Buffering Stress with Optimism
Everything from traffic to tests can cause us to “freak out,” yet some people naturally handle stress better than others. Joëlle Jobin, 2012 APSSC Student Research Award winner, wanted to see if being an optimist or a pessimist could change the way stress affects individuals. When we stress out, our bodies release cortisol, a steroid hormone from the adrenal gland. Too much cortisol can have an adverse effect. Jobin and Carsten Wrosch, both from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, tested the association among stress, cortisol, and the buffering effect of optimism.
Mirror Neurons Help Us Identify Emotion in Faces
Madeleine L. Werhane won an APSSC Student Research Award for her work examining mirror neurons’ role in the identification of facial emotions. She received the award in May 2012 at the 24th APS Annual Convention. Mirror neurons are unique in that they engage not only when we perform specific actions, but also when we see others performing specific actions. The same neurons that control hand and mouth actions in monkeys, for instance, are activated when one monkey sees another monkey pick up a piece of food. Mirror neurons allow humans to learn through observation and communication.
Psychological Science Is Important (video)
APS Executive Director Alan G. Kraut Psychological science is important, as APS Executive Director Alan G. Kraut reminds us. By itself, psychological science produces a rich understanding of behavior. When paired with behavioral investigation, many other fields of scientific inquiry produce a richer understanding of our world. When he was APS President, John Cacioppo pointed out that an analysis of thousands of scientific journals (and literally millions of scientific articles) had identified psychological science — along with math, physics, and chemistry — as one of seven core disciplines that produces research cited widely by scientists in other fields.
Hormonal Contraception Alters Stress Hormone Response
The cameras were rolling at the APS 24th Annual Convention in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Watch as Shawn Nielsen, University of California, Irvine, describes her research. Most people remember emotionally arousing material better than neutral material partly due to the body’s natural stress response. But stress responses in women can vary during their menstrual cycle. Because ovarian sex hormone levels are commonly manipulated via hormonal contraception, Shawn Nielsen and Larry Cahill, at the Cahill Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine, hypothesized that contraceptive use would influence stress/sex hormone interactions and emotional memory.
Geraldine Dawson – New Directions in Early Detection and Intervention in Autism
Recent prospective studies of infants at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have provided insights into very early development in autism and allowed clinicians to develop new screening tools for identifying infants at risk for ASD. At the same time that early screening tools are being developed, novel approaches to early intervention are being tested with infants at risk for ASD as young as 12 months of age. The hope is that, by intervening very early in life, the course of early brain and behavioral development can be modified and the core symptoms of autism can be significantly reduced, or even prevented in some cases.
Save the Nerves for the Night Before
Four days left, 4 more psychological science highlights: Counting down to the Olympic Opening Ceremony, with research insights on sports and performance. #4. In Olympic competition, the margin between winning the gold and sitting in the stands often comes down to fractions of a second. Olympic athletes will be doing everything they can to gain even the slightest competitive edge. Researchers have found that feeling tense the night before a game could actually be part of gaining that edge. Recent research conducted at Northwestern University investigated whether feelings of tension play a part in swimming performance.