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How a Habit Becomes an Addiction

Editors_choiceResearch suggests that only 20–30% of drug users actually descend into addiction — defined as the persistent seeking and taking of drugs even in the face of dire personal consequences. Why are some people who use drugs able to do so without turning into addicts, while others continue to abuse, even when the repercussions range from jail time to serious health problems?

In a comprehensive review in the European Journal of Neuroscience, Barry Everitt outlines the neural correlates and learning-based processes associated with the transition from drug use, to abuse, to addiction.

Drug seeking begins as a goal-directed behavior, with an action (finding and taking drugs) leading to a particular outcome (the drug high). This type of associative learning is mediated by the dorsomedial region of the striatum, the area of the brain that is associated with reward processing, which…

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Processing Speed Helps Determine Whether We Choose Carrots Over Chocolates

PAFF_010514_CarrotsOrCake_newsfeatureAs we edge into 2015, many people will pledge to make healthier food choices a priority for the upcoming year—swapping out that slice of chocolate cake for a bag of carrot sticks. But, keeping that healthy eating resolution isn’t so easy when we’re actually faced with choosing between rich, delicious cake and crunchy carrots.

A new study from Caltech psychological scientists Nicolette Sullivan, Cendri Hutcherson, Alison Harris, and Antonio Rangel may help shed some light on exactly why that decision can be so hard.

The study, published in Psychological Science, shows that tiny differences in brain processing speed may account for big differences in our ability to stave off temptation and opt for the healthier snack.

When choosing between cake and carrots, our brains have to process the various aspects of the food: whether it’s going to taste good, how many…

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Inside the Psychologist’s Studio: Claude Steele

Past APS Board Member Claude Steele says his social psychology research — on topics ranging from self-image to alcohol’s effects on attention — reached a new level of quality once he learned to take the perspective of the actor, not the observer.

In a newly released “Inside the Psychologist’s Studio” interview, the acclaimed scientist says adopting the subjects’ viewpoint helped him design more effective experiments.

“When you take the perspective of somebody who’s actually in a psychological situation, like a student who’s intoxicated, everything is a lot clearer, and your intuition is better informed,” Steele said in the interview.

During his interview with APS Past President Elizabeth Phelps, Steele — now executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Berkeley — talked extensively about his life and his research, which builds on his various theories of self-identity. These include:

-Stereotype threat — the state of…

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Sleep Quality and Parenting Related to Children’s Executive Function

Different fields of study, even within the discipline of psychological science, have a tendency to be fragmented, which can hinder our understanding of complex processes such as human development. Research suggests that understanding children’s developmental well-being in particular requires an integrated awareness of how social relationships, biology, and cognition interact.

This is a photo of a mother and father with their son.In an article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, psychological scientist Annie Bernier and colleagues from the University of Montreal summarize their latest findings on the connections between children’s sleep quality, relationships with caregivers, and executive functioning — “a set of higher-order cognitive processes that primarily serve the self-regulation of behavior and emotion.”

The brain’s rapid growth in early childhood makes the first few years of life an especially formative time in the course of human development. Since interactions with…

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<em>Perspectives</em> Provides Strategies for Maximizing Informational Value of Research

This is an image of the cover of Perspectives on Psychological Science.It’s an exhilarating time in psychological science, as momentum continues to build toward improving research standards and practices across the field.

A special section in the November issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science is part of an ongoing effort to involve researchers in this movement by providing a set of cutting-edge strategies that can be used to improve the way research is conducted and evaluated.

According to psychological scientist Alison Ledgerwood, associate professor at the University of California, Davis and editor of the special section, this new collection of articles builds on the foundation laid down in a special section published in the May 2014 issue of Perspectives, providing researchers with a concrete toolkit for enhancing their research:

“Together, these articles emphasize the importance of thinking about…

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