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Dogs, MRIs, and Emotions A few weeks ago, the New York Times published my opinion piece titled, "Dogs are People, Too," which was based on my new book, How Dogs Love Us. Here, I expand on the question of using MRIs to read canine emotions.read more
Is Texting Stressing You Out? Text messaging is a part of our everyday lives, but for some people, it can become more than a quick and easy way to communicate. Young adults are perhaps most likely to use this form of social messaging, however the middle aged (and beyond) aren't far behind. For the heaviest users, their constant need to text can take its toll. See how you can benefit from a break.read more
This column will change your life: why confidence is overrated 'Humble-but-competent leaders are both better-liked and more successful than braggarts'There's a jaded view of humanity according to which we're all manipulating each other, all the time: a planet of confidence tricksters, differing mainly in how good we are at it. After all, we can't know the inside of anyone else's mind. So when deciding whom to trust, date, buy things from or vote for, we're forced to rely on "proxies" – outward indicators of expertise or trustworthiness. But there's a loophole: to triumph at this game, you don't need to be well-qualified or trustable. You just need to master the gestures, the expressions, the lingo. You might not be doing this consciously. You might even really be all you claim to be. But until they release a mind-reading app for Google Glass, how could anyone tell?Perhaps the worst example of this is confidence. Stride into a meeting and just repeat your point the most insistently, and you've a good chance of winning the day, some studies suggest. New research, led by Bryan Bonner at the University of Utah, underlines the point. He asked small groups to answer factual questions, such as the driving time from Salt Lake City to Manhattan, or the weight of the world's heaviest person (1,400lb). The most confident people wielded outsized influence, regardless of accuracy. But when the groups were first asked consciously to consider reasons why certain members might truly know their stuff, or other reasons for preferring certain answers, the influence of the merely confident fell, while accurate members did better. Confidence is what Bonner calls a "messy proxy" for expertise. To short-circuit its effects in the context of meetings, reframe them as fact-finding exercises. Keep a running list of conclusions on a whiteboard, or do anything else to switch the focus from who is being convincing to what they're saying.In a new book, Confidence, the psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic goes further, arguing that confidence is virtually worthless. On average, he reports, it's correlated with competence at about 0.30, which means the probability of the most confident person in the room also being the most competent is a paltry 15 percentage points better than chance. Partly, that's down to the famous "better-than-average bias": a majority of us believe we're better than most at all sorts of things – driving, keeping healthy – even though that can't be true. (Amusingly, we also think we're less guilty of self-serving biases than most.) "Feeling good," Chamorro-Premuzic writes, "does not increase the probability of being good." His more radical claim is that confidence doesn't even serve those who have it, and that there's no point trying to increase it. Humble-but-competent leaders, he shows, are both better-liked and more successful than braggarts. And "just low enough" confidence is a boon: it frees you from the dangers of overoptimism, stops you ignoring negative feedback and keeps you motivated to acquire skills.This might be overstated. Studies such as Bonner's suggest confidence can be helpful in short-term, selfish ways. Then there's the question of assertiveness and gender bias: might office humility work best when you already benefit from other structural privileges, such as being male? Still, some general truths emerge: there are benefits to having less confidence, and we should stay sceptical of those who have it in buckets. Seeming as if you know what the hell you're doing, or feeling that way, are terrible proxies for whether you actually do.oliver.burkeman@theguardian.comFollow Oliver on TwitterHealth & wellbeingPsychologyOliver Burkemantheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Brain Change in the Galapagos Can exposure to different groups and experiences cause our brains to change? A trip to the Galapagos sets thoughts in motion.read more
Positive personal growth following breast cancer diagnosis Although being diagnosed with breast cancer is usually an extremely stressful experience for most women, a new study by researchers has found that there also can be unexpected benefits.
Memory testing can age older adults in minutes Older adults who feel younger than they really are might want to steer clear of memory tests, or risk feeling older, a new study suggests.
Could you be almost depressed? Research suggests that as many people may be suffering from low-grade depression symptoms that are not severe enough to warrant clinical treatment.
Men slow down for love New research finds that men adjust their walking speed to match their romantic partner's pace "” a phenomenon not seen when guys walk with female friends.
Parents greatly underestimate how often their children are cyberbullied Cyberbullying has become a destructive force in many children's lives. After multiple suicides by children being cyberbullied, parents, more than ever, need to be aware of their children's online activity. A recent paper found that parents underestimate how often their children engage in risky online behavior, like cyberbullying and viewing pornography.
Experimental drug reduces brain damage, eliminates brain hemorrhaging in rodents afflicted by stroke The experimental drug 3K3A-APC shows promise as a stand-alone therapy for stroke or in combination with the FDA-approved clot-busting drug therapy tPA (tissue plasminogen activator).
Should advertising for e-cigarettes be more tightly regulated? | Natalia Lawrence Psychological research shows that advertising increases cravings and consumption. So could adverts for e-cigarettes trigger desire for the real thing?Natalia Lawrence
Kids are more likely to trust attractive adults Children are more likely to trust an adult with an attractive face compared to an unattractive one -- this is the finding of new research.
Am I a Double Agent? As a psychiatrist, I worry about the real possibility of over-reporting patients who might be considered likely to cause harm. The notion of something being likely requires a judgment about anticipating someone's future actions. read more
Reading this in a meeting? Women twice as likely as men to be offended by smartphone use In an increasingly uncivil world, a new study is the first to provide hard evidence for how attitudes about acceptable or rude mobile phone use actually break down across gender, age and region.
Participation in mindfulness-based program improves teacher well-being Teacher well-being, efficacy, burnout-related stress, time-related stress and mindfulness significantly improve when teachers participate in the CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) for Teachers program.
Survey finds that online bullying has declined The results of a new survey were released today, exploring the pervasiveness of digital abuse among teens and young adults, how it is affecting America's youth and how they're responding to it.
Genes interact with parental care in producing childhood behavioral problems, study suggests A new study suggests that some children may be genetically predisposed to developing behavioral problems in child care and preschool settings. Previous research found that some children develop behavior problems, despite the benefit of academic gains, however, it was never known why some youngsters struggle in these settings and others flourish. This study indicates that some children may act out due to poor self-control and temperament problems that they inherited from their parents.
Washing your hands makes you optimistic Washing our hands influences how we think, judge and decide. This is what researchers confirmed through experiments when examining how physical cleansing affects us after failure.
Jim Birley obituary Leading social psychiatrist who transformed the understanding of schizophreniaProfessor Jim Birley, who has died aged 85, was a social psychiatrist who made a great breakthrough in the understanding of mental illness. In the late 1960s, the prevailing view was that schizophrenia was a largely biologically based disease, but Birley showed the role that stressful life events played in the illness. In 1960 he had conducted a pilot study which showed that patients suffering from both initial and subsequent psychotic attacks were likely to have undergone a life crisis within the previous three weeks.Birley's 1968 paper based on these findings, Crises and Life Changes and the Onset of Schizophrenia, was rejected by the British Journal of Psychiatry as being too far-fetched, but it was published by the American Journal of Health Behavior and is now regarded as a classic. Birley also led the campaign against poor psychiatric practices abroad, particularly in Russia and China.He was the son of a neurologist, also called James Birley, famed for his work on fatigue and stress in first world war pilots. Jim was born near Harley Street but the family moved to his grandparents' house in rural Essex when he was six after his father died. He later said that being brought up in a large family in the country was an advantage for a social psychiatrist.He was head boy at Winchester college and went on to Oxford, moving to St Thomas hospital, London, for his clinical training. In 1954, two years after qualifying, he did his national service in the army. He was impressed by the way deep sleep treatment – now discredited – helped a colleague, and this sparked his interest in psychiatry. Returning to civilian life, he undertook junior medical posts and then worked for a year under William Sargant, the notorious psychiatrist who espoused drastic physical treatments ranging from deep sleep to frontal lobotomy.He then moved in the opposite direction, joining the Medical Research Council's social psychiatry research unit at the Maudsley hospital in south London, which alerted him to the social and familial context of mental illness. In 1969 he became consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley, where he remained until retiring in 1990.The Maudsley used to pass their long-term patients, even ones who lived nearby, to Cane Hill hospital, a huge institution near Croydon. Birley built up services locally and in the 1970s established the Windsor Walk Housing Association, providing supported accommodation for occupants who were regarded as residents rather than patients. He helped furnish the homes, scavenging furniture and, with his wife, Julia, nailing down stair-carpet at weekends.Around this time he also established the Camberwell Rehab Association, a company that trained and employed patients: they made fuse boxes and suchlike and survived for 30 years until losing out to competition with cheap imports. In 1971, after meeting the former health minister David Ennals, he founded the Southwark Association for Mental Health. He funded it with a charity shop and an annual fete to raise funds. The Maudsley hospital has a James Birley unit, an 18-bed facility for acutely ill women.Birley carried a huge clinical load, with walk-in emergency clinics that lasted late into the evenings. His patients adored him, and he cared deeply for them, never trying to offload them on to other doctors – and he still found time to be dean of the Institute of Psychiatry from 1971 to 1982. Thereafter, becoming active in the Royal College of Psychiatry, he was the college's dean from 1982 toll 1987 when he became its president, a post he retained until 1990.He was alarmed by government "reforms" (his punctuation); the 1989 white paper Working for Patients was "written by people who didn't understand the NHS, and it had Mrs Thatcher's fingerprints all over it". He represented the RCP at the World Psychiatric Association meeting in 1989, when the Soviets were readmitted under strict conditions. In 1993-94 he was president of the British Medical Association, during which time he published a report on doctors' involvement in torture overseas.He was a leading member of what is now the Global Initiative on Psychiatry. This international group has campaigned with considerable success against poor psychiatric practices abroad, especially in the former communist countries and China.Former colleagues considered him a kind, gentle, modest, caring, tolerant and humorous person; a great clinician, intellectually astute yet humble. He treated everyone with the same courtesy and was a wonderful mentor to his students and trainees. In addition, he had a few redeeming vices: one of these was surreptitiously planting rhododendrons in the municipal park adjoining his garden. At home he went in for practical jokes, gardening and music.Birley had once suffered a manic episode and spoke openly about it, showing that it could happen to anyone. It had occurred when the Maudsley was being picketed: he briefly became manic, feeling that he had seen the light. His family and friends noticed, and three colleagues sent him home with a tranquiliser, which he said made him feel as if he had stepped into a hot bath. Two days later he was as right as rain.He was appointed CBE in 1990; among other honours he was a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.He is survived by his wife, Julia, their children Rosalind, Margaret, Humphrey and Ellen, and 10 grandchildren."¢ James Leatham Tennant Birley, psychiatrist, born 31 May 1928; died 6 October 2013Mental healthPsychologyHealthCaroline Richmondtheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
High blood sugar tied to memory problems Blood sugar considered safely below diabetes or even pre-diabetes levels may still be linked to a raised risk of memory problems, a new study suggests.