In Brief

Older air-traffic controllers use experience to compensate for age-related declines in mental sharpness, concludes a study in the March Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied (Vol. 15, No. 1). Two University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign psychologists evaluated older and younger air traffic controllers and non-controllers on basic cognitive and complex air-traffic control tasks. They found that despite declines in basic cognition, experience helped the older controllers compensate for those declines on the complex air-traffic tasks.


Childhood abuse or neglect alters DNA in the brain, according to a study in the March Nature Neuroscience (Vol. 12, No. 3). Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found that suicide victims who had a history of child abuse exhibited changes in the DNA of the hormonal stress gene NR3C1, leading to changes in the expression of the gene. Such changes were not observed in suicide victims who had no childhood abuse or in people who died of other causes.


A new analysis of 22 years of applied psychological research shows that teams tend to discuss information they already know and that "talkier" teams are less effective. "What this suggests is that teams who talk more amongst themselves aren't necessarily sharing useful information," says lead author Jessica Mesmer-Magnus, PhD, of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. "Therefore, they're not actually coming to a better result. Rather, it's more important what the teams are talking about, than how much they are talking." The researchers also found that teams communicate better when they engage in tasks where they are instructed to come up with a correct, or best, answer rather than a consensus. The study appears in the March issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 94, No. 2).


Spending time with a grandparent is linked to more pro-social behavior and fewer behavior problems among adolescents, finds a study of 1,515 English and Welsh 11- to 16-year olds in the February Journal of Family Psychology (Vol. 23, No. 1). Lead author Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz, PhD, of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says the effects were strongest among children in single-parent or stepfamily households. "It's possible [grandparents] can reduce the negative influence of parents separating and be a resource for children who are going through these family changes," she says.


Dads who believe their children look like them report being emotionally closer to them than fathers who don't see much of a resemblance in their kids, finds a study of 90 Dutch parents, published in the European Journal of Development Psychology (Vol. 6, No. 1). Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands suggest this may be because men, unlike women, aren't always wholly certain that a child is theirs.


Impulsive kindergartners are more likely to become gamblers, finds a study in the March Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (Vol. 163, No. 3). Psychologist Linda S. Pagani, PhD, and her colleagues at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and the University of Montreal, asked the teachers of 163 5-year-olds to rate their students' inattentiveness, distractibility and hyperactivity. Six years later, they interviewed the students about how often they played cards, bingo or video poker or engaged in other gambling-related activities. They found that with each one-point increase on the kindergarten impulsivity scale, a child's involvement in gambling in the sixth grade increased by 25 percent.


When it comes to drinking, college men aren't looking for a "girl gone wild," concludes research in the March Psychology of Addictive Behaviors (Vol. 23, No. 1). A survey of 3,616 college students at two American universities reports that 71 percent of young women overestimate by as much as 50 percent the amount of alcohol a typical guy would like his female friends, dates or girlfriends to drink. The study's lead author, Loyola Marymount University psychology professor Joseph LaBrie, PhD, also found that women who overestimated men's preferences were more likely to binge-drink and experience alcohol-related negative consequences.


Pregnant women and new moms with diabetes are nearly twice as likely as other women to become depressed, finds a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 301, No. 8). In a study of 11,024 women enrolled in New Jersey's Medicaid program who gave birth between July 2004 and September 2006, researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Minnesota found that about 10 percent of the women with diabetes and no history of prenatal depression developed postpartum depression, compared with 6 percent of non-diabetic women with similar histories.


TV shows designed for children age 7 or older contain nearly three times as much physical violence as shows for 14-year-olds, finds a study published online in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, which also found a strong link between the viewing of TV aggression and children's aggressive behavior. "Parents assume that higher [TV industry] ratings indicate more aggression, but the ratings don't measure what parents expect that they measure," says study co-author Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile, PhD.


Young people with more negative age stereotypes are nearly twice as likely to experience strokes, heart attacks and other heart problems when they get older than those who maintain positive age stereotypes, find researchers at the Yale School of Public Health. The study, in the March Psychological Science (Vol. 20, No. 3), used data from 440 18- to 49-year-olds taking part in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The authors say the findings underscore the importance of reducing negative age stereotypes among young adults.


When resources are tight, employers can keep employees motivated by ensuring that they feel valued and included, finds a study in the March Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 94, No. 2). Psychologists from New York University surveyed nearly 1,000 U.S. employees and found that, even more than good wages and benefits, employees who held positive views of their employers and work group, as well as their place within that work group, were more likely to work hard and go beyond their job requirements.

—A. Novotney