Deeply ingrained stereotypes like “girls can’t do math” tend to make people underperform. It’s an effect known as stereotype threat, which arises when people fear that they’ll confirm a negative stereotype about their group. Negative stereotypes about testing can lead to lower scores on standardized tests like the SAT and GRE. Yet that stereotype threat can also motivate students to score higher than their socially privileged peers, according to a forthcoming study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. With a subtle change to the format of a math test, the psychologists showed how students can reverse stereotype threat’s effect. Read more at NOVA Next.
posted November 3, 2015 at 12:46 pm
posted September 30, 2015 at 3:39 pm
Scientists disagree over whether a brain implant for treating the most depressed patients is ready for clinical testing.
One research group, led by Emory psychiatry professor Helen Mayberg, experimented with thirty patients who had developed a major depressive disorder unresponsive to Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments such as medication, counseling, and electroconvulsive therapy. Full Article »
posted February 5, 2015 at 12:14 pm
If you’ve ever been around a preschooler, you’re familiar with their incessant questions. It can be tempting to brush them off with a “Because I said so,” but new research shows that can hurt your credibility.
Five-year-olds and even three-year-olds can tell the difference between poor explanations and those that provide new information. Not only do they prefer the explanations with new information, they also use explanation quality to decide who is a good source of information later, according to research by Kathleen Corriveau and Katelyn Kurkul of Boston University. “It shows not only that they can tell that an explanation is kind of bogus, but they can also tell: this guy gives bogus explanations and I’m not going to listen to him in the future,” says Hugo Mercier, a cognitive scientist at the University of Neuchatel who was not involved in the study. Full Article »
posted December 17, 2014 at 1:03 pm
Like a footprint in wet concrete, the first language a baby hears makes an impression that lasts for years, regardless of what follows. Later, children even as old as ten who are adopted or immigrate can completely forget their first language. But even if they do not consciously remember their mother tongue, their brains retain its traces, according to a study published this week in PNAS, led by Lara Pierce of McGill University. Full Article »
posted May 8, 2014 at 4:40 pm
I sat in a chair across from the hospital bed, watching each shallow breath shrug its way out, into, and out of my grandfather’s chest. The amount of time between the conclusion of one breath and the start of the next one was just long enough that my eyes constantly flicked up to the monitor to make sure his heart was still beating. A stroke had paralyzed his right side from the shoulder down and severely impaired his ability to speak, and at 96 years old, he was already in less than peak condition. Full Article »
posted April 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm
My father says now that he knew as early as his teenage years that he couldn’t feel for other people. The son of a small-town pastor, he couldn’t manufacture tears at funerals, surrounded by the weeping members of his community. Usually, he faked the appropriate emotion well enough to keep up the charade.
He held me as an infant, small enough to fit between the crook of his elbow and the tips of his fingers, and squeezed my leg as I wailed, not shifting his position, unable to figure out that he was applying pressure directly where I had just had my vaccinations. After a middle school orchestra concert, he asked if I thought I had played well enough to deserve a cookie at the reception. I was mortified, and another child’s mother was visibly shocked. “It was a joke,” he said later in the car. “You don’t understand my humor.” Full Article »
posted January 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm
Is the letter J a shade of tangerine or is it more grassy green?
New research suggests that the 1-2% of the population with an unusual condition that causes the brain to see letters and numbers in a rainbow of colors don’t have an inborn sixth sense; they develop their character-color associations over time.
Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which experiencing one sense leads to an automatic, involuntary experience in another. For example, there are people who taste sounds and people who see music. The condition runs in families, although the exact gene or genes involved have yet to be discovered. Full Article »
posted November 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm
Do you have a memory you’d rather forget? If you do, chances are that over time it will seem to fade away as you begin to associate the words or places or smells that trigger that unpleasant recollection with a more positive experience. Researchers call this process fear memory extinction, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. We actually don’t delete memories; we write new ones called extinction memories that come to mind faster than our older associations. Our brains accomplish this trick by flipping genetic switches on and off in the process of learning and forming the new memory.
Recently, researchers at MIT identified a molecular mechanism that contributes to memory extinction. They did so using mice lacking a single gene that helps regulate a part of our genetic control system, a chemical process called methylation. Surprisingly, those mutant mice were unable to forget fearful memories.
posted October 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm
Scientists have isolated and erased selective memories formed during drug intoxication in mice and rats, leading researchers to consider the possible implications for drug addiction and psychiatric conditions.
The findings, published in the September 9th issue of Biological Psychiatry, offered the first report of successfully removing specific memories, in this case those formed in rodents addicted to methamphetamine, or meth. The results may lead to advances in the potential treatment of drug addiction and other conditions.
“If there is a way of selectively intervening and disrupting memories that might be formed as a result of association with drugs of abuse, for instance, that’s a very practical intervention,” said Dr. Matthew Wilson, Professor of Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not affiliated with the study.
In the study, researchers led by Dr. Courtney Miller at the Scripps Research Institute delivered meth to rodents and trained them to link various cues to the drug’s effects. In one setting, the rodents were directly injected with meth while exposed to stimuli such as color and peppermint oil, while in another, the rodents were taught to inject themselves with meth by pressing a lever.
posted October 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm
But, according to linguists, there are certain words that are so basic and essential, they just won’t budge. By examining 200 words thought to be resistant to change across 103 languages (from the ancient Tocharian to the more familiar Spanish), an interdisciplinary team of researchers came up with a map that shows how the Indo-European language family may have spread over time.
To do this, the University of Auckland team looked for similarities in words across the 200-word list that Michael Dunn, the group’s linguist, said has been the standard since the 1950’s or 60’s. Full Article »