Archive of 2011 PsycEXTRA® Sample Searches Podcasts

November 2011

Flashpoint!

Remember the movie Network? In it, longtime anchor Howard Beale galvanizes the nation by ranting "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!," and he persuades his viewers to join him in shouting it out their windows. It looks like the American protest movement may have just experienced a Howard Beale moment.

A series of protests against social and economic inequality began with an Occupy Wall Street movement in mid-September and spread quickly across the country and world. Though there's remained a steady core of activists in this country, we haven't seen the widespread demonstrations and cultural unrest that marked the 1960s and early 1970s in recent years. The Occupy Movement seems to have fanned a smoldering fire of unrest into flame. Though it has no clearly stated aims, the commonality among Occupy protesters seems to be a focus on inequality in society as a damaging element.

A simple any field search on inequality and activism in PsycEXTRA yields 27 results, which may then be facetted to focus on social equality and political participation. Among the findings are these:

  • "How Economic Inequality Harms Societies" (Wilkinson, 2011) is a video in the TED series that looks at the history of inequality as a divisive and socially corrosive factor. Wilkinson took data from the U.N. to measure income disparity within countries and discusses the kinds of problems more prevalent in countries with great disparities, such as the United States. For example, a World Values trust survey shows that in more unequal societies, about 15% of the population feels they can trust others. In more equal societies, that number rises to 60% or 65%.
  • In APA Division 39's newsletter, The Psychoanalytic Activist (Layton, 2011), "The Psychology and Politics of Privilege" author discussed "neoliberalism" and the problems capitalism is facing today due to increasing economic and social inequality. She discussed how sessions in which politics, a third rail of therapy, was explicitly discussed and often broke new ground for the client. In instances in which people were suffering from various kinds of social and economic inequalities, political discussion helped patients bring their own rage and "extreme" reactions into the therapy environment.
  • In "'Corporations Are People Too!' Satirical Activism as Antidote to a Politics of Resignation?" (Haugerud, 2010), a conference abstract from American Anthropological Association relates how satire can be used as a counter to the politics of resignation. The author studied activists as they "charmed" corporate journalists and spectators as a way to critique "corporate power, Wall Street excesses, skyrocketing economic inequality, and the outsized role of money in American politics." Satire becomes a strategy to manage both the activists own emotions and to shape public sentiment.

PsycEXTRA is the first of our research databases to include content on very current events. In the near future, we expect that there will be a great deal more material relevant to social movements such as Occupy and what is called the Arab Spring added to PsycEXTRA.

You can help make PsycEXTRA even better. Are you a member of an organization or a fan of an organization with information relevant to psychology and the behavioral sciences? What are your go-to websites, newsletters, collections, and archives for your own questions or research? If you'd like to know more about including that content in PsycEXTRA, we'd like to hear from you.

August 2011

An Archive for Organizational Content

Although we commonly focus on content demonstrating PsycEXTRA as the most up-to-date of our databases — able to make information on current events available within days of their occurrence and much faster than peer-review databases — that is not its only benefit. Another is that it provides an archive for organizational materials. Let's use one of APA's divisions as an example.

The 54 APA divisions are interest groups organized by the members themselves, some representing subdisciplines of psychology, such as experimental, social, or clinical. Others focus on topical areas such as aging, minorities, or trauma. Division 36, the Psychology of Religion, is a nonsectarian group that brings together psychologists who recognize the significance of religion in both the lives of people and the discipline of psychology. Division members who use PsycEXTRA can access their organization's conference materials and newsletters, searching years of content using APA's indexing and classification features.

Let's take a look at what's currently available. A search of PsycEXTRA using "division 36" yields about 350 results.

A quick overview:

  • The content types include early directories, newsletters, and conference materials.
  • As of August 10th, the date range of the materials is from 1949 through the first week August 2011.
  • Index terms that were most frequently used to define the content include both the expected, such as religion, spirituality, religious beliefs, and god concepts, and the less expected, such as scientific communication and membership.
  • The spectrum of classification codes used also provides a useful snapshot. The most commonly used is 2920, religion, with 180 of the documents assigned. Other codes show that the content is also relevant to history and systems, psychoanalytic theory, psychosocial and personality development, and sex roles and women's issues.

You can find the 2011 APA annual convention Division 36 program summary sheet, which tells you the topic of all of the division presentations at the conference as well as the presenters. For example, a symposium was held on Spiritually Oriented Interventions in Psychotherapy With Religiously Diverse Populations; Gary Schwartz gave an invited address on Consciousness, Spirituality, and Postmaterialist Science: The Sacred Promise; and a new crop of researchers presented posters on 35 topics, which included Spiritual Journey of Parenting a Child With Chronic Illness (Pikiewicz), Psychological and Spiritual Journey of Incarcerated Adolescents Through Imaginal Psychotherapy (Mondragon-Gilmore), and Association of Religiousness With Physical and Mental Health: Forgiveness as a Mediator (Conway-Williams).

Content from the presentations themselves will be added over time as the presenters make it available.

Division 36 has a marvelous newsletter, Psychology of Religion (their quarterly journal, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality® is available in full text through PsycARTICLES®). Full text of newsletter articles is available stretching back into the 1970s and up to the most recent edition. Many of the articles are aimed at supporting networking and social support for psychologists, especially early career professionals (see O'Grady & Okozi, 2010; Wade, 2010), but there are also issues dedicated to exploring how spirituality and religion affect all aspects of our lives.

The researcher could also find content that reports on the Division. For example, the Monitor on Psychology reported on how Division 36 brings spirituality into research and practice (DeAngelis, 2008).

You can help make PsycEXTRA even better. Are you a member of an organization or a fan of an organization with information relevant to psychology and the behavioral sciences? What are your go-to websites, newsletters, collections, and archives for your own questions or research? If you'd like to know more about including that content in PsycEXTRA, we'd like to hear from you.

July 2011

Now You Can Search for More Kinds of Content

We'd like to announce some exciting new search features available in the database. We've recently added a number of new document types. For example, you may now search for dissertations and theses, data, grants, patents, websites and blogs, audio podcasts (under multimedia), and student journals, among other new content. Over the next few months we'll take a closer look at the new content as it is added to the database.

Dissertations and Theses

Let's begin our examination with dissertations and theses. As we've just begun adding and identifying the content, it will take time to build up the data. We've started by adding full text from military institutions. Thus, we can create a search by combining document type dissertations and theses and the US Navy as content owner. Using "terrorism" as a keyword, we find content papers from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

These include the following:

  • Assessing Domestic Right-Wing Extremism Using the Theory of Collective Behavior (Baldoza, 2009).
    This thesis applied the theory of collective behavior to examine in the context of the U.S. health care reform debate conditions and dynamics influencing the domestic far right and the likelihood of their leading to a violent confrontation with the government.
  • Agency and Structure as Determinants of Female Suicide Terrorism: A Comparative Study of Three Conflict Regions (Dearing, 2009).
    This thesis addressed the question of why some insurgent groups use female suicide bombers while others avoid this tactic, using Afghanistan as a sample.
  • Al Qaeda as a Charismatic Phenomenon (Singh, 2009).
    The study examined the presence of charismatic effect in terrorist or insurgent groups to explore its tendency to increase the violence of the group.
  • Hezbollah's Psychological Warfare Strategy Against Israel (Brennen, 2009).
    The study looked at the issue of how a non-state actor such as Hezbollah could do so well against a regional superpower like Israel and do so quickly, concluding Hezbollah's psychological warfare strategy played a crucial role in exploiting Israel's military mistakes and its aversion to casualties.
  • The Intelligence Requirements of Psychological Operations in Counterterrorism (Dorbudak, 2008).
    This study used al-Qaeda as a case study to explore how psychological operations can be used to influence individuals not to join terrorist organizations and to facilitate defections from terrorist organizations.

Please let us know what organizations you think would be particularly useful for us to add to PsycEXTRA. You can contact us by email. We'd love to hear from you.

June 2011

Boys Will Be…

Tell us you didn't know this issue was coming! As we look over the news of the past few weeks, the budget impasse, wildfires and drought, the wobbling economy, there's one topic that has obsessed the media: sex.

Specifically, on the heels of a number of other notable scandals in recent years, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Representative Anthony Weiner have distinguished themselves by actions of jaw-dropping brazenness ranging from iconic boorishness to seamy criminality to epic stupidity. The themes that jostle for contention from this trinity just begin with hubris, corruption of power, and chauvinism (is "creepiness" a psychological term?). Thanks to their escapades, "sex addiction" is once again a major topic in the news.

Searching PsycEXTRA for sex or sexual addiction provides a variety of sources on the issue ranging from reports ("An SSRI Feasibility Study," Grubin) to book reviews (Lonely All the Time, Ladeluca, 1991), to newsletters ("Extra-Group Fraternizing in an Addiction Recovery Program," Griffin-Shelley, 2000), to video (Cybersex Addiction, Wood, 2005), to magazines (Is Internet Addiction Real?, 2000), to a host of conference presentations and abstracts (Prevalence Rates of Online Sexual Addiction Among Protestant Clergy). And we predict the incidence of these is about to spike.

Interesting strands of research include the debate by the American Psychiatry Association on the validity of sex addiction as a genuine disease (Sex Addiction, Real Disease or Convenient Excuse?, 2011). Is this a real disorder or just a handy reason for doing exactly what one wants? The debate has very important implications, as the decision must be made on whether or not to add sex addiction (calling it a hypersexual disorder) to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

At a minimum, the challenge of diagnosing sexual addiction or compulsivity is substantial, as is discussed in Addiction Professional (What We Know About the Sex Addict, Carnes, 2007). In order to conduct an appropriate assessment of these patients, professional helpers need to be aware of how sex addicts come to be and to have objective criteria by which to evaluate them.

The Internet and social media have also been game changers, and online sexual addiction, or cyberaddiction, has become a concern in many different populations (NIDA Notes, Young, 2010) and at great cost on many fronts. For instance, a stockbroker reported "I waste hours looking for cybersex, finding the right cyberlover, and the right fantasy for the moment." The author noted that users' sense of accountability dissipates within the anonymity of cyberspace, which enables them to experiment with bolder and bolder sexual fantasies without fearing repercussion.

Though repercussions may well find you. As the news makes all too abundantly clear, this issue isn't going away any time soon.

May 2011

"Rosebud"

Is there a greater mystery than memory? Its trail is our own story; its cultivation a way to shape our experience; and its failures a blindness that can frustrate and even frighten us. Some of the things we remember most clearly never actually happened, most memories fade or morph over time, and much of what we try most to commit to memory refuses to stay put. Yet we may remember a particular moment or a particular smell on a particular summer evening for a lifetime.

There is a huge amount of research on memory and cognition, as aspects of memory are important across disciplines, from education to legal to psychiatric to geriatric. How can we better understand and even train and access memory?

One of the uses of APA PsycEXTRA is simply to find information we might be able to use in our own lives or with our own family, friends, and colleagues. Why don't we remember the capital of Australia when we just spent several hours cramming for an exam, and we darned sure did know it just a little while ago? What information can we find in the database that might have practical application to ways to improve studying?

In education, commonsense and common practice have us use easy-to-read fonts, straightforward outlines, and strictly relevant text. A number of sources, however, have suggested that the most useful thing you can do to encourage learning is to make the process harder rather than easier.

Benedict Carey, a writer for the New York Times, has a number of fascinating articles abstracted in the database on just this topic. In "Come On, I Thought I knew That!," (2011) he reported on recent research on what helps and harms memory. Font size has no proven effect, though font style does. Turns out the less readable a font is, the harder the brain works and the more likely one is to remember what it says. Likewise, the easier an answer to check or the clearer an outline, the more confident but less accurate a test taker will be. Our brains automatically associate ease of storage with ease of recall, but that's not a good guide when studying difficult concepts. For those, there's no substitute for the hard slog. Repeated study sessions and creation of our own outlines are the better approach.

In "Forget What You know About Good Study Habits," (2010) Carey upended a number of other "proven" study techniques. For example, rather than sticking to one study location (as is commonly recommended), alternate rooms. It improves retention. "Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding." So does studying related skills rather than focusing exclusively on one topic at a sitting. "Musicians," Carey writes, "have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed, and skill drills."

The Economist too reported on the advantages of erecting obstacles to learning (Learning Difficulties, 2010). They report that "a PARADOX of education is that presenting information in a way that looks easy to learn often has the opposite effect.…when people are forced to think hard about what they are shown they remember it better…In [a piece] published in Cognition, by Daniel Oppenheimer, a psychologist at Princeton University, and his colleagues, [the solution] is simple: make the text conveying the information harder to read."

Master the procedure, and maybe the capital of Australia will remain as clear as the memory of an old sled or return as though prompted by the scent of a madeleine cookie.

April 2011

What's the Buzz?

Does it seem to you too that we're in an astonishingly active news period? Since the turn of the year we've had a number of extraordinary news stories, from continuing uprisings in Africa and the Mideast, to ongoing budget battles in the United States, to the seemingly unending series of crises in Japan. We are buffeted by newspaper and social media reports about today's events, but most news is both fickle, dropping one story and rushing full tilt to break the next, and ephemeral (from the Greek ephemeras, literally meaning "passing in a day"), so here today, hard to find tomorrow. PsycEXTRA helps resolve both of those issues by providing quick and trustworthy information on behaviorally relevant current events, digitized, archived, and indexed with the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms.

We can turn to PsycEXTRA to search for specific information on a disaster, and note that within days or weeks, specific information on that incident may start to appear in the database. It's important to also recognize that we can get information immediately by expanding a search to include information on analogous situations that can be applied to breaking events, thus greatly expanding the number of useful results you can find.

Let's take as an example, the earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan on March 10, 2011 and the ongoing nuclear crisis that has followed. It is the largest disaster to strike Japan since World War 2, but the behavioral impacts of the events are not unprecedented. What results would we find that are specific to these events, and do they suggest other avenues of research?

A number of sources specific to these events became available in PsycEXTRA within weeks of the event. For example, APA issued a report in response to the earthquake and its aftermath. Available in full text, the document provides an incident-specific response to the Japanese situation that is modeled on its procedural document "APA's Response to International Emergencies" (2011). It provides guidance on psychosocial recovery programs and guidance to psychologists wanting to take direct action.

There have been numerous useful newspaper articles on various aspects of the emergency. They include articles in the Washington Post (Stein, March 14, 2011) and the New York Times (Carey, March 20, 2011; Grady, March 29, 2011) on the dangers of the nuclear power plant disaster and radiation. A particularly useful document is a bibliography pulled together by the National Center for PTSD, titled "Research on the Aftermath of Earthquakes in Japan: A Selective Bibliography" (March 15, 2011). That document includes resources pulled together following two previous major Japanese earthquakes, in Kobe in 1995 and Niigata in 2004.

An important tool for any researcher is expanding a search to include results on situations that are similar in kind and scope to what he or she is specifically seeking. Thus, in this situation, if for example, our main research concern was the Japanese nuclear crisis and the long-term environmental, social, and stress-related effects, we could search for information in similar situations.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster and long-term radiation effects would provide other sources and document types (for example, the video Igor — The Boy Who Dared to Dream, 1998). In addition, we could also try to find research on long-term exposure to radiation from Japan itself, as its population has been studied for the effects of radiation over the years since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (for example, ONR Tokyo Scientific Bulletin, 1977).

Although the Japanese people today are at the beginning of the repercussions of the March events, there is a large body of research that can help us to try to understand the situation and prepare for the days and years ahead.

March 2011

Serendipity

Creativity springs from numerous sources, including logic, genius, and culture — but often its source is chance, or more providentially, serendipity. Webster's defines serendipity as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for" while mythologist Joseph Campbell referred to it as "a thousand unseen helping hands." Picture, if you will, Archimedes as one of its spokespersons, running dripping but triumphant from his bath through the streets of Syracuse, having stumbled on the theory of buoyancy by sheer dumb luck and being open to the moment of discovery.

Creativity is a wellspring of joy, a source of health and wellbeing, and to both our benefit and detriment, the engine of human change. What's the science behind it?

PsycEXTRA, with its numerous document types that include new and less academic research sources, is an excellent source of thought-provoking information you might not find elsewhere. Indeed, this is such a rich vein that an unlimited keyword search for creativity or serendipity would overwhelm with almost 1,500 results. If we restrict those findings to problem solving, we find some interesting research in creative solutions.

In "Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving" (2010; The New York Times), Carey reported on a Northwestern University study that found people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, just having seen a short comedy routine. The very idea of doing a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle typically shifted the brain into an open, playful, and receptive state.

Likewise in 2010 and The New York Times, in "Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind," John Tierney reviewed new evidence on daydreaming. It was once considered a failure of mental discipline, or worse (Freud labeled it infantile and neurotic), and psychology textbooks warned it could lead to psychosis. Neuroscientists complained that the rogue bursts of activity on brain scans kept interfering with their studies of "more important" mental functions. Recently, however, researchers have found daydreaming to be both common and often quite useful. A wandering mind can protect you from immediate stress and keep you on course toward long-term goals, fostering creativity and helping solve problems.

Other research has reported going even one better than daydreaming. "Sleeping Your Problems Away" (Hutson, 2009; Psychology Today) highlighted experimental evidence from a University of California at San Diego study on REM sleep and creativity that dreaming aids problem-solving.

People can also actively encourage their creative impulses. In "Journaling…Putting Thoughts and Feelings on Paper" (CAPSS Quarterly; 2010), Lesesne reported on journal writing as a therapeutic tool. Journaling produces a number of benefits — among them, enhancing creativity. Researchers also found a number of psychological and physical benefits: Physically, journaling reduced painful symptoms of disease, and the psychological benefits included reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, and solving problems.

The research goes on in many formats and covering many sources of creative thinking, from play ("Bring Back Old-Fashioned Play," Munsey, 2008; Monitor on Psychology), to education ("Maryland Classroom for September," 2008; Maryland Classroom Newsletter), to engineering ("Leadership Emergence in Engineering Design Teams,"Guastello, 2008, conference abstract).

See what you can stumble upon!

February 2011

HIV and Male Circumcision

It's been more than 50 years now since 1959, when scientists isolated the earliest known case of AIDS. The epidemic has grown exponentially since 1980; most of us can't remember a time before the scourge of HIV and AIDS. Now and then, though, some newly seen data make the magnitude of the epidemic really sink in.

Here are a few: by the end of 2009, about 33 million people were living with AIDS worldwide, including about 2.5 million children. In the United States alone, there are about 56,000 new infections a year, with Washington, DC, American Psychological Association's own neighborhood, having the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of infection in 2010, at 3% of the population. But in Africa, the rate of infection is much higher. For example, just under 20% of Swaziland's 1 million people test positive for HIV.

Thanks to advances in medicine, a diagnosis is no longer automatically a death sentence, but it still blights lives and countries. Thus, there is widespread agreement that the focus needs to be on preventing the infection in the first place.

One relatively recent (and controversial) method of preventing the spread of HIV in Africa is adult male circumcision. What information is there in the PsycEXTRA database on how circumcision prevents the spread of HIV? There is a rich vein of HIV-related resources, with more than 4,000 records relevant to the condition and its prevention overall in the database.

Searching with the index term "HIV prevention" and keyword "circumcision", we find 12 search results specifically focused on circumcision as a preventative. They include the following:

  • In "Adult Male Circumcision Significantly Reduces Risk of Acquiring HIV: Trials in Kenya and Uganda Stopped Early," the US Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (2006) reported that the trials had been so successful that to not offer the benefit to the control group would be unethical.
  • The Washington Post repeated the good news in "Circumcision Recommended in Global HIV Fight" (Timberg, 2007), reporting that global health officials had recommended that countries with rampant AIDS epidemics should begin offering free or subsidized circumcisions to prevent millions of new infections and deaths in response to growing evidence that removing a man's foreskin lowers his risk of contracting HIV by 60%. The report suggested that circumcision campaigns could prevent 5.7 million new infections in Africa over the next 20 years.
  • Though earlier reports displayed little doubt of the procedures effectiveness, the New York Times has reported both positive and negative aspects in articles that included "New Web Site Seeks to Fight Myths About Circumcision and HIV" (McNeil, 2009), which discussed the creation of a web site, malecircumcision.org, created by the World Health Organization to help fight popular myths and demonstrate surgical techniques for the benefit of small missionary hospitals in rural areas.
  • Other articles have explored potential problems with the procedure, such as "Male Circumcision No Aid to Women in Study" (Altman, 2008). That article discussed findings that circumcision among men reduced their risk of infection from the AIDS virus but showed that male circumcision led to no direct benefit to female partners and actually increased their risk.

January 2011

Let There Be Light!

Nothing is more important to the rhythm of life than light. It is a measure so constant that its speed provides the framework in many areas of physics. It is so integral to us that most human cultures have since ancient times celebrated the return of lengthening days with a holiday that falls shortly after the longest night of the year. Light determines when sap rises, when leaves color and bud, when birds migrate, and when bears head yawning off to hibernate.

And quite a few of us human primates are just plain miserable without enough of it. January and February are the months with the highest incidence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder that affects about 5% of the population in this hemisphere, and that affects women and young adults at disproportionate rates.

A school counselor looking for information on SAD could find some helpful resources on the disorder in PsycEXTRA. In addition to research results from numerous clinical trials being conducted on various treatments therapies, he or she could find some easily "digestible" fact sheets and magazine and newspaper articles that have explored the issue and give advice in layperson's terms.

Examples have included the following:

  • "Enter, Darkness" (Tamura, 2010), a Washington Post article, discussed the wintertime blues and its more serious form, SAD. Psychiatrists and chronobiologists interviewed recommended exposure to morning light and discussed why waning light may cause lethargy, depression, social withdrawal, and overeating.
  • The state of Tennessee ("Feeling 'SAD' During the Winter Months?") issued a 2009 press release that recommended increased light exposure through light therapy or phototherapy by using a simulated daylight light source. For severe cases, it noted that antidepressants may be prescribed, but for many, exercise, proper nutrition, and added light can help relieve the symptoms.
  • In "Beating Depression…Help Is Available" (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2007), in a magazine for the National Library of Medicine, the authors discussed the symptoms of depression and the variations of causes, including SAD. Noting that SAD sufferers are particularly likely to sleep too much, have little energy, and crave sweets and starchy foods, the authors also discussed specific medications, both individually and in combination.
  • An Alabama Department of Mental Health press release, "Coming Months Bring Peak Time for Seasonal Affective Disorder" (2007), discussed diagnosis in greater detail. SAD affects nearly half a million people and can be diagnosed after three consecutive winters of symptoms, if the symptoms are followed by complete remission in the spring and summer months. Self-treatment for milder cases was discussed and information on finding a mental health professional provided for those with symptoms severe enough to affect their daily lives.