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Current Directions in Psychological Science

Ken A Paller
Neuroscientific insights into learning and memory have mostly concerned input and output, but intervening processing during the time between acquisition and retrieval is also critical. Indeed, intervening memory reactivation may regulate memory longevity, and a growing body of evidence implicates sleep in changing memory storage. For example, subtle auditory stimulation can be used experimentally to selectively encourage memory reactivation during sleep, which thereby improves learning. Much remains to be elucidated about how learning depends on sleep...
December 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Karen M Douglas, Robbie M Sutton, Aleksandra Cichocka
What psychological factors drive the popularity of conspiracy theories, which explain important events as secret plots by powerful and malevolent groups? What are the psychological consequences of adopting these theories? We review the current research and find that it answers the first of these questions more thoroughly than the second. Belief in conspiracy theories appears to be driven by motives that can be characterized as epistemic (understanding one's environment), existential (being safe and in control of one's environment), and social (maintaining a positive image of the self and the social group)...
December 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Giovanni Sala, Fernand Gobet
Chess masters and expert musicians appear to be, on average, more intelligent than the general population. Some researchers have thus claimed that playing chess or learning music enhances children's cognitive abilities and academic attainment. We here present two meta-analyses assessing the effect of chess and music instruction on children's cognitive and academic skills. A third meta-analysis evaluated the effects of working memory training-a cognitive skill correlated with music and chess expertise-on the same variables...
December 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Amie M Gordon, Wendy Berry Mendes, Aric A Prather
Sleep problems have become a public health epidemic with recent data suggesting that over 69% of US adults get less sleep than they need. Despite the important role that sleep plays in our lives, sleep as a variable of interest in interpersonal processes has been historically absent from the psychological literature. Recently, however, researchers have shed some light on the link between sleep and a wide array of social processes. This work illuminates the important role that sleep plays in our social experiences, from basic social perception to complex social interactions...
October 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Tyler J VanderWeele
Participation in religious services is associated with numerous aspects of human flourishing, including happiness and life satisfaction, mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, and close social relationships. Evidence for the effects of religious communities on these flourishing outcomes now comes from rigorous longitudinal study designs with extensive confounding control. The associations with flourishing are much stronger for communal religious participation than for spiritual-religious identity or for private practices...
October 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Jeffrey J Lockman, Björn A Kahrs
If tool use requires higher-level cognitive abilities, how is it that many animals show the capacity to use tools? New research on the development of human tool use offers a way to resolve this paradox. The research suggests that there is a developmental synergy between affordance detection and motor learning: As juveniles continually explore affordances entailed by object-surface combinations in real time, they tune the actions that will be incorporated into tool use over developmental time. We illustrate these ideas with research on how object banging in infancy serves as the motor substrate for later developing percussive tool use...
August 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Raj Ratwani
Healthcare is undergoing an unprecedented technology transition from paper medical records to electronic health records (EHRs). While the adoption of EHRs holds tremendous promise for improving efficiency, quality and safety, there have been numerous challenges that have been largely centered on the technology not meeting the cognitive needs of the clinical end-users. Clinicians are experiencing increased stress and frustration, and new safety hazards have been introduced. There is a significant opportunity for applied psychologists to address many of these challenges...
August 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Aleix M Martinez
Faces are one of the most important means of communication in humans. For example, a short glance at a person's face provides information on identity and emotional state. What are the computations the brain uses to solve these problems so accurately and seemingly effortlessly? This article summarizes current research on computational modeling, a technique used to answer this question. Specifically, my research studies the hypothesis that this algorithm is tasked to solve the inverse problem of production. For example, to recognize identity, our brain needs to identify shape and shading image features that are invariant to facial expression, pose and illumination...
June 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Ralph Adolphs, Anita Tusche
In this review we ask how looking at people's faces can influence prosocial behaviors towards them. Components of this process have often been studied by disparate literatures: one focused on perception and judgment of faces, using both psychological and neuroscience approaches; and a second focused on actual social behaviors, as studied in behavioral economics and decision science. Bridging these disciplines requires a more mechanistic account of how processing of particular face attributes or features influences social judgments and behaviors...
June 1, 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Kang Lee, Paul C Quinn, Olivier Pascalis
Infants have asymmetrical exposure to different types of faces (e.g., more human than other-species, more female than male, and more own-race than other-race). What are the developmental consequences of such experiential asymmetry? Here we review recent advances in research on the development of cross-race face processing. The evidence suggests that greater exposure to own- than other-race faces in infancy leads to developmentally early perceptual differences in visual preference, recognition, category formation, and scanning of own- and other-race faces...
June 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Leslie A Zebrowitz
Although cultural wisdom warns 'don't judge a book by its cover,' we seem unable to inhibit this tendency even though it can produce inaccurate impressions of people's psychological traits and has significant social consequences. One explanation for this paradox is that first impressions of faces overgeneralize our adaptive impressions of categories of people that those faces resemble (including babies, familiar or unfamiliar people, unfit people, emotional people). Research testing these 'overgeneralization' hypotheses elucidates why we form first impressions from faces, what impressions we form, and what cues influence these impressions...
June 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Matthias R Mehl
This article reviews the Electronically Activated Recorder or EAR as an ambulatory ecological momentary assessment tool for the real-world observation of daily behavior. Technically, the EAR is an audio recorder that intermittently records snippets of ambient sounds while participants go about their lives. Conceptually, it is a naturalistic observation method that yields an acoustic log of a person's day as it unfolds. The power of the EAR lies in unobtrusively collecting authentic real-life observational data...
April 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Xiaoqing Hu, Zara M Bergström, Pierre Gagnepain, Michael C Anderson
The ability to control unwanted memories is critical for maintaining cognitive function and mental health. Prior research has shown that suppressing the retrieval of unwanted memories impairs their retention, as measured using intentional (direct) memory tests. Here, we review emerging evidence revealing that retrieval suppression can also reduce the unintended influence of suppressed traces. In particular, retrieval suppression (a) gradually diminishes the tendency for memories to intrude into awareness and (b) reduces memories' unintended expressions on indirect memory tests...
April 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Richard B Slatcher, Emre Selcuk
The association between the quality of people's close relationships and their physical health is well-established. But from a psychological perspective, how do close relationships impact physical health? This article summarizes recent work seeking to identify the relationship processes, psychological mediators and moderators of the links between close relationships and health, with an emphasis on studies of married and cohabitating couples. We begin with a brief review of a recent meta-analysis of the links between marital quality and health...
February 2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Lucy C Erickson, Rochelle S Newman
The goal of this review is to provide a high-level, selected overview of the consequences of background noise on health, perception, cognition, and learning during early development, with a specific focus on how noise may impair speech comprehension and language learning (e.g., via masking). Although much of the existing literature has focused on adults, research shows that infants and young children are relatively disadvantaged at listening in noise. Consequently, a major goal is to consider how background noise may affect young children, who must learn and develop language in noisy environments despite being simultaneously less equipped to do so...
2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Elliot T Berkman, Cendri A Hutcherson, Jordan L Livingston, Lauren E Kahn, Michael Inzlicht
Self-control is often conceived as a battle between "hot" impulsive processes and "cold" deliberative ones. Heeding the angel on one shoulder leads to success; following the demon on the other leads to failure. Self-control feels like a duality. What if that sensation is misleading, and, despite how they feel, self-control decisions are just like any other choice? We argue that self-control is a form of value-based choice wherein options are assigned a subjective value and a decision is made through a dynamic integration process...
2017: Current Directions in Psychological Science
Jamie Arndt, Jamie L Goldenberg
This paper offers an integrative understanding of the intersection between "health" and "death" from the perspective of the terror management health model. After highlighting the potential for health-related situations to elicit concerns about mortality, we turn to the question, how do thoughts of death influence health decision-making? Across varied health domains, the answer depends on whether these cognitions are in conscious awareness or not. When mortality concerns are conscious, people engage in healthy intentions and behavior if efficacy and coping resources are present...
2017: 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
Ádám Miklósi, Enikő Kubinyi
Dogs have occupied a central place in modern comparative cognition, partly because of their specific past and present relationship with humans. Over the years, we have gained insights about the functioning of the dog's mind, which has helped us to understand how dogs' problem-solving abilities differ from those present in related species such as the wolf. Novel methodologies are also emerging that allow for the study of neural and genetic mechanisms that control mental functions. By providing an overview from an ethological perspective, we call for greater integration of the field and a better understanding of natural dog behavior as a way to generate scientific hypotheses...
October 1, 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
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