Successful human social interaction depends on our capacity to understand other people's mental states and to anticipate how they will react to our actions. Despite its importance to the human condition, the exact mechanisms underlying our ability to understand another's actions, feelings, and thoughts are still a matter of conjecture. Here, we consider this problem from philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific perspectives. In a critical review, we demonstrate that attempts to draw parallels across these complementary disciplines is premature: The second-person perspective does not map directly to Interaction or Simulation theories, online social cognition, or shared neural network accounts underlying action observation or empathy. Nor does the third-person perspective map onto Theory-Theory (TT), offline social cognition, or the neural networks that support Theory of Mind (ToM). Moreover, we argue that important qualities of social interaction emerge through the reciprocal interplay of two independent agents whose unpredictable behavior requires that models of their partner's internal state be continually updated. This analysis draws attention to the need for paradigms in social neuroscience that allow two individuals to interact in a spontaneous and natural manner and to adapt their behavior and cognitions in a response contingent fashion due to the inherent unpredictability in another person's behavior. Even if such paradigms were implemented, it is possible that the specific neural correlates supporting such reciprocal interaction would not reflect computation unique to social interaction but rather the use of basic cognitive and emotional processes combined in a unique manner. Finally, we argue that given the crucial role of social interaction in human evolution, ontogeny, and every-day social life, a more theoretically and methodologically nuanced approach to the study of real social interaction will nevertheless help the field of social cognition to evolve.
Ambivalence is widely assumed to prolong grief. To examine this hypothesis, the authors developed a measure of ambivalence based on an algorithmic combination of separate positive and negative evaluations of one's spouse. Preliminary construct validity was evidenced in relation to emotional difficulties and to facial expressions of emotion. Bereaved participants, relative to a nonbereaved comparison sample, recollected their relationships as better adjusted but were more ambivalent. Ambivalence about spouses was generally associated with increased distress and poorer perceived health but did not predict long-term grief outcome once initial outcome was controlled. In contrast, initial grief and distress predicted increased ambivalence and decreased Dyadic Adjustment Scale scores at 14 months postloss, regardless of initial scores on these measures. Limitations and implications of the findings are discussed.
Social contact promotes enhanced health and well-being, likely as a function of the social regulation of emotional responding in the face of various life stressors. For this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, 16 married women were subjected to the threat of electric shock while holding their husband's hand, the hand of an anonymous male experimenter, or no hand at all. Results indicated a pervasive attenuation of activation in the neural systems supporting emotional and behavioral threat responses when the women held their husband's hand. A more limited attenuation of activation in these systems occurred when they held the hand of a stranger. Most strikingly, the effects of spousal hand-holding on neural threat responses varied as a function of marital quality, with higher marital quality predicting less threat-related neural activation in the right anterior insula, superior frontal gyrus, and hypothalamus during spousal, but not stranger, hand-holding.
Dozens of studies in different nations have revealed that socioeconomic status only weakly predicts an individual's subjective well-being (SWB). These results imply that although the pursuit of social status is a fundamental human motivation, achieving high status has little impact on one's SWB. However, we propose that sociometric status-the respect and admiration one has in face-to-face groups (e.g., among friends or coworkers)-has a stronger effect on SWB than does socioeconomic status. Using correlational, experimental, and longitudinal methodologies, four studies found consistent evidence for a local-ladder effect: Sociometric status significantly predicted satisfaction with life and the experience of positive and negative emotions. Longitudinally, as sociometric status rose or fell, SWB rose or fell accordingly. Furthermore, these effects were driven by feelings of power and social acceptance. Overall, individuals' sociometric status matters more to their SWB than does their socioeconomic status.
Despite the vast literature that has implicated asymmetric activation of the prefrontal cortex in approach-withdrawal motivation and emotion, no published reports have directly explored the neural correlates of well-being. Eighty-four right-handed adults (ages 57-60) completed self-report measures of eudaimonic well-being, hedonic well-being, and positive affect prior to resting electroencephalography. As hypothesized, greater left than right superior frontal activation was associated with higher levels of both forms of well-being. Hemisphere-specific analyses documented the importance of goal-directed approach tendencies beyond those captured by approach-related positive affect for eudaimonic but not for hedonic well-being. Appropriately engaging sources of appetitive motivation, characteristic of higher left than right baseline levels of prefrontal activation, may encourage the experience of well-being.
Twenty-seven adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse participated in a pilot study comprising an 8-week mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction (MBSR) program and daily home practice of mindfulness skills. Three refresher classes were provided through final follow-up at 24 weeks. Assessments of depressive symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and mindfulness, were conducted at baseline, 4, 8, and 24 weeks. At 8 weeks, depressive symptoms were reduced by 65%. Statistically significant improvements were observed in all outcomes post-MBSR, with effect sizes above 1.0. Improvements were largely sustained until 24 weeks. Of three PTSD symptom criteria, symptoms of avoidance/numbing were most greatly reduced. Compliance to class attendance and home practice was high, with the intervention proving safe and acceptable to participants. These results warrant further investigation of the MBSR approach in a randomized, controlled trial in this patient population. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 66: 1–18, 2010.
Drawing from theories regarding the role of awareness in behavioral self-regulation, this research was designed to examine the role of mindfulness as a moderator between implicit motivation and the motivation for day-to-day behavior. We hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness (Brown and Ryan, J Pers Soc Psychol, 84, 822–848, 2003) would act to modify the expression of implicit autonomy orientation in daily behavioral motivation. Using the Implicit Association Test (Greenwald et al. J Pers Soc Psychol, 74, 1464–1480, 1998), Study 1 provided evidence for the reliability and validity of a new measure of implicit autonomy orientation. Using an experience-sampling strategy, Study 2 showed the hypothesized moderating effect, such that implicit autonomy orientation predicted day-to-day motivation only for those lower in dispositional mindfulness. Those higher in mindfulness showed more autonomously motivated behavior regardless of implicit orientation toward autonomy or heteronomy. It also showed that this moderating effect of awareness was specific to mindfulness and was primarily manifest in spontaneous behavior. Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for dual process theory and research.
In 2 daily experience studies and a laboratory study, the authors test predictions from approach-avoidance motivational theory to understand how dating couples can maintain feelings of relationship satisfaction in their daily lives and over the course of time. Approach goals were associated with increased relationship satisfaction on a daily basis and over time, particularly when both partners were high in approach goals. Avoidance goals were associated with decreases in relationship satisfaction over time, and people were particularly dissatisfied when they were involved with a partner with high avoidance goals. People high in approach goals and their partners were rated as relatively more satisfied and responsive to a partner's needs by outside observers in the lab, whereas people with high avoidance goals and their partners were rated as less satisfied and responsive. Positive emotions mediated the link between approach goals and daily satisfaction in both studies, and responsiveness to the partner's needs was an additional behavioral mechanism in Study 2. Implications of these findings for approach-avoidance motivational theory and for the maintenance of satisfying relationships over time are discussed.
Recent studies have shown that the presence of a caring relational partner can attenuate neural responses to threat. Here we report reanalyzed data from Coan, Schaefer, and Davidson ( 2006 ), investigating the role of relational mutuality in the neural response to threat. Mutuality reflects the degree to which couple members show mutual interest in the sharing of internal feelings, thoughts, aspirations, and joys - a vital form of responsiveness in attachment relationships. We predicted that wives who were high (versus low) in perceived mutuality, and who attended the study session with their husbands, would show reduced neural threat reactivity in response to mild electric shocks. We also explored whether this effect would depend on physical contact (hand-holding). As predicted, we observed that higher mutuality scores corresponded with decreased neural threat responding in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and supplementary motor cortex. These effects were independent of hand-holding condition. These findings suggest that higher perceived mutuality corresponds with decreased self-regulatory effort and attenuated preparatory motor activity in response to threat cues, even in the absence of direct physical contact with social resources.
Davidson and Schwartz (1) have proposed a psychobiological analysis of anxiety that emphasizes the patterning of multiple processes in the generation and self-regulation of this state. The present article specifically reviews recent research on cognitive and somatic components of anxiety. A dual component scale which separately assesses cognitive and somatic trait anxiety is described and applied to the study of the differential effects of a somatic (physical exercise) and a cognitive (meditation) relaxation procedure. A total of 77 subjects was employed; 44 regularly practiced physical exercise and 33 regularly practiced meditation for comparable periods of time. As predicted, subjects practicing physical exercise reported relatively less somatic and more cognitive anxiety than meditators. These data suggest that specific subcomponents of anxiety may be differentially associated with relaxation techniques engaging primarily cognitive versus somatic subsystems. It is proposed that relaxation consists of (1) a generalized reduction to multiple physiological systems (termed the relaxation response by Benson) and (2) a more specific pattern of changes superimposed upon this general reduction, which is elicited by the particular techniques employed. The data from this retrospective study need to be followed up by prospective studies to establish the precise mechanisms for these effects.
Parents of 53 children categorized as behaviorally inhibited or uninhibited at age 30 mo were assessed on measures of affectivity, personality, and behavior. Parents of inhibited children showed lower extraversion, higher avoidance and shyness and faster drawing times on a task involving uncertainty than did parents of uninhibited children. Faster speed on the uncertainty task was interpreted as evidence of increased anxious responding. The Extroversion, Avoidance, Shyness, and Sociability scales loaded heavily on a single factor, the scores of which differed significantly by group. Child behavioral inhibition (BI) negatively correlated with maternal scores on the Extroversion scale and the extracted factor, and positively correlated with maternal scores on the Avoidance scale. BI correlated with both maternal and paternal scores on the uncertainty task in the predicted direction. Low parental extraversion, high paternal avoidance and shyness, and parental tendency toward anxious responding were associated with BI in children.
Literature is reviewed suggesting that a child's personality determines to a large extent his or her reaction to specific methods of teaching, and even to the whole ethos and atmosphere of the teaching situation. Thus, extraverted children benefit from being taught along the lines of discovery learning, while introverted children benefit from being taught along the lines of reception learning. The apparent lack of difference in achievement in groups taught by these methods hides the large individual differences factor that appears in the interaction term. It is suggested that facts of this kind should be of considerable concern to those who design our courses for future teachers, and for teachers generally. We owe our children care in the design of methods for teaching, and personality differences play an important part in such design.
OBJECTIVES: To examine whether mindfulness meditation (MM) was associated with changes in objectively measured polysomnographic (PSG) sleep profiles and to relate changes in PSG sleep to subjectively reported changes in sleep and depression within the context of a randomized controlled trial. Previous studies have indicated that mindfulness and other forms of meditation training are associated with improvements in sleep quality. However, none of these studies used objective PSG sleep recordings within longitudinal randomized controlled trials of naïve subjects. METHODS: Twenty-six individuals with partially remitted depression were randomized into an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course or a waitlist control condition. Pre-post measurements included PSG sleep studies and subjectively reported sleep and depression symptoms. RESULTS: According to PSG sleep, MM practice was associated with several indices of increased cortical arousal, including more awakenings and stage 1 sleep and less slow-wave sleep relative to controls, in proportion to amount of MM practice. According to sleep diaries, subjectively reported sleep improved post MBCT but not above and beyond controls. Beck Depression Inventory scores decreased more in the MBCT group than controls. Improvements in depression were associated with increased subjective sleep continuity and increased PSG arousal. CONCLUSIONS: MM is associated with increases in objectively measured arousal during sleep with simultaneous improvements in subjectively reported sleep quality and mood disturbance. This pattern is similar to the profiles of positive responders to common antidepressant medications.
Measures of left-right asymmetry in resting brain activity were derived from spectral estimates of electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha-band power density in 13 homologous scalp electrode pairs from 81 right-handed individuals (43 F) on two occasions separated by 6 weeks. At a third, later session, these individuals completed a cognitive task, comparing word-pairs that systematically differed in affective tone. For an extended series of paired-comparisons, the subject chose the one word-pair that 'went together best'. Objectively, associative strength was comparable for both word-pairs. Individuals with relatively greater left-sided anterior frontal resting activity were more likely to select the more pleasant word-pair. Relations between word-pair selection and asymmetry in resting brain activity at central and posterior sites were not significant.
BACKGROUND: Increasingly, researchers attend to both positive and negative aspects of mental health. Such distinctions call for clarification of whether psychological well-being and ill-being comprise opposite ends of a bipolar continuum, or are best construed as separate, independent dimensions of mental health. Biology can help resolve this query--bipolarity predicts 'mirrored' biological correlates (i.e. well-being and ill-being correlate similarly with biomarkers, but show opposite directional signs), whereas independence predicts 'distinct' biological correlates (i.e. well-being and ill-being have different biological signatures). METHODS: Multiple aspects of psychological well-being (eudaimonic, hedonic) and ill-being (depression, anxiety, anger) were assessed in a sample of aging women (n = 135, mean age = 74) on whom diverse neuroendocrine (salivary cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, DHEA-S) and cardiovascular factors (weight, waist-hip ratio, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, total/HDL cholesterol, glycosylated hemoglobin) were also measured. RESULTS: Measures of psychological well-being and ill-being were significantly linked with numerous biomarkers, with some associations being more strongly evident for respondents aged 75+. Outcomes for seven biomarkers supported the distinct hypothesis, while findings for only two biomarkers supported the mirrored hypothesis. CONCLUSION: This research adds to the growing literature on how psychological well-being and mental maladjustment are instantiated in biology. Population-based inquiries and challenge studies constitute important future directions.
Objectives: Considerable morbidity persists among survivors of breast cancer (BC) including high levels of psychological stress, anxiety, depression, fear of recurrence, and physical symptoms including pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances, and impaired quality of life. Effective interventions are needed during this difficult transitional period. Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial of 84 female BC survivors (Stages 0–III) recruited from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute. All subjects were within 18 months of treatment completion with surgery and adjuvant radiation and/or chemotherapy. Subjects were randomly assigned to a 6-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program designed to self-regulate arousal to stressful circumstances or symptoms (n=41) or to usual care (n=43). Outcome measures compared at 6 weeks by random assignment included validated measures of psychological status (depression, anxiety, perceived stress, fear of recurrence, optimism, social support) and psychological and physical subscales of quality of life (SF-36). Results: Compared with usual care, subjects assigned to MBSR(BC) had significantly lower (two-sided p<0.05) adjusted mean levels of depression (6.3 vs 9.6), anxiety (28.3 vs 33.0), and fear of recurrence (9.3 vs 11.6) at 6 weeks, along with higher energy (53.5 vs 49.2), physical functioning (50.1 vs 47.0), and physical role functioning (49.1 vs 42.8). In stratified analyses, subjects more compliant with MBSR tended to experience greater improvements in measures of energy and physical functioning. Conclusions: Among BC survivors within 18 months of treatment completion, a 6-week MBSR(BC) program resulted in significant improvements in psychological status and quality of life compared with usual care. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
Resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSAREST) indexes important aspects of individual differences in emotionality. In the present investigation, the authors address whether RSAREST is associated with tonic positive or negative emotionality, and whether RSAREST relates to phasic emotional responding to discrete positive emotion-eliciting stimuli. Across an 8-month, multiassessment study of first-year university students (n = 80), individual differences in RSAREST were associated with positive but not negative tonic emotionality, assessed at the level of personality traits, long-term moods, the disposition toward optimism, and baseline reports of current emotional states. RSAREST was not related to increased positive emotion, or stimulus-specific emotion, in response to compassion-, awe-, or pride-inducing stimuli. These findings suggest that resting RSA indexes aspects of a person's tonic positive emotionality.
This study, based on a sample of 172 children, examined the relation between average afternoon salivary cortisol levels measured at home at age 4.5 years and socioemotional adjustment a year and a half later, as reported by mothers, fathers, and teachers. Cortisol levels were hypothesized to be positively associated with withdrawal-type behaviors (e.g., internalizing, social wariness) and inversely related to approach-type behaviors, both negative and positive (e.g., externalizing, school engagement). Higher cortisol levels at age 4.5 predicted more internalizing behavior and social wariness as reported by teachers and mothers, although child gender moderated the relation between cortisol and mother report measures. An inverse relation was found between boys' cortisol levels and father report of externalizing behavior. A marginal inverse relation was found between child cortisol levels and teacher report of school engagement. Behavior assessed concurrently with cortisol collection did not account for the prospective relations observed,suggesting that cortisol adds uniquely to an understanding of behavioral development.
Social class is shaped by an individual's material resources as well as perceptions of rank vis-à-vis others in society, and in this article, we examine how class influences behavior. Diminished resources and lower rank create contexts that constrain social outcomes for lower-class individuals and enhance contextualist tendencies--that is, a focus on external, uncontrollable social forces and other individuals who influence one's life outcomes. In contrast, abundant resources and elevated rank create contexts that enhance the personal freedoms of upper-class individuals and give rise to solipsistic social cognitive tendencies--that is, an individualistic focus on one's own internal states, goals, motivations, and emotions. Guided by this framework, we detail 9 hypotheses and relevant empirical evidence concerning how class-based contextualist and solipsistic tendencies shape the self, perceptions of the social environment, and relationships to other individuals. Novel predictions and implications for research in other socio-political contexts are considered.