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December 28, 2008, 11:21 PM CT

Use your unconscious brain to make the best bets

Use your unconscious brain to make the best bets
Scientists at the University of Rochester have shown that the human brainonce believed to be a seriously flawed decision makeris actually hard-wired to allow us to make the best decisions possible with the information we are given. The findings appear in today's issue of the journal Neuron

Neuroresearchers Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky received a 2002 Nobel Prize for their 1979 research that argued humans rarely make rational decisions. Since then, this has become conventional wisdom among cognition researchers.

Contrary to Kahnneman and Tversky's research, Alex Pouget, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, has shown that people do indeed make optimal decisionsbut only when their unconscious brain makes the choice.

"A lot of the early work in this field was on conscious decision making, but most of the decisions you make aren't based on conscious reasoning," says Pouget. "You don't consciously decide to stop at a red light or steer around an obstacle in the road. Once we started looking at the decisions our brains make without our knowledge, we observed that they almost always reach the right decision, given the information they had to work with".

Pouget says that Kahneman's approach was to tell a subject that there was a certain percent chance that one of two choices in a test was "right." This meant a person had to consciously compute the percentages to get a right answersomething few people could do accurately.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 28, 2008, 11:12 PM CT

Take care of that childhood anxiety disorder

Take care of that childhood anxiety disorder
Dr. Graham Emslie reports that anxiety disorders in children and adolescents should be recognized and treated to help prevent educational underachievement, substance abuse and mental disorders in adulthood.

Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center
Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents should be recognized and treated to prevent educational underachievement and adult substance abuse, anxiety disorders and depression, says a nationally recognized child psychiatry expert from UT Southwestern Medical Center.

In an editorial appearing in the Dec. 25 issue of New England Journal (NEJM), Dr. Graham Emslie, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UT Southwestern, urges awareness that children need to be treated for anxiety disorders and recommends that related empirical evidence be integrated into therapy guidelines.

"Anxiety disorders may cause children to avoid social situations and age-appropriate developmental milestones," said Dr. Emslie. "Further, the avoidance cycle can lead to less opportunity to develop social skills necessary for success during the later part of life. Treatment would help children learn healthy coping skills".

Up to 20 percent of children and adolescents are affected by persistent and excessive worry that can manifest as generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder and social phobia. Research has shown that failure to identify these disorders early leads to educational underachievement and increased rates of anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse during the later part of life.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 28, 2008, 10:58 PM CT

Young People and Alcohol

Young People and Alcohol
As the party season approaches, a timely reminder of the issues surrounding the binge drinking culture are again highlighted by research into 'young people and alcohol' a team lead by Professor Christine Griffin, at the University of Bath. The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) suggests several considerations for future policy.

Focusing on the role of marketing practices in shaping young people's attitudes to alcohol consumption, the research included analysis of 216 alcohol adverts, both in print and broadcast. While extreme drinking and determined drunkenness appears to be perceived as the norm amongst young people, there is some positive news from the research. Evidence suggests that increases in young people's alcohol consumption is levelling off.

Previously, representations of binge drinking as a source of entertainment, coupled with pervasive coverage of drunken celebrities has increased the social acceptance of binge drinking. Advertising representing the 'coolness' of excessive drinking, along with the increasing use of internet based social networking sites that are used to share images of drunken nights out,, also enable the linkage between alcohol and 'having fun'.

Looking at what steps society may need to take to tackle the scourge of binge drinking, Professor Griffin says, "Top of my list would have to be to stop demonizing and making generalisations about young people and their drinking. We also need to listen and incorporate their views and perspectives." .........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 23, 2008, 10:25 PM CT

Family Depression May Have Lasting Effects On Teens

Family Depression May Have Lasting Effects On Teens
The country's economic crisis could have lasting effects on children from families that fall into poverty, as per a new paper by scientists from Iowa State University's Institute for Social and Behavioral Research.

Their study of 485 Iowa adolescents over a 10-year period (1991-2001) observed that early socioeconomic adversity experienced by children contributes to poor mental health by the time they become teens -- disrupting their successful transition into adulthood by endangering their social, academic and occupational attainment as young adults.

"The main finding shows the continuity of family adversity over generations -- from family-of-origin to a young adult's family. In other words, it's the transmission of poverty," said K.A.S. Wickrama, an ISU professor of human development and family studies and the study's lead researcher.

"Other articles have shown intergenerational transmission of adversity, but our study also shows the mechanisms that this influence operates through," he said. "We had the luxury of data to investigate that because we have been following 500 Iowa families since 1989".

Wickrama collaborated with Fred Lorenz, ISU University Professor of psychology; Tony Jung, an ISU graduate student in human development and family studies; and Rand D. Conger, a Distinguished Professor of human and community development at the University of California-Davis, on the study. They authored the paper "Family Antecedents and Consequences of Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms from Adolescence to Young Adulthood: A Life Course Investigation," which was reported in the recent issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, a professional journal.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 22, 2008, 9:24 PM CT

Law Enforcement to Deter Drinking and Driving

Law Enforcement to Deter Drinking and Driving
Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that an estimated 2 million drunk drivers with three or more convictions will be on the roads this holiday season. In 2007, approximately 1,500 people nationwide were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. Scientists from the University of Missouri and the University of Georgia observed that the most important deterrence factors for high-risk drivers are their perceptions of the likelihood of being stopped or arrested and their support for deterrence laws.

All U.S. states have laws designed to deter impaired driving, but there is little evidence on what works to deter drivers who have a high risk of drinking and driving. The scientists observed that the existence of laws, such as the.08 blood alcohol content and open container restrictions, affect only those less likely to drink and drive, and the actual number of impaired driving arrests in a state has no significant effect on drivers' likelihood of drinking and driving.

"Essentially, law enforcement needs to focus on perceptions; it is important that drivers perceive that they will be caught if they drive impaired," said Lilliard Richardson, professor in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs. "We observed that high-risk drivers are less likely to drink and drive if they perceive they are likely to be stopped or arrested by police. However, the mere existence of laws designed to discourage people from drinking and driving does not impact high-risk drivers. The results provide support for the value of high-visibility enforcement campaigns. Public safety education and media efforts are important components of the overall strategy for reducing impaired driving".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 19, 2008, 5:18 AM CT

How We Make Proper Movements

How We Make Proper Movements
When you first notice a door handle, your brain has already been hard at work. Your visual system first sees the handle, then it sends information to various parts of the brain, which go on to decipher out the details, such as color and the direction the handle is pointing. As the information about an object is sent further along the various brain pathways, more and more details are noticed-in that way, a simple door handle turns into a silver-plated-antique-style-door-handle-facing-right. Information about the handle also reaches the part of your brain responsible for planning movements (known as the pre-motor area), and it comes up with a set of motions, allowing you to turn the handle with your right hand and open the door.

However, this is not necessarily a simple process for the brain. For instance, how do we end up turning the door handle with our right hand, instead of just hitting it with our left? During this analysis, the brain is bombarded with a lot of irrelevant information, so it relies on a control system to filter out unnecessary information. In the visual system, this control mechanism is known as center surround inhibition and it works by activating only the neurons that are mandatory for further action. In other words, if any extra neurons are turned on, this control mechanism will shut them off, so that the brain can focus on the relevant information. Eventhough the center surround inhibition system has been well documented in the visual system, it was not known if this type of control mechanism exists in the motor regions of the brain. Psychology expert Daniel Loach from Macquarie University in Sydney and colleagues conducted a set of experiments to explore inhibitory mechanism in the areas of the brain involved in planning movements.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 18, 2008, 10:38 PM CT

Men, Women Give To Charity Differently

Men, Women Give To Charity Differently
To whom would you rather give money: a needy person in your neighborhood or a needy person in a foreign country? As per new research by Texas A&M University marketing professor Karen Winterich and his colleagues, if you're a man, you're more likely to give to the person closest to you ? that is, the one in your neighborhood ? if you give at all.

If you're a woman, you're more likely to give ? and to give equal amounts to both groups.

Winterich, who teaches marketing at Texas A&M's Mays Business School, says she can predict charitable behavior to different groups by an individual based on just two factors: gender and moral identity. (Moral identity does not measure how moral a person actually is, but rather how important it is to that person to be caring, kind, fair, honest, etc.).

The research is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research. Co-authors on the paper are Vikas Mittal at Rice University and William T. Ross at Penn State University.

The results of Winterich's studies involving American participants have implications for those in the fund-raising arena.

The study examined how people responded to a need within an "ingroup" and an "outgroup." An ingroup has an obvious connection to the potential donor, such as physical proximity or ethnicity, while the outgroup might have nothing more than humanity to relate it to the donor.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 17, 2008, 10:31 PM CT

Women Prefer Prestige Over Dominance in Mates

Women Prefer Prestige Over Dominance in Mates
A new study in the journal Personal Relationships reveals that women prefer mates who are recognized by their peers for their skills, abilities, and achievements, while not preferring men who use coercive tactics to subordinate their rivals. Indeed, women found dominance strategies of the latter type to be attractive primarily when men used them in the context of male-male athletic competitions.

Jeffrey K. Snyder, Lee A. Kirkpatrick, and H. Clark Barrett conducted three studies with college women at two U.S. universities. Participants reviewed hypothetical potential mates described in written vignettes. The studies were designed to examine the respective effects of men's dominance and prestige on women's assessments of men.

Women are sensitive to the context in which men display domineering behaviors when they evaluate men as potential mates. For example, the traits and behaviors that women found attractive in athletic competitions were unattractive to women when men displayed the same traits and behaviors in interpersonal contexts. Notably, when considering prospective partners for long-term relationships, women's preferences for dominance decrease, and their preferences for prestige increase.

"These findings directly contradict the dating advice of some pop psychology experts who advise men to be aggressive in their social interactions. Women most likely avoid dominant men as long-term romantic partners because a dominant man may also be domineering in the household." the authors conclude.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 16, 2008, 10:19 PM CT

Experts comment on importance of Christmas dinner

Experts comment on importance of Christmas dinner
The menu might be different and families might be smaller, but Christmas remains among the most important holidays. "It is sacred," says Universit de Montral Psychology expert Luc Brunet. "It's part of our culture to come together to laugh and eat in a festive setting."

A recent survey showed that half of Canadians will travel over 200 kilometers to be with their families this holiday season, which is indicative of the importance of Christmas. "As a result of the demands of the workplace, this is often the only time families come together other than around the buffet at a funeral," says Brunet.

Marie Marquis is a professor at the Universit de Montral Department of Nutrition. She believes it's crucial to protect family dinners. "Quebecers are losing the habit of eating together," says Marquis. "Everyone eats at their own time and in their own place."

The dinner table is where relationships are forged, where children can express their joys and concerns. Yet Marquis is concerned that esthetics are changing how people get together.

"People are more concerned with how the Christmas table looks than how it brings people together," she says. "Before, Christmas dinner was a reason to get together. People sat around with mismatched china, while people of different generations would come together and talk. Nowadays, people want a Martha Stewart table. Kids are put on a separate table while adults have their own table. It's a shame".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 15, 2008, 5:20 AM CT

Later school start times may improve sleep in adolescents

Later school start times may improve sleep in adolescents
A study in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that after a one-hour delay of school start times, teens increased their average nightly hours of sleep and decreased their "catch-up sleep" on the weekends, and they were involved in fewer auto accidents.

When school started one hour later students averaged from 12 minutes (grade nine) to 30 minutes (grade 12) more self-reported nightly sleep. The percentage of students who got at least eight hours of sleep per weeknight increased significantly from 35.7 percent to 50 percent; students who got at least nine hours of sleep also increased from 6.3 percent to 10.8 percent. The average amount of additional weekend sleep, or "catch-up sleep," decreased from 1.9 hours to 1.1 hours. Daytime sleepiness decreased, as reported by students using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Average crash rates for teen drivers in the study county in the two years after the change in school start time dropped 16.5 percent in comparison to the two years previous to the change, while teen crash rates for the rest of the state increased 7.8 percent over the same time period.

"It is surprising that high schools continue to set their start times early, which impairs learning, attendance and driving safety of the students," said senior author Barbara Phillips, MD, director of the UK Healthcare Good Samaritan Sleep Center in Lexington, Ky.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness.

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