Archive for the ‘ Clinical Psychology ’ Category

“Folie a Deux”

I’ve always been fascinated by Folie a Deux, a psychological disorder characterized by two people sharing the same delusion(s). Considering the recent behavior of actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi Quaid, people are starting to consider whether or not the disorder could be an explanation (link).

Remember when Mr. Quaid was just Cousin Eddie from National Lampoons? I do.

-posted by Tyler

Rubber Robot Mouths for the Hearing Impaired

A team of researchers  is attempting to create an apparatus that not only learns how to articulate human speech, but also teaches hearing impaired individuals how to better articulate such speech (see original article) and even sing!

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It does this by using neural networks to adaptively learn how to vocalize using the constructed robot mouth. Then, the hearing impaired can use visual feedback to ascertain whether or not their utterances match the targets, or ideal utterances.

You can actually watch a video of the “creepy” little robot here. Apparently, it took a little bit of mocking in Popular Science to come to the forefront of my attention.

Nevertheless, it promises to be a useful tool for the hearing impaired who desire to not be speech impaired as well.

-Posted by Ashley

Understanding the Brain

TIME magazine has a nice interactive feature about the various and oft parallel attempts to understand the brain. Ancient beliefs (e.g. trephination), to Anatomy (Phineas Gage), to Psychology’s contributions, to Disorders and Neuroscience are all included.


-Posted by Tyler

The Angry Face and the Socially Phobic Adult

The angry face and the socially phobic adult: The time course of attention


The above poster is based on the article “The time-course of attention to emotional faces in social phobia” (Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 41, p. 39-44). There were two groups in this study, SP (Socially Phobic adults) and NP (Non-phobic adults, the control group). Each group viewed faces and objects on  a computer monitor while an eye tracking device recorded their eye movement. Participants were instructed to look wherever they liked.

The hypothesis was that socially phobic adults would show an early bias toward negative faces on face-face trials and would avoid faces in favor of objects on face-object trials. Face-face pairs consisted of angry and happy faces paired with a neutral face, and the face-object pairs were angry, happy and neutral faces paired with objects (like a vacuum, phone, lamp, table).

The results indicated support for the hypothesis. Socially phobic adults show an early bias towards negative faces, which can clearly be seen in this graph:

The focus of the article was on the left half of the above graph compared to the right graph. You can see that socially phobic adults fixated on angry faces more than the control group.  It’s also clear that the socially phobic adults and the control group fixated on happy faces more equally.  So the question that Professor Arnell asked me was: do you think socially phobic adults fixate more on angry faces, or is it just that most people typically avoid looking at negative faces?  It’s clear from the article that they thought the most interesting part of their data was socially phobic adults fixating on the negative faces.  However, this might not be the case.

Something that was either missed or just not added in is that it’s more interesting to look at the control group data in this graph.  There’s such a huge difference between the control group’s number of fixations on the happy faces compared to the angry faces, that it’s probably more likely that most people just avoid looking at negative stimulus.

– Posted by Alyssa Pilkington

Arm Yourselves: The West is Not Won

The drug war in Mexico and the United States is too close to home for one town in West Texas, residents there were recently warned by the Sheriff to “arm themselves.”

Fort Hancock, Texas is a “sleepy agricultural town” near the Mexico border and looks like a set from No Country for Old Men (NPR story). The sherrif recently gathered the residents in a school gymnasium and told them to “arm themselves” and that it was “better to be tried by 12 then carried by 6.” Truer words were never spoken.

It’s stories like this that make me both discouraged and relieved that 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is in place. Discouraged because it’s needed and relieved because if violence like this came to my town, I would want to protect myself and my family.

There is no telling what kind of fear people along the border feel right now. There’s a nice post at Brain Blogger about excessive fear, its side effects, and treatments.  A new treatment that uses extinction during a critical window after exposure to fear stimuli is showing promise for longer lasting desensitization.

Lets hope Obama’s top priority on the Mexico agenda does some good (linklink).

-Posted by Tyler

Forget about the Small Talk

Studies don’t get much cuter than this. A new study in Psychological Science indicates that well-being is related to less small talk and more substantive interactions with others (link).

The first thing that I thought was interesting about this study was that it was a naturalistic study, not experimental. In my experience, there aren’t too many naturalistic studies published in such a high impact factor journal. As the title of the article implies, the researchers basically eavesdropped on participants, albeit with informed consent. Participants wore recording devices that captured their interactions with others periodically.

Any research methods text will describe the pitfalls of naturalistic studies. Namely they require people to rate whatever is being observed which is an inherently difficult process. One way to address this issue is to compute an inter-rater reliability. In this case, raters categorized the content of conversations as either small-talk or substantive. The inter-rater reliability is not mentioned in this paper, which is a definite mark against the study (unless it was omitted for the purposes of limited space).

Participants also completed a life satisfaction and a personality measure to correlate the content of the conversations with their overall well-being. They found that,

higher well-being was associated with having less small talk, r = –.33, and having more substantive conversations, r = .28.

Given the correlational nature of the study, the scientists were cautious not to argue having deep conversations caused happiness, but rather pointed out that future research would do well to explore this experimentally. My question is Why didn’t they?

Mehl, M. R., Vazire, S., Holleran S. E., & Clark C. S. (2010). Eavesdropping on happiness: Well-being is related to having less small talk and more substantive conversations. Psychological Science, doi:10.1177/0956797610362675.

Special thanks to Adam Schenck for pointing out this article.

-Posted by Tyler

The Myth of the Overmedicated Child: An Author’s Failure to Find Confirming Evidence

In the New York Times, a book is reviewed in which the author, Judith Warner, admittedly cannot find the evidence that she sought to support her initial position on the overpresence of overmedicated children (i.e., that children today are overmedicated). Though the author initially only sought confirming evidence that there are many overmedicated children along with parents who are all too willing to drug their children in order to make them “more normal,” the author had much difficulty in finding any of these children or eager parents to interview for her book. As such, the author reinvented the message of her book, concluding that “most no parent takes the issue of psychiatric diagnosis lightly or rushes to ‘drug’ his or her child; and that responsible child psychiatrists don’t, either ” . In a way, the fact that she looked for confirming evidence and couldn’t find it, made her more willing to accept the alternative.

-Posted by Ashley