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Current Directions in Psychological Science

Frederick Verbruggen
Many popular psychological accounts attribute adaptive human behavior to an "executive-control" system that regulates a lower-level "impulsive" or "associative" system. However, recent findings argue against this strictly hierarchical view. Instead, executive control of impulsive and inappropriate actions depends on an interplay between multiple basic cognitive processes. The outcome of these processes can be biased in advance. Executive-action control is also strongly influenced by personal experiences in the recent and distant past...
December 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Katie A McLaughlin, Margaret A Sheridan
Children who have experienced environmental adversity-such as abuse, neglect, or poverty-are more likely to develop physical and mental health problems, perform poorly at school, and have difficulties in social relationships than children who have not encountered adversity. What is less clear is how and why adverse early experiences exert such a profound influence on children's development. Identifying developmental processes that are disrupted by adverse early environments is the key to developing better intervention strategies for children who have experienced adversity...
August 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
J David Smith, Alexandria C Zakrzewski, Jennifer M Johnson, Jeanette C Valleau
Categorization's great debate has weighed single-system exemplar theory against the possibility of alternative processing systems. We take an evolutionary perspective toward this debate to illuminate it in a new way. Animals are crucial behavioral ambassadors to this area. They reveal the roots of human categorization, the basic assumptions of vertebrates entering category tasks, and the surprising weakness of exemplar memory as a category-learning strategy. These results have joined neuroscience results to prompt important changes in categorization theory...
August 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Joseph R Manns, David I Bass
The present review highlights results from recent studies that delivered brief electrical stimulation to the basolateral complex of the amygdala in rats to reveal its capacity to prioritize declarative memories on a moment-to-moment basis even after the moment has passed. The results indicate that this memory enhancement depends on the hippocampus and elicits intrahippocampal gamma synchrony that possibly corresponds with sharpened hippocampal spike-timing dependent plasticity. These recent findings are discussed in relation to past studies of emotional memory in rodents and humans...
August 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Bradley R Postle
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
June 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Christine A Caldwell, Mark Atkinson, Elizabeth Renner
In humans, cultural traditions often change in ways which increase efficiency and functionality. This process, widely referred to as cumulative cultural evolution, sees beneficial traits preferentially retained, and it is so pervasive that we may be inclined to take it for granted. However, directional change of this kind appears to distinguish human cultural traditions from behavioural traditions that have been documented in other animals. Cumulative culture is therefore attracting an increasing amount of attention within psychology, and researchers have begun to develop methods of studying this phenomenon under controlled conditions...
June 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Jonathan Koppel, David C Rubin
The reminiscence bump is the increased proportion of autobiographical memories from youth and early adulthood observed in adults over 40. It is one of the most robust findings in autobiographical memory research. Although described as a single period of increased memories, a recent meta-analysis which reported the beginning and ending ages of the bump from individual studies found that different classes of cues produce distinct bumps that vary in size and temporal location. The bump obtained in response to cue words is both smaller and located earlier in the lifespan than the bump obtained when important memories are requested...
April 1, 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Kristin A Buss, Meghan McDoniel
Pediatric anxiety disorders are among the most common disorders in children and adolescence resulting in both short-term and long-term negative consequences across a variety of domains including social and academic. Early fearful temperament has emerged as a strong predictor of anxiety development in childhood; however, not all fearful children become anxious. The current article summarizes theory and evidence for heterogeneity in the identification of temperamentally fearful children and trajectories of risk for anxiety...
February 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Diane Poulin-Dubois, Patricia Brosseau-Liard
The study of children's social learning is a topic of central importance to our understanding of human development. Learning from others allows children to acquire information efficiently; however, not all information conveyed by others is accurate or worth learning. A large body of research conducted over the past decade has shown that preschoolers learn selectively from some individuals over others. In the present article we summarize our work and that of others on the developmental origins of selective social learning during infancy...
February 1, 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
William Hirst, Elizabeth A Phelps
We review and analyze the key theories, debates, findings, and omissions of the existing literature on flashbulb memories (FBMs), including what factors affect their formation, retention, and degree of confidence. We argue that FBMs do not require special memory mechanisms and are best characterized as involving both forgetting and mnemonic distortions, despite a high level of confidence. Factual memories for FBM-inducing events generally follow a similar pattern. Although no necessary and sufficient factors straightforwardly account for FBM retention, media attention particularly shapes memory for the events themselves...
February 1, 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Clancy Blair
Executive function abilities, including working memory, inhibitory control, and the flexible volitional shifting of the focus of attention provide a foundation for reflection on experience, reasoning, and the purposeful regulation of behavior. These abilities and their underlying neurobiology, however, are inherently malleable and influenced by characteristics of individuals and contexts. Implications of this malleability for research on the development of executive function in early childhood, for the prospect that these abilities can be fostered and promoted by specific types of activities, and for issues relating to the reliable and valid measurement of executive function are considered...
February 1, 2016: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Roger Ratcliff, Philip L Smith, Gail McKoon
Diffusion models for simple two-choice decision-making have achieved prominence in psychology and neuroscience. The standard model views decision-making as a process in which noisy evidence is accumulated until one of the two response criteria is reached, at which point the associated response is made. The criteria represent the amount of evidence needed to make a decision and they reflect the decision maker's response biases and speed-accuracy trade-off settings. In this article, we review the regularities in experimental data that a model must explain...
December 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Valerie F Reyna, Rebecca B Weldon, Michael McCormick
Risky decision-making, especially in adolescence, is a major public health problem. However, fuzzy-trace theory suggests that bad outcomes are preventable by changing thinking, and, therefore, feelings, about risks. The theory aligns with new findings and has been shown to be effective in experiments on sexual risk-taking, medication adherence, and genetic testing. Despite the vulnerabilities of the adolescent brain, decision processes can be modified by applying evidence-based theory.
October 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Sebastiaan Mathôt, Stefan Van der Stigchel
The eye's pupils constrict (shrink) in brightness and dilate (expand) in darkness. The pupillary light response was historically considered a low-level reflex without any cognitive component. Here, we review recent studies that have dramatically changed this view: The light response depends not only on a stimulus's brightness but also on whether you are aware of the stimulus, whether you are paying attention to it, and even whether you are thinking about it. We highlight the link between the pupillary light response and eye-movement preparation: When you intend to look at a bright stimulus, a pupillary constriction is prepared along with the eye movement before the eyes set in motion...
October 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Michael J Beran
Cognitive control processes are a feature of human cognition. Recent comparative tests have shown that some nonhuman animals also might share aspects of cognitive control with humans. Two of the executive processes that constitute cognitive control are metacognition and self-control, and recent experiments with chimpanzees are described that demonstrate metacognitive monitoring and control when these animals engage in an information-seeking task. Chimpanzees also show strategic responding in a self-control task by exhibiting self-distraction as an aid to delay of gratification...
October 1, 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Patrik Sörqvist, John E Marsh
In this article, we outline our view of how concentration shields against distraction. We argue that higher levels of concentration make people less susceptible to distraction for two reasons. One reason is that the undesired processing of the background environment is reduced. For example, when people play a difficult video game, as opposed to an easy game, they are less likely to notice what people in the background are saying. The other reason is that the locus of attention becomes more steadfast. For example, when people are watching an entertaining episode of their favorite television series, as opposed to a less absorbing show, attention is less likely to be diverted away from the screen by a ringing telephone...
August 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Peter J Gianaros, Tor D Wager
Psychological stress is thought to arise from appraisal processes that ascribe threat-related meaning to experiences that tax or exceed our coping ability. Neuroimaging research indicates that these appraisal processes originate in brain systems that also control physiological stress reactions in the body. Separate lines of research in health psychology and behavioral medicine indicate that these physiological stress reactions confer risk for physical disease. Accordingly, integrative research that cuts across historically separated disciplines may help to define the brain-body pathways linking psychological stress to physical health...
August 1, 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Christopher F Chabris, James J Lee, David Cesarini, Daniel J Benjamin, David I Laibson
Behavior genetics is the study of the relationship between genetic variation and psychological traits. Turkheimer (2000) proposed "Three Laws of Behavior Genetics" based on empirical regularities observed in studies of twins and other kinships. On the basis of molecular studies that have measured DNA variation directly, we propose a Fourth Law of Behavior Genetics: "A typical human behavioral trait is associated with very many genetic variants, each of which accounts for a very small percentage of the behavioral variability...
July 1, 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Nathalie N Bélanger, Keith Rayner
Levels of illiteracy in the deaf populations around the world have been extremely high for decades and much higher than the illiteracy levels found in the general population. Research has mostly focused on deaf readers' difficulties rather than on their strengths, which can then inform reading education. Deaf readers are a unique population. They process language and the world surrounding them mostly via the visual channel and this greatly affects how they read or might learn to read. The study of eye movements in reading provides highly sophisticated information about how words and sentences are processed and our research with deaf readers reveals the importance of their uniqueness...
June 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
James A Shepperd, Erika Waters, Neil D Weinstein, William M P Klein
People display unrealistic optimism in their predictions for countless events, believing that their personal future outcomes will be more desirable than can possibly be true. We summarize the vast literature on unrealistic optimism by focusing on four broad questions: What is unrealistic optimism; when does it occur; why does it occur; and what are its consequences.
June 2015: Current Directions in Psychological Science
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