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Socioeconomic status (SES) is a primary determinant of health vulnerabilities and social affiliations. To ascertain if SES is signaled in brief patterns of nonverbal behavior, we had participants of varying SES backgrounds engage in a brief interaction with a stranger. Videos of 60-s slices of these interactions were coded for nonverbal cues of disengagement and engagement, and estimates of participants' SES were provided by naive observers who viewed these videos. As predicted by analyses of resource dependence and power, upper-SES participants displayed more disengagement cues (e.g., doodling) and fewer engagement cues (e.g., head nods, laughs) than did lower-SES participants. Results were also consistent with the thin-slicing literature, in that observers' estimates of SES were reliable with each other and accurately predicted targets' family income, maternal education, and subjective SES. Finally, nonverbal displays of disengagement and engagement predicted observers' estimates of SES, which suggests that these cues are systematic signs of SES. These results have implications for understanding the effect of SES on social interactions and patterns of disengagement and engagement in other realms.
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By giving our bustling minds a dedicated break from day-to-day worries, meditation appears to empower the brain to run more efficiently, new research shows.

Three theories currently compete to explain the conceptual deficits that result from brain damage: sensory-functional theory, domain-specific theory, and conceptual structure theory. We argue that all three theories capture important aspects of conceptual deficits, and offer different insights into their origins. Conceptual topography theory (CTT) integrates these insights, beginning with A. R. Damasio’s (1989) convergence zone theory and elaborating it with the similarity-in-topography (SIT) principle. According to CTT, feature maps in sensory-motor systems represent the features of a category’s exemplars. A hierarchical system of convergence zones then conjoins these features to form both property and category representations. According to the SIT principle, the proximity of two conjunctive neurons in a convergence zone increases with the similarity of the features they conjoin. As a result, conjunctive neurons become topographically organised into local regions that represent properties and categories. Depending on the level and location of a lesion in this system, a wide variety of deficits is possible. Consistent with the literature, these deficits range from the loss of a single category to the loss of multiple categories that share sensory-motor properties.
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Some degree of fear and anxiety is inevitable in life. But for some people, these emotions can become truly debilitating, keeping them trapped in cycles that can lead to depression and even chronic pain. So how can we help patients better manage fear and anxiety when they come up? Below, you’ll find a simple exercise …

In this week's podcast Shann shares the benefits of child's pose, a simple yoga pose that is very helpful for anxiety relief. Listen as she talks you through how to practice for yourself. We hope it helps you feel calm and grounded.

Based on accumulating evidence, simulation appears to be a basic computational mechanism in the brain that supports a broad spectrum of processes from perception to social cognition. Further evidence suggests that simulation is typically situated, with the situated character of experience in the environment being reflected in the situated character of the representations that underlie simulation. A basic architecture is sketched of how the brain implements situated simulation. Within this framework, simulators implement the concepts that underlie knowledge, and situated conceptualizations capture patterns of multi-modal simulation associated with frequently experienced situations. A pattern completion inference mechanism uses current perception to activate situated conceptualizations that produce predictions via simulations on relevant modalities. Empirical findings from perception, action, working memory, conceptual processing, language and social cognition illustrate how this framework produces the extensive prediction that characterizes natural intelligence.
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The development of functional neuroimaging of emotion holds the promise to enhance our understanding of the biological bases of affect and improve our knowledge of psychiatric diseases. However, up to this point, researchers have been unable to objectively, continuously and unobtrusively measure the intensity and dynamics of affect concurrently with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This has hindered the development and generalizability of our field. Facial electromyography (EMG) is an objective, reliable, valid, sensitive, and unobtrusive measure of emotion. Here, we report the successful development of a method for simultaneously acquiring fMRI and facial EMG. The ability to simultaneously acquire brain activity and facial physiology will allow affective neuroscientists to address theoretical, psychiatric, and individual difference questions in a more rigorous and generalizable way.
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OBJECTIVES: Yoga is promoted as an anti-stress activity, however, little is known about the mechanisms through which it acts. The present study investigated the acute effects of a hatha yoga session, displayed on a video, on the response to and recovery from an acute psychological stressor. METHODS: Twenty-four healthy young adults took part in a counterbalanced, randomized-crossover trial, with a yoga and a control condition (watching TV). Participants attended the laboratory in the afternoon on two days and each session comprised a baseline, control or yoga task, stress task and recovery. Blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR) and salivary cortisol responses were measured. State cognitive- and somatic-anxiety along with self-confidence were assessed before and after the stressor. RESULTS: Although no difference in the BP or HR responses to stress were found between conditions, systolic BP (p=0.047) and diastolic BP (p=0.018) recovery from stress were significantly accelerated and salivary cortisol reactivity was significantly lower (p=0.01) in the yoga condition. A yoga session also increased self-confidence (p=0.006) in preparation for the task and after completion. Moreover, self-confidence reported after the stress task was considered debilitative towards performance in the control condition, but remained facilitative in the yoga condition. CONCLUSION: Our results show that a single video-instructed session of hatha yoga was able to improve stress reactivity and recovery from an acute stress task in healthy individuals. These positive preliminary findings encourage further investigation in at-risk populations in which the magnitude of effects may be greater, and support the use of yoga for stress reactivity and recovery.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to assess the effect of the daily practice of a yoga therapy program learnt during a single session of an integrated yoga intervention that was developed by us as a stress management tool for school employees. SUBJECTS: Ninety school employees. DESIGN: Case-control study. Three months after the intervention, the subjects were assigned to a daily practice group (case: n=43) and a nonconsecutive daily practice group (control: n=47) according to their daily practice level of the yoga therapy program. INTERVENTIONS: The subjects participated in a stress management education program based on an integrated yoga therapy session. The program included psychological education and counseling about stress management and yoga theories, as well as the practices of asanas, pranayama, relaxation, and cognitive structure based on Indian philosophy. OUTCOME MEASURES: Assessments were performed before and after the program using the Subjective Units of Distress for mind and body and the Two-Dimensional Mood Scale. The General Health Questionnaire 28 (GHQ28) was used to assess the mental health state before the intervention and at 3 months after the program. RESULTS: The subjects showed significant increases in their levels of calmness, comfort, and cheerfulness (p<0.001) and significant decreases in cognitive mind and body stress (p<0.001) after participating in the integrated yoga program. A comparison of the total scores on the GHQ28 using a two-way analysis of variance showed significant differences between the two groups in terms of both interaction (p=0.047) and the main effect (p=0.026). CONCLUSIONS: The present results suggested that a single session of an integrated yoga program was effective for reducing stress and that the mental health of school employees was promoted by the daily practice of the yoga therapy program.

Counselling psychology is increasingly curious regarding the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. This research explores the relationship between the clinical work of psychotherapists and their long-term Buddhist-informed meditation. This is an emerging and cross-cultural field. Thorne's (2008) interpretive description guided this exploratory qualitative study of the experiences of four registered psychologists. This study finds that meditation supports an unconditional, compassionate therapeutic stance that serves therapy through the development of the therapeutic relationship. Further, Buddhist-informed meditation appears to promote integrative functioning in the therapists and is related to integrated clinical decision-making. This study dips into areas of transpersonal and Buddhist psychology that require further culturally-sensitive investigation. Future directions for research are presented.

This video is about Jon Kabat-Zinn, Guided Mindfulness Meditation, Series 1, Sitting Meditation. The full program is available for download at BetterListen!

OBJECTIVE: Although the efficacy of meditation interventions has been examined among adult samples, meditation treatment effects among youth are relatively unknown. We systematically reviewed empirical studies for the health-related effects of sitting-meditative practices implemented among youth aged 6 to 18 years in school, clinic, and community settings. METHODS: A systematic review of electronic databases (PubMed, Ovid, Web of Science, Cochrane Reviews Database, Google Scholar) was conducted from 1982 to 2008, obtaining a sample of 16 empirical studies related to sitting-meditation interventions among youth. RESULTS: Meditation modalities included mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Study samples primarily consisted of youth with preexisting conditions such as high-normal blood pressure, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and learning disabilities. Studies that examined physiologic outcomes were composed almost entirely of African American/black participants. Median effect sizes were slightly smaller than those obtained from adult samples and ranged from 0.16 to 0.29 for physiologic outcomes and 0.27 to 0.70 for psychosocial/behavioral outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Sitting meditation seems to be an effective intervention in the treatment of physiologic, psychosocial, and behavioral conditions among youth. Because of current limitations, carefully constructed research is needed to advance our understanding of sitting meditation and its future use as an effective treatment modality among younger populations.

For decades the importance of background situations has been documented across all areas of cognition. Nevertheless, theories of concepts generally ignore background situations, focusing largely on bottom-up, stimulus-based processing. Furthermore, empirical research on concepts typically ignores background situations, not incorporating them into experimental designs. A selective review of relevant literatures demonstrates that concepts are not abstracted out of situations but instead are situated. Background situations constrain conceptual processing in many tasks (e.g., recall, recognition, categorization, lexical decision, color naming, property verification, property generation) across many areas of cognition (e.g., episodic memory, conceptual processing, visual object recognition, language comprehension). A taxonomy of situations is proposed in which grain size, meaningfulness, and tangibility distinguish the cumulative situations that structure cognition hierarchically.
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Four theories of the human conceptual system--semantic memory, exemplar models, feed-forward connectionist nets, and situated simulation theory--are characterized and contrasted on five dimensions. Empirical evidence is then reviewed for the situated simulation theory and conclusions are discussed. (Author/VWL)
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Four theories of the human conceptual system—semantic memory, exemplar models, feed‐forward connectionist nets, and situated simulation theory—are characterised and contrasted on five dimensions: (1) architecture (modular vs. non‐modular), (2) representation (amodal vs. modal), (3) abstraction (decontextualised vs. situated), (4) stability (stable vs. dynamical), and (5) organisation (taxonomic vs. action–environment interface). Empirical evidence is then reviewed for the situated simulation theory, and the following conclusions are reached. Because the conceptual system shares mechanisms with perception and action, it is non-modular. As a result, conceptual representations are multi-modal simulations distributed across modality‐specific systems. A given simulation for a concept is situated, preparing an agent for situated action with a particular instance, in a particular setting. Because a concept delivers diverse simulations that prepare agents for action in many different situations, it is dynamical. Because the conceptual system’s primary purpose is to support situated action, it becomes organised around the action–environment interface.
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Psychological construction approaches to emotion suggest that emotional experience is situated and dynamic. Fear, for example, is typically studied in a physical danger context (e.g., threatening snake), but in the real world, it often occurs in social contexts, especially those involving social evaluation (e.g., public speaking). Understanding situated emotional experience is critical because adaptive responding is guided by situational context (e.g., inferring the intention of another in a social evaluation situation vs. monitoring the environment in a physical danger situation). In an fMRI study, we assessed situated emotional experience using a newly developed paradigm in which participants vividly imagine different scenarios from a first-person perspective, in this case scenarios involving either social evaluation or physical danger. We hypothesized that distributed neural patterns would underlie immersion in social evaluation and physical danger situations, with shared activity patterns across both situations in multiple sensory modalities and in circuitry involved in integrating salient sensory information, and with unique activity patterns for each situation type in coordinated large-scale networks that reflect situated responding. More specifically, we predicted that networks underlying the social inference and mentalizing involved in responding to a social threat (in regions that make up the “default mode” network) would be reliably more active during social evaluation situations. In contrast, networks underlying the visuospatial attention and action planning involved in responding to a physical threat would be reliably more active during physical danger situations. The results supported these hypotheses. In line with emerging psychological construction approaches, the findings suggest that coordinated brain networks offer a systematic way to interpret the distributed patterns that underlie the diverse situational contexts characterizing emotional life.
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Three experiments demonstrated that situational information contributes to the categorization of functional object categories, as well as to inferences about these categories. When an object was presented in the context of setting and event information, categorization was more accurate than when the object was presented in isolation. Inferences about the object similarly became more accurate as the amount of situational information present during categorization increased. The benefits of situational information were higher when both setting and event information were available than when only setting information was available. These findings indicate that situational information about settings and events is stored with functional object categories in memory. Categorization and inference become increasingly accurate as the information available during categorization matches situational information stored with the category.
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Three experiments demonstrated that situational information contributes to the categorization of functional object categories, as well as to inferences about these categories. When an object was presented in the context of setting and event information, categorization was more accurate than when the object was presented in isolation. Inferences about the object similarly became more accurate as the amount of situational information present during categorization increased. The benefits of situational information were higher when both setting and event information were available than when only setting information was available. These findings indicate that situational information about settings and events is stored with functional object categories in memory. Categorization and inference become increasingly accurate as the information available during categorization matches situational information stored with the category.
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