Understanding human behavior – why and how people do what they do – is at the very heart of psychological science.
New research presented in the June issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science examines the processes that underlie various aspects of human behavior, exploring how we learn patterns in language and vision, why some people are able to overcome significant life stressors, and how humans process reward and fear.
Statistical Learning: From Acquiring Specific Items to Forming General Rules
Richard N. Aslin and Elissa L. Newport
Statistical learning is the process by which adults and infants extract patterns embedded in both language and visual input. Rather than learning one specific pattern, we often learn more general rules that can be applied to new situations. In the past, researchers have believed that statistical learning and rule learning are separate, but Aslin and Newport provide evidence that a single statistical-learning mechanism can account for both.
There has recently been a political push to reduce health disparities seen among people of low socioeconomic status (SES). In order to reduce health disparities, it would be useful to know what traits promote better health outcomes in these populations. Chen discusses her “shift-and-persist” model, which says that low SES individuals who “shift” themselves in response to stress and “persist” in their hopes for the future have better health related outcomes.
Human Reward Pursuit: From Rudimentary to Higher-Level Functions
Erik Bijleveld, Ruud Custers, and Henk Aarts
Past research has suggested that reward pursuit in humans requires the involvement of higher level functions and as such must also require conscious processing. However, researchers are now finding evidence that reward processing can also occur unconsciously. The authors present a two step framework in which rewards are initially processed unconsciously and are then fully processed at the conscious level, and they discuss the consequences and implications of this processing model.
Early Development of Fear Processing
Jukka M. Leppänen and Charles A. Nelson
One of the most important functions our brain performs is devoting the appropriate amount of attentional and behavioral resources to biologically relevant stimuli. Despite its importance, the origin of the network responsible for these processes has received little attention. In this article, Leppänen and Nelson review research examining the foundations and the time-course of the development of fear processing capabilities. They conclude by discussing future directions of this research.