The neuroscience of nostalgia

According to Clay Routledge, associate professor of psychology at North Dakota State University, who studies how people bring meaning to their lives through memory, “Nostalgia can be seen as part of the bigger story of how emotions get stored in our memories, neither all positive or negative but as complex, bittersweet feelings.”

They stay with us because of the way that the memories were formed, more intensely than other impressions. What makes it nostalgia, he says, is the strong grasp that a memory has on the psyche and how it keeps affecting us.

“Our memories are the things that make us who we are,” says Joseph LeDoux, professor of neuroscience at New York University and author of numerous popular books that explore emotional memory. “They give us a sense of ourselves and inform our behavior.”

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Posted in Memory, Neuroscience, Nostalgia | Tagged , ,

How we see others’ emotions depends on our pre-conceived beliefs

How we see emotions on another person’s face depends on our pre-conceived views of how we understand these emotions, researchers at NYU have found. In a series of experiments, subjects were assessed in how similarly they held different pairs of six emotions in their mind — Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, Sadness, and Surprise — and whether the different ways subjects conceptually held these emotions may affect how subjects visually perceive these emotions on others’ faces.

“Perceiving other people’s facial emotion expressions often feels as if we are directly reading them out from a face, but these visual perceptions may differ across people depending on the unique conceptual beliefs we bring to the table,” explains Jonathan Freeman, the paper’s senior author and an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science. “Our findings suggest that people vary in the specific facial cues they utilize for perceiving facial emotion expressions.”

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Posted in Emotional intelligence, Emotions | Tagged ,

Young people with older friends can help reduce agism

Young people are less likely to be ageist when their friends have friendships with older adults, research led by psychologists at the University of Kent has shown. Even when young adults have no social contact with older adults in their everyday life, if they are aware of a friend who is friends with an older adult this can increase their positive attitudes towards older adults as a whole, the researchers found.

Research suggests that positive intergenerational contact can improve young people’s attitudes towards older adults. However, today’s age-segregated society may not provide ample opportunities for positive contact between younger and older adults to occur on a regular basis. In three studies, we investigated whether the positive attitudinal outcomes associated with direct contact might also stem from a more indirect form of intergenerational relationship: extended contact. In Study 1 (N = 70), extended contact was associated with more positive attitudes towards older adults even when controlling for direct intergenerational contact (contact frequency and contact quality). In Study 2 (N = 110), the positive effects of direct and extended contact on young people’s age-related attitudes were mediated by reductions in intergroup anxiety and aging anxiety. The mediational effects of intergroup anxiety were replicated in Study 3 (N = 95) and ingroup norms additionally emerged as a mediator of the positive effects of extended contact on young people’s attitudes towards older adults. Discussion focuses on the implications for strategies aimed at tackling ageism.

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Posted in Adult, Aging, Friends | Tagged , , ,

Personality traits ‘contagious’ among children

When preschoolers spend time around one another, they tend to take on each others’ personalities, indicates a new study. The study, published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests personality is shaped by the environment and not just genes.

Children enter preschool with temperament traits that may shape or be shaped by their social interactions in the peer setting. We collected classroom observational measures of positive emotionality (PE), negative emotionality (NE), effortful control (EC), and peer social play relationships from 2 complete preschool classrooms (N 53 children) over the course of an entire school year. Using longitudinal social network analysis, we found evidence that children’s traits shaped the formation of play relationships, and that the traits of children’s playmates shaped the subsequent development of children’s own traits. Children who exhibited high levels of NE were less likely to form social play relationships over time. In addition, children were more likely to form play relationships with peers who were similar to their own levels of PE. Over the course of the school year, children’s level of PE and EC changed such that they became more similar to their playmates in levels of these traits. Finally, we observed moderate to strong rank-order stability of behavioral observations of PE, NE, and EC across the school year. Our results provide evidence for the effects of traits on the formation of play relationships, as well as for the role of these play relationships in shaping trait expression over time.

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Posted in Children, Personality | Tagged ,

Younger Kids May Make Better Decisions Than Older Ones

A new study has found that, in a way, the older you get the worse your decision-making becomes.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, found that younger children seem to make slightly better decisions than older children.

The older children get, the more they tend to ignore some of the information available to them when making judgments. While this is more efficient, it can also lead to mistakes, the researchers said.

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Posted in Children, Decision-making | Tagged ,

Neuroscience – Science of the Brain – An Introduction for Young Students

Neuroscience – Science of the Brain is primarily aimed at sixth form students or first-year undergraduates. Richard Morris creates a wonderfully neat and concise ‘primer’ of neuroscience, touching on everything from development to drug addiction, with leading UK neuroscientists contributing chapters on their respective fields of expertise in a simple yet imaginative and visually appealing way. Any student uncertain what to specialize in can’t fail to be swayed by this refreshing booklet!

Inside our heads, weighing about 1.5 kg is an astonishing living organ consisting of billions of tiny cells. It enables us to sense the world around us, to think and to talk. The human brain is the most complex organ of the body, and arguably the most complex thing on earth. This booklet is an introduction for young students.

In this booklet, we describe what we know about how the brain works and how much there still is to learn. Its study involves scientists and medical doctors from many disciplines, ranging from molecular biology through to experimental psychology, as well as the disciplines of anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology.

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The Psychological Roots of Inequality and Social Class

Why does economic inequality continue to rise despite being disfavored and harmful to individuals and society? To better understand this inequality paradox, we advance an inequality maintenance model of social class. We detail a set of five propositions to encapsulate the psychological processes that perpetuate class division in society—disparities between the rich and the poor—and we review recent supporting data. With respect to the structural processes that define social class, we show that class-differentiated experiences of threat, scarcity, and access to valued networks enhance economic inequality by compounding (dis)advantage in education, work, and relationships. With respect to social perceptual processes, we outline how social class is signaled and perceived during social interactions, triggering class-based stereotypes and patterns of distancing that reinforce inequality. With respect to ideological processes, we discuss how ideologies of merit legitimize economic inequality and bolster class division. With respect to moral–relational processes, we examine how class-based patterns of compassion, helping, and power seeking exacerbate economic inequality by concentrating resources among the upper class and constraining advancement among the lower class. Finally, with respect to intergroup processes, we posit that social class group identities catalyze difficulties in cross-class affiliation, asymmetric resource sharing, and class conflict, strengthening class division in society. We conclude with a discussion of new research and future directions that can address class disparities and, ultimately, help foster a more equal society.

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Posted in Inequality, Social class | Tagged , , ,

Science for Kids curious Minds

We seek to connect curious minds to the experts and information that will motivate them to ask informed and critical questions about real science throughout their lives. By working directly with scientists, we ensure that our content is of the highest quality. By working directly with kids, we help foster curiosity both in and out of the classroom and engage the next generation of citizens and scientists.

Frontiers for Young Minds believes that the best way to make cutting-edge science discoveries available to younger audiences is to enable young people and scientists to work together to create articles that are both accurate and exciting.  That is why distinguished scientists are invited to write about their cutting-edge discoveries in a language that is accessible for young readers, and it is then up to the kids themselves – with the help of a science mentor – to provide feedback and explain to the authors how to best improve the articles before publication.

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Science at Home with Children

ExpeRimental is a series of short films that make it fun, easy and cheap to do science at home with children aged 4 to 10. Our films give you lots of ideas for kids’ activities that will help you explore the world around you, question and experiment together. We’ll show you how to do the activity and how to make sure adults and children get the most out of it. Tell us how you get on and share your photos and any funny things your kids say!

Each activity is designed to be easy to do using only common household objects. Simply playing, watching closely, and asking questions is enough to light a spark of science learning at home with young children. All the experiments are about encouraging natural curiosity and investigating the wonders of science while you play.

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Posted in Children, Home, Science, Science education | Tagged , , ,

History of Linguistics

Linguistics, as a study, endeavors to describe and explain the human faculty of language. Linguistic study was originally motivated by the correct description of the classical liturgical language, notably that of Sanskrit grammar, or by the development of logic and rhetoric in ancient Greece, leading to a grammatical tradition in Hellenism. Beginning around the 4th century BCE, China also developed its own grammatical traditions. Traditions of Arabic grammar and Hebrew grammar developed during the Middle Ages, also in a religious context.

Modern linguistics began to develop in the 18th century, reaching the “golden age of philology” in the 19th century, with work almost entirely centering around Indo-European studies and leading to a highly elaborate and consistent reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language. The first half of the 20th century was marked by the structuralist school, based on the work of Ferdinand de Saussure in Europe and Edward Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield in the United States. The 1960s saw the rise of many new fields in linguistics, such as Noam Chomsky’s generative grammar, William Labov’s sociolinguistics, Michael Halliday’s systemic functional linguistics and also modern psycholinguistics.

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