Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

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Money & Happiness: Higher Income Only Increases Contentment If You’re ‘Keeping Up With The Jones’s’

Read the original research paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

Source :ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2010)

A study by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University has found that money only makes people happier if it improves their social rank. The researchers found that simply being highly paid wasn’t enough — to be happy, people must perceive themselves as being more highly paid than their friends and work colleagues.

The researchers were seeking to explain why people in rich nations have not become any happier on average over the last 40 years even though economic growth has led to substantial increases in average incomes.

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Lead researcher on the paper Chris Boyce from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology said: “Our study found that the ranked position of an individual’s income best predicted general life satisfaction, while the actual amount of income and the average income of others appear to have no significant effect. Earning a million pounds a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn 2 million a year.”

The study entitled “Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction” will be published in the journal Psychological Science. The researchers looked at data on earnings and life satisfaction from seven years of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which is a representative longitudinal sample of British households.

First they examined how life satisfaction was related to how much money each person earned. They found however that satisfaction was much more strongly related to the ranked position of the person’s income (compared to people of the same gender, age, level of education, or from the same geographical area).

The results explain why making everybody in society richer will not necessarily increase overall happiness — because it is only having a higher income than other people that matters.

The three authors of the paper were Chris Boyce, Gordon Brown (both of the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology), and Simon Moore of Cardiff University.

Read the original research paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

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March 23, 2010 Posted by | depression, Health Psychology, Identity, Social Psychology, stress | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Academic Dishonesty = Fail: Procrastination & Copying Homework Increases Failure Rate Irrespective of Aptitude

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF)

From ScienceDaily (Mar. 21, 2010) — The history of students who copy homework from classmates may be as old as school itself. But in today’s age of lecture-hall laptops and online coursework, how prevalent and damaging to the education of students has such academic dishonesty become?

According to research published online March 18 in Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research, it turns out that unnoticed student cheating is a significant cause of course failure nationally.

A researcher from the University of Kansas has teamed up with colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to get a better handle on copying in college in the 21st century.

Young-Jin Lee, assistant professor of educational technology at KU, and the Research in Learning, Assessing and Tutoring Effectively group at MIT spent four years seeing how many copied answers MIT students submitted to MasteringPhysics, an online homework tutoring system.

“MIT freshmen are required to take physics,” said Lee. “Homework was given through a Web-based tutor that our group had developed. We analyzed when they logged in, when they logged out, what kind of problems they solved and what kinds of hints they used.”

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Lee said that it was easy to spot students who had obtained answers from classmates before completing the homework.

“We ran into very interesting students who could solve the problems — very hard problems — in less than one minute, without making any mistakes,” said Lee.

Students also were asked to complete an anonymous survey about the frequency of their homework copying. (According to the survey, students nationally admit to engaging in more academic dishonesty than MIT students.)

Among the researchers’ most notable findings:

* Students who procrastinated also copied more often. Those who started their homework three days ahead of deadline copied less than 10 percent of their problems, while those who drug their feet until the last minute were repetitive copiers.

The students who copied frequently had about three times the chance of failing the course.

* Results of the survey show that students are twice as likely to copy on written homework than on online homework.

* This study showed that doing all the homework assigned is “a surer route to exam success” than a preexisting aptitude for physics.

“People believe that students copy because of their poor academic skills,” Lee said. “But we found that repetitive copiers — students who copy over 30 percent of their homework problems — had enough knowledge, at least at the beginning of the semester. But they didn’t put enough effort in. They didn’t start their homework long enough ahead of time, as compared to noncopiers.”

Because repetitive copiers don’t adequately learn physics topics on which they copy the homework, Lee said, the research strongly implies that copying caused declining performance on analytic test problems later in the semester.

“Even though everyone knows not doing homework is bad for learning, no one knows how bad it is,” said Lee. “Now we have a quantitative measurement. It could make an A student get B or even C.”

At the beginning of a semester, the researchers found that copying was not as widespread as it was late in the semester.

“Obviously, the amount of copying was not so prevalent because the academic load was not as much at the beginning of the semester,” said Lee. “In order to copy solutions, the students need to build their networks. They need to get to know each other so that they can ask for the answers.”

But the KU researcher and his MIT colleagues also demonstrated that changes to college course formats — such as breaking up large lecture classes into smaller “studio” classes, increasing interactions between teaching staff and students, changing the grading system — could reduce student copying fourfold.

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF)

Adapted from materials provided by University of Kansas

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March 22, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Cognition, Education, stress, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Improve Self Control and Impulsivity Through Abstract Thinking

Read Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

[A] New study shows that self-control can be automatically, unconsciously bolstered by abstract thinking.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just spontaneously and automatically exercise self-control, without all that painful back-and-forth battle with ourselves?

Just automatically resist that cake and choose the apple; or suddenly find ourselves out jogging without resorting to self-blackmail […]

Unfortunately so often temptation wins. And experiments show that when we are run down from exercising self-discipline all day, we become even more likely to give in to temptation.

Apple or candy bar?

[Previous studies suggest ]that self-control can be increased by thinking abstractly about our goals. This suggests we should see our actions as just one part of a larger plan, rather than focusing on the details of what we’re doing. The power of abstract thinking may offer a way for us to increase our self-control without really trying.

But how does thinking abstractly about our goals increase our self-control? In a recent article published in Psychological Science, Fujita and Han (2009) wondered if our unconscious mind is somehow pitching in to help out. They used an implicit association test as a way of measuring people’s unconscious thoughts about eating either an apple or a tempting candy bar.

Before taking this test people were put into either an abstract or concrete mode of thinking. Participants were split into two groups with each asked to think about maintaining good personal relationships, but in different ways. One group thought about why we need to maintain good relationships (abstract, high-level) while the other focused on how we maintain good relationships (concrete, low-level).

As you can see, for the purposes of this experiment, the reason participants were thinking abstractly didn’t matter so much. That’s because when we think abstractly about one thing, we tend to carry on thinking in an abstract mode about anything else that’s put in front of us, including the choice between an apple and a candy bar.

Automatic, unconscious self-control

The results showed that, when participants were thinking concretely, they tended to unconsciously see candy bars in a positive light and apples in a negative light. But this was reversed when participants were thinking abstractly. Just as predicted, abstract thinking automatically made people unconsciously think of candy bars as the devil’s own food.

To back this up they asked participants in the two conditions whether they would like an apple or a candy bar, right now. They found that when participants were thinking in a concrete low-level way, they chose the apple over the candy bar only 50% of the time. But when they were thinking abstractly this percentage shot up to 76%. Not bad for such a simple manipulation.

So it seems you can bolster resistance to temptation by thinking abstractly about the goal you want to obtain because it causes your mind to automatically associate temptations with negativity. Hey presto, more self-control and thank you unconscious mind.

Why not try applying this to whatever you are finding difficult to achieve?

Read Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

Adapted from an article posted at PsyBlog 03/10

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March 21, 2010 Posted by | Cognition, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Anxiety: Another Side To The Struggle

Read Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

From ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2010) — When you think of people suffering from social anxiety, you probably characterize them as shy, inhibitive and submissive. However, new research from psychologists Todd Kashdan and Patrick McKnight at George Mason University suggests that there is a subset of socially anxious people who act out in aggressive, risky ways — and that their behavior patterns are often misunderstood.

In the new study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Kashdan and McKnight found evidence that a subset of adults diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder were prone to behaviors such as violence, substance abuse, unprotected sex and other risk-prone actions. These actions caused positive experiences in the short-term, yet detracted from their quality of life in the longer-term.

“We often miss the underlying problems of people around us. Parents and teachers might think their kid is a bully, acts out and is a behavior problem because they have a conduct disorder or antisocial tendencies,” says Kashdan. “However, sometimes when we dive into the motive for their actions, we will find that they show extreme social anxiety and extreme fears of being judged. If social anxiety was the reason for their behavior, this would suggest an entirely different intervention.”

Kashdan and McKnight suggest that looking at the underlying cause of extreme behavior can help us understand the way people interact within society.

“In the adult world, the same can be said for managers, co-workers, romantic partners and friends. It is easy to misunderstand why people are behaving the way we do and far too often we assume that the aggressive, impulsive behaviors are the problem. What we are finding is that for a large minority of people, social anxiety underlies the problem,” says Kashdan.

The researchers suggest that further studies of this subset group can help psychologists better understand and treat the behaviors. “Recent laboratory experiments suggest that people can be trained to enhance their self-control capacities and thus better inhibit impulsive urges and regulate emotions and attention,” says McKnight. “Essentially, training people to be more self-disciplined — whether in physical workout routines or finances or eating habits — improves willpower when their self-control is tested.”

Credit: George Mason University

Read Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

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March 20, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Bullying, therapy | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Youth Today: The “Me” Generation Or More Of The Same?

Read the original research paper HERE (Free PDF)

Today’s youth are generally not the self-centered, antisocial slackers that previous research has made them out to be, according to a provocative new study co-authored by a Michigan State University psychologist.

In a scientific analysis of nearly a half-million high-school seniors spread over three decades, MSU’s Brent Donnellan and Kali Trzesniewski of the University of Western Ontario argue teens today are no more egotistical – and just as happy and satisfied – as previous generations.

“We concluded that, more often than not, kids these days are about the same as they were back in the mid-1970s,” said Donnellan, associate professor of psychology.

The study appears in the research journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Donnellan acknowledges that many people will be surprised by the findings, which refute previous studies classifying today’s youth as selfish loafers with extremely high levels of self-esteem.

But while much previous research has relied on “convenience studies” of relatively small samples of young adults, Donnellan said, the current study analyzes the psychological profile data of 477,380 high school seniors from 1976 to 2006. The data comes from the University of Michigan’s federally funded Monitoring the Future survey, which each year tracks the behaviors, attitudes and values of American students.

In other findings:

* Today’s youth are more cynical and less trusting of institutions than previous generations. But Donnellan said this is generally true of the broader population.

* The current generation is less fearful of social problems such as race relations, hunger, poverty and energy shortages.

* Today’s youth have higher educational expectations.

Ultimately, Donnellan said, it’s common for older generations to paint youth in a negative light – as lazy and self-absorbed, for example – which can perpetuate stereotypes. It can be easy, he added, to forget what it’s like to grow up.

“Kids today are like they were 30 years ago – they’re trying to find their place in the world, they’re trying to carve out an identity, and it can be difficult,” Donnellan said. “But lots of research shows that the stereotypes of all groups are much more overdrawn than the reality.”

Read the original research paper HERE (Free PDF)

Source: Brent Donnellan
Michigan State University

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March 19, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Child Behavior, Parenting, Resources, Social Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Quirky Yes,Hopeless No’:Making Quirky Cool & Helping Kids With Aspergers Learn Social Skills

By PATRICIA MORRIS BUCKLEY – For the North County Times | Posted: March 17, 2010

Beth Wagner Brust knows there are few things more difficult than watching your child struggle to make friends. Her youngest son, Ben, was diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten, but by third grade he still didn’t have any friends.

“My pediatrician said he had Asperger’s,” explained Brust, a Carmel Valley resident. Asperger’s is considered a higher form of autism that makes social interaction, among other things, difficult. “Like any parent, I was thrown for a loop. Then I heard about the Friends Club in Carlsbad.”

The Friends Club is a safe, non-threatening and non-stressful environment where kids with Asperger’s get together to learn the “unwritten” social skills. Now it’s inspired Brust and Cynthia La Brie Norall, Ph.D., to write “Quirky, Yes — Hopeless, No: Practical Tips to Help Your Child with Asperger’s Syndrome Be More Socially Accepted” (St. Martin’s Griffin).

Asperger’s children are often the kids who are bullied, sit alone at lunch and rarely get an invitation to a birthday party. But at the club, they learn such skills as making eye contact, greeting people, letting others talk about their interests and being less rigid through games, breaking skills into baby steps and role playing.

By learning the subtle social cues that typical children take for granted, they can begin making friends. And that’s exactly what happened with Ben.

“By the end of the first year, I heard him ask another kid, ‘Am I boring you?’ and I almost fell over,” recalled Brust. “I’d never heard him say that before. It was amazing to see that growth in six months.”

The Friends Club was the brainchild of Norall, an educational behavior psychologist. While working at a preschool in Valley Center in 1992, she first encountered children with autism. That’s around the time that autism diagnoses began to rise dramatically. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 out of every 100 8-year-olds is autistic.

“I just found this population fascinating,” Norall said. “I went to every seminar and conference I could on autism. I really wanted to help them.”

In 1999, she opened her own practice, Comprehensive Autism Services and Education (CASE). A year later, she started the Friends Club when her mentor, Dr. B.J. Freeman, a child psychologist who founded the Autism Clinic at UCLA, suggested that she do something to help those higher on the autistic spectrum.

The Friends Club broke the commonly held professional belief that social groups should also contain typical children.

“I got a lot of negative criticism over that decision,” she said. “But these kids know that they are different and if I brought in typical kids, the Aspies (kids with Asperger’s) would stand out. They needed a place to connect.”

Norall likes to tell the story of a teenage girl on her first time at Friends Club who said, “Well, Cynthia, it’s about time you put this together for my species.”

Nine years later, thousands of Aspies have been through the Friends Club. In addition to the branch in Carlsbad, there are Friends Club satellites in Napa, Vancouver, Canada and Oahu, Hawaii, and also a camp during the summer. Twenty-two groups have approximately 150 kids. Groups are broken into age categories; from very young (age 3 to 7), to tweeners, teens and young adults. Norall’s staff now numbers 50, a few of whom are Friends Club graduates. Each group contains six kids and two leaders.

Parents, amazed at the results, kept encouraging Norall to write a book. With that goal in mind, she’d kept extensive summaries of each activity as a report for the parents, but also to remind herself what the kids had taught her. Still, it took Brust, a children’s author herself, to persuade Norall to really get writing.

They decided they wanted the book, originally titled “Decoding Your Asperger’s Children: Lessons Learned at the Friends Club,” to be a practical parenting guide rather than a book on what Asperger’s is or how to “cure it.”

The book is organized alphabetically by topic, such as cooperation, discipline, bullying, perfectionism, anxiety or meltdowns. The lessons teach “people skills,” including how to greet others, how to make eye contact, how to pay compliments, how to cooperate and ask for help and how not to be rude.

Ultimately, Norall and Brust wanted their readers to understand how the Aspie’s brain is wired differently. Then they can not only help the youngsters, but also be less frustrated overall and enjoy the differences these kids bring to the world.

“We wanted a book that had no jargon, but written in a conversational tone like Dr. Spock,” said Brust. “We also wanted readers to be able to skip around in it. There’s always a ‘trouble du jour,’ and you can read just about that. Parents of special needs kids have no time and it doesn’t take a big time commitment to read this book. We’ve made it as accessible as possible.”

The finished manuscript quickly sold to mainstream publisher St. Martin’s Griffin. “Quirky, Yes — Hopeless, No” hit stores in August. Alyse Diamond, the book’s editor, believes there’s nothing like it in a market filled with technical books by doctors or memoirs by mothers.

“What gripped me was that this wasn’t just another book written by a doctor,” said Diamond. “The co-writer is a mom and she’s been in the trenches with her son, so together they bring a unique perspective that you don’t normally see. More and more kids are being diagnosed with autism every year. It’s not going away. That’s why it’s important to us to get a book like this in the hands of people who need it.”

Reaction to the book has been highly positive. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Although a dozen or more experts are cited, the book is conversational in tone, full of insights and will help and encourage parents and their Aspie or high-functioning autistic kids alike.”

Temple Grandin, the author of “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” and “Thinking in Pictures,” and perhaps the most famous person with autism, said in her review, “This is a fantastic book for helping people on the autism spectrum learn social skills. Great for individuals on the spectrum, teachers, and social skills training specialists.”

While good reviews from major publications and notable names in the autism field are welcome, the ones that mean the most to Norall and Brust are those from parents and professionals who work with the children.

“I want everyone to read this book so that the teasing will stop,” said Brust. “These kids can be creative and fun. I love being around Ben because he thinks differently. But that can also be frustrating because we don’t understand how they think.”

The good news is that Ben, now a senior at Canyon Crest High School, is doing so well that he plans to attend community college soon. While he just stopped going to Friends Club, Brust sees the lasting value of what he learned there and hopes that people who read their book will experience some of the same social connections he’s had.

“This book is about helping Aspie kids navigate the world better,” Brust said. “Every chapter has something specific and concrete that parents can do to make a difference. Our goal is to help as many of these kids as possible.”

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March 18, 2010 Posted by | Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Bullying, Child Behavior, Education, Parenting, Resilience, Social Justice, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Only As Young Or Old As You Feel?: When Does Youth End & Old Age Start?

Source: University of Kent, UK: 15 March 2010

Professor Dominic Abrams and Dr Melanie Vauclair from the School of Psychology  at the University of Kent will present findings from the European Social Survey’s research project ‘Attitudes to Age in the UK and Europe’ during an event at City University, London, on Monday 15 March.

Titled What do the British think about… ageism, political institutions and welfare?, this Economic and Social Research Council  (ESRC) event will consist of an information seminar and an online demonstration of how to access and use the European Social Survey (ESS) data archive, currently comprising 21 European countries and more than 40,000 respondents.

With a steadily growing proportion of older people in the UK and Europe, the 2008 ESS included a module that examined how people perceive and feel about their own and other age groups.

Professor Abrams explained: ‘The survey showed that age prejudice – being treated as ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ – is perceived to be a serious or very serious issue by 63 per cent of respondents, so it is obviously important to know what these age labels mean to people’. To find out, the survey asked when does ‘youth’ end and ‘old age’ begin? For the UK, the average response to this question was that youth ends at the age of 35 and old age begins at 58.

However, the survey also revealed that people’s judgements depend strongly on the ‘age of the beholder’. On average, the youngest respondents (15 to 24-year old) judged that youth ends at 28 and old age starts at 54, whereas the oldest age group (80 and older) judged that youth ends at 42 and old age starts at 67.

In the UK, there is a gap of almost 40 years between young people’s judgement of the end of youth and older people’s judgement of the beginning of old age. However, more startlingly, there is a gap of only 12 years between older people’s judgement of the end of youth and younger people’s judgement of the start of old age.

In general, men regarded the end of youth and start of old age to begin two years earlier than women did.

There were also large differences between European countries. Youth was perceived to end earliest among respondents in Portugal (at the age of 29) and latest by those in Cyprus (at the age of 45). Portugal scored lowest for the belief when old age starts (at the age of 51), whereas Belgium ranked highest (at the age 64).

The findings illustrate that when people discover another person’s age, their judgement of whether that person is young or old is highly subjective and this may have important implications in influencing people’s assumptions about the person’s responsibilities, rights and capabilities.

Professor Abrams said: ‘This evidence shows that what counts as young and old is very largely down to the age of the beholder.’

Amongst other findings, the survey also showed that 28 per cent of UK respondents reported that they had been treated with prejudice because of their age in the past year and that the youngest age group were more likely to report experiences of prejudice than any other. Across the European countries in the survey, age prejudice was most widely reported in Finland (47 per cent) and least so in Cyprus and Portugal (19 per cent). The UK ranked 16 out of 21 countries in regard to this question.

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March 17, 2010 Posted by | Age & Ageing, Cognition, Education, Seniors, Social Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pay It Forward: Research Proves That Acts Of Kindness From A Few Cascade On To Dozens

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF)

ScienceDaily (Mar. 10, 2010) — For all those dismayed by scenes of looting in disaster-struck zones, whether Haiti or Chile or elsewhere, take heart: Good acts — acts of kindness, generosity and cooperation — spread just as easily as bad. And it takes only a handful of individuals to really make a difference.

This diagram illustrates how a single act of kindness can spread between individuals and across time. Cooperative behavior spreads three degrees of separation

In a study published in the March 8 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard provide the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. When people benefit from kindness they “pay it forward” by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network.

The research was conducted by James Fowler, associate professor at UC San Diego in the Department of Political Science and Calit2’s Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, who is professor of sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and professor of medicine and medical sociology at Harvard Medical School. Fowler and Christakis are coauthors of the recently published book Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

In the current study, Fowler and Christakis show that when one person gives money to help others in a “public-goods game,” where people have the opportunity to cooperate with each other, the recipients are more likely to give their own money away to other people in future games. This creates a domino effect in which one person’s generosity spreads first to three people and then to the nine people that those three people interact with in the future, and then to still other individuals in subsequent waves of the experiment.

The effect persists, Fowler said: “You don’t go back to being your ‘old selfish self.”’ As a result, the money a person gives in the first round of the experiment is ultimately tripled by others who are subsequently (directly or indirectly) influenced to give more. “The network functions like a matching grant,” Christakis said.

“Though the multiplier in the real world may be higher or lower than what we’ve found in the lab,” Fowler said, “personally it’s very exciting to learn that kindness spreads to people I don’t know or have never met. We have direct experience of giving and seeing people’s immediate reactions, but we don’t typically see how our generosity cascades through the social network to affect the lives of dozens or maybe hundreds of other people.”

The study participants were strangers to each other and never played twice with the same person, a study design that eliminates direct reciprocity and reputation management as possible causes.

In previous work demonstrating the contagious spread of behaviors, emotions and ideas — including obesity, happiness, smoking cessation and loneliness — Fowler and Christakis examined social networks re-created from the records of the Framingham Heart Study. But like all observational studies, those findings could also have partially reflected the fact that people were choosing to interact with people like themselves or that people were exposed to the same environment. The experimental method used here eliminates such factors.

The study is the first work to document experimentally Fowler and Christakis’s earlier findings that social contagion travels in networks up to three degrees of separation, and the first to corroborate evidence from others’ observational studies on the spread of cooperation.

The contagious effect in the study was symmetric; uncooperative behavior also spread, but there was nothing to suggest that it spread any more or any less robustly than cooperative behavior, Fowler said.

From a scientific perspective, Fowler added, these findings suggest the fascinating possibility that the process of contagion may have contributed to the evolution of cooperation: Groups with altruists in them will be more altruistic as a whole and more likely to survive than selfish groups.

“Our work over the past few years, examining the function of human social networks and their genetic origins, has led us to conclude that there is a deep and fundamental connection between social networks and goodness,” said Christakis. “The flow of good and desirable properties like ideas, love and kindness is required for human social networks to endure, and, in turn, networks are required for such properties to spread. Humans form social networks because the benefits of a connected life outweigh the costs.”

The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the John Templeton Foundation, and a Pioneer Grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF)

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March 16, 2010 Posted by | General, Health Psychology, Internet, Positive Psychology, Resilience, Social Justice, Social Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Borderline Personality Disorder: What’s with the Name & Just What Is It?

I have continued to receive a number of requests by email and on Twitter about Borderline Personality Disorder, its name, its presentation, its treatment and its psycho-genesis. Below is a brief post which I think covers most of these questions in outline form. I am open to suggestions as to which, if any areas readers would like to discuss in more detail. A small collection of books on BPD which I recommend to patients, carers, significant others and counsellors can be found here, most with reader reviews. I would be happy to hear of others.

What’s with the name?51RzQ0P9lvL

The term “borderline” was first used by early psychiatrists to describe people who were thought to be on the “border” between diagnoses. At the time, the system for diagnosing mental illness was far less sophisticated than it is today, and “borderline” referred to individuals who did not fit neatly into the two broad categories of mental disorder: psychosis or neurosis.

Today, far more is known about BPD, and it is no longer thought of as being related to psychotic disorders (and the term “neurosis” is no longer used in our diagnostic system). Instead, BPD is recognized as a disorder characterized by intense emotional experiences and instability in relationships and behavior.

Many experts are now calling for BPD to be renamed, because the term “borderline” is outdated and because, unfortunately, the name has been used in a stigmatizing way in the past. Suggestions for the new name have included: “Emotion Dysregulation Disorder,” Unstable Personality Disorder,” and “Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.”

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual’s sense of self-identity. Originally thought to be at the “borderline” of psychosis, people with BPD suffer from a disorder of emotion regulation. While less well known than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), BPD is more common, affecting 2 percent of adults, mostly young women.1 There is a high rate of self-injury without suicide intent, as well as a significant rate of suicide attempts and completed suicide in severe cases.2,3 Patients often need extensive mental health services, and account for 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations.4 Yet, with help, many improve over time and are eventually able to lead productive lives.

Symptoms

While a person with depression or bipolar disorder typically endures the same mood for weeks, a person with BPD may experience intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day.5 These may be associated with episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury, and drug or alcohol abuse. Distortions in cognition and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values. Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy. They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone.

41yVtFwvk2LPeople with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes towards family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). Thus, they may form an immediate attachment and idealize the other person, but when a slight separation or conflict occurs, they switch unexpectedly to the other extreme and angrily accuse the other person of not caring for them at all. Even with family members, individuals with BPD are highly sensitive to rejection, reacting with anger and distress to such mild separations as a vacation, a business trip, or a sudden change in plans. These fears of abandonment seem to be related to difficulties feeling emotionally connected to important persons when they are physically absent, leaving the individual with BPD feeling lost and perhaps worthless. Suicide threats and attempts may occur along with anger at perceived abandonment and disappointments.

People with BPD exhibit other impulsive behaviors, such as excessive spending, binge eating and risky sex. BPD often occurs together with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders.

Treatment

Treatments for BPD have improved in recent years. Group and individual psychotherapy are at least partially effective for many patients. Within the past 15 years, a new psychosocial treatment termed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed specifically to treat BPD, and this technique has looked promising in treatment studies.6 Pharmacological treatments are often prescribed based on specific target symptoms shown by the individual patient. Antidepressant drugs and mood stabilizers may be helpful for depressed and/or labile mood. Antipsychotic drugs may also be used when there are distortions in thinking.7

Recent Research Findings

Although the cause of BPD is unknown, both environmental and genetic factors are thought to play a role in predisposing patients to BPD symptoms and traits. Studies show that many, but not all individuals with BPD report a history of abuse, neglect, or separation as young children.8 Forty to 71 percent of BPD patients report having been sexually abused, usually by a non-caregiver.9 Researchers believe that BPD results from a combination of individual vulnerability to environmental stress, neglect or abuse as young children, and a series of events that trigger the onset of the disorder as young adults. Adults with BPD are also considerably more likely to be the victim of violence, including rape and other crimes. This may result from both harmful environments as well as impulsivity and poor judgement in choosing partners and lifestyles.

NIMH-funded neuroscience research is revealing brain mechanisms underlying the impulsivity, mood instability, aggression, anger, and negative emotion seen in BPD. Studies suggest that people predisposed to impulsive aggression have impaired regulation of the neural circuits that modulate emotion.10 The amygdala, a small almond-shaped structure deep inside the brain, is an important component of the circuit that regulates negative emotion. In response to signals from other brain centers indicating a perceived threat, it marshals fear and arousal. This might be more pronounced under the influence of drugs like alcohol, or stress. Areas in the front of the brain (pre-frontal area) act to dampen the activity of this circuit. Recent brain imaging studies show that individual differences in the ability to activate regions of the prefrontal cerebral cortex thought to be involved in inhibitory activity predict the ability to suppress negative emotion.11

Serotonin, norepinephrine and acetylcholine are among the chemical messengers in these circuits that play a role in the regulation of emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and irritability. Drugs that enhance brain serotonin function may improve emotional symptoms in BPD. Likewise, mood-stabilizing drugs that are known to enhance the activity of GABA, the brain’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter, may help people who experience BPD-like mood swings. Such brain-based vulnerabilities can be managed with help from behavioral interventions and medications, much like people manage susceptibility to diabetes or high blood pressure.7

Future Progress

Studies that translate basic findings about the neural basis of temperament, mood regulation, and cognition into clinically relevant insights which bear directly on BPD represent a growing area of NIMH-supported research. Research is also underway to test the efficacy of combining medications with behavioral treatments like DBT, and gauging the effect of childhood abuse and other stress in BPD on brain hormones. Data from the first prospective, longitudinal study of BPD, which began in the early 1990s, is expected to reveal how treatment affects the course of the illness. It will also pinpoint specific environmental factors and personality traits that predict a more favorable outcome. The Institute is also collaborating with a private foundation to help attract new researchers to develop a better understanding and better treatment for BPD.

References

1Swartz M, Blazer D, George L, Winfield I. Estimating the prevalence of borderline personality disorder in the community. Journal of Personality Disorders, 1990; 4(3): 257-72.

2Soloff PH, Lis JA, Kelly T, Cornelius J, Ulrich R. Self-mutilation and suicidal behavior in borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 1994; 8(4): 257-67.

3Gardner DL, Cowdry RW. Suicidal and parasuicidal behavior in borderline personality disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 1985; 8(2): 389-403.

4Zanarini MC, Frankenburg FR. Treatment histories of borderline inpatients. Comprehensive Psychiatry, in press.

5Zanarini MC, Frankenburg FR, DeLuca CJ, Hennen J, Khera GS, Gunderson JG. The pain of being borderline: dysphoric states specific to borderline personality disorder. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 1998; 6(4): 201-7.

6Koerner K, Linehan MM. Research on dialectical behavior therapy for patients with borderline personality disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 2000; 23(1): 151-67.

7Siever LJ, Koenigsberg HW. The frustrating no-mans-land of borderline personality disorder. Cerebrum, The Dana Forum on Brain Science, 2000; 2(4).

8Zanarini MC, Frankenburg. Pathways to the development of borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 1997; 11(1): 93-104.

9Zanarini MC. Childhood experiences associated with the development of borderline personality disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 2000; 23(1): 89-101.

10Davidson RJ, Jackson DC, Kalin NH. Emotion, plasticity, context and regulation: perspectives from affective neuroscience. Psychological Bulletin, 2000; 126(6): 873-89.

11Davidson RJ, Putnam KM, Larson CL. Dysfunction in the neural circuitry of emotion regulation – a possible prelude to violence. Science, 2000; 289(5479): 591-4.

Bernstein, PhD, David P., Iscan, MD, Cuneyt, Maser, PhD, Jack, Board of Directors, Association for Research in Personality Disorder, & Board of Directors, International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders. “Opinions of personality disorder experts regarding the DSM-IV Personality Disorders classification system.” Journal of Personality Disorders, 21: 536-551, October 2007.
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Sources: about.com and nimh.gov.org

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Cognitive Behavior Therapy, diagnosis, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Education, Personality Disorder, Resources, self harm, therapy | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Men Are From Earth, Women are from Earth: Do Studies Show That Gender Has Little Or No Bearing on Personality, Cognition and Leadership?

From American Psychogical Association http://www.apa.org

The Truth about Gender “Differences”

Mars-Venus sex differences appear to be as mythical as the Man in the Moon. A 2005 analysis of 46 meta-analyses that were conducted during the last two decades of the 20th century underscores that men and women are basically alike in terms of personality, cognitive ability and leadership. Psychologist Janet Shibley Hyde, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, discovered that males and females from childhood to adulthood are more alike than different on most psychological variables, resulting in what she calls a gender similarities hypothesis. Using meta-analytical techniques that revolutionized the study of gender differences starting in the 1980s, she analyzed how prior research assessed the impact of gender on many psychological traits and abilities, including cognitive abilities, verbal and nonverbal communication, aggression, leadership, self-esteem, moral reasoning and motor behaviors.

Hyde observed that across the dozens of studies, consistent with the gender similarities hypothesis, gender differences had either no or a very small effect on most of the psychological variables examined. Only a few main differences appeared: Compared with women, men could throw farther, were more physically aggressive, masturbated more, and held more positive attitudes about sex in uncommitted relationships.

Furthermore, Hyde found that gender differences seem to depend on the context in which they were measured. In studies designed to eliminate gender norms, researchers demonstrated that gender roles and social context strongly determined a person’s actions. For example, after participants in one experiment were told that they would not be identified as male or female, nor did they wear any identification, none conformed to stereotypes about their sex when given the chance to be aggressive. In fact, they did the opposite of what would be expected – women were more aggressive and men were more passive.

Finally, Hyde’s 2005 report looked into the developmental course of possible gender differences – how any apparent gap may open or close over time. The analysis presented evidence that gender differences fluctuate with age, growing smaller or larger at different times in the life span. This fluctuation indicates again that any differences are not stable.

Learning Gender-Difference Myths

Media depictions of men and women as fundamentally “different” appear to perpetuate misconceptions – despite the lack of evidence. The resulting “urban legends” of gender difference can affect men and women at work and at home, as parents and as partners. As an example, workplace studies show that women who go against the caring, nurturing feminine stereotype may pay dearly for it when being hired or evaluated. And when it comes to personal relationships, best-selling books and popular magazines often claim that women and men don’t get along because they communicate too differently. Hyde suggests instead that men and women stop talking prematurely because they have been led to believe that they can’t change supposedly “innate” sex-based traits.

Hyde has observed that children also suffer the consequences of exaggerated claims of gender difference — for example, the widespread belief that boys are better than girls in math. However, according to her meta-analysis, boys and girls perform equally well in math until high school, at which point boys do gain a small advantage. That may not reflect biology as much as social expectations, many psychologists believe. For example, the original Teen Talk Barbie ™, before she was pulled from the market after consumer protest, said, “Math class is tough.”

As a result of stereotyped thinking, mathematically talented elementary-school girls may be overlooked by parents who have lower expectations for a daughter’s success in math. Hyde cites prior research showing that parents’ expectations of their children’s success in math relate strongly to the children’s self-confidence and performance.

Moving Past Myth

Hyde and her colleagues hope that people use the consistent evidence that males and females are basically alike to alleviate misunderstanding and correct unequal treatment. Hyde is far from alone in her observation that the clear misrepresentation of sex differences, given the lack of evidence, harms men and women of all ages. In a September 2005 press release on her research issued by the American Psychological Association (APA), she said, “The claims [of gender difference] can hurt women’s opportunities in the workplace, dissuade couples from trying to resolve conflict and communication problems and cause unnecessary obstacles that hurt children and adolescents’ self-esteem.”

Psychologist Diane Halpern, PhD, a professor at Claremont College and past-president (2005) of the American Psychological Association, points out that even where there are patterns of cognitive differences between males and females, “differences are not deficiencies.” She continues, “Even when differences are found, we cannot conclude that they are immutable because the continuous interplay of biological and environmental influences can change the size and direction of the effects some time in the future.”

The differences that are supported by the evidence cause concern, she believes, because they are sometimes used to support prejudicial beliefs and discriminatory actions against girls and women. She suggests that anyone reading about gender differences consider whether the size of the differences are large enough to be meaningful, recognize that biological and environmental variables interact and influence one other, and remember that the conclusions that we accept today could change in the future.

Cited Research

Archer, J. (2004). Sex differences in aggression in real-world settings: A meta-analytic review. Review of General Psychology, 8, 291-322.

Barnett, R. & Rivers, C. (2004). Same difference: How gender myths are hurting our relationships, our children, and our jobs. New York: Basic Books.

Eaton, W. O., & Enns, L. R. (1986). Sex differences in human motor activity level. Psychological Bulletin, 100, 19-28.

Feingold, A. (1994). Gender differences in personality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 429-456.

Halpern, D. F. (2000). Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities (3rd Edition). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, Associates, Inc. Publishers.

Halpern, D. F. (2004). A cognitive-process taxonomy for sex differences in cognitive abilities. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13 (4), 135-139.

Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., & Lamon, S. (1990). Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 139-155.

Hyde, J. S. (2005). The Gender Similarities Hypothesis. American Psychologist, Vol. 60, No. 6.

Leaper, C. & Smith, T. E. (2004). A meta-analytic review of gender variations in children’s language use: Talkativeness, affiliative speech, and assertive speech. Developmental Psychology, 40, 993-1027.

Oliver, M. B. & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29-51.

Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M. & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4-28.

Voyer, D., Voyer, S., & Bryden, M. P., (1995). Magnitude of sex differences in spatial abilities: A meta-analysis and consideration of critical variables. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 250-270.


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March 14, 2010 Posted by | Cognition, Education, General, Identity, Social Psychology | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment