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Fri, 03 Jul 2015   REM sleep critical for young brain development; medication interferes

Rapid eye movement or REM sleep actively converts waking experiences into lasting memories and abilities in young brains, reports a new study. The finding broadens the understanding of children's sleep needs and calls into question the increasing use of REM-disrupting medications such as stimulants and antidepressants.

Thu, 02 Jul 2015   Can autism be measured in a sniff?

Imagine the way you might smell a rose. You'd take a nice big sniff to breathe in the sweet but subtle floral scent. Upon walking into a public restroom, you'd likely do just the opposite -- abruptly limiting the flow of air through your nose. Now, researchers have found that people with autism spectrum disorder don't make this natural adjustment like other people do.

Thu, 02 Jul 2015   Water to understand the brain

To observe the brain in action, scientists and physicians use imaging techniques, among which functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is the best known. These techniques are not based on direct observations of electric impulses from activated neurons, but on one of their consequences. Indeed, this stimulation triggers physiological modifications in the activated cerebral region, changes that become visible by imaging. Until now, it was believed that these differences were only due to modifications of the blood influx towards the cells. By using intrinsic optical signals (IOS) imaging, researchers have now demonstrated that, contrary to what was thought, another physiological variation is involved: the activated neurons swell due to the massive entry of water.

Thu, 02 Jul 2015   Intrusiveness of old emotional memories can be reduced by computer game play procedure

Unwanted, intrusive visual memories are a core feature of stress- and trauma-related clinical disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they can also crop up in everyday life. New research shows that even once intrusive memories have been laid down, playing a visually-demanding computer game after reactivating the memories may reduce their occurrence over time.

Wed, 01 Jul 2015   Brain activity predicts promiscuity and problem drinking

A new pair of brain-imaging studies suggest that researchers may be able to predict how likely young adults are to develop problem drinking or risky sexual behavior in response to stress. The research is part of the ongoing Duke Neurogenetics Study or DNS, which began in 2010 to better understand how interactions between the brain, genome, and environment shape risky behaviors predicting mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and addiction.

BPS Research Digest Blog

   Link Feast

We trawled the web for the week's 10 best psychology and neuroscience links:

How I Overcame the Fear of Public Speaking
Organisational Psychologist Adam Grant shares his experience for the Quiet Revolution website.

It’s Not Just Cricket
As the 2015 Ashes series comes to England, Jamie Barker and Matt Slater consider the psychology at play in an article for The Psychologist.

Why Is It So Hard to Take Your Own Advice?
Melissa Dahl investigates for The Cut and finds psychologists are just as guilty of this as everyone else.

The Data or the Hunch?
"More and more decisions, from the music business to the sports field, are being delegated to data," writes Ian Leslie in a feature for Intelligent Life. "But where does that leave our intuition?"

The Marketing Industry Has Started Using Neuroscience, But the Results Are More Glitter Than Gold
The idea behind neuromarketing is that the brain can reveal hidden and profitable truths, but this is misleading, writes Vaughan Bell for The Observer.

Face It, Your Brain Is a Computer
"Airplanes may not fly like birds, but they are subject to the same forces of lift and drag," writes Gary Marcus in the New York Times. "Likewise, there is no reason to think that brains are exempt from the laws of computation."

New Proof That We're Not As Busy As We Think
Fastcompany reports the results from a new time survey conducted in the US that found that on an average day, 96 per cent of Americans had some time for leisure activities such as watching TV.

Welcome To the Empathy Wars
The "anti-empathy brigade" led by psychologist Paul Bloom "is badly mistaken" argues Roman Krznaric at OpenDemocracy.net

Standard Center for Reproducible Neuroscience
Russell Poldrack and his colleagues launch their new Center which aims to "... harness high-performance computing to make neuroscience research more reliable."

Brainstorm
This new play at the National Theatre's Temporary Theatre is about the adolescent brain and was created in consultation with cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. Advance tickets are sold out but a limited number will be available on each performance day starting July 21.
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Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.



2015-07-03   Smile at a party and people are more likely to remember seeing your face there

When you smile at a party, your facial expression is emotionally consistent with the happy context and as a consequence other guests will in future be more likely to remember that they've seen your face before, and where you were when they saw you. That's according to a team of Italian researchers led by Stefania Righi who have explored how memory for a face is affected by the emotion shown on that face and the congruence between that emotional expression and its surrounding context.

The researchers first presented 30 participants (11 men) with 64 unfamiliar face and scene pairings. The faces were either smiling or fearful and they were either presented alongside an image of a happy scene (e.g. a party) or a fear-inducing scene (e.g. a car crash). The participants' task at this stage was simply to indicate whether each face-scene pairing was emotionally congruent or not.

Next came the memory test. Different faces (some previously seen, some new) were flashed up on-screen against a black background and the participants had to say whether they'd seen the face before or if it was entirely new. After each face, three scenes appeared of the same genre (e.g. three party scenes), and the participants had to say which specific scene the face had previously appeared alongside.

Previously seen happy faces were better remembered than fearful faces, but only when they appeared alongside a happy scene. Memory for fearful faces, by contrast, was unaffected by the congruence of the accompanying scene. Why should smiling faces at a party or other happy context be better remembered than a fearful face? The researchers think the combination of a smiling face and happy scene has a broadening effect on observers' attention, enhancing their memories for the face. From a methodological point of view, it's a shame the study didn't also feature neutral faces: without these, we can't be certain whether smiling faces in a happy context were enhancing memory or if fearful faces in that context were harming memory, or a bit of both.

Figure 3 from Righi et al, 2015.
The researchers also propose that smiling faces have a "unitising effect" whereby the face and its context are bound together in memory. This idea also appeared to be supported by the results: participants were better at remembering the accompanying scenes (happy and fearful) for smiling faces than fearful faces.

Put these two key results together and it means that we're particularly likely to remember a smiling face we saw at a party, and the specific context we saw it in. Righi and her colleagues said it made sense for memory to work this way. "A smiling person communicates a social bond and the ability to remember, not only the face identity, but also the context of the first encounter with that 'potential friend', could reflect an adaptive behaviour in view of future social relations." The new results also complement past research on memory for face-name pairings: presented with a name, participants were better at remembering when it was earlier paired with a happy face than a neutral one.

_________________________________ ResearchBlogging.org

Righi, S., Gronchi, G., Marzi, T., Rebai, M., & Viggiano, M. (2015). You are that smiling guy I met at the party! Socially positive signals foster memory for identities and contexts Acta Psychologica, 159, 1-7 DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2015.05.001

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.



2015-07-02   How social anxiety manifests on Facebook

For many shy people, online social networking sites have an obvious appeal – a way to socialise without the unpredictable immediacy of a face-to-face encounter. However, a new study finds that people who are socially anxious betray their awkwardness on Facebook, much as they do in the offline world. The researchers Aaron Weidman and Cheri Levinson said their findings could hint at ways for socially anxious people to conceal their nervousness and attract more online friends.

Seventy-seven students (average age 19; 77 per cent of them female) completed a measure of social anxiety. High scores were given to those who agreed with statements like "I have difficulty talking with other people" and "I am tense mixing in a group". Before the students left the psych lab, the researchers took screen grabs of their Facebook pages.

Several aspects of the students' Facebook pages correlated with their social anxiety scores. Unsurprisingly perhaps, those with fewer Facebook friends had higher social anxiety scores, so too did those who showed their relationship status as "single" (versus married or status not shown) and those whose page did not show a status update or quote (a sign of self-disclosure). These markers largely reflect offline signs of social anxiety – it's well established for example that people who are socially anxious share less information and tell fewer stories in conversation.

So, socially anxious people betray signs of their personalities on their Facebook pages, but would a stranger looking at their page pick up on these cues? Next, the researchers showed the students' Facebook pages to six other students and asked them to rate the social anxiety of the owners of the pages (if the observing students recognised any of the people in the Facebook pages, they didn't rate those pages).

There was a modest correlation between the observers' ratings of the Facebook owners' social anxiety and the owners' actual (self-reported) social anxiety scores. The observers picked up on some cues correctly, including lack of Facebook friends. But other cues they misread. Observers tended to rate Facebook pages with fewer photos and fewer people in the profile photo as more socially anxious, even though neither of these factors actually correlated with the owners' social anxiety scores. Observers also failed to pick up on the significance of a lack of self-disclosure or the owners' relationship status.

Unfortunately, some of the tell-tale signs of social anxiety can lead shy people to appear awkward and to make a negative impression on people they meet – the very outcome that they fear. These new results suggest the same problem may apply on Facebook, but they also point at a way to help by addressing the signs that strangers will read as evidence of social awkwardness.

The researchers said people high in social anxiety "may benefit from interventions aimed at forcing them to befriend more individuals on Facebook, post more photos of themselves, and to choose a profile picture that depicts them in the presence of others, all of which might cause observers to view [them] more positively as potential friends."

_________________________________ ResearchBlogging.org

Weidman, A., & Levinson, C. (2015). I’m still socially anxious online: Offline relationship impairment characterizing social anxiety manifests and is accurately perceived in online social networking profiles Computers in Human Behavior, 49, 12-19 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.045

--further reading--
The Psychology of Facebook, Digested

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.





Cognitive Daily

Wed, 20 Jan 2010   Cognitive Daily Closes Shop after a Fantastic Five-Year Run

Five years ago today, we made the first post that would eventually make its way onto a blog called Cognitive Daily. We thought we were keeping notes for a book, but in reality we were helping build a network that represented a new way of sharing psychology with the world. Cognitive Daily wasn’t the first…

Wed, 20 Jan 2010   Both musicians and non-musicians can perceive bitonality

Take a listen to this brief audio clip of “Unforgettable.” Aside from the fact that it’s a computer-generated MIDI performance, do you hear anything unusual? If you’re a non-musician like me, you might not have noticed anything. It sounds basically like the familiar song, even though the synthesized sax isn’t nearly as pleasing as the…

Thu, 14 Jan 2010   Synesthesia and the McGurk effect

We’ve discussed synesthesia many times before on Cognitive Daily — it’s the seemingly bizarre phenomenon when one stimulus (e.g. a sight or a sound) is experienced in multiple modalities (e.g. taste, vision, or colors). For example, a person might experience a particular smell whenever a given word or letter is seen or heard. Sometimes particular…

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