Posts tagged Psychology

We seemed to have done a decent job of convincing society that psychological science is important, but this has only increased the demand for us to show how what we have discovered can be used outside the laboratory to help improve lives. Although most of us have this goal in the abstract, at times we also need to be more concrete.

For example, economists routinely inform public policy in ways psychological scientists have not, even though our insights may be equally, or even more, valuable.

Looking Beyond the Neuro Revolution in Psychological Science - By NYU’s Elizabeth A. Phelps, H/T @vaughnbell

If she’s not saying the next big thing is for scientists to inform public policy, then I will.

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"…we’re all quite sane, ane, ane."

In 1988, C. A. Moser reminded researchers in Die Psychologie des Sadomasochismus of Havelock Ellis’s work some 80 years prior, “The relationship of love to pain is one of the most difficult and yet most fundamental problems in the entire field of sexual psychology. How is it that love inflicts pain, seeks to inflict? … Should we be able to answer that question, then we are approaching one of the greatest mysteries of love. (Ellis, 1903).

As curious now as it was then, not a lot of progress has flourished in the area relating to BDSM, aside from identifying pleasure/reward areas in the cortical and subcortical areas involving the PFC, amygdala, cerebellum, nucleus accumbens (controls release of dopamine), VTA (releases the dopamine), ACC, and pituitary gland business (increases feelings of trust/bonding).  But just because we know where things are happening, doesn’t mean we know why. We speculate that cross wiring occurs between pain and pleasure circuits but the psychology surrounding these acts often lend to unfavorable assumptions and stigmas of instability, psychopathy or personality disorders. A new study supports the few, but previous findings that:

…on a basic level, BDSM practitioners don’t appear to be more troubled than the general population. They were more extroverted, more open to new experiences and more conscientious than vanilla participants; they were also less neurotic, a personality trait marked by anxiety. BDSM aficionados also scored lower than the general public on rejection sensitivity, a measure of how paranoid people are about others disliking them. (via)

Although limited by self-selecting/self-reporting participants, the study consisting of 902 BDSMers & 434 non-BDSmers showed the former outscoring the latter with even subs, who scored the lowest out of doms & switches still “never scored lower than vanilla people in mental health” tests.

Something to think about as BDSM will still be listed in the DSM-5.

ResearchBlogging.org

Wismeijer, A., & van Assen, M. (2013). Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners, The Journal of Sexual Medicine  [IMG: via]

“The narcissistic self and its psychological and neural correlates: an exploratory fMRI study”

The concept of narcissism has been much researched in psychoanalysis and especially in self psychology. One of the hallmarks of narcissism is altered emotion, including decreased affective resonance (e.g. empathy) with others, the neural underpinnings of which remain unclear. (…) 
Psychological and neuroimaging data indicate respectively higher degrees of alexithymia and lower deactivation during empathy in the insula in high narcissistic subjects. Taken together, our preliminary findings demonstrate, for the first time, psychological and neuronal correlates of narcissism in non-clinical subjects. This might stipulate both novel psychodynamic conceptualization and future psychological-neuronal investigation of narcissism.

Obvious next round, unhealthy subjects then ID 2 types of empathy circuits in both. boom. Also? When is the insula and ACC not involved? mmmm mm.

The narcissistic self and its psychological and neural correlates: an exploratory fMRI study

The concept of narcissism has been much researched in psychoanalysis and especially in self psychology. One of the hallmarks of narcissism is altered emotion, including decreased affective resonance (e.g. empathy) with others, the neural underpinnings of which remain unclear. (…) 

Psychological and neuroimaging data indicate respectively higher degrees of alexithymia and lower deactivation during empathy in the insula in high narcissistic subjects. Taken together, our preliminary findings demonstrate, for the first time, psychological and neuronal correlates of narcissism in non-clinical subjects. This might stipulate both novel psychodynamic conceptualization and future psychological-neuronal investigation of narcissism.

Obvious next round, unhealthy subjects then ID 2 types of empathy circuits in both. boom. Also? When is the insula and ACC not involved? mmmm mm.

“A neurolaw perspective on psychiatric assessments of criminal responsibility: Decision-making, mental disorder, and the brain”
From the abstract:

In some criminal law cases, the defendant is assessed by a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist within the context of an insanity defense. In this article I argue that specific neuroscientific research can be helpful in improving the quality of such a forensic psychiatric evaluation. This will be clarified in two ways. Firstly, we shall adopt the approach of understanding these forensic assessments as evaluations of the influence of a mental disorder on a defendant’s decision-making process. Secondly, I shall point to the fact that researchers in neuroscience have performed various studies over recent years on the influence of specific mental disorders on a patient’s decision-making. I argue that such research, especially if modified to decision-making in criminal scenarios, could be very helpful to forensic psychiatric assessments. This kind of research aims to provide insights not merely into the presence of a mental disorder, but also into the actual impact of mental disorders on the decisions defendants have made in regard to their actions.

The Dutch just get it.

A neurolaw perspective on psychiatric assessments of criminal responsibility: Decision-making, mental disorder, and the brain

From the abstract:

In some criminal law cases, the defendant is assessed by a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist within the context of an insanity defense. In this article I argue that specific neuroscientific research can be helpful in improving the quality of such a forensic psychiatric evaluation. This will be clarified in two ways. Firstly, we shall adopt the approach of understanding these forensic assessments as evaluations of the influence of a mental disorder on a defendant’s decision-making process. Secondly, I shall point to the fact that researchers in neuroscience have performed various studies over recent years on the influence of specific mental disorders on a patient’s decision-making. I argue that such research, especially if modified to decision-making in criminal scenarios, could be very helpful to forensic psychiatric assessments. This kind of research aims to provide insights not merely into the presence of a mental disorder, but also into the actual impact of mental disorders on the decisions defendants have made in regard to their actions.

The Dutch just get it.

Q: “Do animals get mental illnesses, just like humans? Or is your dog just dumb?”
A: Gawker’s Hey Science fields this one out to a few experts - a vet behaviorist, a Prof. of vet biosciences, vet neurologist and emergency vet all give an answer… and here’s the rub:

Animals do suffer from mental illnesses. Caveats: 1) not necessarily the same mental illnesses as humans, and 2) diagnosis of animal mental illness is based on animal behavior, a trickier task than the diagnosis of mental illness in humans. If you want to get your pet’s mental illness diagnosed, go to a certified veterinary behaviorist, not a bullshit “pet psychologist.”  [via, IMG]

Q: “Do animals get mental illnesses, just like humans? Or is your dog just dumb?

A: Gawker’s Hey Science fields this one out to a few experts - a vet behaviorist, a Prof. of vet biosciences, vet neurologist and emergency vet all give an answer… and here’s the rub:

Animals do suffer from mental illnesses. Caveats: 1) not necessarily the same mental illnesses as humans, and 2) diagnosis of animal mental illness is based on animal behavior, a trickier task than the diagnosis of mental illness in humans. If you want to get your pet’s mental illness diagnosed, go to a certified veterinary behaviorist, not a bullshit “pet psychologist.”  [via, IMG]

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Are you made of stone

A couple of British researchers just possibly enhanced (complicated) my empathy research jam. Good news: circuitry clarification. Meh news: more scales please! CheersThanksaLot.

Most empathy research in the forensic context has assumed that empathy has two components. In this two-component model, the cognitive component involves perspective taking, and the affective component involves experiencing appropriate emotion. (…) this assumption has both dominated and limited empathy research with offenders, nearly all of which has been conducted with sexual offenders. We propose instead that five components are involved in the experience of empathy: perspective taking, the ability to experience emotion, a belief that others are worthy of compassion and respect, situational factors, and an ability to manage personal distress. We suggest that the non-situational factors that blocked empathy for the victim at the time of a sexual offense are probably other dispositions known to be related to sexual offending, such as sexual preoccupation, generalized hostility to others, implicit theories about children and sex, and/or poor coping with negative emotions.  [via. IMG]

Psychopaths don’t think, should I do this or shouldn’t I do this? They just go ahead and do stuff.
Kevin Dutton - Professor of Psychology, Oxford [via]
“The Pros to Being a Psychopath”

When most of us hear the word “psychopath,” we imagine Hannibal Lecter. Kevin Dutton would prefer that we think of brain surgeons, CEOs and Buddhist monks.(…)
When psychologists talk about psychopaths, what we’re referring to are people who have a distinct set of personality characteristics, which include things like ruthlessness, fearlessness, mental toughness, charm, persuasiveness and a lack of conscience and empathy. Imagine that you tick the box for all of those characteristics. You also happen to be violent and stupid. It’s not going to be long before you smack a bottle over someone’s head in a bar and get locked up for a long time in prison. But if you tick the box for all of those characteristics, and you happen to be intelligent and not naturally violent, then it’s a different story altogether. Then you’re more likely to make a killing in the market rather than anywhere else.  [img]
  

They should have clarified stupidity vs impulse control, otherwise it’s a simplistic and incomplete take.

The Pros to Being a Psychopath

When most of us hear the word “psychopath,” we imagine Hannibal Lecter. Kevin Dutton would prefer that we think of brain surgeons, CEOs and Buddhist monks.(…)

When psychologists talk about psychopaths, what we’re referring to are people who have a distinct set of personality characteristics, which include things like ruthlessness, fearlessness, mental toughness, charm, persuasiveness and a lack of conscience and empathy. Imagine that you tick the box for all of those characteristics. You also happen to be violent and stupid. It’s not going to be long before you smack a bottle over someone’s head in a bar and get locked up for a long time in prison. But if you tick the box for all of those characteristics, and you happen to be intelligent and not naturally violent, then it’s a different story altogether. Then you’re more likely to make a killing in the market rather than anywhere else.  [img]

They should have clarified stupidity vs impulse control, otherwise it’s a simplistic and incomplete take.
“Interviews with interrogators”
Vaughan Bell over at Mind Hacks posted a bunch of fantastic links of interviews with interrogators (CIA, U.S. Army, MI5, MI6, and British Intelligence Corps) that were used for the book Brainwash by Dominic Streatfeild.
If you are familiar with the Science of the KGB interviews, then this will be up your alley. 

Interviews with interrogators

Vaughan Bell over at Mind Hacks posted a bunch of fantastic links of interviews with interrogators (CIA, U.S. Army, MI5, MI6, and British Intelligence Corps) that were used for the book Brainwash by Dominic Streatfeild.

If you are familiar with the Science of the KGB interviews, then this will be up your alley. 

"Our brains view women as a bunch of body parts"

Our brains tend to handle an image of a male using “global” cognitive processing, a mental method of seeing something as a whole, she said. A female image undergoes “local” processing, a way of seeing something as an assemblage of its parts.

We can’t just pin this on the men. Women are perceiving women this way, too. It could be related to different motives. Men might be doing it because they’re interested in potential mates, while women may do it as more of a comparison with themselves. But what we do know is that they’re both doing it.”   [via, img ᔥ]
Whether this is the case because of evolution or being constantly inundated by sexual imagery, suppose the good news is we don’t have to be such assholes all the time. The researchers found that this “objectification can be partially counteracted”.  In a second experiment, the participants were preconditioned to view globally and were then more likely to view a women as a whole.

"Our brains view women as a bunch of body parts"

Our brains tend to handle an image of a male using “global” cognitive processing, a mental method of seeing something as a whole, she said. A female image undergoes “local” processing, a way of seeing something as an assemblage of its parts.

We can’t just pin this on the men. Women are perceiving women this way, too. It could be related to different motives. Men might be doing it because they’re interested in potential mates, while women may do it as more of a comparison with themselves. But what we do know is that they’re both doing it.”   [viaimg ᔥ]

Whether this is the case because of evolution or being constantly inundated by sexual imagery, suppose the good news is we don’t have to be such assholes all the time. The researchers found that this “objectification can be partially counteracted”.  In a second experiment, the participants were preconditioned to view globally and were then more likely to view a women as a whole.

There is a very important distinction to be made between somebody who is psychotic, which means they have something like schizophrenia, and people who are psychopathic, which means they are a psychopath and don’t care about other people (…) no empathy and no guilt.
David Eagleman clearing confusion with regards to commonly misused psychological terms. “Neuroscientist weighs in on CO shooting suspect” [via]   
scienceofthekgb:
In light of a recent Wired article about psychopharma use during Gitmo interrogations, we revisit this topic:
In your experience, what are the types of techniques of psychological torture used?xKGB:  Forcible narcotics addiction - here you can use also depressants, stimulants, opiates or hallucinogens (psychedelics), depressants (alcohol, barbiturates, antianxiety drugs with effects of euphoria, tension reduction, disinhibition, muscle relaxation, drowsiness; stimulants (cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine (crystal meth).
Once you’ve made an addict, information can be easily obtained, the drug has now become more important than the protection silence offered… if you are not mad by then.
***
According to reports, Haldol is our choice “sedative” in Gitmo. A footnote in the Pentagon’s inspector general report (p.4) explains that:
Haldol is antipsychotic used in the treatment of schizophrenia and, more acutely, in the treatment of acute psychotic states and delirium. Side-effects of Haldol include; anxiety, dysphoria, and an inability to remain motionless. 
What we know:
Prisoners inside the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay were forcibly given ‘mind altering drugs,’ including being injected with a powerful anti-psychotic sedative used in psychiatric hospitals. Prisoners were often not told what medications they received, and were tricked into believing routine flu shots were truth serums.” 
A patient on Haldol can develop long-term movement disorders and life-threatening neurological disorders. […] But did they consent? (No.) Did the medics consult the prisoners’ medical background before administering drugs? Were prisoners still under the effect of the drugs during interrogation? The report concludes: very likely.” [via]
I then asked my contact, “How reliable is the information?”

scienceofthekgb:

In light of a recent Wired article about psychopharma use during Gitmo interrogations, we revisit this topic:

In your experience, what are the types of techniques of psychological torture used?

xKGB:  Forcible narcotics addiction - here you can use also depressants, stimulants, opiates or hallucinogens (psychedelics), depressants (alcohol, barbiturates, antianxiety drugs with effects of euphoria, tension reduction, disinhibition, muscle relaxation, drowsiness; stimulants (cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine (crystal meth).

Once you’ve made an addict, information can be easily obtained, the drug has now become more important than the protection silence offered… if you are not mad by then.

***

According to reports, Haldol is our choice “sedative” in Gitmo. A footnote in the Pentagon’s inspector general report (p.4) explains that:

Haldol is antipsychotic used in the treatment of schizophrenia and, more acutely, in the treatment of acute psychotic states and delirium. Side-effects of Haldol include; anxiety, dysphoria, and an inability to remain motionless. 

What we know:

Prisoners inside the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay were forcibly given ‘mind altering drugs,’ including being injected with a powerful anti-psychotic sedative used in psychiatric hospitals. Prisoners were often not told what medications they received, and were tricked into believing routine flu shots were truth serums.” 

A patient on Haldol can develop long-term movement disorders and life-threatening neurological disorders. […] But did they consent? (No.) Did the medics consult the prisoners’ medical background before administering drugs? Were prisoners still under the effect of the drugs during interrogation? The report concludes: very likely.” [via]

I then asked my contact, “How reliable is the information?”

In The Web gets Smarter, Gary Marcus writes:

Google’s algorithm doesn’t know a thing about doubled letters, transpositions, or the psychology of how humans type or spell, only what people tend to type after they make an error. The lesson, it seemed, was that with a big enough database and fast enough computers, human problems could be solved without much insight into the particulars of the human mind.

 I’ve always like the how more than the why anyway. More, here.

In The Web gets Smarter, Gary Marcus writes:

Google’s algorithm doesn’t know a thing about doubled letters, transpositions, or the psychology of how humans type or spell, only what people tend to type after they make an error. The lesson, it seemed, was that with a big enough database and fast enough computers, human problems could be solved without much insight into the particulars of the human mind.

 I’ve always like the how more than the why anyway. More, here.

Neuroscience, PTSD and Sentencing Mitigation

Abstract:      

Like other mental disorders, PTSD has been advanced in criminal law to support sentencing mitigation. Unlike other disorders, however, PTSD traces back to an event that is considered the cause of the disorder, known as the stressor. Stressors can range from car accidents to gang violence to the commission of a crime. This article examines whether lawmakers should consider the nature of the stressor when deciding whether to use PTSD as a mitigating factor in sentencing.   Courts and legislatures generally have not embraced use of PTSD in sentencing mitigation except in cases where it resulted from combat duty or domestic violence. This article questions that exceptionalism. In particular, limiting PTSD consideration to these contexts can no longer be justified by concerns that a defendant is faking the syndrome. Advances in neuroscience increasingly make it possible to measure the physiological changes that occur in a person’s brain after experiencing a trauma, raising the prospect of establishing the validity of a wider range of PTSD claims. In that event, the distinction between the combat and domestic violence stressors, as opposed to other causes of PTSD, is unwarranted in terms of the prevailing justifications for punishment. The issue, then, is whether other rationales can justify limiting PTSD consideration to certain stressors. Accordingly, lawmakers should acknowledge that other normative concerns may influence our treatment of PTSD in sentencing and develop more neutral limiting principles to determine when PTSD can mitigate a criminal sentence. -  Betsy Grey [via]

“MIT researchers turn on a memory”

Researchers chose to test a simple kind of memory — a fear memory. In one experiment, mice were put in a chamber, allowed to explore, and given a foot shock. The next time the mice were put in the same dangerous chamber, they remembered the unpleasant electric shock and froze, taking on a defensive stance. Researchers had, however, inserted a gene that codes for a light-sensitive protein into the cells involved in making a memory. They then tested what happened when they turned on a light to activate those cells, without putting the mice in the same chamber. They saw the freezing behavior, as if the mice were reliving the memory.
“This is the most dramatic way to show that high cognitive phenomenon, like memory recall, can be generated, can be artificially generated by poking cells in the brain,” Tonegawa said in an interview.
He said there were about 20,000 neurons, or brain cells, involved in this particular kind of memory.  [via]

I’ve seen a couple of these optogenetic experiments. It’s pretty fascinating to be able to manipulate the neural response in vivo.  

MIT researchers turn on a memory

Researchers chose to test a simple kind of memory — a fear memory. In one experiment, mice were put in a chamber, allowed to explore, and given a foot shock. The next time the mice were put in the same dangerous chamber, they remembered the unpleasant electric shock and froze, taking on a defensive stance. Researchers had, however, inserted a gene that codes for a light-sensitive protein into the cells involved in making a memory. They then tested what happened when they turned on a light to activate those cells, without putting the mice in the same chamber. They saw the freezing behavior, as if the mice were reliving the memory.

This is the most dramatic way to show that high cognitive phenomenon, like memory recall, can be generated, can be artificially generated by poking cells in the brain,” Tonegawa said in an interview.

He said there were about 20,000 neurons, or brain cells, involved in this particular kind of memory.  [via]

I’ve seen a couple of these optogenetic experiments. It’s pretty fascinating to be able to manipulate the neural response in vivo.