I See Psychology… Everywhere

Wow, You Look Great! Are You Ovulating?

Interesting article here about some research suggesting that women look better–and put more effort into looking good–when they are ovulating.

A study of young college women showed they frequently wore more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelery when they were ovulating, as assessed by a panel of men and women looking at their photographs.

Although the finding makes sense, it also says a lot about the continuing influence of evolutionary factors in human behavior, even though most of us aren’t consciously contemplating our reproductive viability when we get dressed in the morning!


10 October 2006 Posted by | Evolutionary Psychology, Physiological | Leave a comment

Ok, So Does Weight Cause Cognitive Deficits?

Here‘s another article about predictors of cognitive deficits. Seems more weight is linked to poorer mental acumen. The headline is better than most, in that it doesn’t plead causality, but it still doesn’t clarify theory underlying the phenomenon, although some suggestions come up, and the author mentions a couple covariates that didn’t seem to explain what’s going on. Interesting stuff!

In general, the researchers found, people with a high body mass index (BMI) garnered lower test scores than those with a lower BMI. They also tended to show greater cognitive decline between the two test periods.

Factors such as age, education and general health did not seem to explain the link.

10 October 2006 Posted by | Cognitive, Research, Students | Leave a comment

Mark Foley Party Errors–Intentional or Schema-Based?

foxoreilly_markfoleydem_100306.jpgOne of the things my students and I frequently discuss is the extent to which discriminatory, erroneous, or otherwise unexpected behavior is intentional or not. I may be naive, but I tend to err on the side of assuming that most prejudice and the like are unintentional, or even unknown to the perpetrator.

Well, in the midst of the Mark Foley scandal, which obviously is ripe with psychology, some people with the stomach to watch Fox News noticed that the channel “erred” in labeling Foley as “D-FL.” The accurate tag, of course, would be “R-FL.” Nevertheless, this label remained for a while, and when it was corrected, unlike with CNN, which apparently briefly made the same mistake and announced the correction.

Now, the discounting principle would lead us to lend less credence to Fox’s potential argument of an innocent mistake. But if it was innocent, it may be that a conservative schema led producers (or whoever writes those descriptions) to act on the implicit belief that scandals are Democrat territory or that they were dissociating from Foley. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for the objectivity that most of us would like to see in the media!

via bradblog

6 October 2006 Posted by | Cognitive, Social | Leave a comment

Illusory Causality? “Teeth Improve Memory”

As I’ve noted before, I keep a collection of dubious causal claims, at least in terms of the headline. Here‘s another that caught my attention.

Well, there are multiple explanations for this odd-sounding claim.  The researchers claim that it’s the chewing process that brings blood to the brain, with obvious benefits.  Makes sense, but again, the headline doesn’t say that chewing improves memory.  So maybe the relationship is indirect.
Admitting that I haven’t read the original articles, there are a host of other possible explanations, depending upon the researchers’ techniques.  By the description in this pop press article, the study does not employ random assignment (seems a bit unethical to do such a thing), so the causal claim is a problem.  For example, my first reaction was that people with generally better health (i.e., nutrition, attention to healthy living) may experience better memory and better dental health.  Maybe genetics are the key, and those predisposed to suffer mental degradation are also predisposed to “dental degradation” if we can call it that.  Heck, it’s even possible that sugary foods, which we know contribute to tooth loss, also contribute to memory loss.

The point is that the researchers can’t rule that out, and although I’m confident that their article includes the relevant caveats, the press tends to simplify stories to make claims that the authors don’t intend.

Let’s repeat the mantra:  Correlation does not imply causation!

6 October 2006 Posted by | Research, Students | 1 Comment

“Vitamin K” (not the real one) May Help Chronic Depression

Hmm. Not sure it’s worth the potential side effects, but if I suffered from severe chronic depression I imagine I’d try just about anything. This trendy illegal drug, really called Ketamine, appears to work in different ways from traditional drugs that block serotonin reuptake. K “targets glutamate” (that’s according to the WaPo article, but they don’t quite explain what that means, and this isn’t an area I’m well versed in), leading to a belief that we might be able to create non-K drugs with less side effects to do the same thing. For now, NIMH, who funded the original study, is working on combating side effects and replicating.

Caution: The Post article is a little weird and rambling; maybe the writer is manic….

via BoingBoing

5 October 2006 Posted by | Clinical, Psychopharmacology | 1 Comment