1. Study suggests phones are keeping students from concentrating during lectures

    October 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Stellenbosch University press release:

    Digital technologies, especially smartphones, have become such an integral part of our lives that it is difficult to picture life without them. Today, people spend over three hours on their phones every day.

    “While ever-smarter digital devices have made many aspects of our lives easier and more efficient, a growing body of evidence suggests that, by continuously distracting us, they are harming our ability to concentrate,” say researchers Dr Daniel le Roux and Mr Douglas Parry from the Cognition and Technology Research Group in the Department of Information Science at Stellenbosch University.

    Le Roux heads the research group, while Parry is a doctoral candidate. Their work focuses on the impact of digital media, particularly phones, on students’ ability to concentrate in the classroom.

    According to them, today’s students are digital natives ? individuals born after 1980 – who have grown up surrounded by digital media and quickly adapted to this environment to such an extent that “they are constantly media-multitasking, that is, concurrently engaging with, and rapidly switching between, multiple media to stay connected, always updated and always stimulated.”

    The researchers say it shouldn’t be surprising that university lecturers are encouraged to develop blended learning initiatives and bring tech – videos, podcasts, Facebook pages, etc. – into the classroom more and more to offer students the enhanced experiences enabled by digital media.

    They warn, however, that an important effect of these initiatives has been to establish media use during university lectures as the norm.

    “Studies by ourselves and researchers across the world show that students constantly use their phones when they are in class.

    “But here’s the kicker: if you think they are following the lecture slides or engaging in debates about the topic you are mistaken. In fact, this is hardly ever the case. When students use their phones during lectures they do it to communicate with friends, engage in social networks, watch YouTube videos or just browse around the web to follow their interests.”

    The researchers say there are two primary reasons why this form of behaviour is problematic from a cognitive control and learning perspective.

    “The first is that when we engage in multitasking our performance on the primary task suffers. Making sense of lecture content is very difficult when you switch attention to your phone every five minutes. A strong body of evidence supports this, showing that media use during lectures is associated with lower academic performance.”

    “The second reason is that it harms students’ ability to concentrate on any particular thing for an extended period of time. They become accustomed to switching to alternative streams of stimuli at increasingly short intervals. The moment the lecture fails to engage or becomes difficult to follow, the phones come out.”

    The researchers say awareness of this trend has prompted some lecturers, even at leading tech-oriented universities like MIT in the United States, to declare their lectures device-free in an attempt to cultivate engagement, attentiveness and, ultimately, critical thinking skills among their students.

    “No one can deny that mobile computing devices make our lives easier and more fun in a myriad of ways. But, in the face of all the connectedness and entertainment they offer, we should be mindful of the costs.”

    The researchers encourage educational policy makers and lecturers, in particular, to consider the implications of their decisions with a much deeper awareness of the dynamics between technology use and the cognitive functions which enable us to learn.


  2. Study suggests metacognition training can help boost exam scores

    by Ashley

    From the University of Utah press release:

    It’s a lesson in scholastic humility: You waltz into an exam, confident that you’ve got a good enough grip on the class material to swing an 80 percent or so, maybe a 90 if some of the questions go your way.

    Then you get your results: 60 percent. Your grade and your stomach both sink. What went wrong?

    Students, and people in general, can tend to overestimate their own abilities. But University of Utah research shows that students who overcome this tendency score better on final exams. The boost is strongest for students in the lower 25 percent of the class. By thinking about their thinking, a practice called metacognition, these students raised their final exam scores by 10 percent on average – a full letter grade.

    The study, published today in the Journal of Chemical Education, is authored by University of Utah doctoral student Brock Casselman and professor Charles Atwood.

    “The goal was to create a system that would help the student to better understand their ability,” says Casselman, “so that by the time they get to the test, they will be ready.”

    Errors in estimation

    General chemistry at the University of Utah is a rigorous course. In 2010 only two-thirds of the students who took the course passed it – and of those who didn’t, only a quarter ever retook and passed the class.

    “We’re trying to stop that,” Atwood says. “We always want our students to do better, particularly on more difficult, higher-level cognitive tasks, and we want them to be successful and competitive with any other school in the country.”

    Part of the problem may lie in how students view their own abilities. When asked to predict their scores on a midterm pretest near the beginning of the school year, students of all performance levels overestimated their scores by an average of 11 percent over the whole class. The students in the lower 25 percent of class scores, also called the “bottom quartile,” overestimated by around 22 percent.

    This phenomenon isn’t unknown – in 1999 psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger published a paper stating that people who perform poorly at a task tend to overestimate their performance ability, while those who excel at the task may slightly underestimate their competence. This beginning-of-year survey showed that general chemistry students are not exempt.

    “They convince themselves that they know what they’re doing when in fact they really don’t,” Atwood says.

    The antidote to such a tendency is engagement in metacognition, or thinking about and recognizing one’s own strengths and limitations. Atwood says that scientists employ metacognition skills to evaluate the course of their research.

    “Once they have got some chunk figured out and realize ‘I don’t understand this as well as I thought I did,’ they will adjust their learning pattern,” he says. After reviewing previous research on metacognition in education, Atwood and Casselman set out to design a system to help chemistry students accurately estimate their performance and make adjustments as necessary.

    Accurate estimation

    In collaboration with Madra Learning, an online homework and learning assessment platform, Casselman and Atwood put together practice materials that would present a realistic test, and asked students to predict their scores on the practice test before taking it. They also implemented a feedback system that would identify the topics the students were struggling with so they could make a personal study plan.

    After a few years of tweaking the feedback system, they added the element of weekly quizzes into the experimental metacognition training to provide students more frequent feedback. By the first midterm exam of the 2016 class, Casselman and Atwood could see that the experimental course section’s scores were significantly higher than a control section’s that did not receive metacognition training. “I was ecstatic!” Casselman says.

    By the final exam, students’ predictions of their scores were about right on, or a little underpredicted. Overall, the researchers report, students who learned metacognition skills scored around 4 percent higher on the final exam than their peers in the control section. But the strongest improvement was in the bottom quartile of students, who scored a full 10 percent better, on average, than the bottom quartile of the control section.

    “This will take D and F students and turn them into C students,” Atwood says. “We also see it taking higher-end C students and making them into B students. Higher-end B students become A students.”

    Atwood adds that the students took a nationally standardized test as their final exam. That means that the researchers can compare the U students’ performance to other students nationwide. The bottom quartile of students at the U who received metacognition training scored in the 54th percentile. “So, our bottom students are now performing better than the national average,” Atwood says.

    “They’re not going to be overpredicting their ability,” Casselman says. “They’re going to go in knowing exactly how well they’re going to do and they will have prepared in the areas they knew they were weakest.”

    A cumulative effect

    This study covered students in the first semester of general chemistry. Casselman has now expanded the study into the second semester, meaning some students have had no semesters of metacognition training, some have had one and some have had two. Preliminary analysis suggests that the training may have a cumulative effect across semesters.

    “The students who are successful will ask themselves — what is this question asking me to do?” Atwood says. “How does that relate to what we’re doing in class? Why are they giving me this question? If there’s an equation, why does this equation work? That’s the metacognitive part. If they will kick that in, they will see their grades go straight through the roof.”

    Both Atwood and Casselman say this principle is not limited to chemistry and could be applied throughout campus. It’s a principle universally applicable to learning, and has been hinted at for centuries, including in a Confucian proverb:

    “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”


  3. Study suggests that learning about slot-machine tricks can help new players avoid gambling addiction

    by Ashley

    From the University of Waterloo press release:

    Novice gamblers who watched a short video about how slot machines disguise losses as wins have a better chance of avoiding gambling problems, according to new research.

    Slot machines present losses disguised as wins (LDWs) with celebratory music and flashing lights, even though players actually won less money than they bet. People can mistakenly believe that they are winning and continue paying to play.

    Researchers at the University of Waterloo found that showing inexperienced gamblers a brief educational video before they play helps make them more aware and curb false perceptions about the number of times they won.

    “One of the keys to gambling harm prevention is to curtail misperceptions before they become ingrained in the minds of gamblers,” said Michael Dixon, professor and research director in the Gambling Research Lab at Waterloo. “By exposing these outcomes for what they are, our study shows a way in which we can lead slots gamblers to have a more realistic view of their gambling experiences and possibly prevent problems down the road.”

    Earlier research from the University’s Gambling Research Lab found that LDWs can also lead players to gamble for longer even when they are losing money — a symptom of gambling addiction.

    As part of this study, one group of participants watched an educational video on slot machines and how they present LDWs, while a second group watched a different, unrelated video. All participants then played two games, one with few LDWs and one with many LDWs. They then had to estimate the number of times they won more than they wagered on each game.

    “We found that the video was effective in correcting multiple misperceptions. Players not only remembered their actual number of wins more correctly, but they were also more capable of labelling losses disguised as wins during slot machine play,” said Candice Graydon, lead author and a PhD candidate in Waterloo’s Department of Psychology at the time of this study. “We’d like to assess whether shining the light on LDWs will make gamblers stop playing sooner.”

    On the many LDW games, both groups got actual wins on approximately 10 per cent of spins. The group that did not watch the video drastically overestimated their wins — believing won on 23 per cent of spins. The group that watched the educational video, however, gave accurate win estimates. They recalled winning on only 12 per cent of spins. The study suggests that novice players who view the educational video will become more aware of LDWs, which could make them more attentive to other slot features such as the running total counter. Researchers would like to see the animation available to players both online and on casino floors.


  4. Marketing study examines what types of searches click for car buyers

    October 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Dallas press release:

    When making important purchase decisions, consumers often consult multiple sources of information.

    A new study from The University of Texas at Dallas examines how consumers allocated their time when searching offline and on the internet as they shopped for a new automobile, and what the outcomes were for price satisfaction.

    Dr. Ashutosh Prasad and Dr. Brian Ratchford, marketing professors in the Naveen Jindal School of Management, recently published the study online in the Journal of Interactive Marketing. It will appear in the journal’s November issue.

    “Our data says that it’s very common for a person to spend time searching online and offline prior to making a big purchase,” said Ratchford, who holds the Charles and Nancy Davidson Chair in Marketing.

    “The same information is available both places for the most part — whether it’s a manufacturer’s website or a brochure at the dealer. It’s just a matter of which one a person is more comfortable accessing.”

    Over the long term, consumer searches have been moving online, Ratchford said. It’s more convenient, and consumers can do more on the internet than before, such as take a virtual test drive or configure a vehicle according to their preferences.

    By analyzing survey data on automobile purchases between 2002 and 2012, the researchers compared time spent on internet sources with time spent on offline sources, such as car dealerships.

    Generally, those who search more online tend to spend more time with offline sources, the study found. In contrast, previous studies looked at the internet as a substitution for offline sources.

    The analysis also revealed insights into buyer demographics and the impact of national brands, Prasad said.

    Consumers older than 50 spend less time searching, both online and offline, before making a vehicle purchase, according to the study. Many people don’t search at all. They merely buy the same type of automobile they already had.

    “Men were more likely to search online comparison websites than women,” Prasad said. “Married consumers spent more time at dealerships and were more likely to be satisfied with the price paid. The time spent at dealerships was significantly more for buyers of Korean brand cars versus U.S. brands. Knowing even minor differences in behavior can help fine-tune marketing campaigns.”

    Generally, longer search times were associated with higher price satisfaction — except for time spent at the dealer, the researchers found.

    Ratchford said that finding is possibly related to the price negotiation process.

    “We don’t know exactly why, but chances are they’re spending time trying to get a better deal, and they are getting frustrated,” he said.

    The study also found that time spent on manufacturer websites was less effective at generating price satisfaction, possibly because offline manufacturer and dealer sources, such as advertisements and brochures, perform similar functions. Dealer websites remain important because they list inventory and provide online price quotes, researchers said.

    The study’s results may have practical implications for manufacturers and dealers.

    For example, the use of independent websites was associated with reduced time at the dealer. If dealers could identify those who obtain information online, they could save considerable demonstration time, lowering costs as a result.

    Manufacturers also may want to rethink the content of their websites. According to the study, consumers who searched longer on manufacturer websites reduced their time on independent websites but increased their time on dealer websites. This suggests that more informative manufacturer websites can deter consumers from visiting comparison websites to get information.


  5. Study suggests fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

    by Ashley

    From the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences press release:

    Presumably, in industrialized countries, especially in middle Europe, most people have never come across a poisonous spider or snake in the wild. In most of this countries there are nearly no spiders or snakes that pose a threat to humans. Nevertheless, there are few people that would not shiver at the thought of a spider crawling up their arm, however harmless it may be.

    This fear can even develop into anxiety which limits a person’s daily life. Such people are always on edge and cannot enter a room before it is declared “spider free” or cannot venture out into nature for sheer fear that they may encounter a snake. In developed countries one to five per cent of the population are affected by a real phobia of these creatures.

    Until now, it was not clear where this widespread aversion or anxiety stems from. While some scientists assume that we learn this fear from our surroundings when we are a child, others suppose that it is innate. The drawback of most previous studies on this topic was that they were conducted with adults or older children — making it hard to distinguish which behaviour was learnt and which was inborn. Such studies with children only tested whether they spot spiders and snakes faster than harmless animals or objects, not whether they show a direct physiological fear reaction.

    Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and the Uppsala University, Sweden, recently made a crucial observation: Even in infants a stress reaction is evoked when they see a spider or a snake. And this already at the age of six months, when they are still very immobile and have had little opportunity to learn that these animals can be dangerous.

    “When we showed pictures of a snake or a spider to the babies instead of a flower or a fish of the same size and colour, they reacted with significantly bigger pupils,” says Stefanie Hoehl, lead investigator of the underlying study and neuroscientist at MPI CBS and the University of Vienna. “In constant light conditions this change in size of the pupils is an important signal for the activation of the noradrenergic system in the brain, which is responsible for stress reactions. Accordingly, even the youngest babies seem to be stressed by these groups of animals.”

    “We conclude that fear of snakes and spiders is of evolutionary origin. Similar to primates, mechanisms in our brains enable us to identify objects as ‘spider’ or ‘snake’ and to react to them very fast. This obviously inherited stress reaction in turn predisposes us to learn these animals as dangerous or disgusting. When this accompanies further factors it can develop into a real fear or even phobia. “A strong panicky aversion exhibited by the parents or a genetic predisposition for a hyperactive amygdala, which is important for estimating hazards, can mean that increased attention towards these creatures becomes an anxiety disorder.

    Interestingly, it is known from other studies that babies do not associate pictures of rhinos, bears or other theoretically dangerous animals with fear. “We assume that the reason for this particular reaction upon seeing spiders and snakes is due to the coexistence of these potentially dangerous animals with humans and their ancestors for more than 40 to 60 million years — and therefore much longer than with today’s dangerous mammals. The reaction which is induced by animal groups feared from birth could have been embedded in the brain for an evolutionarily long time.

    For modern risks such as knives, syringes or sockets, presumably the same is true. From an evolutionary perspective they have only existed for a short time, and there has been no time to establish reaction mechanisms in the brain from birth. “Parents know just how difficult it is to teach their children about everyday risks such as not poking their fingers into a socket,” Hoehl adds with a smile.


  6. Study suggests “dark triad” personality traits are liabilities in hedge fund managers

    by Ashley

    From the Society for Personality and Social Psychology press release:

    When it comes to financial investments, hedge fund managers higher in “dark triad” personality traits — psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism — perform more poorly than their peers, according to new personality psychology research. The difference is a little less than 1% annually compared to their peers, but with large investments over several years that slight underperformance can add up. The results appear in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

    While the average person doesn’t invest in hedge funds, “We should re-think our assumptions that might favor ruthlessness or callousness in an investment manager,” says Leanne ten Brinke, lead author and a social psychologist at the University of Denver. “Not only do these personality traits not improve performance, our data suggest that they many hinder it.”

    Researchers from the University of Denver and the University of California, Berkeley, measured personality traits of 101 hedge fund managers, then compared the personality types with their investments and financial returns from 2005 — 2015. They compared not only the annualized returns, but also risk measures.

    The researchers found managers with psychopathic traits made less profitable investments than peers, by just under 1% per year, but this can add up over the course of years on large investments. Managers with narcissistic traits took more investment risks to earn the same amount of money as less narcissistic peers.

    Some may be surprised that most hedge fund managers rank pretty low on the Dark Triad traits. However, the results did show correlations between personality traits, investment success, and risk management.

    These findings build on their earlier work, studying behavioral evidence of Dark Triad traits in U.S. Senators, and finding that “those who displayed behaviors associated with psychopathy were actually less likely to gain co-sponsors on their bills,” says ten Brinke. That study also showed those who displayed behaviors associated with courage, humanity, and justice, “were the most effective political leaders.”

    The results add to a growing body of literature suggesting that Dark Triad personality traits are not desirable in leaders in a variety of contexts, summarizes ten Brinke.

    “When choosing our leaders in organizations and in politics,” write the authors, “we should keep in mind that psychopathic traits — like ruthlessness and callousness — don’t produce the successful outcomes that we might expect them to.”


  7. Study examines reactions to infidelity

    October 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Norwegian University of Science and Technology press release:

    Infidelity is very common. At least 20 per cent of couples – and perhaps many more, depending on where you set the limit – are unfaithful to their spouse.

    Being forgiven for infidelity is simply not easy. But many people whose spouse forgives them mistrust the signals and do not really believe that they are forgiven, according to a new study from NTNU.

    “We have a strong tendency not to believe our partner when they tell us we are forgiven,” says Mons Bendixen, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology.

    Overcompensate

    Free of charge infidelity is not, because possible forgiveness comes at a considerable cost. A large part of this cost we bring upon ourselves.

    When you do not really believe you are forgiven, even if your partner asserts that you are, you will overcompensate.

    You may become more attentive, buy gifts or do other things that you expect your partner will appreciate. Underestimating the degree of forgiveness is probably an evolutionary mechanism, because the relationship may be in danger.

    “The cost could be high if you think you are forgiven, but really are not. You might not work hard enough to mend the relationship,” says Bendixen.

    Better safe than sorry, it is better to make a little extra effort rather than do too little. Regardless, the consequences are usually uncomfortable for the unfaithful party. Your partner takes it for granted that you believe what he or she says to be true.

    Advantageous to be wrong

    In this case, it may be to your advantage to be wrong. The Error Management Theory (EMT), a theory of evolved perceptual errors, can help explain why. (See fact box.)

    When interpreting signals, we can make one of two false assumptions: we can believe that something exists even if it doesn’t, and we can believe that something doesn’t exist even if it does.

    From an evolutionary perspective, it’s a question of which errors are more adaptable.

    “An example is men who think women are interested in sex, even though the women’s intention is just to be nice. The most important thing for men in situations like this is not to miss a sexual opportunity,” says Bendixen.

    Similarities between the sexes

    Most partners aren’t particularly intent on getting revenge or seeing their partner suffer. That doesn’t mean that it never happens, but the probability is the same for both sexes.

    They are more likely to pull away and want to keep some distance.

    “Partners want the infidelity to have a cost, but will rarely respond by being unfaithful themselves,” says evolutionary psychologist Trond Viggo Grøntvedt in NTNU’s Department of Public Health and Nursing.

    There is also no difference between the sexes when it comes to whether they would break up with the unfaithful partner or not. This is as likely for women as for men.

    The sexes agree on a lot when it comes to infidelity. But one exception exists.

    Did I do something wrong?

    “Men often do not understand how hard emotional infidelity is on women,” says Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair in the Department of Psychology.

    Sexual infidelity strongly affects both men and women. Neither men nor women usually find it acceptable for their partner to have sex outside the marriage.

    But say you meet someone at a party and dance and flirt with the person there. Later you meet that person multiple times without telling your partner, but you don’t have sex. A friend of your partner finds out, and even reports that you look like you are in love. Is this wrong?

    Women find this scenario much worse than men do.

    “Many men do not see this as infidelity at all, since they did not have sex with the other woman,” said Kennair.

    Is this a problem? Well yes, maybe.

    Men forgive more often

    Men who are confronted with emotional infidelity do not necessarily think that they have done anything wrong. As a result, they do not attempt to make up for anything, at least not as much as if they had been sexually unfaithful. This certainly does not benefit the relationship.

    “It can also be a seed for conflict in the relationship,” says Kennair.

    At the same time, men are more likely to forgive this form of infidelity in their spouse. Men have less need to distance themselves from their partner than women do, and they look at emotional infidelity as less threatening to the relationship than women do.

    The same with jealousy

    This matches up with the psychologists’ predictions. Previously, they investigated jealousy reactions in women and men around the suspicion of imminent infidelity. Many of the same patterns were found in that study.

    Women become most jealous at the thought of their partner being emotionally unfaithful, whereas men become most jealous in the case of sexual infidelity.

    This is again entirely in line with the evolutionary theory of parental investment. For most women, it has historically and evolutionarily been worse for them if their partner breaks up than it has been for most men.

    Becoming emotionally attached to someone other than themselves has therefore been more threatening to women than to men.

    Clear gender differences

    Researchers conducted the survey with 92 heterosexual couples. These were young students who answered questions about imagined sexual or emotional infidelity by their partner and themselves.

    Whether these responses would apply to all heterosexual relationships is of course a question. Those asked were young, perhaps inexperienced and idealistic, starting their adult lives, so they could more easily find a new partner than others, and we can assume they knew they would talk to each other about the answers afterwards.

    But the conditions were the same for both sexes, and gender differences are nevertheless clear.

    Infidelity is named as the most common cause of divorces in Norway, although other reasons often other underlie it. Women initiate divorce much more often than men do.


  8. Study discovers why people often overvalue things they are selling secondhand

    by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    Ever tried to sell something you’ve owned for a while on Craigslist and found that no one is willing to pony up what you’re asking?

    It’s because you’re asking too much.

    Economists have long studied this phenomenon — people overvaluing an object simply because they own it — but few agree on why exactly it happens. Academics even have a name for it: the “WTA-WTP disparity,” meaning the difference in a seller’s “willingness to accept” and a buyer’s “willingness to pay.”

    In an effort to better understand this fascinating human behavior, BYU marketing professor Tamara Masters and her coauthors Arul Mishra and Himanshu Mishra from the University of Utah, decided to go outside economic principles and apply a bit of neuroscience and psychology. Their study, appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics, finds that people who are asking too much for something are experiencing both physical attachment and loss aversion to that object.

    “If you’re finding that no one is willing to buy something from you for the price you’re asking, then your price is wrong,” Masters said. “You’re too attached and you don’t want to lose it.”

    Being “too attached” means that possession of an item changes someone’s perceptions of an object, leading them to actually see it as a reflection or extension of themselves. Meanwhile, loss aversion is when the pain of losing an object is greater than the pleasure of gaining it.

    For her study, Masters manipulated subjects so that many of them developed an actual physical attachment to an object — in this case, a mug. To do this, she adapted a well-known visual-tactile experiment from neuroscience where a participant put their hand in a box with the mug placed on top. The researcher then tapped the mug with one hand (which the participant saw) while simultaneously tapping the subject’s hand inside the box (which they felt).

    Those participants, of which there were more than 400, were then shown the same mug and asked to name a selling price. They found those who reported developing a unique sensation or attachment to the mug asked for much more money ($6.00) than those who did not gain that attachment ($4.77).

    “We have biases we don’t even know that we have that affect our decisions,” Masters said. “If you find personal attachment or hate to let go of things that become yours, you will struggle to sell them at market value. Some people get attached to objects and others hate losing objects. If you have both of these things, you will sell them for much more than buyers in the market think they are worth.”

    This is often the case with entrepreneurs, she said. Since entrepreneurs put a lot of personal effort — “blood, sweat and tears” — into their products, they tend to perceive them as having a higher value than they actually do to the consumer.

    So, a bit of advice to those looking to make a few bucks from the classifieds: Don’t become attached to things and don’t be afraid to lose them.

    “Easier said than done,” Masters said.


  9. Study suggests online parent training can help young kids with ADHD

    October 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Lehigh University press release:

    Parents of children with ADHD can feel desperate for resources or treatments to help their children who struggle with inattention, distractibility and impulsiveness affecting school and home. Researchers at Lehigh University have discovered that brief online or in-person behavioral therapy for parents is equally effective in improving children’s behavior and parental knowledge — a potential game changer for parents strapped for time and access.

    They report these findings in a new paper published in The Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.

    Few Use Behavior Therapy, Despite Recommendations

    While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends behavior therapy support as the first line of treatment for preschool-age children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), limited availability of clinicians, cost and challenges in transportation and child care — as well as reliance on pharmacological drugs — mean few families access such therapy for themselves and their children. A 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control found that about 75 percent of young children with ADHD received medicine as treatment and only about 50 percent of young children with ADHD with Medicaid and 40 percent with employer-sponsored insurance got psychological services, which may include behavior therapy. ADHD occurs in 2 to 15 percent of young children, with 11 percent of children in the U.S. receiving an ADHD diagnosis at some point in their lives.

    The research by George DuPaul, professor of school psychology, and Lee Kern, professor of special education, at Lehigh University is the first to look at online ADHD behavior therapies in this age group (3-5 years old). It was conducted with a $1.2 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

    Parents learned effective ways to anticipate and prevent child behavior problems, teach their children better ways to communicate their needs, and how to best reinforce their children’s positive behaviors with about 15 hours of parent education that can be delivered equally successfully in a typical face-to-face format or online,” DuPaul said of the findings. “The fact that parents can learn these strategies on their own schedule via an online platform has the potential to significantly improve current practice and present savings in terms of time and cost to families for whom access is an issue.”

    Training Benefits Parents and Children

    For the study, researchers created a program of parent education and support that was shorter in duration than most similar trainings. They recruited 47 families in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania who had 3- to 5-year-old children who met diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Families were randomly assigned to one of three groups (face-to-face parent education, online parent education or a wait-list control group), with parents taking part in 10 weekly education sessions.

    “We collected parent questionnaires, tested parent knowledge and observed parent-child interactions in family homes before and after parent education was delivered to evaluate whether our program made a difference relative to families who did not receive parent education,” DuPaul said.

    In addition to finding online training was similarly effective to face-to-face training, researchers found parents participating in the streamlined 10-week format were more likely to be engaged and to complete training than those participating in longer formats. Both in-person and online training formats had high attendance and significantly improved parent knowledge of interventions and adherence to treatment protocols.

    In addition, children in the study were better able to regulate their behavior, demonstrating reduced restlessness and impulsivity and improved self-control, affect and mood compared to the control group.

    Though behavioral parent training is known to have positive results for children with ADHD, fewer parents and mental health and medical practitioners know about it than medication prescribed for ADHD, which can come with side effects and is not recommended as a first-line treatment for preschool-age children, DuPaul said.

    Thus the study provides options both relative to medication and among behavioral therapy in terms of the effectiveness of both in-person and electronically delivered formats.

    “I hope these findings add to the existing evidence that behavioral parent training is an effective approach for young kids with ADHD even when applied over a relatively short time, and show that both in-person and online formats can be effective in parent and child behavior change,” said DuPaul, who hopes the research also spurs more development of alternative ways of delivering interventions to parents.

    “The implications are substantial given barriers that many families experience with face-to-face behavioral parent training,” the study states.

    In addition to parents, the findings will be useful for others who interact with young children at risk for ADHD, from mental health practitioners and pediatricians to preschool teachers and early childhood education professionals, DuPaul said.


  10. Study debunks claim of “narcissism epidemic” among college students

    October 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign press release:

    Today’s college students are slightly less narcissistic than their counterparts were in the 1990s, researchers report in a new study — not significantly more, as some have proposed.

    The study, reported in the journal Psychological Science, analyzed data from 1,166 students at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1990s, and from tens of thousands of students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of California, Davis in the 2000s and 2010s. All of the students completed the Narcissism Personal Inventory, the oldest and most widely used measure of narcissism.

    According to some researchers and observers, recent generations of young people are suffering through an ‘epidemic of narcissism’ characterized by an exaggerated sense of their own gifts and accomplishments and by the expectation that others recognize their greatness. The rise in narcissism is believed to be the result of permissive parenting, unregulated access to the internet and an overuse of social media platforms that reward self-aggrandizement, said University of Illinois psychology professor Brent Roberts, who led the new analysis.

    But there is no compelling evidence that recent generations are more narcissistic than previous ones, he said.

    The Narcissism Personality Inventory is designed to measure an individual’s narcissistic tendencies. Each of its 40 questions asks participants to choose between two statements that define their attitudes and beliefs. One of each pair of answers is more consistent with a narcissistic outlook. For example:

    • I just want to be reasonably happy.
    • I want to amount to something in the eyes of the world.

    AND

    • I insist on getting the respect that is due me.
    • I usually get the respect that I deserve.

    Roberts and his colleagues first focused on whether the NPI reliably measured the same traits over time and among different constituencies.

    “For the most part, the measure worked pretty well, but we found a few items that didn’t work consistently across different groups,” Roberts said. “When you adjust for that, you see decreases in narcissism from the 1990s to the 2000s to the 2010s.”

    The team next looked at specific aspects of narcissism, such as leadership, vanity and entitlement, and saw a similar downward trend in each of these traits between 1992 and 2015. The declines were small but significant, and occurred gradually over time. Males and females, Asians, African-Americans and Caucasians all saw decreases in narcissism, but to differing degrees, Roberts said.

    “The average college student scores 15 to 16 on the NPI scale, out of a possible 40,” Roberts said. “The average grandparent scores about 12. Based on that, if you use that as a natural metric, most people are not narcissists. And, perhaps most interestingly, narcissism declines with age.”

    Roberts and his colleagues believe that older adults like the idea of a narcissism epidemic among the young because young people tend to be more narcissistic than they are.

    “We have faulty memories, so we don’t remember that we were rather self-centered when we were that age,” Roberts said.

    The denigration of millennials and even younger generations paints them as lacking in values or as having bad personality characteristics, he said.

    “But that’s just wrong,” he said. “The kids are all right. There never was a narcissism epidemic, despite what has been claimed.”