Psychology

The surging number of autism diagnoses is driven in part by social interaction between parents, according to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology.

The study found that children living near a child who has been previously diagnosed with autism have a much higher chance of being diagnosed themselves in the following year, mainly because of parents learning about autism from other parents who have a child diagnosed with the disorder.
Psychologists at Baylor University say that people primed with Christian concepts are likely to express  racial prejudice and general negative views toward African-Americans.

The researchers don't know why the association exists but speculate that it may be that "priming religious words activates cognitive representation of things like right-wing authoritism and a Protestant work ethic.”

The study was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
When I was the president of an international private coeducational boarding school for teenagers with dyslexia and other kinds of learning disorders, I was frequently asked by parents to curtail their children's use of video games. I often wondered why they thought I could curtail the use of their children's video games when they themselves could not, but that is the subject of my next blog on effective parenting.

I found myself challenging parents' statements asserting that video games were bad. I disagree. I think the research on the link between video games and violence is weak at best. However, that is not the point of this blog either.

I smile when I find someone who enjoys video games. When I find someone who enjoys video games I know:
Tracking 18- to 21-year-old men enlisted in the Israeli army, researchers from Tel Aviv University say they have demonstrated an important connection between the number of cigarettes young males smoke and their IQ--young men who smoke are likely dumber than their non-smoking peers.

The average IQ for a non-smoker was about 101, while the smokers' average was more than seven IQ points lower at about 94, the study determined. The IQs of young men who smoked more than a pack a day were lower still, at about 90. An IQ score in a healthy population of such young men, with no mental disorders, falls within the range of 84 to 116.
Despite understanding the long term benefits of eating healthy and exercising,  people often forgo these potential gains for the immediate satisfaction of a big mac and a night of cable TV.

What makes people go for the quick reward even though they know they'll be worse off for doing so?

According to a new study in Judgment and Decision Making, it's because people have to repeatedly feel the benefits of long term decisions, like eating healthy and exercising, to fully appreciate them. Simply having complete information about their choices isn't enough.
A very interesting question has been posed by colleague Mark Changizi (see his fascinating blogs at www.scientificblogging.com) related to brain size as it relates to body size. He presents good information that shows the rather constant relationship of brain size to body size. He asks the question, essentially, if bigger brains do not make for more intelligent animals, why are there bigger brains?
Researchers from Jena University in Germany say it is not only painful memories and associations that put our pain memory on alert, words can do the trick as well.

"Even verbal stimuli lead to reactions in certain areas of the brain", says Dr. Thomas Weiss from the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena. As soon as we hear words like "tormenting", "gruelling" or "plaguing", those areas in the brain are being activated which process the corresponding pain.
    If you have ever wondered why we sleep, you are not alone. The puzzle of sleep and the question of why we sleep has been a much-researched topic yielding few really definitive answers. Sleep is a dormant state and some researchers have answered the question of why we sleep by stating that reparative forces occur during sleep...and that is why we sleep. However, just a bit of thought will find this common answer extremely unsatisfying. Why do we need to sleep to have repairs done? In fact, are not repairs going on continuously?

A new study from University of Utah psychologists suggests that most people are lousy drivers when talking on their cell phones. But a small group of people with an extraordinary ability to multitask can safely drive while chatting, according to a study in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

These individuals – described by the researchers as "supertaskers" – constitute only 2.5 percent of the population. They are so named for their ability to successfully do two things at once: in this case, talk on a cell phone while operating a driving simulator without noticeable impairment.
Scientists in Russia have been studying how to buy the best possible gift. This coincides with an exhibition of the worst presents received by residents in Yekaterinburg last week.

High on the list of worst presents ever must be the following: "[an] unusual present was the money that belonged to a woman from Yekaterinburg. The woman’s husband was laid off on the eve of her birthday, and she gave him some money so he could get her a birthday present. On her birthday, the woman received a card with her own money enclosed." We don't need much science to calculate the poor woman's reaction.