Tag Archives: research

decisions

yesterday we went car shopping. after driving the sixth test car, in which we were quite interested, the salesperson made us a very tempting offer. we did the rational thing and retired for a family powwow to a nearby fast food place. after briefly going through the pros and cons of another car that was quite attractive, the decision to accept the offer came fast and unanimous.

then we finalized the deal, and the question of warranty insurance came up. my husband left the decision up to me. it had gotten dark outside, i was getting tired from a day of car shopping, and suddenly that decision, which was much less important, and involved much less money, suddenly began to wear on me. after 30 minutes of back and forth, we finally came to a decision on that one, too.

afterwards we went to an east indian restaurant. i hadn’t been to one for a while and chose to eat a bit more than i had planned.

(hold on, i’m going somewhere with this :))

before i went to bed, i realized that i hadn’t done any exercise yet. what to do, what to do? go for a

the fool, a tarot card

image by ark in time on flickr

walk, use the stationary bike, or dance downstairs in my studio? argh! i hadn’t been outside enough and the stationary bike would be really easy, and my studio is beautiful! then i decided to just quickly draw a tarot card and drew the fool. pretty clear image: the fool is on a hike. so i went for a walk.

what i found really interesting was that each step underscored what we know about decision making:

the first step, when we decided to buy the car, was very much carried out along the lines of rational decision making. we gathered all the information, didn’t get swayed by cute arguments (“it has heated seats and adjustable cup holders!”) and didn’t act without reflection.

and then decision fatigue started to set in. i started getting tired, my glucose level went down, and things started to slow down.

by the time i reached the east indian restaurant and one of my favourites, palak paneer (spicy spinach with fresh cheese curds), was particularly well cooked, ego depletion was in full force – all my rational “muscle” was used up, and my food choice was made by that little gremlin inside of me jumping up and down, slobbering with anticipation of devouring yet another tasty morsel.

it was the last situation that i found perhaps the most interesting. typically i consider myself a happy and vigorous decision maker (note to self: ask family how delusional i am with that assessment.) and yet, here i was like a deer in the headlight – quick, tell me with way to go! it looks like indecision is not as well researched as decision . but there was another level to it: i knew at some level that i did not want to choose any of the options. but because a) i want to see myself as someone who engages in at least moderate exercise and b) the option of not doing anything was VERY tempting, i could not add that forth option. instead i head to tell myself that “i don’t know what to do.” i knew EXACTLY what i wanted to do, which was nothing! having removed my favourite option, the next best thing i came up with is to shift the burden of decision to someone/something else. i wonder how often that happens?

by the way, the walk was lovely. the moon, still almost full, poured a magical light over the neighbourhood full of sparkling christmas lights.

creativity and mental health – a twitter chat

today i had the honour of moderating the weekly mental health and social media chat (“#mhsm”) on twitter. these are always such interesting conversations! our topic today was “creativity and the arts”. here is a slightly abridged transcript:

moritherapy: welcome to the weekly #mhsm chat about #mentalhealth and social media. today’s topic: creativity and the arts #mhsm

moritherapy: Q1 how does “consuming” the arts (listening to music, watching movies, looking at paintings, etc.) help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

moritherapy: my father, who struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder all his life, always said “there’s nothing more soothing than music” #mhsm

KerisWithaK: Consuming and contributing to the arts is incredibly healing! #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1: Consumption of the arts, movies, theater, ballet, opera… are an escape for me from my #mentalillness #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Q1. Music is for most a highly effective means of clearing the mind, taking your emotions to a different place #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1 Music that is uplifting to me, helps boost my mood. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy We’re partially here great topic tonight! Arts are a healthy outlet when coping with the side affects of recovery #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1: Certain movies, or TV programs help me focus on other things besides negative things that might be going on. #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1:think that the consumption of arts helps to stimulate my brain outside of its regular zone,which is gr8 for helping #mentalillness #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm I love calming music for anxiety. Feels like it regulates my heartbeat somewhat.

MelissaMashburn: A1: I have always enjoyed art, especially painters from the impressionist era. Something about it is very soothing. #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto interesting – you call it “escape”. sometimes that word has a negative connotation. what do you think? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art and creativity has the power to heal, center & empower people out of hopelessness. #mhsm

mySahana: Q1: Dancing creates a total body experience instead of being limited to just the head and cerebral processes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: It certainly can replace the stuff in my head for a while, that is escape #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Does the same for L RT @MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana oh, i love what you say about dancing – incredibly healing, isn’t it? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @moritherapy @stephintoronto Escape from suicidal thoughts could never be negative. For players/listeners, music can also be grounding #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I am not sure if this counts as “art and creativity” but sometimes I like to look around for inspiring quotes to lift my mood #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: It provides an escape from an otherwise seemingly hopeless world at times #mhsm

johnalchin: A1. The arts have the ability to mood-alter. Appropriate music can take the edge off a hectic day or motivate when feeling flat #mhsm

stephintoronto: @moritherapy i agree that “escape”has a negitive feel,but so does feeling crappy w #bipolar & #mentalillness ­čÖé #mhsm

mySahana: @moritherapy Oh absolutely! It just shifts your whole experience and emotions to a different, almost tangible place #mhsm

Kidsider: @MySahana I think the arts in all forms really works towards mindfullness by stimulating all the senses in such a positive way. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I also find writing very theraputic #mhsm

mySahana: @kidsider Definitely true! I personally have had most experience with dancing but you’re right. Music, dancing, drawing it’s profound. #mhsm

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moritherapy: Q2 do you consider yourself a “creative”? how does your own expression of creativity help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: For L writing music also gives him a chance express feelings he otherwise has trouble getting out #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: As a student of music, playing helps me deal w/ emotional + mental pain, puts things in perspective, gives access to accomplishment #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A2: I think I am very creative. In the past it took the form of fabric arts, now it is almost exclusively writing. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: Even if I do not write about stuff going on in my head, just the process of writing feels healing to me. #mhsm

mySahana: A2: I’m very creative too and use it mostly to choreograph dances, to write and to create new experiences for myself #mhsm

stephintoronto: A2: i don’t consider myself a “creative” but i have come to realize that I need artistic outlets to help deal w #mentalillness #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I think through blogging and SM I would call myself a “creative” we’re all being creative now in breaking stigma #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A1: I find nothing feeds my soul & makes me feel less alone than great art – especially music & poetry. #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Here is a video of him singing and playing one of his songs a few months ago http://www.youtube.com/user/OJTLBlog?feature=mhum #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art starts in the mind #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A2– I like to write for 2 reasons – advocacy (feel empowered and possibly educate) & 2 humor to lol when I’m struggling #mhsm

mySahana: I have also recently started singing classes which has been a fabulous way to find my voice and tap into new skills. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i think that many people dealing with #mentalillness and #mentalhealth issues,is that they are blessed with creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: i feel like i’m in some sort of creativity hub, just listening and talking to you #mhsm guys ­čÖé #mhsm

stephintoronto: creativity comes out for me in writing, painting, ballet, arts and crafts, poetry, photography, write comics…. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: @stephintoronto I have found that fact very interesting. Makes me wonder if the rest of the world needs to catch up with us #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana i love the idea of singing to find your voice – so important in #mentalhealth #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @unxpctdblessing Writing & graphic arts are my go to things when Im stressed/upset. #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write poetry as a means of expressing those moods & anxieties that won’t otherwise be spoken. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy i’m glad I have a few minutes this week to be creative with everyone too #mhsm

stephintoronto: feel blessed that so many of you are creative and i get to be the recipiant of it everyday. #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm Love to act in plays. It’s a real escape and you learn empathy for people through understanding your characters.

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write fiction too, but I don’t find the same kind of effect from it. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I can’t sing but loving putting sign language to music!! It’s a great way for me to”show” emotions #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn I wonder if strong creativity it is our brains compensating for the part of it that is not firing on all cillinders. #mhsm

johnalchin: For me creativity comes by singing, playing guitar, web design and building, enjoying musical theatre, photography #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: There are so many ways to be creative: music, theater, written and spoken word,… #mhsm

KerisWithaK: ASL is a great way to overcome what is known as ‘flat affect’. I had to learn how to overcome flat affect. ASL & theatre were the cure #mhsm

johnalchin: A2. I too have had a love of poetry since I was a young boy. I have written poetry in the past & iit s a great way to get out my angst #mhsm

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moritherapy: Q3 what do you think of the (controversial) idea that people with #mentalillness are particularly creative? #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn i have wondered if it is a bit like ppl who lose there sight and their sense of smell improves to compensate. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @stephintoronto @moritherapy at some level, I think all “artists” thrive on conversation (with others, self and their subjects). #mhsm

stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: L tends to be most creative (and at times almost frantic about it) when he isn’t doing well (especially when manic) #mhsm

unxpctdblessing: A3: I recently looked back through my poetry from college when I was supremely depressed/ lost in grief. Intense amazing stuff. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Its unfortunate that some artists are foremost identified with MH illness, inspiration/genius do not always have an obvious source #mhsm

mySahana: A3: I think sometimes it’s true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: RT @stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

moritherapy: there are some studies on the mental health-creativity connection but they seem to go back and forth #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy PTSD victims often gain a state of hyper vigilance making them more aware of surroundings, possible creativity boost? #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: A3: i’ve worked w 100’s of acutely ill ppl w #mentalillness + 1000’s w other illnesses-rec therapist. Have not seen or read evidence #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: RT @mySahana: A3: I think sometimes its true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: The schizoaffective family member I care for is the creative one in our family. She’s a brill singer, great fashion sense when well. #mhsm

moritherapy: example of study: creativity, schizophrenia and bipolar have similar dopamine system http://bit.ly/b3F8jE #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A3: For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a correlation between creativity & mental illness in friends & acquaintances. #mhsm

moritherapy: @Kidsider wow, never thought about the connection between creativity and vigilance, very interesting idea #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A3- I worry abt generalizations. As a person of color ppl assume I can do things ascribed to my race. Many times I can’t. #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: a1: con’d I have not seen or heard sufficient evidence about the people w mental illness -creativity correlation. #mhsm

stephintoronto: “Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031001061055.htm #mhsm

johnalchin: Wondering if there is a link between somatisation and the arts. Creativity as outlet for felt pain/grief/psychosis, etc? Anyone know? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Art can be a more effective way of explaining complex concepts and emotions than speech, symbols alone #mhsm

mySahana: @stephintoronto Great article! I wonder how this plays into effect considering creativity changes between childhood and adulthood. #mhsm

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moritherapy: Q4 creatives & people with #mentalillness live with feeling “different”. when there’s both, does it all get a bit too much? #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I dont think its matter of apmlifying the negative issues but a symbiotic aide in the struggle of mental health #mhsm

mySahana: @johnalchin I think body centered therapy addresses the issue of holding mental illness/stress/pain etc in your bdy #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A4: I’ve dealt with far more of a feeling of difference from MI than from creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @KerisWithaK “different” is perceived as negative. Leads to a hard, lonely life until difference is embraced positively. #mhsm

stephintoronto: wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all embrace our creative sides and say screw you to the #mentalillness side? #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @johnalchin @moritherapy A4: I frequently feel overwhelmed. But am learning to deal with it. #mentalillness #mhsm

moritherapy: @bentsinister there’s stigma re #mentalillness but the creative #stigma is less, or not so visible? #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I love it when people see people for people. Acknowledging and celebrating all that IS that person. #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer @johnalchin yeah, i think the word “overwhelm” is well placed here #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy I guess the only times I’ve experienced stigma re: creativity is when I got too “out there” for most people’s standards. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i’d be ok with being the creative artsy lady that lives in “there”,but somehow that always comes w the “crazy” label as well #mhsm

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moritherapy: Q5 can you recommend any social media sites or web sites about the topic of creativity and/or how the arts help with mental health? #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy When that happened, though, I was probably hypomanic, now that I think about it. #mhsm

johnalchin: @storiesofsommer @moritherapy I *HATE* feeling overwhelmed. I wan’t to have sense of control at all times. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A4 We R all different. I think much pain comes feeling that we have to be so much like others to be loved+respected #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto yeah, the whole “crazy” connection is kinda interesting. #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @moritherapy No, but it is actually something I have been thinking about starting for quite a while now #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy So I think that any stigma over creativity might be less, at least in my experience. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: My mom used to say I had multiple directions- couldn’t see “one way”. Now that’s called lateral thinkers! The new leaders! #mhsm

moritherapy do you guys know about the ikarus project re mental health and creativity?http://bit.ly/12nHkM #mhsm

storiesofsommer: Unfortunately, here in the states, I think we’re way behind on mental health resources. I’ve seen more progress in european countries #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer yes, it does look like particularly the UK are making great strides in the area #mhsm

moritherapy: another great resource: @soundtherapyrad does internet radio shows about creativity and mental health #mhsm

johnalchin: @KerisWithaK Yes, I say that my abstract random learning style means my mind is a lot like the world wide web. #mhsm

moritherapy: there’s the creativity and conflict people┬áhttp://bit.ly/9zqShT #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Oof! Im getting all shaky from the excitement/vibes in tonight (and a small amount of coffee). Can you feel it?! #mhsm

storiesofsommer: This may have been asked already but which comes b4: the creativity or the mental health issue? #mhsm

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moritherapy: as we’re closing, please let us know your blogs and websites so that we can support each other as a resource #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled Emotions http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @storiesofsommer:  http://www.storiesofsommer.com; life questions and how my depression/bipolar plays a part plus other random bits #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled Emotions http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com#mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: http://ReachOut.com – a place 4 teens, young adults to share stories on tough times in their lives & how they got through, MH expert vetted #mhsm

johnalchin: I’ve just added a Mental Health section to my website at http://johnalchin.info which I will be adding to over summer (in Oz) #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: http://www.our-journey-through-life.com Been slacking lately but really want to get back to blogging #mhsm

mySahana: Thank you for an amazing discussion! Please see our site http://www.mysahana.org addressing mental health issues in the South Asian community #mhsm

stephintoronto: i write about #mentalhealth #migraines #bipolar disorder…. when i feel up to it…http://princessrantsandraves.blogspot.com/ #mhsm

moritherapy: thanks all for participating in the #mentalhealth and social media chat. please come again, same place same time next week! #mhsm

depression and exercise

exercise – it works for depression is the title of a post i wrote for brainblogger the other day. it is about a large-scale study, the SMILE study (standard medical intervention and long-term exercise, conducted at duke university), which found that vigorous exercise three times a week for half an hour or forty-five minutes reduced symptoms of depression as effectively as antidepressants. there is the beginning of an interesting discussion in the comments about how to discuss findings like with people who are in the midst of depression.

any thoughts on this?

8 from google

my brain is still only functioning at 42.718% capacity (as opposed to the usual 60 7/8th) so i don’t find myself to be able to say much. what little brain power i had went to work today and another fabulous mental health chat on twitter. but i feel guilty for not blogging enough so i thought i’d show you what blog posts i’ve liked today in my google reader. i’ll even do the shocking thing and not convert everything into lower case! here we go:

The @5days_Vancouver campaign for homeless/at risk youth

from Hummingbird604.com by Raul

York and Wellington

photo credit: Danielle Scott

I was alerted by Nathan Tippe to the 5 Days Vancouver campaign, the local branch of the national 5 Days campaign, created by students to raise awareness of the situation of homeless people and at-risk youth. I was more than happy to promote the cause (a) because it is a fundraiser and (b) because the local chapter is being organized by UBC students (and as you know, I teach at UBC).

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Mental health report focuses on multicultural groups

A March 15th news release from the Mental Health Commission of Canada:
CALGARY, March 15 /CNW Telbec/ – Statistics Canada is predicting that 1 in 3 Canadians will belong to a visible minority by 2031. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has released a report addressing the needs of multicultural, immigrant and refugee groups. The study is part of its mandate to improve mental healthcare across all areas of Canadian society.

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8 Studies Demonstrating the Power of Simplicity

from PsyBlog by Jeremy Dean

3 people liked this

cloud

Psychological research on cognitive fluency shows why easy to understand = more profitable, more pleasurable, more intelligent and safer.

Which of these would you say sounds like the more dangerous food additive: Hnegripitrom or Magnalroxate?

The majority of people say Hnegripitrom sounds more dangerous. It turns out that the word ‘Magnalroxate’ is easier to think about than ‘Hnegripitrom’, probably because it’s more pronounceable, and people equate simplicity with safety (actually both words are made up).

This is one example of psychological research on meta-cognition: thoughts about other thoughts. Whether or not something is easy to think about”cognitive fluency”is one important type of meta-cognition, with all sorts of benefits accruing to things that are easily processed.

Here are 8 of my favourite studies on cognitive fluency, showing just how much can be explained by the feeling that something is easy to think about (or otherwise).

1. Complex writing makes you look stupid

Many of us did it in school: tried to impress teachers with fancy language and convoluted sentences, assuming it would make us look clever. As we soon discovered, though, most people can’t carry it off.

This has been tested by a study that manipulated text complexity to see how readers would judge the author’s intelligence. It found that as the text became more complicated, readers gave lower estimates of the author’s intelligence (Oppenheimer, 2005).

So if you want to be perceived as more intelligent (and who doesn’t?) keep your writing simple. This chimes perfectly with the standard advice given to wannabe writers. Sadly simplicity can be a lot harder to achieve than complexity.

(Note: the context of this study was students judging other students’ essays. This study might not extend to other types of writing and other types of readers.)

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Babies are born to dance, new research shows

A study of infants finds they respond to the rhythm and tempo of music and find it more engaging than speech. The research suggest that babies may be born with a predisposition to move rhythmically in response to music.
from Mind on Fire by John
Past collaborative projects here at Mind on Fire have produced some fine creative work, like the results of the 18-hour comic day, and the virtual First of May Choir-you know, the JoCo song that goes, “First of May, First of May, Outdoor fucking starts today” (original call, final song). In that same spirit of group play, I would like to propose a new project. I would like to propose a group creative experiment with chance, disorder, fate, Jupiter, Steve-whatever you choose to call it.

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Too Big to Trust? Or Too Untrustworthy to Scale?

from Trust Matters by cgreen@trustedadvisor.com (Charles H. Green)

This will be my fourth week on the road; more on that later in the week. At least all that plane time (and waiting in lines time) makes for good reading time”thanks to the iPhone Kindle Reader app. (and no they don’t pay me for saying it).

I’m re-reading Francis Fukuyama’s 1995 classic Trust: the Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity.

It’s the perfect companion for Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System”and Themselves.

Here’s why they belong together.

Fukuyama’s View of Trust

Fukuyama makes a compelling case that economic development is strongly affected by the cultural norms of a society”in particular, the propensity to trust. In this, he is up against both neo-classical economists (who argue people are rational utility-maximizers), Marxians (who argue it’s all about the money), and a ton of management theorists (who pretty much believe both).

As Fukuyama puts it:

The Chinese, Korean and Italian preference for family, Japanese attitudes toward adoption of non-kin, the French reluctance to enter into face-to-face relationships, the German emphasis on training, the sectarian temper of American social life: all come about as the result not of rational calculation but from inherited ethical habit.

Who we trust, it turns out, radically determines the nature of business we engage in.

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The Neuroscience of Anorexia Nervosa

from Dr Shock MD PhD by Dr Shock

anorexia nervosa

One of the most striking features of those suffering from anorexia nervosa is their perception of their bodies. You can put them in front of a mirror and they will still tell you they’re to fat when in fact they’re skinny. A recent publication in Nature Proceedings has an explanation.

This explanation is based on the fact that our spatial experience is based on the integration of two different kinds of input, two different sensory inputs within two reference frames. These two reference frames are the egocentric frame and the allocentric frame.

With the allocentric frame you can “see yourself engaged in the event as an observer would”, it’s the observer mode, you can see your self in the situation. This allocentric representation involves long term spatial memory mostly located in the hippocampus and the surrounding medial temporal lobes of the brain.

affirmations and research

a little while ago, a paper was published that suggests that positive thinking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:

positive self-statements are widely believed to boost mood and self-esteem, yet their effectiveness has not been demonstrated. we examined the contrary prediction that positive self-statements can be ineffective or even harmful. a survey study con├»┬Č┬ürmed that people often use positive self-statements and believe them to be effective.

two experiments showed that among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (”i’m a lovable person”) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true.

among participants with high self-esteem, those who repeated the statement or focused on how it was true felt better than those who did not, but to a limited degree. repeating positive self-statements may bene├»┬Č┬üt certain people, but back├»┬Č┬üre for the very people who ”need” them the most.

ray at the affirmation spot has an interesting discussion of this. let me add a few more thoughts.

as ray points out, it looks like the researchers didn’t quite know how affirmations are best used (and i think that ray’s suggestion of how the research might be conducted next time are fabulous). unfortunately, this happens more than occasionally in social science research. from what i can tell, that can come from a) truly not having a good understanding of the research subject and b) some of the traditional methodologies in social science research.

as for a), my husband, an avid poker player, often complains about that. he is very interested in psychology and enjoys participating in poker-related research. almost all of the time, however, he finds that psychologists who research poker have little understanding of the game, not appreciating, for example, that many serious poker players don’t approach it as a game of chance (like roulette, for example) but as a game of skill. consequently, the researchers ask questions that are irrelevant to these serious poker players and therefore end up with irrelevant results. i wonder whether that was similar in the research ray talks about.

regarding methodologies used, we need to keep in mind that experimental research as it traditionally carried out needs to be tightly controlled, which means that the more variables are introduced into an experiment, the less control there is possible – which in turn means that researchers like to have as few variables as possible (i.e. they just use one question). there are some good uses of experimental research – the famous pavlovian dog, for instance, has spawned some truly remarkable work – but experimental research also has its limits. perhaps using this methodology was not the best one for the topic of affirmations. that, of course, poses a problem – experimental research is often seen as the only methodology that will give reliable results.

on the other hand, i think it’s important that these topics are taken under the microscope of research and science. i would not be sitting here on this laptop that is a hundred times faster than the first million-dollar computer i ever worked with if it was not for science, and you wouldn’t be reading it on your iPhone or on facebook. science is a great treasure. the argument “affirmations have worked for me, so this research is bogus” is not – not, not, not – valid. qualitative experimental research is about statistics and probabilities and the question is not, “did/do/will affirmations work for joe?” but, “for how many of these 100 people did affirmations work, and does this give us reason to believe that they will work for an equal percentage of a given population in the future?”

in the end, we need to figure out how we would like to use this research. if affirmations have worked for you and perhaps also your clients, great. you can just look at this research and say, “hm, interesting, doesn’t seem to apply to me.” on the other hand, if you have found that affirmations haven’t always delivered what you had hoped, perhaps this research has a clue to what’s going on. note the “perhaps”. that’s what research and other sources of knowledge (and maybe even wisdom) are – little pieces of a puzzle that sometimes but not always show us the way to a bit more understanding.

of schizophrenic mice and men

here is some exciting new research on schizophrenia, which i found through changeseeker. the full text is at psycport; i’ve added a few links and comments.

new research from the northwestern university feinberg school of medicine has revealed how schizophrenia works in the brain and provided a fresh opportunity for treatment. in a new, genetically engineered mouse model [which was pioneered by the good people at johns hopkins], scientists have discovered the disease symptoms are triggered by a low level of a brain protein necessary for neurons to talk to one another.

in human and mouse brains, kalirin [named after the multiple-handed hindu goddess kali for its ability to interact with numerous other proteins] is the brain protein needed to build the dense network of highways, called dendritic spines, which allow information to flow from one neuron to another. northwestern scientists have found that without adequate kalirin, the frontal cortex of the brain of a person with schizophrenia only has a few narrow roads. the information from neurons gets jammed up like rush hour traffic on an interstate highway squeezed to a single lane.

“without enough pathways, the information takes much longer to travel between neurons and much of it will never arrive,” said peter penzes, assistant professor of physiology at the feinberg school. he is senior author of a paper reporting the findings published in a recent issue of the proceedings of the national academy of science. michael cahill, a feinberg doctoral student in neuroscience, is the lead author.

“this discovery opens a new direction for treating the devastating cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia,” penzes said. “there is currently no treatment for that. it suggests that if you can stimulate and amplify the activity of the protein kalirin that remains in the brain, perhaps we can help the symptoms.”

currently the only drug treatment for schizophrenia is an antipsychotic. “the drugs address the hallucinations and calm down the patient, but they don’t improve their working memory (the ability of the brain to temporarily store and manage information required for complex mental tasks such as learning and reasoning) or their ability to think or their social behavior,” penzes said. “so you end up with patients who still can’t integrate into society. many attempt suicide.”

here is a study on the effect of the use of antipsychotics, particularly clozapine, by people with schizophrenia.

the following is an excerpt from an article which reviews the literature on suicide and suicide prevention of people with schizophrenia, where the suicide rate is anywhere from 5% to 29%:

mann et al. [250] reviewed the literature and identified a number of strategies that are effective in the prevention of suicide such as education and awareness programs for the general public, primary care providers and other gatekeepers, screening for individuals at high risk, and providing treatment using pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. in particular, the prevention of suicide in schizophrenia should include providing proper information for the family members of the patient in the hope of reducing their hostility toward the patient. in addition, continuity of care after suicide attempts, restricting access to lethal methods and media reporting guidelines are important strategies to prevent suicide. since it is such a strong predictor of future suicide, preventing and reducing attempted suicide in schizophrenia may have a positive long-term impact.

researching motivation

a beautiful body, a calm mind, health into old age, a job that makes you bounce out of the bed in the morning with excitement – aaah, we all want it. and for many of us, these dreams area attainable.

what often stands in the way is our sluggish attitude towards changing our ways to make those great things come true.

once in a while this really bugs me and i sit there frowning, pondering the mysteries of motivation. today i went on a hunt to see what other equally puzzled people have found. here are five researchers who are working on interesting angles:

jeff stone: how hypocrisy motivates change
in their article, stone and fernandez wrote:

“the dissonance and the need to restore consistency are induced by subsequently making people aware of the fact that they themselves have failed to practice the target behavior in the past. mindfulness for past failures is accomplished by having people examine or generate a list of their reasons for not performing the behavior when they had the opportunity.”

when a person has the realization, the co-authors wrote, they begin to feel discomfort which then leads them to feel motivated to make a change.

one study in particular asked students to help develop an aids prevention and education program. during the process, students talked publically about important safe sex acts and half of them were later asked to write down their own personal behaviors. others were also asked to video tape messages about safe sex.

“it’s really most effective when people publically advocate to people and allow people to discover on their own – or lead them to discover on their own – that they don’t perform the behaviors that they tell others to do,” stone said.

the researchers found that those students who were realized that their words did not necessarily follow their actions were most likely to report that they would change.

this is tied to a person’s perceptions of self-integrity and also to honesty and sincerity. “following a hypocritical act,” the co-authors wrote, “maintaining or restoring these perceptions of self-integrity requires that people act in a more honest and sincere manner than in the past. thus, when they behave like a hypocrite, people become motivated to be honest and sincere about the norms for behavior, which is most directly accomplished by bringing their behavior into line with the proposed course for action.”

what motivates older people?
an excerpt from the online book when i’m 64 by the committee on aging frontiers in social psychology, personality and adult developmental psychology:

older people might have unique motives for change: for example, they might be especially and uniquely family oriented, and thus, wish to be less of a burden to their families, or they might be motivated to maintain an exercise program in order to retain physical functioning. or they might be uniquely motivated by a behavior change that would promote global good. for instance, older adults might be willing to make a contribution to the needs of one generation in hopes that their contribution might flow through to other generations.

stephen intille – cell phone health
dr. stephen intille from MIT is

developing and evaluating software for a common mobile phone that uses context-aware, tailored, just-in-time presentation of information and operant conditioning, a training technique, to encourage brisk walking. the system uses subtle audio cues as positive reinforcement. the prototype is an example of a ubiquitous computing health intervention that presents behavior-specific prompts and encourages incremental behavior change using successive approximation. to evaluate the effectiveness of the system, it is being deployed in a population of finnish mobile phone users. the impact of the technology on physical activity and feelings about fitness and readiness to engage in physical activity will be measured.

fear, romance and motivation
vladas griskevicius (university of minnesota) suggests that the effectiveness of persuasion tactics can be dramatically changed by two primal emotions – fear and romantic desire.

in the forthcoming paper “fear and loving in las vegas: evolution, emotion, and persuasion,” griskevicius and his co-authors find that the emotion we are currently feeling has a strong effect on whether we decide to conform or to go against the grain “being afraid especially leads people to go along with the crowd, activating a ‘safety-in-numbers’ psychology,” says griskevicius. “a feeling of lust, however, motivates people to go it alone, activating a desire to be seen as unique. feeling scared or amorous can greatly change the way people make decisions.”

power motivates
the thought of acquiring power motivates people to act.┬á in the wake of barack obama’s “yes we can” victory, a study has emerged from stanford about what motivates people to take action. the prime mover, say researchers, is acquiring a position of power.

specifically, it is people’s new, more elevated perception of themselves after assuming a position with more power that inspires them to take more risks and pursue goals more confidently. taking on a formal position of power”be it managerial, political, or cultural”gives people the illusion they have more control over their organization and their world, which, in turn, can propel them to go for the gusto. in the best-case scenarios, this can lead to achieving unimaginable accomplishments. in the worst, it can lead to poor decision making and devastating losses.