Students Researchers Present at Eastern Psychological Association Conference

Over spring break 12 students presented their research at the 86th Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Philadelphia, PA.

BRITTANY WINDUS, HANNAH MCGRATH: DELAY DISCOUNTING AS AN OVERLAPPING COGNITIVE MECHANISM OF DEPRESSION AND OBESITY*

This study tested the extent to which “self-control,” measured using a delay to gratification (DTG) task is co-related to BMI and Depression diagnostic thresholds. Participants completed a DTG task by choosing between one small immediate reward and one successively larger delayed reward with indifference points calculated; BMI, HAMD, and sex were also recorded. Results suggest that reduced cognitive affective self-control for impulsive food choices may be a shared cognitive mechanism for depression and obesity. 
 

ELIZABETH DICKINSON: SELF-CONTROL VARIES BY EATING ATTITUDES, SEX, AND FOOD TYPE AMONG DIVISION I COLLEGIATE ATHLETES*

This study tested how disordered eating attitudes and sex of collegiate athletes are related to “self control” of food choice. 102 athletes completed a delay to gratification (DTG) task by choosing between one small immediate reward and one successively larger delayed reward with indifference points calculated. Results showed that female athletes had greater self-control than male athletes for high-calorie and sweet-tasting foods; for males, those with higher disordered eating attitudes had greater self-control. 

KAYLA CUIFOLO, QUENTIN KING-SHEPARD: EFFECTS OF USING FOODS AND FOOD IMAGES TO ENHANCE POSITIVE MOOD.*

The hypothesis that eating a small portion of food will sustain a positive mood increase after viewing foods/food images was tested. Mood was measured at baseline, 5-min, and 10-min while participants viewed a food or an image of a food. Results showed positive mood change in all groups at 5-min. For groups who viewed an actual food, only when participants were allowed to eat a small portion at 5-min did mood remain positive at 10-min. 


CAITLIN J BROWN: EMOLABELING AS A STRATEGY TO EFFECTIVELY REDUCE THE INFLUENCE OF MISLEADING LABELING ON NUTRITION LABELS*

A counterbalanced within-subjects experimental design was used to test if emolabeling, the use of emoticons to convey health information, will protect consumers against misleading labeling. Grocery store shoppers were shown nutrition labels for a low and high calorie food with/without emolabels, and with/without a misleading label. Results show that emolabels reduced the effectiveness of misleading labels: participants rated the LC food as healthier and the HC food as less healthy when emolabels were added. 

TIMOTHY PARKS, MONICA YALAMANCHILI: EFFECTS OF PRESSURE ON RETRIEVAL PRACTICE: USING LEADERBOARDS TO INDUCE PRESSURE+ 

Retrieval practice is a powerful way to improve memory. However, little is known about the effects of pressure on retrieval practice and long-term retention. In this experiment subjects were placed on a leaderboard after recall to induce pressure during retrieval practice. Their anxiety was measured after retrieval and their long-term retention was measured via a final recall test two days later.

AUDREY JEANNE MOORADIAN, TIMOTHY PARKS: HOW DOES PRESSURE AFFECT RETRIEVAL PRACTICE?+

Repeated testing improves later retention, a phenomenon called the Testing Effect. It is often recommended that teachers test frequently. However, frequent testing in the classroom may lead to increased pressure and anxiety, which have been found tonegatively affect performance. In this experiment we manipulated pressure during repeated testing and examined its effects on final recall. While the pressure conditions performed better on average, the difference was not significant. Pressure did not negatively affect performance.

CHRISTOPHER RUSSO: CAN CLOSENESS ESTABLISHED EXPERIMENTALLY IMPACT FRIENDSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND HOMESICKNESS**

Using Aron, et al. (1997) manipulation of interpersonal closeness, the present research examined the impact of experimentally induced closeness (high vs. low) between two unacquainted college classmates (n = 32) on feelings of closeness and homesickness both immediately following the manipulation and approximately one month later. Participants in the high closeness condition reported feeling significantly closer to their partner immediately following the manipulation. No other significant effects resulted.

MONICA YALAMANCHILI: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ACADEMIC ENTITLEMENT AND FORGIVENESS++

Academic Entitlement (AE) has been found to be moderately correlated with narcissism. Mixed results indicate a generally negative correlation between narcissism and forgiveness. The current study investigated the relationship between AE and forgiveness. Three types of forgiveness were measured: others, situation, and self. Hypotheses predicted negative correlations between AE and forgiveness of others and situation and a positive correlation for forgiveness of self. Results indicate a negative correlation.

CASSANDRA FEARING, BRIELLE CORNELIUS, AMY ROEMER : PROMOTION OF EDIBLE INSECT EATING THROUGH NORM MANIPULATION AND MODELING**

The present study examined the impact of norms (injunctive vs. descriptive) and model (present vs. absent) on college students (n = 52) willingness to try cookie pieces made with insect flour and attitudes toward eating insects. College students in the injunctive norm model present condition ate significantly more cookie pieces than participants in any of the other groups. Students in the injunctive (vs. descriptive) norm condition expressed significantly more positive attitudes toward eating insects.

PAIGE GIAMMUSSO, FARIS ZURAIKAT: ATTITUDES TOWARD CHEATING: THE RELATIONSHIP WITH ACADEMIC ENTITLEMENT++  

Prior research has found relationships between narcissism and academic dishonesty. More recent research supports a moderate relationship between academic entitlement (AE) and narcissism. The current study predicted a relationship between AE and attitudes regarding academic dishonesty. Correlational analyses indicated that higher levels of AE were related to having more ‘permissive’ or positive views of what defines cheating. This finding provides important insight into the relationship between attitudes toward cheating and personality.

GREGORY BYRNE, KATHRYN WINTERBURN: AN INVESTIGATION OF COLLEGE STUDENTS' ATTITUDES TOWARDS TATTOOED MODELS.**

We examined how college students’ (n = 53 ) attitudes regarding a model’s ability to serve as a representative for their university were impacted by the presence of a tattoo. Participants viewed photos of 8 students, which include the target, a female college student, shown either with or without a tattoo, and asked to rate each photo on several dimensions. The target without the tattoo was rated as a significantly more desirable representative of the university.
*Under the direction of Dr. Gregory Privitera 
+Under the direction of Dr. Althea Bauernschmidt
**Under the direction of Dr. Robin Valeri
++Under the direction of Dr. Stephanie Vogel
 

Do Academic Settings Stifle Our Creativity? - Cog Blog by Indu Seeni

          Problem Solving is a skill that applies  to every person, as it is a necessary day-to-day skill. Throughout our lives, we are faced with complex situations that leave us at a standstill. The pipe could burst in the bathroom. We can get in a car accident. We don’t know an answer to a test. In each of these situations, we may not know what to do, as we may have never gotten into that exact crisis or faced that exact problem before. How do we then proceed?

            From a young age, our teachers and parents encourage us not to be discouraged when we are stumped by a novel situation. Rather, we must work through it. But do we know how? Many people complain that academic settings stifle our creativity and ability to problem solve as a result of an unnecessary focus on memorization. Furthermore, people complain that schools should encourage problem-based learning rather than a sheer accumulation of facts. In my opinion, these complaints have some truth, in that schools should be focusing on teaching students how to problem-solve rather than memorize. However, often even when that is the goal of classes, students can misunderstand a course’s intentions.

            School is not just about the academics and making our brains a storage house of information. Many of the classes that I have taken, organic chemistry for example, have no use for me as a person striving to enter a health profession. However, the class is a requirement for all medical schools. Why? Is it simply to make our lives as students miserable? Probably not. Organic chemistry frequently requires a holistic understanding of material. Solving an organic chemistry problem mandates many things.  It requires creativity and that we come into the habit of thinking outside of the box. It requires that we practice and practice in order for our minds to recognize patterns. It requires that we apply bits of information we learned in different contexts to piece together the solution to a novel problem.

            In order to become adept at problem-solving, often we must merely overcome mindsets and one-tracked thinking. As discussed in class, functional fixedness, or looking at objects as only having the use that they were intended to have, is inhibiting. Being an effective problem-solver requires that we have an open-mind. We must be able to think of a variety of potential solutions, rather than zoning in on a singular one. It is only when we evaluate several possibilities that we can ultimately come across the ideal solution. It is rare to discover the best solution immediately, especially when it is the only solution thought of.

            In the academic setting at Bonas, I believe that students are encouraged to take a problem-solving approach to school. At Bonas, students are all required to take CLAR courses, many of which have a philosophical basis. In these classes, we are not only required to learn material, but be able to apply various schools of thoughts to contemporary situations that challenge us. Classes such as these also encourage us to think of situations in the past and see how those issues can still be relevant in modern society, despite the drastic changes that have occurred over the centuries. Learning such as this encourage students to develop a problem-solving skill involving analogous situations. With this skill, individuals are able to solve a problem by comparing it to a different but conceptually similar problem they encountered before. 

            Overall, I believe that academic settings do not necessarily stifle our creativity. Though we are encouraged to learn material, the ultimate goal is train our minds to be adapting and creative. Classes are not meant to make us memorize but develop problem-solving skills. In Orgo, we have to practice problems in order to develop a mindset that can relate a variety of problems we encountered before. In philosophical classes, we must be able to inquire into and analyze a situation thoroughly. Schools should not focus on teaching students solutions to textbook problems, to which there is only one solution; instead, schools should prepare students for the real world, in which we will be faced with novel situations, and utilize our problem-solving skills to find the resolution. 

Heuristics - Cog Blog by Steve Carcaterro

            Recently in my cognition class, we have been talking about many variables in regards to problem solving, decision-making, and judgments.  What I want to reflect on is judgments and decision-making in our everyday life and how we can improve these skills as well.  Some important things to I’d like to focus on when dealing with these topics are relevant and irrelevant information, factors that affect judgments, and heuristics. 

             Making judgments and decision-making relates in my everyday life because everyday you make judgments and decisions that affect your life.  So if you can learn how to makes the best choices more often then not, then you can improve your quality of life vastly.  The first thing you want to do in life is try to only focus on the relevant information and not to worry about the irrelevant information.  This is obviously common sense but when you are in the heat of the moment you sometimes can get caught up on things that aren’t relevant and I can definitely say this happens to me time to time. This insight is now helping me because I feel that I am more aware then before.  I definitely notice the biggest difference when I am studying for important tests.

            When looking at heuristics, I found this particularly interesting and engaging.   Probably because we talked about how this plays a role in sports and being an athlete myself, it caught my attention right away.  In class we defined heuristics as “Mental shortcuts that do not take into account all possible relevant information needed to make a perfectly accurate judgment.” Why we use heuristics is because it can lead us to an answer much faster and more efficiently.  It is less demanding on our cognitive resources. When looking at heuristics, the concept of regression to the mean is really important and is something that I can relate to best. Regression to the mean is when extreme scores (extremely good or extremely bad) will tend to be less extreme.  In class we looked at an example with Kobe Bryant and his 2005-2006-basketball season.  He had some really good scores and some really low scores but overall he scored 35.4 points on average.  I can relate to this because throughout the soccer seasons I would occasionally play a really good game or really poor game. But the next game I would always bounce back to a more average performance and this is the same for Kobe in his season.  Another thing I found really interesting was learning about the hot hand phenomenon and how it is just an illusion. I’ve been this person before in sports when ill be playing really well and the coach will tell my teammates to pass me the ball as much as possible. So now knowing this, If I’m playing well and my coach tells the team to pass me the ball more, I’ll correct him and tell him that’s a bad idea because my performance will most likely drop to a more average one.  Then ill probably have lower self-esteem.  So thanks heuristics…

If we can control our dreams, what else can we control? - Cog Blog by Gregg Byrne

         Metacognition is a broad topic in cognitive psychology.  It can be defined as ones knowledge and beliefs about their own cognitive processes.  Thinking about how it can relate to current events or a cultural phenomenon in our daily lives is exciting to me.  When I started to do some background research on metacognition I came across some interesting articles.  An articles posted in Science Daily in January 2015 titled, “Lucid dreams and metacognition: Awareness of thinking; awareness of dreaming” really stood out to me.  I had heard about lucid dreams in high school.  A kid on my swim team claimed he knew how to lucid dream, and had multiple lucid dreams a year.  A lucid dream has many confusing and ill-defined boundaries and descriptions.  A lucid dream is defined as a dream state in which one is conscious enough to recognize that one is in the dream state and which stays in one’s memory.  In simpler words lucid dreaming is when someone is dreaming and is aware that they are dreaming and can remember the whole dream.

            After hearing people talk about it a couple years ago, I began to become interested in seeing if it was an actual thing or if people just lied about it; I even read short articles online about what our dreams may mean.  What I found was impressive.  In the article stated above, researchers in Germany found that there are some biological and cognitive differences in people who can and cannot lucid dream.  Their research states “Accordingly, the anterior prefrontal cortex, i.e., the brain area controlling conscious cognitive processes and playing an important role in the capability of self-reflection, is larger in lucid dreamers.This theory is supported by brain images taken when test persons were solving metacognitive tests while being awake. Those images show that the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex was higher in lucid dreamers.”  I believe this is an extremely relevant phenomenon in our society because dream studies are becoming more popular and informative.

            Once I started to realize how similar these topics actually are I began to question why more studies like this haven’t happened.  I tried to find as much research connecting these two topics but only came up with a couple results, all happening within the past year or so.  I believe the connection between metacognition and lucid dreaming is relevant to our society for many reasons.  One reason is that it can simply help us understand metacognition better.  If you can train yourself to have a lucid dream, and realize that you are dreaming and control that, then maybe it can give us more insight into how people know and remember certain things better than others.  An example of this would be the chart we reviewed in class.  It states how there is some stuff we know we know, there is stuff we know we do not know, and stuff you think you don’t know but know.  Normal dreams would fall under stuff you think you know, but you do not.  You know you had a dream and maybe little information, but usually not the whole story.  But, for lucid dreams, you know you know exactly what happened the whole time and you know it wasn’t reality.  Another, is that it can help understand how influencial cue’s are.  To learn how to become a lucid dreamer, one must often teach themselves by making cues and practicing them all day.  Examples of some cues practiced by lucid dreamers are pinching themselves, studying their palms, and telling themselves throughout the day “this is a dream, not reality.”  They do this so that when they are dreaming that can preform the cues to then realize that they are in fact dreaming and not in reality.  Thus, this can help show us how valid cue utilization is.

            Lucid dreaming is incredibly unique and the fact that only small amount of people are naturally able to do them is amazing.  Teaching ourselves how to preform unique tasks like this can go a long way for research not only in cognition, but also across all of the sciences. 

​How many rights have we wronged? - Cog Blog by Robert Russell

            Eyewitness Lineups are the most commonly used technique to put away bad guys. But what happens when our memory fails us and the legal system ends up putting away the wrong guy. How do you apologize to an innocent person that you have locked up in jail for multiple years? It is a true possibility that being incarcerated has ruined their lives; their families could have left them, they were probably fired from their jobs, and they could have been evicted from their homes.

            In no way am I saying that we should not lock up bad guys. I am very much for the legal system and bringing justice to those who are unjust. My concern though is when we start locking up bad guys based on memory and eyewitness testimonies alone. After learning about eyewitness lineup procedures, I was speaking with a friend about it and they said in a philosophy class they had, the professor had a random person come running into their class half way through, say some words, do a little dance and then left. The professor at the end of class asked them to write down everything they remember about the event and turn it in. Then next class he started with the same question and asked the students to write down and turn in everything they remember about the event. My friend said the variation between what everyone said was huge. She was shocked that everyone that saw the same event had such a different memory of what actually happened. This is evidence that are memory is not an exact replica of the past but rather a constant constructive process.

            So back to my question. If memory is not an exact replica of the past how do we get a credible eyewitness testimony? The good news is, this is already being worked on and improved every day. I would say one of the largest ways we are making things better is technology. Every day the people who do DNA tests are improving their capabilities to detect and identify DNA at a crime scene. That plus the fact that the amount of cameras, and the quality of the images, are always improving and growing will provide the best case scenario to get the right bad guy and put him away. More and more businesses and even police officers are now wearing cameras to capture everything and have an undisputable image. Cameras can remember a lot more accurate than humans can. Now on the memory side of it, the legal system can use better methods to run eyewitness lineups. They can make it a double blind procedure so the person running the eye witness doesn’t even know if a suspect is in the lineup. They can also tell the victim that the culprit may or may not be present in the lineup. Then you can also have them do a sequential lineup instead of a simultaneous lineup. You can have the victim tell a sketch artist everything they remember about the culprit then one at a time bring in the lineup “suspects”. Each person the victim should describe why they are right or wrong, this would cause the victim to think more deeply about the culprit and hopefully increase the number of correct IDs.

            This even relates to the recent outbreaks of accusations against law enforcement officers who choose to use deadly force. Some people who were eyewitnesses say that the officer had no other choice and they were being attacked, while other witnesses say the “victim” was walking away and were shot ruthlessly in the back. Unfortunately there are only about two people who really know what happened and that is the officer and the victim. Again this is where technology comes into play, most police officers are starting to be required to wear cameras. This is to ensure everyone’s safety. This is to protect police officers who were just doing their job as well as innocent people who were a victim of police brutality. A camera does record exactly what happened whereas a person only has a reconstructive image of what happened. This is the best and most accurate solution to avoid this eyewitness lineup issue.

            All of the eyewitness lineup procedures show us that memory can fail us and it is not an identical replica of the past. Our memory can be easily influenced and is already trying to reconstruct things. We can improve the number of correct IDs by being careful with the way we run lineups, the only way to make them close to perfect however is technology. DNA testing as well as more camera that video record the event itself. They also sell some defensive pens where you stab the person who is attacking you and it collects some of their DNA right in the pen. 

Rodent recall: False but happy memories - Cog Blog by Brittany Windus

Memory is one of the many wonders of the brain. Our memories are usually formed from past experiences and can last for mere seconds in short term memory or years and years in long term memory. One thing that is really interesting about memory is the concept of false memories. False memories are events or things that we think we know and truly believe to be true, but they are actually untrue or never happened. A recent article by Hannah Devlin titled “Rodent recall: false but happy memories implanted in sleeping mice” discusses new research led by Karim Benchenane at CRNS in Paris takes the idea of false memories to a whole new place while working on mice. Benchenane and the other researchers performed a study involving memory manipulation in sleeping mice. They successfully created false, happy memories in the mice (Devlin, 2015). 

During the study, researchers wrote false positive memories about a particular place in the animal’s memory, which caused the animal to try to find this place after waking up to receive a positive reward. This is the first evidence showing that false positive emotional memory can be manipulated. This could lead to treatments for depression and painful memories. Benchenane and the other researchers hope to use these findings in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (Devlin, 2015).

To perform this experiment, the researchers implanted an electrode in the hippocampus, which is the memory center of the brain and another in the brain’s reward center. In the brains of mice and humans, place cells map out our surrounding environment. These place cells light up as we move, so the scientists were able to pick a specific place cell neuron and figure out which location it related to in reality as the mouse walked around. Mice replay this place cell activity while sleeping, reenacting where they were when awake. The researchers cleverly set up the electrodes to deliver a reward simulation in the second electrode whenever the first electrode, located at the target place cell, became activated. The memory of this place was originally known to the mice as neutral, but during sleep they learned to relate it to something positive occurring, a false memory (Devlin, 2015).

This study gives evidence that the factual and emotional content of our memories are stored in different parts of the brain, but can be changed independently. The results could lead to memory manipulation in humans in the future (Devlin, 2015).

This article by Hannah Devlin is extremely interesting. The research she discussed led by Karim Benchenane is groundbreaking and important and could lead to many important clinical applications. Although I enjoyed the article, I did find some faults with it. Devlin should have added more specific details about the research itself. She did not include any specific statistics or any participant numbers about the mice. She could have also added information about the area where the experiment occurred. I wanted to know what the locations looked like that the mice were going to. I have a few suggestions for the research itself as well. First and most obvious I would recommend replication. Replication is the best way to support the information discovered in the original study. Another suggestion I have for this study would be to do an additional study to further the possible clinical applications. In this new study I would place an electrode on a location spot in the brain that the mice already have negative feelings for (like a person would already have negative feelings in depression). Next, I would generate the false positive memories with the second electrode like in the original study. I would do this second experiment to see if the false positive memories can replace the negative ones instead of just implanting false positive memories where neutral memories once were. This would give stronger evidence for clinical applications in people with negative feelings. Overall, the article and the study were novel and interesting.

Calling all "Brain Nerds"!

While listening to NPR yesterday, I heard about a fascinating line of research into the cerebellum.  Now, when I was learning about the cerebellum, we thought it was primarily for balance and coordination of movement.  The cerebellum isn't responsible for you actually moving your muscles (that's the motor cortex of the frontal lobe with 'directions' coming from the prefrontal lobe and other areas of the brain) but it IS responsible for allowing you to move them in a smooth, coordinated way - not in a clumsy way.  (hmmm.... maybe I have a cerebellar problem)  The cerebellum is also one of the first parts of the brain to be affected by alcohol which is why sobriety tests involve balance and coordination tasks.  Anyway, this was what neuroscientists have thought was the primary function of the cerebellum for years.

New research is finding that the cerebellum has OTHER functions as well.  Functions that are related to thinking and emotions.  In fact, it appears that the cerebellum helps to smooth and coordinate thoughts, reasoning, and emotions as well!  Reaction time (cognitive function), emotional complexity, understanding social cues...  all are related to cerebellar function.  Some researchers even suggest that some of the symptoms seen in autism and schizophrenia are directly tied to cerebellar dysfunction.  Very, very cool.  But I'm a geek. :)

If you're interested in the NPR report, here are the links.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/03/16/392789753/a-man-s-incomplete-brain-reveals-cerebellum-s-role-in-thought-and-emotion

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/03/16/393351760/clues-to-autism-schizophrenia-emerge-from-cerebellum-research

Ummm...tell me...is that food? Dietary restriction affects social learning...in some strange ways.

One of the cool things about being a member of an omnivorous species is that we eat lots of different stuff...oranges, porkchops, squash, strawberries, beef, apples, asparagus, salmon, portobella mushrooms, chocolate, coffee, mangoes...all those yummy flavors! On the down side, how do you know what will nourish you and what will kill you (death cap mushroom...'nuff said).

Well, part of the answer for humans and Norway rats is culture. We, rats included, can learn from other members of our species what foods are safe to eat. Aren't you much more like to try a totally new food when someone who usually eats it shares it with you rather than you trying it alone? So that's one major benefit of social life for an omnivorous species like rats and humans. Food is less likely to kill you. Now before you say anything, we have a lot in common with Norway rats! They live in groups. They eat our discarded, dropped, or still growing food. They have hitched their evolutionary wagon to ours and occupy the same parts of the planet that we do. We've inadvertently brought them with us.

But what if you are a non-social omnivore like a Syrian hamster? (They tend to live alone in the underground burrows.) How do you learn what is safe to eat? And, social or non-social, if you have a deficit in a nutrient, does that affect what you learn from others about food or affect what you do with the information that you learn? So we don't always have to rely on others. Turns out, however, that theoretical work on the evolution of social learning and use of public information lead to the same predictions to be tested: organisms should learn socially when it's the lest costly or less difficult way to learn as opposed to learning first-hand by sampling some unfamiliar food.

These predictions were tesetd in a study that I did with two students who worked in my lab, Max Wallace and Anne Young. After presenting the results at the annual conference of the Animal Behavior Society, we published a paper. To find out some answers, you can check out that paper here:

http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=52842

or just download it directly here:

http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jbbs.2014.412056