October 22, 2010

What research paradigms have cognitive psychologists used to study “False memory,” and what are the implications of these choices?

K. Pezdek, S. Lam
Article in Consciousness and Cognition

This research examines the methodologies employed by cognitive psychologists to study “false memory“, and assesses if these methodologies are likely to facilitate scientific progress or perhaps constrain the conclusions reached. A PsycINFO search of the empirical publications in cognitive psychology was conducted through January, 2004, using the subject heading, “false memory.” The search produced 198 articles. Although there is an apparent false memory research bandwagon in cognitive psychology, with increasing numbers of studies published on this topic over the past decade, few researchers (only 13.1% of the articles) have studied false memory as the term was originally intended—to specifically refer to planting memory for an entirely new event that was never experienced in an individual’s lifetime. Cognitive psychologists interested in conducting research relevant to assessing the authenticity of memories for child sexual abuse should consider the generalizability of their research to the planting of entirely new events in memory.

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April 17, 2009

Intuitions About Consciousness: Experimental Studies

cognition,theory of mind — alice @ 12:01 am

Joshua Knobe and Jesse Prinz
Article in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

When people are trying to determine whether an entity is capable of having certain kinds of mental states, they can think of it either from a functional standpoint or from a physical standpoint. We conducted a series of studies to determine how each of these standpoints impact people’s mental state ascriptions. The results point to a striking difference between two kinds of states-those that involve phenomenal consciousness and those that do not. Specifically, it appears that ascriptions of states that involve phenomenal consciousness show a special sort of sensitivity to purely physical factors.

Click here for the complete article.

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March 27, 2008

Who’s bad? Chimps figure it out by observation

thinkchimp.jpgChimpanzees make judgments about the actions and dispositions of strangers by observing others’ behavior and interactions in different situations. Specifically, chimpanzees show an ability to recognize certain behavioral traits and make assumptions about the presence or absence of these traits in strangers in similar situations thereafter. These findings, by Dr. Francys Subiaul – from the George Washington University in Washington DC – and his team, have just been published online in Animal Cognition, a Springer journal.

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March 5, 2008

New issue: Self & Identity

selfidentity.gifA new issue of Self & Identity is out, with articles including topics such as cultural differences in self-esteem, the self in change, and the self in life transitions.

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January 22, 2008

San Marino Summer School on Social Cognition and Social Narrative

APPLICATION DEADLINE 1 March 2008. Please let your grad students know about this.

The European Science Foundation and the ESF project Consciousness in a Natural and Cultural Context is sponsoring a one-week interdisciplinary collegium/summer school on contemporary research in the area of social cognition, theory of mind, and narrative theory at the University of San Marino in San Marino (geographically within Italy). See the collegium website.

Organizers: Shaun Gallagher, Dan Hutto, Dan Zahavi.

The collegium/summer school is open to a limited number of graduate students and post-doc researchers interested in theory of mind and the role of narrative and embodied intersubjectivity in our understanding of others. Research presentations, discussions, and tutorial sessions will allow researchers and students to share knowledge and interact. Students will have the opportunity to earn 15 points in the ECTS system.

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November 26, 2007

Is Theory of Mind dependent on episodic memory?

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November 22, 2007

Morality starts young

The key to successful social interactions is the ability to assess others’ intentions — be they friend or foe. A new study in 6- and 10-month-old infants shows that humans engage in social evaluations even earlier than was thought, before they can use language. The infants could evaluate actors on the basis of their social acts — they were drawn towards an individual who helps an unrelated third party to achieve his or her goal, and they avoided an individual who hinders a third party’s efforts to achieve a goal. The findings support the claim that precursors to adult-like social evaluation are present even in babies. This skill could be a biological adaptation that may also serve as the foundation for moral thought and action later in life.

Editor summary in Nature

Nature article by Hamlin, Wynn & Bloom

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November 13, 2007

That friendly car is smiling at me: When products are perceived as people

From physorg.com: A forthcoming study from the Journal of Consumer Research looks at how consumers anthropomorphize products, endowing a car or a pair of shoes with human characteristics and personalities. The researchers, from the University of Toronto and the University of Chicago, find that people are more likely to attribute human qualities or traits to inanimate objects if the product fits with their expectations of relevant human qualities – and are also more likely to positively evaluate an anthropomorphized item.

“We sometimes see cars as loyal companions going so far as to name them. We argue with, cajole, and scold malfunctioning computers and engines,” explain Pankaj Aggarwal (University of Toronto) and Ann L. McGill (University of Chicago). “We find that if the product has a feature that is typically associated with a human prototype, then people are more likely to humanize the product, and also evaluate it more

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October 22, 2007

Empathy for Pain and Touch in the Human Somatosensory Cortex

empathicpain.jpegAlthough feeling pain and touch has long been considered inherently private, recent neuroimaging and neurophysiological studies hint at the social implications of this experience. Here we used somatosensory-evoked potentials (SEPs) to investigate whether mere observation of painful and tactile stimuli delivered to a model would modulate neural activity in the somatic system of an onlooker.

Viewing video clips showing pain and tactile stimuli delivered to others, respectively, increased and decreased the amplitude of the P45 SEP component that reflects the activity of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1). These modulations correlated with the intensity but not with the unpleasantness of the pain and touch ascribed to the model or the aversion induced in the onlooker by the video clips. Thus, modulation of S1 activity contingent upon observation of others’ pain and touch may reflect the mapping of sensory qualities of observed painful and tactile stimuli.

Results indicate that the S1 is not only involved in the actual perception of pain and touch but also plays an important role in extracting somatic features from social interactions.

Bufalari et al. in Cerebral Cortex

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August 15, 2007

Toddlers are capable of introspection

toddlermirror1.jpgPreschoolers are more introspective than we give them credit for, according to new research by Simona Ghetti, assistant professor of psychology at UC Davis.

Ghetti and her co-investigator, Kristen Lyons, a graduate student in psychology at UC Davis, will present their findings Friday morning, Aug. 17, at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco.

Scientists have demonstrated that dolphins, monkeys and even rats can engage in some form of “metacognition,” or an awareness of their own thought processes. But developmental psychologists have assumed that human children do not develop this capability before about age 5.

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August 2, 2007

Ventromedial moral

ventromedialpfc.jpegDoes the ventromedial prefrontal cortex play a role in personal moral judgment? Medscape.com has a nice report on 7 patients with lesions in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that find that “the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is necessary to oppose personal moral violations, possibly by mediating anticipatory, self-focused, emotional reactions that may exert strong influence on moral choice and behavior.”

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May 21, 2007

Smarter, sentient whales

animal minds,evolution,theory of mind — thomasr @ 4:13 am

whale.jpgRecent studies have shown that the brains of sperm whales is second in size only to human (relative to body size). It is about 60% larger in absolute mass than that of an elephant. How this brain evolution has occurred is the topic of a most interesting article in PLoS Biology, authored by Lori Marino et al. In this article the authors also forcefully argue that the increased brain size is paralleled by a comparable increase in cognitive complexity. As the authors write:

We believe that the time is ripe to present an integrated view of cetacean brains, behavior, and evolution based on the wealth of accumulated and recent data on these topics. Our conclusions support the more generally accepted view that the large brain of cetaceans evolved to support complex cognitive abilities.

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March 24, 2007

Beliefs about the rigidity of personality

happyface.jpgHow do people reason about personality, and how people change or stay the same over time? In a study by Nick Haslam and colleagues lay theories of personality over time was explored. Among other things the researchers found that beliefs about normative personality change generally corresponded to research evidence on adult trajectories of the Big Five factors; and that recalled and anticipated personal change tended to be more positive than these norms

One potential shortcoming of the study is that it used only undergraduates. It would be interesting to see how the perception of personality continuity would also change according to ageing (as well as across different educational groups).

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Use of Virtual Reality in an fMRI study of mentalizing

SCR Feature,theory of mind — alice @ 12:31 pm


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March 22, 2007

Altruistic punishment

Why do we punish others? And why do we punish when it is personally costly? In a recent review in Nature Review Neuroscience Ben Seymour and colleagues discuss the neurobiology of punishment.

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March 21, 2007

They love to make you mad

angry.gifSome people find angry looks from others so rewarding they go out of their way to encourage them, Michigan researchers said.

“It’s kind of striking that an angry facial expression is consciously valued as a very negative signal by almost everyone, yet at a non-conscious level can be like a tasty morsel that some people will vigorously work for,” said Oliver Schultheiss, University of Michigan associate professor of psychology.

His study may explain why some people like to tease each other, he said.

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March 8, 2007

Can we improve mind reading?

oxytocin.pngIs it possible to improve our ability to read other’s minds? In the case of mind-reading disabilities such as that found in autism spectrum disorder, it has been suggested that it is possible to train patients to become better at reading other’s minds.

What, then about pharmacological interventions? Is there an “empathy drug” that makes us more empathic? In a priority communication in Biological Psychiatry, Domes et al. report that the administration of oxitocin (relative to placebo effect) improves the ability to infer the mental state of others from social cues of the eye region. Hubmed abstract; Full Text.

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February 20, 2007

Biological Psychiatry — Special issue on autism

autist.gifThe journal Biological Psychiatry has a special issue on the autism spectrum, its diagnosis and treatment.

It is a comprehensive yet diverse collection of multidisciplinary treatment of the issue, containing articles onautism and phenotypic homogeneity; cortical layering and thickness; cortical dysfunction; executive function and gaze fixation.

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February 6, 2007

Multiple Dimensions Shape Our Perception Of Mind

social psychology,theory of mind — thomasr @ 3:04 am

peopleinteracting.jpgMultiple Dimensions Shape Our Perception Of Mind, Harvard Study Suggests

Through an online survey of more than 2,000 people, psychologists at Harvard University have found that we perceive the minds of others along two distinct dimensions: agency, an individual’s ability for self-control, morality and planning; and experience, the capacity to feel sensations such as hunger, fear and pain.

The findings, presented this week in the journal Science, not only overturn the traditional notion that people see mind along a single continuum, but also provide a framework for understanding many moral and legal decisions and highlight the subjective nature of perceiving mental attributes in others.

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January 17, 2007

Self-projection and the brain

Abstract of Self-projection and the brain, in Trends in Cognitive Science:

When thinking about the future or the upcoming actions of another person, we mentally project ourselves into that alternative situation. Accumulating data suggest that envisioning the future (prospection), remembering the past, conceiving the viewpoint of others (theory of mind) and possibly some forms of navigation reflect the workings of the same core brain network. These abilities emerge at a similar age and share a common functional anatomy that includes frontal and medial temporal systems that are traditionally associated with planning, episodic memory and default (passive) cognitive states. We speculate that these abilities, most often studied as distinct, rely on a common set of processes by which past experiences are used adaptively to imagine perspectives and events beyond those that emerge from the immediate environment.

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