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by John Bohannon Every day, millions of people click on Facebook "Like" buttons, boldly declaring their preferences for a variety of things, such as books, movies, and cat videos. But those "likes" may reveal more than they intend, such as sexual orientation, drug use, and religious affiliation, according to a study that analyzed the online behavior of thousands of volunteers. Your preferences define you. Researchers have known for decades that people's personal attributes—gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and personality type—correlate with their choice of products, concepts, and activities. Just consider the different populations at an opera and a NASCAR race. This is why companies are so eager to gather personal information about their consumers: Advertising is far more effective when it is targeted to groups of people who are more likely to be interested in a product. The only aspect that has changed is the increasing proportion of personal information that is available as digital data on the Internet. And Facebook has become a major hub for such data through its like button. A team led by Michal Kosinski, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom as well as at Microsoft Research, wondered just how much people's likes reveal about them. The Likes data are public information. The hard part was getting the data on intelligence and other such attributes to compare with the likes. For that, Kosinski and his Cambridge colleague David Stillwell created a Facebook app called myPersonality. After agreeing to volunteer as a research subject, users of the myPersonality app answer survey questions and take a series of psychological tests that measure things such as intelligence, competitiveness, extraversion versus introversion, and general satisfaction with life. Kosinski and Stillwell not only get those data but also data from the user's Facebook profile and friends network. In return, users get a peek at their own information. More than 4 million people have volunteered already. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17890 - Posted: 03.12.2013

By Helen Shen When does a monkey turn down a free treat? When it is offered by a selfish person, apparently. Given the choice between accepting goodies from helpful, neutral or unhelpful people, capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) tend to avoid individuals who refuse aid to others, according to a study published today in Nature Communications. “Humans can build up an impression about somebody just based on what we see,” says author James Anderson, a comparative psychologist at the University of Stirling, UK. The capuchin results suggest that this skill “probably extends to other species”, he says. Anderson chose to study capuchins because of their highly social and cooperative instincts. Monkeys in the study watched as a person either agreed or refused to help another person to open a jar containing a toy. Afterwards, both people offered a food pellet to the animal. The monkey was allowed to accept food from only one. When help was given, the capuchins showed little preference between the person requesting help and the one providing aid. But when help was denied, the seven monkeys tended to accept food less often from the unhelpful person than from the requester. To try to understand the monkeys’ motivations, Anderson and his team tested different scenarios. The animals showed no bias against people who failed to help because they were busy opening their own jar. But they tended to avoid people who were available to help but did not do so. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17871 - Posted: 03.07.2013

By Stephanie Pappas, People infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, have a harder time than healthy individuals recognizing fear in the faces of others. This trouble with emotional recognition may reveal subtle cognitive deficits caused by the disease, researchers wrote today (Feb. 26) in the open-access journal BMC Psychology. Previous studies have found that HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is linked with abnormalities in the frontostriatal region of the brain, communications corridors that link the frontal lobes to deeper brain structures. "Frontostriatal structures are involved in facial emotion recognition, so we expected that HIV-positive subjects were impaired in facial emotion recognition tasks," said study researcher Eleonora Baldonero of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Baldonero and her colleagues recruited 49 HIV-positive adults from a clinic, making sure that none of the volunteers had a history of psychiatric or neurological disorders. HIV itself can affect the brain, Baldonero told LiveScience, but better drug therapies have made neurological problems less of an issue. Nevertheless, the team wanted to find out if there were any subtle deficits in the brains of patients. [The 10 Most Stigmatized Health Disorders] For comparison, the researchers also recruited 20 healthy adults chosen to be similar to the 49 HIV patients in age, gender and education. Both groups underwent a battery of neurological tests, including a facial emotion recognition task. In this test, patients saw male and female faces displaying disgust, anger, fear, happiness, surprise and sadness and had to match the name of the emotion to the face. © 2013 Yahoo! Inc

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17853 - Posted: 02.27.2013

—By Chris Mooney It is still considered highly uncool to ascribe a person's political beliefs, even in part, to that person's biology: hormones, physiological responses, even brain structures and genes. And no wonder: Doing so raises all kinds of thorny, non-PC issues involving free will, determinism, toleration, and much else. There's just one problem: Published scientific research keeps going there, with ever increasing audacity (not to mention growing stacks of data). The past two weeks have seen not one but two studies published in scientific journals on the biological underpinnings of political ideology. And these studies go straight at the role of genes and the brain in shaping our views, and even our votes. First, in the American Journal of Political Science, a team of researchers including Peter Hatemi of Penn State University and Rose McDermott of Brown University studied the relationship between our deep-seated tendencies to experience fear—tendencies that vary from person to person, partly for reasons that seem rooted in our genes—and our political beliefs. What they found is that people who have more fearful disposition also tend to be more politically conservative, and less tolerant of immigrants and people of races different from their own. As McDermott carefully emphasizes, that does not mean that every conservative has a high fear disposition. "It's not that conservative people are more fearful, it's that fearful people are more conservative," as she puts it.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17841 - Posted: 02.25.2013

by Emily Underwood BOSTON—Dude, check out these European perch. After swimming in water laced with a common antianxiety medication, the red-finned fish lose their inhibitions and gobble up prey at a much faster rate, according to a new study presented here today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of ScienceNOW). The animals act strangely even after being exposed to low concentrations of the medication found in rivers worldwide, suggesting that the drug and others like it could affect fish behavior and ecology even in small doses. Hundreds of different pharmaceuticals are able to slip past conventional wastewater treatment plants and into our waterways, says Jerker Fick, a toxicologist at Umeå University in Sweden and co-author of the new study. "They don't mysteriously go away after we excrete them." Scientists have known for a long time that many pharmaceuticals can persist in rivers and streams, and have behavioral effects on aquatic species in high doses, he says; however, determining whether more dilute concentrations have an effect is harder to establish. Several years ago, Fick and his colleagues discovered a common psychoactive medication called oxazepam in water samples from the River Fyris, which flows through Uppsala, the fourth largest city in Sweden. Oxazepam belongs to a class of drugs that make neurons less excitable and slower to transmit signals throughout the brain and is an "essential" treatment for panic attacks and other severe anxiety disorders, Fick says. Although the authors describe the concentration of the drug—0.58 micrograms per liter-1—as "unusually high," they also say it is comparable to levels found in rivers in other countries; however, there isn't enough research to know for sure how widespread the drug is. "This is not a particularly Swedish problem," says lead author Tomas Brodin of Umeå University. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 17811 - Posted: 02.16.2013

By Laura Sanders Not all fear is the same. A woman who laughs at horror movies, grabs dangerous snakes and calmly deals with knife-wielding men nonetheless surrenders to terror at a single puff of suffocating carbon dioxide. This woman, known as SM, has a disease that damaged her amygdala, a brain structure implicated in fear. But the new results involving her and two others with the same disease, published online February 3 in Nature Neuroscience, show that a certain kind of danger signal can bypass the amygdala, hitting the panic button in other parts of the brain. The need to breathe is one of the most fundamental requirements for survival. Clinical neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein of the University of Iowa in Iowa City believes that the instinct to get air might tap into a brain system that’s more primal than the amygdala. Feinstein and colleagues work with SM and other patients who suffer from a rare genetic disorder called Urbach-Wiethe disease. In late childhood, this disease destroys the amygdala, a pair of almond-shaped structures deep in the brain. SM shows no fear when confronted with haunted houses, ominous spiders and scary movies (SN: 1/15/11, p/ 14). Now, the scientists have found something that does scare her. A breath of gas that is 35 percent carbon dioxide can immediately provoke a strong, panicky fear. (By contrast, normal air is less than one percent carbon dioxide.) When the gas hits the body, specialized proteins sense that something is amiss and send an urgent “must have air, now” message to the brain. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17753 - Posted: 02.04.2013

By Gareth Cook Michael Trimble, a British professor at the Institute of Neurology in London, begins his new book with Gana the gorilla. In the summer of 2009, 11-year-old Gana gave birth to a boy at a Muenster zoo. But one day in August, the baby suddenly and mysteriously died. Gana held up her son in front of her, staring at his limp body. She held him close, stroking him. To onlookers it appeared that Gana was trying to reawaken him, and, as the hours passed, that she was mourning his passing. Some at the zoo that day cried. But Gana did not. Humans, Trimble tells us, are the only creatures who cry for emotional reasons. “Why Humans Like to Cry” is an exploration of why this would be so, a neuroanatomical “where do tears come from.” It’s also a meditation on human psychology. Many distinctions have been offered between humans and the rest of the animal world, and to this list Trimble adds another: the anguished tear, the apprehension that life is tragic. Trimble answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook. Cook: How did you first become interested in crying? Trimble: Of course, because I cry, and some things bring tears quite easily, notably music, and opera with the power of the human voice. Crying tears, for emotional reasons, is unique to humans. There has been a game of catch me if you can, which has been played by those interested in finding attributes or behaviours which separate humans from our nearest living relatives – namely the chimpanzees and bonobos. Certainly our propositional language is very special, but primate communities have very sophisticated ways of communicating. Other contenders, such as play, using tools, or having what is called theory of mind (the sense that I know that others have a mind very like mine, with similar inclinations and intentions) have all been argued as unique to our species, but all these have been demonstrated, in some form, to be found in other primates. Emotional crying makes us human. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17737 - Posted: 01.30.2013

By Laura Sanders People with damage to a specific part of the brain entrusted unexpectedly large amounts of money to complete strangers. In an investment game played in the lab, three women with damage to a small part of the brain called the basolateral amygdala handed over nearly twice as much money as healthy people. These women didn’t expect to make a bunch of money back, an international team of researchers reports online the week of January 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Nor did they think the person they invested with was particularly trustworthy. When asked why they would invest so generously, the volunteers couldn’t provide an answer. The results suggest that normally, the basolateral amygdala enables selfishness — putting the squeeze on generosity. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17702 - Posted: 01.22.2013

By Bruce Bower Chimpanzees often share and share alike when cooperating in pairs, suggesting that these apes come close to a human sense of fairness, a controversial new study finds. Like people, chimps tend to fork over half of a valuable windfall to a comrade in situations where the recipient can choose to accept the deal or turn it down and leave both players with nothing, say psychologist Darby Proctor of Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Lawrenceville, Ga., and her colleagues. And just as people do, chimps turn stingy when supplied with goodies that they can share however they like, the researchers report online January 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Humans and chimpanzees show similar preferences in dividing rewards, suggesting a long evolutionary history to the human sense of fairness,” Proctor says. But psychologist Josep Call of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, considers the new results “far from convincing.” In Proctor’s experiments, pairs of chimps interacted little with each other and showed no signs of understanding that some offers were unfair and could be rejected, Call says. “If anything, Proctor’s study suggests that there is no fairness sensitivity in chimpanzees,” remarks psychologist Keith Jensen of the University of Manchester in England. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17680 - Posted: 01.15.2013

By SINDYA N. BHANOO The human brain responds to music in different ways, depending on the listener’s emotional reaction, among other things. Now researchers report that the same holds true for birds listening to birdsong. “The same regions that respond to music in humans, at least the areas that can also be found in the bird brain, responded to song in our sparrows,” said an author of the new report, Donna Maney, a neuroscientist at Emory University. Primed with estrogen to simulate their state during breeding, female white-throated sparrows responded to the songs of male sparrows in the same way as humans listening to pleasant music, she said. Females in a nonbreeding state responded no differently to birdsong than to generic tones of the same frequencies. “So during breeding season, birdsong is received differently by females,” Dr. Maney said. Moreover, male birds treated with testosterone showed a response in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center, when they heard other males singing. The response is akin to the reaction humans have when they hear the sort of music used in a scary movie scene. “If you’re a male and you hear the song, it means that you’re invading territory or being invaded,” Dr. Maney said. “It’s an aggressive signal.” © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17646 - Posted: 01.01.2013

Becky Summers Monkeys might not be known for their generosity, but when they do seem to act selflessly, a specific area in their brains keeps track of these kindnesses. The discovery of this neuronal tally chart may help scientists to understand the neural mechanisms underlying normal social behaviour in primates and humans, and might even provide insight into disorders such as autism, in which social processing is disrupted. Steve Chang and his colleagues from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, used electrodes to directly record neuronal activity in three areas of the brain prefrontal cortex that are known to be involved in social decision-making, while monkeys performed reward-related tasks. When given the option either to drink juice from a tube themselves or to give the juice away to a neighbour, the test monkeys would mostly keep the drink. But when the choice was between giving the juice to the neighbour or neither monkey receiving it, the choosing monkey would frequently opt to give the drink to the other monkey. The researchers found that in two out of the three brain areas being recorded, neurons fired in the presence or absence of the juice reward only. By contrast, the third area — known as the anterior cingulate gyrus — responded only when the monkey allocated the juice to the neighbour and observed it being received. The authors suggest the neurons in the ACG respond to and record the act simultaneously. The study's results are published today in Nature Neuroscience1. © 2012 Nature Publishing Group,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17636 - Posted: 12.27.2012

By Joss Fong What do an orgasm, a multiplication problem and a photo of a dead body have in common? Each induces a slight, irrepressible expansion of the pupils in our eyes. For more than a century scientists have known that our eyes' pupils respond to more than changes in light. They also betray mental and emotional commotion. In fact, pupil dilation correlates with arousal so consistently that researchers use pupil size, or pupillometry, to investigate a wide range of psychological phenomena. And they do this without knowing exactly why our eyes behave this way. "Nobody really knows for sure what these changes do," says Stuart Steinhauer, director of the Biometrics Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He views the dilations as a by-product of the nervous system processing important information. The visual cortex in the back of the brain assembles the actual images we see. But a different, older part of the nervous system—the autonomic—manages the continuous tuning of pupil size (along with other involuntary functions such as heart rate and perspiration). Specifically, it dictates the movement of the iris to regulate the amount of light that enters the eye, similar to a camera aperture. The iris is made of two types of muscle: a ring of sphincter muscles that encircle and constrict the pupil down to a couple of millimeters across to prevent too much light from entering; and a set of dilator muscles laid out like bicycle spokes that can expand the pupil up to eight millimeters—approximately the diameter of a chickpea—in low light. © 2012 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: 17586 - Posted: 12.10.2012

by Debora Mackenzie The Toxoplasma parasite is an unusually devious operator. When it infects mice, it alters their behaviour so they become fearless enough to seek out cats and get eaten. But exactly how it did this was a mystery. Now it appears that the parasite hijacks its victim's immune system, causing it to produce a chemical normally found in the brain. The discovery suggests that the brain and immune system might have evolved using similar processes to control their behaviour, including electrical and chemical signals now known mainly in nerves. Toxoplasma gondii spends part of its life in a cat's gut, then spreads to mice via cat droppings. It invades their brains and causes them to behave fearlessly towards cats – quickly returning the parasite to a cat's gut and completing its life cycle. The parasite can use other animals as a host, and can spread to humans via infected, uncooked meat as well as cat droppings. Acute infection can harm a fetus, so pregnant women are told to avoid cat litter boxes. A quarter of people have a lifelong Toxoplasma infection and may suffer psychological effects, including increased recklessness. Antonio Barragan of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, has now discovered that the parasite's mind-bending abilities could be a side effect of the way it hijacks the immune system. Invaders like Toxoplasma normally get engulfed by white blood cells called dendritic cells (DCs), a process that helps other immune cells learn to recognise them. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17583 - Posted: 12.08.2012

by Emily Underwood On the reality television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the lucky recipient gets a first look at his newly renovated home. For a split second, his face contorts with—shock? Joy? During intense emotional experiences, there's a fleeting moment when expressions of pleasure and pain are hard to distinguish. In fact, others read intense emotion more effectively by looking at a person's body language than by watching his facial expressions, a new study suggests. Most studies of facial cues rely on a set of stylized, recognizable expressions—perhaps made by actors in photographs. The actors make expressions meant to be obvious enough to translate across cultures: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. But these stylized images don't necessarily reflect the expressions that people make in the real world, says Hillel Aviezer, a neuropsychologist at who is now at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lead author of the new study, published online today in Science. Moreover, when emotions get particularly extreme, people undergoing fleeting peaks of intense pain, joy, grief, or anger look surprisingly similar, Aviezer says. From the face, at least, "when you compare extreme pain to extreme pleasure, you really can't tell them apart," he says. And yet most people are rarely confused about whether someone is experiencing grief or joy. To figure out what tips us off, Aviezer and his colleagues showed photos of professional tennis players to 45 Princeton University students, randomly divided into three groups of 15. Each tennis player had just won or lost an important match, and the participants rated the players' contorted facial expressions from negative to positive on a scale from 1 to 9, with 5 marking the neutral midway point. One group of participants looked at head-to-toe photos of the players, the second group looked at only the players' bodies, and the third group looked at only their heads. Only the final group had trouble making the correct identification, suggesting that facial expressions alone didn't tell them whether the players were joyous or in despair. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17558 - Posted: 12.01.2012

By BENEDICT CAREY For years they have lived as orphans and outliers, a colony of misfit characters on their own island: the bizarre one and the needy one, the untrusting and the crooked, the grandiose and the cowardly. Their customs and rituals are as captivating as any tribe’s, and at least as mystifying. Every mental anthropologist who has visited their world seems to walk away with a different story, a new model to explain those strange behaviors. This weekend the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association will vote on whether to adopt a new diagnostic system for some of the most serious, and striking, syndromes in medicine: personality disorders. Personality disorders occupy a troublesome niche in psychiatry. The 10 recognized syndromes are fairly well represented on the self-help shelves of bookstores and include such well-known types as narcissistic personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, as well as dependent and histrionic personalities. But when full-blown, the disorders are difficult to characterize and treat, and doctors seldom do careful evaluations, missing or downplaying behavior patterns that underlie problems like depression and anxiety in millions of people. The new proposal — part of the psychiatric association’s effort of many years to update its influential diagnostic manual — is intended to clarify these diagnoses and better integrate them into clinical practice, to extend and improve treatment. But the effort has run into so much opposition that it will probably be relegated to the back of the manual, if it’s allowed in at all. © 2012 The New York Times Company

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: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 17542 - Posted: 11.27.2012

The Associated Press Chimpanzees going through a midlife crisis? It sounds like a setup for a joke. But there it is, in the title of a report published Monday in a scientific journal: "Evidence for a midlife crisis in great apes." So what do these apes do? Buy red Ferraris? Leave their mates for some cute young bonobos? Uh, no. "I believe no ape has ever purchased a sports car," said Andrew Oswald, an author of the study. But researchers report that captive chimps and orangutans do show the same low ebb in emotional well-being at midlife that some studies find in people. That suggests the human tendency toward midlife discontent may have been passed on through evolution, rather than resulting simply from the hassles of modern life, said Oswald, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick in England who presented his work Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A second study in the journal looks at a younger age group and finds that happiness in youth can lead to higher income a few years down the road. Several studies have concluded that happiness in human adults tends to follow a certain course between ages 20 and 70: It starts high and declines over the years to reach a low point in the late 40s, then turns around and rises to another peak at 70. On a graph, that's a U-shaped pattern. Some researchers question whether that trend is real, but to Oswald the mystery is what causes it. "This is one of the great patterns of human life. We're all going to slide along this U for good or ill," he said. "So what explains it?" © CBC 2012

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: 17515 - Posted: 11.20.2012

By MICHAEL TRIMBLE IN 2008, at a zoo in Münster, Germany, a gorilla named Gana gave birth to a male infant, who died after three months. Photographs of Gana, looking stricken and inconsolable, were ubiquitous. “Heartbroken gorilla cradles her dead baby,” Britain’s Daily Mail declared. Crowds thronged the zoo to see the grieving mother. Sad as the scene was, the humans, not Gana, were the only ones crying. The notion that animals can weep — apologies to Dumbo, Bambi and Wilbur — has no scientific basis. Years of observations by the primatologists Dian Fossey, who observed gorillas, and Jane Goodall, who worked with chimpanzees, could not prove that animals cry tears from emotion. In his book “The Emotional Lives of Animals,” the only tears the biologist Marc Bekoff were certain of were his own. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy, the authors of “When Elephants Weep,” admit that “most elephant watchers have never seen them weep.” It’s true that many mammals shed tears, especially in response to pain. Tears protect the eye by keeping it moist, and they contain antimicrobial proteins. But crying as an embodiment of empathy is, I maintain, unique to humans and has played an essential role in human evolution and the development of human cultures. Within two days an infant can imitate sad and happy faces. If a newborn mammal does not cry out (typically, in the first few weeks of life, without tears) it is unlikely to get the attention it needs to survive. Around three to four months, the relationship between the human infant and its environment takes on a more organized communicative role, and tearful crying begins to serve interpersonal purposes: the search for comfort and pacification. As we get older, crying becomes a tool of our social repertory: grief and joy, shame and pride, fear and manipulation. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17475 - Posted: 11.11.2012

By Evan Charney and William English Dozens of studies in the past few years have linked single genes to whether a person is liberal or conservative, has a strong party affiliation or is likely to vote reguarly. The discipline of “genopolitics” has grabbed headlines as a result, but is the claim that a few genes influence political views and actions legitimate? We don't think so. The kinds of studies that have produced many of the findings we question involve searching for connections between behavior and gene variants that occur frequently in the population. Most of the 20,000 to 25,000 human genes come in hundreds or thousands of common variations, which often consist of slight differences in a gene's sequence of DNA code letters or in repeats of a particular segment. For the most part, scientists do not know what effect, if any, these common variants, known as polymorphisms, have on the functioning of the proteins they encode. Genes predict certain well-defined physiological diseases—such as hereditary breast cancer and the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease—but when it comes to complex human behaviors such as voting, the link is tenuous at best. One of the most prominent papers showing a link between a few polymorphisms and political behavior was published by James Fowler and Christopher Dawes in 2008 in the Journal of Politics. They concluded that people who possess certain variants of a gene called MAOA are more likely to vote than those who do not and that people with a particular variant of a gene known as 5-HTT who regularly attend religious services are also more likely to vote. We do not believe that these conclusions are right. © 2012 Scientific American

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: 17453 - Posted: 11.05.2012

by Sarah C. P. Williams All for one, or in it for yourself? That depends on how you were brought up, according to a new study involving the prisoner's dilemma, perhaps the most famous scenario in game theory. In the game, you can either cooperate or betray your partner. And adult males who were exposed as children to violence, crime, conflict, and neglect turn on their partners earlier and more often in the game than males who grew up in more stable environments, the study finds. Imagine that you're a thief, and you and your partner have been nabbed by the police. If you both stay silent, you both get a month in jail. But if you rat out your partner, or "defect," while he stays silent, he gets 2 years and you go free. Alas, if you both snitch, you both get a year. Dreamed up decades ago, the prisoner's dilemma has now become a staple of social psychology experiments. "It's really an assay for how your mind is built to tradeoff between different ways of living in the world," says psychologist Michael McCullough of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. "Are you going to be tempted by short-term payoffs or are you going to invest again and again to try to get long-term benefits?" McCullough and colleagues wanted to explore how these choices might vary based on a person's background. The researchers recruited 244 male and female undergraduate students to participate in multiple iterations of the prisoner's dilemma game in which points—later converted into real money—were won in each round depending on the choices made. Each student was told they were playing at least 20 rounds of the game via a computer. They were told their opponents were human—but instead the computer was programmed to take a "tit for tat" strategy: The computer repeats the moves made by the player in the previous round. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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: 17441 - Posted: 10.31.2012

With bright blue hair and tattoos, Dr Caspar Addyman is not your average scientist. But then Britain's "Babylab" is not your average laboratory. Here, inside one of the world's leading infant-research units, Dr Addyman has spent the morning filtering through the results of his new Baby Laughter project. It is the first in-depth study since the Sixties into what makes infants chuckle. Last time around, the experiment involved a toy clown attached to a piece of string, which scientists held in front of their tiny, unwitting human guinea pigs to see if and when they would laugh. Fortunately Dr Addyman's experiment, which he launched in August this year, is a little more complex. "Smiling and laughing are indices of our understanding of the world. Adults laugh at something when they find it surprising or unusual; it is exactly the same for babies," he explains. "Finding out what makes infants laugh teaches us more generally about how humans understand and respond to the world around them, and also the ways in which that can change." His gleeful subjects, who are all aged between two months and two years, are helping him to hunt for information that could eventually be used to determine how different developmental groups – for instance, people with autism or Down syndrome – respond to stimuli at different stages, which might ultimately lead to interventions. It is all smiles in Babylab HQ, at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London. The lab was responsible earlier this year for a breakthrough study in autism which demonstrated a difference in brainwave patterns in infancy between children who later went on to develop the condition and those who did not. © independent.co.uk

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: 17428 - Posted: 10.27.2012