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Sleep May Help the Brain Integrate New Language Skills

This is a silhouette profile of a person sleeping. Scientists have understood for decades that the brain is “plastic,” meaning that our neural connections change and adapt in response to new experiences. One factor that seems to play a particular role in language plasticity, according to new research, is sleep.

Previous studies have laid the groundwork in associating sleep with memory consolidation and language learning, particularly in learning new words and grammar. Psychological scientist Gareth Gaskell of the University of York in the United Kingdom and colleagues wanted to explore these links further to establish a more complete framework for understanding the connection between language plasticity and memory consolidation.

In a study of 38 adults, participants read aloud 48 tongue-twister sequences of 4 syllables each. These syllables had “constraints,” meaning that certain consonant sounds appeared only in the beginning or the end…


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Taking an Integrative Approach to Understanding Emotions and Clinical Disorders

This is a photo of a person sitting on the floor.Many clinical psychological disorders, including anxiety and depression, are characterized by unhealthy, turbulent, or otherwise maladaptive emotions. Yet the link between emotion and mental illness has typically been investigated separately from basic research on emotion and emotional experience.

A Special Series on Emotions and Psychopathology in the new issue of Clinical Psychological Science aims to link these two areas of investigation, bringing the most recent research from affective science to bear on the ways that clinicians and researchers think about, diagnose, and treat clinical disorders.

“[C]linical researchers are now beginning to draw on the full range of concepts and methods from affective science to better understand the emotional processes that lie at the heart of a wide range of psychopathologies and to develop emotion-targeted interventions,” write psychological scientist Jessica Tracy…


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Priming Gender Norms and Levels of Heterosexism as Predictors of Adoption Choices

In this study, my colleagues and I were interested in how priming gender norms and one’s level of heterosexism can affect decisions about which couple can adopt a child.

We tested this by priming people with either gender normative or gender non-normative pictures. We primed a control group with nature scenes. After priming, we presented each participant with an adoption scenario in which they were asked to choose one of three couples to adopt a child. The three couples were a heterosexual couple, a same-sex male couple, and a same-sex female couple. After the participants made their first choice, it was removed as an option, and the participants were asked to choose from the remaining two couples. They were also asked to rate their confidence levels and provide explanations for their decisions.

To measure heterosexism levels, we used Herek’s Attitudes Towards Lesbians and Gay Men scale. We used logistic regression…


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Two APS Fellows Elected to National Academy of Sciences

This is a photo of a stack of books.Two APS fellows are among the 84 newly chosen members and 21 foreign associates recognized by the National Academy of Science for their outstanding contributions to scientific research.

The April 29 announcement featured newly elected member Marcia Johnson, professor of psychology at Yale University, and foreign associate Helen Neville, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Oregon, who holds Canadian citizenship.

Both Johnson and Neville are APS William James fellows.

Johnson is known for her research in memory and cognitive processes. Her lab is currently investigating the component processes that underlie memory; how the brain binds different features, such as color, shape, and location, together to form complex memories; how we distinguish between real and imagined events, also known as reality monitoring; and how memory changes as we age. Johnson has…


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A Captive African Elephant Calf Exhibits Precocious Social Relationships

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in their native habitats live in groups of 2 to 50 elephants called family units, usually containing genetically related adult females and calves and juveniles of both sexes. A calf spends most of its time near its mother. Older calves increase the time they spend with other members of the family unit. “Allomothers,” usually young female relatives, assist in rearing a calf by providing comfort and safety. The dominant animal in the group (the “matriarch”) plays a critical role in group dynamics and survival.

The Indianapolis Zoo houses an African elephant group with the demographics and group size recommended to promote the health of captive elephants: four adult females, two juveniles, and two calves. We recorded the interactions between Nyah (female calf, under 1 year old) and her mother (Ivory, 30 years old), her older sister (Zahara, 6 years old), and the dominant elephant (Sophi, 44…


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