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3 Minutes of Tetris Reduces Cravings for Drink, Cigarettes and Food Computer game distraction enough to reduce common cravings by 24%.Just three minutes of playing Tetris can reduce cravings for food, cigarettes and alcohol, according to a new study published in the journal Appetite. The psychologists conclude that Tetris.... Continue reading - - > → Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
How your brain works – video The brain squeezes out 70,000 thoughts a day. But where does it store information? And how does it generate flights of fancy?
Ethical dilemma: An overseas distributor sanctioned over corruption Photo Credit: Flickr I was recently quoted in a BBC Capital’s work ethic article titled “Treading a fine line: A case of corruption?” by Chana Schoenberger. However, some rather important details were omitted from my response to a reader’s ethical dilemma involving one company’s business relationship with an overseas distributor that was recently sanctioned over […]
Why students need more than "˜grit' An overemphasis on grit directs attention away from other factors that also affect student success.
First glimpse of brain circuit that helps experience to shape perception How do our memories shape the way sensory information is collected? For the first time, scientists have demonstrated a way to observe how our experiences shape sensory information in awake animals. The team was able to measure the activity of a group of inhibitory neurons that links the odor-sensing area of the brain with brain areas responsible for thought and cognition. This connection provides feedback so that memories and experiences can alter the way smells are interpreted.
Higher Risk of Mental Illness for Those With Older Fathers Massive study finds children with older dads much more likely to have autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder.→ Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
The Way We Talk About Gender Can Make a Big Difference After four weeks of simply hearing their gender labeled and being sorted into girl and boy groups, elementary school children, both boys and girls, were more likely to say that only men can be doctors or the president of the United States and only women can be nurturing and kind.read more
Perv review – Jesse Bering's engaging study of sexual deviancy Jesse Bering's polemic on sexual mores and perversion spreads its liberal message with jaunty genialityWith genial rhetorical flair, Jesse Bering "PhD" kicks off his perv polemic with a humorous account of his own cloistered gay childhood and outlandish masturbatory tools (a textbook picture of a Neanderthal). Reader, relax: if Bering used to find intense pleasure in the image of Homo neanderthalensis, and he's obviously a stand-up guy (his likability oozes through every hard-working, joke-stuffed page), then your sexual predilection for amputees, giants, tall architectural structures, feet, pain or poo are nothing to worry about. Unless, of course, they cause you or others harm: that's where Bering draws his well-intentioned though often slightly flimsy line in the sand.Perv is part psycho-neurological explanation, part sexology history, and mostly a scattered polemic about the distorted logic and hypocrisy that creates destructive and dangerous environments for those with orientations beyond the "norm". Homosexuals may be better off today, but what about paraphiliacs, horse-fanciers and gerontophiles? Bering's argument makes heavy use of paedophiles, supporting his thesis that it's not what you think or desire but what you do that should be judged.Meanwhile, through jaunty if superficial historical storytelling, Bering notes the newness of the category of "homosexual" and the way in which the very word "pervert" has moved from the religious to the sexual sphere. Whether or not you agree that there is no such thing as absolute morality "out there", or that all meanings change over time and are therefore subjective, this book throws a good deal of (secondhand) research at its staunchly anti-conservative central argument and makes for an engaging study of the weirdness of human sexuality. With its empirical and historical evidence thickly wrapped in a committedly conversational tone, it's particularly well suited to younger readers who are interested in science, sex and therefore, as Bering would argue, themselves.SocietySexualitySexPsychologyZoe Strimpeltheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Why Breastfed Babies Are So Smart Study of 7,500 babies finds that two parenting skills are crucial to IQ boosts at four years of age.Many scientists have speculated that the problematic social behaviour of people with autism is related to low vitamin D and serotonin levels. Now a new study has found a causal link between vitamin D and... Continue reading - - > → Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
8 Simple Strategies To Improve Your Innovation Here are eight simple strategies to improve your innovation.read more
Australian Antarctic Expedition: the power of pictures | Stephan Lewandowsky Stephan Lewandowsky: The row over the recent Australian Antarctic Expedition highlights the powerful role that scientific graphs and images have in the mediaStephan Lewandowsky
The High Cost of Vanity The clothes we wear reflect our personalities. If you're drawn to clothes that carry with them recognizable and often pricey logos, it may be time to examine why. The combination of vanity and narcissism can prove costly to your wallet. By understanding the forces that drive you to overspend, you can gain better control of your wallet, if not your self-esteem.read more
Autism: Vital Link Found Between Vitamin D and Serotonin Production New evidence that dietary supplementation with vitamin D could help treat autism.Many scientists have speculated that the problematic social behaviour of people with autism is related to low vitamin D and serotonin levels. Now a new study has found a causal link between vitamin D and... Continue reading - - > → Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
Poor sleep quality linked to reduced brain gray matter in Gulf War vets A new study of Gulf War veterans found an association between poor sleep quality and reduced gray matter volume in the brain's frontal lobe, which helps control important processes such as working memory and executive function. "This study emphasizes the importance of seeking medical help if you are troubled by the poor quality of your sleep," said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President. "A board certified sleep medicine physician can identify the cause of your sleep problem and develop an effective treatment plan for you."
Brain differences linked to insomnia identified by researchers Researchers report that people with chronic insomnia show more plasticity and activity than good sleepers in the part of the brain that controls movement. "Insomnia is not a nighttime disorder," says study leader. "It's a 24-hour brain condition, like a light switch that is always on. Our research adds information about differences in the brain associated with it." The researchers say they hope their study opens the door to better diagnosis and treatment of the most common and often intractable sleep disorder that affects an estimated 15 percent of the United States population.
Education attenuates impact of TBI on cognition Higher educational attainment (a proxy of intellectual enrichment) attenuates the negative impact of traumatic brain injury on cognitive status, new research indicates. Said one researcher of the results: "Although cognitive status was worse in the TBI group, higher education attenuated the negative effect of TBI on cognitive status, such that persons with higher education were protected against TBI-related cognitive impairment."
How Healthy Are On-Again/Off-Again Relationships? What do we really know about on-again/off-again relationships? Why do people break-up, make-up, and then break-up and make-up again? Can repeated separations and reunions be healthy?read more
You're more biased than you think – even when you know you're biased Nobody's political opinions are just the pure, objective, unvarnished truth. Except yours, obviouslyOliver Burkeman
Imaginary friends go mainstream – more children have them than ever Eleanor Tucker is fascinated by evidence that children's imaginary playmates are more widespread than ever. Especially as she used to have one herself ...In the 1970s, when I was at primary school, I had a friend. He was the sort of friend who would nowadays alert social services. Because he wasn't a child. And he wasn't a girl. No, he was in his 30s. He had a beard. And his name was Klas.Klas was my imaginary friend. He wasn't about all the time, because he lived near my grandmother in a white house by the station, about half an hour's drive from ours. But as I grew up, he was alluded to. Mentioned. Blamed, even. If I talked when nobody was around, it was to Klas. If I sometimes played without my sister, I was playing with Klas.It seemed quite normal at the time to have an imaginary friend with a Scandinavian-sounding name and facial hair. But lots of things pass for normal when you're a kid. By the time I went to secondary school, Klas had stopped visiting. I filed him away under "the past" and forgot about him, until a book I read recently jogged my memory and I mentioned him to my husband. He raised an eyebrow. "He doesn't sound like your average imaginary friend, if there is such a thing any more ..."It turns out that there is. The book, Who Framed Klaris Cliff? by Nikki Sheehan, creates a world where imaginary friends have become the enemy. It's a young adult novel that tells the story of Joseph, an ordinary boy with an imaginary friend called Klaris who finds himself in the firing line in a world that has grown paranoid about imaginary friends. Anyone found harbouring an imaginary person is set for the "cosh", an operation that destroys your imagination so that the imaginary friend has nowhere to live.As part of her research, Sheehan discovered that rather than being an outdated phenomenon, a reminder of simpler times, imaginary friends might actually be more common nowadays. But why? First, it's probably just a more accurate representation of the way that children play. "For most of the 20th century the prevailing attitude was that imaginary playmates were a sign of insecurity and latent neurosis, so people may have been less inclined to admit to such flights of fancy."Now imaginary friends are mainstream. Switch on CBeebies and you'll find Lola, of Charlie & Lola, chatting to Soren Lorensen, her Nordic-sounding invisible playmate. Maybe he knows Klas.Sheehan also suggests that within smaller family units, children these days are more likely to play in a certain solitary way, which creates an environment that is welcoming to imaginary friends. As part of her research, she spoke to Anna Roby, from the Max Planck Child Study Centre in Manchester, who found that half of the children she interviewed with imaginary friends were indeed first or only children. "But making up friends is not necessarily an indicator of loneliness," Sheehan says.Imaginary friends come in a huge range of guises, as educational psychologist Karen Majors of the East London Consortium of Educational Psychologists and Institute of Education discovered. They might be smaller versions of the children themselves; humans or sometimes animals; based on real people or TV characters; single or multiple; and varied in terms of gender, age and temperament.Imaginary companions were also reported as sometimes "having lives away from the child and showing independence of will", Majors says.This describes my own friend, Klas. He didn't even care to live that locally. Majors explains that when imaginary companions are not always compliant and show unfriendly behaviour, this serves to increase the interest of the child. After all, who wants to be surrounded by yes men?Klaris, the imaginary friend in Sheehan's novel, was certainly not compliant. So what led her to create a character like this in the first place? "A strange thing," says Sheehan. "A recurring imaginary friend: she was a girl of about nine or 10 whose name began with the letters 'Al' – she was imagined by my brother, myself, and decades later, my own daughter."In all three cases, she was nice but bossy – like a big sister. Was this just a coincidence or was something else going on? When she was reincarnated the third time I decided to write about imaginary friends, and among the many fascinating things I found in my research was the fact that in some places, including Japan, there are people who believe that imaginary friends are protective spirits who watch over children. Sometimes they are dead ancestors and sometimes just body-less beings who find themselves needed. I liked that idea, and from there grew Klaris, and a whole world where imaginary friends had substance, free will and people prepared to defend them."Majors' work certainly reinforces the idea of imaginary friends being "needed" – to overcome boredom and provide companionship or entertainment, to help express feelings and even for support during difficult times. Intrigued by the idea that imaginary friends have a purpose, I asked around – had anyone I know imagined one? I was surprised how often the answer was yes.Julie Mayhew's experience was the first on Majors' list, and her imaginary friends came in the form of siblings. "I was an only child and would watch my school friends fighting and bickering with their siblings, mesmerised by it. How could they be so angry with them one minute and laughing with them the next? It seemed so unpredictable and exciting. I wanted to experience that. So when I was about eight I created my own brothers and sisters."I had a much older brother, who was probably my favourite: level-headed and protective, though sometimes indifferent, which was annoying. I had an older sister who was nothing like me. I was a good, quiet girl – she was blonde and outrageous, always getting into dramas that I could tut and gasp at. Then I had a little sister, who was created more in my image. But I had to help do her homework – such a chore. I even went to the lengths of finding pictures of models in the Grattan and Littlewoods catalogues that looked most like how I imagined them and cutting them out."Lucy Inglis went down the television character route. "My imaginary friend was Zebedee. Growing up in an isolated village, there were no other girls my age to make friends with, so I suppose I invented my own. I was a huge fan of The Magic Roundabout and Zebedee was one of my first words. My mother soon realised I was holding extended conversations with a puppet on a spring as if he were really by my side, independent of the programme. We did everything together and, of course, if I did anything wrong, Zebedee was the real culprit. This lasted into the first year of school when, sadly, reality got in the way of an excellent friendship."It's no coincidence that the people keenest to tell me about their imaginary friends are women. According to Marjorie Taylor, of the University of Oregon and author of Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them, boys and girls are involved in imaginary play to the same extent, but while girls are likely to invent companions, boys tend to impersonate imaginary characters instead.Girls often create imaginary friends who need nurturing, but the characters impersonated by boys are often "super competent" and might be the embodiment of the child's own aspirations. I see this in my own children – Jake, five, is never happier than when he is "being" King Superman or a variation on this theme, while Phoebe, although only three, is showing a tendency towards smaller, invisible playmates who need to be looked after in some way.Catherine Doran's experience is typical of this. "My two imaginary friends, Jolene and Carly, sat on my left shoulder. I talked to them a lot in my head, telling them both what I was doing and my plans. Very often they became my conscience, too – I would talk over an idea with them and if it seemed like a bad one they would battle with each other about how to tell me – inevitably I listened. I think it made me a very good child."In the same way that her main character, Joseph, has to delve into the depths of family life to escape the "cosh", Sheehan turned detective to get to the bottom of her own recurring imaginary friend."I spoke to my mum, Pat. Realising that I was starting to sound like a sideshow clairvoyant, I asked if there was anyone in the family who died young whose name began with an A. She went quiet for a moment, then told me about her sister Annie.'Annie's heart had been irreparably damaged by rheumatic fever. The doctor would come and see her once a week and charge 1/6, which the family couldn't afford, but there was nothing they could do. Although she was laid up much of the time following her diagnosis, the charismatic Annie bossed the family around from her bed, and when things weren't going her way, she would grasp her chest and groan until they did. Annie died from heart failure aged 14. Those were the days before family therapy and grief counselling, and now that I have teenagers of my own I can't imagine the effect this would have had on my grandparents and their eight children."So there she was, my imaginary friend: Auntie Annie. I don't believe in ghosts, but I think children can recreate and embroider the story of someone who has gone before. That's why in Who Framed Klaris Cliff?, imaginary friends who have once been real people slip into children's heads while they're playing make believe. Annie's death marked my family so profoundly that her memory was passed on to the next generation."Sheehan's book is as thought-provoking as it is moving. When I put it down, I started thinking about Klas again. Was he a provider of entertainment and companionship? I don't think so: with a sister so close in age I had a playmate by my side all during my childhood. Was he an emotional support? Klas came and went as he pleased, and I didn't recall ever confiding in him. So maybe, like Sheehan's recurring imaginary friend, he was some kind of protective spirit. A dead ancestor? I looked over to ask my husband what he thought, but I didn't need to. There he was: a man, bearded, in his 30s (until fairly recently). Suddenly, I knew who Klas was.Reader, I married him.FamilyParents and parentingChildrenRelationshipsPsychologytheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Our Memory for Sounds is Worse Than Touch or Sight "I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember" --Chinese proverbOur memory for things we've seen or touched is much better than for what we've heard, a new study reveals. Continue reading - - > → Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"