Archive of 2012 PsycEXTRA® Sample Searches Podcasts

December 2012

Teach Your Children Well

We have come around again to what has traditionally been the season of peace and good will toward each other. Yet what is it we really see celebrated? The holiday buying frenzy seems to have reached a new fever pitch, as more and more stores opened on Thanksgiving this year, to get an earlier start to the all-important sales.

Over the following weekend, two stories played repeatedly on the news: a video of one crazed shopper threatening to stab another in a crowd pouring into a store and a photo of a policeman, photographed without his knowledge as he knelt beside a barefoot homeless man on a freezing night to give him a pair of boots he had bought with his own money. Our children, seeing both of these, must make sense of the world and their place in it. What research can we provide parents that will help them help their child develop a moral compass?

A search of PsycEXTRA using the index terms Empathy and Prosocial Behavior and its narrower terms, limited to childhood and adolescence, yields a bonanza of more than 300 results. A parent looking for more active help on how to inculcate positive behavior might want information aimed at the layperson, however, so I further limited the results to fact sheets and brochures, newspapers, magazines, and blogs and reduced the results to 55.

Among those results are the following that a parent could find useful:

"Using Social Media to Engage Youth: Education, Social Justice, & Humanitarianism" (Liang, Commins, & Duffy, 2010, December) discussed best-practices toward creating social media that are engaging, safe, and growth fostering for youth, asking the question "Can the internet, and specifically, social media, be used to engage youth and turn them toward community and cultural awareness, social justice, and humanitarianism?"

In a 2010 blog post "Psychological Science, Prosocial Behavior, and Schools," Danny Wedding, editor of the PsycCRITIQUES Blog, initiated a discussion on whether schools should make more use of what psychologists know about prosocial behavior in teaching students to be better people. In the lively discussion generated, the commenters noted that historically the role of schools was largely to promote the development of ethical participatory democratic citizens. They also recommend a number of books and movies that a parent could use to promote their children's positive social behaviors.

In "Empathy's Natural, but Nurturing It Helps" (2010, The New York Times), Jane Brody provided information and tips on teaching empathy to young children. The article suggests readings and other opportunities to educate on empathy in age appropriate activities.

Among many brochures a parent might find useful is "Teens as Volunteers" (Theokas & Block, 2006), a publication of the Atlantic Philanthropies Child Trends. It reported that not only is volunteering a way for kids to feel more positive about themselves and avoid risky behavior such as drug use, it is also a way to benefit the community. The brochure gives statistical information on who volunteers, how often, and the vital impact of adult role models in the likelihood of volunteering.

We here at APA wish you and yours a peaceful and joyous holiday season.

September 2012

We Are Living in a Material World

We know from our own experience and the society we live in that possessions are important. That message comes through loud and clear from the media, from our peers, from our own families. But what happens when you know possessions are important but your ability to assess their value is impaired?

That's part of what makes a hoarder (a new disorder in the draft DSM–V). And I think part of why we are so obsessed with them — there are currently four television shows about hoarding, one specifically about animal hoarding — is our recognition of a sort of funhouse mirror distortion of a "normal" impulse. The abnormality lies not in the nature of the attachments, but in their intensity and scope.

PsycEXTRA is a prime resource for the general public looking for information that is relevant and accurate but not necessarily aimed at a professional audience. There are currently about 60 records relevant to hoarding in the PsycEXTRA database, a mix of scholarly and popular. The document types include conference abstracts and presentations, fact sheets, and clinical trials, but they also include newspaper articles and summaries of the show Hoarders.

The following are some of the results:

  • Brody, J. E. (2011, November, 22). It's time to say goodbye to all that stuff. The New York Times, p. D 7.
  • Gallo, K. P., Chow, C., & Comer, J. S. (2011). Pediatric hoarding: A case study [Abstract]. American Psychological Association.
  • Hoarding disorder [fact sheet]. (2010). New York, NY: Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
  • Landau, D., Iervolino, A. C., Pertusa, A., Santo, S., Singh, S., & Mataix-Cols, D. (2011, May). Hoarding linked to traumatic and stressful life events. Clinician's Research Digest, 29, 5.
  • Ninetto, A., & Logan, J. (2010). Buried alive: Hoarding, diagnosis, and the politics of consumption on reality TV [Abstract]. American Anthropological Association.
  • Sampson, J., & Yeats, J. (2012, March). The role & effectiveness of a psychoed-support group for family members of hoarders [Abstract]. 20th IFTA World Family Therapy Congress, Vancouver, Canada.
  • Stamoulis, K. (2010. Spring–Summer). Humanizing mental illness: Psychology on the small screen. The Amplifier [APA Division 46, Media Psychology].
  • Webley, K. (2010, July 19). Hoarders purge with help from community groups. TIME, 176, 3.

This issue is so endemic to our culture that it doesn't seem to be limited even to people. For example, in 2010 the Library of Congress announced that it would forever save every tweet transmitted on Twitter. Imagine that. Billions upon billions, eventually trillions of tweets swelling beyond anyone's capacity to keep up with them.

July 2012

Set Your Phasers to Stun

We've looked at some of the risks of mobile technology and questioned how its continuous use might change a generation that has always had access to them. Now let's look at the upside: Mobile technology is providing tremendously useful service and transforming our world.

Look at the difference social media on devices has made now that each person can be his or her own newsroom, recording, producing, and digitizing data on the fly. The established press and governments now need to be more accountable. The entertainment industry has been turned on its head, with games, television and movies, and music available to anyone anywhere.

As a result, there are ever more options available. Science research has also entered a new phase. For example, health care providers can now assess patients' condition, behavior, attitudes, and environment in situ and in real time. In addition, they do so at reduced cost and with fewer errors. And patients themselves can now monitor and manage their illnesses — or their health — remotely, consistently, and affordably.

What very recent research would we find on this last topic, medical research, in PsycEXTRA? Let's do a search for mobile technology and health benefits and limit it to 2012.

  • "NIH-Funded Study Examines Use of Mobile Technology to Improve Diet and Activity Behavior" (2012) is a press release from the National Institutes of Health that announced the findings from an NIH-funded study that a combination of mobile technology and remote coaching can encourage healthier eating and physical activity behavior in adults.
  • "New Mobile App Answers Psychologists' Clinical Questions" (Azar, 2012) is a newsletter article that discussed PsycEssentials, a new app from APA, that provides psychologists and other mental health practitioners with immediate access to information about key assessment tools, state-by-state legal requirements for reporting issues such as child or elder abuse, psychotropic drugs, and the like.
  • "CBT for Drug Addiction and PTSD Via Wearable Sensor Platform and Mobile Application" (2012) is a Beck Institute blog post that reported that researchers from the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society are currently examining the effects of cognitive behavior therapy delivered via mobile device to patients suffering from drug-addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. The delivery system involves an ankle sensor (to monitor electrodermal activity, 3-axis acceleration, and temperature) and an ECG heart monitor that contain Bluetooth connection to patients' cell phones. When certain arousal levels are detected via the monitoring system, therapeutic messages are texted to patients' cell phones.
  • "D.C. Cardiologist Develops Mobile App to Speed Diagnosis of Heart Attacks" (Sun, 2012) is a news article that reported on the development of a mobile app designed to aid in the diagnosis of heart attacks. CodeHeart has been under development in this area for two years and is still attempting to enlist emergency medical crews' participation for a pilot project. The slow going reflects the complicated nature of mobile solutions for the health-care-provider market and the cautious approach of that market to new technology.

Our device–human interface can deliver as fast and nuanced a response as, well, as a nicely calibrated mobile Star Trek phaser.

June 2012

Talking About Their Generation

Sure, each generation is at least a bit perplexed by the next — over the past century, we've even used labels to handily characterize generational eras, ranging from the World War I Lost Generation through today's Digital Born generation and stumbling through many a generation gap on the way. There is an argument being made, however, that today's digital born really may be different in a substantive way.

Most previous generations have been affected primarily by external conditions (which certainly changed them), whereas the digitally born, thanks to social media and mobile devices, are engaged in communicating with the other members of their species so constantly and through such a variety of means that they may actually be changing cognitively as well as culturally.

Sure, I'm oversimplifying: Not all young people are tied into "the Borg," and many older people are just as heavily invested. But from a generational vantage, I wonder, has this generation of kids ever really had the experience of being alone? Do they still have the time and inclination to daydream? Do they collaborate and crowd source ideas more than any previous generation? Depending on the answers to those questions, we could be on the front lines of a revolution, and the dispatches of its changes are just beginning to come in.

PsycEXTRA is APA's frontline database. It contains the kind of documents — conference presentations, periodicals, grants, multimedia, and blog posts, among others — that show the early stirrings of a topic. Here's some of the content in PsycEXTRA that could be relevant to this topic:

  • In "Connected, but Alone?" (2012), a TED video, Sherry Turkle asked whether as we expect more from technology we expect less from each other. She studied how our devices and online personas are redefining human connection and communication, suggesting that one outcome is that we are losing our capacity for solitude and that "being alone feels like a problem."
  • In "Unhappy? There's an App for That" (2011), a newsletter article from APA's Monitor on Psychology, Leis-Newman explored some of the apps that can help modulate behavior. For example, the Live Happy app is "a buddy who prompts you to maintain positive activities," while others are designed to do things like comfort children during their parents' divorce or reassure them at any time and place that they aren't alone.
  • In "Virtual Reality Technologies for Research and Education in Obesity and Diabetes" (2012), a grant funding opportunity announcement, small businesses are invited to submit applications that can capitalize on the capabilities of virtual reality techniques to teach, motivate, visualize outcomes, and extend the health care and learning environment. Of highest interest are well-designed multidisciplinary projects drawing on expertise in virtual reality technologies and biomedical behavioral and pedagogical sciences, and a means to promote positive behavioral change "at the point of decision" is a big part of the need.
  • In "What Should You Do During the (Latest) Market Research (R) Evolution?" (2011), a post from a Harris Interactive blog called The Highway, the author looks at accelerating innovation in the market research world and makes suggestions as to how they can be used responsibly. Market research online communities, mobile technologies, and gamification, it is argued, are all evolutionary rather than revolutionary and most can successfully be adopted with little change to existing tools and work.

Our next generations will be living a new reality and whence they came and whither they shall go, only time will tell.

May 2012

So a Man Walks Into a Bear

Mobile technology — texting, smartphones, apps — has brought about revolutionary change in almost all areas of life in a few short years. Though it's certainly hard to assess the effect of a tsunami from within the wave, research is increasingly trying.

Over the next few months, we'll take a look at mobile technology, the good and the bad, from a number of perspectives. Today, we'll look at texting as a distraction.

While 38 states already ban texting while driving, Fort Lee, New Jersey has upped the ante and passed an ordinance many of us might hope becomes more widespread: a ban on texting while walking. Think it's not necessary?

In April a man in Montrose, California literally walked into a 400-pound black bear. In DC, local blogs call texters "wanderers" for their habit of weaving drunkenly across sidewalks and blocking others — one blogger reported seeing one texter block 14 people, including two furious runners.

A search on thesaurus terms Cellular Phones and Mobile Devices and Distraction with "texting" as a keyword limited to the past 5 years yields quite a few interesting results. Not surprisingly, most of the results relate to the risks of driving and texting. For example, we return the following document topics and types:

  • "Attention Demands May Explain Why Texting While Driving Is So Dangerous" (Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 2009) is a press release reporting texting as riskier driving behavior than talking on a cell phone.
  • "What Does It Take to Get Texting Off Roads?" (Halsey, 2009) is a Washington Post newspaper article that reported on a 2009 distracted driving conference in Washington, DC.
  • "Four High-Visibility Enforcement Demonstration Waves in Connecticut and New York Reduce Hand-Held Phone Use (Cosgrove, Chaudhary, & Reagan, 2011) is a brochure/fact sheet that reported on distracted driving demonstration programs in two communities designed to test whether a high-visibility enforcement model can reduce instances of texting distracted driving.
  • "Remarks prepared for Ronald Medford, Deputy Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for the NOYS Teen Distracted Driving Summit" (Medford, 2011) is a transcript of a speech given by the Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that describes texting while driving as "the 'perfect storm of distraction' in that it involves visual, manual and cognitive distractions that together are especially risky."
  • "2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index" (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2012) is a report on a national telephone survey on the degree to which traffic safety is valued and pursued.

Not all the research is on driving and texting, however.

In "Dangerous Distraction" (Novotney, 2009), a newsletter article from APA looked at research by psychologists that shows how cell phones, iPods and other technologies make us more accident prone and how they are exploring ways of designing technologies that might help prevent accidents.

March 2012

The Data That Came in From the Cold

PsycEXTRA is a fascinating database for a myriad of reasons, some of which you might not expect. If you'll step into the Wayback Machine with me, we'll revisit one of the more intriguing ones.

Though PsycEXTRA launched in 2004, its roots run much deeper. Gray literature is, of course, ephemeral for a variety of reasons, sometimes it's not archived, sometimes it's lost or misplaced, and sometimes — queue the sinister music — it's deliberately suppressed.

Quick history: The Freedom of Information Act has had a see-saw history on information made available; passed in 1966 and broadened in the wake of Watergate, a national security exemption in 1982 and an executive order in 2001 made access much more difficult, with a Clinton-era expansion sandwiched between. One effect of all that back and forth was that materials that had been available were doing a Houdini on us, being reclassified and disappearing.

A gray literature database like PsycEXTRA provides a safeguard against that happening, or at least against that happening surreptitiously. Take a look. We do indeed include documents marked "Secret" and redacted with mysterious deletions. For example, a look at some of the CIA's documents yields a bonanza of sources like the following historical reports:

  • "Political and Personality Handbook of Iraq" (1991) was prepared on the eve of the First Gulf War after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and provided information on Iraq's political culture and institutions, focusing on analysis of the character of Saddam "Husayn." It also examined the men around him; Saddam's inner circle; Saddam's outer circle; and key military commanders.
  • "Perspectives on Growing Social Tension in China" (a heavily redacted report released in 2000) summarized an intelligence assessment of the strains in Chinese society since the student protests of 1988–1989, casting doubts on China's ability to weather them." The report was prepared shortly before the Tiananmen Square massacre and the evaporation of a public protest movement.
  • "The Chernobyl Accident Social and Political Implications" (released "as sanitized" in 1999) focused on the impact of the 1986 Chernobyl accident on the Soviet population, popular reaction to the event, and the effect on popular attitudes toward the Soviet bureaucracy and leadership. It includes analysis of the likely long-term psychological impact on the population and on Gorbachev's consolidation of power.
  • A series of reports are available on South Africa, among them "South Africa: The Dynamics of Black Politics" (1987). It described and assessed the significance of trends in Black politics in South Africa during some of the most violence filled years of the apartheid struggle. Reviewing impediments to Black organization from the government and within the Black movement, it evaluated the prospects for effective Black protest against a determined White society. Forecast: bloody stalemate and the long-term possibility of a pro-Soviet Black government.

It's hard to stop reading these. But for those of you who are interested, you'll find gold. Even the names of the reports can lure you to spend a day. Who can resist "Concerning Espionage and Social Courtesy" or "Brainwashing From a Psychological Viewpoint" or even "Hypnotism and Covert Operations"? (Now do you think it's a coincidence that gray literature is also called "fugitive"?)

February 2012

Your Country Is So Fat…

Americans are consuming a diet so high in saturated fats and sugars that we're fattening up like steers in a feedlot. Our weight problem is now so great that a proposal has recently been floated to tax sugar like alcohol or tobacco to try to help stem the tide, and Michelle Obama has launched a Let's Move campaign struggling to get kids (and their families) on their feet and moving.

A look at the numbers is chilling: in 2010, nearly 26 million people in the United States had diabetes and another 57 million people were estimated to have prediabetes. Aside from the personal toll of the disease, the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse estimated the financial cost of diabetes and diabetes-related issues to be about 2% of GNP. More than fighting two wars and the global war on terrorism. More than Katrina. And that cost has nowhere to go but up, with about one in three American kids overweight or obese and the numbers climbing every year.

What information can we find in the PsycEXTRA database that addresses some of the ways diabetes is affecting our children and threatening our society? A search for diabetes as a keyword limited to those 17 or younger brings up a wealth of results in document types that include grants, patents, fact sheets, and clinical trials.

A sample of those results limited to obesity includes the following:

  • "Obesity Linked to Poor School Performance" (Sederer, 2010). An article in the OMH News discussed a study on the relation of obesity and diabetes to the mental functioning of children and adolescents. While the relation of obesity to diabetes is well known, their impact on the mental functioning of the developing brains of children and adolescents has been uncharted territory. The results showed that adolescents with type 2 diabetes did more poorly across the board on mental performance tests. This group also showed smaller brain volume for the entire brain and the frontal lobes, the last part of the brain to mature, where much of our reasoning occurs. In addition, physically fit children did better on English language and standardized math tests.
  • "Commentary: Restoring Wellness for Our Children" (Grasmick & Lake, 2009). The Maryland Education Bulletin reported that one in three children is overweight before entering kindergarten, and one in three children born today is likely to develop type 2 diabetes earlier than ever as an adult. "We have reached the point where it is predicted that, for the first time in the history of mankind, this generation of children will have a shorter lifespan than their parents." To reverse this trend, we must establish and foster partnerships to improve nutrition education and increase physical activity, literally from birth. The article provides recommendations.
  • "Sleep Duration and Pediatric Overweight: The Role of Eating Behaviors" (Hart, 2009). A clinical trial being conducted by the American Diabetes Association was announced that is designed to examine the link between sufficient sleep, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The trial, projected to end December 2011, will focus on the effect of too little sleep on hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, a factor that places children at increased risk for developing diabetes.

January 2012

City Upon a Hill

Two hundred years ago, the United States was almost completely rural. Today, we are more than 82% urban. And we're not alone. The world population is now only about 44% rural, and more than a million people are added to our cities every week. Cities create the lion's share of our problems: crowding, pollution, disease. But they also are the incubators of many of our solutions and centers of innovation.

While our cultural mythologies (and politicians) often still tout rural communities and "small town" values as inherently superior to those in urban environments, the city is now the natural habitat for most of us and has a positive ethos of its own. Teasing out information on the positive aspects of urbanization is challenging, but a search in PsycEXTRA of Urban Environments AND "Community Development" OR "Social Change" returns results that make an intriguing start.

The findings include the following:

  • "State of Play: How Tot Lots Became Places to Build Children's Brains" (Mead, 2010) described a New Yorker article on the evolution of children's playgrounds from the first municipal playground in New York to today's "imagination playground." The article makes the case for a today's play place that encourages unstructured play and its connection to both more creative thinking and better health.
  • "Civic Intimacies and Impossible Neighbors" (Fennell, 2010) is a conference abstract on the transition of urban residents from strangers and ambivalent kin to the civic subject anchored by duties, ties, and practices with the locality. The study reviewed a Chicago experiment to transform troubled public housing projects into smaller-scaled, mixed-income, and racially diverse neighborhoods called "new communities" in an attempt to engineer civic intimacy.
  • "Cultural Development and City Neighborhoods" (Rosenstein, 2009) is a report on how cities around the world built and branded urban cultural life as a way to develop local economies and revitalize urban centers. These cultural agencies and programs serve nonprofit cultural amenities such as museums and theaters, target cultural industries such as film and music production, and, more recently, have begun to focus on supporting the artistic workforce within cities.
  • "Cities Are Key to Societal Change and Successful Peace Building" (Turk, 2009) was a conference presentation that looked at the pivotal role that divided cites can play in bringing about needed societal change and successful peace building. This presentation focused on Nicosia, Cyprus, divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974. Because in Nicosia inhabitants have the most opportunity to interact at the grassroots level, they can begin to affect stability of the island and bring about reunification of an ethnically divided society.