular route were talking on a mobile, listening to an iPod, talking with another person who was present, or just walking on their own without any distractions. When these individuals reached the other side of the square, the researchers asked them if they'd noticed the unicycling clown positioned strategically just to the side of the diagonal path. Their report dryly notes the rationale:
'Unicyclists are very rare on campus pathways and none of the authors have ever observed a unicycling clown on campus. Since the clown was unicycling near the walking path, this was clearly relevant to the task of safely navigating across Red Square (besides, you never know when a clown may throw a cream pie in your face).'
The take-home message was that of the 151 people who were monitored, the 24 who'd been chatting on a mobile were significantly less likely than the others to have noticed the unicycling clown - 25 per cent of phone users noticed him, compared with 51 per cent of people walking on their own, 61 per cent of music listeners and 71 per cent of people walking in pairs. The result provides further evidence that talking on a mobile phone induces inattentional blindness in a way that listening to music or talking to a person who is present does not (in fact, the company of another person who is present increased vigilance, an effect also found in driving simulator studies).

In an earlier part of this study, Hyman and her colleagues found that people crossing the Red Square while chatting on a phone tended to walk more slowly, to weave and to change directions more than other walkers, perhaps because of the effects of increased inattentional blindness.

Although talking on mobile phones while driving has been banned in many countries, many people continue to believe that they are unaffected by using their phone. This could be because by definition we're not aware of what we've missed. '...[I]ndividuals in our study who did not report seeing the unicycling clown were generally surprised that they missed him,' the researchers said. 'Unfortunately, when driving a car while talking on a cell phone, people may be unaware of what they are missing until it is too late.'

ResearchBlogging.orgHyman, I., Boss, S., Wise, B., McKenzie, K., & Caggiano, J. (2009). Did you see the unicycling clown? Inattentional blindness while walking and talking on a cell phone. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24 (5), 597-607 DOI: 10.1002/acp.1638
You have read this article Cognition with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/talking-on-mobile-phone-you-less-likely.html. Thanks!

The Special Issue Spotter

We trawl the world's journals so you don't have to:

Video games (Review of General Psychology).

Emotional intelligence (Industrial and Organisational Psychology).

Do I see us like you see us? Consensus, agreement and the context of leadership relationships (European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology).

Culture-sensitive evidence-based practices (Journal of Clinical Psychology).

Child sexual abuse and the internet: Offenders, victims and managing the risk.

An attachment perspective on incarcerated parents and their children (Attachment and Human Development).

Current research in Cattell-Horn-Carroll-based assessment (Psychology in the Schools).
You have read this article Special Issue Spotter with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/the-special-issue-spotter_15.html. Thanks!


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

Evidence against two claims about mirror neurons.

Another Milgram replication, this time in an 'immersive video environment'.

Incidental tactile sensations affect our social judgments - for example, interviewers holding a heavier clip board perceive job candidates to be more important.

Personality research with apes and monkeys.

A test for distinguishing between major depression in the elderly and the depression associated with Alzheimer's Disease.

'These findings indicate that basic number processing in adults with dyslexia is intact.'

Examining the acceptance of and resistance to evolutionary psychology [pdf]

Women more likely to give their phone number to a man after they've listened to music with romantic lyrics.
You have read this article Extras with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/extras_15.html. Thanks!

Snakes in a brain scanner!

Forget snakes on a plane, this was snakes in a brain scanner! To chart the neural activity associated with overcoming fear, Uri Nili and colleagues scanned snake-phobic participants' brains while they chose, with the press of a button, whether or not to bring a live, 1.5M long corn snake, located on a conveyer belt in the scanner room, nearer to their heads, or to shift it further away (watch video). A control condition replaced the snake with a teddy bear.

The subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) - part of the frontal cortex buried under the corpus callosum - emerged as a key area involved when participants chose to overcome their fear and bring the snake closer to their heads - i.e. when they acted courageously. When people reported high fear but chose to bring the snake closer, sgACC activity increased, whilst physiological markers of fear dropped and activity in emotion processing regions, such as the amygdala, was reduced. Nili's team said this suggests the sgACC plays a role in dampening down fear-related bodily arousal. Consistent with this, the sgACC is known to be involved in regulating the paraysmpathetic nervous system (which is in opposition to the fight or flight response) and is deeply interconnected with brain structures involved in emotional processing.

In contrast, when courage failed and the participants chose to direct the snake further from them, sgACC activity dropped away (no longer correlating with fear levels), somatic signs of fear increased, as did activity in emotion-processing regions like the amygdala.

The only other brain region that was more active during displays of courage was the right temporal pole - a part of the brain that's known to be involved in modulating emotions triggered by visual stimuli, and also in the self-evaluation and monitoring of one's own emotions.

This new research has some important and exciting implications. From a practical perspective, the fact that bodily signs of fear were reduced during moments of courage, even while subjective fear was high, raises a concern with studies that use physiological measures (such as sweatiness of the skin) as a marker for fear. For example, studies of therapeutic interventions for phobias, which rely on physiological markers, risk mistaking what's in fact a display of courage for successful fear eradication.

Manipulating sgACC activity could also be a new target for therapy: 'Such interventions may range from training in meditation techniques that lead to greater activity in this region,' the researchers said, 'to transcranial magnetic stimulation similar to that attempted to alleviate depression.'

ResearchBlogging.orgNili, U., Goldberg, H., Weizman, A., & Dudai, Y. (2010). Fear Thou Not: Activity of Frontal and Temporal Circuits in Moments of Real-Life Courage. Neuron, 66 (6), 949-962 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.06.009
You have read this article Brain / Emotion with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/snakes-in-brain-scanner.html. Thanks!

The links between bloggers' personalities and their use of words

You can tell a person's personality from the words they use. Neurotics have a penchant for negative words; agreeable types for words pertaining to socialising; and so on. We know this from recordings of people's speech and from brief writing tasks. Now Tal Yarkoni has extended this line of research to the blogosphere by analysing the content of 694 blogs - containing an average of 115,000 words written over an average period of about two years - and matching this with the bloggers' (predominantly female; average age 36) answers to online personality questionnaires.

Some commentators have suggested that the internet allows people to present idealised versions of themselves to the world. Contrary to that idea, Yarkoni found that bloggers' choice of words consistently related to their personality type just as has been found in past offline research.

More neurotic bloggers used more words associated with negative emotions; extravert bloggers used more words pertaining to positive emotions; high scorers on agreeableness avoided swear words and used more words related to communality; and conscientious bloggers mentioned more words with achievement connotations. These were all as expected. More of a surprise was the lack of a link between the Big Five personality factor of 'openness to experience' and word categories related to intellectual or sensory experience. Instead openness was associated with more use of prepositions, more formal language and longer words.

The sheer size of the data set at Yarkoni's disposal allowed him to look not only at links between personality factors and broad word categories (as past research has done) but to also zoom in on the usage of specific words. Among the most strong and intriguing correlations were: Neuroticism correlated with use of 'irony' and negatively correlated with 'invited'; Extraversion correlated with 'drinks' and negatively correlated with 'computer'; Openness correlated with 'ink'; Agreeableness with 'wonderful' and negatively correlated with 'porn'; and Conscientiousness correlated with 'completed' and negatively correlated with 'boring'.

'The results underscore the importance of studying the influence of personality on word use at multiple levels of analysis,' Yarkoni concluded, 'and provide a novel approach for refining existing categorical word taxonomies and identifying new and unexpected associations with personality.'

ResearchBlogging.orgYarkoni, T. (2010). Personality in 100,000 Words: A large-scale analysis of personality and word use among bloggers. Journal of Research in Personality, 44 (3), 363-373 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2010.04.001

On a related note, don't forget our recent Bloggers Behind the (psychology) Blogs interview series.
You have read this article Language / Personality with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/the-links-between-bloggers.html. Thanks!

Effect of anger on negotiations depends on cultural context

The expression of anger in negotiations can be an effective strategy, several studies have shown, because it is interpreted by others as a sign of toughness, thus encouraging them to make concessions. However, there's a hefty caveat to this conclusion because those studies were conducted entirely in a Western context. Now Hajo Adam and colleagues have attempted to correct this oversight by studying the effect of anger in negotiations conducted by American students hailing from a Western background and American students with an East Asian ancestry. Adam's finding is that expressions of anger backfire in negotiations involving people with an East Asian background. A follow-up study suggested this is because such behaviour is considered culturally inappropriate.

The first study with 63 participants of European ancestry and 67 of East Asian ancestry involved a hypothetical negotiation situation. The students read a transcript of a negotiation between a salesman and client and imagined they were the salesman. Half the students read a version in which the client was described at one point as speaking in an angry tone. The key measure was whether the students said they would agree to add a warranty into the deal or not. The effect of anger was opposite for the two cultural groups: the Western students were more likely to add the warranty (i.e. make a concession) if the client got angry whereas the East Asian students were less likely to add the warranty in this situation.

To increase the realism, a second study involved another 67 European-ancestry students and 88 East Asian-ancestry students taking part in computer-mediated negotiations in pairs, in which they played the role of mobile phone seller. The whole affair was actually fixed by the researchers and computer-controlled but the students were tricked into thinking they were playing with another student. Another twist to the set-up was that the students were occasionally given a 'sneak insight' into their negotiation partner's typed intentions, for example 'I think I'll offer X'. Replicating the first study, the key finding here was that when these insights contained an expression of anger (e.g. 'This is really getting on my nerves, I'm going to offer X') the Western-ancestry students were more likely to make a concession to their negotiation partner whereas the East-Asian ancestry students were less likely to do so.

The final study provided a rather crude test of one possible explanation for the results - that the effect of anger has to do with what's considered culturally appropriate. Dozens of European and East-Asian-ancestry students took part in a replication of the computer-mediated negotiation task, but this time half the students were told in advance that most people express anger in negotiations and that it was acceptable to do so in this study, whereas the other half were told that expressions of anger were rare and it was not acceptable to get angry in the current task. With these instructions in place, the effects of cultural background disappeared. Instead, regardless of students' cultural background, anger was beneficial following the 'anger is ok' instructions whereas it backfired following the 'anger is unacceptable' instructions.

'Although we believe the present results are an important step in understanding how culture and emotions interact in negotiations,' the researchers said, 'the increasingly global nature of society highlights the importance of continuing to investigate the interplay of culture and emotions in a broad array of social settings.'

ResearchBlogging.orgAdam H, Shirako A, & Maddux WW (2010). Cultural variance in the interpersonal effects of anger in negotiations. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 21 (6), 882-9 PMID: 20483822
You have read this article Cross-cultural / Occupational / Social with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/effect-of-anger-on-negotiations-depends.html. Thanks!

Lecturers should provide PowerPoint handouts before the lecture

The common-sense arguments for and against providing students with slide handouts before a lecture are well rehearsed. Having the handouts means students need take fewer notes, therefore allowing them to sit back and actually listen to what's said. Withholding the handouts, by contrast, entices students to make more notes, perhaps ensuring that they're more engaged with the lecture material rather than mind-wandering.

Elizabeth Marsh and Holli Sink began their investigation of this issue by surveying university students and lecturers. The student verdict was clear: 74 per cent said they preferred to be given slide handouts prior to the lecture, the most commonly cited reason being that having the handouts helps with note-taking. The lecturers were more equivocal. Fifty per cent said they preferred to provide handouts prior to the lecture, but 21 per cent said they never gave out handouts and 29 per cent preferred to distribute afterwards. The most common lecturer reason for retaining handouts was students wouldn't pay attention if they had the handouts.

To find out what really works better, Marsh and Sink had several dozen students watch a few 12-minute videos of real-life PowerPoint science lectures. Sometimes they were given the handouts for use during the lecture; other times the handouts were only provided later. Half the students were subsequently tested on the lecture material after a 12-minute delay; the other students were tested a week later. In both cases, a few minutes before testing, the students were allowed to review their own notes and the handouts (for some of the lectures, this was the first time the handouts were provided). The key finding is that having handouts in the lecture versus only receiving them at the review stage made no difference to test performance. Although the students who had the handouts in-lecture made fewer notes, this didn't harm their test performance at either the 12-minute or 1-week delay.

A follow-up study with 34 students was identical to the first but the testing only took place 12-minutes after the lectures and this time the review session was self-paced for half the students but just two-minutes long for the others. Students provided with handouts during the lectures again took fewer notes but this time they actually out-performed those who only received the handouts after the lectures.

The findings provide preliminary evidence that lecturers should provide their students with handouts during the lecture. Regarding the more extensive note-taking that took place when handouts were held back until after a lecture, the researchers speculated that this was 'unlikely to be a deep encoding task', which would normally be expected to aid memory retention, and may instead have acted merely as a distraction.

'The data reported here represent only a first step and do not resolve this issue,' the researchers concluded. 'In no case, however, did having the handouts during a lecture impair performance on the final tests. Even when there were no differences in final test performance, students still benefited in the sense that they reached the same level of learning with less work.'

ResearchBlogging.orgMarsh, E., & Sink, H. (2009). Access to handouts of presentation slides during lecture: Consequences for learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24 (5), 691-706 DOI: 10.1002/acp.1579
You have read this article Cognition / Educational with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/lecturers-should-provide-powerpoint.html. Thanks!

With wrinkles, it's the quantity, not their location, that ages you most

You emerge from bed, drag yourself to the bathroom and peer through heavy, hooded eyelids at the mirror. There to your horror you see last night's frivolities etched into your face: freshly dug, trench-like furrows, and spidery lines scrawled across your skin as if by a mindless, scribbling toddler. It's aged you by about ten years - or has it? Actually, the impact of wrinkles, both in terms of quantity and type, on perceptions of age has been little researched since the early 1980s [pdf]. According to a new study, however, it's the number of wrinkles you should be worried about, less so the location of them. But forced to choose, forehead, nose and mouth wrinkles are apparently more ageing than bags and wrinkles in the eye region.

Jose Aznar-Casanova and colleagues used computer software - of the kind used by the FBI for suspect photofits - to create several dozen male and female faces that differed systematically according to their number (one to four), depth, and location of wrinkles. The faces were all Caucasian, presented in grey-scale, with no hair or eyebrows - the idea was to try to remove the complicating influence of factors besides wrinkles on age judgments.

In an initial study, 99 participants from three age groups categorised these faces into one of eight age groups: child (3-12 yrs), teenager (13-19 yrs), young adult (20-29 yrs), adult (30-39 yrs), middle-aged (40-49 yrs), senior (50-69 yrs), sexagenerian (60-70 yrs) and elderly (over 70). In a second study, 22 students were presented with pairs of faces and had to estimate in each case the difference in age between the two.

So what did the researchers find? Unsurprisingly, faces with more wrinkles and deeper furrows were judged to be older. Moreover, the density of wrinkles had more of an effect on age judgements than differences in location of wrinkle. However, as mentioned, eye bags tended to have less of an impact on age judgments than other types of wrinkle, such that a face with eye bags/wrinkles was generally perceived as younger than an equivalent face with wrinkles to either the nose, forehead or mouth. There was also some limited evidence that wrinkles and shallow furrows aged male faces more than female faces. Overall, female faces tended to be perceived as younger than male faces. Finally, the age of the observer made a difference such that the younger participants - preadolescents and undergrads - tended to judge faces to be younger than did middle-aged participants.

With all the money that's spent in some cultures on cosmetic efforts to appear more youthful, you'd think more investigations would have been conducted into the precise factors that influence age judgements. This study makes a start but Aznar-Casanova's team acknowledged there's lots more work to be done: 'It is probably impossible to take into account, in one single study, all the information that a face can convey. For example, we did not present experimental stimuli in colour, nor did we include non-Caucasian faces, and we omitted hair and eye-brows from the faces.'

ResearchBlogging.orgAznar-Casanova, J., Torro-Alves, N., & Fukusima, S. (2010). How Much Older Do You Get When a Wrinkle Appears on Your Face? Modifying Age Estimates by Number of Wrinkles. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 17 (4), 406-421 DOI: 10.1080/13825580903420153
You have read this article Developmental with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/with-wrinkles-it-quantity-not-their.html. Thanks!

It's the way they move - politicians' personalities inferred from their motion patterns

People form impressions about the personality of politicians simply from the way they move, according to a new study. This isn't your typical body-language investigation into double-armed hand-shakes, bitten lips and fidgety fingers. Rather Markus Koppensteiner and Karl Grammer devised a new system for mathematically describing the movement patterns of forty real German politicians giving speeches in parliament. Each 16-second, silent video was converted into a stick figure by using an interactive computer programme to place dots on key landmarks such as the elbows, shoulders and forehead. The movement of these landmarks generated dynamic coordinate data which was then crunched according to mathematical characteristics including the 'turbulence coefficient' (i.e. periods of high activity followed by periods of low activity), and the activity levels of body parts such as the head and arms.

Next, 150 participants, mostly students, watched these same video clips and rated the personalities of the moving stick figures. The key finding was that there were correlations between the personality characteristics attributed by the students to the stick figures and the motion patterns of those stick figures as identified by the researchers' motion analysis programme. For example, politicians who displayed a high turbulent coefficient (low activity interrupted by periods of high activity) tended to be rated as more agreeable. Those who displayed more head movements were considered less conscientious, and those who showed low turbulence (i.e. consistently high activity levels) with many horizontal and vertical arm movements tended to be considered more extravert.

Koppensteiner told the Digest that these results are preliminary so caution is advised. For example, it's far too soon to consider body language training based on the findings. 'Telling someone to move a lot (which I found to be a signal for high extraversion) would not turn this person into an extravert. Maybe it would just look strange,' he said. Part of the reason for the caution is that these movement patterns were considered all together, so it's not obvious what effect it would have if just one element were changed. Nor is it known whether a trained pattern of movement would provoke the same personality attributions as when that same pattern occurs naturally. Finally, the personality ratings in the current study were made in the absence of any speech so we don't yet know how movement patterns and speech interact.

Notwithstanding those caveats, Koppensteiner said that the findings do have exciting implications - for example, if the technique were refined, it's possible that it may one day be possible to analyse a politician's movement patterns and predict the kind of personality attributions that voters are likely to make about them. Also, if these attributions reflect politicians' actual personalities, then an analysis of their movement patterns could be used as a way to discern their personality. 'Although at an exploratory stage,' Koppensteiner and Grammer concluded, 'the current study hints that charisma is partly linked to individual differences in successfully presenting oneself on a non-verbal level.'

ResearchBlogging.orgKoppensteiner, M., & Grammer, K. (2010). Motion patterns in political speech and their influence on personality ratings. Journal of Research in Personality, 44 (3), 374-379 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2010.04.002
You have read this article Personality / Political with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/it-way-they-move-politicians.html. Thanks!

The bloggers behind the blogs

Blogging has emerged as a powerful medium in recent years and nowhere is this more evident than in psychology and neuroscience. But who are the people behind these increasingly influential blogs? What are their motives and what advice do they have for aspiring bloggers? The Research Digest caught up with a handful of the world's leading psych bloggers to find out:

Jacy Young of Advances in the History of Psychology.
Jesse Bering of Bering in Mind.
Anthony Risser of BrainBlog.
David DiSalvo of Brainspin & Neuronarrative.
Petra Boynton of Dr Petra.
Vaughan Bell of Mind Hacks.
Mo Costandi of Neurophilosphy.
David Dobbs of Neuron Culture.
Neuroskeptic of Neuroskeptic.
Hesitant Iconoclast of Neurowhoa!
Scarlett de Courcier of Ramblings of an Academic Petrolhead, Paracademia and 28 others.
Dave Munger of Research Blogging and Cognitive Daily.
Wray Herbert of We're Only Human & Full Frontal Psychology.
You have read this article Bloggers behind the blogs with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/the-bloggers-behind-blogs.html. Thanks!

Bloggers behind the blogs: Wray Herbert

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with some of the world's leading psychology and neuroscience bloggers.

Last up, Wray Herbert of We're Only HumanFull Frontal Psychology and the Huffington Post.

How did you become a psychology/neuroscience blogger?

I've been writing about psychology and brain science for more than 30 years, so in a way blogging was merely switching the technology used for production and distribution. I still do traditional science journalism, but now I post it electronically. I actually began blogging in 2006, when I created the 'We're Only Human' blog as part of my new job as publicity director for the Association for Psychological Science. I still do old-school PR-press releases on Eurekalert etc - but it seemed to me at the time that blogging might be another valuable tool for promoting psychological science. I've since added the 'Full Frontal Psychology' blog at True/Slant, and my blogging for The Huffington Post.

What's your blog's mission?

To improve the public understanding of psychological science. I strive to show readers how psychological research connects to their lives, and also to take them inside the labs to see the ingenious ways in which human behavior can be studied.

Are you also on Twitter?

Yes (@wrayherbert), and Facebook. I use both to extend the reach of We're Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology.

How does your blogging affect your day job?

Blogging is my day job. I'm one of the lucky few who is actually paid a salary to blog - although I do other things as well.

What advice do you have for any budding psychology bloggers out there?

The psychology/neuro blogging field is getting fairly crowded, but there also seems to be an insatiable appetite for this stuff. I would pick a narrower niche. For example, I am hoping to start another called 'They're Just Kids,' which will focus on the science of child development and parenting. I am also starting one that spins off from my new book On Second Thought (forthcoming from Crown), which is a popularization of heuristics and biases research, broadly construed. The key to successful blogging is to find a host that will deliver readers: My blog appeared for years in Newsweek.com, and still runs in the print magazine Scientific American Mind and The Huffington Post. Blogging doesn't work on the 'if you build it they will come' principle.

What blogs do you read?

Not many really, just for lack of time. I like David DiSalvo's Brainspin on True/Slant and David Dobbs' Neuron Culture. I check out Mind Hacks when I have time, and Laura's Blog (by psychologist Laura Freberg of Cal Poly).

What books or other traditional media are your reading at the moment?

Dan Ariely's new book, The Upside of Irrationality. Ellen Langer's Counterclockwise. I still get the New York Times and the Washington Post delivered to my door. For fun I'm reading (and immensely enjoying) Stieg Larsson's The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo.

What blog posts of yours are you most proud of and why?

None in particular, but I like the fact that my book On Second Thought emerged naturally from a few years of regular blogging on cognitive biases. It's a nice interplay of old and new media, don't you think?
You have read this article Bloggers behind the blogs with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/bloggers-behind-blogs-wray-herbert.html. Thanks!

Bloggers behind the blogs: Dave Munger

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with some of the world's leading psychology and neuroscience bloggers.

Next up, Dave Munger of the Research Blogging consortium and the hugely popular, but now discontinued, Cognitive Daily.

How did you become a psychology/neurosci blogger?

We started Cognitive Daily because I was looking to begin a career as a writer and I needed something to write about. I realized that since I live with a psychologist (my wife, Greta), I have access to a unique resource. We're unusual among bloggers because we work as a team. Greta picks the research articles that I write about and serves as a sort of editor for what I write, pointing out cases where I get the science wrong so I can fix them. Of course, as the blog became popular, our readers were quicker at finding my errors than Greta was!

What was Cognitive Daily's mission and why did you decide to bring it to a close?

We never formally decided on a mission, but I think basically what we were trying to do was show people how interesting cognitive psychology is. We also wanted to emphasize peer-reviewed research, and we never skimped on discussing the details of the research — methods, results, and conclusions — without getting bogged down in jargon.

We actually closed Cognitive Daily for reasons similar to why we started it. I'm a writer, and I'm ready to move on and write about other things. I now have a weekly column in Seed Magazine, so there's a regular outlet for my writing, and I'd like to pursue other projects with the remainder of my time.

Are you also on Twitter - if so, how do the two outlets complement each other?

Yes, I'm @davemunger on Twitter. I think there's a delicate balance between tweeting and blogging. Twitter is so much easier to do than blogging that it can be tempting to spend all your time doing it. But while Twitter is important for connecting with new people and sharing your work, it's not a substitute for actual blogging. Very few things can be thoroughly explained or discussed in 140-character chunks, and the best tweets link to blog posts! I've now banished Twitter from my main work computer and only use my iPad for tweets. It's cut down on the time I spend on Twitter, but still allows me to connect with people.

One really great thing about Twitter is that if you're Twitter friends with someone and then you see them at a conference, it's like you already know them. I think more scientists should use Twitter (as long as they can find a way to limit their time on the platform). I was at the Vision Sciences Society conference last month and was surprised at how few people there were on Twitter. Twitter is really a fantastic way to improve your experience at a conference.

How does your blogging affect your day job?

I'm in an odd situation because blogging is my day job. As editor of ResearchBlogging.org, I promote blogging about peer-reviewed research. But even so, that's a different thing from actually writing blog posts! I always considered Cognitive Daily to be a separate 'job' from my duties as an editor.

For a scientist who also blogs, I think the balance is a little different. Blogging may seem unrelated to your day-to-day work, but it can also be a critical part of your work. Organizations like the National Science Foundation in the U.S. expect grant recipients to do public outreach, and blogging is a great way to do that. All other things being equal, someone who regularly blogs about research in their field is much more likely to be awarded a grant than someone who does not.

I do have one suggestion, if you have a day job: Don't put 'daily' in your blog's title! It's okay to blog once a week, or whenever you have time.

What are your weapons of choice - i.e. what blogging platform / hardware do you use and why?

I use WordPress, but at this point it's primarily out of habit. One thing I like about it is that when you host your own blog (as opposed to signing up for their free hosting at wordpress.com), you're not obligated to sign up for every single update of the system. If a new version adds a 'feature' you don't like, it's possible to roll back. That said, I don't spend a lot of time tinkering with the technology. I'd much rather be writing about science!

What advice do you have for any budding psychology bloggers out there?

My main advice is to be flexible. You might start with one idea of what your blog is going to be like, but eventually find it evolving into an entirely different thing. That's fine! Don't put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect - everyone understands that a blog is a work in progress, and that as long as you acknowledge your mistakes and fix them, in the long run they'll come to trust you.

I'd also suggest that you put some of yourself into your blog. This doesn't mean sharing all your deepest secrets, but you should definitely give readers some idea of who you are and why you love psychology. That's the quickest way to build a connection with an audience.

(And as editor of ResearchBlogging.org, I'm obligated to say that when you blog about peer-reviewed research, you can get additional publicity for your blog by sharing your posts there as well.)

What blogs do you read (list up to five)?

I'm a big fan of The Thoughtful Animal. I love Neuroskeptic and Neurodojo. Getting outside of psychology, one of my favorite science blogs is Denim and Tweed. Finally, I'm going to cheat a bit and recommend all the psychology and neuroscience finalists from The Research Blogging Awards - including, of course, BPS Research Digest, which deservedly won the Best Blog - Psychology award!

What books or other traditional media are you reading at the moment? (up to five)

I'm just finishing up Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. I also enjoyed Daniel Simons' and Christopher Chabris' The Invisible Gorilla. Next on the queue is Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

And finally, what blog post of yours are you most proud of and why?

This is a bit of a copout, but I'd have to say it's the post that launched what eventually became ResearchBlogging.org. While I've written hundreds of posts about peer-reviewed research, all of which I'm extremely proud of, this paved the way for over 12,000 posts (and counting!).

Bookmark and Share
You have read this article Bloggers behind the blogs with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/bloggers-behind-blogs-dave-munger.html. Thanks!

The bloggers behind the blogs: Scarlett de Courcier

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with some of the world's leading psychology and neuroscience bloggers.

Next up, Scarlett De Courcier of Ramblings of an Academic Petrolhead, Paracademia and 28 others!

How did you become a psychology/neurosci blogger?

I've been on a psychology of religion research team for the past three years and have always been interested in psychology. I got into blogging through my day job, which is in new media advertising; I spend hours traversing the blogosphere so thought starting my own might be interesting. I then got a bit obsessed and now have 30 blogs overall, though not all are about psychology!

What's your blog's mission?

To take the bits of exciting information that drop into my inbox from journals and conferences, and make them into short, bite-sized articles people can easily understand, regardless of their academic background (or lack thereof).

Are you also on Twitter - if so, how do the two outlets complement each other?

I am indeed: @bohemiaacademia. I love Twitter, it's a great way to promote whatever blogs you're posting, but also to meet others who are working the same fields, both on and offline.

How does your blogging affect your day job?

It doesn't really; I'm lucky because my day job involves the blogosphere, so they see it as a positive thing that I blog a lot. Having said that, I do my blogging in my non-work hours, mainly because I like to maintain a line between 'home' and 'work'. If anything, blogging is affected (positively) by my day job: I often find interesting/beautiful/intriguing things in my internet travels at work, note them down and blog about them later.

What are your weapons of choice - i.e. what blogging platform/hardware do you use and why?

Blogger, because it's very simple.

What advice do you have for any budding psychology bloggers out there?

Just go for it. Blog about the things you like! It doesn't matter if someone has already covered it, because no one has covered it in exactly the same way you would. Also, don't give up after a little while when you discover no one's reading it! It takes time to build an
audience. Use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to augment your number of readers and connect with other bloggers.

What blogs do you read (list up to five)?

Mind Hacks, Not Exactly Rocket Science, Tom Froese's blog, The Lay Scientist, and various others!

What books or other traditional media are you reading at the moment?

Right now I'm reading 'The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana' by Umberto Eco (one of the greatest writers of all time, in my opinion!).
You have read this article Bloggers behind the blogs with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/the-bloggers-behind-blogs-scarlett-de.html. Thanks!

The bloggers behind the blogs: Jacy Young

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with some of the world's leading psychology and neuroscience bloggers.

Next up, Jacy Young of Advances in the History of Psychology.

How did you become a psychology/neurosci blogger?

Advances in the History of Psychology began as a collaboration between Jeremy Trevelyan Burman, a graduate student in the History and Theory of Psychology program at York University, and Christopher Green one of the program’s faculty members. As a doctoral student in the History and Theory of Psychology program working with Chris Green I became involved with the blog in May 2009 and took over as editor in September of that year. Burman’s previous TV and web production experience and the success of Green’s Classics in the History of Psychology website and This Week in the History of Psychology podcast series each served as catalysts for the creation of the blog. While I currently edit the blog and Green and I contribute posts, we also have to occasional contributors: the blog’s founding editor, Jeremy Burman and another student in the History and Theory of Psychology program, Jennifer Bazar.

What's your blog's mission?

Advances in the History of Psychology was launched in 2007 as a venue for bringing together history of psychology related news, resources, and discussion. More particularly, we seek to inform our readers of the most recent publications, conferences, and general news pertaining to the history of the psychology. Our audience includes both those with a general interest in the history of psychology and those who do historical work on psychology themselves or teach on the subject. Of broad appeal, are the interesting historical tidbits related to the discipline’s past that we unearth. Regular posts announcing recent publications and conferences related to the field appeal to a somewhat more limited audience, mainly those who do work in the history of psychology themselves.

How does your blogging affect your day job?

Blogging about the history of psychology while working on a degree in the field is a rather ideal pairing. Prior to blogging I would seek out various developments in the history of psychology simply for my own edification. Now each development I come across, and actively seek out, gets filed away for the blog. Ultimately, searching out information in my own field to blog about is a great way to keep abreast of new developments and to continue to expand my own knowledge of the discipline’s past.

What are your weapons of choice - i.e. what blogging platform / hardware do you use and why?

With multiple contributors, an easy to use blogging platform is a necessity. We currently use WordPress and while it is not without its issues, it is user-friendly enough that we have managed to avoid any major disasters.

What advice do you have for any budding psychology bloggers out there?

Making the blogging process as easy for yourself as possible. If blogging is hard to do, you just won’t do it. In addition to easy to use blogging software, one of the most straightforward ways to make the process easier is to blog about what you know. For us this means blogging about the history of psychology while doing the history of psychology.

What blogs do you read (list up to five)?

While there are a number of excellent psychology and neuroscience blogs on my blog roll, I thought I would focus on a few of the blogs that take a more historical bent. For instance, the recently begun H-Madness, which focuses on the history of madness, mental illness, and treatment and is written by a group of established international scholars, provides an interesting counterpoint to our blog.

The All in the Mind blog, which accompanies the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio programme on all things mental, often features interesting additional information on the topics covered in the radio program, many of which are historical.

BioMedicine on Display is the blog of the Medical Museion at the University of Copenhagen and features discussion of the issues surrounding the preservation and display of health related material.

And finally, Vaughn Bell’s Mind Hacks deserves a nod for not only being an excellent read, but also regularly featuring posts related to the history of psychology.

What books or other traditional media are you reading at the moment? (up to five)

I am currently reading Harold J. Cook’s Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age.

Also on my summer reading list is John Carson’s The Measure of Merit: Talents, Intelligence, and Inequality in the French and American Republics, 1750-1940, which recently won the International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences Cheiron Book Prize. I will also soon be re-reading the 2008 Cheiron Book Prize winner, The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public by Sarah Igo.

And finally, what blog post of yours are you most proud of and why?

Some of our most popular posts have been those on psychologists’ experimentation with hallucinogens, undoubtedly an attractive topic for students looking into the history of psychology for the first time. Also popular, are posts related to various replications of Stanley Milgram’s obedience to authority experiment that have taken place in recent years, including a recent Milgram-esque French game show. Yet, one of the posts that attracted the most discussion (Presentism in the Service of Diversity?) was on a completely different topic: what are the boundaries of the history of psychology and how do we set these boundaries? Even though the post was before my time, witnessing sustained discussion on such an admittedly academic topic was gratifying.
You have read this article Bloggers behind the blogs with the title July 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://psychiatryfun.blogspot.com/2010/07/the-bloggers-behind-blogs-jacy-young.html. Thanks!