Tag Archives: Psychological Science (journal)

Does Tylenol reduce empathy

16 May

Over the past few years, I’ve seen a number of papers reporting psychological effects of the drug acetaminophen (the generic name of Tylenol). Here is an interesting recent example, a paper in the journal l Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, titled “From Painkiller to Empathy Killer: Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) Reduces Empathy for Pain.” From the abstract:

“As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others’ pain. Acetaminophen also reduced the unpleasantness of noise blasts delivered to the participant, which mediated acetaminophen’s effects on empathy. Together, these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy. Because empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen, which is taken by almost a quarter of US adults each week.”

Why would Tylenol make us less empathetic?

“Simulation theories of empathy hypothesize that empathizing with others’ pain shares some overlapping psychological computations with the processing of one’s own pain.”

 

Memory Champion Nelson Dellis Memorizes a Deck of Cards Underwater

19 Oct

I saw Nelson Dellis demonstrate his skills at last year’s Association for Psychological Science meeting. Here he memorizes a deck of cards underwater while holding his breath:

 

 

Nelson raises money to fight at Alzheimer’s disease at his web site.

NPR: The cognitive advantages of taking notes on paper

28 May

This story on NPR suggests you will remember material better if you take notes on paper:

‘Oppenheimer and Mueller wondered if there was something about paper and the act of writing that explained this phenomenon, so they conducted an experiment.

The paper industry struggled in the past decade, but some sectors have fared better than others.
They asked about 50 students to attend a lecture. Half took notes on laptops and half with pen and paper. Both groups were then given a comprehension test.

It wasn’t even close. The students who used paper scored significantly higher than those who used laptops.

Mueller attributes this unexpected finding — published in the journal, Psychological Science — to the fact that the “analog” note takers were forced to synthesize rather than merely transcribe. It’s a phenomenon known as “desirable difficulty.”‘

Here is the abstract from the original paper:

“Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”

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Cognitive strengths of older workers

2 May

From The Association for Psychological Science:

“Scientists have long known that our ability to analyze novel problems and reason logically, also known as fluid intelligence, peaks around age 20 and then begins a slow decline. However, two new studies confirm that skills related to crystallized intelligence—made up of a person’s acquired knowledge and experience—appear to peak later in life, often after age 40.”

 

 

Video games may not improve cognitive abilities

29 Apr

A paper in Psychological Science suggests that claims about the cognitive enhancing effects of video games may be the result of methodological problems with the research. Here is the abstract:

“The relations between video-game experience and cognitive abilities were examined in the current study. In two experiments, subjects performed a number of working memory, fluid intelligence, and attention-control measures and filled out a questionnaire about their video-game experience. In Experiment 1, an extreme-groups analysis indicated that experienced video-game players outperformed nonplayers on several cognitive-ability measures. However, in Experiments 1 and 2, when analyses examined the full range of subjects at both the task level and the latent-construct level, nearly all of the relations between video-game experience and cognitive abilities were near zero. These results cast doubt on recent claims that playing video games leads to enhanced cognitive abilities. Statistical and methodological issues with prior studies of video-game experience are discussed along with recommendations for future studies.”

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Questions about the bilingual advantage

9 Dec

I have written a number of times about evidence that bilingualism may be protective against dementia. More narrowly, there has also been evidence that bilingual individuals have an advantage in executive control tasks. Now a paper in Psychological Science raises the possibility that that the latter claim may  a consequence of publication bias:

 “It is a widely held belief that bilinguals have an advantage over monolinguals in executive-control tasks, but is this what all studies actually demonstrate? The idea of a bilingual advantage may result from a publication bias favoring studies with positive results over studies with null or negative effects. To test this hypothesis, we looked at conference abstracts from 1999 to 2012 on the topic of bilingualism and executive control. We then determined which of the studies they reported were subsequently published. Studies with results fully supporting the bilingual-advantage theory were most likely to be published, followed by studies with mixed results. Studies challenging the bilingual advantage were published the least. This discrepancy was not due to differences in sample size, tests used, or statistical power. A test for funnel-plot asymmetry provided further evidence for the existence of a publication bias.”

Here is a summary of the paper.

“Ultimately, the findings suggest that the commonly accepted view that bilingualism confers a cognitive advantage may not accurately reflect the full body of existing scientific evidence.
According to de Bruin, these findings underscore how essential it is to review the published scientific literature with a critical eye, and how important it is that researchers share all of their findings on a given topic, regardless of the outcome.”

 

 

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