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Archive for the 'Western Europe' Category

October 27, 2005

Alien abduction may be all in the mind

Filed under: Anomalistic Psychology,Western Europe — Admin @ 8:56 pm

New research presented at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre, supports what scientists have long argued: that people who report contact with aliens have a psychological profile that might make them more susceptible to false memories.

They also believe more strongly in the paranormal and claim to have experienced more paranormal activity than the wider public.

The new research has been carried out by Professor Chris French, Head of Anomolistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College, who investigated the psychological differences between ‘experiencers’ (or abductees) and non-experiencers through studying fantasy-proneness, dissociativity, sleep paralysis and history of paranormal experiences.

The research reveals that alien abduction experiences are often similar to other paranormal phenomena such as encounters with ghosts and are frequently based upon episodes of sleep paralysis, a condition in which, upon waking, a person is aware of the surroundings but is unable to move. In this state, auditory and visual hallucinations may occur.

Professor French will be talking about the research, as part of a free public debate exploring Alien Intrigue at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre – the UK’s only venue for adults to talk about contemporary and controversial science on Wednesday 26 October.

The study compared 19 experiencers with 19 control participants. Experiencers scored more highly than the control group on the following measures:

* Paranormal belief / experience.
* Tendency to Hallucinate
* Absorption (the tendency to become engrossed in experiences)
* Dissociative tendencies (the tendency to enter altered states of consciousness)
* Fantasy proneness
* History of sleep paralysis

“In the late twentieth century, an increasing number of people around the world began to claim that they had had a most bizarre experience,” said Professor French.

“Typically, they would report being taken from their beds or from their cars by alien beings. These beings were often around four feet high, with spindly arms and legs and oversized heads. The most striking thing about them was their large black eyes through which they appeared to communicate telepathically.

“The abductees, or “experiencers” as they prefer to be known, would describe how they had found themselves on board an alien spaceship where they were subjected to (often painful) medical examination, during which sperm or ova might be extracted. Although it is hard to estimate just how many people have conscious memories of this kind it is likely to run into at least several thousand worldwide.”


October 11, 2005

Long-term smokers risk lower IQs!

Filed under: Neuroscience and Psychophysiology,Western Europe — Admin @ 10:10 pm

London : For long smoking has been regarded as a stimulant that helped intellectuals concentrate better, but now a study has revealed that at the end of the day it may end up hampering your thinking ability and lowering your IQ.

The nearly 20 year study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan has revealed years of tobacco use dims the speed and accuracy of a person’s thinking ability, besides bringing down the IQ levels.

Studies conducted on 172 alcoholic and non-alcoholic men revealed that long-term alcoholism and smoking has a profound effect on a person’s thinking ability.

The study revealed that smoking had an adverse effect on memory, problem-solving and IQ in those who had smoked for years.

The findings published online by the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence said that among alcoholic men, smoking was associated with diminished thinking ability even after alcohol and drug use were accounted for.

The study further revealed that smoking was associated with diminished thinking ability even among men without alcohol problems.

Lead author Jennifer Glass, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the U-M Department of Psychiatry, has however said that the findings needed to be duplicated by other studies before any conclusions were derived at, about the negative effects smoking had on the human brain.

“We can’t say that we’ve found a cause-and-effect relationship between smoking and decreased thinking ability, or neurocognitive proficiency. But we hope our findings of an association will lead to further examination of this important issue. Perhaps it will help give smokers one more reason to quit, and encourage quitting smoking among those who are also trying to control their drinking,” she said.

“The exact mechanism for smoking’s impact on the brain’s higher functions is still unclear, but may involve both neurochemical effects and damage to the blood vessels that supply the brain. This is consistent with other findings that people with cardiovascular disease and lung disease tend to have reduced neurocognitive function,” said Robert Zucker, Ph.D., professor of Psychology in the U-M Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, Director of the UMARC and senior author on the new paper led by Glass.

Source: Newkerala

September 27, 2005

Reveals Diversity And Impact Of Stalking

Filed under: Social Psychology,Western Europe — Admin @ 12:10 pm

Study supported by the Network for Surviving Stalking (NSS)

Details of media resources and interview arrangements below

The world’s most comprehensive stalking survey carried out by Dr Lorraine Sheridan of the University of Leicester reveals the devastating impact of stalking in the UK and USA. Unfortunately, victims are not the sole casualties.

Results unveiled today (Friday September 23) reveal that virtually all victims of stalking suffer severe emotional and physical effects, and that financial losses have ranged between £20 to £4 million.

And the study carried out in the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology reveals that anyone – not just celebrities – can become the victim of a stalker.

Dr Sheridan said: “The work carried out at the University of Leicester over the last seven years has told us that normal people, not celebrities, are the vast majority of stalking victims.”

“We also know that anyone can become the victim of a stalker, and that individual stalkers will have very different motives.”

“This study has examined for the first time the far-reaching effects that stalking has, not only on its victims, but also on numerous third parties. Stalking is a major issue that touches millions of lives but people have so many misconceptions about it.”

The study found:

* The youngest victim of stalking in the survey was aged 10 – the oldest aged 71

* Half of all victims were told by friends and family that they were ’over reacting’ or ’being paranoid’

* Abuse of pets is one of many methods employed by stalkers

* The average number of people directly affected in a stalking case was 21. Such persons included: the victim’s children, the victim’s partner’s parents, strangers, the victim’s neighbours, and the victim’s work contacts

University of Leicester

September 5, 2005

Men have higher IQ than women: study:

Filed under: Cognition and Perception,Western Europe — Admin @ 6:08 pm

London: Men’s IQ is on average five points higher than women’s, according to a new study conducted at Manchester University in Britain.

The study that is likely to stir a hornet’s nest is to be published in November by the British Journal of Psychology.

The British Psychological Society, which publishes the journal, would not release details, but study leader Paul Irwing, a senior lecturer at the university, told the Times Higher Educational Supplement he had found evidence to back up his conclusion.

Irwing did his work in cooperation with Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of Psychology at the University of Ulster, who has previously published controversial work on the theme.

“My politics are rather different from Richard’s and from my point of view, I would prefer it if we were wrong,” Irwing said.

But he added he felt compelled to place “scientific truth” above personal political conflicts, and potentially even his academic reputation.

The paper, to be published Nov 4, is certain to re-ignite controversy in academic circles.

In the past, Lynn has said that men have higher IQ than women, whites higher than blacks and Eastern Asians higher than Europeans.

Extrapolated across the population, the results indicated that there are three men for every woman with an IQ above 130, and 5.5 men for every woman with an IQ above 145.

“These different proportions of men and women with high IQ scores are clearly worth speaking of and may go some way to explaining the greater numbers of men achieving distinctions of various kinds for which a high IQ is required, such as chess grandmasters, Fields medallists for mathematics, Nobel prize winners and the like,” Irwing said.

The study offers some consolation to women: it says they tend to work harder.

Women with the same IQ as men achieve more “possibly because they are more conscientious and better adapted to sustained periods of hard work,” it says.

In 1999, Lynn concluded that men on average had an IQ three to four points higher than women.

August 11, 2005

How do we gauge our personal health risks?

Filed under: Cognition and Perception,Western Europe — Admin @ 1:25 pm

Psychologists have gained insight into how people judge their personal health risks. The findings suggest that people aren’t horribly off the mark as long as they do not rely on media reports and stick to what’s happened to people they know. The study appears in the current issue of JEP (Journal of Experimental Psychology): Learning, Memory and Cognition, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The findings challenge the assumption, says Ralph Hertwig, PhD, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, that people make huge blunders when inferring the likelihood of, say, dying of a heart attack or in a car accident. He says, “People can arrive at relatively accurate estimates as long as they rely on their personal experiences of the frequencies of such events … by thinking of how many of their relatives, friends and acquaintances died from these causes.”

He continues, “However, when they start sampling from the virtual world as created by the mass media, they are more likely to arrive at distorted estimates of likelihood.” For instance, if people sample from the virtual world, they might readily conclude that many more people die due to more rare but dramatic causes such as mad-cow disease or airplane crashes, than due to more typical causes such as asthma.

The authors are concerned that as “factors such as overpopulation, poverty, and global climate change pave the way for new health risks, it becomes even more important to better understand how the public perceives and judges risks.”

Hertwig and other cognitive psychologists first extended theories of how people think about event frequencies to health risks in particular. Then, at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, they tested these models by asking participants to assess health risks in various ways.

The researchers presented one group of 45 participants with pairs of causes of death and asked them to choose the cause that took more lives per year. They presented two other groups, of 30 and 35 participants, with pairs of types of cancer and pairs of infectious diseases, respectively, and asked them to choose the disease with the higher incidence rate (the number of new cases appearing in a population in a given time). The Federal Statistical Office of Germany and the Robert Koch Institute provided the disease data.

On average, participants were 71.2 % correct in the causes-of-death set; average accuracy was slightly lower for the cancer set (68.2 %) and markedly higher for the infection set (80.6 %).

The scores not only demonstrated reasonably good accuracy, but also made sense in terms of two of the four proposed models: “availability by recall” and “regressed frequency mechanisms.”

In a second study, the psychologists directly tested how well these two models predicted risk assessments for each OF 276 disease pairs and each of 80 participants, based on what a post-experimental test showed about their knowledge. Hertwig was surprised that “two quite different models, based on different underlying assumptions, explain the data equally well.”

According to the availability by recall model, people assess the odds of an event by the frequency of experienced episodes within their social network. They might, for instance, figure their odds of having a heart attack by thinking about the people they know who have had heart attacks.

The other thought process, a “regressed-frequency mechanism,” assumes that people base their health risks on automatically encoded frequency information arising from a goulash of various exposures — including obituaries and news reports, doctors’ warnings, public-awareness campaigns and so forth. Because it’s hard to reliably process all that information, however, people’s estimates shift toward the average value in a category, a statistical phenomenon called “regression toward the mean.” As a result, small frequencies (such as dying from vitamin overdose) are overestimated and large frequencies (such as dying from rectal cancer) are underestimated.

The researchers ruled out the use of a supposed “fluency mechanism,” in which media coverage shapes people’s risk perceptions (individuals would have felt at high risk of getting West Nile virus last summer), and another mechanism according to which people have only a sense of the frequencies of high-level categories of risks such as natural hazards.

The authors speculate that people switch their risk-assessment strategies depending on available information from memory, not using the same mechanism for each single inference. They write, “For instance, if a person cannot retrieve any episode within his or her social circle, he or she may attempt to rely on a sense of fluency or frequency.”

Article: “Judgments of Risk Frequencies: Tests of Possible Cognitive Mechanisms;” Ralph Hertwig, PhD, University of Basel; and Thorsten Pachur and Stephanie Kurzenhäuser, Max Planck Institute for Human Development; Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition; Vol. 31, No. 4.

(Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at

Ralph Hertwig can be reached by E-mail at or by phone at (+41) 61 2670611. The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

Pam Willenz
American Psychological Association

July 24, 2005

Video insight into babies’ minds

Filed under: Career and Employment,Children Psychology,Western Europe — Admin @ 10:22 am

Babies as young as three weeks will be shown videos by psychology researchers trying to find out how they understand other people.

The Cardiff University team are looking for up to 80 infants for the private screenings to discover how early in life children learn to imitate adults.

The babies’ response will be filmed to a clip of an adult pulling faces.

Dr Mary Fagan at the School of Psychology said: “We still have a lot to learn about this younger age.”

The researchers are looking for infants aged no more than five weeks old.


June 24, 2005

Dad’s Depression May Affect Child

Filed under: Children Psychology,Clinical Psychology,Western Europe — Admin @ 10:40 am

(The Lancet) — Children whose fathers have had postnatal depression, have an increased risk of behavioural and emotional problems in early life, suggests a study published in this week’s issue of The Lancet.

The researchers found the effect was the same even after they controlled for other factors that could influence a child’s development.

Depression is common and frequently affects mothers and fathers of young children. Postnatal depression in mothers affects the quality of maternal care, and can lead to disturbances in their children’s social, behavioural, cognitive and physical development.

However, little is known about the effect of depression in fathers during the early years of a child’s life.

Paul Ramchandani (University of Oxford, UK) and colleagues studied over 13,500 mothers, from the Bristol area of the UK, taking part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Over 12,800 participants had partners.

Mothers and fathers were assessed 8 weeks after the birth of their baby using a well-validated questionnaire for postnatal depression. The fathers were assessed again at 21 months.

The researchers also measured the disturbance of the children’s emotional and behavioural development at age 3.5 years from a questionnaire filled out by the mothers.

They found that paternal depression was linked to adverse emotional and behavioural problems in children, particularly boys. The effects remained even after the researchers took into account maternal postnatal depression and later paternal depression.

Dr. Ramchandani concludes: “Our findings indicate that paternal depression has a specific and persisting detrimental effect on their children’s early behavioural and emotional development.”

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