Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

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Violent Video Games & Kids: Definitive Study Shows Both Short & Long Term Harmful Effects

Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson has made much of his life’s work studying how violent video game play affects youth behavior. And he says a new study he led, analyzing 130 research reports on more than 130,000 subjects worldwide, proves conclusively that exposure to violent video games makes more aggressive, less caring kids — regardless of their age, sex or culture.

Read the original research paper (PDF)

The study was published in the March 2010 issue of the Psychological Bulletin, an American Psychological Association journal. It reports that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive thoughts and behavior, and decreased empathy and prosocial behavior in youths.

“We can now say with utmost confidence that regardless of research method — that is experimental, correlational, or longitudinal — and regardless of the cultures tested in this study [East and West], you get the same effects,” said Anderson, who is also director of Iowa State’s Center for the Study of Violence. “And the effects are that exposure to violent video games increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior in both short-term and long-term contexts. Such exposure also increases aggressive thinking and aggressive affect, and decreases prosocial behavior.”

The study was conducted by a team of eight researchers, including ISU psychology graduate students Edward Swing and Muniba Saleem; and Brad Bushman, a former Iowa State psychology professor who now is on the faculty at the University of Michigan. Also on the team were the top video game researchers from Japan — Akiko Shibuya from Keio University and Nobuko Ihori from Ochanomizu University — and Hannah Rothstein, a noted scholar on meta-analytic review from the City University of New York.

Meta-analytic procedure used in research

The team used meta-analytic procedures — the statistical methods used to analyze and combine results from previous, related literature — to test the effects of violent video game play on the behaviors, thoughts and feelings of the individuals, ranging from elementary school-aged children to college undergraduates.

The research also included new longitudinal data which provided further confirmation that playing violent video games is a causal risk factor for long-term harmful outcomes.

“These are not huge effects — not on the order of joining a gang vs. not joining a gang,” said Anderson. “But these effects are also not trivial in size. It is one risk factor for future aggression and other sort of negative outcomes. And it’s a risk factor that’s easy for an individual parent to deal with — at least, easier than changing most other known risk factors for aggression and violence, such as poverty or one’s genetic structure.”

The analysis found that violent video game effects are significant in both Eastern and Western cultures, in males and females, and in all age groups. Although there are good theoretical reasons to expect the long-term harmful effects to be higher in younger, pre-teen youths, there was only weak evidence of such age effects.

Time to refocus the public policy debate

The researchers conclude that the study has important implications for public policy debates, including development and testing of potential intervention strategies designed to reduce the harmful effects of playing violent video games.

“From a public policy standpoint, it’s time to get off the question of, ‘Are there real and serious effects?’ That’s been answered and answered repeatedly,” Anderson said. “It’s now time to move on to a more constructive question like, ‘How do we make it easier for parents — within the limits of culture, society and law — to provide a healthier childhood for their kids?'”

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But Anderson knows it will take time for the creation and implementation of effective new policies. And until then, there is plenty parents can do to protect their kids at home.

“Just like your child’s diet and the foods you have available for them to eat in the house, you should be able to control the content of the video games they have available to play in your home,” he said. “And you should be able to explain to them why certain kinds of games are not allowed in the house — conveying your own values. You should convey the message that one should always be looking for more constructive solutions to disagreements and conflict.”

Anderson says the new study may be his last meta-analysis on violent video games because of its definitive findings. Largely because of his extensive work on violent video game effects, Anderson was chosen as one of the three 2010 American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientist Lecturers

Read the original research paper (PDF)

Source: Iowa State University
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April 25, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Books, Bullying, Child Behavior, Internet, Parenting, research, Social Psychology, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Internet, Facebook, Pornography & Affairs: A Talkback Podcast Of Real-Life Stories

On Sunday 12th March I took part in an amazing talk-back discussion on Peter Jan965_logoetzki’s “Talking Life” radio program on which I am a regular guest. The discussion, which involved a number of stories from listeners calling in, was about the darker side of the internet and social networking. A number of people spoke of the tragic circumstances of losing  their relationships through affairs, in which Facebook and other social networking sites where involved. We explored with callers what their experiences had been, what they had learned and advice which they would give to others about realationships and social networking. If you use Facebook, social networking or online gaming or your partner does, this is well worth a listen.

You can now listen to the entire podcast (four parts) by selecting the links below. These files are now stored in my library internally for easy access: (Free – mp3-internal links) click to play or right click on the links and “save link /target as” to download.

Affairs on the Internet part 1

Affairs on the Internet part 2

Affairs on the Internet part 3

Affairs on the Internet part 4

OR

Peter Janetzki

Peter Janetzki

A podcast of the entire show in easy to listen parts, and podcasts of recent shows can be found here or by clicking on the 96.5 logo.You can listen to the podcast from your browser or with iTunes, Talking Life streams live every Sunday night from from 8-10pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT+10) and you can listen by going to the 96.5 website @ 96five.com and clicking on the home page media player.

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April 24, 2010 Posted by | Addiction, Bullying, Internet, Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, Parenting, podcast, research, Resources, Sex & Sexuality, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brain Training Or Just Brain Straining?: The Benefits Of Brain Exercise Software Are Unclear

You’ve probably heard it before: the brain is a muscle that can be strengthened. It’s an assumption that has spawned a multimillion-dollar computer game industry of electronic brain-teasers and memory games. But in the largest study of such brain games to date, a team of British researchers has found that healthy adults who undertake computer-based “brain-training” do not improve their mental fitness in any significant way.

Read The Original Research Paper (Draft POF)

The study, published online Tuesday by the journal Nature, tracked 11,430 participants through a six-week online study. The participants were divided into three groups: the first group undertook basic reasoning, planning and problem-solving activities (such as choosing the “odd one out” of a group of four objects); the second completed more complex exercises of memory, attention, math and visual-spatial processing, which were designed to mimic popular “brain-training” computer games and programs; and the control group was asked to use the Internet to research answers to trivia questions.

All participants were given a battery of unrelated “benchmark” cognitive-assessment tests before and after the six-week program. These tests, designed to measure overall mental fitness, were adapted from reasoning and memory tests that are commonly used to gauge brain function in patients with brain injury or dementia. All three study groups showed marginal — and identical — improvement on these benchmark exams.

But the improvement had nothing to do with the interim brain-training, says study co-author Jessica Grahn of the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. Grahn says the results confirm what she and other neuroscientists have long suspected: people who practice a certain mental task — for instance, remembering a series of numbers in sequence, a popular brain-teaser used by many video games — improve dramatically on that task, but the improvement does not carry over to cognitive function in general. (Indeed, all the study participants improved in the tasks they were given; even the control group got better at looking up answers to obscure questions.) The “practice makes perfect” phenomenon probably explains why the study participants improved on the benchmark exams, says Grahn — they had all had taken it once before. “People who practiced a certain test improved at that test, but improvement does not translate beyond anything other than that specific test,” she says.

The authors believe the study, which was run in conjuction with a BBC television program called “Bang Goes the Theory,” undermines the sometimes outlandish claims of many brain-boosting websites and digital games. According to a past TIME.com article by Anita Hamilton, HAPPYneuron, an example not cited by Grahn, is a $100 Web-based brain-training site that invites visitors to “give the gift of brain fitness” and claims its users saw “16%+ improvement” through exercises such as learning to associate a bird’s song with its species and shooting basketballs through virtual hoops. Hamilton also notes Nintendo’s best-selling Brain Age game, which promises to “give your brain the workout it needs” through exercises like solving math problems and playing rock, paper, scissors on the handheld DS. “The widely held belief that commercially available computerized brain-training programs improve general cognitive function in the wider population lacks empirical support,” the paper concludes.

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Not all neuroscientists agree with that conclusion, however. In 2005, Torkel Klingberg, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, used brain imaging to show that brain-training can alter the number of dopamine receptors in the brain — dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in learning and other important cognitive functions. Other studies have suggested that brain-training can help improve cognitive function in elderly patients and those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but the literature is contradictory.

Klingberg has developed a brain-training program called Cogmed Working Memory Training, and owns shares in the company that distributes it. He tells TIME that the Nature study “draws a large conclusion from a single negative finding” and that it is “incorrect to generalize from one specific training study to cognitive training in general.” He also criticizes the design of the study and points to two factors that may have skewed the results.

On average the study volunteers completed 24 training sessions, each about 10 minutes long — for a total of three hours spent on different tasks over six weeks. “The amount of training was low,” says Klingberg. “Ours and others’ research suggests that 8 to 12 hours of training on one specific test is needed to get a [general improvement in cognition].”

Second, he notes that the participants were asked to complete their training by logging onto the BBC Lab UK website from home. “There was no quality control. Asking subjects to sit at home and do tests online, perhaps with the TV on or other distractions around, is likely to result in bad quality of the training and unreliable outcome measures. Noisy data often gives negative findings,” Klingberg says.

Brain-training research has received generous funding in recent years — and not just from computer game companies — as a result of the proven effect of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to remodel its nerve connections after experience. The stakes are high. If humans could control that process and bolster cognition, it could have a transformative effect on society, says Nick Bostrom of Oxford University‘s Future of Humanity Institute. “Even a small enhancement in human cognition could have a profound effect,” he says. “There are approximately 10 million scientists in the world. If you could improve their cognition by 1%, the gain would hardly be noticeable in a single individual. But it could be equivalent to instantly creating 100,000 new scientists.”

For now, there is no nifty computer game that will turn you into Einstein, Grahn says. But there are other proven ways to improve cognition, albeit only by small margins. Consistently getting a good night’s sleep, exercising vigorously, eating right and maintaining healthy social activity have all been shown to help maximize a brain’s potential over the long term.

What’s more, says Grahn, neuroscientists and psychologists have yet to even agree on what constitutes high mental aptitude. Some experts argue that physical skill, which stems from neural pathways, should be considered a form of intelligence — so, masterful ballet dancers and basketball players would be considered geniuses.

Jason Allaire, co-director of the Games through Gaming lab at North Carolina State University says the Nature study makes sense; rather than finding a silver bullet for brain enhancement, he says, “it’s really time for researchers to think about a broad or holistic approach that exercises or trains the mind in general in order to start to improve cognition more broadly.”

Or, as Grahn puts it, when it comes to mental fitness, “there are no shortcuts.”

Credit: Time.com

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April 23, 2010 Posted by | Age & Ageing, Books, brain, Cognition, Education, Health Psychology, Internet, research | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Anxiety & Depression: Self-Help Internet Interventions Work!

A little while ago I posted a list of free interactive self-help web sites, all research based, which have been shown to effective in the treatment of anxiety & depression. A recent study adds to the body of evidence which supports web based intervention as a viable treatment option or adjunct.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) via the internet is just as effective in treating panic disorder (recurring panic attacks) as traditional group-based CBT. It is also efficacious in the treatment of mild and moderate depression. This according to a new doctoral thesis soon to be presented at Karolinska Institutet.

Read the original research thesis here (PDF)

“Internet-based CBT is also more cost-effective than group therapy,” says Jan Bergström, psychologist and doctoral student at the Center for Psychiatry Research. “The results therefore support the introduction of Internet treatment into regular psychiatry, which is also what the National Board of Health and Welfare recommends in its new guidelines for the treatment of depression and anxiety.”

It is estimated that depression affects some 15 per cent and panic disorder 4 per cent of all people during their lifetime. Depression can include a number of symptoms, such as low mood, lack of joy, guilt, lethargy, concentration difficulties, insomnia and a low zest for life. Panic disorder involves debilitating panic attacks that deter a person from entering places or situations previously associated with panic. Common symptoms include palpitations, shaking, nausea and a sense that something dangerous is about to happen (e.g. a heart attack or that one is going mad).

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It is known from previous studies that CBT is an effective treatment for both panic disorder and depression. However, there is a lack of psychologists and psychotherapists that use CBT methods, and access to them varies greatly in Sweden as well as in many other countries. Internet-based CBT has therefore been developed, in which the patient undergoes an Internet-based self-help programme and has contact with a therapist by email.

The present doctoral thesis includes a randomised clinical trial of 104 patients with panic disorder and compares the effectiveness of Internet-based CBT and group CBT within a regular healthcare service. The study shows that both treatments worked very well and that there was no significant difference between them, either immediately after treatment or at a six-month follow-up. Analyses of the results for the treatment of depression show that Internet-based CBT is most effective if it is administered as early as possible. Patients with a higher severity of depression and/or a history of more frequent depressive episodes benefited less well from the Internet treatment.

Jan Bergström works as a clinical psychologist at the Anxiety Disorders Unit of the Psychiatry Northwest division of the Stockholm County Council. This research was also financed by the Stockholm County Council.

“Thanks to our research, Internet treatment is now implemented within regular healthcare in Stockholm, at the unit Internetpsykiatri.se of Psychiatry Southwest, which probably makes the Stockholm County Council the first in the world to offer such treatment in its regular psychiatric services,” says Jan Bergström.

Read the original research thesis here (PDF)

Credit: Adapted from materials provided by Karolinska Institutet.

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April 18, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Books, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, diagnosis, Education, Internet, research, stress, Technology, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Teen Myths Busted: New Science Reveals That Common Assumptions Are Wrong

A new book, The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development, dispels many common myths about adolescence with the latest scientific findings on the physical, emotional, cognitive, sexual and spiritual development of teens. [Book is available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website at Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health (CURRENTLY FREE).] Authors Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard from the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provide useful tips and strategies for real-life situations and experiences from bullying, to nutrition and sexuality.

Created in partnership with an alliance of youth-serving professionals, The Teen Years Explained is science-based and accessible. The practical and colorful guide to healthy adolescent development is an essential resource for parents and all people who work with young people.

“Whether you have five minutes or five hours, you will find something useful in the guide,” said McNeely. “We want both adults and young people to understand the changes – what is happening and why – so everyone can enjoy this second decade of life.”

Popular Myths about Teenagers:

Myth: Teens are bigger risk-takers and thrill-seekers than adults. Fact: Teens perceive more risk than adults do in certain areas, such as the chance of getting into an accident if they drive with a drunk driver.

Myth: Young people only listen to their friends. Fact: Young people report that their parents or a caring adult are their greatest influence – especially when it comes to sexual behavior.

Myth: Adolescents live to push your buttons. Fact: Adolescents may view conflict as a way of expressing themselves, while adults take arguments personally.

Myth: When you’re a teenager, you can eat whatever you want and burn it off. Fact: Obesity rates have tripled for adolescents since 1980.

Myth: Teens don’t need sleep. Fact: Teens need as much sleep or more than they got as children – 9 to 10 hours is optimum.

Three years in the making, the guide came about initially at the request of two of the Center’s partners, the Maryland Mentoring Partnership and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who felt there was a need in the community for an easily navigated and engaging look at adolescent development.

“Add The Teen Years Explained to the ‘must-read’ list,” said Karen Pittman, director of the Forum for Youth Investment. “In plain English, the book explains the science behind adolescent development and challenges and empowers adults to invest more attention and more time to young people.”

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The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development will be available for purchase on April 10 through Amazon.com. Electronic copies will also be available for download through the Center of Adolescent Health website atJohns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health (CURRENTLY FREE).

The Center for Adolescent Health is a Prevention Research Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is committed to assisting urban youth in becoming healthy and productive adults. Together with community partners, the Center conducts research to identify the needs and strengths of young people, and evaluates and assists programs to promote their health and well-being. The Center’s mission is to work in partnership with youth, people who work with youth, public policymakers and program administrators to help urban adolescents develop healthy adult lifestyles.

Source:
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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April 13, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Books, Child Behavior, Girls, Health Psychology, Internet, Intimate Relationshps, research, Resilience, Sex & Sexuality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Asperger’s Syndrome on “Arthur”

Here’s a different look at Asperger’s as explained by Brain on the kids show Arthur!

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April 5, 2010 Posted by | Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Child Behavior, diagnosis, Internet, Resources, Technology, video | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Online ‘Cold Shoulder’ Shown To Effect Kids Self-Esteem

Read the original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF-internal link)

From ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2010) — Research by psychologists at the University of Kent has revealed that online ostracism is a threat to children’s self-esteem.

The study, the results of which are published March 22 in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, looked at how children, adolescents and adults react to being ostracised by other players during an online computer game. This is the first time the effect of online ostracism on children has been investigated.

The study was carried out by a team at the University’s Centre for the Study of Group Processes and was led by Professor Dominic Abrams. Professor Abrams explained that research into cyber-bullying usually focuses on direct abuse and insults. ‘However, a more indirect and perhaps common form of bullying is ostracism — when people are purposefully ignored by others,’ he said. Professor Abrams also explained that ‘online ostracism affects adults by threatening their basic needs for self-esteem, sense of belonging, sense of meaning and sense of control. We wanted to discover whether children and adolescents have similar reactions.’

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Three groups of participants took part in the study: 41 eight and nine-year-old children, 79 thirteen and fourteen-year-olds and 46 twenty-year-old adults. All were asked to play a game of online ‘cyberball’ in which three online players — depicted on screen by their names — passed a ball to one another. In games where the participant was included, they threw and received the ball four times within the trial. However, in a game when they were ostracised they received the ball only twice at the start, and then the other two players continued to play only passing the ball between themselves.

After each game participants’ basic needs were assessed, as well as how much they had enjoyed the game.

Professor Abrams said: ‘For all age groups, online ostracism substantially threatened the four basic needs — esteem, belonging, meaning and control — and also lowered their mood, showing that social exclusion online is very powerful even among children.’

However, there were also differences between the three age groups in their responses to cyber-ostracism. Ostracism affected the self-esteem of the eight and nine-year-old children more than the other groups. This suggests that the adolescents and adults have developed better buffers against threats to self-esteem.

Among the thirteen to fourteen-year-olds ostracism had the largest effect on feelings of belonging, strongly suggesting that adolescents may place a higher value on inclusion in peer networks than do children or adults.

The good news is that the negative reactions were cancelled out when children were included in a later game. Professor Abrams added: ‘Whereas adults might be quite skilled at finding a relationship in which to be included after having been ostracised, it could be a bigger challenge for children. This suggests that parents and schools need to be vigilant in case children in their care are experiencing sustained ostracism.

Read the original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF-internal link)

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March 26, 2010 Posted by | Addiction, Bullying, Child Behavior, Internet, Parenting, Resilience, Social Psychology, Technology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Self Help For Anxiety & Depression: A List Of FREE Interactive Self Help Websites

Today I wanted to get around to doing what I have been meaning to do for a while and post a list of free access interactive and/or educational websites which I have come across. These sites are fantastic resources and each one offers a different way to get involved with your recovery. Please note I am not affiliated with any of these sites and they are not affiliate sites. I hope you find one or more useful as I know many of my clients have.

Click Image to Read Reviews

Self Help / Educational Websites

Updated 27th March 2010

There you have it! Check them out and let me know what you think. Know of any others? (No affiliate sites please).

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March 24, 2010 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Education, Internet, Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, Resilience, Resources, Technology, therapy | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

Cyber-Bullying & LGBT Groups: Prevalence & Psychological Impact

From  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

Schools are typically on guard against students who bully by inflicting repeated violence on other students. But technology has given rise to a relatively new form of bullying which inflicts emotional harm in a stealth manner, working through Web sites, chat rooms, e-mail, cell phones and instant messaging.

And according to a new national study by Iowa State University researchers, one out of every two lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and allied youths are regular victims of “cyberbullying,” which causes psychological and emotional distress to victims — producing thoughts of suicide in some who are repeatedly victimized.

In the online survey of 444 junior high, high school and college students between the ages of 11 and 22 — including 350 self-identified non-heterosexual subjects — 54 percent of the LGBT and allied youth reported being victims of cyberbullying in the 30 days prior to the survey. Cyberbullying includes attacks such as electronic distribution of humiliating photos, dissemination of false or private information, or targeting victims in cruel online polls.

Among the non-heterosexual respondents, 45 percent reported feeling depressed as a result of being cyberbullied, 38 percent felt embarrassed, and 28 percent felt anxious about attending school. More than a quarter (26 percent) had suicidal thoughts.

“There’s a saying that we’ve now changed to read, ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can kill,'” said Warren Blumenfeld, an Iowa State assistant professor of curriculum and instruction and the study’s lead author. “And especially at this age — pre-adolescence through adolescence — this is a time when peer influences are paramount in a young person’s life. If one is ostracized and attacked, that can have devastating consequences — not only physically, but on their emotional health for the rest of their lives.”

Co-authored by Robyn Cooper, a research and evaluation scientist at ISU’s Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE), the study is being published in this month’s special LGBT-themed issue of the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy.

The results underscore the helplessness felt by victims of cyberbullying. Forty percent of the non-heterosexual respondents indicated that their parents wouldn’t believe them if they were being bullied online, while 55 percent reported that their parents couldn’t do anything to stop it. Fifty seven percent also indicated that they didn’t think a school official could do anything to stop it.

“They feared that there might be more retribution by ‘tattling,'” said Blumenfeld, who was bullied as a teen for being gay.

“One of the things we found is that the LGBT students really want to make a difference,” said Cooper, who authored her doctoral dissertation on minority stress and the well-being of sexual minority college students. “They want their stories told. They want people to know what they’re going through, but they don’t want the repercussions of being bullied. So being able to respond to this survey was very helpful.”

One in four of the LGBT and allied students responded that they needed to learn how to deal with cyberbullying by themselves. More than half also feared telling their parents about the cyberbullying because they might restrict their use of technology, which Blumenfeld says is often the “lifeline to the outside world” for many young LGBT students who have been ostracized by their peers at school.

The ISU study also proposes strategies for cyberbullying prevention. Eighty percent of the survey’s respondents indicated that their peers should do more to stop it.

“One of the strategies coming out of this study – since respondents expect and want their peers to step in more – is that we should find ways on our campuses to empower young people to speak up and act as allies,” Blumenfeld said. “In bullying circles, it’s empowering the bystander to become the upstander to help eliminate the problem.”

Blumenfeld and Cooper recommend developing social norms programming at schools that focus on peer influences that correct misperceived societal norms.

The ISU researchers plan to author additional papers on their analysis from this survey. They also have submitted a new grant proposal to extend their research to a larger national sample that would include face-to-face interviews and focus groups.

Source: Mike Ferlazzo
Iowa State University

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March 10, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Bullying, Child Behavior, Internet, Parenting, Resilience, Social Psychology, Technology | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments