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By Warren Cornwall The number of years someone spends behind bars can hinge on whether they were clearly aware that they were committing a crime. But how is a judge or jury to know for sure? A new study suggests brain scans can distinguish between hardcore criminal intent and simple reckless behavior, but the approach is far from being ready for the courtroom. The study is unusual because it looks directly at the brains of people while they are engaged in illicit activity, says Liane Young, a Boston College psychologist who was not involved in the work. Earlier research, including work by her, has instead generally looked at the brains of people only observing immoral activity. Researchers led by Read Montague, a neuroscientist at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Insitute in Roanoke and at University College London, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which can measure brain activity based on blood flow. They analyzed the brains of 40 people—a mix of men and women mostly in their 20s and 30s—as they went through scenarios that simulated trying to smuggle something through a security checkpoint. In some cases, the people knew for certain they had contraband in a suitcase. In other cases, they chose from between two and five suitcases, with only one containing contraband (and thus they weren’t sure they were carrying contraband). The risk of getting caught also varied based on how many of the 10 security checkpoints had a guard stationed there. The results showed distinctive patterns of brain activity for when the person knew for certain the suitcase had contraband and when they only knew there was a chance of it, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But there was an unexpected twist. Those differing brain patterns only showed up when people were first shown how many security checkpoints were guarded, and then offered the suitcases. In that case, a computer analysis of the fMRI images correctly classified people as knowing or reckless between 71% and 80% of the time. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 23355 - Posted: 03.14.2017

By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe Recognizing when a friend or colleague feels sad, angry or surprised is key to getting along with others. But a new study suggests that a knack for eavesdropping on feelings may sometimes come with an extra dose of stress. This and other research challenge the prevailing view that emotional intelligence is uniformly beneficial to its bearer. In a study published in the September 2016 issue of Emotion, psychologists Myriam Bechtoldt and Vanessa Schneider of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany asked 166 male university students a series of questions to measure their emotional smarts. For example, they showed the students photographs of people's faces and asked them to what extent feelings such as happiness or disgust were being expressed. The students then had to give job talks in front of judges displaying stern facial expressions. The scientists measured concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol in the students' saliva before and after the talk. In students who were rated more emotionally intelligent, the stress measures increased more during the experiment and took longer to go back to baseline. The findings suggest that some people may be too emotionally astute for their own good, says Hillary Anger Elfenbein, a professor of organizational behavior at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study. “Sometimes you can be so good at something that it causes trouble,” she notes. Indeed, the study adds to previous research hinting at a dark side of emotional intelligence. A study published in 2002 in Personality and Individual Differences suggested that emotionally perceptive people might be particularly susceptible to feelings of depression and hopelessness. © 2017 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 23326 - Posted: 03.08.2017

By Daniel Engber It took scientists six months to train Alexandra the red-footed tortoise, but by midsummer 2009 she’d finally learned to fake a yawn. A formal experiment came right after. Once per day for several weeks, the research team placed Alexandra on one side of a small tank and another tortoise—either Moses, Aldous, Wilhemina, Quinn, Esme, or Molly—just across from her. They then signaled her to tilt back her head and drop her jaw, just as she’d been taught, while they watched the other tortoise. Would Moses drop his jaw? Would Aldous or Wilhemina? Was there any sign at all that Alexandra’s tortoise yawn could be contagious? There was not. The research team tried again, this time having Alexandra fake her yawn not just once but twice or three times over; still, the observer tortoises did not respond. Next the scientists made Moses and the others watch a video of Alexandra in the middle of a natural yawn, not the fake one that she’d been practicing for months. Again, the yawn was not contagious. “It is possible that a real yawn is necessary to stimulate the observer tortoise,” the authors concluded in their 2011 paper, published in Current Zoology. But “our findings are more consistent with the suggestion that tortoises do not yawn in a contagious manner.” This finding, or lack thereof, may on its surface seem banal. But given what we know about the replication crisis in science, the tortoise paper might be a sign of things to come. Is it possible that the entire body of research on contagious yawning—a small but lively field that dates back 30 years—is resting on a shaky premise?

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23308 - Posted: 03.03.2017

By Veronique Greenwood A number of studies have used functional MRI to see what our brain looks like as we recall pleasant memories, watch scary movies or listen to sad music. Scientists have even had some success telling which of these stimuli a subject is experiencing by looking at his or her scans. But does this mean it is possible to tell what emotions we are experiencing in the absence of prompts, as we let our mind wander naturally? That is a difficult question to answer, in part because psychologists disagree about how emotions should be defined. Nevertheless, some scientists are trying to tackle it. In a study reported in the June 2016 issue of Cerebral Cortex, Heini Saarimäki of Aalto University in Finland and her colleagues observed volunteers in a brain scanner who were being prompted to recall memories they associated with words drawn from six emotional categories or to reflect on a movie clip selected to provoke certain emotions. The participants also completed a questionnaire about how closely linked different emotions were—rating, for instance, whether “anxiety” is closer to “fear” than to “happiness.” The researchers found that pattern-recognition software could detect which category of emotion a person had been prompted with. In addition, the more closely he or she linked words in the questionnaire, the more his or her brain scans for those emotions resembled one another. Another study, published in September 2016 in PLOS Biology by Kevin LaBar of Duke University and his colleagues, attempted to match brain scans of people lying idle in a scanner to seven predefined patterns associated with specific emotions provoked in an earlier study. The researchers found they could predict the subjects' self-reported emotions from the scans about 75 percent of the time. © 2017 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 23307 - Posted: 03.03.2017

By Matthew Hutson, Veronique Greenwood For some things, such as deciding whether to take a new job or nab your opponent's rook in chess, you're better off thinking long and hard. For others, such as judging your interviewer's or opponent's emotional reactions, first instincts are best—or so traditional wisdom suggests. But new research finds that careful reflection actually makes us better at assessing others' feelings. The findings could improve how we deal with bosses, spouses, friends and, especially, strangers. We would have trouble getting through the day or even a conversation if we couldn't tell how other people were feeling. And yet this ability, called empathic accuracy, eludes introspection. “We don't think too hard about the exact processes we engage in when we do it,” says Christine Ma-Kellams, a psychologist at the University of La Verne in California, “and we don't necessarily know how accurate we are.” Recently Ma-Kellams and Jennifer Lerner of Harvard University conducted four studies, all published in 2016. In one experiment, participants imagined coaching an employee for a particular job. When told to help the employee get better at reading others' emotions, most people recommended thinking “in an intuitive and instinctive way” as opposed to “in an analytic and systematic way.” When told to make employees worse at the task, the participants recommended the opposite. And yet later experiments suggested this coaching was off base. For instance, in another experiment, professionals in an executive-education program took a “cognitive reflection test” to measure how much they relied on intuitive versus systematic thinking. The most reflective thinkers were most accurate at interpreting their partners' moods during mock interviews. Systematic thinkers also outperformed intuiters at guessing the emotions expressed in photographs of eyes. © 2017 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 23258 - Posted: 02.21.2017

Emotions are a cognitive process that relies on “higher-order states” embedded in cortical (conscious) brain circuits; emotions are not innately programmed into subcortical (nonconscious) brain circuits, according to a potentially earth-shattering new paper by Joseph LeDoux and Richard Brown. The February 2017 paper, “A Higher-Order Theory of Emotional Consciousness,” was published online today ahead of print in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This paper was written by neuroscience legend Joseph LeDoux of New York University and Richard Brown, professor of philosophy at the City University of New York's LaGuardia College. Joseph LeDoux has been working on the link between emotion, memory, and the brain since the 1990s. He's credited with putting the amygdala in the spotlight and making this previously esoteric subcortical brain region a household term. LeDoux founded the Emotional Brain Institute (EBI). He’s also a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. Why Is This New Report From LeDoux and Brown Significant? In the world of cognitive neuroscience, there's an ongoing debate about the interplay between emotional states of consciousness (or feelings) within cortical and subcortical brain regions. (Most experts believe that cortical brain regions house “thinking” neural circuits within the cerebral cortex. Subcortical brain regions are considered to be housed in “non-thinking” neural circuits beneath the 'thinking cap' of the cerebral cortex.) © 1991-2017 Sussex Publishers, LLC

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23249 - Posted: 02.18.2017

By Simon Oxenham Ever felt hungry and angry at the same time? There’s evidence that “hanger” is a real phenomenon, one that can affect your work and relationships. The main reason we become more irritable when hungry is because our blood glucose level drops. This can make it difficult for us to concentrate, and more likely to snap at those around us. Low blood sugar also triggers the release of stress-related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, as well as a chemical called neuropeptide Y, which has been found to make people behave more aggressively towards those around them. This can all have an alarming effect on how you feel about other people – even those you love. A classic study of married couples asked them to stick pins into “voodoo dolls” that represented their loved ones, to reflect how angry they felt towards them. The volunteers then competed against their spouse in a game, in which the winner could blast loud noise through the loser’s headphones. The researchers tracked the participants’ blood glucose levels throughout. They found that when people had lower sugar levels, the longer the blasts of unpleasant noise they subjected their spouse to, and the more pins they stuck into their dolls. But while being hungry really does change your behaviour, the effects of hanger have sometimes been overstated. One study that attracted attention a few years ago found that judges are less likely to set lenient sentences the closer it gets to lunch. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 23172 - Posted: 02.01.2017

What are you like? A look at your brain may tell you. A study has found a link between some elements of brain structure and certain personality traits. The study involved scanning the brains of 500 volunteers, and assessing their personalities in terms of five traits – neuroticism, openness, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The researchers focused on the structure of the cortex, the outer layer of the brain. They found that in people who are more neurotic and prone to mood changes, the cortex tends to be thicker and less wrinkly. People who appear more open – for example, curious and creative – show the opposite pattern. More mature The link between structure and personality may help explain how we mature as we get older. Folds and wrinkles are thought to increase the surface area of the brain, but make the cortex thinner. The cortex continues to stretch and fold throughout childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood. As we grow up, people generally become less neurotic, and more conscientious and agreeable. “Our work supports the notion that personality is, to some degree, associated with brain maturation,” says Roberta Riccelli, at Magna Graecia University in Catanzaro, Italy. Journal reference: Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 23142 - Posted: 01.25.2017

Anouchka Grose Dannii Minogue has admitted to using Botox at difficult times in her life in a subconscious attempt to mask her feelings. Not only might she literally have been disabling her capacity to frown, she may also have been acting things out on her body in order to fend off her own emotions. Is America developing a ‘crack-like addiction’ to Botox beauty? Read more It’s about time someone said it. As a working therapist I have occasionally noticed my female patients’ faces change quite noticeably from week to week, but no one has ever spoken to me about what was making this happen. Cosmetic treatments, and the difficult thoughts and feelings that might make someone undergo them, are apparently one of the hardest things to talk about. On the one hand perhaps these treatments are so normalised that they do not seem worth discussing in therapy – a new study in the US shows that young women using Botox has risen by 41% since 2011 – but on the other you probably wouldn’t spend hundreds of pounds on something that carried serious health risks if you weren’t feeling pretty worried about your appearance. Doing stuff to your face is like the sunny side of self-harm; you might try it in order to short-circuit anxiety or sadness, but the end result is supposedly regeneration rather than damage. Still, nothing signals underlying unhappiness and self-loathing more than a pumped-up, frozen physiognomy. In that sense, it’s a socially acceptable form of wound. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23078 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Alice Klein How can you stop old anxieties from resurfacing? An injection of new neurons may help, a study in mice suggests. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and other fear-related disorders are difficult to treat, and many people who seem to get better later relapse. A similar phenomenon occurs in rodents. Adult mice can be conditioned to fear a sound by giving them an electric shock every time they hear it. Playing the sound repeatedly without the shock gradually wipes out the fear – a process known as extinction training. However, the fear often returns spontaneously if the mouse hears the sound later on. Baby mice, on the other hand, do not seem to relapse as much. Yong-Chun Yu at Fudan University in China and his colleagues wanted to know if they could treat fearful adult mice with brain cells from mouse embryos. The transplants did not prevent the mice developing new fears, nor help them overcome existing ones – at least not by themselves. But coupled with extinction training, the embryonic cells did help wipe out existing fears and prevent the mice relapsing. First, the researchers injected live brain cells from mouse embryos into the amygdalae of adult mice – the parts of the brain involved in fear. Other mice were implanted with dead embryonic brain cells as a comparison. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 22971 - Posted: 12.09.2016

By Sarah Kaplan I don't know if the holidays are as emotional for you as they are for me, but I have never been able to get through this season without shedding buckets of tears. Why do we cry in the first place? Does it actually do anything to make us feel better? Here's what science has to say: Girl, we feel you. (Or guy. Guys can cry, too. And psychologists say that emotional control probably isn't good for men. So go ahead and let it out.) Anyway. You shouldn't feel shame about shedding tears of emotion. Weeping is part of what makes you human. Although other animals may yelp or whimper in pain or fear, and many creatures have tear ducts in their eyes to help flush out dirt and irritants, humans are the only species known to cry for emotional reasons. And scientists aren't really sure why. One theory is that tears are a communication tool. Before they learn to speak, babies cry to get attention. They start out with tearless wails, but at around three or four months, they start to weep when upset as well. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that infants' tears are related to the distress vocalizations produced by other young animals: Crying conveys their need for parental care. It's also thought that a baby's crying has evolved to be especially evocative for parents — something few stressed-out, sleep-deprived parents of newborns would disagree with. This theory would explain the loud, chaotic tantrums thrown by children when hurt or distressed. But what about adult emotional tears, which are usually much quieter? In those cases, crying could be a method of “conspecific communication” — a way of alerting sympathetic neighbors that something is wrong, without attracting the attention of a predator. © 1996-2016 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 22926 - Posted: 11.29.2016

Ian Sample Science editor Scientists have raised hopes for a radical new therapy for phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with a procedure that can dampen down fears linked to painful memories. The advance holds particular promise for patients because in early tests, researchers found they could reduce anxieties triggered by specific memories without asking people to think about them consciously. That could make it more appealing than exposure therapy, which aims to help patients overcome their phobias by making them confront their fears in a safe environment, for example by encouraging them to handle spiders or snakes in the clinic. The new technique, called fMRI decoded neurofeedback (DecNef), was developed by scientists at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Lab in Japan. Mitsuo Kawato, who worked with researchers in the UK and the US on the latest study, said he wanted to find an alternative to exposure therapy, which has a 40% drop-out rate among PTSD patients. “We always thought this was ambitious, but it worked the way we hoped it would,” said Ben Seymour, a clinical neuroscientist and member of the team at Cambridge University. “We don’t completely erase the fear memory, but it is substantially reduced.” The procedure uses a computer algorithm to analyse a patient’s brain activity in real time and pinpoint moments when their fears can be overwritten by giving them a reward. In the latest study, the reward was a small amount of money. © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 22895 - Posted: 11.22.2016

By Daniel Barron Neurobiology was the first class I shuffled into as a dopey freshman undergraduate student. Dr. Brown’s class began at 8AM. I wore that bowling jacket I bought from the Orem Deseret Industries, Utah’s version of Goodwill. I’d spent much of my childhood in lower-middle class neighborhoods of small towns: Middle and Junior High School in the Texas Hill Country; High School in rural Utah. In High School, I would jog through the countryside—down by the River Bottom’s road—and rehearse conversations and ideas that troubled me. I hadn’t learned the language of social justice or of science. I felt uneasy with many of the ideas I’d been taught but lacked the vocabulary to pinpoint why. Dr. Brown’s first lecture covered visual perception, ocular dominance columns, and the idea that brain structure and function were intertwined. To use my parlance at that age, this was a Revelation. The lecture outlined a completely novel way of thinking: the notion that between my ears, behind my forehead and nose was a collection of cells—of neurons, an organ—responsible for how I saw and perceived the world. I was young, I was a drug-free virgin, and this was without question the greatest catharsis I had ever experienced. Here wasn’t simply a foundation for my behavior, but for others’ as well. My theological leanings faded as I began to learn why I was Me. In response, I worked my ass off. © 2016 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 22873 - Posted: 11.16.2016

Tom Siegfried SAN DIEGO — Babies as young as 5 months old possess networks of brain cell activity that react to facial emotions, especially fear, a new study finds. “Networks for recognizing facial expressions are in place shortly after birth,” Catherine Stamoulis of Harvard Medical School said November 13 during a news conference at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. “This work … is the first evidence that networks that are involved in a function that is critical to survival, such as the recognition of facial expressions, come online very early in life.” Stamoulis and colleagues at Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed a database of brain electrical activity collected from 58 infants as they aged from 5 months to 3 years. Brain activity was measured as the infants viewed pictures of female faces expressing happiness, anger or fear. Computer models of the brain activity showed that networks responding to fear were activated much more dramatically than those for happy or angry faces, even in the youngest infants. As babies grew older, their brain networks responding to facial emotions became less complex as redundant nerve cell connections were pruned. But the fear network remained more complex than the others, and response to fearful faces remained elevated over time. Understanding the brain circuitry involved in responding to emotional facial expressions could have implications for research on developmental disorders, Stamoulis said. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2016.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 22866 - Posted: 11.15.2016

By LISA FELDMAN BARRETT Bitterness. Hostility. Rage. The varieties of anger are endless. Some are mild, such as grumpiness, and others are powerful, such as wrath. Different angers vary not only in their intensity but also in their purpose. It’s normal to feel exasperated with your screaming infant and scornful of a political opponent, but scorn toward your baby would be bizarre. Anger is a large, diverse population of experiences and behaviors, as psychologists like myself who study emotion repeatedly discover. You can shout in anger, weep in anger, even smile in anger. You can throw a tantrum in anger with your heart pounding, or calmly plot your revenge. No single state of the face, body or brain defines anger. Variation is the norm. The Russian language has two distinct concepts within what Americans call “anger” — one that’s directed at a person, called “serditsia,” and another that’s felt for more abstract reasons such as the political situation, known as “zlitsia.” The ancient Greeks distinguished quick bursts of temper from long-lasting wrath. German has three distinct angers, Mandarin has five and biblical Hebrew has seven. In the past few weeks, many varieties of anger have been on vivid display. For starters, we now have an iconic angry man as the president-elect. Donald J. Trump is aggressive as he insists there’s something wrong with the country, and offensive when he’s provoked. He employs anger effectively to maintain his power and status. His anger is seen by his fans as strength and by his detractors as bombast. We’ve also seen Hillary Clinton’s more restrained anger, which she has directed against the divisiveness she perceived during the campaign. To her proponents, Mrs. Clinton’s anger fueled her resolve to push back against Mr. Trump’s most egregious statements. To her detractors, her anger made her a shrew. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 22865 - Posted: 11.14.2016

Geoff Brumfiel Scientists have pinpointed the ticklish bit of a rat's brain. The results, published in the journal Science, are another step toward understanding the origins of ticklishness, and its purpose in social animals. Although virtually every human being on the planet has been tickled, scientists really don't understand why people are ticklish. The idea that a certain kind of touching could easily lead to laughter is confusing to a neuroscientist, says Shimpei Ishiyama, a postdoc at the Berstein Center for Computational Nueroscience in Berlin, Germany. "Just a physical touch inducing such an emotional output — this is very mysterious," Ishiyama says. "This is weird." To try and get a handle on how tickling works, Ishiyama studied rats, who seem to enjoy being tickled, according to previous research. He inserted electrodes into the rats' brains, in a region called their somatosensory cortex. When rats enjoy tickling they emit high-pitched "laughter" that can't normally be heard by humans, the scientists found. In this video, the researchers transposed the audio of the squeaks to a lower frequency you can hear. That's a part of the brain that processes touch, and when Ishiyama tickled the rats, it caused neurons in that region to fire. The rats also seemed to giggle hysterically, emitting rapid-fire, ultrasonic squeaks. Earlier research has shown rats naturally emit those squeaks during frisky social interaction, such as when they are playing with other rats. © 2016 npr

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 22853 - Posted: 11.10.2016

Ramin Skibba A large, multi-lab replication study has found no evidence to validate one of psychology’s textbook findings: the idea that people find cartoons funnier if they are surreptitiously induced to smile. But an author of the original report — published nearly three decades ago — says that the new analysis has shortcomings, and may not represent a direct replication of his work. In 1988, Fritz Strack, a psychologist now at the University of Würzburg, Germany, and colleagues found that people who held a pen between their teeth, which induces a smile, rated cartoons as funnier than did those who held a pen between their lips, which induced a pout, or frown1. Strack chose cartoons from Gary Larson's classic 1980s series, The Far Side. Strack’s study has been quoted as a classic demonstration of what’s known as the ‘facial feedback hypothesis’ — the idea that facial expressions can influence a person’s own emotional state. The paper has been cited more than a thousand times, and has been followed by other research into facial feedback. In 2011, for example, researchers reported that injections of Botox, which affects the muscles of facial expression, dampen emotional responses2. But as part of a growing trend to reproduce famous psychology findings, a group of scientists revisited the experiment. They describe the collective results of 17 experiments, with a total of nearly 1,900 participants, in a paper published on 26 October in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science3. © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 22831 - Posted: 11.04.2016

By Chelsea Whyte FACING a big problem and finding it hard to decide what to do? A sprinkling of disgust might boost your confidence. Common sense suggests that our confidence in the decisions we make comes down to the quality of the information available – the clearer that information, the more confident we feel. But it seems that the state of our body also guides us. Micah Allen at University College London and his colleagues showed 29 people a screen of dots moving in varied directions. They asked the volunteers which direction most of the spots were moving in, and how confident they were in their decisions. Before each task, the participants briefly saw a picture of a face on the screen. It was either twisted in disgust or had a neutral expression. Although this happened too quickly for the faces to be consciously perceived, the volunteers’ bodies reacted. Seeing disgust, which is a powerful evolutionary sign of danger, boosted the volunteers’ alertness, pushing up their heart rates and dilating their pupils. “When you induce disgust, high confidence becomes lower and low confidence becomes higher“ When shown a neutral face, the volunteers became less confident as the task got more difficult. As the movement of the dots became more varied, they were less sure of the main direction. But when they were shown the disgusted face, they reacted differently. In easy tasks, in which people were previously confident, they became more doubtful of their decisions. In more difficult tasks, their confidence grew. Neither face made any difference to the accuracy of their answers (eLife, doi.org/bsgd). © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 22825 - Posted: 11.03.2016

By Julie Hecht Come across an image like this, and you’d be a weirdo not to investigate. Meet infrared thermography, a non-invasive way to visualize changes to body surface temperature. Thermographic video cameras not only produce images that would make Andy Warhol proud (or at least sue for infringement), but the tool allows researchers to assess physiological changes—and potentially emotional states—in a wide variety of species like distantly related BFFs Canis familiaris and Homo sapiens. Think about it—physiological changes are part of the emotional response. When you are frightened, blood rushes away from your extremities to get your muscles ready to go, which means your extremities get cooler as your core gets warmer. Infrared thermography, which captures changes to body surface temperature, is going to pick this up. The tip of a scared person’s nose gets cooler (more blue) under an infrared camera, and studies find that when scared or distressed, rat paws and tails appear cooler, as do the outer parts of sheep and rabbit ears. Dog ears recently caught the attention of Stefanie Riemer and colleagues at the Animal Behavior, Cognition and Welfare Research Group (Twitter) at the University of Lincoln, UK. They wanted to know whether dog ears would show differential blood-flow patterns in response to something good as well as something less good. Dogs participated in a separation test where they were briefly alone in a novel environment (which elicits short-term distress) and then reunited with people (typically a positive experience). The separation, the researchers assumed, would be associated with negative emotions and therefore cooling of the ears, while being reunited with people (excellent!) would show an increase in ear temperature. The study appears in the current issue of Physiology & Behavior. © 2016 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 22814 - Posted: 11.01.2016

By STEPH YIN Halloween is here again. That means your co-workers have planted surprise spiders around the office. You’ve been invited to a haunted hayride. Your neighbor’s yard has a full cemetery, rigged with motion detectors and pop-up zombies. Chicken-livered from the start, I have always dreaded this time of year. Haunted houses, ghost tours and horror film fests are not my thing, and why people love having the daylights scared out of them completely escapes me. I decided to try to understand my friends who are on the lookout for thrills this time of year. As it turns out, there are many possible reasons some people like to be scared stiff. Each person’s threshold for experiences that provoke fear is made up of a unique recipe that blends nature and nurture. “The ingredients vary from person to person,” said Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and a former president of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Farley is interested in what draws certain people to extreme behaviors, like driving racecars, climbing Mount Everest and flying hot air balloons across oceans. In the 1980s, he coined the term “Type T” personality to refer to the behavioral profile of thrill-seekers. What makes someone thrill-seeking, he said, comes down to a mix of genes, environment and early development. Spooky Science Stories, Just in Time for Halloween Gather around as the crypt keepers of our Science department share scientific curiosities of things that slither and crawl and fly. David Zald, a neuropsychologist at Vanderbilt University, studies one piece of the equation. His research partly focuses on dopamine, a chemical involved in our brain’s response to reward. In the past, he has found that people who lack what he calls “brakes” on dopamine release tend to pursue thrilling activities. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 22807 - Posted: 10.29.2016