STUDY ALERT: An Evolutionary Life History Framework for Psychopathology

An Evolutionary Life History Framework for Psychopathology 

Marco Del Giudice

Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In this article, I outline a general framework for the evolutionary analysis of mental disorders based on the concepts of life history theory. I synthesize and extend a large body of work showing that individual differences in life history strategy set the stage for the development of psychopathology. My analysis centers on the novel distinction between fast spectrum and slow spectrum disorders. I describe four main causal pathways from life history strategies to psychopathology, argue that psychopathology can arise at both ends of the fast–slow continuum of life history variation, and provide heuristic criteria for classifying disorders as fast or slow spectrum pathologies. I then apply the fast–slow distinction to a diverse sample of common mental disorders: externalizing disorders, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders, and depression. The framework integrates previously disconnected models of psychopathology within a common frame of reference and has far-reaching implications for the classification of mental disorders.


Read article

Narcissism vs. Self-Esteem: Does Self-Love or Self-Hate Lead to Violence?

Threatened Egotism, Narcissism, Self-Esteem, and Direct and Displaced Aggression: Does Self-Love or Self-Hate Lead to Violence? 

Brad J. Bushman Roy F. Baumeister 

It has been widely asserted that low self-esteem causes violence, but laboratory evidence is lacking, and some contrary observations have characterized aggressors as having favorable self-opinions. In 2 studies, both simple self-esteem and narcissism were measured, and then individual participants were given an opportunity to aggress against someone who had insulted them or praised them or against an innocent third person. Self-esteem proved irrelevant to aggression. The combination of narcissism and insult led to exceptionally high levels of aggression toward the source of the insult. Neither form of self-regard affected displaced aggression, which was low in general. These findings contradict the popular view that low self-esteem causes aggression and point instead toward threat- ened egotism as an important cause.



STUDY ALERT: Differences in cognitive abilities among primates are concentrated on G

Differences in cognitive abilities among primates are concentrated on G: Phenotypic and phylogenetic comparisons with two meta-analytical databases 

Heitor B.F. Fernandes, Michael A. Woodley, Jan te Nijenhuis

General intelligence has been shown to exist within and among species of mammals and birds. An important question concerns whether it is the principal source of differences in cognitive abilities between species, as is the case with comparisons involving many human populations. Using meta-analytic databases of ethological observations of cognitive abilities involving 69 primate species, we found that cognitive abilities that load more strongly on a common factor (which is here termed G, in line with the terminology developed in previous literature to describe aggregated measures of general intelligence) are associated with significantly bigger interspecies differences and bigger interspecies variance. Additionally, two novel evolutionary predictions were made: more G-loaded abilities would present (1) weaker phylogenetic signals, indicating less phylogenetic conservativeness, and (2) faster rates of trait evolution, as it was hypothesized that G has been subjected to stronger selection pressures than narrower, more domain-specific abilities. These predictions were corroborated with phylogenetic comparative methods, with stronger effects among catarrhines (apes and Old World monkeys) than within the entire primate order. These data strongly suggest that G is the principal locus of selection in the macroevolution of primate intelligence. Implications for the understanding of population differences in cognitive abilities among human populations and for the theory of massive modularity applied to intelligence are discussed.

Read article

The Tears of a Clown: Understanding Comedy Writers

What are comedy writers like? Stylistically, professional humorists and other funny individuals span a variety of flavors of humor. There is some evidence that they are more creative and verbally intelligent and adept at self-monitoring. Those who tell jokes for money tend to have had to overcome adversities in life and seem to use humor as a coping mechanism.

Read full review here

Robin Williams’ Comedic Genius Was Not a Result of Mental Illness, But His Suicide Was

Of course, the media is writing a lot today about the link between mental illness and creativity in light of Robin Williams’ suicide.

Here’s the thing: Williams’ comedic genius was a result of many factors, including his compassion, playfulness, divergent thinking, imagination, intelligence, affective repertoire, and unique life experiences.

In contrast, his suicide was strongly influenced by his mental illness.

This romanticism of mental illness needs to stop. The media needs to offer accurate views of what it’s like to have a real debilitating mental illness and make a call for more funding to support those who are suffering instead of focusing on cutesy connections to genius that are not even supported in the scientific literature.


The Real Link Between Mental Illness and Creativity

The Tears of a Clown: Understanding Comedy Writers

Being Suicidal: What it feels like to want to kill yourself

US Suicide Helpline: 1-800-273-8255 UK: 08457 90 90 90 

STUDY ALERT: Sex differences in the relationship between white matter connectivity and creativity

Sex differences in the relationship between white matter connectivity and creativity 

Sephira G. Ryman, Martijn P. van den Heuvel, Ronald A. Yeo, Arvind Caprihan, Jessica Carrasco, Andrei A. Vakhtin, Ranee A. Flores, Christopher Wertz, Rex E. Jung 

Creative cognition emerges from a complex network of interacting brain regions. This study investigated the relationship between the structural organization of the human brain and aspects of creative cognition tapped by divergent thinking tasks. Diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) was used to obtain fiber tracts from 83 segmented cortical regions. This information was represented as a network and metrics of connectivity organization, includ- ing connectivity strength, clustering and communication efficiency were computed, and their relationship to individual levels of creativity was examined. Permutation testing identified significant sex differences in the relationship between global connectivity and creativity as measured by divergent thinking tests. Females demonstrated significant inverse relationships between global connectivity and creative cognition, whereas there were no significant relationships observed in males. Node specific analyses revealed inverse relationships across measures of connectivity, efficiency, clustering and creative cognition in widespread regions in females. Our findings suggest that females involve more regions of the brain in processing to produce novel ideas to solutions, per- haps at the expense of efficiency (greater path lengths). Males, in contrast, exhibited few, relatively weak positive relationships across these measures. Extending recent observations of sex differences in connectome structure, our findings of sexually dimorphic relationships suggest a unique topological organization of connectivity underlying the generation of novel ideas in males and females.

Read article

STUDY ALERT: Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory: a meta-analysis

Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory: a meta-analysis 

Jacky Au & Ellen Sheehan & Nancy Tsai & Greg J. Duncan & Martin Buschkuehl & Susanne M. Jaeggi 

Working memory (WM), the ability to store and manipulate information for short periods of time, is an impor- tant predictor of scholastic aptitude and a critical bottleneck underlying higher-order cognitive processes, including con- trolled attention and reasoning. Recent interventions targeting WM have suggested plasticity of the WM system by demon- strating improvements in both trained and untrained WM tasks. However, evidence on transfer of improved WM into more general cognitive domains such as fluid intelligence (Gf) has been more equivocal. Therefore, we conducted a meta- analysis focusing on one specific training program, n-back. We searched PubMed and Google Scholar for all n-back training studies with Gf outcome measures, a control group, and healthy participants between 18 and 50 years of age. In total, we included 20 studies in our analyses that met our criteria and found a small but significant positive effect of n- back training on improving Gf. Several factors that moderate this transfer are identified and discussed. We conclude that short-term cognitive training on the order of weeks can result in beneficial effects in important cognitive functions as mea- sured by laboratory tests.

Read article

STUDY ALERT: Lesion mapping of social problem solving

Lesion mapping of social problem solving 

Aron K. Barbey, Roberto Colom, Erick J. Paul, Aileen Chau, Jeffrey Solomon and Jordan H. Grafman

Accumulating neuroscience evidence indicates that human intelligence is supported by a distributed network of frontal and parietal regions that enable complex, goal-directed behaviour. However, the contributions of this network to social aspects of intellectual function remain to be well characterized. Here, we report a human lesion study (n = 144) that investigates the neural bases of social problem solving (measured by the Everyday Problem Solving Inventory) and examine the degree to which indi- vidual differences in performance are predicted by a broad spectrum of psychological variables, including psychometric intelli- gence (measured by the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale), emotional intelligence (measured by the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test), and personality traits (measured by the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory). Scores for each variable were obtained, followed by voxel-based lesion–symptom mapping. Stepwise regression analyses re- vealed that working memory, processing speed, and emotional intelligence predict individual differences in everyday problem solving. A targeted analysis of specific everyday problem solving domains (involving friends, home management, consumerism, work, information management, and family) revealed psychological variables that selectively contribute to each. Lesion mapping results indicated that social problem solving, psychometric intelligence, and emotional intelligence are supported by a shared network of frontal, temporal, and parietal regions, including white matter association tracts that bind these areas into a coordi- nated system. The results support an integrative framework for understanding social intelligence and make specific recommen- dations for the application of the Everyday Problem Solving Inventory to the study of social problem solving in health and disease.

Read article