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Great Apes Share Our Ability to Predict Goal-Oriented Actions

This is a photo of an orangutan with its baby.Within a year after birth, human infants develop the ability to direct their attention to the anticipated goal of another person’s movement, before it has occurred. So, for example, our eyes move to where we think an object will be based on how we perceive others’ objectives and intentions. The ability to anticipate actions helps us both to cooperate and compete with others.

In light of previous research suggesting that nonhuman primates may be able to predict others’ goals and actions, psychological scientists Fumihiro Kano and Josep Call of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany investigated whether other primates make eye movements similar to those that humans make while observing another individual’s behavior.

The researchers analyzed data from 19 great apes, including chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans.

Every…

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OCD Linked With Broad Impairments in Executive Function

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), characterized by intrusive and persistent thoughts that are often accompanied by repetitive or ritualized acts, is a serious clinical disorder that can significantly impact a person’s ability to function and go about daily life. Neuroimaging data have hinted at a link between OCD and brain areas that contribute to executive function (EF), a group of critical cognitive abilities that regulate lower-level cognitive processes.

This is a photo of a person washing his hands.As researcher Hannah Snyder of the University of Denver and colleagues explain, EFs allow us to “break out of habits, make decisions and evaluate risks, plan for the future, prioritize and sequence actions, and cope with novel situations.” EF deficits, therefore, could contribute to an inability to shift between tasks and the repetition and perseveration so often seen in individuals with OCD.

Despite evidence linking OCD with…

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Typical Items Facilitate Fear Learning, Atypical Items Don’t

Have you ever recoiled at something because it reminds you of something else that you’re genuinely afraid of? Research indicates that people have a propensity to generalize their fear — so, for example, a person afraid of doctors might also feel uneasy at the sight of a hospital or medical equipment.

This is a photo of a woman covering her face in fear.Moreover, typical items in a category seem to lend themselves to generalization more than atypical items do. For instance, we’re more likely to generalize information about mice and apply it to bats rather than the other way around, since mice come to mind more easily when we think of mammals.

Bringing these different areas of research together, psychological scientists Joseph E. Dunsmoor and Gregory L. Murphy of New York University wanted to investigate whether we incorporate conceptual knowledge into fear…

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Conference to Focus on Milgram Paradigm

Milgram_call_Dec2014The Obedience to Authority Conference will be held December 9–11, 2014, in Kolomna, Russia. The conference will focus on discussion of research in the field of Stanley Milgram’s experimental obedience paradigm. Russian and international researchers with diverse academic backgrounds and career levels are encouraged to register. For more information, visit www.milgram.ru/en.

 

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Higher Implicit Self-Esteem Linked to Positive Evaluation of Spouses

This is a photo of a couple holding hands.It’s often said that we can’t love others unless we love ourselves. According to a new study, this may be true, but perhaps in a different way than we expect — while our reported self-esteem doesn’t predict changes in our implicit, or underlying, feelings about a significant other, our implicit attitudes about ourselves do.

Research has suggested that self-esteem influences how people behave in their relationships: Those with higher self-esteem believe that their partner views them positively and so are more inclined to work at their relationships. In other studies, however, self-esteem didn’t seem to predict relationship satisfaction down the road.

Psychological scientist James K. McNulty of Florida State University and colleagues wondered whether using implicit measures rather than explicit reports of self-esteem and partner evaluations might clear up these discrepancies.

“From an empirical…

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