Friday, July 04, 2008

Psychology Link Dump - Shyness, Ideal Self, Painful Memories, and Swift-Boating

Four good articles get cleared from my tabs in this post. There just isn't enough time in the day to post all the things I would like to post.

First up, it appears that severe shyness and anxiety are hard-wired into some people's brains.
Severe Shyness? New Study Shows That Anxiety Is Likely A Long-lasting Trait

ScienceDaily (July 3, 2008) — We all know people who are tense and nervous and can't relax. They may have been wired differently since childhood.

New research by the HealthEmotions Research Institute and Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) indicates that the brains of those suffering from anxiety and severe shyness in social situations consistently respond more strongly to stress, and show signs of being anxious even in situations that others find safe.

Dr. Ned Kalin, chairman of the UW Department of Psychiatry and HealthEmotions Research Institute, in collaboration with graduate student Andrew Fox and others, has published a new study on anxious brains in the online journal PLoS One.

The study looked at brain activity, anxious behaviour, and stress hormones in adolescent rhesus monkeys, which have long been used as a model to understand anxious temperament in human children. Anxious temperament is important because it is an early predictor of the later risk to develop anxiety, depression, and drug abuse related to self medicating.

Read the rest.

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The next article looks at how we define who we are by the ideal self we envision, and why we have trouble seeing that same ability to transform in other people.

Why Our Ideal Self Seems Further Away For Us Than Others

Is everyone else reaching their true potential quicker than you?
Understanding ourselves is partly about understanding who it is we want to become.

Because each of us is a perpetual work in progress, we live our lives with one eye on the future. In that future we see ourselves transformed into our true, ideal self - just as we would like to be.

While we take this for granted in ourselves, research finds we are much less likely to see other people's good intentions and hopes for the future as part of their selves. Instead we are likely to judge them just as they appear to us - defined by their past and present, stuck in the moment, unlikely to change and ultimately knowable.
This article is quite fascinating, be sure to check out the whole thing. Here is one key finding that suggests we see other people as closer to their ideal self than we are in our lives, which is quite interesting:
When thinking about themselves students thought they were about 30% to where they wanted to be, while they thought the average student was about 50% towards becoming who they wanted to be. This confirmed their earlier studies which suggested we really do think other people are further towards fulfilling their potential than we are.
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A lot of trauma work in therapy assumes that painful or troubling memories must be processed inb order to be overcome. But new research suggests that we can overcome some feelings with practice.
In Sight, Out of Mind

Research shows that practice can help you forget painful memories and control your memory.

By: Nicole Bode

Can't go to a favorite restaurant without thinking about your ex? Better plan to eat there daily. According to research, it may be possible to push unwanted memories out of your mind—but only with repeated practice.

Motivated by studies that found that children are more likely to forget abuse by family members than by strangers, study author Michael Anderson, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, designed an experiment to find out if memory can be consciously controlled.

In the first 15 minutes of the experiment, participants memorized a series of 40 word pairs. Anderson then presented participants with only one word from the pair, sometimes asking them to remember the associated word and sometimes asking them to forget it. Published in the journal Science, his findings show that participants who repeatedly tried to suppress words eventually became more likely to forget them, even when offered clues and money to remember. "People forced to encounter reminders of unwanted memory find ways to adapt accordingly." Anderson says. However, Anderson is careful to clarify that "the findings don't have direct implications for forgetting trauma."

The study sheds light on the flip side of memory research, which often focuses on how to improve recall. "There are many positive aspects of forgetting." Anderson argues. "To be unable to push out of mind outdated or painful information risks impairing your concentration and your well-being."
That's the whole article. They're careful to say this doesn't apply to trauma, but I'm guessing a lot of people will try to extrapolate in that direction.

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Finally, Sam Wang, at Welcome To Your Brain, takes a look at The neuroscience behind Swift-boating. How timely.
Your brain lies to you

False beliefs are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth, one poll has found. Thus it seems slightly less egregious that, according to another poll, 10 percent of us think that Senator Barack Obama, a Christian, is instead a Muslim. The Obama campaign has created a Web site to dispel misinformation. But this effort may be more difficult than it seems, thanks to the quirky way in which our brains store memories — and mislead us along the way.

The brain does not simply gather and stockpile information as a computer’s hard drive does. Facts are stored first in the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger. But the information does not rest there. Every time we recall it, our brain writes it down again, and during this re-storage, it is also reprocessed. In time, the fact is gradually transferred to the cerebral cortex and is separated from the context in which it was originally learned. For example, you know that the capital of California is Sacramento, but you probably don’t remember how you learned it.

This phenomenon, known as source amnesia, can also lead people to forget whether a statement is true. Even when a lie is presented with a disclaimer, people often later remember it as true.
Read the whole article.

This is another fascinating article that first ran in the New York Times. The original story didn't carry any references, so they embedded links in this version of the article. Very cool stuff.


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