Searching for Tomorrow’s Innovators: Profiling Creative Adolescents
Barbara Kerr and Robyn McKay
Profiling may be a viable means of identifying those creative adolescents who can benefit from specialized guidance and exploration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, arts, and human services. The experimenters developed 1 general and 5 specific profiles including interest, personality, and achievement variables based on the profiles of eminent people in five domains of creative endeavor. Educators of gifted students at schools throughout a Midwestern state identified 485 students to attend a research through service counseling laboratory. One cohort received the Vocational Preference Inventory, the Personality Research Form, and the Tellegen Absorption Scale, and a second cohort received the VPI, the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO- PI-R), and Tellegen Absorption Scale. For each cohort, descriptive data were gathered and principal components analyses were performed on scales of interest and personality inventories. In addition, a cluster analysis was performed for the second cohort. The finding supported the hypothesis that profiling could be used to identify creative adolescents for career development programs. Both principal com- ponents analyses and cluster analyses revealed profiles of fine and performing arts stu- dents: one or two profiles of interpersonally talented groupings: and an engineering= technical profile. Creative students were more agreeable than those in previous studies, and there was strong evidence for crossover arts=science profiles.
Dopamine and training-related working-memory improvement
Lars Bäckmana, Lars Nybergb
Converging evidence indicates that the neurotransmitter dopamine (DA) is implicated in working-memory (WM) functioning and that WM is trainable. We review recent work suggesting that DA is critically involved in the ability to benefit from WM interventions. Functional MRI studies reveal increased striatal BOLD activity following certain forms of WM interventions, such as updating training. Increased striatal BOLD activity has also been linked to transfer of learning to non-trained WM tasks, suggesting a neural signature of transfer. The striatal BOLD signal is partly determined by DA activity. Consistent with this assertion, PET research demonstrates increased striatal DA release during updating of information in WM after training. Genetic studies indicate larger increases in WM performance post training for those who carry advantageous alleles of DA-relevant genes. These patterns of results corroborate the role of DA in WM improvement. Future research avenues include: (a) neuromodulatory correlates of transfer; (b) the potential of WM training to enhance DA release in older adults; (c) comparisons among different WM processes (i.e., updating, switching, inhibition) regarding regional patterns of training-related DA release; and (d) gene–gene interactions in relation to training-related WM gains.
STUDY ALERT: Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering
Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering
Michael D. Mrazek, Michael S. Franklin, Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Benjamin Baird, and Jonathan W. Schooler
Given that the ability to attend to a task without distraction underlies performance in a wide variety of contexts, training one’s ability to stay on task should result in a similarly broad enhancement of performance. In a randomized controlled investigation, we examined whether a 2-week mindfulness-training course would decrease mind wandering and improve cognitive performance. Mindfulness training improved both GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory capacity while simultaneously reducing the occurrence of distracting thoughts during completion of the GRE and the measure of working memory. Improvements in performance following mindfulness training were mediated by reduced mind wandering among participants who were prone to distraction at pretesting. Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide- reaching consequences.
STUDY ALERT: Characteristics of Near-Death Experiences Memories as Compared to Real and Imagined Events Memories
Characteristics of Near-Death Experiences Memories as Compared to Real and Imagined Events Memories
Marie Thonnard, Vanessa Charland-Verville, Serge Bre ́dart, Hedwige Dehon, Didier Ledoux, Steven Laureys, and Audrey Vanhaudenhuyse
Since the dawn of time, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) have intrigued and, nowadays, are still not fully explained. Since reports of NDEs are proposed to be imagined events, and since memories of imagined events have, on average, fewer phenomenological characteristics than real events memories, we here compared phenomenological characteristics of NDEs reports with memories of imagined and real events. We included three groups of coma survivors (8 patients with NDE as defined by the Greyson NDE scale, 6 patients without NDE but with memories of their coma, 7 patients without memories of their coma) and a group of 18 age-matched healthy volunteers. Five types of memories were assessed using Memory Characteristics Questionnaire (MCQ – Johnson et al., 1988): target memories (NDE for NDE memory group, coma memory for coma memory group, and first childhood memory for no memory and control groups), old and recent real event memories and old and recent imagined event memories. Since NDEs are known to have high emotional content, participants were requested to choose the most emotionally salient memories for both real and imagined recent and old event memories. Results showed that, in NDE memories group, NDE memories have more characteristics than memories of imagined and real events (p,0.02). NDE memories contain more self-referential and emotional information and have better clarity than memories of coma (all ps,0.02). The present study showed that NDE memories contained more characteristics than real event memories and coma memories. Thus, this suggests that they cannot be considered as imagined event memories. On the contrary, their physiological origins could lead them to be really perceived although not lived in the reality. Further work is needed to better understand this phenomenon.
(h/t: Kagan Cengiz)
Why We Essentialize Mental Disorders
PIETER R. ADRIAENS and ANDREAS DE BLOCK
Essentialism is one of the most pervasive problems in mental health research. Many psychiatrists still hold the view that their nosologies will enable them, sooner or later, to carve nature at its joints and to identify and chart the essence of mental disorders. Moreover, according to recent research in social psychology, some laypeople tend to think along similar essentialist lines. The main aim of this article is to highlight a number of processes that possibly explain the persistent presence and popularity of essentialist conceptions of mental disorders. One such process is the general tendency of laypeople to essentialize conceptual structures, including biological, social, and psychiatric categories. Another process involves the allure of biological psychiatry. Advocating a categorical and biological approach, this strand of psychiatry probably reinforced the already existing lay essentialism about mental disorders. As such, the question regarding why we essentialize mental disorders is a salient example of how cultural trends zero in on natural tendencies, and vice versa, and how both can boost each other.
(h/t: Rebecca McMillan)
Intensive Reasoning Training Alters Patterns of Brain Connectivity at Rest
Allyson P. Mackey, Alison T. Miller Singley, and Silvia A. Bunge
Patterns of correlated activity among brain regions reflect functionally relevant networks that are widely assumed to be stable over time. We hypothesized that if these correlations reflect the prior history of coactivation of brain regions, then a marked shift in cognition could alter the strength of coupling between these regions. We sought to test whether intensive reasoning training in humans would result in tighter coupling among regions in the lateral frontoparietal network, as measured with resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI). Rather than designing an artificial training program, we studied individuals who were preparing for a standardized test that places heavy demands on relational reasoning, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). LSAT questions require test takers to group or sequence items according to a set of complex rules. We recruited young adults who were enrolled in an LSAT course that offers 70 h of reasoning instruction (n = 24). rs-fMRI data were collected for all subjects during two scanning sessions separated by 90 d. An analysis of pairwise correlations between brain regions implicated in reasoning showed that fronto-parietal connections were strengthened, along with parietal-striatal connections. These findings provide strong evidence for neural plasticity at the level of large-scale networks supporting high-level cognition.
Is Working Memory Training Effective? A Meta-Analytic Review
Monica Melby-Lervåg and Charles Hulme
It has been suggested that working memory training programs are effective both as treatments for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other cognitive disorders in children and as a tool to improve cognitive ability and scholastic attainment in typically developing children and adults. However, effects across studies appear to be variable, and a systematic meta-analytic review was undertaken. To be included in the review, studies had to be randomized controlled trials or quasi-experiments without randomization, have a treatment, and have either a treated group or an untreated control group. Twenty-three studies with 30 group comparisons met the criteria for inclusion. The studies included involved clinical samples and samples of typically developing children and adults. Meta-analyses indicated that the programs produced reliable short-term improvements in working memory skills. For verbal working memory, these near-transfer effects were not sustained at follow-up, whereas for visuospatial working memory, limited evidence suggested that such effects might be maintained. More importantly, there was no convincing evidence of the generalization of working memory training to other skills (nonverbal and verbal ability, inhibitory processes in attention, word decoding, and arithmetic). The authors conclude that memory training programs appear to produce short-term, specific training effects that do not generalize. Possible limitations of the review (including age differences in the samples and the variety of different clinical conditions included) are noted. However, current findings cast doubt on both the clinical relevance of working memory training programs and their utility as methods of enhancing cognitive functioning in typically developing children and healthy adults.
Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief
Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan
Scientific interest in the cognitive underpinnings of religious belief has grown in recent years. However, to date, little experimental research has focused on the cognitive processes that may promote religious disbelief. The present studies apply a dual-process model of cognitive processing to this problem, testing the hypothesis that analytic processing promotes religious disbelief. Individual differences in the tendency to analytically override initially flawed intuitions in reasoning were associated with increased religious disbelief. Four additional experiments provided evidence of causation, as subtle manipulations known to trigger analytic processing also encouraged religious disbelief. Combined, these studies indicate that analytic processing is one factor (presumably among several) that promotes religious disbelief. Although these findings do not speak directly to conversations about the inherent rationality, value, or truth of religious beliefs, they illuminate one cognitive factor that may influence such discussions.